How Being Chronically Ill Ruined my Faith and Built it Up Again
My name is Maxwell. I'm 21, I use He/Him pronouns, and I am chronically ill.
I first got sick in 2013. I would later go on to be diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, POTS, and a host of other symptoms and diagnoses. I was raised in an extremely religious area of the United States and grew up attending a Christian church 2 times a week and a private Christian school. As I became a teenager with access to a phone and the Internet I quickly found my identity in the LGBT community and started to question, for the first time, the beliefs I had heard from day one.
Then, around the age of 13, my knees started to feel like I had fire in their core. What that felt like has never left me since that day. As my head spun with the countless doctor appointments, blood draws, procedures, and therapy session, I felt more and more lost with my faith. I had never felt a deep connection with the Christian God, and when all I could feel was pain, I couldn't help but ask how a "loving" god could give a young boy this amount of pain and suffering.
At the age of 19, my illness went in remission. I had a full time job, a place and car of my own, and a spoiled Chihuahua puppy. But I still felt the pain on my coat tails, like if I slowed down it would catch me and I would be swallowed into that pit forever. Instead of facing the hard questions I had about God, my purpose, the reason for my pain, and the universe I chose to shove them away. Instead I chose to think of nothing on anything but a surface level. For a while I thought I knew what it was to be happy, to have material possessions, stay as busy as possible, and not think deeply at all.
Then in the fall of 2018 I got sick again. It’s the nature of my chronic illnesses to wax and wane, but when it finally happened I spun into despair fast. In a matter of months I went from well managed symptoms and a fulltime job to losing my management position, going on medical leave, and needing to use a cane and wheelchair. Without my fiancé I’m positive I would have gotten into a far darker place. He kept me going, but I had very little positivity. I spent all day in bed because of the pain and the depression that had set in. Why go on fighting when I only knew pain? I felt there was no god, and I was just a speck on a spinning ball in the middle of a million other stars that went on into nothingness. If I felt one word, it was nothingness. But the universe has very interesting ways of working.
I stumbled upon my truth by pure accident one day. I was watching YouTube documentaries and found one by Vice about a millennial who claimed that ze was joyful nearly all the time. Ze had a small following that shared opinions, and had the same funky fashion sense I love. The documentary fascinated me and I followed a link to the website for UNICULT. The call I felt to this was unlike anything I had felt before. To make a long story short, after a few weeks I was a member.
Now months later, as I write this, I have found my personal truths. I’m not here to try and tell you what the right truth is because, to me, everyone has their own personal truth. Mine will look different from yours. But in having a belief that made sense to me I’ve found true joy like I never knew. Every punch I get thrown I just roll with. All the medical drama and pain I go through just doesn’t touch me the same as it did. Through everything, I have joy. Even on days when I can’t even stand, eat, or do anything much but cry from the pain, I rejoice. I have a personal purpose and was placed here for a reason. I feel more empowered and like I can follow my dreams. I started <a href=“https://www.instagram.com/mixed_fruit_dog_co/”>a business making pet accessories</a>. I feel as though I've been given this pain for a reason. I can use it to help me with my purpose. It sucks and it’s terrible and makes me angry but I use that. I give my body the rest it needs without beating myself up about it. I celebrate my successes even when they seem small. And most importantly every day I learn something.
I’m not going to tell you having some sort of spiritual life is going to make life easier, or will cure you, that it takes your pain away or makes all the answers to life obvious. What I will tell you is that it can give you some strength even on your worst days. It has given me a purpose and a steadfast sense of joy.
All in all, keep fighting beautiful.