It’s been about three years since my mother walked into the room to tell me the news.
I was in the bathroom, showering while singing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John when my mother came in to tell me the test results came in … and they weren’t good. I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, a condition that forces my thyroid gland to create too many hormones. Some of the symptoms include weakness, tiredness, increased appetite, nervousness, increased heart rate, high blood pressure and occasional vomiting. My condition also causes me to occasionally wake up with extreme pain in the areas surrounding my eyes, and on those days, the sound of a pencil hitting the floor is enough to cause me pain.
Living with these pains is difficult in itself, but the most challenging part — and the part that affects me the most — is what people can see. My condition causes my eyes to puff up, and the ways society has labeled me, and the way I have labeled myself, has damaged my confidence, friendships and my relationship with the Lord.
Let’s get the most annoying symptom out of the way: puffy, red eyes. When people look at my eyes and see the way they swell up, they assume I’m high. Back in high school, and a couple of months into college, I was labeled as a stoner. Here’s the thing … I’m not. Not that there is anything wrong with smoking; I just don’t see the point in it. It sucked being associated with something I wasn’t interested in doing.
Talking about my condition wasn’t any easier. Sometimes, to avoid the stoner stereotype, I would flat out tell people that I have a condition. After doing so, I would regret it … People would feel bad for me; however, they didn’t feel bad because they cared for me, they felt bad out of pity. My church friends prayed for me, but they would never prayers of healing — they’d pray out of pity. I’m not sure you can even call that prayer. They’d pray words over me so they could make themselves feel better. They never followed up on my condition, never brought it up, so they prayed to take away that sadness they were feeling. It felt as if they were taking my weakness to make themselves feel stronger. They gained, and I kept losing. I couldn’t accept prayer from anyone for a long time. Truth is, I still can’t. I struggle with accepting or believing it comes from a good place.
The medication takes a toll on my mental health as well. It doesn’t sound like medication would be something that brings me down during the process; it was something that was supposed to help me. Truth is, if you haven’t been prescribed medication in the past, you’ll have a hard time understanding, but I encourage you to read this next part with an open mind.
To others, and myself, taking medication was a sign of weakness. For a long time, when I took my medication, it was a reminder that there was something wrong with me — that I needed help and anything, whether good or bad, could happen. These thoughts caused me to bounce between taking them religiously to not taking them for weeks. In the grand scheme of things, I was only hurting myself, but I couldn’t shake the habit. It took one person to help me realize that staying on my meds was worth it, and her name is Lovenia. Lovenia, my niece, inspires me daily and has made me a better person, and she’s only five years old.
My condition has also affected my spiritual health and relationship with Christ. It’s hard to understand why we experience difficult situations when we serve an all-powerful God. When I was going through all of this, I was convinced I had been forsaken. Why am I dealing with this? Why would a good God place this on me? Here is a little public service announcement for everyone: When someone is going through rough times, the worst thing you can say to them is “Don’t worry, God has a plan.” While it’s true that God has crafted a plan for all of us, this advice makes it sound as if God wants them to experience suffering. People said this to me, and I struggled with believing that God wanted me to go through this pain.
To this day, it is still hard for me to understand my condition. It has taken me a while to return to my faith. My take on it is that God wanted to see if I would turn to him, trust him and put my faith in him. Since then, it’s been easier taking my medication, talking about it and learning that this condition does not define me. When I look at my situation, I believe it was God’s way of bringing me closer to him. My life has been a lot better after learning to walk with him instead of walking with a blindfold over my eyes.