The One Where I Finally Open Up & Reflect
The point of this post isn’t to rehash the details of my unexpected health issues, however, it is to serve as a reflection on the past year (as it has now been just over a year) and what I have gained through this experience. If you have health issues or any other large struggle, I highly encourage you to do the same measure – and share it!
I’ve made reference here and there to health issues I’ve had the past year, but I’ve never addressed the subject in a post of its own. I’d rather not use this particular post to go into detail, but the short of the matter is that an unexpected environmental factor (from our last rental) caused my body to function improperly in several ways. When I started to experience symptoms of debilitating fatigue, muscle weakness, dizziness, and so forth, I (and my doctor) assumed mono. Tests and more tests and specialized doctor visits revealed no conclusive answer, and at that point (months later), I had to come to terms with the fact that what I was dealing with was no contracted virus and we were able to determine what had caused my sickness. I was finally treated properly 3-4 months after I first presented with symptoms, and it wasn’t until around 9 months (spring of the next year) that I felt my health was truly beginning to be regained.
I had my husband take a few pictures of me recently. I wanted a reflection of where I’m at now, one year later, even though my struggle was not so physically obvious. When I look at that photo, I can see the differences: weight gained back, color on face, eyes without circles around them. However, unless you are a close friend, you would likely not be able to point out the differences. That’s the thing with “invisible illness“- it’s not always obvious to those around you. I had well-meaning people say,“well, you look good!” on days when I was literally at my worst.
After we moved from our duplex (remember, environmental issue), I felt that the majority of the people around me assumed that I would quickly start to improve and feel like myself. This was unfortunately not the case. I think that there was simply misunderstanding about the nature of my illness or perhaps those who just didn’t know how to help. However, I don’t blame anyone or hold bitterness. I just learned which people were safe to reach out to when I needed some support.
I learned more about myself in a year than I might have learned in 5: emotionally, mentally, physically, AND spiritually. I had to quit a job I liked and for the first time in my life, I found myself without the title of “student” or “worker.” I felt naked. I had to come to terms with the fact that my achievement nature could literally not achieve. In the beginning, I was sleeping for 12 hours a day and feeling exhausted if I walked to the mailbox – and I didn’t even know why.
As time went on, I regained strength very gradually – bit by bit. This meant that I had really bad days and fairly normal days. I canceled plans all the time out of necessity to rest, and I laid on the couch and prayed that the Lord would get to the heart of my physical and spiritual sickness as it became clear that I had no peace not doing anything (or achieving for others). I faithfully kept up on doctor visits and did everything medically necessary, weary as though I was of it. I learned other things that were “off” with my health and gained answers to questions I’d had for years.
I began to heal. I grew in self-acceptance of myself and of my weakness. I learned how to prioritize my day properly. I learned when to push myself and when to say no. And then come springtime, I realized that I was living FULL days again. I wasn’t making it through one or two items on my to-do list and then spending the rest of the day on the couch. I had energy and I was doing things normally!
And then this fall, those squash I’m holding in the photo above suddenly started to appear in my dad’s garden along with a decorative pumpkin alongside the porch- neither of which he planted. We finally realized that they were my decorative fall squash that I had brought along with me when we moved. I had set the pumpkin on the porch, forgotten about it, and then left it to rot. It grew on its own and became the most perfect pumpkin. The squash had been put into the compost after rotting, but somehow came back and produced a whole mess of little squash – all from the one I had dragged with me when I was sick and afraid and weak.
I don’t think that anything could have been more perfectly symbolic of my experience over the year: something that was dying and rotting came back to life and produced so much more fruit than was there before – and it wasn’t from a single bit of my own effort.
“He makes everything beautiful in its time.”
Did I picture this past year being the way it was? Never. Do I cherish the freedom and knowledge I have gained from a result of it? Yes, and this year (and health struggles) are temporary and non-existent in eternity. Today, my health is not 100% restored (I know now that there were some prior issues that explained why my body reacted the way it did) but I know that the work has already been done by the One who came that He could make us whole. Good health or poor health – whichever it may be- does not serve as my identification as a person.
In the blog posts to come, I will open up more about my health and measures I take to care for it. I will share ways to care for yourself holistically, health issues or not, from practical tips to emotional care to recipes.
If you can relate to any of this post, please don’t be afraid to reach out (below) or privately email me (firstname.lastname@example.org)!