"....... for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:14

On having an auto-immune condition

Photo by Xavier Sotomayor on Unsplash
It's a long time ago now that it was first suspected I had an auto-immune condition. I don't think I gave it the gravity that I probably should have at the time. The diagnosis was tenuous, my symptoms had never been sufficiently definitive for a firm diagnosis. But the suspicion was strong - What else could it be? (they said).

I can handle this!
After the initial shock, frustrated disappointment, and eventual reluctant acceptance that it probably was what they said it was, I realised that my condition was actually very manageable. Some dietary changes, some lifestyle changes, and for many years I was fortunate only to experience infrequent and relatively mild symptoms. I quickly worked out what helped and what exacerbated. A stressful time could trigger a flare, so could getting complacent with different foods, sugar being one of the main culprits. Treading carefully and avoiding excess usually kept my symptoms at bay, for long stretches of time. Years, in fact. I was in charge of this thing!!

Then along comes midlife.....
Midlife has, as it does with so many things, brought some changes. A few years ago I started to notice that I was flaring more regularly, and it was more difficult to bring under control with the strategies that had worked in the past. I was needing medication more often, and for longer. Something had to change.

I started to do the research I probably should have done 20 years ago (when I was young and "bullet-proof"). I realised that I really had no idea about auto-immunity (it's far more widespread than I knew) and what makes the body attack itself. I read a heap about heredity and epigenetics, leaky gut, food intolerances and sensitivities, inflammatory foods, and the generally poor quality of much of the food we buy in our supermarkets. We shifted our priorities when it came to grocery shopping, and I made some radical changes in my (our) diet, starting with the GAPS regime about 3 years ago. If you've ever heard of it, you'll know it's a fairly challenging protocol (ummm, understatement.....).

Remission?
About a year ago I made a sideways shift from GAPS to the Auto-immune Protocol (AIP) - they have a lot of similarities - and I continue on a personalised version of that to this day. Thankfully I have a super supportive husband who came along for the ride, and now sings the praises of these changes we've made. All of it helped. I no longer need medication, my inflammatory "markers" are back in the normal range, and my last flare was about a year ago. I am what "they" would describe as "in remission". For now.

But auto-immunity is a sneaky beast. Just when I think all is fine, and I can start to relax things a bit, it reminds me that I am still vulnerable. And having one auto-immune condition makes it far more likely that I'll develop another. So I still need to be cautious and wise about what I do, what I eat, and how I manage my life. I haven't overcome this thing.

God is God, and I am not
I don't want to have auto-immunity. I would love to be healed. Once and for all. But I haven't been. This is something I've thought about a lot. Why would God not want me to be healed and whole too? Here's what I think.

My nature is to be independent, and to think that I've achieved or progressed or "got things under control" all by myself. But the truth is that God is God, and I am not. And sometimes God leaves me with unresolved or unhealed circumstances or issues in my life (and this is just one........) so that I will continue to depend on Him, and not on myself. He knows my deceitful heart and how quickly I can think I've done it "all by myself", and if I think that, then I'm prone to wander away from Him, the author and source of life.

For so many years I thought that I was in charge of my condition, I was managing it, I was the reason that it was mild, I could determine the outcome. And in some ways that is true, there are most definitely things I can do. And I do!! But I still have this condition, it's not gone, it's just quiet at the moment. It's lurking, and I need to remember that I am not in control of everything to do with it. I can do what I can, but I have to trust God for the rest.

Even in the midst of a flare that may keep me housebound and in pain for a while, I can stay close, walk with God, and trust Him, whatever the outcome may be. The thought of my condition getting worse, being a source of constant pain and inconvenience, stopping me from working, impacting my relationships and my life, is an unhappy one. In fact, it's a downright scary thought. But the fact is, God is way more concerned about my holiness than my happiness.

Trusting in God's sovereignty
Learning to trust in the sovereignty of God is a process. As much as I want to think I can control everything to do with my body (ummm, and my life..........), auto-immunity and midlife have reminded me that this is just not so. Yes, I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), but that same fearfully and wonderfully made body is ageing, and changing, and I can only do so much.

I intend to do whatever I can to remain as healthy as I possibly can for as long as I possibly can, but for the rest I just need to keep trusting that God has it all in hand. He is bigger than auto-immunity, bigger than midlife changes, bigger than all of it.

2 comments

  1. We're not promised an easy, problem free life - I think Christians sometimes (subconsciously) expect that God will heal them or will save them from upsets and sorrows. Sometimes he does, but there are no promises. What he does promise is to be there with us through it all and to be all that we need for enduring, sustaining and surmounting the difficulties in our lives. They definitely make us stronger and deeper but sometimes they suck a lot too! I hope yours stays manageable for a long time to come x

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