Finding Peace Through Pain.
I have a confession: I've been struggling recently. Not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually. I am at my absolute lowest I've ever been, and I've just not been able to find a silver lining through my situation recently. I've had a lot of time to think recently (the past month in particular, basically since I've been on bed rest), and I've been looking back to the past couple years of my life. SO much has happened in just a few short years...so many terrible, life altering things. Any one of these things would be enough for a lifetime...but altogether? In the span of 4 years? Not cool. I have felt many times over the past 4 years like I had "hit rock bottom"--like it just could NOT get any worse than it was right now...and then a couple months go by and something else happens. Something WORSE happens. And I think, once again, that I've finally hit rock bottom...and the cycle continues.
In 4 years CF has completely taken my entire life from me: skating (2016), dance (2017), the best job I've ever had, my own apartment, and my beloved dog (2017), and now the ability to eat, to take care of myself, to DRIVE...simple things we don't really consider "luxuries." But you all know the saying: You never know what you've got till it's gone. Oh how true that is...
The past week has been one of the hardest weeks of my entire life. I am NOT generally an angry person, but I am so angry. Angry over the life that I've lost and continue to lose, angry that no matter what I do or try to do to help myself feel better, NOTHING works, and, though I hate to admit it...angry at God. Why? Because I know very well that He could blink and all of this could go away. All of it. I've prayed, I've pressed in, I've yelled and screamed and cried till my throat was raw, and yet still--here I am, lying in bed, so weak I'm barely able to make it to the bathroom. I've found myself wondering why God hasn't stepped in...I've listened to everything and gone everywhere He has led me--no matter how crazy or contradictory it seemed--I've been faithful, I've done my part and kept Him first...so why am I still dying more every day? And not even a quick, painless death, but one that is long, slow, painful (mentally and physically)--literally watching myself waste away and the life I've known and loved so dearly just being whittled away more each day. I've been wrestling with this. And it's been eating me inside. I've said it before on my Instagram page how I've gotten pretty used to the physical suffering--I've dealt with it for 21 years now, just worse and worse with each passing year--to the point where it's almost normal, the suffering (is that weird? Welcome to life with cystic fibrosis and all the other medical joys it brings)...but the emotional stuff? The mental anguish that comes when you see an old picture of yourself, young and carefree, totally clueless about what the future holds? It's almost too much to bear, the mental agony. I will never get used to that.
I usually do pretty well at guarding my mind against attacks of the enemy (since we all know that negative thoughts, hopelessness, doubt, fear, etc. are simply that--schemes the enemy uses to lead us away from the promises and truths in God's Word), but I've been in SO much more physical pain than ever before that it's been very difficult...I've been, quite honestly, DISTRACTED from keeping myself grounded in the Word because I am just suffering so unbearably much. I can't sleep, I can't eat, I can't even drink liquids anymore (if you read my last post you will know that I had started incorporating bone broth into my diet [my all liquid diet, to clarify...I've been all liquids for 3 months now], as solely raw juices were causing a great deal of nausea and diarrhea (more than usual...sorry if that's TMI...again, welcome to life with cystic fibrosis and an angry panky). I had no doubt this was what my body was asking for, and I felt very led by The Lord that this would be helpful for me and allow me to start getting some nutrition in hopes of regaining a bit of weight and strength. And I was right (the body ALWAYS knows what it needs!)--it was exactly the thing my gut was asking for (I also have Crohn's disease, if I haven't mentioned that before...). But I have SO many issues and oftentimes the treatments conflict with each other (what will help one thing will hurt another, and vice versa), but I'll get to that in a minute. Let me first say...bone broth is delicious (sorry all my vegan purists...) and I noticed many incredible benefits almost right away from drinking it daily, including: 1) my hair grew 2 inches...in 3 weeks. That is INSANE for me (my hair grows slower than a turtle crawls); 2) My nerve pain/muscle pain/joint inflammation was GONE within 3 days of adding it in. Again, this is MAJOR--I've had crippling osteoarthritis and myalgia/neuropathy for 4 years, and the pain went away almost overnight on bone broth (HELLOOOOOOO collagen and gelatin!); 3) My energy improved--I was not NEARLY as weak and fatigued as I had been, and definitely felt that my muscles were getting the nourishment they needed; 4) My blood pressure improved (I have severely low blood pressure, and have for most of my life...but after adding bone broth, my blood pressure, for the first time in my life that I can remember, reached over 100 systolic! WIN!); 5) My severe nausea went away.
