Archives For fear

The following is a guest post by Mandy Karo. I first met Mandy in college when we both joined Pi Zeta Phi during college. After hearing about my diagnosis Mandy reached out to me as she is also living with Lupus. I am so thrilled to have her share her story. She has wonderful insight, show her some love! 

Middle school is a tough time for most kids. When I was in eighth grade, I was in the midst of a very difficult transition with my two best friends. We had been inseparable in fifth, sixth, and seventh grade. I remember the gym teacher saying weMandy's guest post were “joined at the hip.” But in eighth grade, they were drifting away from me and becoming a part of the popular girls group. For a young teen this felt like the ultimate abandonment and rejection. I remember feeling a lot of loneliness, stress, and anger. It was in the middle of this drama that something much worse was piled on to make my teen years even harder. I was diagnosed with Lupus.

I had been having odd symptoms for a while. In sixth grade I started having strange stomach aches. The doctors thought I might have ulcers so I had to have a stomach x-ray. It was awful—the stuff you have to drink so they can x-ray you is disgusting! There were no ulcers found so life went on. In seventh grade I began feeling tired in the afternoons. But what happened in eighth grade was what led to my diagnosis. I started getting purple spots on my feet and ankles, especially when I was upset or stressed out. My feet and ankles would also swell up. At first we thought maybe I was allergic to the laundry detergent my mom used but switching it didn’t help. The worst time was when one of my teachers accidentally ran over my ankle with a TV cart. The purple spots showed up and I got so swollen I couldn’t walk on that foot. It hurt to put shoes on.

When we showed my family doctor the spots, she was perplexed so she looked up what it could be. She named off a number of possibilities and one of them was Lupus. I really had no idea what Lupus was, but I had heard the name before, and I knew it was some sort of serious disease. I started to cry. We were sent to Children’s Hospital in Denver to see a rheumatologist. They did blood work and the doctor asked me a few questions about my symptoms. Then just like that, he told me I had Lupus, gave me some packets about it, and prescribed medications for me to take. It felt odd that it was so quick. Even my parents continued on acting normal. Didn’t they know that I was just diagnosed with an awful, potentially life-threatening disease? Shouldn’t we all be crying or yelling or something? I know that they were just trying not to freak me out. Inside they were scared too.

I’ve been diagnosed with Lupus for thirteen years now. I deal with fatigue, unexplained fever, swollen joints or muscles, sensitivity to the sun, susceptibility to sickness, and the spots (which are called purpura and are caused by bleeding underneath the skin). The medication I take has helped me in controlling the flares. I know I am actually very lucky because many people with Lupus have much worse symptoms, and thankfully my symptoms are not life threatening.

There are a lot of questions that come with having Lupus. Will my symptoms get worse? Will I be able to have a healthy pregnancy? Will I have the energy for a full time job? Will I have the energy to raise children? Will the men I date be able to handle the fact that I have Lupus or will it make them want to head for the hills? The real question becomes, what do I do with all of these fears and anxieties?

When any sort of fear comes into our lives, no matter what it is, we must remember the power of God. God is bigger and stronger than any scary thing that looms in our path. Just imagine the universe in its incredible vastness and remember that God created it! That is power. Then remember that he loves you. When something bad happens in life, we might be tempted to ask if God loves us. If God loves me, why did he allow me to get a disease? But that question is focused on the physical, and God focuses on the spiritual. Yes, bad things happen on this earth. But God allowed his son to die for us in order that we might have a new life. That is love. This world is temporary, and we must use the struggles that come with it to strengthen our relationship with God.

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“You are my strength, I watch for you; you, God, are my fortress,” Psalm 59:9 (NIV) 

This week I have been exhausted. No amount of going to bed early will help and coffee won’t do the trick. Sometimes this is just life with lupus. I have only known about my having this disease since May but the process of finding out what was going on with me began back in January. I started to notice that my fingers would turn bright white and go numb when I was cold. When I am saying white I mean stark white and it would take a solid 10 to 15 minutes before my fingers would turn back to normal. It was really alarming and I wasn’t sure what was wrong so I took a picture of them and posted it to Instagram and then I took that picture and showed it to my family doctor. At that point we began the process that lead me to my diagnosis. So many things that I have struggled with began to make sense as they were signs of my lupus yet I was unaware and by themselves they seemed harmless enough to not got to the doctor. But even then there were things that I had gone to the doctor for and it was missed, like several years back I went to the ER for chest pain and it was said that I had inflamed cartilage causing the pain but in fact it was my lupus. My symptoms were wide-spread at first so they were not being noticed and lupus is a disease that has times where it is active, flare ups, and times of remission so it wasn’t until this May that I learned what was truly going on with me.

