God Is Here, But Isn’t Telling Me Something

I’m in so much freaking pain right now I don’t know if I want to throw up or cry. Preferably both would probably make me feel better. I don’t feel like this nearly as often as I used to, as my health is improving, but it still feels like it’s going to last forever. I can’t focus on anything else and just want the day to be over so I can have a clean start with refreshed muscles.

I always try to figure out why I’m in more pain than usual so it won’t happen again. Often, there isn’t a big cause — it’s just maybe the weather (I SWEAR I get bad headaches more often on rainy days) or the fact that I was standing too long in a day my POTS was acting up. There are other times, though, that I know I’ll feel bad the next day. Taking an airplane or sitting down for long periods of time, being much more active than usual, or staying out late are all things that can cause pain. Writing causes pain for me. I wrote a lot today. I didn’t focus on my ergonomics the way I should have. That might be a big reason I’m at an 8 and want to cry now.*

Some people might take this as a sign from God that writing may not be their thing. After all, my hands become stiff and my pain creeps up my arms and shoulders the longer I’m writing at a computer, so the writing does quite literally hurt me. It isn’t comfortable the way it used to be, and you’d think if it was my calling I wouldn’t have to take breaks to pace myself so much. Writers can sit down at a computer and churn out words for hours on end without taking so much as a bathroom break. This thought has crept into my mind before. Why can’t I do what I love and what my heart desires most as a full-time job? Why did my trajectory change so drastically? Is it because it isn’t my destiny to be a writer and I should look for something else to dig in deeply?

I am reading a book right now that talks a little about “signs” and Christianity. It talks about how sometimes things that happen are not as monumental as we want them to be — they’re just little blips in the grand scheme of things. Not everything in the world is a sign from God, even though He is always here with us. My pain that is linked to writing is not a sign from God that I need to stop. I know I am supposed to be here in this little space of the Internet, and it isn’t some big selfish desire my heart has. It’s just a deep-rooted yearning I have to connect with others, share my stories, and help each of us feel less alone in the world. The chronic pain I’ve dealt with might just be yet another way to connect with people, but it isn’t a sign that I need to stop writing. Sometimes people wait too much to try to listen to what God wants them to do, rather than just strapping on their boots and trying. I think we sometimes underestimate God and don’t realize that if we’re going in the totally wrong direction, He can find ways to pull us back on track. The most important thing is to get up, and go for what we think can change the world. If we’re wrong — which people often are — we can keep trying until we get things right. After all, that’s an enormous part of what it is to be human, right? Learning from our experiences and making ourselves better from them.

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Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be feeling all better. Like I said, I was a little alarmed to feel this bad because I’ve had so many good days lately. I am grateful for that, and I hope to continue getting better and better.


*Those of you in the chronic illness community know we often rate our pain on a scale from 1-10, 1 being pain-free, to 10 being unbearable. It gives doctors a better way of seeing improvement and knowing how bad — or not — it really is.

Am I Worth Less?

One of the hardest parts about having a chronic illness is feeling like I have less value because I am not contributing as much to the community as my peers. Before I got sick I was working toward pursuing a career in journalism. I took internships, worked part time at a newspaper, and was excited to continue my journey working at Seventeen magazine to hopefully impact young women in a positive way. I have always felt that words are one of the most powerful tools we have, and all of us have a wonderful opportunity to lift others up and make them feel less alone in this big world.

I always dread the question, “So, what do you do?” when I meet someone new. I hate explaining right off the bat, “Well, I got sick when I graduated from college, so I’m trying to get back on my feet and am working on getting my health in line.” Over five years later now I have made leaps and bounds in progress, but I still am figuring out how to manage what I’ve begun to accept as my new normal. Not only is my answer incredibly awkward, but I also just feel so lame not having a cool job or anything to show for my life. I worked so freaking hard before I got sick and have absolutely nothing to show for it anymore. The internship I had at a national news company isn’t relevant anymore, and my job at Seventeen wasn’t able to materialize into what it could have because I couldn’t even walk down the driveway to the mailbox when I first got sick. My illness didn’t just take my body away from me; it took away every sense of normalcy I had ever worked to create. I have nothing to be proud of, and feels like I can’t make an adequate contribution to society anymore. I have relied on others to take care of me, when all I have ever wanted to do was be able to take care of others.

