It's Sunday. I dressed in not-tennis-shoes, brushed on some lip gloss, played a couple half-asleep run-throughs of today's choir special, and arrived at church looking healthy, collected, and excited to play the piano. My friends knew I'd been home sick last week, so I had a few of these cute little conversations:
"A little. It's been kind of rough lately."
"So you're doing good now?"
"Yeah..." (sure, we'll go with that.)
Why do I say I'm ok? Because the other person smiles and nods expectantly, waiting just for that reassurance: I'm a Christian, I know better than to not be ok, so of course I'm strong enough to handle any circumstances. Sure, I'm tired, but obviously I'm dealing with it well enough, because I'm at church and I just played the piano.
What if someone had asked me how I was today, and I had honestly told him?
"What have you been up to? Are you doing alright?"
"No, not really. I'm dealing with a relapse of an illness that's affecting my physical and mental health. I've had to stop playing the piano, doing things with my family, and making friends, and instead spend more than all my energy trying to take care of myself. I can deal with the fatigue, but the illness affects my ability to think clearly and has been causing anxiety attacks, which have been hard for me to cope with."
That's more than people are usually bargaining for. We're supposed to be ok. We should be handling whatever life throws are way. To admit otherwise is just not done. You don't tell people you cried yourself to sleep last night from depression or fatigue-induced anxiety. You don't mention that every second you were at work or church, you were desperately praying for help from God for the strength to stand, to play the piano, to stay calm and think clearly in the midst of sensory overload, for emotional comfort and relief from life.
You say, "I'm doing okay..."
But I'm exhausted from lying. I'm in fact not okay right now. THAT is okay. I know I will be. I'm just not there yet. And I know that the first step is to recognize that I'm not alright, and that it is fine and not against the Bible to feel this way. I was talking with my sister Emily about my frustration at missing a few days of piano practice (again!) this week, and she told me, "Lizzie, for right now, you're just going to have accept that you're not normal." I've never thought of myself as normal, anyway. I used to be that weird kid who loved school, hated all the fun social events, and thought she was married to the piano. But this is a completely different kind of weirdness. Now I'm the smart, talented adult who's...living with her parents (something I always vowed I'd never do). Who's not working full-time on the dream career she'd been working toward since she was a kid. Who's separated from her spouse...er, instrument.
But I need to let that be ok. This season is intense and scary, but I know my health will improve because it's happened before. And in the moment, no matter how alone I feel, I know God is staying right by my side. He sustains me when I cannot sustain myself. It's ok that I'm not ok because everything doesn't depend on me. It depends on God. He's not sick. He's not anxious or confused. And He's not about to let anything ruin my gifts, my talents, or my life. So I have hope. I have a powerful best Friend. Because He is with me, I can relinquish control and let Him work while I rest through this and trust that in the end, everything will be ok.