I have shared this with a few friends, but felt like I needed to write down my thoughts. My hope is that this will be helpful for those of you who have felt "less than" because of your physical or mental ailments. I want you to know that I have been given an opportunity to have a little peek into what you might be dealing with daily. Forever. Let me back up...
I had the opportunity to serve as a leader for Relief Society - the women's organization in our church group - for a few years. I had many situations where I was attempting to help women and families who were struggling with things like financial instability, tension in marriage, addictions, mental illness, physical illness, and the list goes on. While I definitely felt love and concern for these families, I had a really difficult time relating personally. What did it feel like to struggle to get up every morning? What did it feel like to wake up each day without hope that life was going to improve? What do you do when you feel unsafe in your own home? What did it feel like to not be able to trust your body or mind, or to not know what to expect from day to day? I started to include these things in my prayers and had a growing desire to understand. To be able to mourn with and comfort people instead of constantly jumping into solution mode (my normal). In a nutshell: to become more like my Savior. My prayers became more intent and I truly wanted to understand, especially as some of these issues have come to my attention within my own family and with my children.
One night, as I knelt on my bed, I remember praying for an increased understanding and for more compassion. A thought clearly came into my mind: "Are you sure?" My eyes flew open and I remember feeling really nervous answering that question. It sounded like "Uhhh….yes? I think so? But don't make it too hard!" Ha!
Fast forward to November. I went out to eat with a friend and had a low-key asthma attack. Strange. My Dad has asthma, but that is not something I've had to deal with regularly. It happened again a week later after eating a meal. I chalked it up to having a slight cold. Then again. And again. And then hives started popping up on my skin, but they weren't super itchy, so it was manageable. With all of the holidays approaching, I wasn't too concerned about figuring it out. If it was a virus, it would likely burn out. But then it started getting worse, and I began to take it more seriously. One night, the hives were particularly terrible and I started having acid reflux. I had had some vinegar earlier in the evening and then took Tums when the acid reflux started...kind of a science experiment in my stomach that went wild. Vomiting foam was a new experience. Not one I would like to repeat. I wasn't able to go to church the next day since I had been up all night and my esophagus was still burning. Scott and I prayed together and that moment - that prayer that I had offered months ago - flew into my mind. This! This was my opportunity to learn compassion, to gain understanding. I had ASKED for this and now I was complaining about it!
I know that I will figure this out, but not before I have learned what I need to learn from the experience. I wanted to share this story for multiple reasons. First, so many of you have reached out offering kind words and advice, comfort and prayers. Each of those messages have meant so much to me!! Second, I think there are a lot of unsung heroes out there. People that are struggling with unseen demons and feel like they don't measure up because they aren't accomplishing as much as others, or aren't able to even do all the basic things they would ideally like to. YOU ARE AMAZING! There is NO way I could do all the things I do normally if I was dealing with something like this all the time. Right now? My house is a mess. My kids have made their own food most days this week. Scott has been doing all the laundry. I have at least pulled it together to do school and get my kids to their activities, but even that took a lot of mental effort. Last night I sat in a baking soda bath for an hour and watched Hulu. Probably the first time I've sat and watched TV in months, and it was a necessary distraction!! We just can't compare. My trials are so different from yours, and we can't get down on ourselves for being in different places!
I want you to know that I truly believe that the trials we face in life are opportunities to learn! And even though this is incredibly difficult for me - and I am not perfect at NOT complaining - I am trying to learn from it every day, and there are SO many lessons. I've learned where pride was hiding in my life, that my kids care about me and are so capable at being helpful and kind, that Scott is a total trooper, that it feels really good when someone listens to you and mourns with you, that people understand when you're not your best, that projects sometimes have to take a backseat and that's ok, that it's really disappointing to want to do things that you can't do, that people look at you really weird when you are in a bathing suit with red splotchy skin (contagious!?!?!), that God loves me, and that if I die, Brooke has a great contingency plan in place (she laid the whole thing out for Scott last night....oy vay). Regardless of how different our lives are, I know that if we seek to build our relationship with God, he will guide us on our path. Specifically for us. He will answer our prayers in ways we couldn't have imagined because he loves us enough to let us suffer so that we can learn. As a parent, that kind of love is what I strive for.
PS - an Uber driver in Miami shared this song with me, if you want a good listen! Listening to this song was a little gift from God when the hives were becoming increasingly frustrating. Andy Grammar is amazing. I Wish You Pain