Faith is one of the topics that seems to come up a lot in blogs and twitter conversations. How having a chronic illness has caused people to lose faith in religion/God. Or how faith in religion/God is something that gives people strength to keep fighting that illness. Or how people who were formerly agnostic has found their way towards one of those two options as a result of their illnesses.
Conversations about religious faith aren’t restricted to the ill, of course. One of the most frustrating comments for many people, myself included, is being told “you need to have more faith in God.” Or some variation thereof. People have been told that if they had more faith they’d be less ill (or cured!) or that if they had faith in the “right/true” religion then they wouldn’t be punished anymore and could heal. These are obviously more extreme comments, but I think you get my point. I’ve blocked more than one tweeter who started preaching at me when my response to the “do you have faith?” question wasn’t what they wanted to hear. Now, before I get a slew of angry comments, I am not judging anyone for their faith. If it helps them, or even if it doesn’t, that’s none of my business at all. If it helps you – more power to you! I’m glad you’ve found something that supports you and helps you through your life. …. But I don’t want to hear you preach at me about it, no offense.
Comments about faith aren’t restricted to religion either. Do I have faith in my doctors? Do I have faith in my medications? I’ve even been asked if I have faith in my body’s ability to heal/cure myself. (This was followed by the comment that I was still plagued by a chronic illness because inadequate faith in my body’s ability to heal meant my body would never heal.)
There’s one question that I’ve never been asked, though: whether I have faith in my own ability to deal with the mental and physical strain of a chronic illness. I know that faith in religion/God is one way that a lot of people deal with this strain. Regardless, I think what a lot of people need is faith in themselves. Faith that they are strong enough to deal with the constant pain, appointments, meds and lifestyle changes. Because let’s face it, at the end of the day you are the one who takes your meds multiple times a day, who knows when to push further and when to rest, who fights food cravings/aromas/tantalizingly arranged platters because you know they aggravate your illness, and, ultimately, you are the one who knows what it’s like to have your illness.
Even with the same diagnosis, everyone’s experience of an illness is different. Anyone who is judging you for your faith or lack thereof is doing so on the basis of his/her own experience, not yours. It doesn’t matter what he/she thinks. (Even if it’s hard to recognize and acknowledge this and often even harder to actually tell someone so when it’s a close friend or loved one.) It will probably never be easy to do, but no matter what else you have faith in, have faith in YOU.