I have a few people in my life who have expected me to suddenly get better. Their inquiries about my health go beyond a nice “How are you feeling? Any progress?”. If I tell them I’m just the same as I was a few months ago, they react with crushed disappointment, anger at my doctors, and a list of things that they think I should be doing. Their reactions almost seem like a personal attack. From the person who believes God will heal me because illness is never part of a blessed life (so they say), to the person who as acts as if I’ve done all the wrong things and seen all the wrong doctors, they leave me feeling worse about my situation than before, even if they had good intentions. I’m disappointed, too, but I can’t instantly make my body do something that it’s not ready to do. I can’t click my heels together and immediately go back to where I started. This isn’t a cold or the flu. There’s unfortunately no quick remedy. In the wake of those interactions, I have to remind myself of some important things.
First, like so many chronically ill people, I’ve done all that I can do for myself. I eat a very healthy diet, take supplements, have gotten counseling, see doctors regularly, get physical exercise when I can (which basically means taking a slow walk through the grocery store), do my own research on my symptoms, and do many other things to help both my physical and mental health. I also pray about my illness all the time. To allow myself to be devastatingly disappointed every time those things don’t work (which is most of the time) would be terrible for my mental health. I’d just give up, plain and simple. And I can’t do that. In time, with persistence from my doctors and myself, I believe that either my body will start to heal or we will find something that will finally work. Even when people treat me like I haven’t done enough, it’s not true. I’ve done enough, probably more than enough. The rest is in God’s hands, and I have to find peace in that without being upset by someone’s thoughtless words.
Second, illness is a sad and hard thing in and of itself. I remind myself of that often. When I have a hard day, I tell myself “It’s okay to cry. This is hard.” I don’t try to pretend this isn’t happening. But life with an illness doesn’t have to be all sadness and distress. There are many people throughout history who have had a disability or serious illness their whole life, and they have lived fulfilling, wonderful lives. Lives with the burden of illness, yes, but fulfilling nonetheless. God doesn’t always choose to heal everyone. I can still find joy and wonder in the unusual circumstances of my illness. I see things from a different perspective than I used to and have both the time and inclination to do things I didn’t do before I was sick. I’ve become a stronger, more empathetic person, and have learned a deeper trust in God. So even though this illness is bad, I’ve found good lessons in it. Getting better instantly just won’t happen, and getting better at all may not happen, though I hope and pray it will. Even if I don’t get better, it doesn’t mean my life is ruined and not worth living. It doesn’t mean God has left me. My life can still be fulfilling, just in a way I never imagined it would.