I've felt all along through this illness that I really wanted to be fully open about it here. I feel even more so now that so many of you have fasted for me (thank you, thank you again). You deserve to hear what's going on. And I've always been an open person, feeling like what this church needs more of is people willing to talk about their struggles, even their struggles with doubt. I think that openness makes people less afraid. So I want to report honestly about what's going on with me.
First of all let me say that through this whole thing (what, two years now?) I have been really good at playing mind games with myself. At the root of it is MOSTLY a desire to understand the workings of God, and a belief that he really is a loving God and wants what's best for me. But there are other little motivations at play, which become clear as time goes on. Pride, for example. As in me trying to reason with God that he should heal me because there is so much good I plan to do in the world. What about the volunteering I've trained to do but haven't had a chance to do yet (tutoring ESL)? What about the genealogy that my patriarchal blessing says will be such a big part of my life someday? What about the old people I visit? What about my kids???? He's got to heal me because there are some things that only I can do!!!!! And I have to say that it has only been in the last few weeks that I have begun to recognize and swallow that particular pride. The realization that God may want me to do good by suffering and letting others serve me, for example. And then the realization that God brings good to pass through almost every situation—maybe even every situation, even the ones involving evil choices—and that I am no better than anyone else that he works through.
Other mind games have included trying to figure out just what the purpose is of the priesthood ordinance of the healing of the sick. And how does it work? Would it work better if someone of a higher authority gave me the blessing? I don't think so, but then you hear stories about certain people (usually a general authority, or at least the stake president) blessing others to heal and then there is a miraculous healing. Is the ordinance itself the thing that brings about the healing, or is it just an inspired declaration of God's will? There are so many stories about people (again, usually GA's) who pray to know if they have God's permission to "heal" someone, and then proceed to do it. If that's the case, Roger get over here and heal me, OK?
Roger has always been so careful in his wording when he gives me blessings. And I have seen amazing things come to pass after he has mentioned them in blessings, so I have absolute faith in anything he says. So it bugged me that he always said I would heal, but never blessed me TO heal. What gives with that? We talked about that and wondered.
In preparation for my doctor's appointment this week, I asked for yet another priesthood blessing. This time it was different. This time Roger said something like, "I bless you now to be released from this. I bless you that in the next little bit, you will see great improvement and healing, and you will be free from this." This hit us both hard. Me because I had been thinking and praying and studying the scriptures so much about that particular word, "release." I had read and re-read in the past two days the account of the people of Alma, whose shoulders were strengthened and then who were eventually released from bondage. The use of that word was a little tender mercy (excuse the Mormon coinage) from God to me. It was just exactly what I wanted and need to hear. And it hit Roger hard because, as he told me after, he had not planned or expected to say such a definite thing.
Since then he has felt very cheerful, almost giddy, in the absolute knowledge that I am just about done with this. It's hard for him to remember that I still feel sick. For him, he says, it feels almost like it's already happened. "It's a done deal."
I went off to the doctor yesterday with high hopes and feeling, at least, better prepared for whatever. By "whatever," I meant that I knew the doctor might try to convince me to try some of the treatments I had been resisting for various reasons. And, having been so much more humbled lately, I was more willing to try them. But it was a very emotional doctor's appointment for me. The fact is that I have really bizarre symptoms that nothing explains. Various doctors have found various things wrong, but nothing that explains what I experience. I know what a doctor tends to do when nothing explains what's going on: he tends to suggest an antidepressant. I knew he would and, of course, he did.
Now I need to stop and say that since my teenage years when I benefitted from six weeks of cognitive behavioral therapy, I have never believed that a woman (or man) should be made to feel as if therapy of any kind (cognitive or with drugs) is against God's will, or a "cop-out." I absolutely believe that there is a physical situation that requires drugs in order to be overcome (and some require therapy instead, or in addition). I have always been a fierce advocate of people taking what they need without guilt. It is a huge pet peeve of mine when people insist that they are a failure if they require drugs to get out of depression ("the scriptures are my prozac" makes me so mad—the things it implies about people who actually do need the drugs). Etc. Etc. But I found that when it comes down to someone suggesting that my PHYSICAL problems could be mentally-based, I freak out.
Now I know that that is not necessarily what the doctor meant. He was saying that, in the absence of any other discernible cause and cure, it's worth a try.
And he's right, of course. If nothing else, I can tell that I have gotten into the habit of being sick. That is, each morning and constantly through the day I am evaluating my body, trying to sense if there's a new symptom that might lead to diagnosis, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if my mind is keeping me ill in some ways. And also, I know that some of these drugs have really alleviated syndromes like fibromyalgia, which is a very real condition and not "all in someone's head." I could have something that would respond quite quickly to these kind of drugs.
But, but. I just can't get over the fact that, other than feeling lousy physically, my life has never been better, or happier. My marriage is great, the kids are doing well, my writing is taking off and I've got exciting things going on. I am not depressed, darn it! Or, if I am, it's only because something is wrong with my body!
So I guess I've been feeling resigned about taking these drugs but only if I feel that the doctors have done everything, everything they can to find a physiological explanation. (It doesn't help things that the symptoms are so odd, and that some days and even weeks I will feel much better and decide that I'm just getting better on my own—and then I'll have a bad day or week after that. For example, sometimes I feel so sick I can hardly move—but then I go on trek or my cruise and do pretty darn well. What's with that? Does that mean it's all in my head? Or were those times just gifts from God?)
So this doctor agreed to do two or three final tests. And I agreed that after that, I will cheerfully and with great faith go on the antidepressant.
And that, my friends, is the story of my week. I am a little scared about the drugs just because I hesitate about any drug that a person has to be weaned off of. It feels like there's no going back. But I am very hopeful. I have absolute faith in the blessing Roger gives. All will be well soon. I can hardly let myself dare to imagine a series of days in which I feel fantastic, morning till night. I will never, ever, ever take health for granted.
And here is a poem for you:
How Long? (Chronic Illness)
I find myself Lehi, encamped in a tent.
It's pleasant enough here, with plenty to do.
Work and pray and dance.
I could build a house here and let go the dream
of the swaying of camels, the saltwater lapping.
But I heard a voice—and its memory has me
stretching my neck at the dry desert wind.
Still I hear only whisper of sand and tent flapping.
Arise, retire, and I used to pray
at every new dawn, "Lord is it today?"
Arise and retire. I no longer ask
but remain in my tent. You know I'll obey.
I'll make it my work to arise and retire
and cling to the ghost of the voice in the fire.
But, Lord, there's the ocean.
And what shall I do with this lack of motion?