How a Diagnosis Changed My Spiritual Path
By Mea | @MeaByTheSea | CLC Science Contributor | Dec 19, 2019
So I have a confession— I used to be an Instagram Christian. I used to read
my bible and post pictures on Instagram with captions like “Time with my Father #Godtime” I thought being a Christian meant asking my friends why they weren’t constantly doing the same thing. And if you weren’t a Christian, I just didn’t think you belonged in my life.
And then I got diagnosed with 3 chronic illnesses.
A few years ago, I was at dinner with one of my friends and her family. Her mom noticed me scratching at the red bumps that covered my swollen knuckles and she insisted I see a rheumatologist.
So I did exactly that. I told the doctor how I felt exhausted all the time, how I usually had to take 2-3 naps just to get through the day but still felt like I had the flu, complete with chills and all, no matter what I did. I showed her pictures of my hands covered in red dots. I told her of my constant body aches and random shooting pains. She then decided to perform the clinical test for fibromyalgia, which involves pressing on certain pressure points and seeing if there’s a pain response. By the end of it I was in tears from the pain. That day I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. She then drew blood and ran a rainbow of blood tests. 1 month later I got the results.
Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, and Fibromyalgia. Rheumatoid Arthritis and Sjogren’s are both autoimmune conditions. That means the immune system attacks the body like it would a virus or bacteria. In RA, the immune system attacks the joints and in Sjogren's the immune system attacks all moisture secreting glands like the salivary glands and those that keep the eyes moist. Fibromyalgia is a chronic widespread pain disorder where the nerves in the body that sense pain randomly fire. It’s not fun, to say the least. I’m not telling you this part of my story to get pity or for you to think I’ve overcome some big challenge. I’m telling you this because my illness changed the way I view a lot of things in my life, one of them mainly being my faith.
Now I know right now you’re probably thinking that I went through the stereotypical “How could God do this to me?” The frustration that usually follows something like this. And there was some shock and…sadness. But mostly I was happy, ecstatic even, and very grateful for a diagnosis because a diagnosis meant treatment and treatment meant I could start feeling better.
That part took a little longer than expected….. I had to go through a couple different treatments before I finally landed on my current one, but once I did, my life opened up. I had the energy to do things for the first time since middle school. I could workout, hang out with friends, and live like a normal twenty-something. I’ll never forget the first time completed a four-mile run with my friends. It was 5 am, 32 degrees, and my lungs were on fire, but I could not. stop. smiling. I never thought I’d feel good enough to do that. And because of this newfound energy, I started taking some time to reflect on key parts of my life— one of these being my faith.
I started to think about what God meant to me. Who was He? Was He an old white man in the sky that kept a list of every time I posted a picture with the #Blesssed? Did these things that I thought showed the world what a great Christian I even mattered to the being that it was all supposed to be for? And the conclusion I came to was no. If God loved the world so much that He sent His one and only son to die for all of humanity, then He believed every single human was worth it. Christian or not. He crafted this amazing and beautiful world for us to enjoy and take in every piece of. And he didn’t do that just so He could send over half of a key part of His creation to eternal torcher. My God was, is, and always will be loving, kind, and welcoming of every part of His creation.
The night of my diagnosis I had sat down and prayed. I said to God, “Okay you’ve made this a part of me, now use it to do good” and I believe God did exactly that in a few ways.
I connected with the online chronic illness community through the Chronic Love Club. The app I had once used to show the world what a great Christian I was, was now showing me how loving and understanding other people with similar diseases to mine were. 6 months after my diagnosis I had started an organization that helps raise awareness about chronic and incurable illnesses and it has already managed to reach people in countries like Israel and the UK.
I don’t live on a terminal timeline, but I do live on a chronic one. And that changed my view. I’m gonna have bad days still, as I get older they’re gonna come more often. But I’m so thankful that I follow a God that has used my disease to bring joy to others— and one that used something that normally would seem so bad and so devastating, to make me more accepting, more kind, and simply more joyful about every person and every part of his creation. And without my diagnosis, I never would have gotten there.