Love in the Time of Chronic Illness: A Candid Interview


For quite some time now, I’ve been trying to figure out how to introduce the topic of romantic relationships into my blog.

Why, you may ask? Well, it’s not because I long for the opportunity to kick off my shoes, curl up with a glass of wine, and have some serious girl talk – although that does sound lovely. No, it’s because romantic relationships are complicated by chronic illness, and I suspect I am not the first person to have discovered this truth.

You see, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia right as I was entering the teen years. While other girls were going on their first dates, I was sitting in rheumatologists’ waiting rooms, where every other patient was over the age of sixty-five.

I didn’t go on dates. I didn’t go to Prom. The fact that I entered community college at age sixteen meant that every last guy I came into contact with was at least three years older than me. As a painfully shy, bookish introvert who had spent most of the previous three years in her bedroom, I didn’t consider a romantic relationship with a college guy a possibility.

College was a time for parties – for staying out late and going on last minute excursions with friends. But last minute didn’t really work for a girl who needed to maintain a rigid sleep schedule in order to function, and parties weren’t really an option when you needed to conserve all of your energy to study for your classes. So by the time I turned twenty-two I had never been in a romantic relationship. Sure, I’d liked guys, but in the back of my mind I had always held the suspicion that a life with CFS and Fibromyalgia was too crowded to allow room for anyone else. More than that, I feared that any guy I was interested in would feel the same.

But all that changed in the Fall of 2008, when I started attending UC Irvine and met a guy named Hamilton. I came into UCI as a transfer student. Knowing that I would have limited energy for social activities, and knowing that I would need a reliable support network to maintain my emotional health, I decided to join InterVarsity, one of the many Christian fellowships on campus. I attended a bible study once a week, and Hamilton was one of the leaders of that study.

This isn’t really a blog post about ‘How I Ended Up In a Relationship’, so I’ll gloss over the how and simply say that we have now been together for almost five years. In that time I’ve had to learn how to navigate what it means to be sick and in a relationship, while he has had to learn what it means to love and be in a relationship with someone who will likely always be sick. And it’s that reality that I want to discuss today. But rather than talking about it from my perspective, I thought I would give my boyfriend the opportunity to share what this journey has been like for him.

So, as a belated Valentine’s Day gift to all of my readers, I sat down with my boyfriend to ask him about his experience of dating someone with a chronic illness. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: When I moved to UC Irvine, you were the first person I told about my illnesses. What did you think when I first told you that I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia?

I think it helped me get to know you better. As a small group leader, it was kind of my job to collect people’s secrets, and you were in my small group. I had some background for understanding what it meant because of Ken’s mom*, but that wasn’t the same as having a direct relationship with someone with a chronic illness or disability. So I would say it was a concept I was familiar with, but I’d had no experience with it directly.


*Ken is a mutual friend of myself and my boyfriend. Ken’s mother suffered from ataxia, a neurological condition that creates a lack of muscle coordination, which affected her ability to speak, swallow, walk, and perform other voluntary movements. She passed away on October 7, 2006 of complications associated with her illness.

Q: Did learning about my illnesses change your perception of me at all?

I think it added a dimension of tragedy to your life. I got that there were things that happened to you in your past that would limit what you could do in the future. Physical discomfort and pain will always be a part of your future, and to some extent that is tragic.  


Q: Once you knew about my illnesses, did certain things about me start to make more sense?

Well, I think you told me about your illnesses in connection to a conversation we were having about why you hadn’t been coming to small group. So yeah, your not coming to small group did make more sense after that. It also seemed like you had a sense of maturity that was beyond your years, and I think it helped to explain that.  

Q: When you decided that you wanted to date me, did my illnesses factor into that decision?

Yeah, I think so. I think that, on the one hand, your illnesses had lent you this air of maturity but, on the other hand, I realized that dating you meant that the problems you faced because of them would become my problems too.  

Q: Why did you decide to date me despite those difficulties?

Because of your character, which I think is influenced by your experience of living with Fibromyalgia.

Q: In what ways have the difficulties I face living with my illness also become your difficulties?

I think I’ve had to learn how to manage your illnesses, but mostly that means learning how to manage you. I have to manage your energy level and your expectations. Like, when I say something related to wanting to plan out our day, what I’m saying means something different to me than it does to you. There have been times when maybe I’d like to stay out later at a social function, but you need to go home and rest. But I think those are issues you’d face in any relationship; it’s just that we have a name for it, and it’s called Fibromyalgia. For other couples it might be called something else, like introversion.


Q: Are there any upsides to being in a relationship with someone who is chronically ill?

I think that being connected to pain and physical limitations on a constant basis – being reminded of one’s mortality – is a healthy thing. You can’t maintain the excesses of youth forever, and your illnesses remind me of that*. Also, I think it forces me to be a nicer, more tender person.


*NOTE: My boyfriend was a philosophy major. Does it show?

Q: Do you have any advice for others who are in a relationship with someone who has a chronic illness?  

I would say, don’t make their illness the primary way that you identify your partner. That’s not how they self-identify. Also, I would say not to make assumptions about what your partner can and cannot do, or what they may or may not feel like.





A photo of me and my boyfriend at Dockweiler Beach in Los Angeles. 

The Business of Remembering: Reflections on 14 Years of Living With Chronic Illness

The Fall of 2013 marked a significant milestone in my life: the fourteen year anniversary of the day I first began experiencing symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Fibromyalgia. Anniversaries come every year, but typically some will hold greater significance than others. Most years I don’t stop to reflect that, yes, it was around this time that I began to notice the constant pain, or the unrelenting fatigue; life is simply too busy for such incessant reflection, and I am usually preoccupied with the business of getting through another day. But 2013 was special, because it marked a particular threshold. I am twenty-seven years old. I began exhibiting signs of CFS and Fibromyalgia when I was thirteen years old. That means that, as of the Fall of 2013, I have now spent over half of my life living with these chronic illnesses. Surely this is something worth pausing to consider.

