Sick & Tired : Chapter 11

“What Next?”

Preparation: Read Chapter Eleven This Week
After reading, consider Kimberly Rae’s offer to join The Unhealthy Club. You will find the link at the end of this lesson.

You will also find information about the next book in the Sick & Tired series.

Note: Except for quotes in italics, words in the post are Marie’s.

Thank you for joining us as we studied SICK & TIRED. We have learned valuable lessons and insights from Kimberly Rae. No one understands living with chronic illness better than another “sickie”. This week, we close our study with some important words from our author:

“Wherever you are on this health-issue journey, I welcome you to the Unhealthy Club with much sympathy, but also with a word of encouragement. You can do this. You’ll have good days and you’ll have bad days. You will struggle with accepting this, and even after you think you have accepted it, you will sometimes find yourself struggling again.”

“So here’s my big advice for this first book in the Sick & Tired series. Give some grace to yourself (let yourself by sick, admit it to others, ask for help), and give some grace to others (let your loved ones grieve as well, or get frustrated sometimes). All the gaps created by your illness…let God fill them up however He sees fit.”

“…You are more than your health problems.
God sees that about you. So do I.

Now go look in the mirror and tell yourself:
You matter.
You are valuable.
Having a health problem has not changed that at all.
You are not alone.”

How to Join the Unhealthy Club

Ever wish there was someplace where you belonged, where you were believed even if you don’t have an official diagnosis, and where you were encouraged by people who actually understand?

We have a group of chronic illness sufferers on Facebook where you can write about your struggles, be encouraged, and encourage others. Come on over to the Facebook Page:
Sick & Tired: Encouragement, Empathy & Practical Help for the Chronically Ill.

What’s Next?

We hope you have enjoyed our Sick & Tired study.
Watch our HOPE FOR THE HURTING website
for future book studies by Kimberly Rae.

The next in the Sick & Tired series is
YOU’RE SICK; THEY’RE NOT
Relationship Help for Chronic Sufferers
and Those Who Love Them.

Topics included:
Chronic Illness Equals Chronic Guilt
Why Did God Do This to My Family?
Chronic Illness and Your Personality Type
Holidays and Other Family Affairs
The People Who Just Don’t Get It
Illness and Your Love Language
Am I Allowed to Be Crabby Today?
What Sick People Wish Healthy People Knew
What Healthy People Wish Sick People Knew

Sick & Tired : Chapter 10

“The Belief Test”

Preparation: Read Chapter Ten This Week
After reading, begin answering the questions at the end of the chapter. I will list the questions at the end of this post. We invite you to share your insights and experiences, and how you responded to the questions. We will encourage one another in the process. You may have chronic illness(es), but you do not have to bear them alone. Let’s be here for one another.

Note: Except for quotes in italics, words in the post are Marie’s.

This week as I pondered Chapter 10, I thought about lessons we can learn through chronic illness. For we will learn lessons, and they will have positive or negative impact on our lives, depending on how we perceive God’s purpose in our illness. Dealing with new symptoms can feel like pushing heavy boulders uphill, when our energy is already depleted. It’s tempting to become discouraged, and to doubt God’s love and purpose in bouts of pain and suffering.

I read a great article by Focus on the Family, called “When We Suffer:A Biblical Perspective on Chronic Pain and Illness”.

The author, Mary J. Yerkes, states,
“Why we suffer may always remain a mystery on this side of eternity.
We can, however, glean certain truths from God’s Word.
– Suffering produces intimacy with God (Job 42:5).
– Suffering equips us to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
– Suffering refines us.
– Suffering produces growth and maturity (James 1:2-4)
– Suffering conforms us into God’s image (Romans 8:28-29)

Kimberly Rae made additional observations in SICK & TIRED. She shared her dilemma when an MRI exposed a cyst in her brain, after she had already been diagnosed with multiple chronic illnesses. Here are some of Kimberly’s words:

“This latest health crisis was a gift, wrapped up in a test. Not a test by a hard taskmaster who wanted me to fail, but a loving Teacher, who wanted to show me not only where I am strong, but where I am weak; and in that weakness, to show His perfect strength.”

“Here are four things I believe: God is good. God loves me. God could eliminate this problem at any moment and, therefore, because He has not, He has a reason. God will do what is best.”

“Here’s why I think chronic physical difficulties can be gifts from God:
1. They remind us our lives and our bodies are not really our own.
2. They remind us not to take life for granted. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow.
3. They keep us humble, as we have to ask for help and support from others.
4. They remind us of our need for God’s daily help and presence.
5. They remind us every breath, every beat of the heart, every part of the body that is working, is a constant gift from God.
6. They teach us to accept that we can’t fix everything, and that’s okay.
7. They force us to have courage, to face our fears, to accept what we cannot change, because if we could, we would.
8. They force us to prioritize what matters most, because we physically cannot maintain lives filled with extra things.”

