Uncertainty in Fibromyalgia and Chronic Illness

Today we have a wonderful and eye opening post from Cassie Creley.

Cassie Creley lives in the Pacific Northwest and loves writing. Dealing with multiple health conditions including cancer, fibromyalgia, Dysautonomia, and asthma have taught her that God’s joy is available even in our worse struggles. She blogs about creativity, faith, and living with chronic illness at http://cassiecreley.com.

 

 

You would expect a diagnosis to bring some certainty to your life. But when the diagnosis you receive is for a chronic illness that is currently incurable, that is not often the case. It took me some time to realize this. At first, I was blindsided by the amount of uncertainty that took up residence in my life due to my health.

 

Being diagnosed with a chronic illness puts us in a constant state of uncertainty. This uncertainty is one of the unexpected and most difficult side effects I’ve been dealing with since being diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Before getting diagnosed, as my health declined, there was always the assumption in the back of my mind that things would get better, I would get well, and life would continue as normal. But the diagnoses have just kept coming in the last two years: thyroid cancer, Dysautonomia, CFIDS, in addition to the asthma and allergies I was diagnosed with early on in life.

 

Unless you’ve experienced fibromyalgia, Dysautonomia, or other chronic illnesses, it’s hard to imagine the daily impact. I find myself wishing someone had warned me, which is just the same as wishing there was no such thing as uncertainty!

 

My body and my mind have become sources of uncertainty. I’m normally a very organized and dependable person. I could be counted on to show up when I said I would, to have a project done by deadline. Now, I often have to cancel last minute because there’s no telling when my body will suddenly decide it’s done for the day. I also used to thrive on having a schedule and routine. My symptoms and lack of energy throw my entire day into chaos, making it nearly impossible to predict when I’ll be able to accomplish even simple tasks.

 

Perhaps most frustrating of all is the uncertainty I now experience when it comes to my mind. I used to easily memorize information, but now struggle to find words or put them in the right order when speaking. When proofreading my writing, I’ll often find that I’ve inexplicably typed the wrong word. This is all part of the infamous brain fog of fibromyalgia. It makes me uncomfortable when talking with even close friends, let alone people I don’t know well, and impacts my confidence as a writer and my self esteem in general.

 

In spite of all this (and maybe partially because of it) I’m a huge believer in silver linings. What, you might ask, could possibly be a silver lining to so much uncertainty?

 

Maybe, if we can harness our uncertainty, we can let it force us to realize that uncertainty is a natural part of life.

 

The world teaches us that we should have every step of our lives planned out. And part of me really likes that. I want to know all the details. I want to be prepared. But is this healthy?

 

This expectation starts young. I didn’t realize just how profound an impact it has until I was a high school leader at my church for a few years. Students were expected to know where they wanted to go to college and what career path they would follow well before they graduated. I could see how much pressure and stress this put on the students. And the expectations continue throughout life—people expect you to know who you’ll marry, how many kids you’ll have, what you’ll do every 5 years of your life, when you’ll retire, etc., etc. If you don’t have everything planned, people seem to think there is something wrong with you.

 

Huh. Kind of makes you realized that certainty, or at least the illusion of certainty, can be exhausting too. Probably because pretending we’re in control of everything isn’t the way God designed us to live. In fact, the book of James has some pretty harsh words about acting like we know everything:

 

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16 NIV)

 

Pride creeps in (aka boasting) when we become focused on our will and our need to control every aspect of our lives. Instead, we’re called to recognize our dependence on God’s will and surrender our uncertainty to His sovereign will and trustworthy love.

 

Maybe our unique understanding of uncertainty, brought about by chronic illness, will allow us to extend grace to others because we won’t expect people to have everything figured out.

 

Maybe we can extend that same grace to ourselves. Wouldn’t that be a relief? To know we’re not expected to have everything together at all times?

 

I’m realizing that uncertainty is part of being human. If we take the time to recognize the normalcy of uncertainty, we can also recognize that our faith makes uncertainty okay.