Reflecting on this reality brings with it a great deal of pain. I believe that memory shapes us, that the stories of who we are and where we come from matter to where we are going. The reality that, two or three decades from now, I may not be able to remember what it was like to be a twelve year old girl free from these illness, frightens me. I fear forgetting my past, because I fear forgetting the part of myself that is unmarked by these illnesses. So I did my best not to notice when the anniversary passed. I didn’t mention its significance to the people in my life, because I did not want to think about its significance.

I do not want to think about these things, but I find that am forced to, because since starting this blog I have come to realize that thinking about my illness, about how it has significantly shaped my life and identity, is a good thing. Sharing those reflections with others, I have found, can help them as they make sense of their own life story.  

This is a fact that was brought home to me a few months ago when I received an email from a friend. Our friendship started as a result of this blog, and I now consider her a fellow traveler and encouragement in this crazy, daily experiment of living with chronic illness. In her email she was sharing with me how her health has been, about a new team of doctors she is working with and the new treatments they are attempting (these are the types of conversations that tend to anchor friendships among people who are chronically ill because, in many ways, these friendships are the only spaces where we feel complete freedom and a sense of kinship that allows us to be our most truthful selves) and about how she is handling the transition emotionally. Towards the end of her email, she offered this reflection:

You know how people say, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” I’ve been reflecting on whether this experience has made me stronger? What have I learned? What am I learning? How have I grown? How am I better? I don’t know…

The truth is, sometimes I don’t know either. But I thought her questions worth reflecting on, so I tucked them away in the back of my mind. The blog post below is my attempt to honestly answer the questions she posed. I dedicate this list, 14 Lessons I’ve Learned After 14 Years of Living With Chronic Illness, to the friend who got me blogging again. I pray that it is a help to her as she marks the milestones in her own journey.

14 Lessons I’ve Learned After 14 Years of Living With Chronic Illness  


Lesson 1: Don’t Accept “There’s Nothing You Can Do”

There is always, always, always something you can do to help alleviate your pain, cope with depression and stress, and lead a better life. Something that I didn’t realize as a young teenager thrust into the frightening world of illness was that when a doctor tells you, “There’s nothing we can do,” it often means, “We are not able to cure you.” Doctors often focus on the cure and, when cures are impossible, they often tend to give up. But the absence of a miracle drug or a certain recovery is not a sign that you should also roll over and accept the way things are. It is a sign that you must work harder to recognize the ways your chronic illness is affecting your life, and strategize how best to manage your symptoms to be able to lead a life that you can call meaningful and joy-filled.

Lesson 2: Every Little Thing I Do, Helps – The Worst Thing I Can Do is Nothing

This lesson followed closely on the heels of the first. Once I realized that there were, in fact, many things I could do, I was a little overwhelmed. Should I start with developing a regular, and safe, exercise routine? How about changing my diet to incorporate more healthy foods? Keeping a journal to track my depression? Going to therapy? Finding a hobby? Spending time with friends that doesn’t revolve around talking about my illness? I have found that doing any one of these things consistently, or even any combination of them sporadically, significantly improves my quality of life. I sleep better, have less pain, and am more equipped to manage the emotional low points when I am doing the little things, every day, that add up to a world of difference. There is only one thing that consistently causes me more pain and more depression, and that is lying in bed, telling myself that I will never feel any better than I do at my worst moment.

Lesson 3: Learn to Fight Back Against Your Negative Thinking

It took me quite a few years to recognize the link between my chronic illness and my depression. This is not to say that my illnesses are simply the product of a depressed and anxious mind (as some of my earliest doctors tried to suggest). My Fibromyalgia is very much the product of a central nervous system that has been rewired through years of chronic pain; and while the cause of CFS is as yet unclear, it is not the product of hypochondria. Having said all that, having a chronic illness can be incredibly depressing. I already struggled with depression and anxiety as a preteen – stemming from an unhappy and troubled home life – but that depression became amplified as a result of my diagnoses. It took years of interacting with counselors whom I deeply trusted in order to name the underlying negative thoughts that were actually keeping me from effectively managing my illnesses. Through a process called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, I began to learn how to identify unhelpful negative thoughts (for example, the thought, “I will never feel any better than I do at this moment,” invariably came up during some of my worst flare ups) and start countering them (“Really, Amanda? Remember just a week ago when you were in pain, but could actually get out of bed? And that was after a similar flare up. But you did eventually get out of bed. You will get out of bed again.”). With chronic illness a huge part of the battle is not against the symptoms you are experiencing, but against the stories you tell yourself about what those symptoms mean.   

Lesson 4: Let Go Of the Past With Grace – Grieve Well, and Know When to Move On

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) are just as applicable to people who are diagnosed with chronic illnesses as they are to people who are diagnosed with terminal cancer. That is because people with chronic illness have to negotiate the loss of the person they were before their diagnosis. I spent maybe five years of my life caught in a vicious cycle of anger, bargaining, and depression. I couldn’t allow myself to transition to the final stage – acceptance – because I couldn’t recognize that I was, in a sense, grieving a death. The fact that my illnesses were triggered by a traumatic death (the suicide of a close friend) further complicated my understanding of what was happening for me emotionally. My advice to others would be to recognize your need to grieve, and grieve well. Maybe you need a symbolic gesture (for me part of the acceptance process was getting rid of all of my old soccer cleats, jerseys, and trophies) or a way to vent your anger and fear. Whatever it is, do it. There’s no need to justify your process to others, who may not understand what you are doing, but you owe yourself that period of mourning. Then, when you arrive at the time for acceptance, embrace it wholeheartedly.

Lesson 5: Embrace Yourself for Who and What You are Today

I wasted so much time trying to get back to the person I used to be, only to discover that – at sixteen, nineteen, or twenty-one – there was no ‘going back’ to my twelve year old self. One of the confusing tragedies for children and adolescents diagnosed with chronic illnesses is that it comes at a period of life that is already marked by extreme change. Your discovery of the person you are, the person you are coming, is marred by the persistent presence of illness. It was only after I left adolescence behind, recognizing that I would never get it back, that I was able to look at the person I had actually become. I had to learn how to love that person, and not constantly compare her to the person she could have been. For so many years I refused to love myself, and that is one of my deepest regrets.