So, clearly my gut was happy on bone broth: it's AMAZING for Crohn's and all types of IBS/IBD/colitis as I'm sure you've all heard before (again, that's thanks to the Uber-healing collagen and gelatin--nutrients that are amazingly healing for anything from leaky gut to osteoporosis). However, as I said a minute ago, I have A LOT of issues (CF can cause literally everything you could think of), my main one of which is my failing pancreas. I was doing alright on all juices pancreas-wise before trying the bone broth (minus the nausea, diarrhea, and exhaustion), and they were only causing moderate pain. However, about 4 days after incorporating bone broth, I noticed I was having quite a bit more pain in my pancreas. The nausea had not returned, and I was still feeling better overall, but I could tell the inflammation and irritation in my pancreas was getting worse. I didn't really make the connection until a few days ago, after 3 days of no sleep from the pain, and a week of an extremely swollen belly (if you're familiar with abdominal edema that is commonly seen in liver failure, pancreatic failure/cancer, cholecystitis, you know what I'm talking about and how dreadfully miserable and painful it is), it finally hit me: my pancreas can't break down the protein. This should have been so obvious to me...but I knew my body was asking for bone broth and more protein, and it's ALWAYS our job to listen to and honor our bodies. So, even though the bone broth was helping in many ways, I had to eliminate it because I simply can't digest it, and it had further inflamed my pancreas and caused the worst pain I've ever experienced in my entire life. So as of 3 days ago, I'm back on 100% juices...but now, due to the amplified irritation and inflammation (from the protein that my poor little panky can't digest...), I'm really not even able to tolerate those anymore. (I'm getting to the point, I promise...)
So I've been in more pain, and I've also been more angry. Why? Because I had no doubt in my mind that God was leading me to try bone broth. NO doubt! And now I'm in more pain because I tried it. What gives?! So here I am...totally angry, hopeless, depressed, and in agony. All. The. Time. But it gets better so hang in there with me...
I was listening to a sermon today on Youtube from one of my favorite ministers. The sermon, from the title, had absolutely NOTHING to do with what I have been struggling with, feeling, and experiencing...but God has a way of speaking to us through anything and everything, ya know? He's pretty awesome like that. Anyway, I've linked the sermon below, and I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend you listen to it...the message is very powerful and can help anyone anytime facing anything.
Here's the link if the above doesn't work (you can copy and paste this link into your search bar and it will take you right to the sermon):
Anyway, this was so powerful for me to hear today...and reminded me of my life verse, that I had honestly kind of forgotten about in the current state I'm in of unbearable misery and agony: Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Hi, who have been called according to His purpose." This verse has been my life raft over the past year...how could I have forgotten this simple, yet profound truth in my current sufferings?! The message in this verse is the same one in the above sermon: no matter WHAT you're facing, even if it's the worst possible tragedy in the entire history of ever, somehow, someway, someDAY God will work it for YOUR good and for HIS glory. Like Reverend Keller said in the message, it is IMPOSSIBLE for you or anyone else (THAT INCLUDES THE DEVIL!) to mess up your life. NOTHING could possibly happen that would cause your life to be ruined...God takes every single thing that happens and masterfully, beautifully, and lovingly forms them into something that will come together like the most perfect mosaic--a mosaic that will not only be yours, but that will bless other people through their observing the disarray that once was, now transformed into a masterpiece. And then I remembered a revelation I had a few months ago: God spoke to my heart (as I shared in this Youtube video)and gave me this truth that has radically transformed my life, my thoughts, my heart, and my faith: IT'S NOT ABOUT ME. Yep, you read that right: my life is not about me. It's not! Each one of us are placed here on this earth BY GOD, FOR GOD--to fulfill that which He calls us to do. Each one of us is so important in the Kingdom of God...He has a special plan for each of us--tasks that ONLY WE Can do for Him...how cool is that?! But the real point of this is to remind us that our life, ultimately, isn't about us or even our enjoyment/pleasure/or (hate to say it but it's true) lack of suffering. Life is full of suffering. It's just...well, life. BUT God takes even the worst of sufferings and brings from them something spectacular. He works the sufferings into your story in a way