 

We don’t have to be uncertain about God. We’re assured in the Bible of His unchanging nature. (Hebrews 13:8) We’re assured of his presence. (Matthew 28:20) We’re assured of his unchanging love: “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” (Psalm 143:8 NIV)

 

The uncertainty of chronic illness starts to look smaller the more we focus on God’s certainty. I’m not saying it’s easy. But it’s possible. Some days will be harder than others. But the flip side of knowing some days will be harder is that we can rest assured that some days will be easier.

 

Once we stop running from uncertainty, we can embrace the fact that there is a positive side of not knowing everything. I’m reminded of a quote by Luci Swindoll, one of my favorites that I recently rediscovered: “Lord…may I relish the joy of knowing you are full of wonderful surprises.” Even in the midst of chronic illness or whatever life throws our way, let us never forget that God can certainly bring about beautiful things that are more than we ask or imagine.

 

Even in the midst of life’s uncertainty, let us never forget that God can certainly

bring about beautiful things!

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Encouragement

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It is difficult when your illness dictates your life. When you are taped with no way out. Unable to live. Merely surviving one moment at a time. Hope seems light years away. Everything seems to crumble right before your eyes. Everyone has days when they break. It is okay to have break downs as long as you don’t give up. You have everything you need to overcome these struggles.

You are NOT alone. Others feel this way as well. It won’t be like this forever. Eventually you will be able to live life to the fullest again. We must hold on to this hope, for it gives us the strength to keep fighting. Keep your faith. Stay strong. Hold onto hope.  You have so much strength and courage. You accomplish amazing things on daily. Be proud of all you have overcome.

It’s a season for beauty and blessings. Your strong will provide strength and hope to countless people. There will be positive things that occur because of this difficult season in your life. God’s got this. Rest in his loving arms. Blessing are just around the corner. Be open too receive all the Lord has to offer. Gentle hugs spoonie warriors. Sending prayers and spoons.

Welcome December

I adore the Christmas season, it is absolutely magical. Beauty overflows all around from stunning lights to warm smiles to traditions and so much more. Christmas carols sweetly fill the air. The Christmas season brings joy as it reassures us gently that things will be okay. It helps us connect with our inner child reminding us of the wonderful Christmas memories. At the same time, it encourages us to move forward filling us with a hope like no other. It unites us with those we hold dear in our hearts. I cherish every aspect of Christmas.

Unfortunately chronic illness and the stressful demands that go with it does not take a holiday. The doctors appointments, treatment, and testing still must be done. Chronic illness tends to complicate things and get in the way of our joy during this season. It is easy to lose focus of the beauty in this season when we are consumed with emotion and pain. When the world seems to be caving in on us and everything seems to be falling apart. Chronic illness isolates us. We feel the effects more so this time of year. Finding a balance between doing things and resting becomes more difficult. For some, this season is depressing, reminding them of all they cannot do.

I hope you are able to take the time to rest and reflect this holiday season. Take to reflect about all the ways you have grown as an individual, all you have accomplished, all the blessings in your life, and everything you have overcome the past few months. You, my friend, have come so far. I am proud of you. You deserve to take time for yourself this busy season. You are an inspiration. Your story is breathtaking and laced with beauty along with encouragement it will change lives. I pray your strength is renewed. The Lord will bless you greatly this season, be open to all he has to offer for you.

I pray you would have a flare free Christmas season. I hope that despite your pain you are able to enjoy this season of blessing. Cherish every moment with those you hold dear to your heart. Hold onto the Christmas spirit. I pray that this season would bless you with little to no pain, plenty of spoons, memories, joy, and love. “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”

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Shake it Off

Living with a chronic illness is a challenge beyond words when encountering people who don’t understand. We have all had an experience of rudeness beyond belief. There are stairs when taking medication in public. Rude remarks when using a walking device. 

 I cannot tell you how many times people have been disrespectful or stared at me because I use a wheelchair in a store. The majority of the time people either stand in front of me, unwilling to move or practically run away. People act like I have the plague. I have heard over the few years I have used a wheelchair in a store that I am too young to use one or too pretty. The stairs and remarks make me feel like I owe people an explanation. However, I do not need to explain my life to everyone I encounter. If the right doors are open to education someone I don’t mind but there shouldn’t be a social pressure to explain it all. 