Lesson 6: Find New Goals and Dreams

One of the reasons I had so much difficulty transitioning to the stage of acceptance was that, even at age thirteen, I had such a clear picture of what my life was supposed to be. I was supposed to work hard and become my class valedictorian. I was supposed to letter playing varsity soccer. I was supposed to attend an Ivy League school. I was supposed to become a famous novelist. I was supposed to do something significant to change the world. Those are a lot of weighty dreams to come crashing down on a child, and for many years I suffocated under the weight of them. Now that I am older, I can recognize the extreme pressure I put on myself, and feel sorrow for the way I drove my younger self so hard to become something significant. Once I was able to let go of that picture of what my life should be, I was free to imagine what it could be. I am now convinced that the dreams and goals of a mature young woman who has learned what it is to lose everything she ever wanted are a far more substantial thing to build a life upon.

Lesson 7: Let Other People Share Your Pain

Isolation can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pain isolates us because no one else can feel what we feel. But we make a mistake when we assume that, because no one feels our pain, our pain should not be shared. For a long time, I refused to share my diagnoses with others. Since there are no visible symptoms associated with CFS and Fibromyalgia, I could easily get away with looking ‘normal’. But whenever I had a flare up and had to cancel plans at the last minute, or became less emotionally present and accessible to my friends because I was consumed by my own depression, I was creating a little bubble of social isolation. Over time, I began to recognize this and let people into my pain, one and a time. It was a slow process, but one that I have never regretted. My friends have admitted to learning much from me as they try to care for me in the hard times; they have also gained a fuller picture of what it is like to live the life that I do. In return, I have gained a group of people who I can count on to cook me a meal when I’m bedridden, pray for me, and just listen to my story. In terms of trade off, I often feel that I am getting the better end of the deal.

Lesson 8: Have a Routine – But Be Flexible

In the early years of my diagnosis, my life was utter chaos. One day I would sleep for sixteen hours, only to turn around and be up for the next thirty-six hours straight. There were nights when I awoke in excruciating pain that made me cry out, and many more nights of deep depression where I cried myself to sleep. I could go almost a week without leaving the house. My life was without the everyday anchors that tell you what you are responsible for and how to balance your needs and obligations. As I have learned to manage my illnesses, I have discovered that having a consistent time when I get up and go to bed, weekly social anchors (scheduled times when I will be with friends), consistent times when I cook healthy meals for myself or go jogging with a friend, are essential to ensuring that my worst flare ups are less frequent. Of course, I have bad weeks when I know that a jog will do me more harm than good, and I adjust accordingly. But routine has been one of the greatest gifts I have given myself in the years since my diagnosis.

Lesson 9: Adjust Your Expectations (AKA Learn Your Values and Priorities)

Having CFS has meant that, on a typical day, I have half to three-quarters the energy of a ‘normal’ person. On bad days, I have significantly less. In an age that tells young women we can, and should, do everything, I find myself reminded on a daily basis that this simply is not  true. Rather than seeing this as a loss, I have found it to be an incredible opportunity to clarify my priorities and determine what really matters to me. If I know I only have energy to do one or two things once I get home from work, I will make sure that those one or two things are nourishing to my soul and to the souls of others. That has meant that my house may be messier than I would like, but I have deep and meaningful relationships with my boyfriend, my roommates, and the young boys in my neighborhood that I held tutor; those relationships have grown out of the quality time we are able to spend with one another. Chronic illness has shown me that being forced to make a choice about what matters to you is a good and necessary thing.

Lesson 10: Draw Strength From Your Weaknesses

This may seem counter-intuitive, but there is a type of strength that comes from embracing your weaknesses. I am a person living with a chronic illness. In a fast-paced world that demands we be young, healthy, and dedicated in order to succeed, I am a disabled person who does not fit into the prevailing narrative of the day. But living on the fringes of the mainstream narrative of American life, I have discovered that there are many others like me. The very thing that ensures I don’t fit in, the thing that has taught me to look at life differently, has put me in the position to befriend and care for people on the fringe. It is what enables me to write this blog. It is what enables me to live life vulnerably, in the hopes that my own vulnerability will become strength for others who are vulnerable. The truth is that, sooner or later, everyone will find themselves in a state of failing health; even those who are at the heart will find themselves pushed to the outer rim. I’m not being morbid; I’m being realistic. The way I choose to live with my chronic illness has enabled me to have the strength to sit with people who are experiencing unimaginable grief and pain, and be a loving presence to them. This strength is a gift to myself and others. I am humbled and grateful to possess that gift, and I am convinced that there are more people out there with the capacity to be this gift for others. Perhaps you are one of them.

Lesson 11: Become Your Own Advocate

This is a lesson that, I think, comes late for many people living with chronic illness. We have to get to know our own illness first, familiarize ourselves with its contours and learn not to be ashamed of its implications, before we can find the strength to advocate for ourselves. But we must all be advocates. We must be willing to push back when doctors tell us, “There is nothing I can do,” or worse still, “There is nothing wrong with you.” We must be willing to educate ourselves, our families, and our friends, so that what is happening to us seems less foreign, and we are not isolated by our illness. For some of us, advocacy will also entail advocating on behalf of the chronically ill and disabled community as a whole, in order to improve access to resources, change harmful and prejudicial thinking, and remove the stigma commonly associated with ‘invisible’ disabilities. Learning how to become an advocate can be an empowering experience, and empowerment is an important thing for people whose lives are all too often dictated by their illness.

Lesson 12: Stop Placing Limits on Yourself

Once I became ill, my new mantra was, “I can’t do x and y, because I have CFS and Fibromyalgia.” As a result, I stopped trying new things. I was no longer up for spontaneous adventures with friends. I stopped going to school. For many years I didn’t date. In some ways, I stopped living. In the beginning I think there was some wisdom to my mantra. I was young; my illness was sudden and extreme. In a period of months, my whole life had changed. Taking some time to withdraw, to learn how to cope with my altered reality, was a good and wise thing. But as the years went by, and I continued to live with that mindset, I watched as CFS and Fibromyalgia came to dominate my reality. It has taken me many years, but I have slowly learned to change my mantra from, “I can’t do x because I have CFS and Fibromyalgia,” to “I want to do x, but because of my CFS and Fibromyalgia, I need to think carefully about how to approach it.” As a result, my life has become much richer. I have run in several 5Ks. I have traveled to distant countries. I have thrown surprise parties for friends, backpacked through the Sierras, rock-climbed in Joshua Tree. I’ve taken dance classes; I’ve tutored children in my inner city neighborhood. I now have a very full, and fulfilling, life because I have learned that having a chronic illness does not mean I have to stop living.