If anyone who had a chronic illness told me they felt worthless, my heart would feel completely broken and I would try as hard as I possibly could to show them what an enormous, ugly lie that was. People shouldn’t feel like they don’t have worth in this world just because their body doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Our value does not reside in what we do — or don’t do — for a living, and people can still change lives when their bodies don’t work properly.

Whether or not you are a Christian, I think the Bible has a really beautiful sentiment about our worth as human beings. Psalm 139: 13-14 says, “For You [God] formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.” This doesn’t say that we have value because of our job or what we do; it says we were born having value. We are made in God’s image, and He only creates beauty for the world. I think it’s very powerful knowing that even before ever doing anything in the world we have irreplaceable value. Just ask a mother of a newborn baby; she will say that her child means absolutely everything to her, and that is merely for existing, it isn’t anything he has done to make her feel this way.

I am a firm believer that everyone has a purpose in the world and can make a difference in a way that no one else could. Just because you are bedridden or need to be taken care of absolutely does not mean you don’t have value in the world. You have qualities to offer people that make you absolutely irreplaceable in their lives, so we need to stop telling ourselves the lie that we aren’t as valuable because we are different.

On the other hand, I understand the ache that is in your heart for the opportunities you have missed and feeling like some of life has passed you by. I don’t have the resume I would have had if I hadn’t gotten sick, and there are a lot of experiences I missed out on. It’s weird listening to my friends all talk about what they’re doing at work and how comfortable they are there. I still remember working at the magazine’s office like it was yesterday, but I also think that experience was so different because you’re the lowest on the totem pole. Dealing with an illness does teach you what is important in the world, though, and gives amazing perspective people often don’t have until much later on in life. It teaches you to hold on to all the amazing blessings you are given, because sometimes they can be fleeting, and to be thankful for the people closest to you. It teaches lessons of patience, hard work, and resilience. You learn what it’s like to be empathetic with people, rather than just offering sympathy, and you are given an opportunity to be a light for others who go through the exact same things you deal with on an every day basis. Chronic illness builds beautiful warriors who have such important lessons they need to share with the world.

I understand questioning your worth as much as anyone else with a chronic illness, and I am right there with you trying to find my own purpose. The words I wrote on this page make sense to my brain and I know that my life has incredible value, but my heart sometimes has a hard time making the connection. I feel lost in a big world that doesn’t understand me, and I am getting swallowed up in the lies I tell myself at night. Being sick has taught me I’m a fighter, though, and I’m not going to stop searching until I figure out what I’m here for. Deep down I know I have an important role in the world. I just might take a little longer to figure out what it is and that’s okay.

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Strange Things I Miss

Today happens to be a very POTSie day. Luckily, dizzy spells are much fewer and further between, but I hate when they decide to come around with a vengeance. I have been doing a new exercise protocol lately that is supposed to make me feel worse before I feel better, but I am optimistic about how much it could help me in the long run.*

Anyway, I am currently working on a post about what my POTS timeline has looked like, and the improvements I’ve made, as well as the things that are still different in my life post getting sick. It’s been so interesting for me to look back at different things I wrote throughout the years, but is great to have something tangible to look at regarding my life.

Certain things are becoming more normal, and I am pulling off looking like a normal human being like a pro. I have looked pretty normal since getting sick with POTS, since it’s an invisible illness, but I used to have to ask for help much more often. Now I think people around me often forget completely that anything is wrong with me! I hope one day this will be true. Despite being sick for over five years now, I will never stop hoping to get back to complete normalcy. I have a million different things I’m working on for the blog, so today I wanted to just touch on a few things that have been different for me the past half-decade.

