Wednesday, March 13, 2013

One of THOSE Posts...

If you're reasonably healthy, please take a moment to realize just how wonderful a gift that is. Because really, it IS a gift.

I am not reasonably healthy. I maybe have one or two days a week where I feel really good. The other days I may feel decent, but not great. More often than not, I teeter between a good and bad day. I can feel great in the morning and lousy in the afternoon or vice versa.

And then once every few weeks, I get hit with a flare-up of my rheumatoid arthritis, or my headache gets out of control and turns into a migraine, or I wake up with nausea and weak limbs and can barely get out of bed (like this morning), or I am hit with such exhaustion that I can barely keep my eyes open, let alone work.

Let's just say that I never, and I mean never, have any leftover vacation/sick days every year. In fact, I often have to take unpaid leave. I'm incredibly grateful that my company offers sick leave because I'm one of those people who desperately needs it.

Some days, like today, it really gets to me, though. I'm home from work and that just irritates me. Every morning, I gauge how I feel - do I feel good enough to go, or bad enough to stay home? Most of the time, I go because I was raised to 'be tough' and 'work through it.' (That's the Midwestern farm work ethic in me). But when I can't hack it,I feel guilty for staying home, even when I know that there's no way I could make it through 8 hours of work.

I hate to disappoint people. I hate to have other people do my work. I hate that my being gone is an inconvenience to them. I hate how it looks - like I'm a slacker. (For the record, I don't think any of my co-workers think this - they have watched me wrestle with my myriad health problems). But I feel like a slacker when I don't go. So on top of feeling physically lousy, I feel mentally lousy because I beat myself up for missing work. Not exactly the best combination.

I'm working on accepting that I am not a healthy person. I'm learning to deal with my limitations. And I'm trying to be kind to myself.

But it's hard.

I'm usually positive in my posts, but sometimes, I gotta get real - and this is my reality. People who enjoy good health may not understand, but those who don't, will (I hope) understand.

So let me just put it all out there: I'm a chronically ill person. I have several issues (rheumatoid arthritis being the latest). I don't want to tell you how many times a year I go to the doctor. I don't want to show you the huge stacks of doctors' bills. Yes, I have tried to get well. Yes, I have tried alternative and modern approaches. No, I'm not lazy. No, I'm not a hypochondriac. No, it's not all "in my head." It's real and it sucks.

But this is the life I have, and despite all of this, it is a good life. I have so many blessings that I can't possibly count them all. An understanding, loving husband and daughter. Terrific family and friends. My writing. And so, so many more.

That is what I try to focus on, but on some days, like today, I feel the need to vent. Normally I would do this in my personal journal, but my hope today is that I can shed some light on living with chronic illness for those who don't know about it. That's why I'm making this post public. In our hyper-work-saturated culture, where putting in overtime and working ourselves to exhaustion is the expected norm, I have to accept the fact that my body will literally not allow me to do it. It just won't.

And you know what? That's okay. It really is. I just have to convince myself that it's okay. Acceptance sometimes is far harder than dealing with illness itself.

But I'm trying.

And one day, I'll get there.

26 comments:

  1. You have such a great attitude towards chronic pain and sickness. Unfortunately these are the cards you were dealt, but you are making the best of it.

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    1. Thank you, Patti. Some days are definitely better than others!

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  2. Brilliant, Melissa. So important and encouraging to read this. We have so much to be thankful for!! :)

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    1. You are so right, Erin. I am so very blessed and I thank the Lord that He is leading me through all of this. :)

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  3. Dearest Melissa-I don't see this as complaining on your part. If you were perfectly healthy and slacked off and felt no guilt then people would have a right to judge and criticize. What I see in you is someone who lives as best she can with the hand she's been dealt-with more strength than most of us would ever dream of having to summon. If anything-I admire you-and that's more than I can say for a lot of people I know. Hugs, my friend!!

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    1. Valerie, you are an absolute sweetheart and a wonderful friend. Thank you so much for your lovely comment. =D

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  4. Melissa, believe me. I SO know what you're going through. Ten years ago I could have written this entry; well, most of it. When I left work I was still largely undiagnosed and at that stage of "we can't find anything wrong so we think it may be all in your head or something. Maybe you're addicted to pain killers."

    After I left work and spent two years chasing down diagnoses I still worked from home doing freelance work. That wasn't easier because I had the added responsibility of chasing down clients.

    Before I left work I had to put up with a claque of women in my office whose self-appointed duty was to track my numerous absences. They kindly didn't track the number of times I was asked to stay until 2am to meet a deadline or the number of times I telecommuted or worked through lunch. But boy, take a sick day--like you I took them frequently--and everyone would gather to figure out how a person who looked just fine yesterday was sick today.

    In many ways it was freeing to leave an office environment but in other ways for a Midwestern Mennonite used to gutting it out its worse. I'm always suspicious of myself. Even moments like now when I'm half doubled over (quartered over?) I find myself wondering if perhaps I'm just not being TOUGH enough. :)

    All this to say, boy do I understand.