Lesson 13: Remember that You are Not Other People

While all of these are still ongoing lessons for me, this one has proven to be among the most difficult. How we love to compare ourselves! And just as I used to make comparisons to my twelve year old self, so I often still compare myself to the people around me who don’t have chronic illnesses. How happy they look! How productive and pain free! But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: not once, in the fourteen years that I have lived with these illness, has comparing myself with others improved the quality of my own life. I am no wiser, no stronger, no healthier, when I make these comparisons. If anything, I am diminished by the false perception that, because other people don’t share my struggles, life must invariably be easier for them. As I grow older and take the time to really invest in the lives of the ‘healthy’ people around me, I find that this simply isn’t true. Life is hard for all of us. Those of us with chronic illnesses shouldn’t make our realities any harder by holding them up against a false metric we can never hope to achieve. Instead, focus on the small, daily victories that make your life better. Which leads to…

Lesson 14: Never, Ever, Ever Give Up on Yourself

Seems like a kind of bullshit lesson to end on, right? But this isn’t sentimentality talking here. I’m not suggesting your life is some kind of Disney Channel movie where, if you believe hard enough, you will find a way to overcome the limitations of your illness. For many of us, illness will be our reality for the rest of our lives. I’m not suggesting otherwise. When I say never give up on yourself, I’m saying precisely that. There will be tough days when you don’t want to fight any more. You’ll want to just let the pain, the fear, and the disappointment wash over you. I’ve done it far too many times to convince myself otherwise. And I will probably do it again. But there has to come a point where you tell yourself, “Enough self-pity. I know this is hard, but doing nothing, giving up, is only magnifying my pain. It’s time to get up and start trying again.” Then you take a shower, or your medication. You go for a walk or call a friend. You ask for help. And slowly you find that, while the pain and the sickness doesn’t go away, it ceases to define you.

A Good Christian Bitch Speaks Out: Why Calling a Woman a Bitch Has Nothing to Do With Religion

Hello everyone, 

This post marks a new departure for Crazy For Sharing. One of the reasons I haven’t been updating with new posts is that I’ve had a lot of things on my mind not directly related to the overall subject of this blog – my struggle with CFS and Fibromyalgia. So I’ve come to a decision. Rather than not write anything at all, I’m going to start incorporating other topics into Crazy For Sharing. While I will continue to offer reflections and share stories from my struggle with chronic illness, I’m also excited to share other ideas with you all and, hopefully, start some interesting discussions. So keep your eyes peeled for new posts. I hope you enjoy today’s contribution. 


A Good Christian Bitch Speaks Out:

Why Calling a Woman a Bitch Has Nothing to Do With Religion 

In the past month the broadcasting network ABC has unveiled two different mid-season premiers that have one thing in common. “GCB” and “Don’t Trust the B– in Apt. 23” – one an hour long soapy drama about affluent Christians in Texas and the other a sitcom based in New York – each share the same abbreviation. The ‘B’ in both cases refers to bitches, but in only one case is that tiny letter causing a huge backlash.

In the case of “GCB” ABC received so much flack from conservative Christian groups and politicians – Newt Gingrich took the time to call the show “anti-Christian” on air after a debate – that the studio actually changed the name from “Good Christian Bitches” to “Good Christian Belles” (although given the fact that it’s still advertised universally as “GCB”, it’s really all just semantics).

Fox News in particular took the time to write several outraged pieces in which they quote Christian responses to the show’s title and premise:

“I find the title offensive,” Christian publisher Tessie DeVore said in an interview with a Fox correspondent. “I don’t think those two words (Christian Bitch presumably, and not Good Christian) should be combined. A show like this can damage perceptions [of Christians in this country]”.

Ted Baehr, founder of Moveiguide: The Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment, wrote a piece for Fox news in which he said:

 “The fact that ‘GCB’ ridicules God, morality, and Christians, who are little more than stereotypes, is typical of the Hollywood, where calling Christian women names is still in fashion. However, if this were a television show about any other group – Muslim women, Jewish women or even radical feminists, the demands for apologies would be ringing from the halls of the media establishment from New York to Hollywood. Apparently, it is calling only certain women names that is a problem in today’s culture. Christians are easy fodder for derision. (emphasis added).

Just because I sing in a Christian choir doesn't mean God doesn't want me to show off my incredible legs.

Good Christian Bitch Kristen Chenoweth

Now there are a lot of things I could say about DeVore and Baehr’s opinions of “GCB”:

1.) I don’t think “GCB” can damage perceptions of Christians in this country. If anything, it reveals the damage that has already been done. It would be wrong to consider “GCB” the cause of negative perceptions of Christianity.

2.) “GCB” ridicules Christians on a regular basis – that’s not the same thing as ridiculing God or morality, which it so far has not done.

3.) I was not aware that “calling Christian women names” was or is still a “fashionable” thing to do. My, how quickly we fall out of touch. Tell me, is “fetch” still a thing?

4.) I just love the inclusion of the phrase “or even radical feminists”. It suggests that a.) We can go out on a limb and say crazy things like, “Hey, even feminists have feelings!” and b.) It brings to mind the question, “Does being a feminist require me to also be radical -whatever that means?” Apparently I’m a bad feminist, since Baehr would no doubt look at this bra-wearing, heterosexual, God fearing woman and assume that I’m a Good Christian Belle, not some feminist (since the two are obviously mutually exclusive in his worldview).

But what I really want to hone in on is their reaction to the appropriateness of the word bitch. DeVore objected to the title because of the pairing of the word bitch with Christian – not necessarily because bitch is an offensive and demeaning term in and of itself, regardless of context. Baehr’s reaction is more difficult to gauge. On the one hand he rightly points out that if other groups of women were labeled with the word bitch (i.e. Muslims, Jews, or “Radical Feminists” – who I assume were included because they somehow form their own religious sect of vagina worshipers) they would have a right to express outrage. On the other hand, he says that the real problem is calling certain women names – and then refers to Christians as “easy fodder”. So I’m frankly a little stumped. Is he objecting to the use of the term towards women in general or just Christian women in particular? Since he doesn’t outright object to the word, I’m going to assume that he objects to how the term bitch reflects on Christianity, not necessarily on how it makes women, in general, feel.