1. I can’t enjoy taking showers. Sometimes I hop in a hot shower just because I am in pain and want something to release the tension in my muscles, but for the most part they’re just exhausting. I usually choose between washing my hair or shaving if I’m going to stand the whole time, and have to alternate between the two or rest quite a bit longer after I’m done. Does anyone actually find showers enjoyable? I can’t remember anymore; now they’re just exhausting.

2. I’m not very extroverted anymore. Before I got POTS, I was super extroverted. I was always around people and had an enormous circle of friends. Mentally, I still want to be doing a million things, but my body isn’t up to that. I feel tired and drained from doing too much, so I don’t go out nearly as much as I used to. When I do, it’s usually dinner or dessert with just one or a few friends, rather than hanging out in a giant group. When I first got sick I really couldn’t do anything other than try to stay optimistic, rest, and work as hard as possible to take care of my body so I could hopefully get better one day. I think some of my friends who weren’t around might have felt like I was neglecting our friendship, but in reality I just couldn’t function. I have lost touch with people I sometimes still miss. Getting sick really does show you who is going to be around for the long haul, and makes you see who has unconditional love for your friendship.

3. I miss writing for hours on end. My favorite thing in the world has always been writing, even back in elementary school or high school when writing wasn’t supposed to be fun. I always said English was my favorite subject, even when other kids would say “lunch,” “recess,” or “gym.” I loved learning more about our language and how to write things that people would enjoy reading. It’s difficult for me to sit at a computer and type for hours without feeling it after, and then being in a lot of pain for days after. I am very slowly working on endurance, and hope to be writing more and more.

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4. I miss being a helper. Before I got POTS I was independent and strong. I loved helping other people in any way I could, and was always there to do acts of service. There is nothing I hate more than having to swallow my pride and ask others for help. I’ve had to do that a lot the past few years, and it honestly doesn’t get much easier. I hate inconveniencing others, and I have a really hard time telling people I need something. I am still working on communicating better, but in the meantime I use my writing as an outlet.

5. I wish I could have my old dreams back. I dreamt of living in New York City as a magazine editor, and thought about how many lives I would change through my writing. I wanted to be able to support myself, pay my parents back for school, and afford my own life. I wanted to keep pushing myself and training for another half marathon, and I wanted to collect a million new skills from the new people I’d meet.

I have set new and more realistic goals, and am focusing on getting my body in shape so I can reach higher. Despite my life being much more complicated now, it’s also somehow become more simple. I realize how much I value the people who are in my life, and how important they are compared to everything else in the world. I’ve learned to appreciate the many blessings I do have, and how to live in the moment better. I still feel like I’m looking to find my purpose in the world, but I also trust God now more than ever to have better plans for me than I ever did for myself. I’m just trying to figure out what that is now.


*For any POTSies who are curious, I am doing the Levine protocol.

Choosing A Season Of Joy

I’m baaaaack! A lot has gone on in the week and a half I took off, but I’m ready to write again and update you all on some new developments.

It’s been crazy rainy lately and my POTS symptoms seem to get aggravated during changes in weather. Something interesting about POTS is that it affects a bunch of important organs, and has trouble finding homeostasis when even minor changes are introduced. My physical therapist takes my blood pressure and heart rate every single session — before and after and sometimes during my workouts — and it’s crazy to see that whenever I feel symptomatic my blood pressure is super low, and my heart rate is higher than usual. One cool thing about people with chronic illnesses is that we really know our bodies well. I can almost always pinpoint what is physically wrong with me because of the way my symptoms are behaving. We are going to start looking at the barometric pressure and my blood pressure throughout the day, just as a little test to see how they compare since both of us have noticed this trend. I can’t wait until POTS has been studied better and we can just look up a million and one facts about it, and one day there can actually be a cure.

