Be Kind to Yourself

On top of the diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, I came down with a wretched cold. One that has kept me blowing my nose and coughing and a general sense of malaise. I know I am susceptible to colds and have a weak immune system. It was one of the things that spurred me on towards finding a diagnosis and not just letting my symptoms go unnoticed. However this cold has had the worst timing.

Where the potential has been to find a few good days, more energy, less pain, this virus has swooped in and knocked me down to the ground. Which means I have even more time. Time to be idle and think and stew and wait. Time I could be praying for others or talking to Papa or all sorts of “holy” things that are all the right answers.

The truth of the matter is that I haven’t really done those things.

I scroll Twitter, Instagram, Facebook… I look at the perfectly manufactured images crafted to convince the world that all is right. I read about Paris and Beruit and my heart breaks for this world. I wake up only to wonder when I can go back to sleep. I try to conserve my energy for the work week yet longing to be with people. I bargain for my old life, one with the Jock or the Missionary or even without them.

You got all that emotion that’s heaving like an ocean
And you’re drowning in a deep, dark well
I can hear it in your voice that if you only had a choice
You would rather be anyone else

be kind to yourself

I have to confess that there has been an unexpected darkness in this journey. There have been moments when I’ve screamed in rage at the hand I’ve been dealt. The despondence and disappointment and depression rolls off my tongue and hits the tears streaming down my face. I’ve been face down trying to catch my breath at the overwhelming thought of a new way of life to live. Feeling my hopes and dreams stolen from me.

I know it’s hard to hear it when that anger in your spirit
Is pointed like an arrow at your chest
When the voices in your mind are anything but kind
And you can’t believe your Father knows best

be kind to yourself

And after these fits and rages and freak-outs I find myself ashamed and embarrassed. Knowing the reality and truth of my emotion but believing years of Bible School Teaching telling me to ‘have more faith’ or ‘be better’ or ‘try harder.’ To not let any one in to my mess and the utter ugliness breaking out of the my perfectly crafted shell.

How does it end when the war that you’re in
Is just you against you against you
Gotta learn to love, learn to love
Learn to love your enemies too

be kind to yourself

 I’ve only let my kind and patient mama into this dark hole I’ve fallen into. I’ve let her cradle me in her arms like when I was a small girl. Reminding me that I am not nor will I ever be alone. She allows me the space to be where I am without judgement or fear. She climbs into the darkness and holds me there, stopping the free fall. She gives me freedom and courage to admit that all is not well. And it allows me to hear from another gentle heart  that I am in good company. And I can allow this to be what it is. And I allow myself whatever space and grief and emotion. But I do not stay and I do not wallow. I do not become of a victim of something but I become a victor with battle wounds.

You can’t expect to be perfect
It’s a fight you’ve gotta forfeit
You belong to me whatever you do
So lay down your weapon, darling
Take a deep breath and believe that I love you

be kind to yourself

Jesus has been infinitely gentle with me. He continues to meet me in my moments and whisper the sweet words of comfort and knowledge. Of peace and understanding. Of love and redemption. Of His glory and my refinement.

I love you just the way that you are
I love the way He’s shaping your heart

be kind to yourself

So when my breath shudders out of my body and my swollen eyelids finally shed their last tear of the night, I fall asleep as one who conquers and not one who has been conquered. I will fight to be kind to myself.

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
     Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord

be strong and take heart and wait. 

*lyrics and music by the brilliant and wonderful Andrew Peterson. Check out the awesome video for this song here.

It Has a Name (Health Update #2)

My goodness how you guys love! I am overwhelmed and amazed by the outpouring of support. Y’all are good people.

So the last time we left things I had curious symptoms that left me in enormous amounts of pain, fatigue, and just a general feeling on being unwell. I was managing things with my diet and lifestyle change a bit but then I saw the cardiologist. He put the blood pressure cuff on my arm and my pain regressed to the point where I could barely drive home. That week I knew I couldn’t continue to function that way.

I reached out to my primary care doctor and asked for a referral to a rheumatologist with all symptoms pointing to Rheumatoid Arthritis.

A week went by with no phone call. My pain and fatigue continued to get worse and to be totally transparent, I was starting to feel hopeless and despondent. Eventually I just decided to start calling rheumatologists in the Springs. My answer? They could see me in APRIL.

I just about lost it. The thought of living like this with no direction or answers until April was too much. So after having a good long cry I buckled down and did what my stubbornness has always compelled me to do. Look for another way out to get what I want.

I started calling all of the numbers I could find for rheumatologists in the state of Colorado. On my second attempt I found one in south Denver, about an hour away. They had an opening in 6 days. 6 DAYS! It was a miracle. I was truly humbled and amazed. When I relayed this information to my primary care doctor he was as stunned and amazed as I was.

Sunday afternoon my mom and I drove to Denver and stayed the night. While my dad and brothers were “Mueller Men Weekend”ing it up in Chicago, Mom and I were waiting to see a specialist. Typical for my life.