Have you ever thought of your chronic illness as a gift wrapped up in a test? I don’t think I have thought of MS in precisely that way, but nearly 40 years of living with MS have proven that it has, indeed, been a gift in many ways.

How about you? Can you see ways in which your chronic illness can be called a gift? Share your thoughts with us as you respond to our group study questions.

Group Study Questions:

1. What has been your biggest disappointment regarding your illness so far?


2. Do you feel like this illness is (mark as many as you feel are true):
– Your own fault? If I’d only…
– Someone else’s fault? Doctor, negligent family, etc.
– God’s fault? If He really loved me…
– God is punishing you for something?
– God has forgotten about you or doesn’t care about you?
– God didn’t give this, but He has allowed it for some reason?
– God wants to use it for something good?


3. Do you believe God is good and He loves you? Why or why not?


4. Do you believe God could take away your condition if He wanted to, so since He hasn’t there must be a reason?


5. Do you feel it’s unfair for you not to be informed of what that reason is?

Activity:

Read through the eight reasons the author thinks chronic physical difficulties can be gifts from God. Highlight the ones you agree with. Underline the ones you don’t. Then show the page to a friend, or God, and ask what they think about the underlined ones. Could there be truth you are missing?

This entry was posted on September 16, 2019. 1 Comment

Sick & Tired : Chapter 9

“Who Am I Now?”

Preparation: Read Chapter Nine This Week
After reading, begin answering the questions at the end of the chapter. I will list the questions at the end of this post. We invite you to share your insights and experiences, and how you responded to the questions. We will encourage one another in the process. You may have chronic illness(es), but you do not have to bear them alone. Let’s be here for one another.

Note: Except for quotes in italics, words in the post are Marie’s.

This week’s lesson will speak to all of us who have been profoundly changed by chronic illness. Today I read a great article called Six Ways in Which Chronic Illness Changes Your Body Image. The author of the article, Jenna Downes, lives with Chrohn’s Disease. She maintains that long-term disease can completely change the way we see our body. I could certainly identify with her points. (My responses are in parentheses.)

1. Style goes out of the window.
(I can no longer wear fashionable shoes, for example.
I live in Clarks clogs and sandals.)
2. You stop thinking about the aesthetics.
(It’s way too much trouble to bother with mascara,
when I stay home most of the time.)
3. We can’t trust our bodies.
(Just when some important activity is scheduled,
my body decides it’s time for a MS relapse.)
4. You up your supplement game.
(Truth. I’m now allergic to 23 prescription meds,
so I look for natural alternatives to deal with symptoms.)
5. The way you see food totally changes.
(It’s not easy to live with no sugar, no dairy, and no gluten.)
6. You celebrate the good times.
(It’s important to enjoy the good days.
I just have to be aware that too much activity can cause another relapse.)

Just a few months ago I made the comment that I don’t even look like myself anymore. Almost forty years of unrelenting MS fatigue and physical decline have changed my appearance, my self-image, my clothing style, my activities, my self-confidence, my social life, my ministry service, my housekeeping, my diet, my daily schedules, and even my speech and handwriting.

Author Kimberly Rae speaks to these issues. She lives with 6 health conditions: Addison’s, Hypoglycemia, Asthma, Scoliosis, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and Chiari Malformation. Here are some of Kimberly’s thoughts about how chronic illness changes us:

“How is it possible that health problems could not only change my body so much, but my personality and preferences too?…Even my mind has changed, because what used to be fun now has such unpleasant ramifications, those things don’t appeal to me anymore.”

“Even though I change, God does not. My identity is not in who I was or who I am, but in who God declares me to be. And when He declared me worth dying for, He did that knowing every stage of me – the healthy and the unhealthy. My worth to Him has not changed.”

“We have been ushered into a new world where so many things are unfamiliar. And change is scary. But even if everything changes, God has not changed, and He will equip this new you just as He equipped and helped the you that you used to be.”

So how do we respond to these changes? Share your thoughts with us as you respond to our group study questions.

Group Study Questions

1. What has had to change about you because of your illness?


2. Do you feel like a stranger to yourself because of the changes that have come from having an illness?


3. What do you miss about who you used to be or what you used to be able to do?


4. Before, when you were healthy, did you ever dedicate yourself – your life and your body – to God, for whatever purpose He had for you?


5. Do you believe God could have a purpose for your life still, even in your illness?

Activity

Either alone or before witnesses, dedicate your life – the life you have now, who you are right now – to God for whatever His purpose is. Verbally accept that God has allowed even this illness in your life, so He will work it for good.

