Thursday, June 5, 2014

Finding Love in Pain

There is a certain craziness to dealing with any type of chronic illness, especially when one of the primary symptoms is excruciating physical pain. Being a patient isn't just like a trip for the annual check-up. That's merely fitting a tiny physical assessment into the normal flow of life. Being a patient entails fitting a little life into the crazy, random roller coaster that is the product of being held accountable to a disease. I haven't worked a traditional job for almost ten years, but I have never worked as hard or felt as exhausted as I have over the past decade.

I sought answers in four states, in half a dozen hospitals before the blame was taken off of my "crazy" female mind and directed at the actual culprit which was my pancreas. It took a lot of strength not to allow myself to crumble under all the pain, physical and emotional; to not become the "crazy" female whose pain lived only in her mind.

It will be fifteen years this coming autumn since I first became ill. Early on, doctors struggled to find cause of my pain, and the validity of my symptoms were under examination, I felt powerless. My life was crumbling around me as my physical limitations brought my life to a complete halt. I had the support of my family in Columbus, but they were seven hours away, so I sought support closer to my home in Alexandria. I was able to find a local Unity Church of Christianity, the church my mom was raised in, the one I would frequent with my precious Nana. I always felt at home there. So while my life was disintegrating into chaos, I sought that feeling of home in the local Unity, and with that first visit I opened a treasure chest of support. In truth, it was my weakness that led me to the greatest source of strength.

The minister, Dee Sweeny, took an instant interest in my health plight. She became my guardian angel. Anytime I went into the hospital, Dee would find her way to my bedside. When I was discharged and sent home time upon time, she would show up with hot tea and sit with me for hours until she felt assured I could rest.  She infused my life with so much love, and not just her own. Dee taught me that, through adversity, I could be moved to a closer, more intimate relationship with God.  Contrary to how I felt emotionally, Dee told me I was rich with God's love, and that with every ounce of pain, God matched it with gallons upon gallons of divine love.

Through prayer and meditation, I found that God was like a constant blood transfusion of love. He was within me and around me during some of the most uncertain and scary years of my life. There were moments when I doubted God's mere existence, because I was suffering so. When I look back, it is clear to me that my illness has been a gift, hard as that is for some to grasp. It was an opportunity for me to form a relationship with a power higher than myself.

I have always believed in God, but with my illness, I've gotten to know God in a way that I didn't know was possible. Every thought is a tiny prayer, a small part of an ongoing conversation with the Divine. On my loneliest days, I can still able to feel God's embrace. No matter what challenges, God will be there to love and support you in good times and bad, in sickness and in health. When I learned to invest in THAT truth rather than dwelling on feeling punished by my disease, my heart and mind were elevated to a higher level. There will be times when hope is hard to find, but divine love is free.