I had a full-blown emotional breakdown on I-25 today.
I was on my way home from my GI (Gastroenterology) appointment when I called my dad to talk to him about what the doctor and I had discussed (Eric’s at work and I always need to verbally process with someone).
That’s when everything that happened in the last year hit me like a ton of bricks. For those of you who don’t know, I have Ulcerative Colitis, and I was diagnosed with a rare disease in March called, “Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis.” It’s a degenerative liver disease, which means that somewhere in my probable future looms a liver transplant. The disease is so rare that there’s no treatment for it right now. The only thing I can do is make sure I’m tested to see that the levels aren’t too high and I don’t have any “strictures” (closed pathways) in my bile ducts. On top of that, I recently had a sub-total colectomy. I still have the last 12-inches of my colon, which means I still technically have UC, and I still need to have tests done and take medication. It’s possible that the little colon I have left will become “active,” and I’ll need to have that removed as well.
So there you go.
As I was talking with my dad, I just burst into tears. Through this whole ordeal I’ve really tried to be “strong” and trust God with my health and future. But in that moment I was just.. afraid. I was (and am) afraid of having kids and possibly passing these problems onto them, I was (and am) afraid of my liver failing suddenly, and I was (and am) afraid of my life being cut short because I have these diseases so early in life (I was diagnosed with UC at age 7, and most people aren’t diagnosed with PSC until their 30’s or 40’s).
In that moment, fear just completely overwhelmed me. Anyone who knows me knows I’m prone to anxiety anyway, but when there are real-life things to actually be anxious about, it just becomes magnified. I was blubbering on the phone, and I can’t even imagine what the people in the cars next to me were thinking as snot was going everywhere and the tears just wouldn’t stop.
That’s when my dad started talking. He told me that he understood. He told me that it’s okay for me to feel this way. He told me that because he doesn’t have a serious disease he can only understand so much, but that he “gets it.”
He also told me that even though it’s hard, God is trustworthy, and has a plan. Even though I can’t see it now, he has his purposes for why he’s allowed me to deal with these diseases. And while there’s still some fear that remains, hearing that truth was so encouraging and so calming. Even now I’m struggling through tears, but there’s a profound peace in my soul.
We’re all mortal, and we’re all afflicted with different things. Some of us have physical diseases, some have mental diseases. Some have had loved ones pass away too soon, some struggle with infertility and miscarriages, and the list goes on and on. We all have crosses to bear.
I don’t say that flippantly or to say, “Well, everyone’s got something, so just deal with it,” because that’s not how I feel at all. Sometimes just “dealing with it” is impossible. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing in the world to just think about the difficulties we face. I know for me, many times when the thought of my PSC pops into my head, I struggle to fight back the tears. Even if I’m not thinking of the implications, just the word PSC itself brings intense emotions sometimes.
I guess what I’m trying to say to all of you is that, even if I don’t know you, even if I don’t know your specific situation, I get it. Not to the fullest extent that you understand because you’re the only one who knows how deeply it affects you, but to the best of my ability, I understand. It’s hard, and it sucks, and sometimes just surviving the day without a complete breakdown is an accomplishment.
I’m also not saying that I’ve all of a sudden unlocked the secret of trusting God - because I certainly haven’t. I’m sure tomorrow I’ll wake up and probably go through the same thing all over again. But what I really want to get across is that your emotions, your fear, your anxiety… it’s all okay. I always thought (and still think very often) that I needed to be strong. I needed to put on a brave face and not let anyone think I was struggling, and I wanted to try and trick God into thinking that I can handle it.
But the truth is… I can’t handle it. I simply can’t. If I were trying to walk this journey alone, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I don’t even know where I’d end up, but I know it wouldn’t be pretty. God didn’t give me this because he thinks I can handle it - in fact, it’s just the opposite. My diseases are constant reminders that I cannot walk this life on my own. That faith and trust are vital for my survival - spiritually, emotionally, and even physically.
I’m not going to try and get you to believe that I wouldn’t change my diseases if I could, because that’s simply not true. If I had the opportunity to turn it all around, I would do so in less than a heartbeat. I still pray almost every day that God would miraculously heal me (cue the tears), but I know that it’s ultimately his decision. If he decides to heal me, I would be over the moon and would shout his praises. But even if he doesn’t… I still need to learn to praise him. I’m not saying that we should be “happy” about our circumstances, because honestly I think the people who say those types of things are idiots. What I AM saying, though, is that God deserves our praise - even if we can only give a little at a time. As I’m writing this, I’m reminded of a song by Kutless called, “Even If.” [a lyrics music video is posted at the bottom]
Our Christian culture has become so obsessed with “healing” and “prosperity,” that we’ve forgotten the fact that God doesn’t always (or even often) choose to heal. But in the end… He is still good. He is always good. No matter what. He is unchanging, and he is always for us. I’ve always believed (and still do, even though it’s hard), that everything God does is for my good and for his ultimate glory. I don’t understand all (or even most) of the reasons why he’s allowed me to carry what he has, but I know that he’s with me through it all. And that’s the greatest comfort.
I love you, friends. Whatever’s plaguing your heart today, bring it to the Lord. He wants to know your real and raw emotions. The wonderful thing about our God is that we don’t need a mask to come to him. He already knows it all, and is with us through it all, even the raw and “ugly” emotions.
Please listen to this song, if you're able. It's difficult and rough, but it's good to be reminded that God is faithful, even in the darkest moments of our lives.
Even if the healing doesn’t come
And life falls apart
And dreams are still undone
You are God You are good
Forever faithful One
Even if the healing
Even if the healing doesn’t come