How I Got Better (from Chronic Invisible Illness)

How I Got Better (2)Whew! It has been such a long journey – six years of invisible illness. But I am finally better. As you can imagine, this is a very exciting post for me!

You can read about my journey here, but today I want to talk to you about how, today, I am living a full and healthy life again.

I had survived one of the worst winters of my life. The cold, the dark, and the damp weighed on me – and added to the fact that most days, I could not leave the house.

If you know me (the real me), you know that I am naturally a vibrant person. I get excited about everything and anything. The real me is overly optimistic. I am so positive and I love to smile at anyone and everyone I see.

But, these months, I was not excited at all. I really felt hopeless. I wasn’t really trying to get better because I didn’t know how I could possibly be my old self. I didn’t know how being in bed all day, every day would give me a fulfilled life. And on top of that, how could my husband live his whole life with someone that couldn’t help him cook or clean – someone that couldn’t share the things he loved to do, like camping or hiking?

Life wasn’t fair – not to me and not to my husband.

I knew that I was losing myself, and Mark (my husband) kept telling me that I could get better. I was drowning.

One week, I made it to church, but I couldn’t stop crying. A lady from church let me cry on her and I think that they was the start of change for me. I still felt mostly hopeless, but people started to pour into me. A couple of people came to visit me because they realized that I was stuck at home most of the time on my own.

During this time, we met a man who had done something called The Lightning Process, a training program by Phil Parker. He had had CFS/ME (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) for something like 12 years when he did it, and now he is so much better. We had heard of the program, but it’s quite expensive. And also, we’d spent a lot of money on doctors already.

But Mark came back from a friend’s house one night. They had been talking about my health and how down I was getting. The conversation led to The Lightning Process. Mark came home to me laying in bed again. He told me that we should do it.

So we started the process. Money was the hard part – but people helped us without us even having to ask. The money gifts that they gave us were such a blessing. I like to think that their generosity helped give me my life back.

And when others heard that we were going to do this program, they began to pray. People from around the world were praying.

I have to admit that I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect. And I didn’t know for sure that it would work. But after I sent in my application form and Skyped with Michele (who does The Lightning Process training in Auckland), I began to feel hope. In fact, as soon as she accepted me, I felt such peace.

The hardest part was believing in myself – that I deserved to be well. It seems silly, but there was this lie that I was believing – a lie that said that I deserved to be sick.

But no one deserves to be sick. It was never in God’s plan that any of us suffer.

And if others don’t deserve illness and pain, then why should I believe that I do?

The Lightning Process is a three day seminar. Mine took place in the trainer’s home, where I went from 12pm – 5pm Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I wondered how I would handle five whole hours with other people. But I did.

I practiced and I practiced what she taught me. And I went back the next day. Then I practiced some more.

What I want to tell you is not that The Lightning Process changed my life (though that may be true). It’s not that Michele changed my life (though I’ll use the tools she gave me for the rest of my life). I won’t tell you that the love and prayers of churches around the world helped me get better (though I know for sure that they did).

What I want to tell you is this: God is not finished with me, yet.

God is not finished with Ashley Ruth Stirling.

He is not finished with me. And he is certainly not finished with you.

There is always, always, hope in the darkness.

I now believe that God gives us all the tools that we need – right inside these amazing brains that he created inside of us. I believe that when God’s word says in Romans 2:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God”, it is giving us hope.

I have been changing the direction the neuro-pathways in my brain move. Where I believed lies, I now see truth. Where my mind said pain, I now say relief. Where my mind said fatigue, I now say energy. God gives us these tools, and I have been told how to use them.

The Lightning Process is not Christian at all, but I love how it has changed how I understand God’s will for me. Since that seminar, I have learned so much about Christianity.

I have been out of bed. The second day, I cooked and was not tired. This was a miracle. The third day, I left the seminar, drove a ways, and climbed to see a gannet colony.

Since then, I have been doing normal human activities daily. I have climbed hills – hills that I watched my husband and friends leave to climb while I stayed back in my rest that did not end. Until now.

I have been doing the laundry! I have been able to shower – every day! I have been able to hold conversations with people around me. I have been able to love my husband better. I have been able to love myself better.

God is not finished with me, y’all.

He is lavishing his love and mercy on me every day.

He wants to do the same for you – for all of us.

Thank you for all your support through my darkest times. I pray and hope that these words I write resound in every corner of your heart, mind, and soul: God is not finished. Not yet.

Not ever.