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“How do you say to your child in the night? Nothing’s all black, but then nothing’s all white How do you say it will all be all right When you know that it might not be true?”…

Dearest Friend,

You’ve felt it coming for a few weeks, I would imagine. It starts with a slight annoying tug that you don’t always recognize, and then maybe a commercial or sign catches your eye. Advertisers lunge to take advantage of this time of year to sell anything and everything they can imagine to those who wander the aisles looking, just looking for something that fits. The card aisle is littered with cards for Mother, Mom, Mommy, Stepmother, Mom in Law, and on and on. You look up above the cards to see a sign with a woman laughing and cuddling her daughter, their matching angelic curls backlit as the child hands over a daffodil and the mom’s eyes shine with the knowledge of being recognized. The card company helpfully separates their cards into humorous or serious, cartoons or flowers, but no matter how hard you look, you can’t find the sign that shows where the “it’s complicated” cards are.

Mother’s Day. Pause for a second to imagine me giving you a gentle hug.

Precious friend, I don’t take it lightly. I know how awkward it is for you, this day with sentimental videos in churches and restaurants full of moms with homemade pasta necklaces on. I know it’s a struggle with knowing what to say, either to your mom or to others about your mom. I mean, IS there a card to describe that combination of hurt and anger, confusion and yet still desire for a relationship? Is there a card that can speak of distance and coldness, shielded hearts and long distances? Where is the card that simply asks “Why?”

I would never hurt you more by suggesting that I understand or can fix your pain. Sadly, our society has come to a place where absent or hurtful fathers are viewed as unsurprising yet we often forget those who have been hurt by their mothers. We cling to the romanticized version of the selfless woman who bakes and gives pithy advice at the right time. Yet I know for some of you, your memories are…complicated. I also know the word complicated is the word you use because the true words you think are too painful to speak. So you bravely face this day, vacillating between avoiding thinking about it, and trying not to cry because your relationship with your mom was or is, not at all what you ever wanted it to be.

Can I talk to you, wearing my mom hat? Know that this hat is crooked and bent, probably from me throwing it at a wall. The halo that society wants to put on my head is dull and has a few dents, but not near as many dents as I have put into my children’s hearts over the years. I speak, not as that video mom, but as one who has sat up sickened and heartbroken over my mistakes.

I can’t tell you that your mom loves you. Oh darling friend, I wish I could give you that reassurance. But I just don’t know. But here’s what I do know- it is not your fault. Hear these words- IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. For you who struggle with being hurt, know that your mom has struggles and pain that has nothing to do with you. Know that she is frail. I know that I am. Know that it isn’t that she doesn’t love you, it is that she isn’t capable of loving you the way that you want or need to be loved. We expect so much out of the concept of being a mother- as though all selfishness and fear, shame and guilt, destructive coping mechanisms and habits magically disappear when the baby is placed in her arms, only to be replaced by baking skills and a soothing voice. But here is the truth- being a mom is hard. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done. And my children don’t take away all my junk, they TRIGGER my junk. It’s not their fault (see above), but being responsible for shaping another life just adds fuel to a fire that I work to keep under control.

I don’t know why your mom speaks to you the way she does. I don’t know why she isn’t truthful, or encouraging, or why she chose that person over you. I don’t know why she pretends not to see your pain. I don’t know why she let that person hurt you or why she didn’t believe you. I don’t know why she never calls you or asks about your life, and only wants to complain about hers. I don’t know why she hates your spouse or treats your children like they are a bother. I don’t know why she makes jokes at your expense. I don’t know why your mom drinks. I don’t know why she chose drugs over you. I don’t know why your mom disowned you over your choices. I don’t know why your mom hit you and gave you away. I don’t know why. I am sorry.

But here is what I know. Sometimes “honoring” simply means a silent nod, a deep sigh, and a quiet prayer for forgiveness.

This sunday, when the beds are full of breakfast and the flowers have been delivered, you are being prayed for. Prayers that you’ll know it’s okay to cry and acknowledge that it should have been different. Prayers that you will feel the comforting weight of the One who IS a perfect parent, and longs to hold His child.