 Many people doubt the intensity of our pain and they question if we are indeed really sick. No one seems to understand battling against your body and taking care of yourself is a full-time job. Simple tasks are draining. Some people go out of their way to upset us or to be rude. They offer unnecessary options on how to break free of the chronic illness chains.

 

Too often Spoonies lose friends due to their illness. Some people want absolutely nothing to do with us while others act strangely towards us. 

Too often people judge us before they get to know us. People treat us at times like we are nothing or are stupid. 

Too often we hear phrases like: 

But you don’t look sick

You need to be more positive

Have you tried…

You’re too young to be sick

It must be nice not having to go to work/school

You’re just having a bad day

You need to get more exercise

It’s all in your head

Maybe if you got out more

These things get under a spoonies skin, to say the least. When people mistreat you, SHAKE IT OFF. It is not your fault. Don’t let them get to you. You are an amazing person. Even though you are ill, you are so valuable. You have so much to offer this world. Shake off the stares, Shake off the negative and nasty remarks, Shake off the heartbreak…. Shake it off.. It’s gonna be alright

Hold your head up high, cause it’s gonna be alright. You have so much courage. You are an inspiration for thriving despite every setback. Sending lots of spoons, prayers, and hugs. ❤

Spoonful of Spoonie Encouragment

Mornings for those with a chronic illness are a struggle beyond words. Waking up and willing our bodies to function is a fight. Here is a spoonful of encouragement for spoonie warriors. Happy Monday, brave friend!

You have victoriously made it out of bed this morning. The symptoms and pain are already overwhelming, but you’ve got this. You only need to take today one minute at a time. You have all the strength you need, even though it might not seem that way. Anxiety and depression attempt to dictate your day. Take a breath. Take a break.  Get some rest. Keep fighting to make today the best day possible.

You have been chosen to walk this path. It is one filled with heartbreak, disappointment, and setbacks. Walking the path of someone who is chronically ill is a challenge to say the very least. Being sick has most likely disrupted your flawless rhythm with life. It has stopped you dead in your tracks. Your illness has tried to toss your dreams out the window.

Though this path is difficult, I assure you there is a lot of beauty to be discovered. Sure life is not what it used to be, but the song you sing is just as beautiful. There is hope, joy, love, laughter, and life to be found on this path. You will be able to recreate your wonderful dreams. You are still you, despite your illness. You are an amazing and beautiful person with a flawless story and a huge purpose.

    There will be days that you become overwhelmed and feel completely alone. Your feelings are understandable, however, I promise you, you do not walk alone on this path. There are people who care about you, people who understand how difficult the journey is, and people who want to support you.

I am proud of all you have accomplished. I know you will thrive today. This week will be lovely simply because it is the only choice. While you don’t need to be positive all the time you need to take baby steps forward. You are doing amazing. Raise your coffee (or tea) to a great week warrior!

Encouragement for You

 

Blessings are all around you though at times they might be hard to see. The fact that you woke up this beautiful morning is a blessing. You are a fighter with a sparkling and breathtaking personality. If you are able to walk on your own that is truly a blessing, but if you cannot and you have a walking device that is a blessing as well. Your senses are a blessing as well as all the amazing things your body accomplishes without you taking notice. Those that you hold dear to your heart are blessings so is every moment that you spend with them.

Not only have you received a great abundance of blessings but you have blessed other without even knowing it. You have been a blessing by welcoming a new person to your group of friends or your church. You have been a blessing by reaching out to a friend who was lonely. You were a blessing simply by being present and listening while someone was having a difficult time. Your life story and the story of how you have battled you illness has inspired many. It has given people hope, strength, courage, and peace. Many more people will be inspired by your story and blessed by your compassion. You have impacted more people than you are aware of, you matter to countless people more than you know.
Reflect on all the priceless blessings in your life and encourage someone in your life.

Lupus

“Yes, you need to know what Lupus is all about, but above all you need the strength and resourcefulness to battle with the wolf in its lair. The wolf will always be with you, but you can put a leash on it and make it heel.”

Lupus is known as the cruel mystery. People have heard of the illness before, but few know what it is and even fewer understand it. The way Lupus presents itself is as unique as our finger prints. Its complexity confuses medical professionals. Researches are working on formatting better testing, finding the cause of the illness, and developing better medication. Many aspects are highly controversial at this time such as causes of lupus and the diagnostic criteria.