I went into his office Monday morning expecting a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I had some markers in my blood work and what I thought were classic symptoms. He started asking me a bunch of questions about the location of my pain, how it came on, and noticeably about my sleep patterns. I thought it was odd but answered anyway.

He had me get on the exam table and started putting pressure on my joints and back and hips. He would press down and I would feel sharp pain shoot through whatever space was around the trigger point. Again, he kept asking me about my sleep and how often I felt pain.

I climbed back down and sat in the chair. He walked through three different types of pain we experience and then informed me he suspected I had a fourth, a chronic nerve pain that is often tricky to diagnose and tricky to manage.


And just like that, I had a name.

In some ways, my body ceased to be the enemy and I could make a villain out of this name.

But what little I knew of Fibromyalgia did not seem like my life was about to get any easier. The doctor gently informed me that this will be a life-long process of managing it. For some reason I’m in a triggered cycle and we need to get me out of it. But once I move past this, the best way to prevent flair ups is by lots of sleep, very low impact exercise, and reducing stress. Apparently stress can trigger the on-set of this disease. Including emotional trauma / stress. (Do three breakups in 12 months count?)

So, I’m not sure what this all means. I’m still planning to see a naturopath who is a Believer and uses a combination of traditional medicine and holistic practices in how she works. I’m hoping she’ll have some ideas of how to manage and prevent more issues.

I’m trying to figure out what combinations of medicines will work to get me out of the currently “cycle” and what I need to do to stay out of it. I know that life will still be different but at least I have some clue as to what could trigger me.

I believe God is sovereign and good and loving and gentle. I believe this isn’t a surprise to Him even though its a surprise to me. I believe it will be part of my testimony of who He is and how He loves. I believe there will be much Life to be lived because of this. I believe I am being refined and renewed even though my body feels like it is withering away. I believe there is Hope.

I’ll ask this again even though I know I don’t need to. Your prayers are the most loving and sacrificial thing you can do for me right now. Thank you for being gentle with my heart and my emotions and my frail body. Thank you for inviting me to things and making me feel cherished and wanted and your graciousness when I can’t show up.

If you know anyone who has walked this road and has ideas or thoughts or words, please send them my way. These are unchartered waters for me and I’ll take all the help I can get!

This is My Fight Song (A Health Update)

About a month ago I turned 29.

Between my last post and the day I turned 29 I went off the rails a little bit. I dealt with my grief, a different type of grief than I was expecting, in old ways that didn’t fix the hole in my heart. I did not handle it well. I did not do August or September well.

So when 29 rolled around and I had a little bit of a panic attack, I made vows and promises and plans. About 4 days after I turned 29 all those plans got smashed to smithereens.

On a Monday afternoon I noticed my scar was itchy and raised. Within about an hour I started breaking out into hives. Another hour went by and the hives spread, adding terrible body aches and a high fever to the mix. I felt like I aged 60 years in the span of an hour. I saw my doctor the next day and he was stumped. He ordered a whole bunch of tests, referred me out to a cardiologist (to follow up from a disease I had as a kid), and sent me home with the unfortunate news to wait and see.

I spent the next 6 days barely able to shuffle from the bed to the couch. Fighting off the fever and trying to keep the hives at bay. Pain would radiate throughout my body every moment of the day, nothing taking the edge off. My incredible parents either caring for me at their house or hanging out at mine. The first round of tests came back with one notable positive — an elevated rheumatoid level, an indication of an autoimmune disease. I went back for more tests. And was sent home to wait.

Almost two weeks later I got the diagnosis of nothing. Nothing showed up on the panel. My doctor suggested more tests because clearly I was still sick, very sick —  I was still having hives, horrible pain, and fatigue.There was a mixture of disappointment and relief. Because there was no clear enemy to battle but no devastating news of a life long unwelcome companion.

My theory (and my doctor is in agreement) is that I do have another autoimmune disease (Celiac and Insulin Resistance have autoimmune disease components) but it hasn’t fully presented itself yet.

Guys, I’ve had a tough two and a half years.

I quit a job, moved back across the country, found out I had Insulin Resistance, changed my whole life, lost my beloved grandfather, walked into new territory of skin cancer, dated three men and had four break-ups, moved, changed jobs again, traveled an insane amount, and wrestled through loss and disappointment and frustrations.

I’ve also had incredible joy and laughter and happiness and growth through it. There has been such good that has come from these past two years. But it’s been alot of hard. Alot of stress, alot of too much, alot of fighting for others, alot of tears, alot of questions. Alot of the messy part of life.

So when these hives started I thought maybe just an allergic or stress reaction.

But it’s starting to slowly sink in that I’m sick, like actually sick.

To have your body completely turn against you in a way you can’t get control of is frightening. I want to give it a name so I have an enemy. But I don’t have one so it feels like my body is the enemy.

I’ve asked my doctor to give me about a month or so to try some dietary adjustments to try and get the hives and pain under control. He agreed under the condition that if it doesn’t improve I’ll refer out to a rheumatologist at the end of it and we’ll continue to search for the culprit. I’d like to believe I’m being given a shot to get this disease, whatever it is, under control before it turns into something so bad it actually shows up on a panel.

