Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What does healing look like? Part 2

In part 1, I shared my history of fibromyalgia. Here's why I started writing about it.

A part of me wondered — was I using the medicine as a crutch? Had God healed me but I was refusing to trust Him to find out? Did I really need that pill every night?

After I got engaged, those questions loomed larger in my mind, and I realized the next few months are the last that I will sleep in a bed by myself. If I was going to try going without the medicine, the time to do it was now.

I talked with my doctor here in Missouri about it at the end of January. She gave me some smaller doses of the medicine so I could begin to taper off. After putting it off for a couple of weeks, I went to half my dosage — from 50 mgs to 25 mgs. It turned out that the week I went down on the dosage, we got the first of two snowstorms. So life was stressful, and I was working a lot. But I told myself there was never a good week to do it and powered through.

But it was obvious from the beginning that the lower dosage wasn't going to cut it. The pain started to come back almost immediately, and I found myself in a fog from the fatigue where I couldn't even complete sentences.

So I started researching natural ways to get my body into a deep sleep. I powered everything off hours before bed and banned my iPhone from my room. I took warm baths with epsom salts and drank a nighttime tea. I read relaxing books before bed (note: Gone Girl is not a relaxing thing to read before bed!). I went to bed earlier than usual, and I didn't give up on exercising.

Even though I closed my eyes and slept for eight hours a night, I woke up feeling just as tired as I did the night before. The fog of fatigue was so heavy I forgot to pay bills and struggled to get through the day. The pain returned in my back and my neck. I pulled out the heating pad and took as much as Advil as I'm allowed to.

J was one of the few people that knew I was trying this, and he was so patient. Even though he knew about my illness, he had never seen me like this — in pain and so exhausted. He was praying for me and doing whatever he could to help — a lot of times that meant just leaving me alone. I know it can be hard to be so helpless as you watch someone else struggle, and I know it was hard for him not to be able to "fix" or "heal" me. But he stuck by me, and it showed me that he would not be deterred by this sickness. He loves and accepts all of me.

Anyway, as the days went by, I knew that my body needed that medication as much now as it did 14 years ago. After two weeks at the lower dosage, I went back to the original dosage because I knew the pain was reaching a point that I might not be able to recover from without prescribed pain medication. Three nights of good sleep later, the pain faded and the fog of fatigue lifted. J noted that I seemed like myself again.

It proved to me that the sleep disorder I have is real, and my healing comes through 21st century medicine.

But it still felt like I had failed or even that God had failed me, and I had to remind myself of the truths God showed me when I was first sick. It doesn't mean that God isn't present or doesn't care about my physical ailments or hasn't heard my prayers for healing. I believe that this illness is a part of my life for a reason even if I can't see why. But there are still unanswered questions for me as I move into this next stage of my life. I am obviously following up with doctors about those questions and will in the years to come. And I won't ever give up on praying for complete healing.

I also have to admit that I envisioned writing a completely different blog post. I had hoped to write about how I was able to stop taking the medicine and felt better than ever. I almost didn't write this one at all, but I think I probably needed to write this one more than if it had all been sunshine and daisies.

Monday, March 11, 2013

What does healing look like? Part 1

So here's something I've never blogged about: I have fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed 14 years ago this month (to help with the math, I was 15).

You've probably seen commercials for fibromyalgia and might be somewhat familiar with it. But here's the quick version of how it impacted me: For six months before my diagnosis, I had unexplained fatigue and back pain. In the weeks before I was diagnosed, I was also suffering from neck pain. In those six months, we saw a lot of doctors and had what seemed like every test in the book. I did physical therapy, took pain medication, slept like it was my job, but nothing solved the issue. I continue to be grateful to my parents for always believing that my pain was real and never giving up on finding an answer. They were the ones that actually learned about fibromyalgia through a friend and got me in to see the best rheumatologist in town. When I saw the rheumatologist, he checked 17 pressure points on my body, I reacted in pain to 15 of them (pain in 11 is typically enough for a diagnosis).

What was happening was that I was not going into a deep enough sleep to heal my muscles. I was put on a small dosage of antidepressants to resolve the sleep disorder, and the doctor helped me manage my pain with cortisone shots and pain medication. But once I started the antidepressants and improved my sleep habits (no naps, no caffeine, regular exercise, etc.), I got better. And it has been many years since I have had any issues or pain that wasn't resolved with a good night's sleep and Advil.

At the time I was diagnosed, I was devastated by the idea of having a chronic illness at 15. During the time I was sick before the diagnosis, I prayed for healing. I prayed for miraculous healing and for healing through an answer from a doctor. But a chronic illness was not the answer I expected.

Because of the pain I was in the day I was diagnosed, it seemed that I would live in pain for the rest of my life. I couldn't see that six months down the road, I would be able to function as a normal teenager and not wake up in pain every day. I couldn't see that I would go to college, have roommates, study abroad, spend the night in airports, work second shift jobs and completely forget about the pain.

I do remember my doctor giving me some glimmer of hope when he mentioned that I could grow out of it, that by my early 20s I could be free of it. But when my early 20s came and my doctor suggested coming off my medicine, I put him off. My life was busy and full, and I wasn't willing to change what had been working for so long. And then I got a real job and new insurance, and he wasn't my doctor anymore. After that I saw family practitioners that just kept prescribing what was working for me.

But a part of me wondered — was I using the medicine as a crutch? Had God healed me but I was refusing to trust Him to find out? Did I really need that pill every night?

In part 2, I will share what happened when I tried to answer those questions.