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December 12, 2013

5 things I am learning through suffering

I have these times that are few and far between but they pop up every once in awhile, and I feel words start to ramble around in my head. They are pretty words with images and quotes and scripture and all kind of wise things that scream, "Write me down, hurry!"  When I sit down to write without the ramblings, it's hard to come up with words that give this blog space justice, so I'm okay with using this corner of the Internet as a means to get down those REALLY important thoughts and just live out the rest. If you are lucky enough to know me well, then you may just get a verbal blog post every day.
 This particular post is about suffering in regards to sickness and pain, which is something I have become familiar with, and in a very real way recently. The story is long, but a quick summary is that over the years I have encountered numerous health conditions and have received different diagnoses: Fibromyalgia, IBS, anxiety, depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, etc. I have tried many methods to reach healing and some have worked, many have not, and for the last several years I would say I that I have been managing any pain pretty well on my own without the help of medical intervention. I still suffered flare-ups due to Fibromyalgia and sometimes stomach troubles but these things had become a part of my life and I had learned to live with them, that is until I began suffering immensely a couple months ago. At this time, I began to have full body physical symptoms that were debilitating. The list of symptoms is probably a page long  but I knew my body was out of balance and it was throwing my mind out of balance as well. Finally I received I guess what you would call a revelation that my health conditions are due to a yeast overgrowth in my body, a particular fungus called candida and most likely I have had this overgrowth for many years, perhaps my whole life.  The culminating development began around Thanksgiving, as I loaded my body up with carbs and sugary desserts. Can you say stuffing and pie, anyone?!? I began to get terribly sick and it became hard to get out of bed. After eating, my stomach would begin to swell to the point that I looked very pregnant, bloated and the pain was unbearable. I was tired and more fatigued than I had ever been in my life, even during pregnancy. My mind was suffering, I felt anxious, fearful, irritable and had days of depression.

However, once I knew what was wrong with me, I started to feel a small sense of peace. It is relieving to finally have a game plan. So I started on a diet which cuts out every type of grain, sugar (even fruit), alcohol, caffeine, and dairy. These are foods that feed the yeast and keep them thriving in my body. I am left eating fresh produce that are low in carbs, lean meats, eggs and lots and lots of water. Sounds fun, right? The diet is strict, but over the years I have become familiar and have enjoyed trying new healthy foods so this has not been the hardest part for me. The hardest part has been the die-off effects of starving the yeast of it's nutrition. They release many (some say up to 79) different toxins and alcohol into your bloodstream and the liver works overtime to clear your body of all the nasty waste bi-products. These little yeast punks do not want to die without a fight.
Here I am today, it's been about a week of being on this strict diet and the first two to three weeks are the hardest. People feel much worse before they feel better, and I have felt the worst I have ever felt. Yet in all things there is opportunity for growth, peace, joy and knowledge. That is what I want to focus on: My experience with suffering and what I am learning.

1. Sickness makes me feel lonely and isolated and I sometimes equate this to actually being alone. During the day, when my children are at school and my husband is at work and I am here struggling to get out of bed, a feeling of loneliness comes over me. These feelings can quickly slide into thoughts such as, "I am alone. No one has reached out to me today and they must not care that I am here suffering." This is a lie and if I choose to believe it, then I become a prisoner to my suffering. People care and they also have lives to live. Loneliness does not equal being alone. To further expand on this great lesson, I am learning that being by myself, learning to feel worthy just the way I am without constant reassurance from others is contributing to my spiritual growth. To rest in the stillness, just my own soul and it's divine love  surrounding mein meditation  is a great gift that many of us do not yet unwrap and relish in.


2. Many people do not understand what I am going through and that is okay. Some people really do understand and that is because they have walked a similar road before me. I have found quite a large support group online and that is helpful in overcoming that lonely feeling I described above. The closest people do not need to understand my physical pain and suffering, nor do I want them to because it is not something I would wish upon anyone. Just because they do not understand with certainty what I am experiencing does not mean they cannot love me, support me and help see me through this. We each have a journey and a path that is our own. We are here to support others and lift them up as they walk their own path of healing, but we do not always understand it or know what to do or say. Searching for grace is my motto and this is a great way to learn to give it to the ones we love.

3. Being a victim and being a spiritual victim are two different things. I do not choose to suffer physical afflictions but when I say it is not fair, I don't deserve this, or I feel owed something because of my suffering, then I am becoming a spiritual victim or adopting a victim mentality and am ultimately lying to myself. We ALL have things in our lives that we do not ask for and circumstances that change us fundamentally. Some are heart wrenching; sometimes we are victims of crime, abuse, grief, disease, heartbreak, bullying, etc. Those things happen to us and are out of our control, we cannot change them once they have been done to us. The choice I have now is whether I will let myself, mentally, become a victim. When I do this, I lock myself in suffering. When I think like a victim, I forget to see the blessings that I am given and instead see every negative occurrence as it relates to my difficult circumstance. The amazing part of being a human is how we are capable of rising up out of suffering.. We can make a choice about how we react to what life has given us and we can choose to be victorious and not victimized. It takes time, hard work and sometimes we only learn this because we trudge away each day in pain until we realize our minds, when renewed, are incredibly strong and we can decide to create a better story for ourselves, one filled with success and not failure. Also, this disease may be in me but it does not define me. The same way we can have cancer but we are not cancer. I say this about depression as well; we have depression but we are NOT depressed. This is a hard lesson for me to remember, but I am rising up to it.

4. It is okay to ask for help. It is okay to say I need prayers, support, someone to reach out to check in on me. It is okay to ask for it but if I expect it then I will be let down miserably. There are people that come into our lives ready and willing to uplift us, give us a shoulder to lean on, an ear to bend, etc. Those people are gifts. However, not everyone in our lives are capable of being that person. Sometimes I expect that the person who will reach out to me and be a companion in my suffering is someone whom I have helped in the past. I am learning that the people that needed my help may not have the ability to help me in return. The point of giving is not to receive, and yet if we live our lives believing that we must gain something for every good deed we performed, we make ourselves prisoners. The biggest lesson in relation to this point that I have been awakened to is that if I pray and ask for someone to be sent to me, I have to be willing to open my heart to see the help when it comes. Sometimes we can be so focused on our expectations of what that will look like that we miss what it was that came our way. A simple text from a friend can be enough to lift us up but not if we expect them to come with a basket of goodies.

5. Most important for me to remember each and every day: to suffer is to gain. Through my suffering, I have grown closer in the knowledge that my being here is no accident and each challenge is for a greater purpose. I am sheltered under great love that surrounds each of us. It is easy to take that forgranted when all is going well in my life, but when I am buried under the rubble, desperate for a way out, I cling to the hope that I believe in and find a shovel so I can dig my way out. In my experience, we are often not just lifted out of the shambles, although sometimes we can be but not often. Many times it's the act of digging, making our way through the debris, that ultimately shapes us, challenges us, grows us and teaches us. "The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." -Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross

Friend, if you are buried in the rubble of your life right now, I am throwing you a shovel.