No one wants to hear that they have a disease that they will have to deal with for the rest of their life. It stinks! But at the same time I can’t focus on that! I may not know the reason behind all this, but it is the road that has been set before me. During the long months of waiting I had no idea what was going to be determined and I had my moments of worry, but I truly believe that God gave me the strength to not focus on all the “what ifs” that were so easily there. I felt his presence during this entire process. He has a plan for us all, we may not understand that plan and guess what… that’s okay because it’s in His hands.

Every day looks different. There are good days and bad. And sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s okay to have a bad day.

Every flare up looks different.

Today, and this week I have struggled with fatigue, but tomorrow is a new day.

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4 (NIV)

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” Luke 12:25 (NIV)

I believe that we all have specific struggles that are harder for ourselves than they might be for other people. Certain things are just not a struggle for some people and I think that we all have certain struggles so that it causes us to lean on God more, trust Him and have faith. As many of you know from earlier blog posts I struggle with anxiety/worry. I believe this is my hurdle that I am supposed to over come with God’s help. To be honest there are some days or weeks that are great, it feels like it isn’t even work. But then there are other days when it feels like I am right back at the beginning before I ever even realized this was my struggle, having anxiety and worrying over everything. I pray pretty much every day that God will take this struggle away and heal me of it. I keep praying and waiting. Last night though God brought something to my attention. Before He will heal me of this I first have to realize that I have to give everything to God and believe in His power, authority and plan for my life. See, here was my problem… when there would be something that I would start to worry about my husband would tell me to pray about it and my response would be… of course I’ll pray, but it may not be in God’s plan. What I kept telling myself was that I would pray about the situation but it didn’t mean that the horrible wasn’t still God’s plan. I realized last night that deep down I was never truly letting it go and giving it to Him. I was almost afraid that if I did then that would mean the bad would have to happen, almost like He would test me instantly of my faith by making the worst occur. I know this is not how He works, I know that because I put my faith in Him does not mean that the worst will automatically happen to test my faith, yet for some reason I was telling myself it was. This is what it came down to last night when God was opening my eyes… I can not change anything by worrying or having anxiety, I am only hurting myself. When I give my fears to Him and truly give them up then He will give me peace and the strength to get through anything that comes my way. Good and bad will happen, that is just part of life, but when I live in peace and faith in God then I will be able to face any circumstance head on. And most important (for me)… God will not make my worst nightmares come true once I give it all to Him, He loves me beyond understanding so if something bad happens He will carry me through!

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 (NIV) 

I believe everyone struggles with worry on some level, just some people more than others. Several months ago I sat down and really tried to figure out what was the trigger for why this was such an issue for me. See, I grew up in a great family, good home and there was not really anything traumatic that happened. My grandma died when I was in the 8th grade and that was hard on me, but that was honestly the only thing I could pin point that was traumatic… because she died unexpectedly. But, I still was not a worry as a teen, this was something that came about as I have grown up. Then I think I figured it out. My aunt died when I was in college, very unexpected and she was young too. I think that really hit home for me. Its like I always knew that our life was a short span of time, but when my aunt died it just clicked! My grandma had heart issues and there were speculations that my aunt  had heart/health issues that caused her death. I think I allowed this to really freak me out because it is something beyond our control and I hate not having any control. My worry really improved during my pregnancy when I read the book I have talked about before, Praying Through Your Pregnancy. But, then at church things really came together…. what our preacher said that really hit home for me during a series called I Quit. This particular week was I Quit Living in Fear, he said that “whatever you fear the most you trust God the least with.” What a realization! After that things have been so different. I do my best to live a healthy lifestyle but beyond that my health is not in my control. I must give it to the One whose hands I am in! What a freeing feeling it is to live with out the extra weight of worry. So… the question is then, what is the root to your worry? What are you going to do about it?

“But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—” Psalm 103:17 (NIV) 

“All I am I owe to my mother.”  George Washington

What a simple quote this is, yet it makes me stop and think. Our jobs as a mom is never over, not only that, its one of the most important roles we will have. The parents a child has in their life will be what molds them into the adult they will become. So thinking about that makes me think about what kind of parent I want to be, how I want my children to turn out when they are grown. Am I living a life that sends the message of the legacy I wish to leave behind? The verse talks about fearing the Lord and His love and righteousness will be with not only our children but our grandchildren as well. I believe that this doesn’t mean necessarily to be afraid of God but to have respect for Him and honor Him, a reverent fear. So I ask myself… am I living in a way that honors, respects and shows a reverent fear for Him? Or, am I living a life that says the complete opposite? How I live my life will affect more than just me, it will affect all the generations to come in my family specifically, let alone other people I may never meet. If I want to teach my children the most important thing in life, loving God and putting Him first, then I must teach them by showing them! Think about it, do your children see you praying, reading the bible, worshipping and living a life willing to go where He says go? The most important gift I can give to my children is teaching them about God. The legacy that I want to leave to my children is one that is full of honoring God, loving Him, respecting Him and following His will, so now I must make sure that my life reflects the legacy I want to leave behind. What legacy do you want to leave behind?