Editor’s Note: I know the writer of this essay very well. I interviewed her for the Dennett-LaScola study of non-believing clergy, work with her on the blog and recently joined her in Toronto to see a documentary in which we both appeared!
She is fit, energetic and cheerful. She tells me excitedly about her family and her many projects. She doesn’t talk about the pain, however, that is a constant in her life. She has made a kind of peace with it that I can’t imagine, never having experienced such pain. She puts it in perspective here.
By Catherine Dunphy
Late summer I was diagnosed with Lymphocytic Colitis- an autoimmune disease most likely caused by my treatment for another autoimmune disease – Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).
Needless to say, this new diagnosis has taken some getting used to. Actually, it has upended my life.
It’s hard not to feel smothered by the avalanche of autoimmune diagnoses.
In many ways, it feels like they have hijacked my life. I’m constantly bombarded by pain and symptoms. But I want to move forward, so I keep attempting to manage and medicate – to be as well as I can be.
So much of having a chronic illness is the inertia that grabs hold of your life and stops progress. You are left to just be in that moment – aware of the tediousness of holding out for relief. You look for relief in the form of drugs or in the abyss of sleep that you hope will be restorative.
Mostly it’s an exercise in acceptance. I’m not giving up.
But I know I can’t stop this train track my immune system is blazing down.
I try to appease myself by managing what I eat, how much I eat, when I sleep and for how long. I monitor how much I stand and if I can walk with minimum pain. I think constantly of these little things that most people don’t have to think about at all. And it is exhausting.
Nope. There is no god that can heal me. No faith that can transform bone deformed by inflammation. No saint that can restore me to health.
Giving up the god of my childhood meant giving up an intangible secret meaning that was imprinted in all my suffering.
Now I am confronted by my acceptance that my suffering has no meaning. I am not a beacon of hope for others. I’m not closer to Jesus because I understand suffering. My pain does not purify me. I cannot and will not offer it up.
It just is.
I like to think of my pain experience as similar to the way the moon is scarred by the impact of asteroids colliding with its orbit.
Both events are indeterminate and void of intent. They happened and will continue to happen. There is no stopping it.
I must accept that this is nothing personal. It’s just a statistical anomaly. And I’m an ordinary person, living a chronic reality.
Next step, #tomorrow.
Bio: Catherine Dunphy – A humanist, atheist and former Roman Catholic chaplain, Catherine is a member of the Clergy Project and former Executive Director. She is also author of From Apostle to Apostate – the Story of the Clergy Project, published by Pitchstone Press in July, 2015.
>>Photo Credits:By US gov – US gov, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1819650