that ultimately makes the outcome BETTER for you, and brings Him even more glory. How awesome. But this truth spoke to me today, as I was feeling incredibly bitter and resentful about my increased pain since trying the bone broth, in that trying the bone broth wasn't about me...or for me. God led me to try bone broth not because I would see dramatic healing from it (although I saw some preeeeeetty cool improvements that I'm excited to continue ONCE I've got my panky all fixed and can digest it), but because veganism/plant based eating/raw foods (whatever you wanna call it) was an idol...it was something I was putting my faith, trust, and ultimately my identity in, and that needed to end. Like I said in my most recent post (and THIS POST on my Instagram), labels are dangerous, and can hinder our ability to truly, genuinely love people for who they are and not judge them for their choices--including dietary choices. We are all so beautifully unique, and our unique bodies have unique needs--not everyone will thrive on the same diet, even though that's a dangerous myth circulating today. We all judge others--especially those different than we are--whether consciously or subconsciously, and judging keeps us from loving them completely. My little excursion to bone broth land helped me to not only begin to appreciate bone broth, but it allowed me to truly be able to look at ALL DIETS with respect, therefore look at all people with respect and equality, not judging them by their food choices, or holding myself up as "healthier" or "stronger" because I'm plant based or whatever--none of that matters. What DOES matter is that we stay in tune with our bodies and make sure we give them what they need when they need it (and our needs are CONSTANTLY changing, which is yet another reason why living label free is so important: if we label ourselves as "raw vegan" then find ourselves craving a steamed sweet potato and deny ourselves that steamed sweet potato, we are denying ourselves a specific nutrient in that sweet potato that our bed are trying to tell us it needs. Craving aren't just cravings: their information), and that we can appreciate all people, all types of eating, and all foods, recognizing the beauty of biochemical individuality (see this book for more info on this) and appreciating the diversity of the human microbiome and our own individual needs. What fuels you may poison someone else...and it's our job to recognize and understand that, and eat what OUR bodies need to thrive, but not try to shove those foods that we do well on onto someone else.
I'm not going back on anything I said in my last post--I still believe humans are designed to have SOME animal products in their diets (for B12, heme iron, omega 3's, etc. See last post for more on this), but for some people--like me--it's just not possible. My pancreas, as much as I hate to say it, just CANNOT tolerate anything right now. And it's my job to work with my body and accept where I am, and give my body what it needs to the best of my abilities. Right now ALL I can tolerate (and barely tolerate, at that) is raw, fresh pressed juice and coconut water. That's it. However, this may not always be the case! Who knows what we will find out bodies needing 6 months or a year from now (which is, once again, why living label free is SO important!). But for now, I'm on juices...with lots of pain and swelling. But it's okay--because a BIG wall fell down, and now I can appreciate all types of diets equally, and stand in awe at the bio diversity of each individual person, and learn as much as I can about as many diets and ways of eating as I can in hopes of better assisting my clients by catering to THEIR needs, not convincing them to subscribe to one diet that I think is best.
So if you're still with me, congratulations :) I do just want to share a brief health update. Like I said, I am EXTREMELY sick and getting worse by the day. However, I am being admitted to the hospital at my CF care center tomorrow (per the massive urging of my doctor...and my reluctance). I have an MRI scheduled for August 9, but both my GI doctor and my primary care CF doctor agreed that I couldn't wait that long (gulp). Soooo instead of being stuck in my own bed in my lovely Chinese-inspired Feng shui room looking outside at my mom's beautiful flower garden, I will be stuck in a hospital bed surrounded by concrete walls and gowns, gloves, and masks and beeping machines, being poked and prodded like a science experiment...BUT we will be making progress towards getting me better. You can't have everything, I guess.
Anyway, continued prayers are appreciated. Thanks everyone for your constant encouragement and love. God is working this--YES EVEN THIS, ANNA!--for GOOD. Somehow, someway, someday. That much I know, and I will cling to that with all my might ever the next couple weeks. God bless you all.
My "at-home hospital room"...I'll miss this...
Beautiful cards and gifts from YOU ALL! Thank you so much.