Introducing my invisible companion – pain

A sweet member of Chronically Hopeful, Angela, is sharing a beautiful post with us today. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time and spoons to be here with us today.

Bio from Angela,

I am a christian and lay-preacher. I worked in finance for 25 years but I am currently unemployed and looking for a new opportunity when my pain is managed effectively. I enjoy writing, public speaking, mentoring young people and spending time with family and friends.IMG-20170818-WA0004

 

When you meet someone for the first time, what do you think that they see or observe about you? Maybe the color of your eyes? Your radiant smile? Your height? Weight? Or whether or not you wear spectacles, walk with a cane or use a wheel chair? It is possible that a person may see and notice all of these outward features but for me, there is one thing that whilst all-encompassing to me, it is something that no one sees. I consider that it is significant but it is also invisible (at least to the untrained eye), and that is my pain!

Pain, caused initially by an injury and then by disease. Pain that wakes me up and often prevents me from sleeping. Pain that dictates my activities or lack of them. Pain that varies, but is my closest companion. I have never asked for its presence, but daily I am forced to contend with this intrusion, this reality, something that cannot be explained and that has a devastating effect on the quality of my life.

 

My “relationship” with pain, for want of a better word, began in the autumn of 1989 following a serious road traffic accident. For about six months I was unable to leave the house alone and needed help with every aspect of my life. Over the months that followed, my father and the physiotherapy team at my local hospital helped me to recover my strength thereby allowing me to return to work.

It was my dream to return to the relatively pain free life with the energy and freedom that many of my peers in their mid 20’s enjoyed. Sadly this was not to be and I had to find and accept a new and unwanted reality. Even though I was a Christian, this was still a challenge.

I was truly grateful for life, after all, how many people do you know that have been knocked over by a fire engine on call and have lived to share their testimony? I knew that I was blessed, but somehow at the back of my mind, there were some nagging questions: Why did this happen to me? Did I do something wrong? Suppose I had taken another route home or left work on time would things have been different?

 

As I battled with questions that I could not answer, I had further complications as I encountered a modern-day equivalent of Job’s comforters. People came to pray, give thanks, and to comfort me but sadly a few came to discover what “secret sins” I had committed that had led to this terrible accident.

Over the next few years as I grappled with the effects of widespread chronic pain, I found myself dealing with people who demonstrated a lack of understanding about chronic conditions and whether or not my pain was real or imagined. I asked God for healing, friends and family came for special prayer sessions, but when healing did not come, my faith was questioned.

 

What do you do when the promises of God don’t seem to apply to you or when you look around and hear stories of miraculous healings? When people question your desire to be healed, to be whole, to once again contribute to your church, your community, your family or even take care of yourself?

 

I didn’t have the answers or the strength to cope with them alongside the fatigue, nerve pain and all the challenges that both fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome, brought to my life.

 

Moving forward however, I try to encourage myself and others by what God shows me through His Word. No matter how hard it is, I still have HOPE! Why? Well after nearly 20 years in chronic pain, I had another life-changing accident, one that left me unable to work and crippled by excruciating pain. Yet in all of this time I have been able to eat, have a roof over my head and I have my basic needs met. Has it been easy? Absolutely not! I lost some things that were important to me but I held on to that all-important, life-saving ingredient, Hope! Here’s how the Apostle Paul describes it in Romans 5: 3-5 ESV:

“3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Hope as described here keeps us from being disappointed. Life is difficult for those who are suffering, but believing that a better day is coming, gives us hope. The Apostle Paul also has a disability, we are not told exactly what it is, but we know that he prayed three times for it to be removed.  When God chose not to, Paul accepted that God’s strength would be revealed in Paul’s weakness:

2 Corinthians 9: 7-10 Message

7-10 “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, my grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

 

When I feel weak I go to God to receive strength from Him so that I am able to continue with the life that God has given me. I have lived with chronic pain for 28 years now and some days I am unhappy about the pain that I feel, that no one appears to understand and that no one sees. When my invisible companion tries to control my life, I try to reflect on better days and lift my heart to God who gives me hope.

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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. ❤

Me And IBD

I am IBD Visible because I believe that awareness makes a difference. Education is key to living as healthy as possible. It is key to closing the gap between the healthy world and chronic illness world. Lastly, it is vital for those in the medical profession to gain a deeper understanding and compassion for us and strive for the best medical care. No matter how complex every person deserves the best medical care and to have manageable pain.

December 1st – 7th is Crohn’s & Colitis Awareness Week. The Chrons and Ulcerative Colitis Foundation says this overall about IBD: “Known collectively as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are painful, medically incurable diseases that attack the digestive system, causing abdominal pain, persistent diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fever, and weight loss. The effects of these diseases are largely invisible, which is why we need to make #IBDvisible!

Crohn’s disease may attack anywhere along the digestive tract, while ulcerative colitis inflames only the large intestine (colon). In addition to the impact on the GI tract, in some patients, IBD may also affect the joints, skin, bones, kidneys, liver, and eyes.”

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The pain began at age nine. Growing up, I frequently had stomach viruses. I had issues with being underweight, even though I was eating. I was told I was underweight because I was growing too quickly. The abdominal issues got worse about three years ago. I was unaware that I looked like a walking skeleton. In addition to the pain, I would have 15 -25 trips to the bathroom with diarrhea. I have encountered so many issues medically that it is a blur when some symptoms began. Eventually, I saw blood. It was a vicious cycle of medical testing and retesting. At one point in time, I swore I was done with the stomach stuff. Done seeing doctors. Done going through the tests.

Last April, I was in the I’m done state of mind when I encounter a huge flare. Of course, my mom brought me to the hospital. My liver enzymes were sky high. Despite the fact that I did not want to go through yet another colonoscopy one was ordered. I was positive for Ulcerative Colitis. The hospital doctors explained that they don’t see cases very often like mine. I have about five autoimmune diseases. I was in the hospital ten days. Despite their good efforts to avoid steroids, I ended up on a whopping 60 milligrams.

And so, the battle continued and continued to this day. I now have a gastro who I trust and like. One who listens, has compassion, trust me, and tells me everything I need to know. I struggle with eating daily. There is no set IBD diet. My current treatment plan consists of Prednisone, Balsalazide , and Remicade.

The journey with IBD is unique for everyone. If you are diagnosed with IBD I would like to encourage you to check out these links:Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, Inflamed & Untamed, and Kelly Patricia.  CCFA has on its website: “We need to make IBD visible! Why be IBD visible? While IBD patients may look healthy internally they may be suffering. The toll IBD takes on the entire patient lies hidden underneath, significantly reducing public understanding of what IBD is and how it affects quality of life. YOU can change this by getting involved and sharing your stories, giving a face to these diseases.”

  • December 1: A focus on IBD advocacy.
  • December 2: The focus is how IBD is an invisible illness. The whole “but you don’t look sick,” thing.
  • December 3: The focus will be on pain.
  • December 4: The focus is on fatigue this day.
  • December 5: Mental health is the focus on this day.
  • December 6: Complications of IBD will be the focus of the day.
  • December 7: Community is the focus.

This week use the Twibbon to raise awareness. Share your story on social media. Use #IBDVisible. Share your story with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation linked above for a chance to be featured on the web page.