When Vicki was told she could speak at her church last Sunday, she was eager to share her story, but also a bit nervous. She says, “I am not one to speak in front of a group of people but I felt led to write this and read this at church to bring awareness to our congregation of around 300.”
So often we think that our story is not dramatic enough to really be a “testimony” or that the daily-ness of our life with illness is not entertaining enough to share in the church setting. But more than anything people crave authenticity and Vicki stepped forward to share her story. Be sure to read the end of this to hear the response the church had.
Many of you know me. My name is Vicki Glover. What some of you do not know is that I live everyday with 4 invisible illnesses. I suffer with frontal lobe seizures, arthritis in my spine, depression, and a chronic pain disorder called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in both of my arms. Chronic meaning the pain never goes away and never will.
This next week is set aside to raise awareness not only for the diseases I suffer with but all Invisible Illnesses that anyone suffers with. September 13-19th is Invisible Illness Awareness Week.
Invisible illnesses are all around us everyday. They are not just the diseases I suffer with, but there are many more. Many suffer with depression, migraines, cancer, hearing loss, blindness, pain, lupus, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, spinal problems, crippling arthritis, and the list could go on. They say 1 in every 2 people suffer with some kind of invisible illness. Look around you. Around half of the people here today are suffering with at least one invisible illness.
What makes them invisible is that the individual does not use a wheelchair, cane, or any other assistive devices to get by with their daily lives, but they still have a disability that limits their lives and how much they can do.
Many depend on the help of others to get through the bad days. I call my bad days flare-up days. Those are the days when I feel like my body is on fire and my pain level is way above a 10 and the pain medicine I take won’t touch the pain. Those are the days when I sleep a lot and depend on my family to help a lot. On my good days I tend to overdue things and I never learn so I end up back in my flare-up days again. Most people with a chronic disease has a tendency to do that,
Our biggest challenges are those around us. Most don’t understand what we are going through. So I want to try and help you understand a little from my point that might help you understand everyone that you see who is fighting an illness.
- We smile not because we are feeling better, but because we don’t want to look sad all the time. Don’t think just because we look happy the pain is gone. We are just hiding it well.
- If we park in a handicap parking spot and we don’t look handicap to you, think again. We may just have a disease or handicap you cannot see or we may be in a lot of pain. Offer us help instead of judging us. We would appreciate the help.
- If you come to our homes and it looks like a tornado has hit the place, it hasn’t. We spend the little time we do feel good doing the most important things first, which is usually things with our families. Housework will always be there, our families and children will not.
- Any help offered is greatly appreciated because energy is scarce.
- Don’t ask “how are you doing?” unless you really want to know.
- Don’t give advice on what might fix the illness. If there was a cure we would know by now, and we have tried just about everything that is a possible cure because really we don’t like living in pain.
- Don’t stop living your life just because we have to slow down ourselves. We want you to continue to have fun and enjoy life. We have just as much fun watching you have fun as we did having fun with you when we could. Just remember when we need to stop and rest, just let us without making us feel guilty.
- When we need to stop and take our medicine or stop to rest we need to right then. If we overdo things we don’t just get tired, we pay for it for days. Please understand.
- If we make plans to do something with you and have to change those plans at the last minute, we are sorry, but we have to listen to our bodies and stop when it tells us to. But please don’t stop inviting us because we still enjoy being with our friends and enjoying life.
- If you have questions about our illness, don’t be afraid to ask. We don’t mind answering questions so you understand. How will you learn without asking.
- These are just some points I can make on behalf of myself and others that suffer with invisible illnesses. I know each illness is different and each person is different, so there is so much more to learn from each individual.
- Reach out to those that are hurting and suffering. Like I said at the beginning I suffer with depression, which was brought on by the illnesses I deal with daily. Pain that never goes away will tire the body out, but it also tires the mind out. Some days you get so tired of fighting the pain that you want to give up. Depression is a big factor that faces almost everyone that has a chronic illness whether invisible or not.
- Depression is 15-20% higher for the chronically ill than for the average person Many times with the depression comes thoughts of suicide because the pain gets so severe you just want it to stop. 70% of suicides have uncontrollable physical pain as a factor.
- If depression does not get the best of you, the illness usually affects your family and your marriage. The divorce rate among the chronically ill is over 75 percent. That is a very high percentage. If you don’t end up in divorce, it still affects marriages in many other ways. Your spouse is afraid to touch you in many ways because they are afraid of hurting you. Lack of sleep keeps you both so tired to have much of a relationship.
- Financially your family starts hurting because of doctor appointment bills, medicine costs, gas for trips to doctors, and medical tests. You start feeling even more depressed because you see your family having to do things that you should be doing but are unable to. It is a vicious cycle that can eventually tear a family apart. Only strong families usually survive when a person is suffering with more than one illness and a lot of stress is put on the family.
Our strength has come from God to hold our family together. We have been through all and God is holding our hands and our family tight. I have accepted God has a purpose for my illnesses. I have had some ask me if I believe in healing because I have been sick for over 4 yrs. I believe that God can heal, if He wants to heal.
Sometimes we are left in our illnesses to use for His glory and to be healed in heaven, and I believe that is my case here. We are all to take joy in our trials. They make us stronger. Some days I may not feel stronger physically, but God has a plan and I know He is working on me spiritually just as He is with everyone fighting an illness. I just ask that you pray for those you know that are fighting any illness, seen or not, and remember those this week especially fighting the invisible illnesses everywhere.
How people responded to her words
Vicki shares, “God used [this] in wonderful way. What happened afterwards was something God must have had planned. A young child in our church is going through tests right now and the family is waiting on the results. They brought their daughter forward to have the elders pray over her and for her, because if the test come back with the results the doctors expect, the results are a one-hundred percent fatality rate for the little girl. We know God can still perform miracles and to look at this little girl you would not think she was so sick.”
I asked Vicki how people responded. “When I got done reading you could have heard a pin drop in the church. I know it was the quietest I have heard the church –ever. There were not even whispers during the reading. Even the teens listened intently. I know because they all sit in the first three rows and they all sat looking at me and listening, even those who usually pass notes during service. One gentleman asked for a copy for his wife who does not come to church but is suffering at home. I gave him mine.”
Thank you, Vicki, for sharing from your heart and in doing so encouraging others, both those with and without illness. You have blessed more people than you may ever realize.