Updated: Oct 5, 2019
I don't talk about the dark days often. After all, who wants to dwell in the dark? But the hard seasons of my life have shaped so much of the happiness that I find now and hearing stories from other's struggles, growth, and pursuit of healing has helped greatly. I pray that my story can help someone in some small way. We all have a story worth telling and a struggle worth sharing. Just as we all have beautiful light to share with the world too - and even when we share our darkness, what shines through to someone else can be light.
An unanswered prayer. Years and years of unanswered prayer. Depression, pain, unable to find rest, peace, or sleep. When so many parts of my life were going right... my body was telling me it was all wrong. It's a hard place to be. It's a hard thing to explain to your spouse, to your family, to your friends. Depression can look like being ungrateful. Depression can look like being overdramatic. Depression can look like not being able to handle the "real world" like so many adults can. Depression can look like laziness. Worrying about what depression can look like to others can add another level on top of it... then it can pile on so high, you stop caring altogether.
Pain. On the outside to someone who can't see it and can't understand it... Hidden pain can look like choosing to do what you want and not having the energy to do what you don't want. Pain can look selfish. Pain can look dramatic. Pain can look lazy. Pain can look confusing. Pain can cause immense guilt. When you push yourself through pain and then reach your max others feel that if you got through all you did before you can get through all you have left to do... But sometimes there isn't anything left to give.
Did I mention my days got dark? Yeah, probably not what you expected. My sunny disposition does not lend itself to diving into darkness. Let me explain why I am going back there...
What looked like years of unanswered prayer was really years of building. Building what? Building the stories... Year after year of darkness, doctor after doctor without answer, reaching a diagnosis only to learn its a "life long" thing... all raised the stakes for when God decided to make a move. When God doesn't answer your prayer it's not because he thinks you are "better off" living in your current situation... If you're praying for healing how could God possibly reason it is "better" for one NOT to receive it at that moment... it's not "better" it's "bigger." It is a part of a bigger picture we couldn't possibly understand. It's a part of a bigger story or a bigger way to show his glory when he answers it later rather than sooner. Hindsight is 20/20. Hindsight looks a little more like "his sight" as I learn and grow.
If I had to put a time stamp on the number of years I am looking back on in hindsight as my years of unanswered darkness - I'd say it was seven. Seven years. There was much light found in those years too and people who knew me through them might be surprised to hear that... but everything I was worried about depression and pain “looking like” (everything I listed above)... so I hid it from most.
I go into more detail as far as symptoms, diagnosis, and doctor's visits in My 7 Year Diagnosis blog post.
Seven years later, my prayer was not answered in a diagnosis like I thought it would be. It turns out that my depression and pain was a result of a tumor growing on my pituitary gland and it rests on my brain and optical nerve - which makes it inoperable if I wish to keep my eyesight.
Living with this tumor looks different every day. I initially took medication to shrink it in size. My tumor thrives on hormones - hormones are "food" to this tumor - so how do you get it to stop growing? You stop the production of the hormones that feed it the most. How do you live without these hormones? You take synthetic versions to supplement. Synthetic versions don't trigger the tumor in the same way... and they also don't work in your body the same way either. Basically, you become a hot mess of hormone dysfunction... think mid-life crisis meets menopause meets quite possibly the devil himself raging inside your body... yeah, that sounds about right.
The good news was this process could have taken up to two years to get the tumor shrunk to a more manageable size. The fact that it only took six months... I give that glory to God and many prayers from family and friends.
Once the size was manageable I stopped the medication treatment. This way the doctors could monitor the tumor's growth rate - since it took 7 years for it to get to this size... the hope is that I can have a few years off of medication before symptoms start again and we can shrink it before it gets as bad as it did before and the hormone replacement treatment will be even shorter the earlier we decide to treat it. It's an ebb and flow kind of thing...
Through all of this havoc on my hormones pregnancy was something the doctors cautioned as unlikely... but my doctor knew my hopes for carrying a child of my own and encouraged us that with help of injecting certain hormones directly in my pelvic area... would my "lady area" absorb them a little better without affecting my "tumor area" as much. She said she would do three rounds before it would be too many hormones and time rethink.
I share more detail of this process in my Journey to Ren blog post.
It was after that third treatment, literally days before my next appointment where I thought we would have to say "it didn't work" that we found out we were pregnant with Ren. Once again. God showed up. I started to like the season of him finally "showing up." I mean, he really had been there the whole time... but he wasn't giving me what I was asking for in prayer... so it wasn't quite the same. Building seasons are remarkable to look back at... but are not where you want to be... I'd rather be in the show-up season, the season where you are at the top of the skyscraper God used story after story to build... but we know life (and God) don't quite work that way.
Pregnancy was a miracle for us... but it was also a gamble. The risks were high. All of the hormones that enter your body can either cause exponential growth for a tumor like mine... or temporary or even complete remission. How? I best understand it as when my hormones reach a certain level (specifically prolactin) in my body naturally it signals to my tumor that there is no need to produce and it shuts off. So why couldn't they just give me MORE prolactin in medication form and stop the tumor from growing? Because the brain is too smart for that and can tell its synthetic... so it's an all or nothing situation. Kinda weird and I am no doctor... but trust me... it's complicated.
The reverse can also happen... your body can not produce that "maximum" magical number needed to shut the tumor off and it grows rapidly during pregnancy which cannot be treated and leads to many health issues and risks. So it was a 50/50 shot.
Once again, God showed up. My pregnancy lead to remission. Yes, what a beautiful thing. I was induced right at 40 weeks to ensure there wasn't a drop in my hormones before delivery. My milk then came in and kept my hormone levels high enough to maintain remission. I am still able to produce enough milk and breastfeed Ren enough to keep it that way. Almost two years later. Only time will tell if this remission is a total healing from God or if its a season and he has more stories to build. For now, I am so grateful. I pray every day to find peace in this season that I worry may come to a close soon... but I need to put my trust in the Lord. I know he is a God of healing and miracles... I know that he is capable and that fear is a lier... but I know that I am human and worry and fear creep their way in. The dark days were dark and I don't want to go back there... especially now as a mom. So today I am choosing to enjoy this season and not focus on the unknown...
Maybe you are in a season of building, waiting, not knowing. Or maybe you are in a season of growth, healing, gratefulness... you're standing on top of all of the stories he built. No matter where you are between the dark and the light... know there is light to be found. Know that the unanswered prayers that aren't answered YET. They will be... it might not be how you expected them to be... or even how you prefer them to be... or even in a 'timely manner' - but your story is building. One day you will have a skyscraper to stand on top of and some stories lead right up to heaven... they look unanswered here on earth... but they lead to the ultimate grace and healing. Faith is a funny thing... but it will turn your dark into light.