Everything’s Fine

Fine.  

I’m convinced there’s not another word that could be taken to mean so many different things.  When I go to the doctor, that’s often all I hear. “Your labs are fine.”  You’re fine.  Everything’s fine.

On paper, I’m fine.  I went back to the Rheumatologist last week and he doesn’t even need to see me again for another year.  Obviously to him, I’m fine.  I am starting to think that maybe we accidentally stumbled upon the least of my problems (Sjogren’s Syndrome), and have yet to discover the bulk of my issues.  Constant stomach problems and continued weight loss, but I’m fine!  No worries here.

And yet, “fine” is my favorite thing to say when people ask me how I am doing.  I don’t know exactly why I do it on any particular day, but here are my theories:

  1. Comparatively at the moment, I really am fine.  ‘Fine’ is such a relative term.  My response may really mean – compared to having my insides revolt against me the last three days, today I’m fine.
  2. Much of the time, people don’t want to know the real answer to the “how are you” question.  When I have been honest in my response, it makes most people incredibly uncomfortable.  Very few people have a clue what to say at that point, and I cannot blame them. Some feel the need to say things like, “it will all get better soon”, “the sun’ll come out tomorrow!” (I may have made that one up), or my personal peeve, “well, you look good!”  FYI – that last one is a terrible thing to say to a person with a chronic illness.  It may not sound like it in your head, but in ours it’s as if you don’t believe we are really sick.  Why the heck anyone would make up a debilitating illness is beyond me.
  3. Some days, if I tell you the real answer to the question, there is a good possibility I will burst into tears, making us both incredibly uncomfortable.  I am trying to appear much stronger than I am in weak moments, so bear with me!
  4. I do not want to see pity in your eyes.  There is a very fine line between showing understanding and pity.  The few people who really listen and understand have meant more to me than they will ever know. They also don’t see me as the poor, pitiful, sick Karina.  They remind me in my darkest hours, when I have trouble believing it myself, that I still have something, however small, to offer the world.
  5. Sometimes I want people to believe that I am fine.  I simply want to be normal again.  I want to be part of the land of the living, where people go to work, attend social events, and don’t spend every waking moment thinking about what’s going in and out of their bodies.  I want to have a life outside of this illness!
  6. I want to believe that I am fine.  There’s really something credible to the theory that the status of the mind affects the status of the body.  There have been numerous times that I’ve been convinced I will never get better. Of course, if I have that mindset I won’t get better! I have to believe that one day this will end, either in this life or the next, so my “I’m fine” response may mean that I’m trying to convince myself as well as you.

So, what are you supposed to do with my “I’m fine” response?  That is an excellent question and sometimes I’m not even sure I know the answer.  I guess I just want you to know that sometimes the “I’m fine” can be taken at face value and sometimes it may say so much more.  If you truly want to know the real answer, if you have some time to listen and maybe a pocketful of tissues just in case, ask again. If I trust that you really want to know, I may tell you. But don’t do this unless you REALLY want to know. I cannot handle bearing my soul to you if what I get in return is cheap, flippant responses, dismissing everything I have just said. It’s OK to not know what to say.  A silent hug speaks much louder than empty words. Also realize that at the moment you ask, I really might be OK, so don’t be offended if my answer stays the same!  No matter what I say, please know that I love you for asking but I also may not be ready to tell you. Complicated enough?

At this point you may be itching to know, how am I REALLY doing?  I have good days and bad days. I remind myself all the time that I previously only had bad days, so progress is much greater than I sometimes think.  I have honestly been feeling much better lately.  It may be the diet or a lull but I’ll take either one!  I’ve been able to attend the few social events I’ve needed to attend, which six months ago would have been impossible.  It’s difficult for me to answer the “how are you” question today since I was just glutened and feel like a train wreck, but the fact that I’m sitting here typing and not lying on the bathroom floor is pretty monumental.

