Welcome to 31 Days of Hope for Moms! To see all the posts in the series, click here!
Today’s post is from my real-life friend, Theresa! She is writing about her experience with being chronically unwell and the ways she is managing her illness.
Mothering is a high calling. It tests us, challenges us to increase in knowledge and wisdom and every good quality, shows us our nastiest faults as well as causes us to give selflessly to those we love the most. It is a beautiful gift, rewarding our efforts ten-fold. Because not every day shows the fruit of our labor that we desire, it is easy to lose hope and to feel that our efforts are in vain, or that we are failing at the job set before us.
These thoughts of despair can be especially strong when we are chronically ill, or chronically unwell. I fall into the second category, with no serious diagnoses of disease but with the reality that more often than not, daily living can demand more than I have to give. It is easy to surrender to defeat on the days that every tiny noise and contradiction makes my blood pressure rise and body tense. It is easy to respond to childish actions in anger and then fall into a heap of tears afterwards. It is easy to give up on keeping the bathroom clean when you barely have the energy to walk there in the first place. It is easy to let the kids get away with neglecting their manners or chores when it feels like your biggest need is for them to be occupied with a cartoon so you can rest.
Two years ago I spent much time in tears, upset with myself for showing anger towards my children, wondering what happened to kindness and patience. Every day I was asking my children to forgive something I said or did in anger. There were even a couple of dreadful moments when I saw fear in their eyes as they wondered what was wrong with their mommy. Such moments I will never forget.
Two of the biggest lessons I have been learning since these days began are:
1) that peace and adequacy come from Christ, and
2) that extreme difficulty with daily living come not because I’m a bad mom stuck in sin, but as is a warning that my physical body is not well.
God can use illness to teach His children to rely on Himself even more than we may if we were well. He shows us at a deeper level what it means to be weary and to cling to Him for rest (Matthew 11:28). He offers peace: “I will keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Me, because he trusts in Me” (Isaiah 26:3). He gives assurance that life can still be fulfilling when we keep an eternal perspective and live with an attitude of thankfulness.
While keeping my mind set on the big picture and finding things to be thankful for are the best tools for sanity, there are some practical things that have helped me overcome the worst of my physical symptoms and regain some sense of normalcy.
*Diet: I eliminated processed foods and sugars, most grains, all gluten, most dairy, corn, and soy. While each person has unique needs, a diet rich in healthy fats, vegetables, quality protein, and gut-supporting probiotics is key to anyone’s health, and absolutely essential for the unwell. These will improve hormone function, gut and immune health, digestion, and support every organ.
*Sleep: We all need it, right? While the healthy person needs 6-8 hours per night, anyone struggling with illness should get a minimum of 8, being sure to catch those hours between 10pm and 2am. Personally I need to catch a quick nap at some point of the day as well. This usually happens in the early afternoon when the youngest is napping and the two older kids are sent to their rooms for quiet time or given a mommy’s-nap-length show to watch together.
*Stress Relief: This can be done in several ways. For me, getting outside for some sunshine and physical activity is the best medicine. That’s going to get a lot harder soon as the weather gets colder and the sun hides behind winter’s gloomy skies. Other ways to relieve stress are via Scripture meditation and prayer, yoga or similar stretching, deep breathing, essential oils like lavender and frankincense, flower essences, and detox baths (my favorite is with a cup full of Bragg’s apple cider vinegar added to the water).
*Movement: This is by far the hardest one for me. Notice I didn’t even call it exercise. For several years exercise even as simple as gardening and walking left me exhausted for two days. Now on good days I am capable of raking the lawn, biking, and hiking without collapsing. Begin slowly and do only what feels good. Simple and light weight training along with easy walking and light rebounding (trampoline jumping) can be some of the most helpful ways to begin if you experience muscle weakness and fatigue as I do.
*Friends and Fun: Make time to be with people who love and encourage you. Find ways to bless other people even if it’s simply letting them know that they were on your mind and you prayed for them. Let people help you when they offer. Do things you enjoy, go places that make you relax. I love to drive into the country and see the trees, fields, farms, and then stop at a park we’ve never been to before so the kids can play.
*Be Open with your Kids: They may not understand completely, but they understand better than we think and they are very forgiving. They need to hear us ask for forgiveness when we wrong them and to see us run to Christ for help.
If you struggle with chronic illness/being chronically unwell, you are not alone and hope does not have to be elusive. Make practical changes to your lifestyle to support your mental and physical ability to mother your children and enjoy your days.
Psalm 55:22 says to “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved.”
Find rest in God, our hope comes from Him (Psalm 62:5).