Bottom line, the message put forth in both these cases is this: It’s okay to call a woman a bitch, but I’d better not hear you use that term when the woman in question is Christian.

Ummm…ladies? We have a problem. You see, somehow people have decided that there are certain contexts where it’s actually okay to refer to us by derogatory terms like ‘bitch’. The problem arises when they try calling a religious woman a bitch. No, it’s not because of how that word might make the woman feel – don’t be such a ditz. The reason why it’s bad is because it reflects poorly on her God and her religious community. But if someone sees some godless heathen out on the streets, or testifying before congress, or doing some other unwomanly and ungodly thing, you’d better believe she deserves every last “bitch”, “slut”, and “cunt” thrown her way.

Ladies, this isn’t acceptable. At the end of the day, no matter what other words are thrown in the mix -Christian bitch, Buddhist Bitch (which does have a nice alliteration), Vegan bitch, Chocolate covered caramel bitch –  calling a woman a bitch isn’t about any of those other labels – it’s about dehumanizing her as a woman. And because of that it is everyone’s business, not just a specific subgroup’s, to be offended and demand not just an apology but real change in attitudes towards women. Baehr was wrong. The problem isn’t just labeling certain women as bitches – it’s our cultural propensity to validate and reinforce negative stereotypes of women.

When you reduce someone to a label, you rob them of the complexity and the beauty that makes up their humanity. We’ve seen this happen racially with words like nigger, chink, and Jew. Words like bitch, slut, cunt, skank, and others do the same to women. They dehumanize in ways that frequently mar not just our individual personality and identity, but our sexuality as well. It’s no coincidence that the majority of derogatory terms used towards women are sexual –whether in describing our anatomy or our behavior.

Good Christians everywhere – and human beings in general – should be doing what they can to undo these negative stereotypes. A good place to start would be to reflect on how we speak about all women, not just those who share our faith.

Which Came First? Exploring the Link between Depression and Chronic Illness

“She felt a nausea of the soul, a hideous and sickening despair, a melancholy weariness so profound that she was going to die of it. Her last conscious thought was disgust at life; her senses had lied to her. The world was not made of energy and delight but of foulness, betrayal, and lassitude. Living was hateful, and death was no better, and from end to end of the universe this was the first and last and only truth.”

-Phillip Pullman, The Subtle Knife

Depression and chronic illness frequently go hand in hand. When you think about it, it’s hardly surprising. The day in, day out strain of living with an incurable, irreversible condition can be enough to discourage even the most resilient among us. In some cases though, discouragement is too mild a word.

For people like myself, who live with conditions that cause chronic pain, the persistence of our pain can actually create chemical imbalances in the brain, causing clinical depression. We are not sick because we are depressed – as some doctors were fond of theorizing to my parents – but our conditions have very real consequences for our emotional and psychological health.

My own struggle with depression actually predates my diagnosis with CFS and Fibromyalgia. In fact, I can trace its origins to a mild day in March of 1999, just a month after my thirteenth birthday and a few days before the onset of spring. On that Monday in March, I discovered that a good friend of mine, who had been absent from school that day, would never be coming back. She had hung herself at home two days earlier.

My memories of that time are still hazy. I walked around for months in a daze. Sometimes I would resurface and find myself in the middle of class, or walking home from school, or curled up in a ball in my bedroom. When my life started slowly coming back into focus, I began to notice things that weren’t there before: strange twinges in my back, fevers that came and went. Symptoms that could have previously been explained by my depression – weight loss, insomnia, lethargy – suddenly took on frightening new dimensions. A little over six months after my friend was laid to rest, I found myself undergoing the first of many rounds of medical testing.

If I hadn’t fully recovered from my depression at that point, then the experiences of the coming years would only exacerbated the unhealed emotional wounds. The further I slipped into sickness, the deeper my depression grew. Withdrawing from school only compounded the problem, forcing me into a sort of solitary confinement that lasted until well into college.

So the question remains: Did my depression cause my illness, or was it simply masking the underlying condition, waiting to dissipate and reveal what lay underneath? There is some evidence to suggest that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in particular can be triggered by a traumatic experience. My friend’s suicide, and the deep depression it sent me into, would certainly qualify as traumatic. But does that mean that I wouldn’t have gotten sick if she hadn’t killed herself? If I hadn’t gotten depressed? It’s impossible to say and, even if it were, that’s not the kind of burden I would place on the memory of the kind, lovely, and troubled girl that I called my friend.

And really, in the end, does it matter which came first? Doesn’t it all just amount to a chicken and egg type dilemma? Which came first? Who knows? Who cares? Either way we still have chickens, we still have eggs, and the KFC double down is still an atrocious crime against man and fowl. Besides, if there is any merit to this theory, then the trauma of the event, not the depression itself, was the true cause of my illness.

And why bring this up at all? What could this possibly have to do with what I’m trying to do here at Crazy For Sharing? I bring this up, because while talking about chronic illness is hard enough, in some ways talking about depression is even worse. The stigma associated with mental disorders like depression is so profound that people spend their lives suffering in silence, unwilling to speak up for fear that they will be ridiculed, judged, or punished for something that is outside of their control.

Here at Crazy For Sharing, I believe in the capacity of authenticity and vulnerability to rob our sickness and our fears of the power they hold over our lives. I believe that revealing the truth – that we are all of us broken down, insecure, vulnerable – diminishes the lie that says we have to pretend to be impervious to pain and suffering in order to be respected and loved.

That’s why I’m talking about this. I’m taking this opportunity to say here and now that I suffer not only from chronic physical illness, but from a chronic mental disorder. I struggle with depression, and have done so for over a decade. I have had my share of ups and downs. During the good times life feels wonderful; I try to savor every moment, out of fear that I might otherwise forget the joy of what it means to be alive. During the bad times it feels not as though all the joy has been sucked out of the world, but as though there were never any joy to begin with. On those days hope is an illusion, and pain the only truth.  But most days I wander the gray area in between, where hope and pain clash for my attention and I stumble, disoriented by the dissonance in my mind.

