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. ❤

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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!

Called To Ministry

I first considered going into ministry around the age of fourteen, before the chronic illness world ever crossed my mind. I had been reading the Christy Miller series by Robin Jones Gunn. I was introduced to missionaries through one of the books and instantly I wanted to be a missionary. My dream was to complete college than spend at least two full years on the missions field.

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Many events continued to shape me spirituality and as a person from short-term mission work to retreats. I was given unique opportunities to serve. I also faced typical adolescent struggles.

Two years later I went on a pilgrimage to Taize France. It is a community organized by brothers who dedicate their lives to serving God. Their main focuses are teenagers and young adults assisting them in growing in their relationship with Christ. http://www.taize.fr/en

I am convinced there is nowhere in the world that possess the Godly peace offering a transforming experience. It is difficult to wrap it up into words that paint a clear picture. Taize is a community. A journey. Silence and simplicity are hallmark aspect of the three daily worship services. To an energetic young American the concept of spending seven minutes of silence while surrounded by hundreds of people was a foreign concept. To many this concept causes them to tense up it seems unnatural.

The experience was amazing beyond words. It is a unique place and experience. The silence was incorporated in each service for a few minutes. In addition, we had Bible study. Towards the end of the week, one of the brothers told us we were going to spend an hour in silence. I was beside myself. I thought it would be impossible for me to do. They had us pick a spot to spend this time. I ventured down to the source with two of my friends. I sat on a bridge. There God called me into ministry but did not provide details. I knew my life would be dedicated to serving Him in one way or another.

I shared my calling with some people in my church. Their reaction shocked me. They had said they had known I was called into ministry. Apparently I was the last to find out.

I questioned my calling and still do at times today. I wonder at times how I will serve with my illness.I have considered a number of possibilities, but God did not give me a road map.  It is not important for me to know this moment how I will serve God. I have the willing heart and I know in His timing He will guide me.

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.

The Heart of Worship

Worship is essential to our spiritual well-being. We were created to love and worship God. However, God does not need  you to worship him. He desires to be in close fellowship with you. He craves, for you to understand his love for you. Worship renews us providing us with joy, strength, peace, and much more.

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This song is a classic. Without knowing it many times our unfocused hearts, shove God out of the way; even during worship. We idolize other things or become prideful.  Our sin coved hearts begin to harden as we take steps backwards, away from the throne. How many time have we speculated how those around us are worshipping. In our minds saying, “She is showing off, that is not real worship.” Also allowing our minds to paint a captivating daydream. Consumed with our schedule, we fidget entertaining anxious thoughts.  Or we are more focused on the talent of musical ability than on the Sovereigness of God.  Music is a magnificent way to worship, but it is not the heart of worship, not the main focus.  Ironically, I am using songs to get me point across. The lyrics demonstrate truth,

“I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about you
It’s all about you, Jesus
I’m sorry Lord for the things I’ve made it”

“The heart of worship is our heart, delighting in Jesus and expressing praise to him for the true things the Scriptures teach us about who he is and what he has accomplished for us.” God does not want us to participate in a drama production; he simply wants us to come as we are to authentically worship him. He knows our hearts. He knows every flaw and failure; every negative thing in our character and in our life. Despite this, he commands us to come as we are, as he lovingly extends his grace to us.

The majestic name of, the Lord is worthy of all honor. He lovingly crafted every corner of creation with passion. His fingerprints are evident throughout nature. “God’s glory is everywhere from the smallest microscopic form of life to the vast Milky Way, from sunset and stars to the storms and seasons.” Before God crafted the universe he construed a purpose for your life. Our righteous Lord is the source of life. Allow your heart to align with his will and worship his name.

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It is good to passionate pursue things, striving to succeed as hard work pours out. However, none of these things should become a god in our life.  In the spoonie world chasing after the Spoonie dream is easy. The dream of a perfect treatment plan, pain-free living, healing, or aspects of a healthy person’s life such as a social life. “To treasure God more than pain-free living.”  Do you treasure God more than anything in your life?

I love the words to this song though it the Spirt has showed me a lot.

“We must not worship something that’s not even worth it
Clear the stage, make some space for the one who deserves it
Anything I put before my God is an idol
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol
Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol
Anything that I give all my love is an idol

And we can sing all we want to
We can sing all we want to
And still get it wrong
Worship is more than a song”

If we are not intentional about riding our hearts from idols we, fall into the trap of worshiping them without even noticing it. The enemy longs to disconnect us from our creator. Keeping us away from worship is included in his laundry list of ways to diminish our faith. He attempts to keep us too busy to spend time with God, “the primary purpose of Sabbath margins- of saying no when appropriate- is to diminish our devotion to all other suitors and crystallize our allegiance to God.” Spending a substantial amount of time with God on a regular basis is not only a command the Lord gave us, but it is also essential to life. Time in worship allows us to be renewed in a unique way. Enter boldly into the Lords presence’s and worship him fully.