I completed two months on the Autoimmune Protocol before I broke it. The elimination phase was only supposed to require 30 days and I wasn’t completely better so I decided to quit being so strict with myself. If it’s not working anyway, I may as well try to enjoy life a little, right?  It may have been a bad move, but using my own intuition with regards to my health has been so refreshing.  The first thing I did was drink about a fourth a cup of coffee (yikes!), and I hate to say it, but it wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  I was incredibly amped from the caffeine and without all the stuff to dress it up, it wasn’t so great.  Then I found myself in one of those situations where I was out and about and had to eat something STAT.  We pulled up to the only ‘safe’ place for gluten-free folk that’s open on a Sunday, Pie Five.  They have the best gluten-free pizza on the planet.  Ask Jason, I freaked the whole time we were in line.  “Maybe I should just get a salad… but I can’t put anything on my salad… so if I get other veggies and a dressing on my salad (thereby introducing even more forbidden foods), I may as well eat pizza, right? No, I’ll just get a salad… but it’s so expensive just for lettuce. I’m getting pizza.  Should I get pizza?”  At this point my poor husband must have said in his mind, “The woman I married is insane”, while his response to me was, “Let’s just go”. Realizing my own ridiculousness, I bit the bullet, shut off my brain, and ate the most glorious thing I’ve put in my mouth in two months!!  It was incredible!

The other thing to which I trusted my intuition was giving my body a break from most of my supplements.  I was taking far too many pills a day and I just felt like my body needed to reset to figure out what problems were most important.  It was freeing not having to remember to take my medicine at all times of the day.  I learned there are certain things I do still need to take but I also was able to remember that my body knows how to rid itself of certain things without the use of supplements.  Wheat, on the other hand, is such a booger.  My body can’t seem to get rid of it on its own, no matter how long it’s been since I’ve had any.  I dream of the day when the things that help me get better are covered by health insurance!

I remind myself daily the dark place from which I’ve come.  Sometimes life still seems pretty dark, but I think maybe it’s currently only a bit gray. Remember that waiting room I talked about?  I think there’s some light shining underneath one of the doors. Maybe, just maybe, it will open soon. For right now I say, I’M FINE!!

How are you, my dear friends?

Much love,

~Karina

Like what you see? Share it!

Beauty in the Slamming of a Door

Originally written on February 1, 2016.

Praise God for slammed doors.  Not simply closed with the chance of being opened again, but slammed in your face.  Nailed shut.  Do not open.  When I can’t seem to close the door myself, he does it for me.  Praise God.

I’m not a decisive person.  My anxiety level rises when my husband and I can’t decide what to eat for dinner.  God knows this and I think that’s why he helps me out sometimes.  He knows that I will agonize about a decision until I don’t make it at all or, perhaps worse, I make the decision I want, which is not necessarily what’s best for me.

Hindsight is an amazing gift so allow me to tell you a story.  Once upon a time there was a very stubborn girl who planned her life exactly the way she wanted it, visualizing where she would be and what she would be doing in future years.  She planned herself a perfect little life.  This girl went to college and there fell in love with Tennessee.  She just knew she would live there, staring at the mountains, forever and ever, amen.  The girl decided to go to grad school.  She applied to a school in Tennessee and, since everyone knows you can’t just apply to one school, she halfheartedly applied to a school in Pennsylvania, which was close to her hometown.  She was accepted to the PA school, but still fully expected to attend the school in TN.  On the strangest, most heartbreaking, horrible day in her sheltered little life she received, of all things, a REJECTION letter from the TN school.  WHAT?!  Confidence shattered, heart broken, door SLAMMED, singing the Tennessee Homesick Blues all the day long. What… Just… Happened? Then she remembered a prayer she uttered while sending in both applications.  Annnnnd I quote, “Dear Lord, if you want me to go to Pennsylvania, please send me a rejection letter from Tennessee.”  For real.  Why on earth did I pray that?  Oh yes, by now you’ve definitely figured out that naive college girl was me.  I was so upset.  It’s pretty safe to say I was in mourning for my perfect little TN life.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be with my parents or visit my hometown.  The issue was that the life I had built in my head was crumbling.  I had fallen head-over-heels in love with my life in TN and I couldn’t imagine anything different.  The goodbyes were some of the most painful I had experienced up until that point.  I mean, who knew what would happen after grad school and if I would ever see my precious Tennesseans again?  Yes, I’m a bit dramatic.  Just a bit.  Oddly enough, the TN school changed its mind later and accepted me, but the decision had already been made and I was moving 500 miles away to live with my parents again and head to the PA school.

