Anxiety and Shame in Chronic Illness
The day was sunny and beautiful as we drove into the parking lot, but I did not feel much beauty in my heart. In fact, sudden tears rose unbidden to the surface as the medical center came into view. I had been to this same parking lot many times in the past year, but I had carefully kept my back turned to the door that led to the Infusion Center. But this day, I could no longer avoid it. I was headed straight to the same area that had left me reeling almost exactly a year ago. I could feel my heart pounding as my husband wheeled me into the room where the nurse led us.
Prompted by blood pressure considerably higher than normal, I told the nurse about my last visit there for an infusion that went horribly wrong. She casually remarked, “It sounds almost like some PTSD is going on in you,” and then she brought me a warm blanket and pillow for my arm that was having an RA flare. Her comment, given with such kindness, caused me to look more deeply at this anxiety in my heart.
The post traumatic stress I was feeling gave me an inkling of the anxiety and shame that has become part-and-parcel of chronic illness for so many of us:
- memories of failed medications
- the haunting fear of what might happen with the next treatment
- neglect when medical staff turn us away
- the shame of feeling left behind by a health-full culture, both inside and outside the church
I pondered these thoughts as I sat with my Savior the next day, as the after-effects of the infusion settled in. They were nothing like the deep trauma I had felt last year, but they were enough to remind me just how awful those symptoms had actually been. Yet I also knew I had been showered in the grace and kindness of my Savior, who had not once left me alone. So I asked Him, “What is the depth of this stress I’m feeling?”
Carry Each Other’s Burdens
Instead of lifting me away from the uncomfortable side effects, He reminded me of every medication failure I have been through. He asked me to remember and lift before Him every time as a child I had sat alone while my mother faced her own medication failures. I had thought myself strong enough then to carry those burdens and hurts by myself. My mother had often asked for prayer, but how often had I asked for prayer for her? How often had I held back from asking for prayer for myself?
These burdens we carry are too heavy for us to bear alone or to hide away in the recesses of our hearts. Jesus wants to uncover our anxieties and show us that He is with us, but He has asked us to be with one another too.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
Sometimes our past and our present pain threaten to isolate us:
- “I’ve already asked for prayer, I don’t need to ask again.”
- “Why would anyone want to pray for me? I’m just a nobody stuck at home.”
- “My pain is so small, compared to others. I shouldn’t waste anyone’s time with my request.”
- “If I ask for prayer here, I might be hurt again. I just can’t risk another let-down.”
- “My weakness makes me feel too shameful to ask for prayer.”
God Will Carry Every Weakness, Every Pain, Every Shame
Scripture doesn’t use the same dis-qualifiers we do. Our Lord asks us to lift each other before Him, and promises that HE, Himself, will carry every weakness, every pain, every shame we have ever felt.
Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22)
He will carry us, burden and all. No matter what is causing the shaking in our bodies or minds, God will keep our hearts and souls secure in Him.
For me, the anxiety of facing another infusion after 24 different failed medications was too hard to bear alone. The evening I came home from the infusion, I heard His conviction falling fresh on my heart. I had not asked for prayer from the very community that my heart is so connected with here at the Chronic Joy Prayer Pond. I posted my prayer later that night, and I will post it again soon, the next time I start another new treatment. Jesus has led us here to the Prayer Pond to join hands and hearts together with Him as we carry each other to Him and lay our burdens at His feet.
Prayer for Shame and Anxiety
Are you facing shame or anxiety about your prayer requests? I would love to pray with you today:
Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank you for calling us to pray. Thank you for the grace You have poured upon us, inviting us to lift our burdens to You. Would You help us to take the risk, to voice our fears, and share our requests with each other? This world has worn us down with its constant call for independent strength. We see our weaknesses and know we cannot carry them by ourselves. Show us how YOU have already lifted the label of shame away from us. Help us to embrace the new name You have given us: Your own children in Your own family. Help us to join our prayers and our praise with each other before You now.
In Your precious name we pray,
VISIT THE CHRONIC JOY PRAYER POND
You’re invited to the Chronic Joy Prayer Pond. Toss your prayer requests, updates, and shouts of praise into the pond, then watch them ripple with radical hope and compassionate change throughout our community and beyond. Then be sure #PrayItForward by clicking the “I PRAYED FOR THIS” button to let the requester know you prayed for them.
We are all blessed to have a place to pray and people to pray with and for us. Who do you know needs to toss a prayer or praise into the pond, and who might link arms with us in prayer?
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Board Member and Prayer Coordinator
You can find Bettie blogging from her home in a small town in southeast Wisconsin - at bettiegraseasons.com, walking forward with Jesus, in the middle of her own pain and weaknesses from multiple chronic illnesses. The beauty of nature is a joy that calls to Bettie, as do her family and nine young grandchildren. She and her husband have been married for over 40 years and take great joy in their weekend coffee breaks together.