This entry was posted on September 9, 2019. 1 Comment

Sick & Tired : Chapter 8

“The High Cost of Going…Anywhere”

Preparation: Read Chapter Eight This Week
After reading, begin answering the questions at the end of the chapter. I will list the questions at the end of this post. We invite you to share your insights and experiences, and how you responded to the questions. We will encourage one another in the process. You may have chronic illness(es), but you do not have to bear them alone. Let’s be here for one another.

Note: Except for quotes in italics, words in the post are Marie’s.

One of the most common side effects of chronic illness is isolation. In my own life with Multiple Sclerosis, I have found that I isolate myself more and more as my disease progresses. It’s not because I want to avoid people, or that I no longer enjoy activities. The key reason is the enormous energy cost of leaving my home for any activity.

For example, a simple 20 minute medical appointment only 3 miles from my home involves some major planning and physical costs. I try to schedule all my appointments in the early afternoon, because mornings are hard. I have to drag my achy body from my LaZBoy power recliner where I have to sleep, because constant muscle spasms require me to frequently change position during the night. I awake with my low back and my lower legs in spasm. It takes at least an hour to put on very simple makeup, and to dress in jeans and a button-up shirt. During that hour I have to use the restroom at least twice. After making myself eat food that I don’t really taste, I am ready to start my morning.

To prepare for the appointment, I need to make sure I have extra bladder control pads in my bag, my medical bracelet on my wrist, a bottle of water because my medications make my mouth dry, a small flashlight in case I am in a shadowed area where my low vision is problematic, a folding fan in case I get overheated, two pairs of eyeglasses for my double vision (one for reading and one for driving). I need my arm crutch to walk to my car, and my scooter to ride into the medical building after I find a handicap parking place. I will have to enter and exit the elevator, and then check in at the desk. After climbing up on the exam table, answering all the questions that require concentration through my brain fog, I then have to do all the above activities in reverse. Oh, I forgot. I will also probably have to find a restroom at the medical building before and after the doctor visit. When I arrive home, exhausted, I need to rest. Heat exacerbates MS symptoms, so if the appointment is in the Summer, all symptoms are heightened.

All that for a local appointment. It’s even harder if a special family event is across town. The 45 minute drive may require a restroom stop, and depending on the notorious Indianapolis traffic, it could take up to twice as long. I want to interact with everyone, and enjoy the food and company for several hours. It may take me days to recover. I have to plan ahead. I have learned that I may be able to do two, possibly three, trips away from my home each week. Sometimes I don’t leave my home for two to three weeks at a time.

How about you? Do you have to plan your calendar around your chronic illness symptoms? I think we all understand Kimberly Rae’s comments below:

“It’s annoying to do all you have to do to get out there into the world and be with people, and sometimes it doesn’t feel worth the effort.”

“Part of the problem is risk. What if we have a flare-up at someone else’s house? What if we commit to some event and end up falling apart right in front of everyone?”

“What’s my point? We have a choice to make on how much we will avoid in order to make life safer or easier for ourselves. it is definitely wise not to overdo it just to prove we’re not really sick after all. We are sick, so it’s silly trying to prove we aren’t, however, we shouldn’t decide to avoid everything simply because it’s too much trouble, or it feels too risky.”

“We sick people can’t live spontaneously, that’s for sure. We have to plan ahead for a lifestyle that fits within our limitations, and then prepare fully to have all the stuff we need to live that life, complete with a few just-in-case additions.”

Tell us how you cope with going out. Can you really have a spontaneous activity without cost in terms of chronic illness symptoms?

Group Study Questions:

1. Do you get frustrated at the lack of spontaneity in your life now that you have a chronic illness?


2. Which settings are most difficult for you?


3. Are there fun settings where you can enjoy yourself despite your illness?


4. Can you shift your schedule to do less of the difficult and more of the fun?

Activity:

Write a list of what you need to bring for certain activities. If you have different needs for different types of activities, write one list for each. Keep the lists available so you don’t have to think through what you need every time an activity comes up.

This entry was posted on September 2, 2019. 1 Comment

Sick & Tired : Chapter 7

“But You Don’t Look Sick!”

Preparation: Read Chapter Seven this week.
After reading, begin answering the questions at the end of the chapter. I will list the questions at the end of this post. We invite you to share your insights and experiences, and how you responded to the questions. We will encourage one another in the process. You may have chronic illness(es), but you do not have to bear them alone. Let’s be here for one another.

Note: Except for quotes in italics, words in the post are Marie’s.