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“I’m standing in the flames, It’s a beautiful kind of pain, Setting fire to yesterday find the light, find the light, find the light…”

Do you know how long my hand has hovered over the keys, afraid to hit “publish”?

I like to be good at things. I like my life to be functional, polished. I like to be seen as efficient and effective, capable and strong and brave. I’ll settle for okay, but I prefer talented.

The last six months have been an enormous time of growing for me, both mentally and spiritually, and I can say with certainty that one of the most important lessons I have learned about myself is that I am not good at endurance. I can rock the suffering…as long as I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Faith? I got it…as long as I can feel some sense of a lesson in the end. And to be totally honest, some of what I call peace may be a bit of shrugging and giving up. When you have a chronic disease, people kindly say things like “You are brave. I could never deal with what you deal with!”  Horse hockey. Yes you could. You would have no choice. I am not brave, I am afraid. I am not strong, I am terribly weak. I am not skilled at enduring, I am desperately hanging on.

But I love where I am.

Pain is a gift. Oh please, dear one who is struggling, please don’t click away in anger, because I know the feeling that this is ANYTHING but a gift. I know the desperate anger that comes with longing that has no ending, that feeling of just wanting one day, one hour of calm, before your body betrays you and reminds you yet again of your frail humanity. I promise I know, and I have cried plenty of angry tears too. But the pain that batters my body around, reminding me daily of lost time, lost ability, lost babies, that pain extends to batter my heart too and the bruising has made it softer.

But it’s not hard for me to talk about empathy. Empathy isn’t what keeps the hand hovering over the publish button. It’s fear and it’s shame.

I never realized until this year how we conceptualize pain as something to triumph over or give into. We celebrate unmedicated birth as though it is the strong women who can endure. We talk about high and low tolerances. We self describe, using words like “I’m a baby about pain”. We lift up athletes who play through the pain. We see pain as an event- it has a beginning, a middle and end, and like an Olympic sprinter, we give gold, silver, and bronze medals to those who sprint well, with minimal complaining. And the problem is that when you have only experienced a sprint, then a marathon can’t be understood. Sure, running is the common theme here, but that is where the similarities end and the fear and shame begins.

I remember a teacher in high school telling me once “Your reputation is all you really have!”  I don’t think he intended to, but those words stuck with me and made me terrified to ever disappoint anyone. In the last six months, I have had to disappoint people. I’ve had to cancel plans or say no more often. I’ve had to give less effort in order to save energy. I’ve had to rest when I really wanted to play. Shame.

I’ve walked to the pharmacy every single month with my head down, don’t make eye contact, and cried every single time I leave. Don’t get me wrong, my pharmacist has been wonderful, very kind and caring towards me. But the shame and fear I have felt is paralyzing. I hate it. On the outside, I look fine, totally healthy. They can’t see the pictures I saw of my surgery, with my insides bonded together from adhesions and endometriosis. So I fear being judged and critiqued. I fear being thought of as a wimp, a girl with a low pain tolerance, a girl who just can’t push through a little pain. Shame.

Be honest. Come on, you can do it. You’ve had those thoughts about someone. I know I have.

But here’s the gift- in some ways, that teacher was right- my reputation is a big deal. It’s just that I now have realized Who’s thoughts about me are important. I have to let go of the fact that there will be a person, doctor or otherwise, who looks at me and instead of seeing me, they will view my pain through their lens, and how they would handle it.  And I WILL come up lacking. I have to let go of the fact that there will be people, even people who dearly love me, who will secretly think I am just not doing the right things to deal with this disease. I get it- they are sprinters. The gift is that I can love and honor these people without letting their opinion of me hold me hostage in shame.

I don’t know why God has allowed me to suffer. That isn’t the part of the marathon that I get to see yet. But I sincerely would not trade this marathon for the sprint, and miss out on the utter joy of grasping onto my Daddy’s hand daily. The marathon is long, and difficult, and I need Him beside me. There is sweetness in being unable to do anything but pray. There is sweetness in insomnia and taking deep breaths and saying “hold on sweetie. Mommy needs a minute” and giving a hug to a friend who gets it because they are marathoning too. Somehow, that sweetness comes in and invades and chases the bitterness of shame and fear away.

