I’ve felt a little like a fraud lately.
In March, FAbM Base launched its podcast, and on their second episode, the first with a guest, that guest was me. I shared my story of going from birth control to diagnoses and treatment of PCOS and endometriosis through fertility awareness and NaPro technology. I shared how healed I felt after going off birth control and finding real help—not just from my hormonal conditions but for my fibromyalgia, too. My symptoms of chronic pain and fatigue basically disappeared, I said.
It was true. My anti-inflammatory diet (no gluten, dairy, or processed sugar) treated not only my PCOS but my fibromyalgia, too. When I recorded the interview last fall, I was experiencing a return of my fibromyalgia symptoms, but I figured it was a short-lived flare-up due to pregnancy and childbirth.
Ten and a half months after having my daughter, and my fibromyalgia symptoms are still here, and I’ve been not only struggling with how to deal with those symptoms while caring for an active infant who’s in about the 95th percentile for size. I’ve also been struggling with feeling like a liar and a fraud. Do I need an asterisk by every interview I’ve done and every article I’ve written about my health journey?
The answer to this question came while I was reading Danielle Walker’s memoir, “Food Saved Me: My Journey of Finding Health & Hope through the Power of Food.” Walker is a cookbook author and blogger whose grain-free, dairy-free recipes are the rare magical kind that still taste like “regular food” but can help someone with allergies or food sensitivities manage his or health and still eat delicious food. She tells her story of how diet has helped improve her health (she has severe ulcerative colitis) and also describes her fear of being a fraud when she still has debilitating and even dangerous flare-ups while on her diet. Her husband has to remind her of what she wrote on her own blog: “There are always occasional bumps on the road when you’re battling an autoimmune disease, but you just have to keep your eyes on the horizon and keep pushing forward to the smooth and straight parts.”
I never claimed that you could cure fibromyalgia, at least not in an interview or an article. I think I’d convinced myself that I was cured, though. And just like ulcerative colitis, there is no cure. There are ways you can manage symptoms, and there are times when you might feel great. But, there is no cure, and there are always “bumps on the road.”
I lived most of my 20s in fear that I would never feel well enough to be pregnant or care for a child. When I felt at my healthiest, I let go of that fear, but I never prepared myself for the reality of parenting with chronic illness—of getting up in pain and carrying on anyway. Now, I’m scrambling to catch up. I’m putting in the work to build my strength, but it will take time, and I am not a patient person. I’m learning patience—motherhood is a training ground for this virtue—but I need to remember to be patient not just with my daughter but with myself.
My Catholic faith is my saving grace, literally. It reminds me that I don’t have to do this on my own; that I can and must rely on God to carry me. But, it also reminds me that healing is a process that will only end, God willing, in heaven. There will always be physical and emotional challenges here. Acceptance of this reality is one step in that healing process (and it’s an ongoing struggle, too). It’s not a giving up; it’s an acknowledgment that I can always become healthier, but I can never heal myself fully. And that’s OK.
I can be a good mother with these limitations that my body puts on me, because every mother has limitations. We are all imperfect and broken. Hopefully, my struggle with my own imperfections and brokenness will actually make me a better mother. Hopefully, someday, my daughter will know that it is OK to be imperfect and broken. Hopefully, she’ll know that whatever challenges God gives her, she can work on them, with them, and through them on her own path toward sanctification, because she’s seen me do it.
That’s my prayer, anyway.