Today I took our granddaughter Sophie to lunch and shopping for her 9th birthday. She wanted to go to Red Robin for lunch, so I drove around the restaurant until I found a handicap parking spot. I left the one for handicap van parking vacant. I walked in with my arm crutch, limping my way to the restroom before being seated at a tiny table. My crutch awkwardly leaned against the wall. I had to adjust my hearing aids to minimize the restaurant noise, then it was a struggle to hear Sophie’s words. I took out my reading glasses for the menu, then my distance glasses for the remainder of the meal. Without my glasses, I have double vision. When we finished the meal, I had to make another stop in the restroom before limping to the car.

We drove to Kohl’s where I found another handicap parking spot. This time I lifted my SmartScoot® out of the back of my Subaru Forester, and drove into the store to look for birthday items. Before I reached the back of the store, I had to find a restroom again. While Sophie shopped, I struggled with double vision, but managed to keep up with her. We then moved down to Five Below where she found many low priced goodies. My energy was flagging, but I could keep up with my scooter. After I dropped her off at her home, and parked in my own driveway, I could barely shuffle from the car to the front door. I was thankful that the bathroom was close to the front door. These precious three hours spent with my granddaughter will probably cost me two days worth of energy, but it’s worth the cost to me.

Such is my life with Multiple Sclerosis. I have a sign on the back of my car that says “You can have my handicap parking spot if you take my MS.” I have HCP tags on the car. I limp with an arm crutch or a walker, I drive a scooter for distances and places wide enough to accomodate the radius of its turns. It’s obvious that I have some disabilities. Yet still, after nearly forty years of living with MS, I feel people judging me if they see me climbing out of my car after parking, or standing from my scooter to move to a chair or sofa. I can see the doubt in their eyes. I overhear the muttered remarks such as “Yeah, brain handicapped maybe!”.

Honestly, it’s easier to stay home. And it’s tempting to avoid going out. If you live with chronic illness, either personally or as a caregiver, you have probably faced the same kinds of judgment.

Author Kimberly Rae speaks about it in Chapter Seven. Here are some of her words:

“No one likes being judged or misunderstood, which is why we want to defend ourselves when people say the very common phrase, ‘But you don’t look sick!’ Sometimes they say it out of bewilderment, sometimes out of a judgmental attitude, and sometimes they actually think they are being encouraging by letting us know we don’t look like half-dead drowned rats, considering we are so sick.”

“Here’s my point. There are always going to be people who don’t understand. Always. We can make ourselves sick trying to prove our conditions to them – which isn’t fun since we’re sick already – or follow them around whimpering for their approval. We can even become angry and bitter about their lack of it. Or we can leave them be, understanding this very important truth: We are not responsible to keep everyone from thinking the wrong thing. If someone wants to be judgmental and think we’re faking it or whatever, that is a problem between them and God, not them and us.”

“Please don’t apologize for what your body needs. Most people like to help, they just don’t know what you need. And God blesses people when they help others, so you’re actually providing opportunities for a blessing for them.”

How about you? What do you think? Let’s talk about it.

Group Study Questions

1. Do you feel a sense of guilt that your condition is not obvious enough to warrant everyone’s belief?


2. Do you find yourself responding with:
– Defensiveness, ready to argue?
– A need to prove to everyone how bad it is?
– Sensitivity – they shouldn’t have said that?
– Pity party – nobody understands?
– Hiding and avoiding anyone who doesn’t get it?


3. Again, do you think if you had a sense of confidence about your condition, it would transfer to those around you?


4. Do you think we are responsible for what people think of us? If so, to what extent?


5. How does not communicating what we need lead to misunderstanding?

Activity

Find a loved one or friend who has a stable, solid personality. Ask that person if they will help you see clearly when you are struggling. If they are willing, those times when you are worried about what someone might thnk, call your friend, tell them the situation, then choose to believe them if they say that person’s feelings are not your responsibility.

This entry was posted on August 28, 2019. 1 Comment

Sick & Tired : Chapter 6

“When the Well-Meaning Annoy You”

Preparation: Read Chapter Six this week.
After reading, begin answering the questions at the end of the chapter. I will list the questions at the end of this post. We invite you to share your insights and experiences, and how you responded to the questions. We will encourage one another in the process. You may have chronic illness(es), but you do not have to bear them alone. Let’s be here for one another.

Note: Except for quotes in italics, words in the post are Marie’s.

Over the years I’ve spoken with many chronic illness sufferers. There is a common bond among us, a common language, a common understanding, even when we experience widely varied illnesses. We “get” each other. We also understand one another’s widely varied symptoms of pain, isolation, fatigue, sleeplessness, brain fog, and more. In addition, we know the experience of being misunderstood or not believed when we have made the effort to explain what is happening to our bodies.

