To veer off from my normal path of posts (I have no shortage ideas on faith, health and home), I wanted to write a very candid view of living life with autoimmunity – specifically Hashimotos Thyroiditis. Actually, I want to write about the other things too but the valley of life has been low for me lately and I want to keep it real. Real life (even on blogs) is never always pleasant or peachy. It’s never always Pinterest worthy. However, real life is true and autoimmunity can be very raw ~ every. single. day.
Despite my healing journey, recovery from many terrible debilitating symptoms of autoimmunity and having my thyroid antibodies in normal range I still face very real and often overwhelming challenges in relation to Hashimotos every single day of my life. One problem and challenge is that when dealing with Hashimotos Thyroiditis trying to remain symptom free is so multi-faceted that sometimes the slightest change or bump in the road can send me back into what is called an “autoimmune flare.” The other problem is that every choice I make, every day, in every facet of my life can either improve or hinder my health progress. When I say every facet, I really mean all of life- spiritually, relationally, physically, in terms of commitments, stress, food intake, sleep, supplements, rest (or lack therof) and much more. My health with autoimmunity really is that fragile. These problems can often feel paralyzing.
If you have any form of autoimmune condition I am sure you are very familiar with the term autoimmune flare. It is when the inflammation of one sort or another starts to get back out of control in your body and your immune system goes into overdrive trying to eliminate the attack happening on your own body tissues and organs. During the long road of recovery from a flare, finding the cause is the first challenge and treatment does not often happen with just one solution. Rather, there are many different avenues that have to be tried and applied. Also, the source of the inflammation has to be discovered and that can take quite a long time in some cases.
Maintaining a symptom free life with autoimmunity at times is overwhelming, burdening, heavy and honestly has the ability to drain the life out of me.
Everyday, from the moment I open my eyes in the morning, under an autoimmune induced flare up, my symptoms hit me like a ton of bricks. My joints in my hands might ache, my head might be pounding from who knows what. My face might be dry and itchy. I might be so tired after a full nights sleep that I just want to close my eyes and not face the day. The depression can be so overwhelming that even just the thought of making meals, homeschooling my boys, disciplining my boys or any extra curricular activities makes me want to curl up in a ball even tighter, resist every moment and cry it all away. Then there are the days when I have something more than just regular life. Maybe it is an unexpected conflict or a test result from the doctor that was less than encouraging, those can send me over a mental cliff because on top of the already mentioned things they feel too much for one person to bear.
My flare ups don’t just effect me physically but mentally as well. When I start to feel bad again, it is torment to my mind. My thoughts are often captured in trying to think of what I ate (or got exposed to) that might have caused it. I think about how sick I am of being “sick.” I think of how I wish I could go back in time with the things I know now that I could have applied back then and not even gotten into this health position. I think of the things I need to eliminate in my life and/or diet and the things I need to be better at including.
My thoughts take over.
They often send me into the spiraling plunge downward.
My symptoms make me feel lonely and frustrated.
What can I do to feel better? A lot of times it is things I don’t want to do anymore.
– stay away from sugar (I am talking unrefined sugar and fruit here things most people can eat and feel ok)
– don’t stay up late (that’s past 10)
– clear my schedule (translated be home all the time)
– get rid of stress (yea right, in this day and age! LOL!)
– rest (for a type A personality rest is not naturally in my vocabulary and sitting and doing nothing is foreign).
In my mind as I type this I am throwing a tantrum. Yes, like a one year old or maybe like my five year old. I don’t want to do this anymore. I just want my freedom back.
Can I please I have my freedom back? Freedom to eat what I want when I want to. Freedom from having to plan food to take everywhere I go or every event I attend. Freedom to be spontaneous again. Freedom from pain and mental torment. Freedom from regret. Freedom to not have to research and learn about every part of my body and how it works and what it needs so that I can be my own advocate at the doctors office. Will someone just do it for me? It would be nice to have freedom from cooking pretty much every single meal at home unless we happen to be able to eat at one of the three places that I can actually eat out at. Really, there are only two restaurants since one I should not eat at since it makes me feel crummy the next day. Freedom from limitation would be delightful.
We are studying the American Revolution right now in history and of course learning about liberty. Obviously in a different context but the thought came to my mind about how truly wonderful liberty is. Words synonymous with liberty are freedom from restriction, confinement, captivity, control. I am thankful for my liberties in this nation and what our forefathers fought so hard for and I really want my liberty back with my health and the daily choices I make in regards to it.