Which leads me to my next point. I have been trying to be really cognizant of the blessings I have in my life lately. It makes every obstacle a whole lot easier to tackle, and I have felt more peace and joy by looking at the great things God has given me, rather than focusing only on the pain or discomfort. Today, for example, I saw a sweet little bunny outside on our front lawn. He was eating part of our flowers, but I sat and watched him until he was ready to leave before I walked past him. While I was sitting on the porch I saw a little red robin fly into a puddle next to our yard, and he started to fluff his feathers and bathe himself. These two little moments made my heart so warm the rest of the night.

As far as wedding planning goes, we keep making slow and steady progress. Robert and I got our wedding bands this week and they’re absolutely perfect. I keep putting mine on every time I go to his house because I love it so much! I am super sentimental, so I love that he picked everything out for me, but it’s also just so me. I love his too, and I think he looks super handsome with a wedding band. I wrote a little message to him in it so he’ll always be reminded of how I feel when he looks at it. 🙂 Despite all the stress of planning, I keep realizing how fast this time is going by and reminding myself that the primary feeling of this time of engagement should be joy. We have four months to go as of today, and I am so, so excited.

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Slow To Anger

Back to Corinthians to begin wrapping up my favorite Bible verse. Here is where we left off,

“[Love] is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

Anger is an umbrella term for a bunch of other emotions we might not think about being in that category. Frustration, disappointment, and crankiness are a few feelings that can all be categorized under “anger.”

“Love is not easily angered” is a beautiful sentiment. I think as humans we feel things so deeply and often let our emotions control us, instead of the other way around. The easiest thing to do when we feel angry is to react. Anger is one of the most detectable feelings because it is often intense, and humans don’t always hold back when they are upset about something because it’s difficult to keep anger brewing inside until we can really evaluate the situation. Other feelings — such as love — has many different levels and outlets. Although people have different ways of expressing anger, it is often a feeling that is easily showcased and makes people around the angry person have strong reactions, too.

Anger is one of the most important emotions to learn to control. It is one of the few feelings that can lead to lasting damage if used incorrectly, and needs to be used in conjunction with wisdom and patience.

One of my favorite quotes is,

“Be careful with your words. Once they are said, they can only be forgiven, not forgotten.”

Google doesn’t seem to know who said this, but it’s so powerful. Sadly, people often say things they don’t mean — or intentionally try to hurt a loved one — when tensions are high and they are angry. The interesting thing about anger is that we often react because we want to see a specific outcome of a situation, however reacting before thinking about it doesn’t allow us the time to come up with the smartest plan of getting where we want to be.

Do you notice how the verse doesn’t say, “Love doesn’t anger,” rather it says, “Love is not easily angered.” I am no expert in semantics or theology, but I do think each word used in the Bible is crafted with a purpose. God knows that as humans we are going to get angry (heck, Jesus got angry when He was on earth, and things got crazy when he was mad), but He wants us to learn how to control our feelings and to remain calm and patient with others while we try to sort things out. Holding back anger for when it’s really necessary is wise because it shows an element of self-control, and it makes your anger actually mean something. Since Jesus was known as someone who was peaceful and kind, you knew He meant business when He turned the tables in the temple. If He was a hothead, He wouldn’t have been taken as seriously the few times He really showcased anger throughout the Bible. We should use our anger only when it’s really justified and when we really need to be heard, so that others can take us seriously when something does mean a lot to us.

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I’m not a huge Joel Olsteen fan, but he does have lots of nuggets of wisdom. When looking for a source of the quote above, I stumbled upon this, and had to add it to my post. Olsteen says,

“Be careful what you say. You can say something hurtful in ten seconds, but ten years later, the wounds are still there.”

