My heart is broken into a thousand pieces as I write this. I am a part of an endometriosis support group on Facebook where 2000 ladies can come find support, encouragement, and support. Today we gathered together in prayer for one of our sisters who decided she couldn’t live with the pain anymore and attempted to take her own life. She survived but is not in a coma with the prognosis unknown. While I may not have ever met this sister in real life or not even know her name, I know her as we have traveled the same road that binds us together as endo sisters.
I grieve for her life as at her young age, she left like it would be better to end her life than to continue to live with the pain. I grieve for her family who are holding her hand praying that she wakes up and wondering what they could have done to prevent this from happening. I grieve for our group of sisters that come from all different parts of the world and from all walks of life to become a family and feel the pain of loss knowing how easy it can be to find yourself in that place where you question whether or not is worth it to press on.
What most people don’t realize is that chronic illness is not just a physical challenge. Illness affects all areas of your life from physical to emotional to social to spiritual and if you’ve never faced it you may not know how exhausting it can be to continue fighting.
The physical pain can be bad enough on its own and if you couple that with medications that are heavy on the side effects, hit-and-miss treatments, and hearing “there’s nothing we can do” one too many times, it can be hard not to give up the fight.
I think the general public may not see the emotional side of an chronic illness the same way they would for a person facing a terminal illness like cancer. Guilt is just one of the emotions that can be tied with illness. You feel guilty for not being the wife/mother (husband/father) that you think your family deserves or that your family would have if you were not sick. You feel guilty that you are not contributing financially the way that you would if you were not sick (or your being sick is a drain on finances). You may be made to feel ashamed of your illness. Maybe you’ve got a family member who doesn’t believe endometriosis is a “real” disease and therefore its all in your head or you are exaggerating the pain. You may be angry or overwhelmed or depressed when you think about your life with chronic illness. The emotional fatigue can be very overwhelming and sometimes might be harder to face than the physical fatigue.
Spiritual fatigue also plays a role in your overall health as someone with a chronic illness. You may question where is God in all this. Did God cause you to be sick or was it something you did? Why does these illnesses exist in the first place as they cause so much pain and destruction? I think facing a chronic illness (like many other things in life) can cause a make-or-break time when it come to faith. You can either come to a point where you lean on God’s grace and, even though you may not understand it, you choose to keep on fighting with faith that God will see you through it. Or you can choose to turn away. This spiritual wrestling match can only add to the emotional and physical battles you are already fighting.
I mention this not to create a gloomy mood for the holidays but to share a real perspective on the side of chronic illness that is not often discussed. In my eight years with chronic illness, I have gotten to the point where I’ve questioned if the best thing to do was to give up. The pain was too much. There was no promise of relief. I felt like a burden to my family. I didn’t know what else to do. Thankfully through many of my pastoral care classes I learned to become pretty self-aware of these feelings and with the support of my husband and my doctor, I went to counseling. The last two weeks have been very difficult as once I again I feel like we’re in a place with no options and no relief and once again began asking myself the same questions so I requested a referral to see my counselor again last week with the support of my husband and doctor who helped encourage me to take that step.
Maybe you need to be the person in someone’s life to help make that step. Maybe it is your listening ear or words of support and encouragement that help someone see that life is worth living and the battle is worth fighting. Maybe it is you that becomes an advocate for your loved one when he or she is too tired to fight.
So if you have a moment, I would ask you to say a prayer for this endo sister and her family. I would also ask you to pray for your friends and loved ones who may be fighting chronic pain and/or chronic illness as the battle is long and hard. I know that the support and encouragement I receive from you, my readers, means so much to me and helps me keep on fighting the fight!