On the other hand, we all know well-meaning healthy people who genuinely want to help us, but they don’t understand. We have all have heard “helpful” platitudes similar to these:

“But you don’t look sick!”
“Oh, I understand! I’m tired, too.”
“It must be nice not having to work.”
“Have you tried such-and-such a diet/exercise/pill?”
“All things work together for good.”
“God will not give you more than you can handle.”
“Just be positive, you’ll get through this.”
“There are a lot of people worse off than you.”
“Illness is caused by stress. You need better coping skills.”
“If you prayed and believed, you would be healed.”

No wonder we answer “I’m fine” when asked how we feel!
Here are some of Kimberly Rae’s comments on the subject of well-meaning friends:

“The truth is, there are some days I don’t want to hear the right answers. I already know the right answers, but I’m so tired…so very, very tired. and I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of being so out of control – of not being dependable anymore. I’m tired of having to fight and fight every day in a war I know I can’t ever fully win.”

“Those times, it’s almost as if I’m tired of being strong and I just want to be miserable for a little bit. I feel yucky physically and I’m tired of the energy it takes to not feel emotionally yucky too. “

“I’m going to give you my theory on the yucky times…The two most obvious options are to stuff the feelings or go with the feelings. Neither choice works out very well.

“It goes back to the accepting and adapting idea. First I need to accept that I feel this way – to God, my husband, or a good friend. Just saying it out loud has healing properties in it. Then I need to adapt to the situation.”

“I get away by myself and focus on something else, and somehow just a small break of a couple of hours makes a huge difference…Giving yourself some kind of a break from the stress is a coping mechanism. It doesn’t mean you can’t handle your condition, or you’re a failure. It means you’re human and you sometimes get overwhelmed by a problem that never goes away.”

Let’s talk about this topic. Tell us how you feel. We understand.

Group Study Questions

1. What phrase do people say that gets to you the most?


2. Why? What do you feel it implies about you or your condition?


3. How do you want to respond? In your flesh? Be honest.


4. How do you usually respond (outwardly)?


5. Do you feel it’s wrong to admit you are feeling frustrated with you condition? Why or why not?


6. What would feel like a break to you?


7. Who can help you get a break? Would they be willing?

Activity:

Give yourself permission to take a break sometime this week. When you do, enjoy it without guilt.

This entry was posted on August 19, 2019. 1 Comment

Sick & Tired : Chapter 5

“Running the Yellow Light”

Preparation: Read Chapter Five this week.
After reading, begin answering the questions at the end of the chapter. I will list the questions at the end of this post. We invite you to share your insights and experiences, and how you responded to the questions. We will encourage one another in the process. You may have chronic illness(es), but you do not have to bear them alone. Let’s be here for one another.

Note: Except for quotes in italics, words in the post are Marie’s.

Okay, ‘fess up. How many of you have taken on way too many activities when you were feeling better, only to pay later with pain and disability? Guilty here.

Most of us have heard of the Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino. She narrates a personal story and analogy of what it is like to live with sickness or a disability, and uses spoons to explain how people with chronic illness have to make choices about our activities, based on our store of energy.
You can read Christine’s “Spoon Theory” here:
https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

Even when we KNOW the cost ahead of time, we still want to ignore our energy levels and pretend, for a time, that we live normal lives with freedom to participate, serve, travel, host, vacation, shop, handle housekeeping responsibilities, school activities, and so on. These are the things we used to be able to do with ease. So we may choose to spend ourselves at the cost of our health. And that cost can be exhorbitant in terms of pain and suffering.

So what should we do when we are at the intersection of deciding whether to push through the warning signals our body is sending, or slow down and consider the cost. How about you? What do you do?

In chapter five, author Kimberly Rae speaks of these warning signals as “Yellow Lights”.

“I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve chosen to ‘push through’, to keep going and hope my symptoms somehow fixed themselves, or I’ve mentally argued with myself, trying to decide if I’m making it up, trying to get attention, or just jumping the gun before things really needed to be dealt with.”

“I am now at the point where, when I see a yellow light, not only do I slow down, but sometimes I even pull over to the side of the road – symptomatically speaking – so I can make sure the brakes work before I get to the intersection.”

“My point is, our bodies were made with a phenomenal amount of intricate and amazing functions, and when one, or several, of those functions stops working as they should, the body very resourcefully gives us a message. The message is usually in the form of something unpleasant, like pain, to let us know something needs to change. Something is wrong. If we ignore these warning signs, the body will send more and more signals, more and more pain, until something important shuts down and we have big-time problems.”

