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.

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