With me it started right after a surgery designed to treat my endometriosis. I had resisted the surgery for years out of a fear of anesthesia but so many people knew so many other people who “got pregnant a couple of months after!” that I finally gave in. I have quite literally never been the same. I woke up from that surgery in pain. But I also felt like I never fully woke up. I was fatigued. I hurt everywhere. Sometimes the pain was so bad I’d have to strip off all my clothes and lay on the floor and just cry. Wearing the clothes hurt too bad.
This went on for a couple of years. Every time I saw a doctor about it I received the answer a person dreads==”It’s all in your head.” Actually, they don’t really say that anymore. Instead they say “I can’t find anything wrong” or something else to the same effect. Something that means “you aren’t physically ill. It’s your mind.”
To this day there is nothing I loathe more than being told that your brain is responsible for your health. Okay, there is. I also loathe being told that I am sick because God is punishing me for my sin.*
In a post today Mike Duran writes
who can deny that the condition of one’s mind effects the condition of their body, for good or ill. How someone thinks has definite implications upon their quality of life. Of course, the extreme would suggest that all disease or poverty is a symptom of bad thinking. Which is patently absurd. So where do we draw the line?
I can answer that.
Your body is like a car. Having a disease is like having something wrong with your car. A disease like mine (Or I should say “diseases like mine” since I have several coexistent problems) is something like having a lemon. Being happy, being positive, being prayerful…none of that fixes the car. But it makes the car much easier to deal with.
There are mental tricks that any ill person benefits from knowing. I’m a big fan of self-hypnosis for pain control. But that doesn’t ever make the pain go away; it simply retrains your mind into focusing on something else. I’m also a big fan of keeping your mind as busy as possible. Having goals to focus on prevents the illness from taking over. Having books to read, books to write, books to colour in gives your mind something to do other than dwelling on the negativity of your situation. Otherwise it’s very easy to sit around and be angry at God, angry at healthy people, angry at malingerers.
Your mind didn’t make the illness happen, but your mind and attitude definitely contribute to how well you play the hand you’ve been dealt.
*Let’s get this out of the way right here. I believe that God allows me to be ill. I believe that God could cure me if God so chose, but my illness is a tool that God uses for ministry. Some people get sent to Africa. Some people get sent to South America. I got sent to Chronic Pain.
When it comes to it, my illness has brought me closer to Christ than anything else. That’s too valuable for words. So no. God didn’t make me sick. But God also doesn’t make me well. I’m not angry about that. I rejoice in that.