So next month, I will try. I will try to hold my head up when I pick up my medicine. The walk from the car to the store is part of my marathon.

Deep breath. And publish.

Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies.org

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

“I’ll help you be popular! You’ll hang with the right cohorts You’ll be good at sports Know the slang you’ve got to know so let’s start ’cause you’ve got an awfully long way to go…”

*She tiptoes in and looks around. Hello?, she asks, and hears the echo bouncing off the blog walls…*

I have reasons why I haven’t written. The beginning of school is always a difficult transition (true), I am working on managing my daily pain and trying to balance how to expend my energy (true), I have had writer’s block (true), I have been discouraged and overwhelmed by world events (true), Gilmore Girls came on Netflix (true. So true). I spent some extended time away this past weekend and realized that while all those reasons are true, the REAL reason comes down to the fact that my favorite color is gray.

I know. It’s weird. Stay with me please, I hope it will make sense in the end. First off, I need to defend my choice- I know gray isn’t the most logical choice for a favorite color. If you’ve ever been shopping with me, you’ve probably heard my theory that you could take any item of clothing and if you made it gray, it would automatically become 87% more comfortable. You can’t argue with science. There’s just something about the soft mix of black and white that seems cozy, comforting. A gray sky means snuggling on the couch with movies and a warm blanket. A gray sweatshirt swallows me in warmth and takes me back to walking through crunchy leaves on a college campus.

I like some gray in my thinking too. In my 20’s, I gravitated to the black and white, the right and wrong. Gray was scary, gray was disobedient, gray was BACKSLIDING. But the funny thing is, as I’ve gotten older I have become more convinced of what I believe to be true, and more convinced that my ways are not His ways. My gray now isn’t theology, it’s just the recognition that He is so much bigger than I ever thought He was. My gray now is more compassionate, slower to speak and quicker to listen. It’s the respectful recognition that His plans are bigger and better than mine, and they don’t always look like the Christian plan I have in my head.

So back to writing. Or, lack of writing.

Once you start blogging, it doesn’t take long before you discover the cool table. Some people are at the cool table simply because they sincerely and without guise are cool. They didn’t do anything except be who they are. Others are there by pushing other people around and striving to be at the top. Sometimes it’s really hard to tell these people apart (here’s a tip- watch what happens to them when someone disagrees with them on social media. It’s pretty easy to figure it out). Not only do you discover the cool table, you discover that you are supposed to want to BE at the cool table. On the walk to the cool table are words like branding, followers, conferences, stats, hustle, etc. None of these words are bad in of themselves but unfortunately as you navigate around those words, you can trip over arrogance, fear, harshness, rudeness. If I’m honest, I want to skip the entire room and hole up in my bed with my gray blanket and laptop. I don’t want the black and white of making a plan and goals and a chapter a day. I don’t want to hear about publishing or book proposals or speaker fees or amazon or make.it.stop.

Now, it is tempting for me to just turn to a different kind of arrogance and claim to be above all that popularity nonsense. I don’t want that kind of foolishness either. So I realized this weekend that part of why I like gray is because gray is safe. Gray doesn’t require choices. Gray with it’s laissez faire lures me in with a lack of pressure and worry about publishing and success. And there’s no risk of failure. 

So here’s the deal. I don’t know what He has for me in this writing gig. I don’t know if I will ever be at the cool table. I don’t know if I am supposed to want to be there either. I don’t know if I will write a book or be published. But I am so glad that He knows. I am so thankful that my only job is to be faithful.

Friends, would you pray for me? Would you pray that I will not embrace fear, and instead step out, knowing that He know exactly what is going to happen? Would you pray that I will be faithful to what He’s asked me and gifted me to do, and not get caught up in what I think I am supposed to care about? Would you pray that I will only choose His way, and I won’t be attracted to the world’s definition of success?  Will you pray that I will chase the butterflies, and not just wait for them to come land on me?

