Sunday, September 16, 2012

An Unwanted Gift

I never thought I'd say this - but having a chronic illness has turned out to be a gift - an unwanted gift ( like one of those white elephant gifts a friend gives you) that you really don't like and really don't want, but have to keep stashed away somewhere in the house, readily available to be brought out and displayed prominently  for those times when your friend might drop by.

When I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome some 18 years ago, I was, as they say,  in the "prime of life" - a young mother with three children - the youngest the age of 3.
I thought I had a bad case of the flu, and that it would all be over in a week or two. and then my life would return to normal.  The "flu" got worse and worse and lasted longer and longer until I was too weak to even stand up and had to be hospitalized.  I was plagued with chronic pain, chronic insomnia and chronic fatigue - and quickly withered away to 94 lbs and dropping.  My husband took me from doctor to doctor as we both searched for not only the cause of my mysterious illness, but a cure.
Finally after many months, we found a doctor who not only diagnosed me, but over the years through her medial expertise and compassion helped me regain a semblance of my former self.
There was (and is) no cure.  Some people do spontaneously go into remission, others do not and others (like myself) seem to reach a plateau where some symptoms are better and others remain chronic.  I still suffer with fatigue (although thankfully a much reduced), chronic migraines, chronic insomnia and chronic pain.  

The white elephant gift is still with me.  I never wanted this gift, never liked it and still don't.

However, this gift has literally changed my life.  Not in a self-limiting way (although that is the nature of the beast) but in a freeing way.

It has taught me to be more compassionate.  Pain has a way of doing that, you know.  

It has taught me to be intentional about living my life.  Because of limited amounts of energy, I am forced each day to make choices - choices about what I need to do, but more importantly about what I want to do.

It has taught me to see each day as a gift and to drink in the beauty that each day holds in the moment - that moment - the moment I'm experiencing here and now.

It has taught me to develop my creative side - to realize that this illness I have cannot take away the creative gifts and talents the Good Lord has given me.  The talents are still there - but the way I use them needs to be different now.

It has taught me to be grateful - grateful for the love of family and friends and for their understanding and support.

It has taught me to live each day in the grace of God - grace that has taken me this far in my journey and grace that will carry me the rest of the way.

Yes the unwanted gift is still with me.  I hope one day to be able to finally put it to rest, but for now, I'll keep it stashed away (as much as I can), by choosing to live a creative and joyful life and on those days when it is on display in the middle of the room - I will look for something, anything beautiful in it.


  1. Hi Terry,
    I love this post and it resonated with me deeply, because I feel the same way about clinical depression. It started manifesting itself when I was 15, and for a time I was angry because I felt it had taken my adolescence from me. Now I can appreciate the lessons I have learned from it. Granted, those lessons were forced upon me because I had to cope with my depression or let it take over my life, but I'm grateful that I can pull out the little moments of beauty in each day, no matter how I feel. I'm always pushing myself to grow, because I know there will be stretches of time where I feel like I'm going backward and I need the good memories to sustain me.
    Thanks, and I wish you the best,

  2. Hey Terry

    A very heartfelt and honest blog. Something I read at the weekend said that life is not easy. It's not meant to be is it, but I guess it's what we all do and learn from that is so valuable to us, we cannot change the situation but it does bring with it other blessings that change lives for the better. I hope your blogging and creative activities are an outlet for the bad days and bring you plenty of joy on all the other days. Good luck Melanie

  3. Hello Terry!

    I felt this post deep in my heart. It brought tears to my eyes. I can relate to some of your struggles, having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The good day and the bad ones and the unknown as well.

    When you wrote:

    "It has taught me to be intentional about living my life. Because of limited amounts of energy, I am forced each day to make choices - choices about what I need to do, but more importantly about what I want to do. It has taught me to develop my creative side - to realize that this illness I have cannot take away the creative gifts and talents the Good Lord has given me. The talents are still there - but the way I use them needs to be different now."

    That feels like a call to action! To say that these chronic conditions can't take our life away! We are in charge!

    I am so grateful to have found your blog and will be following it! I look forward to following your journey. I hope to see you soon. Hugs to you, my friend.