Did I praise God at the time?  Not so much.  My reaction looked more like throwing the biggest little girl tantrum in a post-college woman’s body. Oh, blessed hindsight.  Now I see what an incredible gift that slammed door was in my life.  Once I stopped kicking and screaming a few days…er… months into the process, those two more years in my hometown held some of the most precious blessings in my life.  There were the practical blessings, like living rent-free so I could concentrate on school and spending time with my parents.  There were the amazing friends and colleagues I never expected to meet in grad school. There was the opportunity to sing and play music with my home church on many Sundays.  But I had no idea that the biggest blessing to come from that time was the opportunity to spend two more precious years in the presence of my three surviving grandparents.  What a tremendous gift my God had given me!! When I moved back to TN just two years after moving away (yes, I got all dramatic and tantrum-y over a measly two years), all three of those grandparents flew away to Jesus within the span of just over a year.  I cannot emphasize enough so I will say it again –PRAISE GOD for two more precious years with these people who had shaped my life immeasurably!! I shudder to think of what I would have missed if I had given into my stubborn tantrum and had not followed God’s clear call back to PA.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow.  Oh, thank you, thank you, Jesus!

Right now, I’m staring in disbelief at a few more slammed doors.  I can see clearly the reasons behind some of them and I’m still waiting to understand the others.  Having to leave my job is a slammed door that I’m still fighting to open, and sometimes I wake up pounding on the door from the nightmare of losing my career.  Yes, I continue to be dramatic. It’s a gift.  But I did leave my job kicking and screaming with many, many questions like, “What, on the earth, are we going to do for money?”, “What is my life’s purpose?”, and mostly, “Why the heck am I paying out to wazoo on student loans for a degree I used for a piddly seven years?!?!?!” Oh, that question taunts me constantly.  The hardest question that runs around in my head sounds like, “Is my career really over?  At 31 years of age, is this it for me?” … along with many “WHY?”s thrown in for good measure.

Last week I tried to get a job as close to what I knew as possible.  I would have been able to work from home, connecting patients to online doctors instead of what I was doing before – connecting in-person patients to in-person doctors. I made it through two interviews and started realizing that this job may have been even more demanding than the one I had left. But we needed the money and I needed purpose so I kept going.  But there was that crazy prayer again – “Dear God, if you don’t want me to have this job, don’t give it to me.”  Had I not learned my lesson the first time? Next day = REJECTION letter.  SLAMMED door.  OK God, thank you for that incredibly clear answer.  He knew I would have been miserable, tied to the computer all day, everyday, unable to really take care of myself and my health problems.

But, now what?  I have no idea.  No one usually looks forward to sitting in a waiting room.  But now I’m hanging out in this ‘waiting room’, staring at the slammed doors all around me, not sure which ones will open and which will remain closed, locked and barred.  Occasionally in a moment of weakness I pound on one until I bleed and God takes my hands, cleans and kisses my wounds.  But there is a sort of peace in knowing that God clearly knows best and will open the doors that are right for me.  He is so patient with me as I pace the floor day after day, night after night, longing for a door to open, or at least a voice on the intercom telling me some kind of news.  He sits with me as I throw all the “why” questions at him and reassures me that he has my best interest at heart.  I know that I will walk through whichever door he decides to open and I have no doubt that I will find something incredibly beautiful.  Something prepared just for me, for such a time as this.  Even this ‘waiting room’ is beautiful, if I look really, really hard.  Thank you all for hanging out with me here, holding my hand as I wait.  Praise God for his wisdom found in those painful, beautiful slammed doors.

Like what you see? Share it!