Making Friends with My Body
When I was first diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in my late 40’s, I had been having back pain, overall soreness and sometimes just feeling exhausted for several years. I had been to various doctors, orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, physical therapists and athletic trainers and no one could do anything for me. I had numerous tests, tried various drugs and exercised my heart out, but while some may have helped temporarily, the pain and the fatigue just kept coming back. Sure I was a working parent, a volunteer at my children’s schools and our church and had the right to feel tired on occasion, but it seemed like something else was going on.
When I was finally diagnosed at a physical therapy clinic, they sent me to a rheumatologist. I remember feeling that “I’m not crazy after all!” It was really helpful to finally have a diagnosis, something I could research and start to do the right kinds of things to “cure” myself.
It Wasn't Going Away
It took me about ten years to realize that this wasn’t going to go away. This chronic pain and fatigue condition could be helped by medications and a variety of behavioral changes, like improving my diet, getting enough sleep and by regular exercise, but there were many factors that affected me that I had no control over – like the weather or a work schedule that just couldn’t be helped.
It took me thirteen years to say out loud to the people who care for me at my clinic, that I truly believe that my FM is a gift. While my fibro has evolved over the years and manifests itself differently – often just when I figure how to manage a symptom-it is a gift because it forces me to slow down, to actually stop and realize how much I need time to “Rest in God.” And focused time being with God allows me to be able to have the courage and energy to be generative in the world. Fibromyalgia is a gift because it has given me new purpose in life. And while I still struggle every day to take one step, one day at a time, I now look for the next step to reveal itself on my life’s journey.
Developing a Life of Gratitude
As a spiritual director, I work with people to learn to develop a life of gratitude rather than resentment and offer guidance in the ongoing spiritual journey we call life, as my spiritual director does for me. And while my body and I are still not best friends, every day we know we have to live with each other. So we get up, hold hands and face the day together, knowing that God will provide opportunities for us to experience God’s love in new and beautiful, yet ever changing, ways.
Is life still hard sometimes? Yes. Do I wish I could do more and be more for people in my family, in my work, in my ministry? Every day. But while I may have to be reminded over and over, I know I have the gift of the Divine Presence in my life.
Consider Spiritual Direction
If you blame your body and you are not all you always wanted to be in the stories you tell yourself, you might want to consider spiritual direction. We all need at least one person in our life with whom we can share our deepest fears and our deepest desires and someone who will listen to us without judgment. Regardless of whether or not you suffer from a chronic pain or fatigue condition, a companion can help us remember we are not what we “do” in life. One of my greatest privileges is learning how to “be,” and accompanying others into previously unseen opportunities to hear God’s voice.