This is so true. I don’t always remember every detail of my life, but something that seems to always stick is a hurtful word. Have you noticed that? This leads me to our next point. “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”

Forgiving is the easy part for me, forgetting is a whole new beast. I have gotten hundreds of kind and encouraging comments on my blog the past three years, however I remember the two negative ones the most clearly. Friends and family are typically the most uplifting people in life, but when they say something unkind out of anger, it often gets taken to heart — after all, if someone who loves you so much thinks something negative about you, it must be true, right?

Words are such an important thing to monitor. I have found that a harmful word can sometimes hurt even more than physical pain, and there’s a reason people use one of the most vital organs in the body to represent love and heartbreak. When your heart hurts, it can be so hard to fix it completely. For this exact reason, it is so important to take time to think before reacting to a situation. Something said in anger can never be taken back, even though it can be forgiven.

Today’s lesson: I never want to damage a relationship or a loved one over something said when emotions were running high. In the same way my mom always tells me I should not make a big decision when I am not feeling well, I don’t believe it’s wise to always speak with someone at the first sign of anger. It never hurts to take time to reflect, think about why you are really mad, and then have a gentle conversation about the reasons why you feel the way you do. Communication is one of the most important things in a relationship, and pure anger often does not bode well for either party. Being slow to anger and able to forgive ensures a happier life for everyone, and allows us to get our true feelings across to others, rather than spewing hurtful things that may or may not be true. In the same way we aspire to love like Jesus does, I think it’s important to try to be angry the way He is, too.

 

Authentic Love Isn’t Selfish

We’re going to pick up where I left off in my Corinthians segment. I know I am really breaking this down, but I think there is just so much more than meets the eye that I don’t want to miss any of the beauty that is intended to teach us to love others more selflessly.

“[Love] does not envy, it does not boast. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking…”

Social media is the perfect breeding ground for the first two traits that do not exhibit love. Being envious of others online lives is super easy because all the content is curated. Whether it looks like a perfect love life like Channing and Jenna displayed on Instagram for millions to see or is an incredible collage of beautiful sunsets all around the world from a favorite travel blogger, it’s easy to wonder how other people have perfect lives while you are going through something difficult. It’s often through others boasting online that people can begin to channel feelings of jealousy and get a bad case of the green-eyed monster. I think it’s more important now than ever to learn how to cheer on each other throughout the good parts of life and lean on one another in the more difficult stages. That is the incredible part about social media that we can all choose to focus on. If we learn to count others’ victories as our own we will have so many things to be joyful for each and every day.

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Dishonoring others is such a wide range of things. With a friend or family member it could be talking about them behind their back, being unsupportive of a big life adjustment, or being cruel to someone for something they can’t control. With a romantic partner some examples would be thinking about being with someone other than your significant other, looking at pornography, yelling or talking down to them, or acting on inappropriate feelings. When you dishonor someone you love it is often one of the most obvious ways to hurt the relationship. It almost always goes hand in hand with destroying the bond and trust built, and depending on the severity might even end a relationship.

Self-seeking strangely enough includes a lot of the things under the “dishonoring others” umbrella. To truly love someone, you have to put aside some of your selfish desires and look to see what is in their best interest. I’ve dated people on both ends of the selfish and selfless spectrum and it’s incredible to see the difference in the quality of life with the two extremes. I do believe someone can love you even if they are completely selfish, but they aren’t showing love when in that state of mind, and that’s a really big part of any kind of relationship. There are givers in the world, takers, and the people who are “just right.” Although I think giving is a really beautiful thing, it is so important to still take care of your own dreams and not give every single part of yourself away to someone else. I am definitely someone who gives until I become empty if someone is willing to keep taking and had to learn the hard way how damaging that is. When a giver latches onto a taker they become drained and depressed. Living completely for someone else isn’t healthy or normal. Living with someone and chasing after both of your dreams together is one of the most beautiful gifts God has given mankind, though. There’s a big difference between chasing dreams together and choosing to be partners in crime and being someone’s glorified sidekick.

