All my life, for better or worse, I have been quietly paralyzed by this question, “How will they see me?”
But then seven years ago, when I was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme, I could hardly look at myself in the mirror. I didn’t want to face the world.
Because I was now beset with this mostly invisible, mysterious, controversial illness that had half my doctors questioning my sanity, and yet, I woke up every morning for years, facing very real symptoms that I couldn’t escape or ignore.
Here I was, a life that had been built around the approval of others, now was just laid open, SO bare. And I will admit, the emotional isolation of the illness was just as painful as the physical manifestations. Maybe more.
Besides having to do all I could to heal physically, an equally hard task was having to step out and face the parts of me that I wanted to hide – I had to speak up when I wanted to be quiet, to share when I wanted to turn safely inward, to allow my insecurities to show when I wanted to “seem” strong.
Living with an illness like Lyme forced me to face my fears of being misunderstood.
Now the truth is, I have found the world is pretty understanding. People actually care. They want to help if given the chance. When I was at my sickest, I had the support and love of family and friends. But still, there are those who will never get the extent to which another suffers. There will be judgments. There will be naïve but hurtful comments that will literally crush your already fragile spirit. There will be doctors who will dismiss you. There will be a lot of self-doubt. There will be those who will never say it, but wonder if your suffering is as real as you make it to be… or if, as in my case, I was simply a stressed out mom of three young kids who just needed a few more pedicures.
Though it has not been an easy journey, it has been worthwhile. I have a greater appreciation for those who stood by me through my lowest points, and all the relapses in between. It takes a brave, sensitive person to stick by someone who is suffering constantly with an illness that no one really understands. I think now of all that my husband had to go through even when I didn’t have the energy nor the lucidness to explain the pain, and I am incredibly humbled…and so thankful.
And though it has been far from an overnight transformation (try seven years and counting!), I feel like, by God’s grace, I am a better version of myself than I would have been if I have lived feeling mostly “understood.”
Thankfully, I am now in a place of feeling so much better. God has brought a lot of healing into this body of mine.
But I also thank Him for loving me enough to smash my pride into a million pieces.
I am now just getting how destructive this is.
I am learning the hard truth that God doesn’t always call us to a comfortable life of feeling understood and validated, but to a life of love and courage and truth, regardless. Simply, He calls us to a life worthy of the gospel.
This means to know that we are loved and forgiven, securely and infinitely, because of Christ’s work on the cross. Then to know, no matter where we find ourselves, that we are called to live a life that responds accordingly… a life defined by loving God with all of our heart, mind and soul… and loving others more than we do ourselves.
For me that meant telling my story even when I really didn’t really want to; it meant risking being misunderstood, in case my honesty could be an encouragement to someone in their journey.
It was hard to take that first step. Very hard.
But you know what? God is in the business of lifting up the broken.
Finally, as I take the focus off myself, I feel more apt to embrace the story He is writing in my life. Finally, I feel more free to boast in my weaknesses, knowing He will be my strength.
Finally, the chains are loosening, as I am learning to care about what He thinks above all.
And it feels good.
I have to say, this has been perhaps one of the greatest ways I am healing.