The Confusion of Chronic Illness

“They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble” (Jeremiah 31:9).

The fatigue and squeezing feeling around my heart had now been there for two weeks. So the questions began. Should I call my doctor? If so, do I call my family doctor or one of my specialists? Is this a new symptom of one of my current chronic illnesses or is this a new symptom that needs to be evaluated separately? Is this a side effect of one of the medications? How long do I wait till I call a doctor? And on and on . . .

Those of us who grapple with one or more chronic illnesses ask these questions on a regular basis. As a result, confusion can reign and we end up shifting our focus entirely to our new symptoms or to our illness, sapping our joy, peace, and much needed energy.

What we often forget is our answers are only a prayer or a Bible verse away. We need to pray specifically for answers to the questions we have, and we need to keep reading our Bible daily as God often answers us there, with a Scripture we may have read many times, but suddenly, one that has new meaning to us.

If you are married, your spouse also can be a treasure chest of wisdom because he/she lives with you and your illness daily.

In the verse from Jeremiah above, God was reaching toward His people, encouraging them that He would restore them, and they would not stumble. But He instructed them to pray as He brought them back.

We also need to pray as we ask for restoration of our bodies, minds, and spirits. Although God may not tell us specifically whether to call the doctor if a new symptom appears, He promises to walk with us through the process and to lead us beside streams of water on a level path where we will not stumble.

Prayer: God, help us to trust that You will guide us through the many tears and the confusion that comes with chronic illness. When we have questions, remind us to stop and pray, knowing You will bring us on a path where we will not stumble. Amen.

About the Author:
Jackie Confalone lives in Pennsylvania with her “groom” of 30 years, Gary. They have 2 grown children. She “lives” with three invisible illnesses, ulcerative colitis, endometriosis, and late stage lyme disease, and each of her family members has at least one chronic illness. She feels blessed that God has used her experiences to help others with chronic illnesses.

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Where do you find answers when you are confused about a new symptom that appears in your life of chronic illness?


There’s Something in the Air

I’m on vacation at the beach this week with immediate and extended family, and I am loving every minute of it! Hence, the picture I use for my blog. I always feel better physically and emotionally when I’m at the beach, and I can sit for hours on the beach with the warmth of the sun on my body, the breeze from the ocean, and hearing the sounds of the waves hiting the shore.

But did you know that there’s some scientific evidence why many people feel better at the beach? It’s negative ions. Negative ions are odorless, tasteless, and invisible molecules that we inhale in abundance in certain environments. Like ocean and beaches and mountains. Once they reach our bloodstream, negative ions are believed to produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin, helping to alleviate depression, relieve stress, and boost our daytime energy.

In an article published on webMD and a few other internet sites, they state that these are a few of the reasons we see negative-ion generators being sold in stores and all over the Internet, but do they really work as well as antidepressants? Can they also relieve allergies byfiltering out dust mites and dander? It’s too early to tell for sure, but that’s not to say there is not some sound science behind the concept.

Ions are molecules that have gained or lost an electrical charge.  They are created in nature as air molecules break apart due to sunlight, radiation, and moving air and water. You may have experienced the power of negative ions when you last set foot on the beach or walked beneath a waterfall. While part of the euphoria is simply being around these wondrous settings and away from the normal pressures of home and work, the air circulating in the mountains and the beach
is said to contain tens of thousands of negative ions–much more than the average home or office building, which contain dozens or hundreds, and many register a flat zero. “The action of the pounding surf creates negative air ions and we also see it immediately after spring thunderstorms when people report lightened moods,” says ion researcher Michael Terman, PhD, of Columbia University in New York.
In fact, Columbia University studies of people with winter and chronic depression show that negative ion generators relieve depression as much as antidepressants. “The best part is that there are relatively no side effects, but we still need to figure out appropriate doses and which people it works best on,” he says.

Generally speaking, negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain; resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy,” says Pierce J. Howard, PhD, author of The Owners Manual for the Brain: Everyday Applications from Mind Brain Research and director of research at the Center for Applied Cognitive Sciences in Charlotte, N.C. “They also may protect against germs in the air, resulting in decreased irritation due to inhaling various particles that make you sneeze, cough, or have a throat irritation.”
And for a whopping one in three of us who are sensitive to their effects, negative ions can make us feel like we are walking on air. You are one of them if you feel instantly refreshed the moment you open a window and breathe in fresh, humid air.”You may be one of them if you feel sleepy when you are around an air-conditioner, but feel immediately refreshed and invigorated when you step outside or roll down the car window,” Howard tells WebMD. “Air conditioning depletes the atmosphere of negative ions, but an ion generator re-releases the ions that air conditioners remove.”

So next time you go to the beach or mountains and you instantly feel better just being there, know that there are positive things happening to your body because of negative ions! Cool, huh?

The Phantom of the Illness

“For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 116: 8-9).

My husband calls them phantoms. No, not “Phantom of the Opera.” The dictionary defines phantom as “a nonexistent person or thing, something elusive.” Phantoms can also be called unfulfilled dreams or lost opportunities. For those of us who have or live with someone who has chronic illness, they are our “if only” moments which often cause us to live life with regrets.

My husband was diagnosed 25 years ago with Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS). We had two young children, ages 4 and 1, and I really wanted to have a third child. Prior to his diagnosis, we had no idea what disease was beginning to rob his body of his health and whether bringing a third child into our family was wise. We didn’t pray about decisions at that time, and we decided that we would not have a third child.

That is one of the phantoms, or unfulfilled dreams, I live with. Our children are now young adults pursuing their own lives. There are days when I think several times about that phantom–the third child. What I would be doing, where I would be, how my role as a mother would be different. If I play it out too long, I find myself in a state of sadness, regret, and sometimes depression.

Some of you may have elusive phantoms such as having a different house, having more income, or having a better career.

God does not want us to live a life of regrets wondering “if only”. . . (you fill in the blank). He wants us to be in the land of the living. He wants us to use our pain and struggles to encourage, reach out, and pray for others with chronic illness as only we can. He wants us to trust His wisdom, to ask Him to remove the phantoms created in our human minds, and to look for His many provisions in our lives.

Today, I know the decision not to have a third child was directed by God, even though we weren’t pursuing His answer. All four of our family members live with at least one chronic illness, and God knew we wouldn’t have the physical energy or financial resources to support more than the family He designed for us. Yes, my heart sometimes still aches, but God is in the business of healing the brokenhearted and binding our wounds.

Prayer: Lord, please help us to focus on what You have provided in our lives, not what has been taken away. Heal the pain and heartache of unfulfilled dreams, and show us a purpose in our pain that will be to Your glory. Amen

How many phantoms or unfulfilled dreams do you have in your life as a result of your chronic illness? How would your life be different if you gave those to God, asked him to heal your pain, and see His provisions in your life?