I long to not feel constrained. I long to be understood in what it truly is like to struggle daily with autoimmunity. I long to be able to do a whirlwind vacation without fear of another flare up or even take a red eye flight without fear because it will give us more time vacationing. I long to be able to spontaneously go get ice cream or have a Friday night pizza night with my boys again or grab a latte or mocha with a friend without having to explain anything. It would be so nice.
However, if I could do the things I so much long to do, there would probably something else that I would struggle with. This is a fallen world. I say that not to sound cynical but instead to submit that this is my lot in life. This is the path that God has me on right now in this season.
Two people come to my mind as I am writing this. The Apostle Paul and Charles Spurgeon. They both suffered immense pain and had “thorns in their side” for most of their lives. Yet, did they live in self pity? No, they didn’t. They had tough days but Someone bigger than all their pain sustained them. The Lord God Almighty, the Giver of life, the Sustainer of life, the Comforter, our Holy Lord was with them every moment of every day. They lived every day for Him and not themselves. It was said (in a Heroes of Faith book about Charles Spurgeon I just read) that with his walking stick he would often walk up to his pulpit to preach to his thousands with a wince on his face and furrowed brow due to the pain he was always in. Once he started preaching his entire countenance changed almost as if the pain disappeared. I am convinced (as was he) that this was the Holy Spirit in him giving him the strength to live for the Lord and sacrifice for the Lord. Did either Paul or Mr. Spurgeon give up and stop being effective for the Lord because their circumstances were unbearable? No, in fact, they happen to be two of the most influential people who taught others about the life of Jesus, salvation by Grace through faith and the ultimate sacrifice Jesus paid to redeem us. I am thankful that they endured and persevered even when it may not have been easy or something they felt like doing. They did not give up even when the days were dark and looked hopeless or when pain was intolerable. Instead, they stayed on the path God had them on and walked it boldly and selflessly. Inspiring I must say!Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Paul was actually thankful for his infirmities! He knew that because he had suffered many of life’s hardships that he could still glorify God and that God would be glorified in him because God was bigger and stronger than he was. Paul and Spurgeon also took their eyes off of themselves. They did not dwell in their daily struggles but alternatively as it says in Hebrews 12:2 kept their eyes firmly fixed above – on Jesus – the author and perfecter of their faith.
If I continue with my eyes ONLY focused on me and my pain and challenges then I will miss out on the blessings that are still right in front of me despite my health status of the day. There may be days that I can’t fulfill all the responsibilities of the day but that means that it was God’s intention that I do something else or rest that day. Beating myself up with mommy guilt or curling up in my pity thought ball will blind me to God’s purpose for that day and what He is allowing in my life and why. It is counter-intuitive to our human nature or what society says to do but faith can be that way. I have seen fruit time and time again in my life from submitting to what God has purposed for me rather than trudging along trying to “get through” and accomplish the things of my day and then feeling worse later.
It is daily effort to make the right choices.
Do I eat this or give into the temptation for that? Do I get out of bed to minister to my little guys and take care of my family or do I stay in bed curled up in self pity? Do I listen to that still small voice saying put aside my agenda today and do something different? Do I let my mind run on the things that aren’t pleasing to the Lord or whine and complain setting a poor example for my children? It’s a choice. I wish I made the right decision every time. I don’t. I wish I wasn’t plagued by my thoughts or afflicted by feeling horrible and at the same time trying to endure and be nice to those around me on the really bad days.
Instead of dwelling on the “I wishes and whys”, I need to make another choice, a very, very hard choice. Sometimes an hourly choice. I need to look above my circumstances and know that God is allowing my autoimmunity (and flare) for a reason in my life. It may be a reason I will never know but because I trust in Him and know that His ways are perfect and higher than my ways, I need to make the choice to glorify Him through Hashimotos by looking at the good things He has done and being hopeful for the things He will do. I can do that by being thankful and worshiping God out loud. I can praise Him for WHO He is through prayer and singing. I can soak up the Word and hold it in my heart. I can continue to teach my children about the riches of God’s glory in spite of how I am feeling. I can persevere through His strength, not mine. I can trust God that if it is His will I will have a better day the next day and that if I don’t his Grace will get me through.
Although it is easiest to stay in bed or stay deep in my dark thoughts I need to accept the autoimmunity I have and do what I can each day to get my eyes off myself and onto my Savior – Jesus. It’s a conscious choice I have to make.
In this life I am grateful I have the hope of someday being with my Lord in Heaven with a new perfect body that is without defect or pain but for now I must endure, trust, have faith and hope for brighter days relying on the continued Grace my loving Lord Jesus gives me.
Autoimmunity doesn’t have me. The “flare” doesn’t have me. Jesus Christ has me. Praise Him!