Six Months

Today is my six month anniversary from being admitted to the hospital where I fought for my life. In addition, it has been six months since I have been in urgent care or the ER. This is the longest time I have stayed out of the ER or urgent care in seven or eight years. I never thought I would be able to say that I stayed out of urgent care for so long. Things have slowed down with my health. During my last major flare up typically I had a doctors appointment, medical testing, infusion, or an urgent care trip at least once a week. It was time consuming and draining.  I feel extremely blessed and grateful to be where I am now. I am also grateful for the medical professionals who cared for me, helped me, and continue to be on my case.

Hitting rock bottom with my health at the hospital was daunting. I can vividly recall, a chatter box doctor going over my medical history and medications several times. Then explaining I shouldn’t be in pain and implying that I should be in much worse condition (not that a 10 on the pain scale is in good condition). No one enjoys hitting rock bottom, but it was a blessing and a turning point. Though there are many negatives associated with steroids, they saved my life. Now they are helping me get stronger and hopeful begin to live again. (Yes, I am tapering.) I know I have said it before, but it is worth repeating, being admitted to the hospital was a blessing.

It is mind blowing for me to be able to say I have not stepped foot in urgent care in six months. I am beyond excited. Today, I am celebrating this victory. My mom and I are spending sometime together. She has been my caregiver and source of support and strength so I am blessed to be able to spend the day with her.

My Invisible Fight

If you know me, you know I am chronically ill. My illness does not define who I am but it is a part of me. I look at as a trait not necessarily positive or negative. Like having brow hair, an oval face, or having dimples. My invisible fight. Words that empower. Words that inspire. Words that sum up my life over the past few years.

Without a doubt I have become a fighter, in this invisible fight. Few people know the details of my fight. Chronic illness is much more than what is seen on the surface. The battle is within. Falling apart only behind closed doors.

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I had many encounters with terrible doctors. No one took me seriously (I still struggle with this today). Doctors downplayed any concerns. My mom was my advocate, my voice. Growing up I was dangerously shy. If someone were to look at me crossed I would shrink back into my shell. Hearing my middle name released a waterfall of tears. Speaking up, was terrifying for me. Gradually I began to find my voice and become my own advocate. I have educated myself on treatment options, my illnesses, and everything medical that is relevant. I have learned that I know my body and my illnesses better than any doctor. After all I am the one who lives with it every moment of every day.  I fought to find my voice. My mom and I fought to find good doctors.

My health began to spin out of control in high school. It became evident that something was really wrong. Little by little new symptoms would develop. A new rash, unbearable pain, sun sensitivity, collapsing, weight loss, hair loss, and that was only the beginning. Medical testing became the norm of my life. Blood work that included more than thirty tubes of blood, MRIs, x-rays, GI studies, CATSCANS, scopes, EKGs, EEGS, and other medical tests that I cannot recall the names to. In addition, I had five operations in high school. The operations ranged from removing my tonsils to removing cysts to explority surgery.I thought I had hit rock bottom my junior year of high school, after an encounter with a medication that caused seizures. Little did I know rock bottom was much further down. Little did I know that I would long to go back to those high school years and deal with that pain and those symptoms.

I felt like the pause button has been hit one too many times. I have been home bound many times over the past six or so years. Every time play was hit and I began to recover, get stronger, and move forward pause would be hit yet again. It seems like each time my life is put on pause gets longer and finding the play button becomes more difficult. 

My invisible fight was taken to a new level in college first due to pluricy. Then to finding bloody urine that indicated a sever double kidney infection lasting four months. I was taken off my Lupus medication which gave Lupus permission to recklessly attack. I began seeing doctors every few days, had medical testing weekly, and became a regular at urgent care. I landed myself in the cardic unit last September. I continued to get worse. More testing. More doctors. More pain. Hopeless.

My symptoms shifted. My abdomen began to give me issues again. This time it was worse. Abdominal swelling to the point of looking at least six months pregnant was my newest symptom.  I began to question how much more my body could take. How many more days of intense pain that sent me to bed screaming and doubling over. I was taped. Giving in to the fight was tempting. No one had answers. No one knew what to do.

Things were terrible. Eating was difficult and staying hydrated was nearly impossible. The fatigue was thick yet my body wouldn’t surrender to sleep. I had to rest going up or down the stairs. Breathing was a chore. Shower a hazard. Daily tasks seemed like huge projects. Some days I couldn’t bend down to put on my own socks.