I’ve hesitated to bring this aspect of my personal struggle into the conversation, because I was concerned about the confusion it might create. More than that, I think I was afraid that people who read this might be tempted to do what so many doctors have done over the years: write off my entire illness to some mental disorder, or some desperate plea for attention. But given the emotional state I have been in lately, I think it would be helpful – not to mention cathartic – to have this conversation now.

I’m planning on writing a few posts about depression and chronic illness – how they have often been indistinguishable in my own life, how it affects relationships, and how to persist in seeking out healing and hope in the midst of deep mental anguish. There’s no real plan or formula at the moment. I’ll just post new things as they come to me. Before I close, I want to clarify a few things that will hopefully lay the groundwork for whatever comes next:

1.) You will never hear me say that chronic illness or chronic pain is a symptom of a mental disorder. First of all, I am not a psychologist or a doctor, so I will not be offering up advice in areas outside of my scope of knowledge. As I’ve hinted at before, I spent much of my teenage years trying to convince doctors, teachers, and mental health professionals that there was actually something physically wrong with me. While I understand the need to approach medicine holistically, I think it’s a grave disservice to patients with doctors insist that because they can’t figure out what’s wrong, a person’s symptoms must, by default, be psychosomatic. My hope is to explain these things in more detail, so that other people won’t be tempted to fall into those same damaging stereotypes when dealing with sick family members and friends.

2.) You will never hear me referring to anyone as ‘mental’, ‘crazy’, or having ‘issues’. I realize that the name of this blog is Crazy For Sharing and, honestly, sometimes I feel that way. The reason I chose that as the name for my blog is that, given the cultural climate, it often seems crazy to talk about issues that could easily lead to my being discriminated against and judged on the basis of ignorant assumptions. So the name is fitting. However, I recognize that the word crazy can be used to hurt, ridicule, and ostracize people. I recognize that misusing the word is a disservice to people who have mental illnesses. So I will be very, very careful in my choice of language, and invite my readers to point out where they feel I have not lived up to my intended standard. Which brings me to my last point…

3.) I expect the same standards and courtesy from all of my readers. It is so easy to fall into ableist language (something I’ll be discussing soon). Without even thinking about it, we can make others feel isolated, dissected, judged or stereotyped simply by our word choice. I tend to have faith in my readers. Given the unique and serious nature of my blog, I don’t imagine too many people would waste their time reading it, let alone bothering to troll it. So I’ll just say this once for the sake of clarity, while trusting that you already know and accept what I’m going to say: If you comment on any of my posts, be conscious of your language. It would be far more offensive to me if you casually and inappropriately dropped words like ‘crazy’ and ‘schitzo’ than if you employed a strategically placed f-bomb.

And with that, expect more soon. I have a lot to get off my chest on this subject. As always, thanks for sharing in the conversation.

Sketches from the Life of Jesus: Stories of Healing and Faith

Clarification (12/1/11): One of my readers mentioned that they didn’t understand what I meant when I talked about the horrifying atrocities of God. I was referring to a statement I often hear made by non-Christians, “I can’t reconcile Jesus with the God of the Old Testament”. The Old Testament is full of accounts of God allowing entire nations to be massacred because of his wrath and judgment. Even with an understanding of God’s redemption and grace, this can be a horrifying concept. God is terrifying, albeit just, in his anger,  and this divine wrath coexists with his unending mercy, love, and grace. That’s part of the mystery and complexity of who he is, and it’s the confusion that juxtaposition creates for those who want to worship him that I was trying to evoke. Thanks to my readers for your comments and questions. 


There are times when the God I encounter in scripture seems a contradictory confluence of love and rage, capable of profound acts of unrestrained grace one moment and horrifying atrocities the next. He is an object of fear and of praise, and sometimes it seems strange to think that this God is someone who can either know or care about the pain that I have endured.

But when I open the gospels and I encounter God in the flesh – when he speaks and talks and moves through Jesus – I am overwhelmed by the heartfelt compassion, untiring advocacy, and fierce empathy that God demonstrates towards those who live trapped inside a world of their own private pain.

Today I want to begin closing out my discussion on faith and chronic illness with some reflections on this Jesus who I have encountered over the years. Time and time again—when all other avenues of hope seemed lost—I have returned to these stories, searching for a way to connect with this Jesus of Nazareth, the compassionate and giving healer.

Listening With Compassion: Jesus and the Bleeding Woman  

In February of 2000, just days after my fourteenth birthday, I showed up at my doctor’s office for what I thought was a routine visit. Some of my lab results had recently come back, and I was hopeful that they would finally point toward a diagnosis.

I sat down on the examining table while my mom settled into one of the hard plastic chairs next to the door. My doctor pulled out a manila folder and began going over the test results. Every one of them had turned up negative. He explained to me that we were no closer to a diagnosis and the time had come to take a more serious approach.

Then he did something that confused me. He turned to my mother and began talking about what I would need to bring with me – a change of clothes, toiletries, my school books. He also started throwing around words like, ‘leukemia’, ‘bone scan’, and ‘CT’. Fear and anger gripped me as I realized that I wouldn’t be going home that day. All the arrangements had already been made. I was to be admitted to the hospital that afternoon.

This coming February will be my 26th birthday and the twelve-year anniversary of the first night I spent alone and frightened in a hospital room. I am rapidly approaching the point where I will have spent half my life living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, and the thought fills me with equal parts resignation and grief.

Maybe that’s why I’m particularly drawn to the story of the bleeding woman, who suffered for twelve years before an encounter with Jesus radically changed her life:

Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all round to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.’

I usually can’t read this woman’s story without weeping. Not only because I can understand what it’s like to live with a chronic, painful condition, but also because the depth of her suffering goes far beyond the physical. Her illness didn’t just rob her of her health. It left her impoverished and completely cut off from the community of God’s people.

The Jews of Jesus’ day lived by a very strict code of ritual cleanliness. Any woman would be considered unclean during her monthly period because of the constant flow of blood. During that time anything and anyone she touched would also be considered unclean. She would be denied access to places of community and worship until her period passed and she had performed the ritual cleansing and sacrifice that would restore her to God and community.