 

Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies.org

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

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“Take your make up off, Let your hair down, Take a breath, Look into the mirror at yourself, Don’t you like you? Cause I like you…”

“Put your make up on
Get your nails done
Curl your hair
Run the extra mile
Keep it slim so they like you, do they like you?”
 It’s the tiniest slip, a mere 100 feet from Gymboree to Justice, but it’s another galaxy. Kittens to cheerleading. Tiny bows to sparkly boots. The smallest change in cuts, so that the shoulder is exposed a bit more. You pull it down, I pull it up. This is the year of more no than yes. The year that the one piece versus bikini became reality instead of theory. These baby girls who hate being called babies walk their spindly legs down familiar halls, and the bathrooms suddenly have mirrors. When did they get mirrors? Us moms, we don’t ever forget that first time we see you suck your stomach in. We want to warn you, but we also see the freight train that carries braces, pimples, and cramps barreling down the track, and we are powerless to do anything but catch a ride alongside you. Doesn’t it feel like a race? To catch onto the thing that will make you “it”,  you just can’t be the last to catch on! You ask us when you can start shaving your legs, and we beg for more time. Babies, do you know how loved you are? Do you know how we stay awake, memorizing every dip and curve of your face? Do you know about the moments that we catch a glimpse and can’t speak because of your beauty? Can you hear your mother’s voice as it cracks with tears when she talks about you? Can you see the desperation in her eyes when you tell her that you just wish you were pretty, because she just can’t find enough words to express how beautiful you are?
Babies, did you know your Father feels this way about you?
“Get your sexy on
Don’t be shy, girl
Take it off
This is what you want, to belong, so they like you
Do you like you?”
 A thousand voices compete for your attention, and sometimes the most negative one is your own. You might despise us now. Loves, we mamas need grace. It’s probably easy for you to forget that along with hurting with you, we can be hurt by you too. We remember our own adolescent struggles with dress sizes and acne, with that one boy who spoke cruel words, with that embarrassing moment we were sure no one would ever forget, and then we sigh and remember that you have all these same moments captured on Instagram. When you walk into that high school on that first day, your mama is pleading for you, that you might rise above the fray, but we also know that no destination is worth getting to if you don’t have to swim hard for it. So we step back and continue the gut wrenching process of releasing that which we never owned, and give you a sympathetic smile when you cry over dateless dances. Did you know we would still let you stand on our feet to dance? Do you know that at every turn, we are praying that you won’t fall for the scheme of letting others decide your beauty?
Loves, did you know your Father pursues you this way?
“Get your shopping on, at the mall, max your credit cards
You don’t have to choose, buy it all, so they like you
Do they like you?”
Sisters, aren’t you tired? Do you remember a time when you thought that desire to belong and fit in was simply a childish goal and someday you wouldn’t care? And now we hover in doorways at PTA meetings, we sit alone on park benches, we form a line of quiet loneliness while our kids play soccer. We’ve gotten good at the game, claiming ignorance of the game itself. But we go home and slather on our expensive night cream, and we look in the mirror and sigh. Sure, we proudly own our laboring stretch marks and embrace the gray, but that desire, the one to be known, it is just as strong. Sisters, did you know that He put that in you? And yet we protect and manage, putting our best night creamed face forward, just to come home exhausted because its just.so.much.work.
Beloved Sisters, did you know your Father wants you to rest?
Today is the first day of school. Today, His daughters will venture out into a world that can be incredibly cruel. Today I will pray for myself and for my sisters.

Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com
Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

“Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore…”

Back in May, our family sat around our dinner table and made a list of individual goals. We divided them up into reading goals, learning goals, activity goals, and just fun goals. Some examples were- reading 10,000 pages, learning to make pizza, learning about civil rights, learning to fish, learning to run, going to a water park, having two days a week with no technology, etc.

I’m happy to report that we met all our goals and we are entering the new school year as well rested, well-rounded people who are quite frankly, much smarter and cooler than the rest of you slackers.

