[ChronicBabe.com is hosting a blog carnival with the theme: "Let's get spiritual: Faith, religion & chronic illness”. I wanted to join in and add my voice, and this blog post was selected for inclusion! You can access the blog carnival and read all the posts HERE]
Living with chronic illness is a tremendous drain on the facets of our deepest being: our emotions, identity, psyche, and self-worth. In order to move forward in life we have to accept the illness we have and completely reshape those facets, redefine who we are so we can face a new future.
When struggling with serious issues like this, some people use religion to find guidance and comfort when facing the unknown. I was raised in a family that went to church every week and I always considered myself a spiritual person but not a ‘religious’ one. I belong to a church but don’t attend weekly; my spirituality is turned more inward and private, less steeped in ritual and outward activity. However, when I first became ill I did not find solace in any aspect of my religion or spirituality.
The onset of the chronic phase of my condition hit me with a suddenness which altered my life in a snap, literally. One minute I was an average 27 year old. The next minute, I could barely walk after badly dislocating my hip and the descent into chronic pain, disability, and depression began.
Months of tests yielded no diagnosis, which only added to my fears and self-doubt. I lost more mobility and felt guilty for not being able to work. I stopped eating and became anorexic. I was even hospitalized several times for being suicidal. I was in a living hell and I couldn’t see any future beyond the dark hole which was consuming me.
I couldn’t seem to find any comfort in my faith. I wanted to feel connected to something, to believe all would be well, and to find peace. But I just felt empty. I didn’t blame God; in a strange way, I was blaming my body as if it was a third person and using the eating disorder as a bizarre sort of punishment toward it. I felt like my mind and my body were completely separated, different entities forced to live locked in a war which I couldn’t see having a positive end. I was disconnected from every facet of myself and internally flailing about with no hope.
|From my garden: Dahlia ' Razzmatazz ' on a Canna leaf.|
At last I was diagnosed with a degenerative genetic collagen disorder and started to get my severe chronic pain treated. Luckily I finally got help to beat the eating disorder, and began to get the intense psychological therapy I needed to finally pull the two parts of myself back together and face the future I didn’t think I could accept.
Did my I loose my spirituality? Through all my dark struggle I never found consolation in prayer or succor from any of the religious support around me. However, as I began to find the help I needed to deal with all my problems, my faith was renewed by the people who came into my life when I needed them most.
When I needed treatment for anorexia, an offhand comment someone overheard while I was in physical therapy led me to getting referred to a psychiatrist who literally saved me. I was assigned a psych case manager who moved HMO mountains and was there whenever I needed her. I read a book someone gave me while hospitalized and was so moved I located the author who actually lived nearby, a therapist with Multiple Sclerosis, and joined her chronic illness therapy group. I was referred to a chronic pain support group and met a man who had far more pain and disability than I, who inspired me with his marvelous outlook on life and who helped lead me back from the edge of giving up.
These are only a few of the amazing people without whom I would not be here today, and certainly not living the life I have now. It cannot be coincidence that these individuals found their way to me. There’s a term I love to use from a book which has truly open my eyes and illuminated my faith: “Godwink”. A Godwink is a messages to you in your life, appearing in the form of coincidences - which are too perfect to be accidental.
The author of the book, SQuire Rushnell, describes it this way:
“I believe every time a coincidence happens, or a prayer is answered, or something makes you want to shout, ‘Wow! What are the coincidences of that happening’? you’ve received a Godwink. It’s a signpost along your path to your destiny – a reassuring message, no matter what your belief in a higher power, that you are never alone."
Once you read his book, “When God Winks: How the Power of Coincidence Guides Your Life,” you will find yourself constantly looking around for the winks you would normally ignore. A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about this book and a few other Godwinks I’ve witnessed. You can read it by clicking here: Follow the ‘ Winks’ along your Life’s Path
It’s been a very rough road for me the past few years, but I feel more strongly than ever that God is out there, he’s on my side, and he’s giving me the support and help I need. I can see so many instances now; often they came from very surprising sources and sometimes they sharply turned my life in a direction I never would have gone - but ultimately when I look back, it’s obvious I ended up where I was supposed to be.
Now when I’m having a setback or my degenerative condition gives me new problems, I tell myself to calm down and be watchful. My spiritual experiences so far have me anticipating where my next Godwink will come from. In my renewed faith, I know they are out there!