Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Blessings of Chronic Illness

I wrote this about ten years ago and still feel very blessed and know I have learned a lot from my chronic poor health.

In my late teens, I began to take sudden short “naps”. By my early twenties the fatigue had become more severe and was joined by migraines, muscle cramping, general pain, nausea, dizziness, blurry vision, abdominal pain, confusion and depression. I wondered if the Lord really cared about me. We began to seek help from doctors, only to have the specialists declare that I was fine, advising me to go home and “relax”. At this point, I began to strongly feel the presence of the Lord in my life. I felt a peaceful assurance that something really was physically the matter with me, but it would not prevent me from doing what I needed to do in this life.

Looking back, I can see how the Lord used my illness to help build my faith in His love. As my illness continued, I came to know that the Lord cares about me personally. He will allow me to have the experiences I need to grow. Through my restrictions, I learned to base my self-esteem on being a daughter of God, instead of on how well I pleased others. Besides this spiritual help, I felt the Lord’s direct guidance in  dealing with my illness. I especially needed His help when the doctors were baffled. I found it a great comfort to know that there is someone who completely understands my problems and can help me.

Besides growing in faith in Heavenly Father’s love, power and wisdom, I have grown in faith in myself. As I have allowed the Lord to guide me, I have discovered abilities I never knew I had. I experienced a few months here and there when I would feel better, but it wouldn’t last for long. Soon, I would return to my pain and low energy level. Reality finally set in. I had four children, a husband, myself, and our home to care for. No one was going to rescue me. I knew from blessings that this illness would not be removed from me. Somehow, I had to find new ways of doing things. I studied, prayed, sought advice, and took action. I quite sulking about all I was unable to do and learned to carefully plan; to prioritize, delegate, simplify, and organize. As a confirmed procrastinator, rushing to do things at the last minute and living in a disorganized muddle, I was amazed at how much more peaceful our home was since I learned to plan my day. Now that I didn’t waste my time and limited strength hunting for things and cleaning up after others, I found time to study and write. I learned many new things, such as, how to use a computer. I even discovered, to my astonishment, that I could make up stories and write poems. My faith grew that, with the Lord’s assistance, I could do whatever I needed to do in this life.

Besides having faith in the Lord and in myself, another major source of strength to me has been others faith in me. Now that I have a condition that is recognized by the American Medical Association, even though they are still not sure of the cause or cure, most people accept that I  really am ill and are reasonably supportive. Gone, at last, are the days of being reprimanded, chided for “not wanting to get well”, told I “should attend my meetings”, and encouraged to do more “to get me out of my depression.” During those thirty years when there was no stamp of approval on my illness, a few people didn’t judge me, but simply had faith in me. They believed that I really was hurting, listened to me, and offered appropriate help. One thing they did not offer was sympathy. Instead, they shared their faith with me. One of the most meaningful actions was simply to give me a call (personal visits often were too tiring). Just knowing that someone remembered me and cared enough to call me was a great support. Hearing what was happening in the ward and listening to recorded Relief Society lessons helped me feel less isolated. I’m grateful for these people who believed in me, and took a few minutes to share their lives and their testimonies with me.

What has helped me to get through the last 35 years of constant illness? It has been faith; faith in Heavenly Father’s love and wisdom, faith in my own abilities, and other people’s faith in me.

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