Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

To Help You Understand My Chronic Pain

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HeartBroken-Tears are the Baptism of Soul via photopin (license)

“I feel terrible.”

“I know.”

“You do? Do you really?”

There are some things in life that one must experience to fully understand. Infertility. Rape. Depression. Losing a child. Being abused. You see, we can look at situations and people and have a deep concern, empathy and heartbreak for them. We can see people suffering and try to imagine how awful it would be to experience such tragedies, and yet we can’t fully understand their pain unless we’ve walked in those shoes. For the person in pain and suffering, there is a deep desire for others, especially loved ones, to understand what we’re going through, and yet we wouldn’t hope for anyone to really have to struggle as we do.

My husband recently told me that he wished he could have my pain for a day so that he could better understand. It was a thoughtful thing to say. He makes every effort to understand and I appreciate that. So in honor of his desire to see more clearly what I am dealing with, I’m going to give as truthful an account as possible in hopes that understanding will grow, helping people to minister better to those who suffer with chronic pain.

I don’t like talking about my pain. I am very much the type of person who wants to make people happy and be cheerful and put on a brave face, but too much pretense weaves around ourselves something of a lonely cocoon. If no one knows we are hurting, then we suffer alone. There is no one to talk to or to pray for you. Since chronic pain is often felt but not seen, you are expected to function the way you look on the outside. It’s exhausting. So, I’m going to be honest and my prayer is that this helps others like me and the people who love them.

1, My Diagnosis – Everyone’s pain is different, and there are a variety of causes for chronic pain. To this day, after seeing many specialists and doctors, I am technically diagnosed with fibromyalgia, though I feel confident that there is more to it. Being somewhat “undiagnosed” means I am constantly searching for answers. It means I don’t know what to expect. It means there really is no treatment. I often feel like I’ve no where to turn for help and that going to the doctor is a waste of time. It’s scary and frustrating. I am not really being treated for fibro, though my doctor does ask about my pain on regular visits. I’m not on medication.

  1. My Pain – I go through flare-ups of pain and various symptoms on a cyclical basis. I’m not trying to whine or complain here, but I am going to share some of the pain I experience either on a daily or cyclical basis. Joint pain is top of the list. I always have pain in my shoulders, neck and upper back, as well as various tender points. The pain flares up and those flare ups can last a long time. Right now I’m dealing with one that has lasted about 6 weeks. The pain right now is also in most of my other joints. I have arthritic pain in my fingers, hands, feet, back, knees, etc. I suffer headaches, brain fog and strange sensations. I have had gastrointestinal problems for several years resulting in chronic gastritis (inflammation of stomach lining). I have to be cautious about my diet to avoid horrible stomach pain. I also have very bad reflux. The fatigue can be severe. I get dizzy often. There are times when my pain is so severe that I can barely move. It is worse in the mornings. It wakes me up early because I can’t lay down any longer. This all began around the time I turned 30…so around 4 years now.
  1. Invisible Illness – People with chronic pain understand something that others don’t….just because I look okay doesn’t mean I am ok. There are days when my condition overwhelms me and I wonder how I can make it through the day, yet I can’t slow down. I can’t stop. I have to work, clean and keep up with my responsibilities as if I were healthy. I just know there are people sitting at home collecting disability who suffer less than I do on a regular basis. My disease is invisible to the human eye. As a result, it feels as though the whole world is expecting you to just keep at it. It feels as if no one believes you are hurting and they can’t possibly understand how much.
  1. Feeling Like a Failure – While I am struggling to keep up with my responsibilities, I also know I’m failing quite a bit. I can’t keep up the house like I’d like to or do as much as I want to do. My husband has to help me around the house more than I’d like. I need to say no sometimes to various ministry opportunities and events. I just can’t do it all. I struggle with feeling like a failure as a mother and wife. I know the enemy uses these things to feed lies to me, and so I cling to the Word of God that He will work all of this together for good. I trust Him that He will carry me when I can’t go another step.
  1. Emotional Side Effects – If you think the physical pain is the only part of it, you’re missing something. The emotional suffering is also very much a struggle. You see, there is something emotionally devastating about chronic illness. Each morning, day after day, I wake up to pain. I struggle through pain, and other symptoms, throughout the day. I go to sleep in pain. It’s constant. It goes on and on and on and there is no cure. I can expect to be in pain for the rest of my life, though I do pray for healing according to the Lord’s will and timing. Imagine how awful it feels to be sick and then go on to imagine that sickness is going to be your life for the rest of your days. Imagine never having a day where you feel perfectly well again. It’s heartbreaking, frustrating and so very sad. If not for the blessed assurance I have in Jesus, I’d feel so lost. I don’t know how people survive this pain without Him.

This may seem like a bit of a downer, but I really felt compelled to tell the truth here about what it’s like to live with chronic pain. I know that my husband longs to understand it better, and maybe you have a loved one suffering with pain. Your loved one needs you to acknowledge the struggle and believe in what he/she is dealing with. You know, it’s easy to minister to and care for a person who is suffering with a short term illness. You help out and then she gets better. A person with chronic illness is a whole other deal. This person will need your understanding, love and support probably forever. It’s hard. It’s a big job. So blessed that there are people out there who love God enough to love His people even in these long-term illnesses.

If you are married to someone with chronic pain, I know you are suffering too. It’s hard to watch your spouse hurt and not be able to fix it. I encourage you to be understanding and supportive. You will have to help pick up the slack around the house and help take care of your beloved. You will have to understand when he/she can’t keep up or must decline an activity. You will have to be there to hold things together when his/her world seems to be falling apart. Hang in there and trust the Lord.

As I write this, I am aware that publishing it is going to make me look weak and that it exposes to others something that I’ve tried to keep hidden. You see, I don’t want to be known as the lady who’s always sick. On the other hand, I need support too. I need friends who pray for me. I need help from time to time when it gets bad. My husband needs to understand, and my guess is that other spouses need this too. While it all seems pretty disheartening, please know that it is the hope and grace of Jesus Christ that keeps me going. I know God has not forsaken me and that He will get me through. I believe He has a purpose for allowing it. I do pray for healing and trust Him. I’ll never give up hope. I’ll never stop praising my Lord. He gives me strength day by day to endure this thorn in my flesh. I pray that all who suffer with chronic pain and illness would know that hope and love of Jesus. We need Him to get through this.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I’m happy to answer questions and I’d love to hear your stories too. God be glorified and may He bless you abundantly!

* * * Added: have asked me if I take anything for pain. I wanted to share that I am taking Plexus products for pain, better health and weight loss. I am noticing that my flare ups seem to be less intense most of the time. The longer I’m on it, the better I feel overall. I’m not saying this to sell it, but because I believe it is helping people. If you’d like to know more about Plexus, let me know. You can also check my website… Radiant Health

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