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#IAmASurvivor- Elizabeth

#IAmASurvivor are stories from women of all walks of life, telling their stories of survival. Everybody is a survivor and all stories deserve to be told. These stories are all in their own words.


College was the first start to the fire that burns brightly in my soul today.


I was brought to the end of myself.


It all started with a car accident where the car flipped over and two of my friends fell on top of me in the back seat. I started having back spasms that caused me to involuntarily tear up from the pain. I would lay on the floor and stretch at night to help them go away, but my ability to sleep started to suffer.


One day, I was at lunch with some friends, holding a fork, when the fork started shaking. My hand was moving without any conscious effort on my part. A friend looked at me with a questioning look, and I willed my hand to be still. Soon I couldn’t hold my hand still anymore and let my friends know I wasn’t feeling so well. I went back to my dorm hall. As I stumbled down the hall toward my room, another friend asked if I was okay.



My body stopped holding me up, not only because my legs gave way but because my entire body was convulsing like I was having a seizure. A trip to the hospital, hours of flailing in bed, and hundreds of tests. Tears, prayers, singing. A teddy bear. Warm hugs. Finally a diagnosis: psychosomatic. My soul was crushed, as described by my father, “Your whole body just stopped fighting to hold you up.”


Then, hours of pain laying on the bed at home, unable to read, and having to be held up as I walked to the bathroom. Visits from my pastor and elders, sitting with me in the pain. Hundreds of visits to doctors. Several diagnoses: anemia, anxiety, depression, vitamin B12 deficiency, antibodies against my intrinsic factor, gaba deficiency, insomnia, iron deficiency, vitamin D deficiency, severe allergy to mold, and I think that’s it?



I trekked back to school with my suitcase full of pills and a housing reassignment due to my health issues. I slumped through my junior and senior years. Finally, miraculously, I graduated. What do do with an English major though? I was tired, in pain, and forgetful ALL THE TIME.


I decided to try to work a desk job. This was terribly difficult because I realized my body doesn’t like it when I sit still for too long. So, I continued to look for my calling. I went back to school for Deaf Education and found that I had found my calling in teaching deaf and hard of hearing students.


Last year, a doctor from my church looked over my paperwork and thought I might have Fibromyalgia. She sent me to my first rheumatologist appointment. Through testing, my doctor agreed that I have Fibromyalgia. Through physical therapy, diet, writing, and counseling, I was able to learn how to live with my Fibromyalgia. I am learning that I am not nor will ever be perfect. I am learning to accept help from others as well as realizing that I am stronger than I ever thought I was.



I survived pain, yes, but the most amazing thing I have survived is the shame of having a chronic illness.


I have survived my negative thoughts toward myself, saying that I’m not enough, saying that I am a burden. I have survived others’ misunderstanding and judgement of my chronic illness from those who simply don’t have a clue what fibromyalgia really is. I am investing in myself through exercise, meditation, reading, counseling, relationships, rest, and, most importantly, remembering who I truly am in Christ.


I have survived and learned to thrive despite, no, because of my illness. I put ticket stubs into my journal to remember when I am having a fibromyalgia flare (when the symptoms are particularly difficult), all the wonderful things I am able to do on my good days. Thankfulness has become part of my daily routine. I remember when I was unable to read and relish my reading all the more. I remember when I didn’t know if I would be able to hold down a full-time job and am thankful that I am a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing. I remember being unable to sleep, and I thank God that I am able to rest.



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