Sometimes, I can look back and see where "it" - chronic fatigue syndrome - began. And other times, I can't. I have experienced challenges in my health since childhood. I was on every antibiotic under the sun; I had belly aches day and night (mostly at night). But it wasn't until the pain in my joints showed up that I was disturbed.
It's been 365 days since Melanoma and I parted ways.
If you're new to my posts, I do life with a chronic disease called CFS/ME aka chronic fatigue syndrome, but better explained as systemic exertion intolerance disease. Systemic meaning if any body system o' mine gets taxed, every other system gets taxed too - and the repercussions can be life-limiting. Thousands of people around the globe have CFS/ME too, but somehow my faith, my strength, and my resilience (even here) set me apart. Because through living with chronic disease, I've been able to reach thousands upon thousands with a message of hope.
I have such huge hope, even in the dark, because I know Jesus. And I know Job and Paul and Ruth. And I personally know incredible human beings like my kids who persevere, too.
I think what people focus on so much here - with my wild path - is how I present our pain to the world. Pain is not a new experience for me, but one I've walked since childhood. I have taken charge of my well-being head on and gained numerous healthy coping mechanisms here... but none like the one's I've learned in the last 365 days since Malignant Melanoma was excised from my leg (twice).
In the last 365 days, old coping mechanisms - like self-advocacy and vulnerability - rose up to meet my walk. I've been incredibly honest about my wildness for the last 5 years thanks to an incredible spouse. And I'm great at advocating for what I need here to an eastern or western doc. But the new coping mechanisms that came up, were really, really new. And really, really helpful. You see, because I allow the world to think of me as strong, it's rare that I'm offered support. So I did a new thing in the last 365 days, I stopped waiting for it - and I asked for it. Not just from doctors and therapists (because our daughter's wildness didn't part just because mine became more intense!), but from people - from family and friends and business partners. From my husband. From my church. Interestingly, every person I reached out to rose up to meet my walk, too. Vulnerability with people is transformational. You can absolutely be vulnerable apart from people. Social media allows it! But oh this path with people... it's incredible.
This experience refreshed my perspective on life.
Just the other day, I was listening to a TEDx talk on loneliness. Did you know that it's a leading cause of death? It's the cause of living dead and actual lost lives - and not just from suicide. We are wired to be together. Jesus knew best when he said, "where two or more are gathered," because we need one another for encouragement - and perhaps hope when we've lost it ourselves.
Mind you, I did not lose hope in Melanoma, but before it. Dengue Fever presented like a lion in 2015 and it mauled my high-energy and exuberance. Melanoma gave me my hope fully back. My reliance on Jesus and people became foundational, as my organ systems all went on strike (because that's just how CFS/ME works).
So here's what I want to leave you with today...
Are you being vulnerable in solitude - on social media or at the counselor's office or alone on the pages of your journal? Or are you being vulnerable in really, real life alongside incredible human beings who will love on you (they're out there)?
While I love social media - and as a writer have a strong presence here - and while I love my counselors and therapists and journals, I love being among people who are flawed like me so much more.
My encouragement for you today is the same as last week. Find your tribe. It's necessary. Wholly. Totally. Fully. Hugely. Vitally.
And check back in here when you do.
(I'm cheering you on.)
I love sharing helpful resources! I may also make a small cut that keeps me fully caffeinated and my brain research-packed (because we can't serve from an empty well, and I really love collecting all the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom I can for both of us.) Always, I'll do my best to keep you on the right path, but I'm no doctor even though I play one at home - often - and mostly for myself. Life with CFS sure keeps things interesting! Life with you + CFS keeps things full of JOY, too.