Eh…something like that. Here’s the truth- only Josiah met his reading goal. He surpassed 10,000 pages actually, which is impressive until I tell you that we probably haven’t spoken to him in a few weeks. There’s been no fishing, no deck building, I have learned 0 new songs on the guitar, no water park, and my children have developed a deep abiding relationship with the television this summer, followed closely by becoming besties with the Xbox. I did not learn how to make artisan bread or homemade sushi, but I DID learn that if you offer no alternative, your children will eat peanut butter and jelly for more than one day in a row.

This week has been difficult, for many reasons, but one of the reasons is that I have been struggling with guilt over how our summer has progressed, and the lack of meaningful interactions between me and my kids. Actually, that’s just fancy blog talk for saying I feel like a failure. A big old not running, frozen waffle making, swimming counts as a bath failure. School starts in a week and my house isn’t more organized. I have no meal plans ready. There are no homework stations and at this point, I am not quite sure where Josiah’s toothbrush is.

It’s amazing to me that we do this- we look at summer vacation and forget that it’s only a vacation for the kids. My life and responsibilities haven’t stopped! In fact, they have at least doubled, because now I have three kids home. Home. All the time. All the days and hours. They are home. With me. All the days. They are home with me and that means I have 88% less time to do laundry, cook, clean, organize the house, take care of the dog, do ministry, write, spend time with friends, spend time with the Lord, and be a wife. Not sure if 88% is right, but who has time to do correct math when all the children are here?? So we have less time and less energy, yet we make goals for ourselves as though we have all the free time in the world. It’s crazy and unrealistic. And for me, it has set me up for grouchiness and crying and guilt.

And I’ve decided I’ve had enough. I can’t find any scripture about spanish lessons or running a marathon or reading Shakespeare or learning cursive. But I’ve read plenty about rest and loving others and laughter and being patient and kind. And I think my ancestors would roll their eyes at my fretting, so I am taking my cues from them. I want to encourage you with the following questions-

1. Has your child been eaten by a wooly mammoth or scarred by an attack while gathering water at the watering hole?

2. Has your child lost any fingers or limbs in a combine this summer?

3. Did you child contract Bubonic Plague while gathering wild mushrooms to feed the family?

If you answered “no” to each of these, then congratulations, your summer was a success!

And more questions-

1. Did your child eat this summer?

2. Did water come into contact with your child’s body this summer?

3. Is your child currently breathing?

If you answered “yes”, then you are a rock star summer parent.

 

The truth is, while many parents wrestle with wanting to have a perfect Pinterest summer, I struggled more with wanting some high level spiritual experience for my kids. I wanted us to be sweet and generous and loving and prayerful and creative and singing and Spinterest. Spiritual Pinterest. But I bet I don’t have to tell you that the world of Spinterest does contain an extraordinary amount of “spin”. Our family is just full of human sinners, and three months of constant togetherness has brought out that sin in some unique and loud ways. Some days were louder than others.

Sweet friends, take a deep breath. Channel your inner Elsa and let. it. go. Don’t let your Spinterest hopes distract you from what is right in front of you- a beautiful, restful, joy filled sink of dirty dishes. They’ll be there tomorrow. Maybe even the next day. And no one will die or abandon their faith because of it.

Your babies are watching to see how you feel about those dirty faces and dishes.

 

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Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

 

“Father, break my heart for what breaks Yours, give me open hands and open doors, Put Your light in my eyes and let me see that my own little world is not about me…”

I grew up going to See you at the Pole rallies. Does anyone else remember these? It was a day when the kids who attended churches would meet at the flagpole before school and pray together for the other heathens that were probably sleeping off their hangovers.

At least that’s what I assumed.

The scripture that I remember defining this experience was 2 Chronicles 7:14- “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”  I’d listen to the leader talk about how we need to take back our nation and rescue it from the influence of “the world”, how if we weren’t firm and didn’t stand up for Jesus, we were all just gonna go to hell in a hand basket. The leader didn’t actually say “hell in a hand basket”, but we all knew he was thinking it. I never really understood why a hand basket made the idea of hell more threatening. It’s a handbasket- the thing little Red Riding hood carried to bring a picnic lunch to her grandma. Was it lined with spikes? Filled with tracker jackers?  And really, are we shrinking down to tiny people, because hand baskets generally don’t fit typical size people. If they wanted to scare us, they should’ve said we would go to hell in a smart car.

