Have you ever heard of someone struggling with an illness? Personally, I consider myself living with an autoimmune condition, rather than struggling with it. I, along with 23.5 million other Americans, face the following common challenges of living with an autoimmune condition:
- Like many chronic illnesses, an autoimmune condition continues or occurs again and again for a long time. Taking a pill doesn’t make it go away overnight or completely.
- Although some people would like to think this illness is all in our mind, the symptoms are real. The pain hurts. The fatigue is beyond tiring, making functioning difficult even with eight hours of sleep and caffeine. Many factors such as high cortisol (stress hormone) levels can cause sleep disturbances. Depression, which weighs down the mind, can stem from inflammation or deficiencies in vitamin D or other nutrients and hormones. Cold or wet weather often exacerbates symptoms.
- Few understand what we are going through. Most can’t imagine how we feel, because we often look fine on the outside.
- We can’t just “push through it.” Our bodies need time to heal and recharge. Overworking can quickly deplete our limited supply of energy.
- This is serious. We are under attack. Our immune system has become confused and treats our connective tissues, joints, organs, and other body parts as foreign invaders that need to be destroyed.
Some see individuals with autoimmune conditions as weak. However, we are actually quite strong to deal with these challenges day in and day out, year after year. We work harder than most to do what many take for granted like getting out of bed in the morning and completing our daily assignments. The truths below help me live with an autoimmune condition and may help you or someone you know live with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, or an unspecified connective tissue disease.
- When the challenges seem unbearable, remember you won’t always feel the way you do at the moment. You may have more energy tomorrow, or the pain could drop from a level that severely limits physical activity to one that is annoying or distracting.
- This illness is not your fault. Many factors that cause sickness are out of your control including the environment, genetics, and past trauma. Even if you are doing something that worsens the symptoms, you can work with God—the ultimate Healer—to promote restoration.
- You are not alone. Help is available. Because you understand what it’s like to live with an autoimmune condition, you can also support someone else.
- You know better than anyone what you can handle. Exercise and engage in activities at your pace. Take time to do things you enjoy. Rest when you need to.
- God is fighting for you to live the life that Jesus died to give you. There is a light not only at the end of the tunnel, but also through the tunnel. The Word of God is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path (Psalm 119:105). So walk—and live and move and have your being—in the light of the Lord (Isaiah 2:5, Acts 17:28).
Feel free to share your encouragement and/or questions about living with an autoimmune condition.