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    1. KC, thanks for your thoughtful reply. It is so freeing to know that others can relate to what I'm going through and that we're not alone in dealing with our chronic illness. Like you, I'm wondering if I'm not being very tough today, but then I get up to walk around and have to hold on to things because I feel so weak. It's frustrating. All part of the journey, I guess! At least it gives me good fodder for writing. Gotta look at the positives, right? =D

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    2. I didn't mean to make it all about me, truly. I just read what you wrote and was automatically all "soul sister!" about it. :)

      The worst thing about being chronically ill, in my opinion, is the constant guilt about feeling like you are weak and have let down those who love you.

      I think it's interesting, though, to see how many of the chronically ill people I know are in deeply committed relationships and have deep love from a lot of sources. Cervantes wrote something in Spanish that translates to "God gives you the disease but also gives you the cure."

      I like the idea of it--although I'd say God ALLOWS the disease and GIVES the cure. I don't think God makes us sick any more than I think God makes some people poor or French. :-)

      Every time I think I'm at the end of my rope I think two thoughts: 1. Christ in Gethsemene had it much worse ; 2. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Sometimes those "all things" are just brushing my teeth and hair. But it works.

      And frankly, I wouldn't trade the pain away if it meant that I was without the love and peace I've found walking through this valley of this shadow with the Lord.

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    3. Oh, no, I didn't think your comment was at all just "about you." No worries on that score. One thing is for sure - my relationship with the Lord has gotten a lot stronger over the past few months. I think this is my "thorn" that I must deal with, just as Paul had his "thorn" to deal with. And if it brings us closer to the Lord, it simply can't be all bad. :)

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  5. This is so true, and not everyone is healthy. It is always so sad when people "keep track" of co-workers sick days. I'm healthy and rarely take days off -- and even then I feel guilty for doing so (I grew up with that same ethic). I would also add to be very thankful if you have health insurance too.

    Hang in there, and I sincerely hope the good days outnumber the bad!

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    1. Thanks, DK. :) That Puritan work ethic is really been beaten into us, hasn't it? LOL. I am incredibly thankful for health insurance, too! Though it looks like everyone is going to see some changes with that in the next few years...

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  6. That Midwestern farm work ethic can be a dozy! Sometimes I think it's just a nicer way of saying guilt. Guilt that you should have worked harder, worked faster, been more successful, etc.... I admire the fact that you care so much about your co-workers when it would be easy to focus solely on yourself! To be able to go through those ups and downs while keeping your compassion and empathy is a trait that no amount of work ethic could ever replace!

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Jess! I think you're right - guilt is a big factor in this.

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  7. My dear daughter, you are so much stronger than you may realize. You do work so hard and so diligently as a writer - it is not only the physical jobs that take energy:-) And I share your feelings about "I should be working" even if I am not well - that work ethic is part of my being too. Sometimes, and this is difficult because you are such a kind-hearted and caring person, you just have to tell the "should committee" to buzz off. You are doing the best you can; be gentle with yourself and let the Lord take care of you. Rejoice when you feel better. . . as for me, your mom, I will just keep praying that the Lord brings strength and healing. Love you so much:-)

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    1. Thank you so much, Mom. You are such a blessing to me! Love you. :)

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  8. I wanted to stop by to see how you are doing and I'm glad I did! You need a huge hug on these kind of days. I understand your frustration. You've been raised to work hard and when you can't you feel badly. Well, listen you your mother! She is so right! Hang in there!

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    1. Thanks, Terri, for the encouragement and the hugs. :)

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  9. Melissa, I'm hearing you. Life can be such a struggle at times, can't it? But it's wonderful that you can see the blessings in your life despite the ill health. God always gives us the strength to bear our burdens.
    And I have always believed that it's the trials we go through that allow us to really enjoy those wonderful pain or stress free moments that others often take for granted.
    I'm praying that you will have a restful and fun weekend - with plenty of opportunities to write!

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    1. Thanks, J.T.! I agree - I really savor my blessings. I had another set-back today and have had a major flare-up, so I've been sleeping most of the day and not doing a very good job of counting my blessings. BUT. It WILL get better. :)

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  10. Sometimes we need a moment to let it all hang out. Don't beat yourself up for taking that moment; it helps to vent, and it reminds me to give thanks for my mostly healthy body.

    The end of your post is most telling; we live in a world where many illnesses of the past can be healed, or controlled. Yet, not all. With so many drug ads on TV and the internet, it's as if someone feels unwell, there's something they aren't doing, what rubbish! Bodies are fragile, and as we age, they become more so. Good health isn't to be taken for granted, equally it's important to realize other blessings, which are numerous, but sometimes hard to appreciate when pain is debilitating.

    My prayers and love are sent to you today for relief and acceptance. Thanks for writing this post.

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    1. You're a jewel, Anna. Thank you for your reply. I've seen a lot of ads for rheumatoid arthritis drugs and they make it look like you're cured if you take these drugs - ha! Far from it. So frustrating. But you just gotta keep going. :)

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  11. Well done you Melissa - keep going!

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  12. Many people who are way healthy don't have the faith or take the time to count their blessings, which means they are really not as rich as you are because you actually have more in the way of your faith and the recognition of blessings amidst the trials. Trials do make us stronger, and I can read your strength between the lines. My favorite Bible verse is "in everthing give thanks. . . " Phil 4:6

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    1. Thank you, Sandy. I really do think that the days I think I'm at my weakest are the days that the Lord is carrying me. :)

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