Finally it happened. This past April, I hit rock bottom. I could barely move. The pain and fatigue were more intense than I can describe. I was admitted to the hospital for ten days. https://chronicallyhopeful2014.wordpress.com/2015/05/02/hospitalization/

Looking back I believe that being admitted was the best thing for my health overall. I was at rock bottom. It was more difficult to keep moving forward than I can describe.

When I received the message on Chronically Hopeful inviting me to help and participate in Invisible Illness Awareness week I was shocked and over joyed. I firmly believe that sharing our invisible fight stories is vital. Someone had shared the fight song. I immediately connected with it and shortly after fell in love with the lyrics. I feel like that is where I am in my invisible fight, taking back my life. Taking back life after dramatic pauses is difficult. At times it is painfully slow. Progress seems invisible.  Taking back my life and continuing to fight is a daily decision and struggle. I am mastering a new balance act with my invisible fight and the rest of my life.

My invisible fight has probably been the most difficult fight of my life. I know it will continue to be a tough fight. It has caused me physical pain, heartbreak, taken me on an emotional roller coaster, played tug a war with my faith, caused me to lose friends, and lose much more. Yes, there are countless negative attributions of my invisible fight, but I am sincerely and deeply grateful to be in this fight. First of all I am grateful because I believe that God will use my invisible fight for his glory. Through my invisible fight I have matured as a person and as a Christian. I have learned so much. I have meet some of the most inspiring people. I have had the honor of running Chronically Hopeful and helping with the Invisible Illness Awareness Campaign. My prayer is that my invisible fight will be a testomy, inspiration, and blessing to others.

Psalms 32:7

“For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory.” Psalms 32:7

There are days living in the Spoonie world is difficult. Thick anxiety is layered within. Fear of those two heavy words.. what if. There have been an abundance of moments on this journey where I wanted to hide. Like a timid child hidden from the melody of an intimidating thunder-storm.

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When we were children, we didn’t just hide out of fear. Hiding provided entertainment and excitement. The anticipation of being found remains unwavering. However addition positive emotions associated with hiding have melted with age. Negative slush traps us.

Hiding provides an escape. For even a moment I would like to escape the burdens of the Spoonie world; the doctors, medication, testing, emotions… the burden of being a spoonie.

This verse reminds us of our ideal hiding place, which is the Lord. In the mists of chaos and struggles we can crawl into the Lords compassionate arms. He is our hiding place. He is the source of all we need; our everything.

The Lord knows everything; his understanding is unhindered. He spares us from countless tragedies. He gently guides us through each storm.

There is a blissful victory in Jesus. He allows each moment of our lives to work together and bring Him glory. Though I may walk through the valley of the shadow of death melting from the negativity within I know somehow the Lord will receive glory. There are many things I do not understand. But I refuse to allow the burdens of the spoonie life to hinder my faith. Despite it all I will praise the Lord. With a heart of gratitude and wonder I will thank the Lord for my struggles. For he will receive glory and victory. Blessings are woven into this season. He will transform it into a master piece. It will be used for something beautiful.

“Nothing in your life has happened by chance. You are here exactly at this moment in history with exactly the circumstance you have encountered because God has a specific task he wants you to fill.”  The Lord has an astonishing purpose for your life. He will use every negative thing for good, to encourage others. Keep faith. When you cannot take another step, rest in the sovereign arms of God.

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Fear of the Future

Children dream about  the future with anticipation. Instinctively they push their way through childhood, all too quickly. As adults we obsessively plan wishfully dreaming about a bright tomorrow, and we prepare pushing forward. The future. A blank slate. Endless possibilities.

For many spoonies the future is associated with fear. The luxury of dreaming of the future (in an aspect) has evaporated. Fear flows through every thought associated with the future. Mainly because our health is so unpredictable. When I first became ill I struggled a lot with my emotions. I tend to be more of a type A personality. I tend to be an overachiever, expecting too much from myself. Even growing up I worried excessively. Insecurity feed my worried mind. I have learned to focus on the present, today has enough of its own worries and problems. At times I avoid thinking of the future. There have been times that my anxieties associated with the future dictated my life making me extremely emotional and disrupting my sleep. Questions like how am I going to survive if I have a terrible flare and I’m living alone? How will I keep up with everything living on a college campus? Will I be able to work full time? Can I really have a normal life? If your around my age, I am sure similar questions have flooded your mind. I am sharing this to let you know that your not alone. Fear of the future with an illness, in my option, is completely normal. We battle a lot daily and it is difficult to balance it all. It is hard to attempt to plan a normal life.

This fall I will be going away to school. I am excited about this new chapter in my life but like most people I am nervous as well. Most times our fears are irrational and never occur. I worry about my academics, the translation to campus, my health, making friends, and balancing everything. I attempt to avoid obsessing over it. Fear is normal. I have every reason to be worried, but worrying isn’t going to help me.Stress negatively impacts chronic illness. Anxiety isn’t always in our control.  I know determination will assist me in the transition. I am fearful but God is in control. I know this is the next step for me.