But what if the bleeding never stopped? What if you had gone to every doctor, spent your last dime, and still you weren’t better? Imagine the isolation, the stigma associated with bleeding for twelve years. For over a decade this woman had been unable to enter a house of worship. She could not go to the temple to pray or hear the rabbis teach. She couldn’t even touch another person out of fear of contaminating them. By the time this woman met Jesus she had lost everything: her money, her status, and her place in the community of God’s people. On top of all this loss and shame, she endured years of physical pain. And still, that day in the noise and chaos of the crowd, she demonstrated that she still retained a spark of hope when she reached out to touch Jesus.

As much as I could say about this beautiful, courageous woman, it’s Jesus who occupies the heart of this story. Because once he realizes what has happened, he immediately stops everything. The people pressing in on him, the incredulity of his disciples, the important matter he was on his way to handle; none of it mattered. At that moment Jesus was only interested in one thing: finding the person who he had inadvertently healed.

When she comes forward, and everyone’s attention shifts to her, she realizes she has no choice but to confess. But she does more than that. She tells him everything. We don’t just learn that she was healed; we learn what that healing meant for her life. And Jesus listens.

When she is finished and he finally speaks, there’s no condemnation. He doesn’t express disgust at being touched by an unclean woman, or revulsion and the intimate details she shares. Instead he says, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease’. Those words are live giving in every way imaginable. There is deep, familial intimacy in the way he calls her Daughter, establishing a relationship with someone who has known only ostracism and shame. There is affirmation and validation of her faith; a faith that she has had few outlets for expression over the past twelve years. And there is a blessing and an invitation to live into the fullness of healing.

In his every action and word, Jesus speaks to each of the deep wounds this woman has experienced as a result of her illness. He could have simply noted that something had happened when she touched his clothes and continued on his way. But that is not the way of Jesus. He insists on entering into our stories and encourages us to share our suffering on our own terms and in our own words. He is neither too busy nor too important to put the world on pause and be completely present to our pain. Jesus’ healing of this bleeding woman may have been inadvertent; his compassion was deliberate.

It’s been twelve years since the night my family said goodbye and left me alone in a small, dark hospital room to await a battery of tests. As I lay there, awake and alone, I had no way of knowing that I would spend a year searching for answers, and over a decade learning to live with the consequences of that discovery.

Throughout it all, in the darkest times when I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, or the promise of better days, I held on to the story of the bleeding woman. I remembered the courage of her faith, and the memory tempered my own bitterness and doubt. But beyond that, I remembered the compassion of Jesus, a compassion that helped me to find the words to tell my own story and restored my faith that God was with me – eager and willing to listen.

It’s Alive!

Hello faithful readers,

I know this site has been silent without explanation for almost two months now. As much as I’d like to say I was camped out at a protester’s settlement and getting bludgeoned with the rest of the 99%, my reasoning is far more capitalistic in nature. Simply put: I’ve started a new job!

Two months ago I started working as a freelance writer. It’s been very exciting to finally get paid to do something I love, but the transition has left little time for my personal writing projects. Now that I’m starting to get a handle on my new work situation, I’m planning on posting on a more regular basis.

To pick up where we left off, I’ll be closing out my discussion on faith and chronic illness with a series of reflections on the healings of Jesus depicted in the gospels. I’ve chosen accounts that have had significance for me over the years, by either helping me find hope or challenging me to reconsider how pain and suffering are compatible with Christian life. The first post will be up today, with others to follow in the coming week or two. After that I’ve planned another series, which will be announced shortly.

Stay tuned and, as always, thank you for all your love and support!

The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away: When Healing Doesn’t Come

I know this post has been a long time coming. Sometime soon I will share what has been happening in my life the past month or so, and why I have been absent for so long. In the meantime, the story below provides a partial answer to that question. This story has been waiting to be told for quite some time. When I decided to open a discussion about sickness and faith—and how those two states interact in my life—I knew that discussion would never be complete without telling this story in its entirety.

Still, vulnerability is not easy, and I confess that for many weeks I have lacked the courage to sit down and write what you are about to read. I pray that in sharing this, one of the thorniest chapters in my struggle to live a life of faith in the midst of sickness, you will be blessed. Faith is not a journey that guarantees easy answers, or even satisfying ones. Sometimes faith is persistence in the face of overwhelming disappointment, and the tenacious belief that hopes deferred will one day become hope fulfilled. This is the story of my persisting hope.      


I can’t remember the first time I prayed for healing, but I can remember the last.

In the beginning I would spend hours lying awake at night, unable to sleep through the pain and anxiety that constantly gripped me. During those long, lonely stretches—waiting for the ink black night to dilute and fade into a watery blue dawn—my mind would drift upward to an invisible God. No words passed between us. I would just lay there, tears streaming down my face and fear caught in my throat, aware that he was somewhere out there, watching me silently fall to pieces. I didn’t realize it back then, but those nights constituted my first of many fruitless vigils.

Sometimes despair is the most primal form of prayer.

I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof. 

Sitting in church I would watch the smiling, contented families around me through a haze of fatigue. Though they were sitting right next to me, they somehow seemed to exist in a world far outside my reach. I tried to reach out, but an impenetrable wall existed between us. From the other side I could hear their prayers, but somehow none of their words could penetrate the intense cold and isolation I felt in my soul.

I didn’t have to ask myself which side of that wall God was on. He was over there, with all the people whose lives weren’t full of bitter disappointment and pain. There was no stirring of God’s presence in my heart. No inkling that he had heard or cared for these people’s earnest prayers. God had abandoned me.

I eat ashes as my food
and mingle my drink with tears
because of your great wrath,
for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.
My days are like the evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.

Eventually I found words to give shape to the intense grief I was experiencing. I realized I wasn’t ready to give up on God, even if it felt like he had given up on me. I began to plead earnestly with him. Those familiar with the five stages of grief will recognize the bent of my prayers:

Denial— “I don’t need you to do anything. In fact, I don’t need you at all.”

Anger—“Why did you let this happen? And why aren’t you saying anything? Why aren’t any of my prayers good enough? What do I have to do to get through to you?”

