Hospital Update / Helping Out Your Sick Friends

It's been a week and a couple days since I was released from the hospital from an 8-day-long stay. The past few weeks have been filled with physical, mental and emotional ups-and-downs. Ulcerative Colitis sucks. Plain and simple. It's painful, gross, ugly, embarrassing — there is literally nothing good about it. And autoimmune folks will tell you, the way you feel one day isn't a trustworthy indication of how you'll feel the next day. One day could be awesome and the next you could be stuck in bed all day long. 

Since the hospital, I've seen my chiropractor, GI doctor, therapist (thank God for therapy — if you're considering it, stop considering and DO IT), some friends, received amazing love and support from friends via text messages, gifts, phone calls and more, and have been well-loved and supported via Instagram and Facebook of all places (positivity in social media exists!). 

I wanted to give the words I wrote in the hospital on Facebook a more permanent home here on the blog in the hopes that it could help someone. That's my biggest hope in all of this, that I could give hope or encourage someone experiencing suffering, whether that's chronic illness, mental illness, or anything. I've cleaned it up a little, but here it is:

Coming up from a difficult night at the hospital (it would be dishonest to say waking up, as they allowed for very little sleep last night), I felt like I want to update you all personally. So many of you have reached out to me or to my parents to send along your prayers, your love, and your concerned "how is she doing"s, and I feel incredibly grateful to have such a wide support system of people who care about me. 

Over the past 4 years, I've struggled with this disease and what it means for my future and my very practical everyday life. It's gotten in the way of jobs and relationships, of fun travel plans and of mundane work meetings. It's shaped my life into something I never would have imagined or wanted for myself on my own. It's tested my faith and my endurance.

I love Jesus. Sometimes I've wondered if my faith is strong enough to be worthy of His healing. At times, I've wondered if I'm supposed to be some kind of martyr just to get things to make more sense. In a country that celebrates immediate gratification, patience isn't a welcome customer, yet I've become well-acquainted with it. In a country that still echoes the beliefs of Prosperity Gospel, it's easy for the fault of being ill to come to rest on my little shoulders. You think thoughts like, Maybe I'm not doing something right. Maybe I don't believe hard enough. Maybe my faith isn't the right kind. Maybe it's because I did that one thing in college when I knew the right thing was X. These are the mind games of those trying to make sense of seeming senselessness.

But I love Jesus. I love everything He says and does and want to see the whole world through His eyes. Perhaps His number one priority isn't my comfortability. Maybe having a plush life isn't what's best for me or His kingdom — and more than anything, I can tell you I want His kingdom on earth. It is my best and only hope. But the Bible makes it clear that He's in the shadows, too. "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me..." So I reckon I need to look for Him in the unhealing just as much as I do in the healing.

I do believe He wants what's best for me, and I don't think this is it. I try to trust every day that He will give that to me in His timing. It's just that His timing is really quite slow by my watch. With all these people praying for me, with all of my tears, how can He not have done something already?

There's so much that I don't understand and so much that I am frustrated by. I never thought that I would be sitting here at 25 in a hospital bed for the 3rd time having to consider things like bradycardia and surgeries and immunotherapy and whether I should unplug my IV machine now just in case I have to use the restroom urgently, etc. But here I sit, knowing that people all around Birmingham and more have told me they're praying for me, too, and believing in my healing even when I don't have the strength. I don't know what I would do without you all. I especially don't know what I would do without my incredible, supportive family.

I found this beautiful quote last night in my Dropbox from the first time I was hospitalized 3 years ago that my good friend and college mentor posted. I wanted to share it as a reflection of how I am feeling or hope to feel:

"Why the need for such great patience? Does God want to test us? Does God want to see if we indeed have a faith that is worthy of great reward? No. God has no need to play such a game, and neither do we. It's not that God wants to test our patience. The need for patience arises out of the rhythms innate within life itself and within love itself. They need to unfold, as do flowers and pregnancies, according to their own innate rhythms and within their own good time. They cannot be rushed, no matter how great our impatience or how great our discomfort.

And neither can God be rushed because it is His timetable that protects us from perpetually stunting life and love by drawing them through the birth canal prematurely."

— Ronald Rolheiser

This hospital visit was unique in the sense that I've felt an overwhelming amount of support from friends, family and even strangers. Sick people have a tendency to feel needy and burdensome, so the chance that we'll ask you outright for anything is a solid .25 out of 10. Like, maybe if we actually might die without it. Or at least, I'm like that.

And most people don't know what to do to show their support even though they want to! So it's a bit of a conundrum. I wanted to share some of the things friends have done for me that have made me feel so loved and supported the past few weeks. Maybe you can take these and use them to help your sick friends feel loved! 

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1. Send loving text messages. (Please, no sermons.)

Like all other people, sick people just want to feel loved! Even the simplest "Hey, I'm thinking of you" text is so encouraging. People taking the time to reach out and let you know they're thinking of you is really encouraging. And honestly, it's really disappointing when people you thought were close to you don't really reach out at all. It means the world just to know that you're thought of!

Also, Bible verses and words of encouragement are definitely helpful, but it's good to understand when you don't understand. If you've ever been sick, you understand that "everything happens for a reason" or "find joy even in the pain" or "just have faith and you'll be healed" aren't exactly helpful words when you're lying in a hospital bed connected to a morphine drip. The intention is pure, but sometimes it's just best to say, "I love you. I support you. I'm praying for you." And end it there. 

2. Ask what to pray for specifically.

I love getting these texts: "Is there anything they've said to you that you want me to pray for?" YES. "No surgery." "Uninterrupted sleep!" "I've had a really hard time coming off morphine." "I desperately want the new medicine to work." Each day a new thing! Praying for general healing is so amazing, but knowing you have someone coming alongside you to pray for one of your specific needs that day is so helpful! 

3. Decide for them. 

I think this is my favorite tip because it's so practical. One of my friends sent me a text, "Hey, I'm bringing you lunch from Eli's around 12:15. What do you want?" So easy! She knows where I can eat, so she just told me what she wanted to do and did the thing!

This could take so many forms. "I'm going to Whole Foods/Target/Sprouts by your house. I'd love to drop off a few things that you're needing. What are 4 or 5 things you've been needing?" or "I'd love to make you dinner. I have an Instant Pot. Send me a recipe you can eat!" or "I got you a bath bomb! Just dropped it in your mailbox. Have a spa night tonight!" or "What are you doing Wednesday? Can I pick you up for a field trip?" (I love field trips!)

If your friend is in recovery, keep in mind that they might be exhausted and not up for being too social. You can always drop off and shoot them a text that their goods are at the door! On the other hand, a few minutes of people-interaction might be exactly what they need. This is where all the sick folks need to step up and be honest because y'all can't be expected to read our minds (although, if you could work on that, that'd be great, thanks). 

4. Follow up! 

Again, sick people tend to feel like a burden. If you haven't heard from your sick friend in awhile, reach out and see if they want to hang out! People interaction is so important to recovery, and life-giving, hope-filled relationships can change everything. The hospital is often the easy part. Recovery is the tough work that requires more patience than a dang saint. Check in on your sick friends!

I hope these tips were helpful! Comment below with any fun tips you have!