“In the same way, symptoms should be respected. They are trying to help us effectively respond to what our bodies need at the moment. Don’t ignore them. Don’t hope they will go away on their own. Just slow down and stop if need be, until you assess or deal with the problem.”

Group Study Questions

To make reading easier, kindly refer to the question number when commenting.

1. Are you a risk taker by nature, or more cautious?


2. When you feel symptoms, which way is closest to your natural reaction?
– Ignore them and they’ll go away.
– Anger this is happening and refusing to respond to the symptoms.
– Panic that a serious and dangerous problem is coming.
– Pop a pill and move on.
– Jump on the internet and do research, or call a doctor.
– Medicine fixes everything – give me more.


3. Do you think symptoms are a good thing? What might happen if we didn’t have any?

Activity:

Start a record of your different symptoms. A calendar is a good way to record how you’re feeling and when. Mark how you dealt with them and the result. Then the next time they happen, you can go back and check what worked and what didn’t.

This entry was posted on August 13, 2019. 1 Comment

Sick & Tired : Chapter 4

“It’s Not Fair!”

Preparation: Read Chapter Four this week.
After reading, begin answering the questions at the end of the chapter. I will list the questions at the end of this post. We invite you to share your insights and experiences, and how you responded to the questions. We will encourage one another in the process. You may have chronic illness(es), but you do not have to bear them alone. Let’s be here for one another.

Note: Except for quotes in italics, words in the post are Marie’s.

Let’s be honest. Is there any one of us who hasn’t said “It’s not fair!” when thinking about our chronic illness? If we haven’t said it aloud, we probably have felt it in our thoughts and emotions. Some people seem to glow with good health, strength, and energy. Why, then, are some of us burdened with accumulated diseases, weaknesses, handicaps, limitations, and sufferings?

This takes us right back to Job, the Biblical model of suffering. Job was certainly verbal with his feelings about the unfairness of God!

Read Job 30:20-23:
I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.
You turn on me ruthlessly;
with the might of your hand you attack me.
You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
you toss me about in the storm.
I know you will bring me down to death,
to the place appointed for all the living.

Job actually asked God to come and explain His actions concerning his miserable life. Instead, God asked Job if he understood how the world works, or how to take care of it and keep it running. Job was left in a place of humility. He never did learn why he was suffering.

Most likely, in this lifetime, we may never know the reason for our chronic illness and suffering. Like Job, we see from a limited perspective. If we could see the whole picture of what God manages, perhaps we would understand why we are suffering.

In the meantime, we have several choices in how we respond to our suffering. We can say, “It’s just not fair!” or we can choose a better way. The choices we make will be determined by our faith, our attitude, and, like Job, our humility.

Here are some of Kimberly Rae’s thought about choices we can make:

“The way I see it, anyone unfortunately ushered into the world of chronic health problems has three choices:

1. Refuse to Accept It – Run away from the reality in protest, hide from people, complain, get bitter.
Result: You and everyone around you becomes miserable, and it still doesn’t make the problem go away.

2. Accept but Don’t Adapt – Decide to live with this new condition, but don’t change any habits.
Result: You end up even more unhealthy, you begin to feel like a victim and see yourself as helpless, and you and concerned loved ones are still miserable, but more of a confused miserable as opposed to an angry miserable.

3. Accept and Adapt – Recognize this is your new world and try to learn how to live well within it. You change things – some big, some small – to make the everyday struggles easier.
Result: You likely will never love having a health condition, but you will learn to live with joy within the condition.

So what do you think about these choices? Share your thoughts with us. No judgment here. We understand.

Group Study Questions

To make reading easier, kindly refer to the question number when commenting.

1. Do you believe your attitude is your own choice? Why or why not?


2. What would you say your attitude was when you first started having problems?


3. How would you say it is now?


4. Do you know someone who has chosen to become bitter about life’s disappointments? How do you feel being around that person? Does this attitude make anything better for the person or their loved ones?


5. Did you go through a stage where you accepted your condition but didn’t adapt? Are you in that stage now? Do you see how this is good, but not good enough?


6. How do you get from just accepting to accepting and adapting?

Activity

Find someone you trust and tell them about the three choices. If you are willing to hear the truth, ask that person where they see you right now. You may learn some things to help you move forward, or be reassured you are on the right track.

This entry was posted on August 5, 2019. 1 Comment

Sick & Tired : Chapter 3

“Sit Down and Cry About It”

Preparation: Read Chapter Three this week.
After reading, begin answering the questions at the end of the chapter. I will list the questions at the end of this post. We invite you to share your insights and experiences, and how you responded to the questions. We will encourage one another in the process. You may have chronic illness(es), but you do not have to bear them alone. Let’s be here for one another.

