I’ve known what it’s like to feel old – old and broken, like my best years are long gone – and I’m not even 25. Kind of like after all the leaves turn their pretty colors but then fall to the ground, brown and retired. That’s me. At least it has been. My youth, my prime, stolen from me with the cruel, slow crush of silent sickness and invisible illness.
I don’t want to do this.
I don’t know why I’m sick, but I am. I still am. After all this time and so much work. I don’t want to be let down again. Let down by another person’s lack of understanding, lack of compassion, lack of empathy. It hurts too much to be so misunderstood, so unable to voice this pain –
But this is how it truly feels:
It’s anguish, all the time.
It’s like life is repeating the end of a horrible day where everything goes wrong and you’re so painfully broken down and tired. Every day, I’m being beat down and run over physically, emotionally, mentally.
And it’s a rollercoaster. I never know what I’m going to get today. Some days I feel almost normal. Other days I am literally ready, sometimes even genuinely hoping, to die. And maybe you’d never guess it by looking at me, maybe it doesn’t seem like it, but the truth is, I have had nothing left in me to fight with for a long time.
It’s been a supernatural power, a supernatural love, a supernatural cross that’s given me strength to keep going.
I am young, but I relate to the old. When my peers seem to live carefree and easy, everything has consequences for me…every bite of food, every attempt to stay out late with friends if I don’t have days to recover, every uncalculated movement…I have to be so perfect with what goes into my body, with how much sleep I get, with just how much daily work I must do in order to sustain normal tasks. I have to be cautious of every surface and every germ because my immune system is simply too weak for this world. I have to think about everything.
I have eyes to see the fullest life, but I can’t taste it.
I’ve spent way too much money, way too much time and energy, too much of everything. There have been so many days in bed, nights in bed. Days without anyone who cares or understands, nights without hope or peace. How many nights have I spent on the floor somewhere, crying and clutching my shaking body, just wishing – begging for someone who would come and heal me, someone who’d love me, comfort me, just be there with me. I’ve been so betrayed by the ones who can’t understand, and even the ones who can.
“Is there any love for me? Anyone who will feel this for me because I can’t take it.”
There are lies that seem more than anything to be the truth. And they play on repeat in all our dark and untouched corners: “I am not worth it: not worth being loved, being cared for, being supported. I am not worth anything at all.”
And maybe I made it an idol, this idea of “better”, of getting better, feeling better, being better. I’ve sacrificed so much, so many of the things I enjoy, and tried everything I could possibly find to try. People love to offer their solutions, they want to help, but I can’t stress to you enough that this is a battle that goes so very far beyond those well-meaning suggestions. Honestly.
I’ve seen a gazillion doctors. Taken enough pills and medicine to fill a three story house. I’ve had surgery. Dozen’s of rounds of antibiotics…probiotics…supplements that won’t quit. I’ve seen naturopaths, functional medicine doctors, herbologists, acupuncturists, chiropractors. Made diet changes, lifestyle changes, done detoxes, herbs, essential oils, electromagnetics, green juicing… Gluten free. Grain free. Paleo. Sugar free. Dairy free. Soy free. Vegetarian. Vegan. The list goes on and on…
Have you ever been sick with a flu or bug or cold that just wouldn’t go away? Have you ever felt so bad that you would try just about anything to feel better and be well again? Well, that’s how we feel too, those of us in this sinking boat…but like, 100% of the time. It might look crazy or ridiculous, from your view, but we are just trying to save our Titanic however we can.
This isn’t a pity-party. I know that wallowing gets you nowhere. But sometimes you just have to tell it like it is, tell it like you feel it, in order to let go and be free: in order to find the strength to move forward for today. And a lot of the time I’m emotional – angry, sad, lonely, afraid – because at all times, I’m only human.
So, forgive me if I get angry when you assume that I have endless energy, great health and all this ease on my side because I’m young. Forgive me when I’m hurt by the fact that you’re so tired, even though you’ve been going non-stop for weeks, months, years and you actually should be tired and rest! I am almost always inexpressibly, overwhelmingly tired – no matter what I do! Many days, it takes nearly all my strength to get out of bed, to walk up the stairs, to just exist…let alone get anything done. And it sucks. I feel ashamed about it because it’s not like I’m even doing anything! I feel guilty and judged but I’m the only one who knows what it’s like inside my own body.
Chronic illness, or chronic whatever-this-is, is a new level of tired. Tired just doesn’t quite say it when you’ve been completely devastated after taking a shower, and had to curl up in your towel on the bathroom floor, trembling for hours until you could get back up. I’m so sick of people’s assumptions. I don’t look as sick as I am because I work harder than hell to be well, and when I’m not able to make it, I’m alone at home. You don’t see how bad my bad days are. How sick and broken I really look sometimes. How my frame has failed and my broken heart burns with the crazy grief of feeling
so alone in this.
“I can’t take it anymore!” How many times? How many times have I been on my knees, begging this? Tears in my hands, down my shirt, on the thin pages of a Bible that doesn’t feel like enough, when all I feel is sickness and pain and this impossible helpless and hopelessness. Crying quietly to a God who doesn’t seem to come when or how I want.
My lungs collapse as I sigh out this stinging, awful cup with the name that promises to rescue. “I need you to take this from me. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t do it anymore! I can’t fight anymore. Where are you?!” And I weep it like David, lament it like David:
“How long? How long do I have to wait, God? Will you forget me forever?!”
I hate it because I feel abandoned and forsaken. I want to give up, but I just can’t. God won’t let me, which honestly kind of sucks sometimes. Or it feels like it at least. After enough try’s, enough fails, enough pain…your heart stops hoping, even if your soul knows everlasting hope. Everything you know says healing isn’t possible, not for you. Not in this case, this situation. It’s burned into you for this lifetime, and you think, even if you were healthy, you’d never not have the evidence of all these searing, lonely scars.
But the thing about lament is it turns from weeping to hope, from despair to hanging onto truth just to hang on in this moment. And there’s a faith in me that keeps me hanging on when all feels lost, and I don’t know anything but these whispered promises that burn in my heart. He’s taught me to surrender. His faithfulness has caused me to remember and to believe. So, every time, every time I am crushed, every time I am at the end of my strength and hope and my whole world is failing and crumbling and dark: He comes with courage and I recall –
“I need you and I’m not afraid of my need for you, God. I feared my need, my desperation, but I know now. I know how incapable I am without You. I am nothing apart from You. You are my strength…my savior. You are all I need and all I want.”
God’s goodness, holiness, faithfulness…is set apart from everything and everyone. I’ve known His voice. I’ve known His mercy, grace, love, power. I’ve known what can only be found in the secret places of suffering with Christ, a suffering with such great purpose.
And I’ve known what it’s like to wait in faith, hoping for hope. One can only face so much defeat before believing they’re defeated. But in my defeat, I’ve seen His victory – my hope of glory:
“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” – Psalm 13
I hold on. And honestly, I don’t feel much hope right now, but I keep clinging to the promises and I’ll keep holding on like Jacob wrestling with God. “I won’t let go until You bless me!”
And I won’t walk away from this without some reminder.
But I know – I know – that my flesh may fail, but my God never will.