How Did We Get Here?

It is hard to believe just a few months ago my life was pretty normal and mostly predictable. Like most, I had my ups and downs but usually knew what to expect day to day. I could never in my wildest nightmares imagine a time such as the one we are living in. A simple trip to the grocery store no longer looks the same. My trips are limited and usually very early to beat the rush of people who are oblivious to the pandemic. They also consist of a mask and tons of hand sanitizer. The store hours have changed, and the entrances are roped off. Social distancing signs and stickers are everywhere. Each time, I look around at others wearing masks and wonder, “how did we get here?”

So much chaos going on around us, and it seems many are focusing on the wrong things. I am a firm believer of individual rights, but the crisis is much larger than all of us. I believe in focusing on “me” but there is a time and a place for everything. Initially, the elderly, those with autoimmune disorders as well as other immune suppressed illnesses were most at risk. Today, the virus does not discriminate. Perfectly, healthy young individuals are impacted just the same.

It appears we have no clear direction on what to do…shelter-in-place, open up, wear a mask, don’t wear a mask, virtual learning, in-person instruction. At this point, the only way we will get back to a somewhat normal place is to use common sense. Wear a mask. If not for yourself, do so for your family and everyone else around you.

“Recognizing Your Purpose”

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – Thessalonians 5:18

The last few weeks, I have not felt my best experiencing a variety of symptoms but at the same time still feeling grateful. Initially, I found myself trying to distinguish which symptoms were autoimmune related and which were not.

Ultimately, I was just grateful to God as my situation could have been very different which has been the case for so many individuals around the world for no particular rhyme or reason. Often, I say, “Everything happens for a reason.” God always has a plan, and as devastating as a situation may be, if we look we will find the positive.

Through my daily struggles of living with an autoimmune disease as well as the new challenges we are experiencing, it has given me an opportunity to reflect and focus on the positives in life. Before these times of uncertainty, I did my best not to take things for granted. Now, I’m more appreciative of the simple pleasures in life as well as physical abilities no matter how limited they may be as so many today are fighting for their lives.

Several weeks ago, we didn’t realize just how much we take time and freedom for granted. Before, we had no social distancing guidelines and could visit with family and friends. Yet, we allowed other things to prevent us from sharing these precious moments. We could move about freely in shopping centers, ballparks and churches. Now, we are shopping according to restricted store hours (while wearing a mask), using home delivery services and watching church services online.

This crisis has been a life-changing and devastating experience for many all over the world. However, I am confident that we all will come out on the other side much more loving and appreciative. We will focus more on what’s truly important in life which is keeping God first and foremost, spending quality time with our families and focusing on our journey to achieve our personal best.

Everything Happens For A Reason

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”- Hebrews 6:10

During the last few weeks, we have witnessed unbelievable events that have never been experienced before. Many are ill, and the death rate increases by the hour. The majority of us have been impacted in some way. Many are working from home, children around the world are no longer in the classrooms and many have lost jobs. Those of us who are battling autoimmune disorders and other chronic illnesses, now find it difficult to receive routine treatment and medication. Previously a country filled with an over abundance of resources is now struggling to produce basic necessities for our families. Often, I say, “Everything happens for a reason.” But what could be the reason for this crisis?

I am a firm believer that God is always in control and to never question his plan. Look for the good as there is always a purpose. As I look for the good in this terrible situation, I find neighbors coming together and taking care of each other. Neighbors are reaching out to the elderly, expectant mothers as well as those battling cancer and autoimmune disorders to run errands and shop on their behalf. Mothers are creating games for children while still respecting the social distancing requirements. Also, neighbors are sharing food and other scarce resources.

Was all of this goodwill possible prior to these times of uncertainty? Perhaps, there was no time due to busy schedules (often overbooked)…myself included. These days of social distancing have given us an opportunity to reflect on 2 P’s….Priorities and Purpose. Life as we know it has changed in an instant, and our priorities must change as well. God created us to help others. The opportunity to serve in some capacity is always available.

Although we are required to maintain our social distance, many of our communities are becoming more tight knit. In some communities, neighbors who where previously strangers are now meeting for afternoon exercise sessions. In others, neighbors are offering free services to the elderly. Again, God always has a purpose, and his plans are always perfect. As life changes abruptly, we must continue to focus on our priorities and our purpose to serve.

A Matter Of Perspective

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

The last few weeks have been absolutely mind blowing. The current events have been stressful as well as very concerning for those living with autoimmune disorders.

Although we are living in times of uncertainty, it doesn’t change the need for routine Rheumatology, Neurology and lab follow up appointments. After waiting three months for an appointment, now, I’m reluctant to step foot into the office. Even though I am hesitant, faith takes over, and I find myself in a place of unexplainable peace.

Through the struggles of all of this madness, fear and pain, faith allows us to believe tomorrow will be a brighter day, even before tomorrow comes. Faith explains that we all struggle with issues, but we should not identify with those issues.