Friends I’ve decided to focus 100% of time and energy on being well. This means my lifestyle is totally changing for the immediate future. I’m saying no to 90% of invitations (but please keep asking because it might be the 10% I feel well!!), I’m cutting out dairy, alcohol, nightshades, sugar, and most gluten free grains, I’m taking high doses of supplements and probiotics, and at some point I’m hoping to start swimming and other low-impact work outs.

Saturday I went to the grocery store and pushed a cart for 45 minutes. I sat in the car sobbing after because I was in so much pain. This is not normal and I refuse to spend my life this way. There is too much to be accomplished and too much life to live and there’s too much to be done for the Kingdom.

These past three weeks have been some of the most humbling times of my life. I’ve had to ask for help, I’ve been pushed in a wheelchair (twice), I’ve been unable to be the one who can do it all. I’ve had to literally stop. It has stripped me bare.

But if there is one thing I’ve learned the past two and a half years of hard it’s that often times the most hated soil produces the most loved crop.

Jesus has been meeting me in my moments. When I beg for miraculous healing I hear Him gently tell me that sometimes He’s most glorified not by a miracle but by the steadfastness through our suffering.

I’ve had alot of very broken moments and I expect many more to come. I know I don’t walk it alone and I am so grateful for you, my sweet friends. Your prayers and your encouragement and your offers for whatever I need. To be surrounded like that is to feel the heart of Jesus.

So many of you have asked what you can do — right now the main thing to do is to pray. Pray for wisdom to listen to my body and give it what it needs, pray for the doctors treating me, pray for my family who is supporting me in big and small ways, pray for my energy to return, pray for my mental and emotional well being. I have alot of time to get lost in my head and I’ve been re-living alot of painful moments from the Jock and the Missionary.

And finally, and most importantly, pray that I may glorify Jesus in every single moment of this journey. That others would look at this chapter of my life and not see me or sickness or a time when I was defeated but only the radiance of Jesus, the sweetness of the Spirit, and the strength of the Father.

I’m hoping to keep writing through this season, so if you’re more interested in my love life than you are my health life, you may want to take a break. No promises on when THOSE stories will come back, though ;)

Thank you friends, for praying and fighting and journeying with me.

I’m not together, but I’m getting there.

“Rach… I think you’ve been putting too much pressure on yourself about being okay – it’s fine to be sad and work through it.” Her gentle text message made my eyes flood with tears. 

I sighed. 

I’ve tried to be so strong this time. So okay. 

I’m a different girl. I’m healthier. I believe more truth. I understand more about who I am and who my Father is. 

And if I’m telling the truth, I’m terrified I will slip into the well of sorrow and not be able to climb my way out of it. So I choose every day to fight to be okay. Which is good. But also exhausting. 

Over and over I’ve heard affirmation from people in their amazement of how strong I am and how well I’m handling this. 

Can I just be totally honest with you? 

I laid in my bed for three hours the other night and sobbed. I cried for my broken heart, for the pain I’m walking, for the frustration I feel at being broken. My cheeks were stained with mascara as I listened to music and let my soul empty itself of grief.

Because I am grieving. Something was lost. Something was taken away. Something broke. 

I am not okay. 

And it’s okay. It’s completely okay. 

Because this time not being okay looks completely different. I’m making better choices in my not okay-ness. 

Some nights it takes every ounce of strength to not text this Missionary man. I have to sit there and tell myself all of the ways he didn’t choose me and all of the ways he didn’t want me. 

But it’s truth. 

And the truth keeps me from walking into dangerous territory. 

Almost every day, I used to drive south to get home on the single interstate running through Colorado Springs. And sometimes as I would approach my exit I would find myself wondering “what if” I kept going to the Jock’s city a mere 45 miles away. What if I showed up at his house in the middle of the night, tear stained cheeks. Would he turn me away? Would he kiss me? Would he be convinced we should be together? Would I be convinced?

So then I would say out loud of some the terrible things the Jock said to me. I would tell myself all of the hard things and awful things and painful things. I would cry as I would give voice to the words which would haunt my dreams. 

But never once did I drive past my exit. 

And it wrecks me. The reality of the truth destroys me. I have to convince myself I am the only one suffering loss and heartbreak. I have to slam into the wall created between my heart and his. I don’t know if it’s the healthiest coping mechanism? But it’s something that helps me fight forward. 

My friends, I am not okay. I am not alright. I am a broken weepy hurting mess. I am disappointed and frustrated and confused. 

But underneath those layers is a steadiness and strength I’ve come to appreciate. It’s a resolve that I will keep choosing to be okay until someday I am okay and it isn’t a choice anymore. 

I hope you know it’s okay to not be okay. I hope you know you’re in good company. I hope you know it is safe to be a mess. I hope you know there is beauty in the breakdown. I hope you know, whatever is breaking you, that you are loved and seen and cared for. Your mess matters. The shattered pieces of your heart are in the hands of those who love you. 

Because you are loved.