In 1992, I suddenly became completely disabled. I’d had problems with my back and legs since I was about 19, but this was completely new. I was in bed for three weeks, only making it as far as the bathroom and back. We had no idea what it was at the time. Later we learned that there had been a chemical spill in our area.
I developed multiple chemical sensitivities from the exposure. I didn’t know what it was at the time or even that it had happened. I only knew that I was very weak and had strange dreams when I went to sleep and even if I closed my eyes while awake. To make matters worse, I found out when I finally did have the strength to make it downstairs that I had become agoraphobic to boot. I was literally scared to death to leave my bedroom. Our dear son was home at the time. He prayed with me and helped overcome the agoraphobia enough to go downstairs.
Once downstairs, I’d sit in the recliner and wait for strength to do such tasks as simple as getting a glass of water or going to the bathroom. My husband was at work and our son at school during the day, so I had to rely on the Lord. I’d tell Him, “Lord, I’m really thirsty. Please give me enough strength to make it to the kitchen for some more water.” Later, after drinking the water, I’d pray again, “Lord, I really really need to go to the bathroom now. Please give me the strength to get there.” Each time He would provide enough strength to do what I needed at the moment.
Someone loaned us an air purifier with a HEPA filter. Still unaware of the chemical sensititivies, I was amazed at the strength I gained by sitting next to that filter. Still, I was nowhere near my previous level of strength or stamina. I still spent most of my days in the recliner, getting up a bit longer each time as the days, weeks and months progressed.
At one point, God prompted me to write something down. It was about a page long and lost over the years, but basically He told me that I would be sick a very long time. Also, that I would even “despair of life.” That seemed a bit melodramatic, so I tried not to write that part. But He kept at me to put it in. So I did. I was also told that I would never again have the life that I had known before becoming ill.
Well, it was accurate. I was sick a very long time. In fact, I am still ill to this day – but not as bad. And I did despair of life. A couple of times in the early days, before I knew that this has triggered asthma in me, I barely made it up to my bed I was so exhausted. The first time I thought, “What will I do if I quit breathing? How will my husband know to come help me?” Then I remembered that our headboard was loose and I could easily slam it against the wall. That settled, I rested. The next time it happened, I again made it up to our bed. When the same initial thought coursed through my head, I stopped and told myself, “Silly! If you can’t breathe you aren’t doing anything!” On the heels of that thought, I prayed the following: “Father, this seems like a pretty stupid way to die, but if You’re ready, I am.” And with that I relaxed again.
Each time I obviously survived, but it was a difficult time. There have been several other times over the ensuing years when death crept near. However, I no longer “despair of life.” Now I accept each day as a gift and seek how I can be a blessing to someone.
I gradually regained my strength. However, I was extremely frustrated at being unable to achieve as much in a day as I had previously. In fact, some days I accomplished precious little. I became so overly sensitive to this situation, and so down on myself over it, that when my husband would come home at night and say his usual, “So, what did you do today?” I felt guilty! He really wanted to know how I was feeling, but I felt like such a failure it upset me greatly.
So, to be able to let him know each day what I had done, I began to keep a list where I’d write down each accomplishment. These were all very minor accomplishments, ones that most people do automatically and don’t even think twice about. But for me, each one took a great deal of effort. For example, I may have emptied the bathroom trash can. Down it went on my list! I made a phone call. On the list! I washed up the few dishes in the kitchen sink. Again, on the list!
The result? What had began as something I did out of feeling like a failure and wanting to do something to be able answer my husband’s automatic question each evening began to give me a real boost! I’d look at that list at the end of the day and say to myself, “You are contributing! You aren’t a failure!”
It didn’t matter that each item was minor in itself. What mattered to me was how long the list was. So, it became a challenge to get just one more minor thing done each day that I had the strength.
What I was told was right. My life has never been the same again. But now instead of being angry about it, I have learned to be thankful that I was entrusted with this, for it is only through having walked this dark valley myself that I am able to help others who have hit a point of profound physical, mental or emotional weakness.
I still battle it. Just last Fall I was taken down again. I basically collapsed last October and was ill for three months. I have no idea what triggered it this time. All the medical tests only ran up expensive bills without giving insight. For nine weeks, after I began to regain my strength, I did not drive because I could not rely on my reflexes or even my mind. I couldn’t carry thoughts to completion. This time, though, something new was added to the mix – physical exhaustion just from thinking.
If you find that this site is of use to you, I’d love to have you let me know. Either make a comment below or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and send me a note.
We all can use a note of encouragement from time to time, so I’d appreciate it if you would share one with me. Who knows? It may arrive on one of my really down days and be “just what the doctor ordered” as a pick-me-up.
Blessings and Peace,