Note: Except for quotes in italics, words in the post are Marie’s.

This particular chapter resonated with me. Kimberly Rae deals with the subject of grieving the loss of our health. It’s a deeply emotional topic for all who have been burdened with chronic illness. Some of my early symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis began after the birth of our second son. (I blogged about my MS history at hopekeepersindy.com, our companion website.) Now, thirty-nine years into that history, I realize it’s been a process of grieving each loss of freedom that MS has taken from me.

In this chapter we are taken to the book of Job, who lost literally everything but his wife and his life. The first thing he did was go through the common rituals of grief. It those days, this involved shaving the head, putting on sack cloth and sitting in ashes. Aren’t you glad we don’t do that today in America!

The next step Job made was to fall down and worship God. Was this your next step after hearing your diagnosis? I remember my first reaction when finally being given a diagnosis of MS after three and half years of chasing from doctor to doctor. My initial reaction was relief. Validation. I was right; my symptoms were not all in my head!

Though I knew God and theoretically trusted His sovereignty, it took a while for me to fall down and worship Him, and actually THANK HIM FOR MY MS. Whoa! You read that right. I would never have come to the point of surrender to God’s plan for my life without the quirks and frailties of Multiple Sclerosis. My headstrong will had guided my life, and the idea of real surrender to God was foreign to me. I have to tell you, though, that it was not a one-time surrender, a one-time grief-and-done moment. It is a day-by-day laying my life on the altar of God’s mysterious plan for my life.

Back to Job, poor man! He was blamed by his friends, saying he must have done something to deserve all the tragedies that happened to him. We read how he verbalized the injustice of these accusations. He poured out his complaints before the questionable friends and God, too. He even wished he had never been born! Even Job’s wife told him to curse God and die! How’s that for loyalty?

At this point, God intervened and set all of them straight. God reminded Job that there are eternal questions for which God only knows the answers. Though God never did tell Job why he went through all of the tragedies and losses, He caused Job see Him for who He really is. When Job understood his frail humanity in comparison to God’s deity, he fell to the ground in surrender. We know the end of the story. God blessed Job the rest of Job’s life and restored to him his health, wealth, and family.

Back to now. God has, in His sovereignty, chosen us to live with chronic illness. Would we have chosen a life of suffering just so we could be tested, stretched, and given more faith? Nope. I doubt any one of us would have chosen this path on our own. I have often wondered what would happen if God chose for me to lose everything. What if I couldn’t see, or hear, or walk, or communicate? What if I lost all my family, friends, comforts of life? What would be left? The answer is GOD.

We need to give ourselves permission and time to grieve. For each of us, the process is individual and ongoing. But we are not alone. God is with us in the process. I love to listen to Audio Bible. I put in my earphones so His word is going directly into my brain, to me personally. I listen to chapters and chapters and talk to God as I listen. I comment on the phrases, ask Him questions, make applications to my own life, and many times simply wonder at the mystery of His words.

My preferred narrator is Max MacLean. Try it. You can listen here:
www.biblegateway.com/resources/audio/?recording=niv-mclean

Here are some of author Kimberly Rae’s own words from this chapter:

“The Center for Disease Control posted that 133 million Americans – nearly one out of every two people – have at least one chronic illness. The Census Bureau projected that 96% of those illnesses are invisible, suffered by people who may look perfectly healthy.”

“I’m no expert on loss and how to deal with it, but my guess would be that most of us are going to go through variations of four categories:
1. Stunned – overwhelmed, feeling this can’t be really happening to us.
2. Emotional – anger, denial, tears, depression, and a whole host of feelings in response to the fact we don’t like this and want out.
3. Broken – recognizing our helplessness and inability to deal with this or conquer it.
4. Accepting – coming to grips with God’s plan even if we don’t understand it, and letting God put His strength in place of our weakness.”

“For some unfathomable reason, however, God has chosen us. Not because we volunteered, not because we want our faithfulness through suffering to help others, but because God has some unseen, eternally important reason we cannot, at present, comprehend.

Knowing this, we can fall down and worship, give ourselves time to go through the feelings of anger or despair, but then come out stronger on the other end. Not because we ourselves have strength, but because we have accepted God’s will, and in doing so can receive the strength He offers.”

Where are you in the process of grieving your loss of freedoms due to chronic illness? Join us in responding to this week’s study questions. We help one another with we share our conditions and insights.

Group Study Questions

To make reading easier, kindly refer to the question number when commenting.

1. Have you ever thought about the fact that having a chronic illness involves genuine loss and deserves to be grieved?


2. How did you feel immediately after hearing you had a condition, or when you realized your symptoms were not going to go away?