But that’s not the point.

The point is, I don’t know if it was intentional, but the emphasis was always on the “turning from their wicked ways” part. I learned that we needed to help the world turn from their wicked ways and then God would step in and turn this proverbial car around and all would be right and clean and probably Republican. Even after my pole praying days were over, I heard this scripture used to encourage me to vote, to attend prayer rallies, to picket clinics, to even pray for certain weather. And when the world just got worse, sometimes I thought maybe the wicked ways of the world were just too strong and my prayers against it were just too weak.

I want to cover my ears and close my eyes against #Ferguson and the hatred that is bubbling up from long-held beliefs. I’m weary. Not just weary of hearing about another unarmed black teenager killed, but weary of the debate with people I love about if white privilege is a real thing. No one will debate if this is wickedness- surely death and pain and hatred is evil, and we want to be delivered from it. But we have to begin with the actual beginning- the humbling part. We aren’t asked to humble others, we are asked to humble ourselves.

Humble ourselves…and shut up.

Humble ourselves…and listen.

Humble ourselves…and decide that no matter what, we who are white do not understand what it is like to be black in this country.

Humble ourselves…and consider if perhaps the wicked ways belong to us.

Jesus is telling us to humble ourselves, admit that we might be wrong. I’m asking my brothers and sisters to just consider if everything you think you know about race relations might be wrong. Just consider it.

Jesus is telling us to pray. Not just for “them”, but for our own hearts. I love that He knows that our prayers are sweeter and more intimate when we are humble.

Jesus is telling us to seek His face. His face- the One that lovingly crafted every nuance of Michael Brown’s face AND the police officer. The face that I believe cries with me as I try not to see my precious Malachi in that crowd. The face that is recording every tear of a mother who has lost her baby.

Jesus is telling us to turn from OUR wicked ways. Mine. My wickedness- the side of me that still views other people as less important than me, the side of me that is unkind and selfish and lazy and quarrelsome and rude. The side of me that defends the underdog while cursing the oppressor.

Father, forgive me. Forgive me for my complacency and fear of man. Forgive me for avoiding conflict, when I should be standing up for those who could use a defender. Forgive me for my arrogance in thinking that I “get it”. I do not get it. I am so grateful that You do. Help me to shut up and listen. Help me to see the thoughts that I have that are not loving towards Your kids. Help me be a peacemaker. Remind me that healing an infection often requires painful surgery and help me be willing to be cut open. I couldn’t possibly bleed more than You did. 

 

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Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77 

“The pathway is broken and the signs are unclear and I don’t know the reasons why you brought me here. But just because you love me the way that You do, I’m gonna walk through the valley if you want me to…”

I was thirteen years old, an 8th grader at Pease Middle School, and it was spring. I remember because it was that time of year that the P.E. teacher started letting us run laps outside and we all tried ways of getting out of it. I was in the girls locker room getting dressed when I was hit by a truck of pain. I sat down, sure I was about to pass out. Elizabeth, a girl who always had perfect bangs and doused herself in Exclamation perfume, looked at me and said “I get cramps too!” It was a bonding moment.

The problem was, these weren’t just cramps. These were my insides being ripped apart by a thousand tiny chainsaws. I limped over to the coach and lied and said I had hurt my ankle. (The teacher was a guy, no way I was telling him nothin’ bout no cramps) He eyed me suspiciously but let me sit out. I think he caught on when I forgot which ankle was supposed to be hurt.

And here I am, 23 years later, and I am still sitting out of gym, trying to deal with the pain and not let my teacher know. Now it has a name- Endometriosis. I was officially diagnosed after a laparoscopy when I was 27 years old. Since then, I have had three other surgeries, hormone treatments, countless medications, and a long list of holistic treatments to try to control the progression of the disease.

Disease.

One thing I have realized in the last year is that part of what happens with chronic conditions is that you don’t feel like you have a disease, you feel diseased. And those are completely different.