Bargaining— “If you do this for me—if you heal me—I promise I’ll do anything. You can have my whole life, for the rest of my life. I’ll do anything for you. Just please, take this pain away.”

Depression—“Things aren’t going to get any better. I’m all alone in this.”

Acceptance—“God you obviously aren’t willing to heal me. I don’t know what I did or didn’t do that makes you unwilling, but I guess I have a choice: to accept it and move on or be crushed under the weight of disappointment and the anger of abandonment. So I choose acceptance.”

 Hear my prayer, LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.

Years passed without answers. Eventually I came to accept that this was how my life would be. I learned to operate within the restrictive and ever shifting boundaries of my illness. I curbed my ambitions, my passions, and my future plans to avoid the pain of disappointed hope. I stopped living my life and turn all my energy toward surviving another day.

When I finally transferred to UC Irvine in the fall of 2008 (after a painstaking six years at community college), I was starting over in a new context, with a new Christian community. At first I was reluctant to talk to people about my illness. I didn’t want to deal with the inevitable awkwardness of people wanting to pray for my healing. I was past believing that God listens to those kinds of prayers. But as time went by, and as I experienced emotional healing in other areas of my life, I became more open to the possibility of revisiting that painful chapter in my life. I began to think that maybe, someday, I would be able to ask God again for the one thing I had wanted most for the past twelve years: to be released from my sickness and pain.

But you, LORD, sit enthroned forever;
your renown endures through all generations.
You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favor to her;
the appointed time has come.

The last time I prayed to God for healing was October 30th, 2009. I was at Campus by the Sea, an Intervarsity owned conference retreat center on Catalina Island. During one of our evening seminars, the speaker announced he would be giving us some space to think about areas of our life where we needed God to demonstrate his power and influence. Without hesitation my mind went immediately to my illness. No, I told myself, I don’t want to go there right now. Still, the thought persisted. I tried to push it back, but I knew that there was only one area of my life where I needed God’s power and influence like I needed oxygen. The old wounds—built up over more than a decade of disappointment—resurfaced in an instant. Did my heart have the capacity to take one more battering from the inevitable rejection I was about to experience? I wasn’t sure if I had that much strength. I don’t think I’m ready for this.

I considered approaching a friend or staff member, someone who could pray for me. I figured it would be easier to accept God’s silent rebuff indirectly, via another person’s prayers, than experiencing it first-hand. I was about to get out of my seat, then hesitated. This had all started as an unspoken conversation between God and me almost thirteen years prior—a lonely girl crying in her bed in the middle of the night while a silent God watched her tears spread across her pillow. If I was going to make one last attempt at prayer, I should finish things just as silently and intimately as they had started.

I closed my eyes and, with every fiber of sincerity and humility I possessed, began to pray:

God, all I want is to be healed. I know that you can heal me. I know that you love me. Please, please give me this. Please take this away.

For the LORD will rebuild Zion
and appear in his glory.
He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
he will not despise their plea.

As I sat there, tears streaming down my face, a strange sensation came over me.

I’ve never put much stock in healing accounts, especially given the propensity of televangelists and other charismatic preachers to prey upon the hopes of the gullible. Whenever I’ve seen televised revivals, with people writhing on the floor or fainting and then awakening to find their pain miraculously gone, I’ve always felt slightly embarrassed by the emotional displays and the rapidity with which people are willing to believe. I mention this because what I am about to say may comes across as the ranting of a gullible neophyte to some of my readers (That’s right, neophyte. Look it up. Learning new words is good for you).

I felt this strange physical sensation, a warmth spreading all through my body. At the same time, an enormous weight seemed to be lifted, not from my shoulders but from somewhere deep inside me. Sitting there I tried to figure out exactly what had happened. Part of me didn’t want to hope that my prayer could have been answered. I waited for the speaker to end our session and went to bed that night without telling anyone what I had experienced.

When I woke early the next morning, I lay there for a moment doing what I had done nearly every morning for thirteen years: checking my body for signs of pain. On that morning, I couldn’t detect a single twinge or sore spot. I lay enjoying a sensation that I had entirely forgotten: the complete absence of pain. Remembering the night before, I began to allow myself to believe that God had finally answered my prayers. On the boat ride home that afternoon I pulled one of my friends aside and, in a whispered conversation, told her what had happened. We cried together, and thanked God for what he had done.

As the days went by and I continued to experience a complete lack of pain and fatigue, I began to share my story with more people. A week after our retreat I stood up in our fellowship meeting of roughly fifty people and shared my testimony. I was so excited, so full of joy at the new possibilities for my life. My world had literally changed overnight, and the only way I could mentally handle the transition was by reassuring myself that I had all the time in the world to figure out what it meant and what to do next.

When I finally crashed it was sudden, ugly, and violent. One morning I woke up feeling like all of the pain that had been absent had simply been waiting, building in intensity so it could crash over me in one pounding wave. Overnight I was transported thirteen years into the past, with pain and fatigue more intense than anything I had experienced since my symptoms first appeared. The cruel symmetry of the situation was not lost on me.

In the span of a single day I seemed to relive all the trauma of my original diagnosis on fast forward. In the morning I was in denial, by evening I had blazed through anger and bargaining, arriving at depression when I broke the news to my friends in the middle of our leadership team meeting. I could barely choke the words out through my tears.

  Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.” 

Their response was immediate. Gathering around me, some of them cradling me while I shook with sobs, they began to pray. They said the things we all say when faced with the inexplicable:

God, we don’t understand, but we know you are good. Amanda is in pain. Please be with her. Comfort her, and give her peace.

And in that moment I found myself at the same crossroad I had been at as a young girl. On one hand, I could continue to blame God, using this experience to reinforce every negative idea I’d ever held about his callousness, his cruelty, and his contempt for human suffering. On the other hand, I could acknowledge the beautiful gift that had been mine for that brief window of time; a gift that demonstrated God’s incredible capacity for empathy, compassion, and love.

Taking a deep breath, I chose a different path—the harder path. It’s a path I’ve been walking ever since, precariously positioned between hope and suffering. And one day—I’m not sure how long from now— I will find the courage to pray once more.