3. Right now, do you think you are in the Stunned, Emotional, Broken, or Accepting category?


4. Where do you feel you should be at this point?


5. What do you think a reasonable time for grieving should be for you personally?


Activity

Give yourself permission to grieve. What would best help you go through this process? Some ideas would be journaling, praying, talking with a trusted friend or counselor, or getting away for a couple of days.

This entry was posted on July 30, 2019. 1 Comment

Sick & Tired : Chapter 2

“So What’s Your Problem?”

Preparation: Read Chapter Two this week.
After reading, begin answering the questions at the end of the chapter. I will list the questions at the end of this post. We invite you to share your insights and experiences, and how you responded to the questions. We will encourage one another in the process. You may have chronic illness(es), but you do not have to bear them alone. Let’s be here for one another.

Note: Except for quotes in italics, words in the post are Marie’s.

This has been jumbled week so far. I started writing this post on schedule on Monday. Before I could publish it, I was invited to go see “Lion King” with my 14 year old granddaughter. Well, of course I went with her! How special to spend time with my sweet girl.

On Tuesday morning I intended to finish the post. It didn’t happen. My husband Jim was experiencing severe vertigo and had to go to ER, where we spent the day while he underwent multiple blood tests and two CT scans before being admitted to the hospital.

An amazing thing happened while Jim was in ER. Our son’s youth group loaded up in vans and drove to the hospital parking lot, where they held a prayer group just for Jim’s recovery! We couldn’t see them, but we were sent pictures of the teens. Talk about a tear-jerker! Teens praying for their leader’s dad…be still, my heart.

Because of Jim’s concurrent health issues, there was a question whether the vertigo was caused by his extremely slow heart rate, vestibular problems, or occluded tiny veins in the brain. There was a whole team of medical professionals working on his case. It was finally concluded that crystals in his ear canal were in the wrong place. The neurologist performed the “Epley” maneuver on Jim, and he was due to come home on Wednesday afternoon.

Well, it’s Thursday afternoon now, and he’s still in the hospital. I came home exhausted last night, and am staying home this morning until his discharge from the hospital is finalized, and I will go pick him up.

Lots of praises this week:
Thank You, Lord, for providing excellent medical care.
Thank You for good insurance. This is a HUGE praise!
Thank You that Jim’s extreme vertigo could be relieved.
Thank You for all the prayers offered on his behalf. We are blessed!

So my goal today is to finish writing this post and finally get it published so you can read and respond to this week’s group study questions.

Now to the lesson at hand:

Have you ever been asked “So What’s Your Problem?” If you have chronic illness with many invisible symptoms, sometimes people can ask that question with blunt skepticism. Even when asked with genuine concern, we may flounder in the way we answer.
Do we start at the beginning and list our historic episodes of symptoms?
Do we state our diagnosis and then scramble to give an explanation?
What if we have a cluster of chronic illnesses?
How can we possibly explain that?

Yep. It’s hard. So what I usually say is something innocuous, like “I have MS, but God has been good to me. I’m doing well.” That’s my short answer. It doesn’t completely answer the bigger question of “What’s your problem?” but at least it doesn’t take a lot of time.

Kimberly Rae offers some excellent suggestions for ways to condense our response to phrases that are useful, short, and informative. Here are her suggestions:

Let’s think through how to fix this dilemma…To do that we need to start with the big initial question: What is your health problem?

You pick which option you like best and fill in the blanks:

I have a disease called __________. Than means my __________ doesn’t work right, so I have to __________.

I have a condition that affects my __________. This causes me problems with my __________ and I can’t __________ anymore.”

I struggle with having to give up __________. I’ve had this condition for __________, so I’ve learned to __________.

I really miss being able to __________, but I’ve learned to ask for help with __________, and that has been a blessing because__________.

Wow, this is helpful! Have you every tried to summarize your chronic illness conditions in this way? I haven’t either, but this week I intend to do so. I hope you will share your summary with us.

Did you find Kimberly’s suggestions helpful?

Group Study Questions

To make reading easier, kindly refer to the question number when commenting.

1. Do you feel overwhelmed when people ask you about your condition?


2. Do you catch yourself telling them a long story that leaves you frustrated and then confused?


3. Do you feel like people don’t take your condition seriously because it isn’t diagnosed yet, or is an “invisible” illness like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue?


4. Do you ever think people are picking up on your own insecurities about your illness?


5. If you could communicate with confidence, do you think that would change how people respond?


Activity

Fill in the blanks in the sentences in this chapter, then type and print the sentences that express you best. Put them on a 3×5 card and carry them around until you memorize exactly how you want to present your illness to others.

This entry was posted on July 25, 2019. 1 Comment