Friday, July 27, 2012

Celebrate Your Courage

Imagine waking up every morning, and having to face the reality of yet another day filled with nausea and pain, and knowing that there is little or nothing your medical doctor can do to cure your illness and remove the suffering from your life. I am talking about a misery that is so severe that you are driven to tears of frustration, hopelessness, and even thoughts of suicide. I am talking about misery that is so chronic in nature, that it has robbed you of the ability to earn a living, to enjoy a normal social life, to go to church on a regular bases, to manage even the most simple daily tasks and responsibilities.

My name is Barbara Engle, and I have been living with chronic pain and chronic nausea associated with Lupus, which resulted in my developing Gastroduodenal Crohn's Disease/Gastroparesis since I was a child. I have lived with chronic pain associated with Fibromyalgia for the last twelve years. At this time in my life there is no medically planned therapy, no guaranteed surgery that will insure that I will live the rest of my life pain and misery free.

But I am not unique in any way! Many Christians and non-Christians alike awake each morning with that reality of facing another day of battling with a chronic illness or pain, and knowing that there is very little their physician can do about it. As a result, they most face each day as a challenge in order to live their lives to its fullest.

The challenge of living with chronic illness , even one as serious as Gastroparesis isn't always apparent when you're first diagnosed. This is just the beginning. It takes time to understand your illness, the treatment options available, and how living with illness will affect your life and the lives of your partner and family.

Being sick is like being on a an emotional roller coaster -- you can be up and hopeful one minute and down and doubtful the next. Your illness can take unexpected and unpredictable turns. One disease can dispose you to or give rise to another. This can be frightening as well as exasperating. Finding medication that works, being committed to following a good treatment plan and maintaining honest, direct and open communication with your healthcare providers takes time, energy and skill. And quite often lead down a road of disappointments that can at times make the whole situation seem hopeless, when despite your diagnoses there is still so much that medical science does not known. But this is only part of the picture. Living with illness affects every part of your life and every significant relationship you have. Despite the reality of close ties, many relationships fall on the way side in the face of an illness the don't understand, or an illness they are unwilling to accept for many reason.

The fact is, if you're living with chronic illness you do face it with courage whither you believe it or not. No matter how scared you are, face life's challenge. In the process of meeting life's challenges, you have learned and are continuing to learn how to meet your fears and move beyond them. Perhaps you don't think of yourself as particularly courageous or even confident. Maybe it's time to take a closer look. These four questions will help you do that.

1. What have you learned about yourself since you were diagnosed with a chronic illness?
2. What initially held you back from learning these things about yourself?
3. What did you learn from the times you felt most discouraged?
4. What will your legacy be to those who know and love you?

No one knows the journey you and your illness have taken better than you do, and no ones knows more than you, the challenges you've met and the wins you've achieved. Acknowledge and embrace them. Celebrate your courage.

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