Although I don’t talk about it much on here, I am a practicing Catholic. My religion has played an important part in my life, and more than just the obvious parts. If you’re new around these here, you may also be unaware that I’m a chronic pain patient who deals with arthritis and fibromyalgia. I talk about my invisible illness and arthritis on a regular basis, because it’s an important part of my life. What I don’t always talk about, though, are the many different ways I live with it instead of living as it. I’m not sure if that makes sense – I’m talking about it not being all of my life as long as it is a part of my life.
My friend Kenzie is a high school student who also deals with autoimmune arthritis. God also plays a large role in her life, although she’s not Catholic like me. A few months ago I sent her a story about my religious experiences with my health, and I wanted to share them publicly so that others who are trying to keep believing in God and His works while dealing with a bad situation – health, family, school, relationships, life in general – can see them and hopefully be inspired to some degree.
The story starts almost 5 years ago, when I was a high school senior and was in my 7th year of pain already. Let me take you back to January 2009 …
With 2 ankle surgeries under my belt, I also had 2 years of doctors not believing my pain, not knowing what was causing my pain, and, in general, a lot of misery. I finally found an orthopedic surgeon who believed me. We knew that my first surgery hadn’t worked – when my dad saw him in December 2013 and caught him up, he said that with RA the surgery didn’t stand a chance – but we didn’t know what else caused my pain. We scheduled surgery to fuse my ankle but to also do a scope, which is when they put a camera inside and take a look around. Long story short, we had no idea what was wrong and were absolutely positively desperate.
At the time, I was teaching religious education once a week to third graders. I was always involved in my church (like I mentioned, I’m Catholic). Our priest wrote me a recommendation for the Catholic colleges I applied to and the woman who ran the church was the mother of one of my best friends. The night before my surgery was one of the nights I taught, and after all our students had left the priest offered to perform the Anointing of the Sick on me, one of the Catholic sacraments.
When he performed the rite, I felt an immense sense of peace and calm and hope settle over me, for the first time in years. I can’t properly describe it. In short, I felt God.
When I had my surgery the next day, they found: tarsal coalition (original ankle condition), destroyed cartilage, and arthritis. They also fused my ankle. This surgery was the most important surgery I have ever had. It pointed me in the direction I needed to go (rheumatology) and gave the proof that I wasn’t crazy and imagining the pain like so many insinuated. This gave me the confidence to stand up for myself to other doctors in the future.
Not only did the Anointing of the Sick give me peace, it gave me answers. I fully believe the surgery would not have gone as well without it.
Fast forward 2 years … I had been diagnosed with arthritis and was in that deep pit of despair again because nothing was helping and the pain was getting worse and the arthritis spreading to more joints.
I decided to go on Catholic retreat, and one of the many activities there that we all participated in was Adoration. Adoration is when you sit with the Blessed Sacrament and pray for an extended period of time. I was having such a hard time and as I sat in the room with Jesus and thought and prayed I kept getting upset. Why me? Why was this happening? How could a loving and just God do this to me?
I started sobbing, completely and totally breaking down – thankfully I was not the only person in the room doing this; Adoration can be a very emotional experience – and as I started to come out of it, I felt it. That same combination of peace and calm and hope. The same exact feeling I experienced during the Anointing of the Sick. I felt God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
I haven’t felt that way since. I have only felt it those two times. But I know without a doubt that this is God’s plan for me. He is here, guiding me, leading me through everything. Yes, He gave me tribulations. But He was there when nothing else was. He was there, I felt his presence, when I had these two deeply emotional, religious experiences.
That’s the only way I can explain it. He was there.
Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. But I know for certain that God is with me and this is His plan. I don’t believe it. I know it.
Like I said, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. But please don’t leave comments challenging my experiences. If this happens, I will turn comments off.