On average, it takes a woman 5-10 years to be diagnosed with endometriosis. This is due to many reasons, but one of the main reasons I’ve personally encountered is a lack of education on what endometriosis actually is, and dismissal of women’s reporting of their symptoms. One doctor figuratively patted me on the head when I was 21 and told me that I was way too young to have anything seriously wrong with me, and that all women have cramps.

“All women have cramps”- this is the sentence that smacks the hand over our mouths and tells us to buck up and quit complaining.

In high school, I missed days of school because of pain and bleeding. I remember wanting to try out for a play so badly, but I knew that the pain could happen at any time, and I couldn’t take the chance that it would happen during an audition or rehearsals. I remember classes where I would watch the clock, just waiting and praying for time to move faster so I could just go home. I auditioned for All State Choir my senior year, and almost had to stop in the middle of my audition because I was sure I would pass out from pain. I thought it was normal. I wasn’t TRYING to be stoic or stubborn. I just…thought it was normal.

I was introduced to shame at seventeen, when I visited a gynecologist for the first time and he prescribed birth control pills for the pain I described. He asked me if I had a boyfriend and I said yes. He said “well, these will help with that situation too!” I was mortified and told him that I was not having sex. He rolled his eyes. I didn’t fill the script. It was the first time I felt embarrassed to be in pain, like I had done something wrong, like it was my fault.

So why do I write about it now? Well, it’s not because I have magically gotten over any embarrassment or shame or the feeling of being diseased. I write about it for a few reasons.

It comes back. This is a chronic condition that is managed, not cured. I had a complete hysterectomy three years ago, and was hoping for a long reprieve. It lasted two years. For the last year, I have been trying to treat the low-level back pain that occasionally flares into serious pain. In the last few months, I have been getting recurrences of abdominal pain as well. I can read the writing on the wall. I visited several back doctors, thinking maybe there was another cause to the pain. One doctor was a nut job who told me to crush up muscle relaxers and eat the powder throughout the day. The other doctor sent me to physical therapy and told me he wanted me to take medication continuously to let my body rest and heal. After a few months, the physical therapist told me that she didn’t think I needed PT and that she didn’t think my problem was muscular or spinal. I consulted the doctor and told him that I was frustrated that he was prescribing this medicine, even when I didn’t need it and that he still couldn’t tell me if anything was wrong with my back. He snapped at me that if I was his patient, I was required to fill all medicines and take them according to his instructions or he wouldn’t see me. He told that eventually, I would have to have surgery on my back. Obviously, I didn’t return to his clinic. After that I just tried some diet changes, added some yoga and stretching, and…managed. But this month has been rough, and I gave in and saw my Obgyn again. It’s interfered with life- planning my days, how much I am able to accomplish, physical stamina…and writing. Endometriosis can mess with your immune system and cause fatigue as well, and I definitely have felt that. There is a weariness that I push through most days, and some days I give into.

I write about it because I still have to convince myself that having endometriosis is not a character flaw. It has forced me to confront my people pleasing habits- I hate feeling misunderstood, and there is a lot of misunderstanding in this disease. It is hard for me to accept that I might go to an ER someday and be seen as a hysterical female, or worse, a suburbanite drug dealer. It is hard for me to accept that I can’t control that. I have been forced to let go of the fact that there will be family, friends, and doctors who dismiss me. It has forced me to confront my theology of suffering.

But the main reason I write about it, the reason I chose to be open about something so personal, is this- it’s because when I finally read stories of women who can’t wear jeans for an entire day because the pressure on their stomach cause nausea, I cried.

I’m not the only one. 

Because I read about women who search for years for answers and help and who are dismissed and patronized.

I’m not the only one.

Because I read about making the hard choices about pain medicine, hormone treatment and surgeries.

I’m not the only one. 

This is precious to me. This is comfort from Him and I am thankful. And I write so that someone will know they are not the only one.

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http://endometriosis.org

Email me at brandy.followingbutterflies@yahoo.com

Follow me on Twitter @brandyb77

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