Disability Center

I am preparing to live on campus in a few short months. Recently I did all the paper work for the disability center.
It is best to register with the disability center at the beginning of the semester, even if you are in remission. You never know how the semester will unfold; being sick is unpredictable. It is best if everyone is aware that you are chronically ill. If you had a 504 plan it will follow you to college. If you don’t that’s okay, most colleges will still work with you. 
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Personally I meet with disability before any of my classes begin. We discus my health and what accommodations would be helpful for me. I sign some papers giving the disability center permission to speak to my professors on my behalf. In addition I e-mail all my professors. I know a lot of people hesitate telling administration about their illness. Personally I believe it is important to try to be open about being ill. I think being open allows others to be open and find encouragement as well. I share a lot of information with my college which you will see in the e-mail I sent to my professors this semester. I am open with my health for several reasons. When I do classes on campus I feel sharing everything about my health is for the best of my well-being. This way everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency. I do have a history of passing out. If for some reason I could not speak or could not remember basic information my professor and disability would know and be able to share it with paramedics or emergency room staff. Whenever I am not home I wear a medical ID bracelet with basic information on it. In an emergency it is important for those around you to know what illnesses you have, what medication you are on, what medication you are allergic to, and who to contact. The paramedics will  not look in your wallet for a list of medication without your consent. On my ID bracelet I put, “On meds, check wallet.”
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Sorry about that tangent, let’s get back on topic. I also share this information so my professors know that I will miss class sometimes due to flares, doctors, or treatments. I feel it is best to be up front about my health so that they can assistant me through out the semester as needed. Here is a sample e-mail: Dear Professor Name, I hope you are having a wonderful summer. My name is Victoria Guyadeen I will be in your online, Fundamentals of Nutrition course, BIOS 107, this coming semester. I am e-mailing you to inform you that I am Chronically Ill. Mrs.Smith from the disability center at the college will also be in contact with you before this semester begins. My main illness is Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Lupus is an autoimmune disorder, in which the immune system becomes over active and confused. A person immune system should fight off bacteria and infections but when someone has Lupus it attacks the body. It can attack major organs, the skin, joints, and many other things. The symptoms vary from person to person, from day to day. A flare refers to when the disease is active causing increased pain and other symptoms such as fever. Lupus can range from mild to life threatening. I have several over lapping illnesses along with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. These illnesses are: Asthma, Raynaud’s phenomenon, Endometriosis, Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Osteoporosis, Anemia, IBD, Supernumerary Kidney, Kidney Stones, and Migraines. I also have brain fog due to Lupus. Brain fog has to do with memory. It can range from mild to severe. Mine is moderate. I get lost frequently, forget words and basic information, and sometimes I forget who people are. I am still learning how to work with academically. Due to brain fog I might ask for clarification for certain assignments. Like anyone who is chronically ill I have good days and terrible days. However I never know when I will begin to flare or end up in the emergency room. I still see my doctors frequently and go through intense and time consuming medical testing. Currently I am under the care of four doctors. My doctors are about two hours from where I live. I have begun a new treatment for my Lupus, it is called Benlysta. Benlysta is an IV infusion; I receive it once a month on a Friday. Between the car ride and infusion it takes anywhere from six to eight hours. Of course I will do any assignments a head of time when my treatment is coming up. This is my third year of doing online learning. I enjoy online learning. The flexibility is priceless for me. I am able to work super hard on my good days which allow me to rest more on bad days. I normally work ahead to some degree in case I begin to flare or have doctor appointments. I also work ahead to keep my stress a level down which is vital. Despite my illnesses I set high academic goals for myself. One academic goal I have set for myself for this coming semester is to achieve at least a 3.8 GPA. I am extremely excited to be taking this class and I look forward to working with you. I will attach the letter my primary care doctor wrote for disability. Over the next few weeks disability will e-mail you a full list of my accommodations. Please give me 48 hours’ notice if you decided to change the instructions on an assignment. If you are willing to give me a copy of the syllabus for the fall that would be greatly appreciated, this way I can coordinate with my doctor’s appointments. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I apologize for it being such a long e-mail. If you have any other questions or need more information about anything please do not hesitate to e-mail me. I try to be extremely open about my health. I feel the honesty will help me succeed in college. Thank you once again. I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer.
Sincerely, Victoria Guyadeen
(*Note this is an old letter from a few semesters ago).
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How much you share about your health is completely up to you. Learning how much to share and how to balance college life and an illness takes time. Be patient with yourself. Enjoy your time in college.
Please: Let me know what else would be helpful for you. I could show samples of doctor notes to the professors and accommodation list. Or what other tools would be useful for your college journey.