When “Normal” is a Loaded Term

Lauren Vandermeer Blog Post
June 8, 2014
Lauren Vandermeer Blog Post

“Your results are normal,” reported the nurse calling from my doctor’s office. And my heart jumped first with joy at the thought that the improvements in health I’ve noticed over the past year are truly happening in my body, not just in my head. Wishful thinking has led me down disappointing paths in the past, so I haven’t wanted to be too hopeful.

I was first diagnosed with severe thyroid fatigue in 2001, shortly after admitting to a family friend that I was trending suicidal as I struggled to cope with the realities of my life in full-time ministry. The debilitating symptoms had been there for several years; they just finally reached a point where I could no longer pretend that everything was perfect.

The truth was, I was coming unglued on the inside but I didn’t want to tell anyone because I was afraid. Afraid that I was failing as a Christian leader. Afraid that as I failed I was disappointing God. Even afraid that people would go to hell because, if my strength gave out, who would tell them about Jesus? Would I stand before God one day and be forced to watch as He condemned people to hell because I was too weak?

It seems crazy to think that those were my fears. But how I came to feel the weight of the world on my shoulders is a story for another day.

Fortunately, my friend knew enough to recommend a doctor and tests for my thyroid.

And so began a long journey that reached a happy milestone this week. About fifteen years after I first began to notice daily symptoms of what I now know as thyroid fatigue, I’m healing and have the test results to prove it. But with the rejoicing has come the agony of remembering what sent me spiraling in the first place and the long, hard road between then and now.

So much light and shadow, encouragement and disappointment, wheat and chaff. It’s the rare trajectory that only advances, and I gratefully embrace the good fruit that’s flowering now as a result of both sunshine and rain along the way. I get that it’s life, really.

I’m the kind of person that typically likes to focus on the upside of things. When you add to that the meticulous grooming I received to only speak the positive and avoid anything that could be interpreted as a “bad report,” you end up with a woman who believes it might actually be sinful to speak the truth if that truth could be perceived as negative. At least that’s what I believed for many years.

But I find that I can’t only focus on the good report this week, because pain is present in this moment too. I remember despairing days of feeling lost and forgotten. Pouring my life out for others and thinking that I just might literally die in the process. These things I’ve lived with for years. But more recently: knowing my babies slipped into eternity from a body wasted by years of trying to meet standards God never required of me. Grappling with the knowledge that my health was compromised as I followed a human leader who was not at all worth following.

I could spiral downward by dwelling on the negatives and I don’t want to do that. But I must acknowledge them. I must say out loud, “My health could have been so different had I not walked the path I did.” And, it does me good to tell the truth.

light and shadow

At the same time, I know … I KNOW … that this is the path God Himself laid before me. He marked it out, lovingly, an eternity ago. And, my life is not just about me. Had I walked a different path, I surely would have known different people and not known many whose friendship fills my life with such delight, love and laughter. Many things that I wouldn’t want to live without would be very, very different.

So, this is what I cling to in the sunshine and the shadows. When the report comes back “normal” and even if it doesn’t. I can choose to rest in the tension of these emotions because I recognize that I’m not alone. The One who went to the painful, bloody cross in order to accomplish a glorious end knows what it’s like to be here, and He says,

“I know what I’m doing.

I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you,

plans to give you the future you hope for.”

Jeremiah 29:11, The Message

In the next post I’ll share some of the practical things I did to support my thyroid for those who may find themselves with similar struggles.

Image by Dan from freedigitalphotos.net

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