Through no fault of our own, we find ourselves identifying with whatever we are going through to the point it literally consumes us. At times, others begin to do so as well because this is what we’ve become. As I stated in a previous blog, I am my biggest opponent, maybe even my own worst enemy. Possibly others can relate.

When we are stressed, experiencing pain and anxiety, it is difficult to have a clear perspective. Focus on the fact that you are amazing, and you are fierce! Have faith that tomorrow will be a brighter day!

One Step Forward Three Steps Back…No More Than I Can Bear

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. – Proverbs 3:5”

Living with a chronic illness is like drawing from a deck of cards. Each morning, you wake up and draw a card. It might be a good card (full of energy and strength) or a bad card (experiencing pain and muscle weakness). Unfortunately, this week, I pulled the latter. It has been a rough week packed with appointments and tests.

Often, I feel every time I take one step forward, I take three steps back, due to pain and muscle weakness. Throughout this journey, I have listened to others struggling with an autoimmune disorder or read about their stories. Some are giving up as they have lost all hope. At times, I experience anger and frustration as well.

Then, I focus on the fact that I am not alone in this fight, and God will never give me more than I can bear. I have found that my biggest opponent is myself. Each day, I choose how I will play my card. So, how will you play your card today?

Smiling On The Outside

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.” – Norman Vincent Peale

I woke up today, and I felt like two cents but spent an hour trying my best to look like a million bucks. I dragged myself to work (kicking and screaming), and when I arrived, the first person I encountered said, “good morning, how are you?” My response, “I’m great!” Great? Really??

Like many days, I was smiling on the outside but crying on the inside, at times even screaming. I screamed out of pain, frustration and sheer exhaustion. Muscle pain and weakness was rearing its ugly head.

Although these feelings are familiar to those battling chronic pain and muscle weakness, unfortunately, individuals suffering from anxiety and depression experience similar internal struggles as well.

At some point, most of us have struggled with some degree of anxiety or depression. Maybe, it was due to the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship or a job loss. Sadly, millions of individuals in the U.S. alone deal with this internal war on a daily basis. Yet, they are smiling on the outside.

Today, we have so many pressures to be perfect, or at least almost perfect. I am the mother of college age children, and over the years, I have watched the level of pressure evolve from school work and athletics to school work, athletics and social media.

Life is a journey, and as we travel from one stage to the next, we pick up a few life lessons along the way. We learn that it is perfectly acceptable not to be great and to share feelings of pain, anxiety and depression with family and friends. Also, we learn if we change how we think about ourselves and not worry about how others view us, then possibly we will change how we view ourselves.

Live For Today

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”- Matthew 6:34

You’re having a really great day. One of those rare days free of muscle weakness and pain. You’re feeling energized, and there are so many things you really want to squeeze into this one day. Unfortunately, there’s something holding you back…fear of the unknown or maybe even past experiences. If you over exert yourself today, then you will surely regret it tomorrow. Though, this may be true, don’t worry about tomorrow. Live for today! Pamper yourself with a spa day, even if it is at home. Take a walk, short or long. Pack a picnic and have lunch in the park with your family (while social distancing of course). Enjoy your life and don’t worry about tomorrow.

Often, people create “bucket lists” which include exotic places, exotic foods, etc. Someone living with an autoimmune disorder is probably less focused on a “bucket list” and just simply a list. A list of the simple things in life that others often take for granted.

So, take advantage of the good days and don’t focus on tomorrow as “tomorrow will worry about itself.”

Feeling Your Way Through…

“We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.” Ernest Hemingway

I woke up this morning and could barely get out of bed. I took a few steps, and my body felt so stiff that I expected to see the Tin Man in the bathroom mirror. In a matter of five short minutes, I could already predict how I would feel the rest of the day. If you are dealing with an autoimmune disorder, this probably sounds familiar.

This same old song plays day after day. Decisions are made based on how you feel. You’ll go out to dinner with family or lunch with friends if you feel well, even if that date is an entire week away. You’re already worried about how you’ll feel because the good days are few and far between. 

You are not alone. Others are dealing with similar struggles and feeling their way through life every day. Although we all are different, often, we share common goals. We are fighting “to feel like the old me.” Also, we are striving to achieve our personal best. When dealing with an autoimmune disorder, this could mean walking to the mailbox for some and walking a mile for others. It could even mean just having the energy to get out of bed and get dressed.

Let’s focus on achieving our personal best! Make an impact and share your journey.

Overcoming Fear of the Unknown

I have never considered myself as a blogger but have always believed I’ve had a story to tell. So, today, I stepped out on faith and decided to share my journey with others. Approximately, one year ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. This diagnosis can be very broad and can leave individuals with emotions filled with several “F’s”…frustration, fear of the unknown, feelings of loneliness and several others I won’t mention. In this fight, we have many things in common. At times, we feel helpless, want to cry and scream, but we refuse to give up or give in. Join me in this journey. Let’s continue to fight and achieve our personal best!