Seven years ago, I stopped attending church. I didn't stop because I'd lost my faith in God. I stopped because my illness made it impossible.
When my illness began in May of 2015, I still felt well enough to make it to services a few times a month, but by October of the same year, I was too disabled with fatigue, headaches, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound to attend at all. Add to that, going to church had become dangerous because of my severe and worsening Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. The smell of someone's perfume or food could literally put me in anaphylaxis, and I carried an EpiPen everywhere. My symptoms kept going from bad to worse, and new ones such as hair loss and bloating kept popping up. I even developed marked skin sensitivity. Clothing and sheets touching my skin caused a burning sensation, so much so that I would sometimes lay naked on my hardwood floor.
After hitting rock bottom in 2018 and depending on my parents for everything from bathing me and pushing me in my wheelchair to bringing food to my bedside, I have been on a gradual path towards healing since June of 2019 when the Lord led us to a new doctor who has been able to help me heal, first by diagnosing and treating me for severe hormonal deficiencies and then in 2021 by discovering that I had Babesia odocoilei and beginning me on targeted antimicrobial therapy.
And guess what? My gradual progress has been adding up to bigger improvements, and on Sunday, I attended church for the first time in 7 years!
I had to push myself to go, especially because my fatigue tends to be worse in the morning and because I woke with a headache, but by the time I ate my breakfast, took my meds, and showered, I was feeling decent enough that I decided I was going. The Devil wasn't going to stop me, and I actually ended up having a remarkably good day and visited with my family for hours after church, although I felt exhausted by evening and couldn't wait to go to bed.
I was a little nervous about attending church. What if the sounds became overwhelming? What if I reacted to someone's perfume? What if I became feverish, sweaty, or nauseated? However, while I was tired during the service, I was fine, and I didn't react at all to the smell of someone's perfume nearby me. Amazing!
However, perhaps equally amazing is how much my symptoms can fluctuate, although I am still doing better than I have in years. I'm writing this blog post at 2 AM in the morning on my phone because I'm having insomnia and am nauseated, sweaty, and headachy. Yesterday, I was very sleepy, foggy, weak, feverish, nauseated, and headachy, and I only got up for meals. I also had cramps in my legs. The most productive thing I did (besides resting and caring for my body, which I have to remind myself is productive) was to text a few friends. My busy Sunday has caught up with me, and I also took a strong dose of my antibabesial with a two week half-life yesterday, which always makes me herx and feel worse.
I feel a bit discouraged, but I'm keeping my chin up. I have good days and bad days, but I'm hopeful that I'll feel well enough to attend church again soon. Lord willing, I'll be interviewing with the Session of this church over a video-call next week, and I'm looking forward to joining and calling this church my new home. I had many joyful tears on Sunday as I again worshiped with God's people. We are made for community, and it was such a blessing to be able to fellowship with the Believers at this church.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." ~ Hebrews 12:1-2