So, what is Lupus? It is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system is over active and confused. Those of us with Lupus are being attacked by our immune systems. It attacks anything from joints to skin to kidneys and everything in between. In a healthy person (or in someone who does not have an autoimmune disorder) the immune system fights off bacteria and viruses. It essentially works endlessly to keep you healthy.

If you don’t have Lupus I urge you to educate yourself, just a little. A little bit does go a long ways.

The search for a diagnosis seems like an endless and hopeless road. From my observations this is true when being diagnosed with any chronic illness, not just Lupus. The more I connect with those who are chronically ill, watch medical shows, or read spoonie stories I repetitively hear the horror of the individual searching for a medical answer. Many factors play into this inadequate testing, lack of knowledge in the medical field, bad doctors, the illness not progressed enough, ect..

If you are new to the Lupie World… Welcome. I know you’d rather not be a part of this ‘club’. I know that there are many emotions swarming you as you attempt to process everything. If you have been searching for answers to your symptoms, having a diagnosis is exciting and a relief in a way. On the other hand if you didn’t have any symptoms and no idea an illness had invaded your body I am sure this is utterly shocking. Where do you go from here? That is the million dollar question. A question that has a thousand answers but has no answer at all.

Allowing yourself to process that you have Lupus is important. I also advise that you educate yourself as much as possible about Lupus. When I got diagnosed I found the Lupus Foundation of America to be an excellent resource. Their webpage is great, in addition you can call them to ask questions. The Lupus Foundation also sent me information about treatments, living with Lupus, doctor information, and a magazine. I am so grateful that the Lupus foundation is the way it is. I cannot say thank you enough for the support and resources that I have received from them.

Life is never the same once you get a diagnosis. For better or worse things need to change. Most people need to adjust their life style, that is not saying that their life style was unhealthy. The life style of a healthy person is different then someone who lives with Lupus because the body needs different things. You will need to change your diet, how you exercise, and learn how to pace yourself. Of course, there is a good chance that you will need medication. Again I encourage you to do your homework. Educate yourself about the medication you are going to put in your body. Personally, I have a lot more confidence in trying a new medication when I know what to expect and the possible side effects.

Learning how to pace yourself is a huge challenge. Learning when you need to push a little harder and when you need to rest. Learning to rest is an obstacle for most people. Resting can feel like a waste of time. However, regardless of how you feel it is  a necessity. Your body needs to rest sometimes and that is okay. Resting can help avoid flare ups.

Lupus effects everything not just your body it effects your life and your emotional well being. It is essential to address the emotional roller coaster. Ignoring it and shoving it under the rug will only make things more difficult. It is tempting to shove the emotional aspect of Lupus under the rung most times, because there are so many other things demanding our attention. Depression and anxiety can be rooted in Lupus. Like any emotional illness sometimes depression or anxiety associated with Lupus can be treated with lifestyle changes other times medication needs to play a role.

Isolating yourself can be easy with any chronic illness. Many of us lose friends. It is difficult to keep in contact with people due to various symptoms, holding a conversation at times is utterly draining. Sometimes people avoid talking to others because of a rudely obnoxious lack of understanding. Even so, we need support. Isolation is not healthy for anyone. Having a support system is vital. In addition, I have found it helpful to find some support online through online support groups or pages an individual can like on Facebook.

I could go on for hours about Lupus and living with it. For now I will try to wrap it up so that this post doesn’t take too many spoons. I hope that you have found something in the post helpful. Welcome to the World of Lupus. You will be an amazing warrior who will demonstrate strength and courage daily. The road a head will be hard, but you have all the strength you need and you are never alone. Your story will give others the courage to keep fighting and to live their life.

How long did it take you to receive your diagnosis? What is the hardest thing about living with Lupus for you right now?

My favorite Lupus Resources:

http://www.lupus.org/

http://www.lupusny.org/

http://www.mollysfund.org/

Pages to like on Facebook:

World According to Lupus

Lupus and Me

Non- Lupus Resources:

http://restministries.com/

http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

http://www.fightlikeagirlclub.com/