That being said, if you are a giver it’s wonderful you can use your heart to make someone else’s life more bright and beautiful, but make sure to keep your own dreams alive and be with someone who gives back. I think givers should actually be with other givers — or the people who are “just right” in the middle. This offers a great way to monitor how equal a partnership is, and makes the giver sometimes receive too. If you feel like you haven’t given in awhile and might naturally be a taker, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person by any means — it just means you have to make a more conscious effort to give in whatever love language your partner enjoys receiving (Which may be different than the kind of love you enjoy!). Lastly, if you feel you’re a giver and often become exhausted, I’d like to challenge you to ask someone you care about for something. Whether it’s an act of service like driving you to a doctor’s appointment (This is my go-to example since it’s just like, my life right now) or for a small gift like a coffee delivery, I think it’s important to be able to ask for what you want in life. Selfishness is definitely something that just makes us human and we have to work to find a good balance of give and take in our relationships. Notice how many times I’ve used the word “work” in my posts all about love lately?


We’ve talked about four different things that categorize love so far: patience, kindness, selflessness, and honoring others. Later this week we are going to touch on anger and forgiveness. Thanks for hanging around with me through this short little series! I am currently working on a different post that is close to my heart, but that also makes me feel nervous. I will gather up some nerve and share that with y’all next week. Stay tuned. ❤

Love Is Kind

The next part of Corinthians that I want to dissect is still in the first sentence, “Love is kind.” Kindness is one of the most powerful actions in the world, and is a virtue that offers one of the greatest opportunities for us to make an enormous impact on the lives of others.

My blogger friend, Tony, wrote this comment on my last post,

“Love is a word with a lot of weight and responsibility. It is patient and kind and those two attributes can be very hard to practice in life.”

I agree with this wholeheartedly. When you tell someone you love them, you are making a promise that you will care for their heart and be the best version of yourself because you believe they deserve that. Loving someone is an action, and actions take work. As unromantic as it sounds, relationships take a lot of conscious effort, compromise, and choosing to prioritize someone else’s needs along with your own every single day. Love isn’t something humans are naturally good at because our instinct is to take care of our own needs and look out for ourselves before caring for someone else.

Kindness isn’t innate and something that we are preprogrammed to do. People can get to a point where it’s the first reaction they have to another person, but I believe you must master patience before getting to kindness. I don’t think that it is an accident that 1 Corinthians lists patience before kindness; it seems like it was actually very intentionally written that way. We are given a million circumstances each week to practice patience. Whether it’s to a stranger at a grocery store, or to a friend, small annoyances and frustrations pop up all the freaking time. By choosing to forgo our own desires to stand up and get angry with someone and deciding to give them the benefit of the doubt, we are choosing to be patient. Kindness is one step further. Choosing kindness means we aren’t just choosing to not act, but we are choosing to act in a way that is generous and giving towards someone else.

For example, if you are walking behind someone who is very slowly pushing a grocery cart to the checkout line you want to get to, being patient is slowly following behind, without huffing and puffing or silently rolling your eyes. Being kind might be making a conversation with the person and asking how they are doing while you are waiting in line, or offering to help push the cart to the front if they look like they are struggling with it. Patience is nice; kindness is beautiful. 

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Kindness isn’t always my go-to action. Sometimes I feel tired and am passive, and just tolerate people. Other times I’m too focused on myself to be kind. Whether I’m in pain or just having an off day, I don’t always take the time and effort to go the extra mile for others. The good thing, though, is that kindness has become a much more natural reaction just from years of practice. I haven’t always been patient, which is the foundation kindness is built upon. Making a conscious effort to care for others and see things from their point of view has made my heart infinitely more kind, and has given me the ability to feel empathy for others. I think if we all just made the time and effort to do the hard work it takes to be patient and kind, it will become more of a norm in our society and the world would be a much happier and healthier place to live in.


How are you kind to others? What advice would you give someone who wants to learn to react with kindness? I would love to hear your advice on this subject, too!