HealthGrief

The Grief Of Living With A Chronic Illness

It is a cold, dark winter evening — a scene that is now the overlay of my present heart, too. I am praying for relief from the heartbreak of unexplained pain, only to feel my abdomen growing in remorse of something more pressing for my tears.

I am struggling. I am struggling because there are so many moments I wonder, “Why is my body, my home, at war with me?”

It is a new year, one filled with hopes and dreams I trust are laced with grace and promise. And yet, the beginning of this new story has been trampled with losses of love and strength. If the world could listen to my heart, I swear it would hear it shattering.

I am heartbroken most that my own body is suffering and I cannot seem to help it with my own tender hands. It is hidden and unrepentant, untreatable and ruthless. It is something you never think will be a part of you — until it is.

Recently, I was told that I likely have a chronic illness (endometriosis, in particular). I say “likely” because without a surgery I have been told is invasive and unable to mend these internal wounds and scars, it is and forever will be unknown. And so, I may always wonder if it really is what doctors and I fear it is.

Truthfully, I am scared. I am afraid of the pain worsening and my health deteriorating, but most of all, I am shaken by the endless unknowns. I often question, “Will I ever be able to bear my own child? Is fatigue something that will plague me for the rest of my life? Could it later lead to cancer, as some studies suggest?”

Tonight, these fears are whirling in my head, as they have most days this year. And because I am so, so overwhelmed by their constance, I sit. I sit and still my ever-beating heart, taking the little control I have to close my eyes, pray, and honor how terrified I have been over something that is so difficult to put into words. I do this because oftentimes, it is the only thing I can think to do.

I am endlessly thankful for this body that still works to help me move and travel and love my heart’s fondest souls. Yet, now I worry that it is weakening with time. And so I too ask myself the scariest question of all: What can I really do to stop it from progressing?

I open my eyes abruptly, embarrassed by my own honest unraveling, only to come across an outpouring of my heart in someone else’s words. I find the outcry of a lovely young woman who too scribbled about the ache of her own experience, expressing the grief and anger that often comes with an illness like this.

You see, when the pain returns, you may hope it’s simply a flare. And then that flare lasts days and weeks, and before you know it, nearly a month has gone by. Your breath hitches in your throat even when you consider telling those you love where you’ve been the past little while. It’s difficult to say, again and again, that you’re sick, because to anyone else, you’re “always sick.” And it’s embarrassing to admit that simply standing on your own two feet can seem like the hardest, most defeating task of all. So, you soon find your curtains are now not open wide like they used to be but are instead drawn to hide yourself from the world that can no longer see the woman you once were.

I have sensed a lot of slipping lately — from my own body, my faith, and the ones I love the most. I worry that no one will be there if or when I crumble alone again, searching for someone to reassure these fears I am now growing to believe may become so, so real. Chronic illness is terrifying. It is deafening. It is unfathomable. This is the honest, heart-wrenching truth of something unimaginable.

But that night, the sweet, sweet words I stumbled upon by a woman who knows what it’s like to be this sick, too, gave me hope in this hopeless moment. Crying through tear-stained hands, I didn’t know what I was praying for. I was resentful and dazed, my lack of gratitude unsightly. And yet, in only what I know can be true, wholesome grace, He still led me to find comfort in a reassuring story, one I have continued to return to when the worries circulate again and again until all of my time is spent and spent.

I may still be afraid, yet I am evermore hopeful. I am hopeful that things will get better. I continue to pray that my body will gain its strength back and my heart will become even more resilient with it. I am thankful for my health, even if it is wavering, and I am grateful for the One who never leaves me wondering for too, too long.

I may not know what my future holds, but I trust the One who holds it. For He has painted a far more stunning story than I could ever imagine, and so I believe He will use all of this for my own good in splendid time and amazing grace.

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