Disabled or Not? Part Two

In my last post, I discussed how someone can look fine, yet be profoundly disabled. I shared my story of living with autoimmune diseases for many years.

Church

Today, I would like to discuss what those disabilities cannot do. They cannot:

  • Steal my faith or my joy. Yes, I have days where I get down because of the changes in my life. However, I still have joy. The Bible tells us we’ll have troubles. Jesus never promised that our lives on earth would be pain-free, but He does promise to walk through the valleys with us. “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Since my trust is in Christ, my joy rests in him also.
  • Rob me of laughter. I choose to laugh every day. My husband cannot go a day without making a joke. Even in troubled times, we laugh together. No matter the situation, we can find a sliver of happiness and laughter.
  • Snatch love from me. I know people who’ve had spouses leave them over their diseases, and I’m not making light of that, but disabilities cannot steal the love of my family. Mostly, it cannot steal the love of my Lord. He’s promised to love me forever. In fact, “love” is one of the most used words in the Bible. Disabilities cannot steal my love for others. Jesus commanded us to love others – including our enemies. Having multiple health issues isn’t an excuse to not love others. Hurting and feeling bad doesn’t give me a pass on reaching out in love.
  • Change who I am. Health issues may change the things I can do. I may spend more time sleeping, and more time recovering from activities, but they cannot change who I am. My inner being. The part of me God created, illness cannot change.

Yes, I’ve lost much because of my chronic illnesses, but I’ve also gained much.

  • Patience – waiting for medical procedures and insurance is teaching me patience. While I’m still not nearly as patient as I should be, I’m learning.
  • Understanding – As nurse, when I first became ill, it gave me more empathy toward my patients. Now, I try to have more empathy towards those who don’t understand. When I have friends who make hurtful comments, I remind myself that they don’t understand what I’m going through. At times, my understanding flies out the window, but I’m trying to be more understanding and forgiving of others.
  • To be still. I used to stay on the go day and night. Being still was foreign to me. I didn’t know how to sit quietly and just be still. I didn’t want to be alone with my thoughts. Now, I’m learning to sit still and listen, but I’m better. God tells us to be still and listen to Him. I’m still working on sitting quietly and just listening to Him but having a chronic illness is teaching me to sit still.

I’ve been guilty of saying, “I have no life anymore.” Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. I have an incredible life. It’s changed drastically over the years, and I can no longer do many of the things I used to do, but I still have a good life.

Years ago we went on a cruise, and I chose shore excursions like climbing the Dunn’s River Falls or parasailing. ParasailingDunn's River Falls

Now, if we go on a cruise or a trip, I choose things that are easier. We took an Alaska cruise, and we didn’t go on any shore excursions. I used my scooter, and we explored the towns. While we didn’t spend long at any stop because I tire easily, we still had fun. Alaska

We spent a lot of time watching out our balcony windows and saw many beautiful sights like whales and icebergs.

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My life has changed, but it is still a good one. God has richly blessed me in many ways. My prayer for you, if you find yourself with a chronic illness, is that you would look outside of the disabilities and see the good, beautiful parts of life that are left. The sunsets, the flowers that bloom in your neighborhood, the sound of the birds calling to each other in the trees – – find joy in the small things.

You Know You Have an Autoimmune Disease When:

Woman

You know you have an autoimmune disease when:

  1. You wake up feeling more tired than when you went to bed the night before. Tired
  2. You take more meds than your 90-year-old granny.Pill bottles
  3. Your house looks like a medical supply store. You have shower seats, grab bars, wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, canes, etc because some days you’re lucky enough to only need the cane, but other days you need the wheelchair.Wheelchair
  4. You get wonderful advice from total strangers. Like: Have you tried: (insert whatever fad is in style right now, Aleve, exercising more, prayer, etc.; If you had more faith, you would be healed. My brother, aunt, mother, uncle, etc had that and did (insert wild advice here like drinking pickle juice or taking vinegar every morning.Pointy Finger
  5. After paying for your meds every month, you’re too broke to have fun…not that you have the energy to do anything fun.Meds/money
  6. People give you dirty looks or even make hateful comments when you park in a disabled parking space because “you don’t look sick”.file0001548736253
  7. You’re convinced blister packs are the work of the devil. file000237973770
  8. Brain fog is very real. It causes you to do some weird things like forgetting to turn off the stove. Miss appointments, etc.file000894312228
  9. When you rent a mobility scooter at a theme park, you get strange looks and the occasional eye roll.Scooter
  10. You have a love/hate relationship with steroids. They make you feel better, but they cause incredible hunger and weight gain.Ape
  11. Your hands swell and turn red with a flare making you nice and colorful.Hand
  12. If you had a ribbon on your social media profile for each disease you’ve been diagnosed with, there would be no room for your photo.file0001328197195
  13. You’ve learned to overcome that irrational fear and become an expert at giving yourself shots. file000381741411
  14. Most of your friends are now online friends who have the same or similar illnesses because they understand you.Giraffe

Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

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Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

 

With the recent death of actor Robin Williams, I felt it was important to interrupt my series on Rheumatoid Arthritis to talk about depression.

Studies show between 15 and 60% of people dealing with chronic illness, experience clinical depression. However, I believe at different times in the course of the disease, most people who deal with chronic illness and autoimmune diseases face some degree of depression. The diseases attack the body and once we learn what our “new normal” is for life, something changes, and we must accept a revised version of normal. This can lead to depression.

Depression is not a sign of weakness. Depression is not a sign you don’t have enough faith in God. Depression is not something you just push through and deal with.

Depression is a very serious sign that something is wrong and you need help to deal with it. In our “pull yourself up by the bootstraps world” we have difficulty understanding this insidious thief. It robs our joy, and steals our happiness, yet many times we don’t understand why.

Dealing with chronic illness day in day out is wearisome. Fatigue, coupled with pain, and flu-like symptoms takes a toll on the body and mind. If you’re experiencing depression symptoms along with your disease symptoms, please do not ignore them.

Symptoms of Depression Include:
  • Feeling sad, empty
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Loss of interest
  • Increased fatigue
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Fixating on past failures
  • Insomnia
  • Sleeping too much
  • Persistent anxiety
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Frequent thoughts of death
  • Suicide attempts
Warning Signs of Suicide in Depressed Persons:
  • A sudden switch from being sad to suddenly calm or even happy
  • Frequently talking or thinking about death
  • Depression that worsenings
  • Putting affairs in order
  • Tempting fate by risky behavior
  • Losing interest in things the person once cared for
  • Saying things like “It would be better if I weren’t here” or wanting out
  • Making comments about feeling worthless, or hopeless
  • Visiting those the person cares about

Depression must be taken very seriously. The risk of suicide with depression is high and anyone who expresses suicidal thoughts should be taken seriously. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or the Deaf hotline at 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889).

 

References:

http://www.lupus.org/answers/entry/can-lupus-cause-depression

http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/detecting-depression

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/basics/symptoms/con-20032977