Still Sick: A Day in My Struggle for Physical and Spiritual Health

Learning Spiritual Health

I wake up with a cat on my head rubbing her rough whiskers against my cheek. Her mowing is incessant, but not as incessant as my new alarm. Ding… Ding... DING!!! I’m sure you can relate. It’s morning.

I do my little body check. How much pain am I in today? Will I have enough energy to take a shower? Should I skip the shower? If I skip the shower, what do I do to make my hair look decent? Did I remember to order that refill on my pain meds? Wait, do I have a doctor appointment tomorrow, or is that next Tuesday?

I roll out of bed and stride out to the kitchen in a manner similar to the hunchback of Notre Dame. Without the nifty bell-ringing job. After downing three pills and half a lemon squeezed in water, I hobble back to my room.

My feet take me sideways into the drywall. *BUMP* I could have sworn that wall wasn’t there yesterday.

I slink over to my closet, excited to pick an outfit. One of the things I missed the most while I was bedbound was picking out an outfit. Every day, I try to look snazzy, but it’s funny trying to find an outfit that doesn’t crinkle up in my wheelchair. I just have to roll with it. Bad puns.

Then, it’s over to the bathroom counter for my mask. Aka – toxic chemicals we call makeup.

Even on my very sick days, I never leave the house without concealer. Lots of it. Under my eyes. I noticed at the beginning of the semester my makeup stopped coming off. There were strange dark circles under my seeing orifices. They seemed to bee the goo of some other-world life form. No amount of makeup could remove them. I should send a sample to NASA…

Then it’s time to work. During which I down my second handful of pills. This time it’s twelve, and the dosage I absolutely can’t miss.

Sometimes, my left side starts to go numb while I’m working. That’s okay, I just turn my music up louder and write even sassier and overly sarcastic tweets. Pain is a wonderful motivator. It’s like a shot of espresso layered between the thick, sluggish foam of my sleepiness.

After making a meal replacement shake and packing a lunch worthy of a squirrel’s dinner table, it’s off to school.

People at school are super nice. Everyone is helpful. If I’d let them, I’d never have to touch another door handle again. The engineering department would probably make a throne and set it on poles carried by four CSU-P football players if I asked them.

Humans seem to overcompensate when they encounter a person on wheels. Everyone opens doors. Smiles. Then there’s red-faced embarrassment when they hear my wheelchair coming, look up, see I’m disabled, and then feel bad for looking at me. It’s okay. Stare all you want. I know I’m pretty.

Whenever someone says, “You don’t look sick,” I don’t get upset. Truth nugget of the day: chronically ill people generally despise people telling them they don’t “look sick.” If you want to piss off your neighbor with Cystic Fibrosis, just walk up to her and tell her she doesn’t look sick. Do it. I dare you.

When someone tells me I don’t look sick, I say “Thanks. It’s amazing what makeup can do.” It’s true. I am a makeup master. Bow to me, peasants.

Pause. I need to take my third dose of pills for the day followed by a red concoction of salts, electrolytes, and sugar. Unpause.

Even on days where I feel like I was run over by a semi-truck, with a load of hogs headed for slaughter, I make a point not to look “ill.” I smile a lot. I nod even if I can’t concentrate on what the other person is saying because I’m trying to hold my right arm down during a partial seizure. Fake it till you make it.

I spend a lot of energy making people think I’m the picture of health. Ironic. All that fakery just takes more energy, making me sicker. It also results in a lot of misunderstanding.

It’s easy for people to forget I’m sick when I have on tidy clothes, makeup, and don’t show you this fourth dose of pills I’m about to take.

I’m still sick in the same way every person is still a sinner, even when we see people portraying the best of themselves. Humanity has a nasty habit of saying “Hey look, we’re pretty cool. We all banded together after this natural disaster and we raised all this money and came up with this awesome new treatment for cancer.” Yay. Good for us. But we’re still dirty rotten sinners.

I think of the whitewashed tombs to which Jesus compared the Pharisees. He noted how great they looked on the outside, how devoutly they followed rules and regulations. But they were dead inside, their spiritual lives rotting corpses of self-importance and fakery.

Matthew 23:27-28 (NIV)
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

We all try to paint ourselves perfect on the outside. Just look at our social media accounts. We want to look like we have it all together, especially when everything is falling apart.

Even when no one else can see our breaking, our pain, our utter suffering, our vial habits, God sees everything. He sees reality, not the reality we want to create. Some people take comfort in the all-knowing nature of God. Some are happy God sees the good little things we do in secret. Others dread His complete knowledge because of sinful things done in secret.

It’s important to understand we are sinners. It’s also important to understand we don’t need to be perfect. But we definitely need to strive to be Christlike. Being Christlike doesn’t mean putting an undue amount of pressure on ourselves. It doesn’t mean pretending we’re perfect either. It means walking in complete transparency with God and being willing to surround ourselves with believers who will keep us accountable.

Matthew 5:48 (NIV)
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

No one is perfect. Everyone is “sick” inside. We all struggle in our own ways. But pretending to be perfect doesn’t fix anything. Neither does dwelling on our corrupt nature. When we mess up, we ask for forgiveness, make it right and move on.

I think this post was more for me than anyone else. Though I hope it helped someone out there. Just as my medications help me, the Bible helps to purge the spiritually sick. Just as our bodies need health maintenance, so do our souls. Faking health only works for so long. Until someone sees you collapse.

On that note, I need to go take my fifth dose of pills. I hope you take time to offer a fifth, or first, prayer. Gotta keep your spirit healthy.

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