Thursday, December 1, 2011

Drought of The Body & Spirit
It started the last of May. A gentle celebratory hug incited yet another fracture in one of my ribs – long bouts of prednisone medication had made my once strong bones weak and brittle.  We were planning a short trip to see my niece graduate and now, as the pain and inflammation made it hard to lie back or sit up, or even walk at a normal pace, I sadly realized that the trip was no longer a possibility. Trips for me require an unimaginable amount of planning, extensive packing (from medications and remedies, to special food, linens, air filter, and other items to reduce intense allergic reaction to most allergens both indoors and out). But I was determined as was my husband, William – who also had a special place in his heart for my niece since she stood up with us in our wedding as ring bearer when she was just four! During the first years of our marriage before my health spiraled downward, this precious one would visit us often and as my God daughter was much like the second daughter I didn’t get to have. As my health has been weighed down by more conditions and travel has become so difficult, I’ve missed out on visiting her and my other nieces and nephews. 

My sorrow over missing her graduation and the pain from the re-fractured rib sent me into depression and then, to make matters worse, a terrible heat wave rolled across the state and enveloped our far most Southern city with the hottest temperatures in 30 years. The high levels of humidity and the resulting ozones from the heat and pollution seeped through the loosened seals of our hundred year old house, leaving me burdened with chronic allergies and heightened fatigue and pain. And thus began the worst drought – environmentally and for me; physically and spiritually.

It takes a great deal – me digging way down inside with Divine Assistance to share with others (especially those who I interface with who are also battling critical/chronic illnesses) and of course anyone reading this blog or our book, when I have come to an impasse with health challenges and my life in general. For most of my adult life and even some of my teen years, I spent a good deal of time with my writing and in my work as a Fitness Specialist helping many clients in overcoming weight and eating issues, rehabilitating from injuries, illnesses, and poor metabolisms and weakened bodies. Whether writing fiction (short stories & illustrations) for a youth magazine as a young teen, or writing non-fiction on wellness topics over the years of my career, I’ve always been the “coach” the “encourager” the one who helped and hopefully inspired others.

Now, after battling a half dozen debilitating chronic diseases (two, for over 20 years – the others for over 10 years) I find myself at times in a place where I feel physically and spiritually crippled, stymied, without encouraging thoughts let alone, uplifting words.
To some, who know of my faith as a Christian-the kind who loves and tries to follow Jesus’ teachings, or as author, Dave Burchett, suggests in his book, When Bad Christians Happen To Good People… to get my walkin to match my talkin, it may be hard to read this. “Jamey, you’re always so encouraging – so supportive,” many have said, but truth be known, I too fall into the darkness. And here is where I am learning humility. Oh, I’m very familiar with being humble for chronic illness, chronic (and regular debilitating) pain, and body altering medications - that have added more damage to my body from ravaging side effects, has made humility a regular companion. But like the five months of relentless drought conditions in our region, I am trudging through the desert physically and spiritually, with no oasis in sight, I worry that to speak this, to write it, might somehow discourage others or get them down. Okay. I know I’m not God;, I’m not puffed up with myself – just uncomfortable with the thought that by revealing my moments of despair and even hopelessness, for concern that I might create sadness in someone else who needs encouraging words and hope.

While reading, What I Learned While Lying Down, by Angie Dugi, I was completely surprised to find similar feelings expressed by this dear woman who is surely one of the sweetest and most faithful women I’ve ever encountered! Her book is also about her odyssey with chronic illness and how it has changed her life and the lives of those who love her – especially her husband, Greg, and their children. In between so many inspiring pages there are also passages such as this; “I am grieving and mourning over so many losses…I’m alive and breathing but I have lost sight of what it really feels like to be alive. I catch glimpses of it in other people and I envy it…I long to escape the pain, even to run away, but the disease would only follow. Sometimes I hate this sick body because it traps me with all its malfunctions and restrictions. I it is so hard to positive and I feel like I’m losing my grip and slipping down a steep slope…I have felt such despair, it has been dreadful and dark.”  I realized as I read these words tucked in with other passages of how Angie persevered and overcame such trials, that all of these feelings; from the hope to the despair, are the threads that compose the tapestry of our lives and our journey with chronic illnesses.

With that said, I’m going to be reveal my own vulnerability and confess that like Moses, I’ve been stumbling around in the desert for several months now. I’ve endured bouts of angina, a lupus flare up that is affecting my organs and not letting up, and a complete break-down of my immune system with chronic allergies weighing down my body’s already limited ability to contend with chronic disease. Then there are the baffling and ongoing skin problems and the chronic pain from inflammatory disease of the muscles (which greatly affects both the nerves and incites more pain). I spend 5 to 8 hours per day applying and maintaining special ointments to my skin to protect it because my immunities aren’t doing the job and, it takes me 3 to 4 hours of careful preparation before I can even leave our house. Now, if you’re still reading, you’ve got courage and compassion; two vital things for those battling chronic health conditions and, also for those who are not ill, but who loves someone who is.

In the book I co-wrote with William, A Husband, A Wife, & An Illness, there are many places where I write about the burden of illness but also, about many different ways to cope, and even overcome some aspects of chronic disease. It’s actually some very good stuff – written from my heart. And I am humbled and overjoyed that many people have told us it has helped them in their own ordeals with illness. However, this “record dry spell” of fighting several illnesses at full flare for over five months has left me bone weary and just wanting to lie down and sleep and never awake to the pain and suffering again.

Have I given up on my faith? No, because I still pray to a Loving God daily – granted sometimes in silence and sometimes in moans. Yes, I pray for help and strength and healing and sometimes just for God to let me go to my eternal home. I also continue daily to pray for loved ones (some of whom have no idea that I do so) and for virtually anyone who comes into my mind or heart with needs. And then, like Job, some of my prayers are more a display of anger, frustration, and questions; “God, are you listening? Do you still care?” Have I lost all hope then? No, not ALL hope, and if a mustard seed of belief can carry us then I would think a mustard seed of hope would too…time will tell.

In the meantime, I will do what I can, not one day at a time, but one hour and sometimes even one minute at a time, to try to survive this drought and hopefully, prayerfully, come upon an oasis where my body and spirit may rally.

Cry Some...Cry More if you need to, Laugh (whenever you get the slightest opportunity), and Pray Often (especially when you don’t feel like it!) ~  Jamey Lacy July