2019 started for me with the confirmation of my fifth life-long illness. An illness where I am guaranteed to frequently experience debilitating body pain, insomnia and a sense of rejection coupled with suicidal thoughts. This is on top of a disability that causes constant body pain and a severe mental illness with its primary features being an inability to manage emotions and suicidal thoughts. Additionally, the things that I once took for granted like having a shower, walking down stairs and putting on socks, are now challenging and require the use of aids or assistance.
This year I have averaged four medical appointments per week. I have been seen by five different specialists and treated by seven different types of allied health professionals, who all kept on leaving. I have had one bone density scan, two x-rays, two CT Scans, three MRIs, four hospital admissions and two general anaesthetics.
I have been told that I am having a bowel obstruction. No wait… change that to a partial bowel obstruction, to discover during the procedure that actually nothings there. In re-examining the MRI it looks like you have a re-emergence of your autoimmune disease. Would you like to swallow a camera pill to find out more? No thank you!
I have experience the loss of coordination and slurred speech for a period of time, resulting in being told I may have had a mini stroke. No change that to your body just being overloaded. We will do an MRI to see if something is happening. That’s all clear, but you do have an aneurysm that will need to be monitored.
During one hospital admission after a mental illness episode, I was told that I will never get better from this illness, and to expect a life of ending up in emergency departments, because there is nothing more we can do for you. I have been told that from now on it’s all about managing what you have because you’re not going to improve. To then be told perhaps you have been misdiagnosed.
So you might be wondering what I am thankful for about 2019. Well even though this has been a challenging year, where it feels as though everything has been taken away from me, it was also a year of discovery. It was a year that God showed me that He was all I really needed. He showed me that my hope is not in my circumstances but only in Jesus. Although, in my most depressive moments I think that I’ve been abandoned by God, there’s no hope, and I can’t possibly keep living this life, God always finds a way to remind me of who He is, and that He is in fact right there with me.
I am thankful that God has shown me I have the gift of writing, and that writing is a helpful means of dealing with my journey of multiple illnesses. I am thankful that I have then been able to turn my writing into a blog for others to read. I am thankful that God used a friend to discover a new type of wool with loops already in it, so that I could fulfil a lifelong dream of making blankets. I’m thankful that this has become my go to when distressed or processing more news. I am thankful for the therapeutic value found in these new hobbies. I am thankful for another friend who knowing the financial challenges of living off a pension has purchased a lot of wool because she knows how much this benefits me.
I am thankful for the people that God has placed in my life to be the hands and feet of Jesus to me. I am thankful for one particular friend who has consistently met up with me to provide wise biblical counsel throughout this journey. I am thankful for her patience, prayers, ongoing support through numerous text messages, but more importantly her desire to always point me back to Jesus. I am thankful for the friends who have called me throughout the week, particularly one friend who calls several times a week and provides an outlet to share the struggles of the day. I am thankful for those who have followed up in text messages, or who have taken me out for coffee. I am thankful for my Growth Group at Church who pray when I let them know I am suicidal or going through a medical procedure.
I am thankful for the practical support that I have received from people. I am thankful for those who have provided transportation, or ensured that I don’t fall over or have assisted me in getting meals. I am thankful for a friend using her OT knowledge to help me and then gifting me a Bellini Kitchen Master so that I can cook meals for myself again. I am thankful for the financial assistance provided to me throughout the year, so that I can enjoy things in life like going on Church retreat or going overseas, where I well and truly could gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.
I am thankful that even though at times I feel isolated and abandoned by God that He seems to blast through the heartache, confusion and chaos that is around me to remind me of truth when my mind is full of lies. To provide sustaining grace when I just don’t think I can bear another thing or go through another cycle of intense suicidal thoughts. I am thankful for the overwhelming sense of peace that at times floods through my body when my mind is completely disinhibited or I am anxious about going through the next medical test. I am thankful for the sound track that comes throughout my mind of various songs that resonates with my circumstances. I am thankful that I can well and truly sing in the trials that surround me, Yet not I but through Christ in me. I am thankful that like Asaph in Psalm 73 I can say “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (verse 26).