Valentine’s Day is upon us once again and for my husband and me that makes this the 11th year we are celebrating this holiday together. For me, Valentine’s Day is a day where you show the ones you love how much you care about them. I usually don’t make a big deal out of this holiday because it’s not a significant day for me in the way that our wedding anniversary is so I don’t usually feel the need to write about it. However, the past few years have been some of the hardest on us as a married couple and I felt the nudge to share this today.
For the past couple of years we have been fighting for my health and fertility. Chronic illness doesn’t just affect the person who is fighting the disease; it also affects that person’s family and friends. For anyone who has battled a chronic illness before, this isn’t new news. However, there are a lot of people that have no idea of the impact that chronic illness has on a marriage. I have talked with plenty of women whose husband’s left them, cheated on them, pressured them for sex regardless of their pain, refused to take their symptoms seriously and went so far as to accuse them of making them up; that’s not even including the world of infertility. The list goes on and on but I’ll stop there. I was aware of Micah’s faithfulness to me and our vows when all of this kicked off 3 years ago but I didn’t really know how badly others had it until I joined support groups and saw it for myself.
In my experience, marriage in general is not hard but there are difficult moments or seasons that pass. In those difficult moments or seasons it sometimes appears to be easier to walk away. The truth is, it’s worth fighting for your marriage because those tough times strengthen your bond and relationship. Before we even realized it our roles had changed; when those first endometriosis flares left me bedridden and we had been in and out of the ER with no answers the shift had already begun. As hard as it was for me to become a patient, someone who has always pushed through pain and fatigue, I had to accept my new temporary role. The same went for Micah as my Husband/caregiver who was not used to taking care of anyone other than himself. It was a challenge for me to submit to my body and it was a challenge for Micah to consistently consider my needs in terms of what both of those chronic illnesses were taking from me and us as a whole. I could no longer work full time, so he worked twice as hard. I couldn’t depend on my body to consistently be able to clean, cook, or take care of the animals so he stepped up and did anything he needed to do in the gaps. He didn’t understand the medical stuff but backed me up and trusted me when I told him I was in pain.
Enduring those years was sometimes effortless and sometimes impossibly difficult. Micah saw first-hand how I was treated as a woman in pain in the medical system and stepped up to vouch that my pain was real. He stood by me and helped me advocate for evidence-based treatment for endometriosis i.e. expert excision. All of this ultimately brought us closer and I am so thankful we made it. It’s important for me to share that it is possible for a marriage to not only survive but thrive in the midst of chronic illness.
I think the best decision we made during this whole journey was to go back to church. Honestly, we had been fighting this battle alone and I think if we had not gone back to this particular church, I don’t know where we would be today. It has taken time but we’ve made real connections with people and have enjoyed giving, serving, worshiping, and praying. My health when we first started attending church again was not stable. I was having trouble standing for long periods of time, it hurt to sing during worship, and because I looked normal on the outside, it was hard to casually explain our story to others. It took time to get to know people and it really challenged us to step out of our comfort zones to walk up and talk to random people.
It took time to form meaningful relationships and we found people that genuinely care about how we are doing. If I say that I’m having a rough day, I’m not passive aggressively told to have a positive response. Sometimes life is hard and we have found friends that allow us to be honest about what is happening in our lives. Friends should be able to lean on each other in good times and in bad and that’s what we have found within our church. The support from this community has been a life saver for our marriage and I cannot express how thankful I am that we decided to take a leap of faith and return to the church we visited so many years ago. Suddenly, we weren’t in this alone anymore and when the complete healing from endo and hormonal imbalances came our church family was cheering us on. It’s not a coincidence that my healing came after we started attending this church. This is the church we are called to give, serve, worship, and pray in so to receive the healing that was promised was confirming to me that we are exactly where we need to be. Furthermore, I am still believing in healing from interstitial cystitis and I know that healing is coming.
Micah and I have never been stronger or more connected in the 12 years we’ve been together than at this point in our lives. I am so thankful that the clouds parted and we were able to shift back into our roles we had prior to this whole ordeal. The lessons we both learned through our battle with endometriosis are priceless. I have been able to help others battling these diseases find treatment and hopefully have a better quality of life, Micah has been able to talk with other husbands and significant others from his standpoint of the caregiver to shed light on how to help support their partners. We wouldn’t be able to help others if God had just snapped his fingers and miraculously healed me and I am thankful for the insight he’s given me with this particular hardship. I am so thankful for our church family and the spiritual and physical healings we have received from God while attending and functioning as we’re called to in this church. More than anything else, I am thankful that God came through on his promise and brought Micah and I together. I can’t imagine doing this with anyone other than him and although this particular Valentine’s Day I am fighting a chest cold and he is fighting a “super virus”, we still will find a way to enjoy this holiday together.
Happy Valentine’s Day!