It was a pretty autumn day—the kind I normally love—but I felt anything but happy as I scrolled through social media. Almost exactly a year ago, a good friend of mine had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and apparently today she was participating in a walk to raise awareness for diabetes research along with some of our mutual friends. A little more scrolling informed me that this entire month was National Diabetes Awareness Month. I knew that diabetes was not an easy diagnosis—especially as a sixteen-year-old—and I felt for my friend. But I had been very sick for almost two years with a chronic fatigue illness that encompassed a revolving door of tests, doctors, and debilitating symptoms. Suddenly I was extremely angry and resentful. Where was my awareness walk? Where was my awareness month? I had never had any of that. It just didn’t feel fair.
I work with children on a daily basis, and they will often exclaim that something “isn’t fair.” My standard response is a brisk, “Life isn’t fair.” But I began to understand what they mean. I didn’t want a literal walk; ironically, the nerve damage in my legs means that my legs become tingly and then numb if I’m on my feet for too long. I just wanted some kind of recognition. I loved my friend and I didn’t want to diminish her suffering, but I also felt like my suffering was not validated. However, this was a double-edged sword: my family and I had chosen to not be vocal on social media about my illness because we didn’t want endless medical advice from well-meaning people who didn’t really understand what I was going through. As a result, I began to discover that many of my closest friends had no idea just how sick I really was and am.
These thoughts bounced around in my head for a few days until I finally did what I should have done originally: prayed and turned to Scripture. I learned that suffering produces endurance, which produces character, which produces hope—and hope does not put us to shame (Romans 5:3-5). I remembered that although I may feel trapped in my body, I am a prisoner of nothing but hope (Zechariah 9:12). I was reminded that love does not envy (1 Corinthians 13:4), because frankly, I was very envious of my friend—I laid in bed unable to move and watched her receive attention on social media as I got nothing. And as I prayed for my friend’s illness instead of praying for mine, I felt my heart softening. It’s not a competition to see who can suffer the most, I realized. Who am I to seek attention for my sickness? Invisible illnesses are no less real. I know it is there, and that should be enough.
Your suffering is validated even if it is silent. In fact, I’d say it’s validated even more that way. My friend is not wrong to share about her illness; I think raising money to find a cure for diabetes is a very worthy cause. But suffering alone forces me closer to Jesus. He is the one who can help me best throughout this illness journey, so He should be my go-to confidant instead of social media. I have found that keeping this aspect of my life removed from others (except for my parents as we discuss symptoms, a lovely group of Christian ladies who are also sick, and occasionally a friend who needs to understand why I can’t go hiking) actually means that I feel closer to the Lord than ever. I am striving to be selfless, to not complain about my illness, and to draw closer to Jesus through all of my days in bed. And in the meantime, I’m off to pick out a gift for my friend’s first diaversery.
Hailey Hudson is a young blogger, author, and freelance writer from the mountains of north Georgia. She loves Jesus, Harry Potter, and her beagle puppy, Sophie. Learn more by following her blog.