  4. Hi Ladies - Thank you all for your kind comments.
    Catherine - I love that you are able to pull out the little moments of beauty in each day and that you are continuing to push forward in the midst of depression - true bravery!
    Melanie - Thank you for reminding us that it is what we do with and learn from our lives that are valuable.
    Nicolle - I admire your courage to live and blog about a "healthylifewithms"! I will be excited to see where your journey leads you and am honored to be allowed to follow along with you! Hugs right back at you, my newfound friend!

  5. Terry, what a unique perspective you have taken in this post - and in your attitude on life. I commend you and find encouragement that there is always a bright side, no matter how dark it may seem. Thank you.

    1. Thank you S for your encouragement. I appreciate you.

  6. Hi, Terry,

    Please know how inspired and moved I am by your post.

    Thank you.

  7. Thank you Julia for your kind words. I am humbled.

  8. Hi Terry- I just connected with you through our flying lessons 2012 course. I wrote on the fb page that I had fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. Thank you for letting me know about your blog and this beautiful article you wrote. I love the way you gave something that is very hard to deal with, a positive spin on it, it made me look at this illness with more opened eyes. Hope I make sense, I'm tired and a little foggy in the brain. Hope you dont mind if I pass this article on. Enjoy the course and thanks for connecting with me.

    1. Hi Rebecca - So nice to connect with you. Thank you for your kind comments about my blog. I pray that having opened eyes as you described will help a little in dealing with a painful and debilitating illness. I pray also that each day you will find joy in your journey in new and unexpected ways. Of course, feel free to pass the article info along.
      I look forward to enjoying the course with you.

  9. I can relate to so much of this post, Terry, and feel very moved by it. I understand so much the feeling of not wanting to learn the things I've learned through having such a painful illness, but then being so grateful to have learned a new way of being. I have M.E. and am mostly housebound with it. I experience extreme exhaustion, lots of discomfort and pain as well as dizziness, falling, and a whole range of staggeringly weird symptoms that have left my doctors baffled! I have learned to see the beauty of life in the small quiet places I never looked before and to live in the moment, keeping each moment as full of joy as possible, and I am so grateful for that. But it can be lonely, messy and complicated living with an illness and I find that side of life tricky. I'm so glad to connect with you and look forward to following your blog. Sending huge smiles, Em ♥

  10. Hi Emma - it is so nice to connect with you. Thank you for visiting my blog and I am so glad it was meaningful to you. As I understand it, M.E. is just a different name for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - ME in European Countries, CFS in the United States. Different name, same disease. I am sorry that you symptoms are so intense right now and that you are mostly home bound. But know that this - that typically this disease does get better over time and the intensity of symptoms fades. In the meantime, I am so glad that you have learned to see the beauty of life in the still small places you never looked before. What a gift. I pray that you will find both strength and joy for your journey as well.

  11. Thank you Emily for your kind words and for the inspiration you emanate through your blog posts, your photographs,and the courage with which you live your life. I am so glad our paths have crossed and that we have become friends. I too, look forward to following both your blog posts and your life's journey.

  12. Terry, I am so grateful to have had the pleasure of reading this blog post. There's no doubt you are an inspiration to so many with chronic illnesses. Your Light shines through everything that you have been faced with. I love how you refuse to let it get you and how you are instead choosing intentionally how to live your life the best way possible. Bravo! xo

  13. Thank you Suzanne for being a reader - and for your encouraging words! Please know that your light shines brightly as well as you share the challenges you face daily and daily rise to meet them with love and commitment. So glad our paths have crossed!

  14. Bless you girl. This post just started my mind singing the "Endless Hallelujah" song by Matt Redman. "When I stand before the throne, dressed in glory not my own." "No more tears, no more pain, we will see you face to face." Can't wait to worship with you then Terry - celebrating your pain free body!!

  15. The beauty of God's grace shines most brightly against the backdrop of brokenness - thank you for sharing so transparently about the beauty that can be seen against the backdrop of your illness. And I'm with Kinsey - what a wonderful day that will be!!

  16. Thank you Kinsey for sharing the "Endless Hallelujah" song. How it blessed me! What a day it will be when we all are free of the trials of this earth and are worshiping our King together in heaven!

  17. Thank you Susan - it will be such a glorious day! Until then, I am so grateful for God's grace and mercy which is new every morning.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts!