I do love modern technology. And color - I always love playing with color. It even makes the above photo a bit more fun. That is me, today. This is what happened just from the faint fragrance that clung to my husband when he got home from the store today. First my head got itchy, then it felt like fire ants were marching over my skull, then this lovely rash jumped out. It is fading now - a quick dip in the shower, followed by Benedryl (while hubbie aired out the rooms he was in and high-tailed it outdoors). Photos like this are terrible, but they help me remember that I am not crazy. That this horrible affliction is real.
Many people with this problem commit suicide. I can completely understand that. I do not choose that path, but I can understand it. And I begin to wonder - what is really going on with those homeless people, with those who suffer from mental illness, with those who pull out a gun and start shooting, with those who kill themselves. How many of them are suffering from something like this, perhaps without even knowing it? Or perhaps they have begun to wonder if it is not in their heads. How many of them give up in despair when doctor after doctor gives them the name of a good psychiatrist? How many of them feel desolate and alone when friends and family tell them to "just deal with it," or worse yet, pretend to understand when their actions show that they do not even care enough to try understanding. How many feel abandoned when their church family implores them to pray for healing - chiding them to believe that God can heal them? How many despair when one after another, everyone in their lives melts away, leaving them alone and hurting?
Despair. Despair is when everyone is gone and you are alone. It is the dark place where that voice whispers that you deserve this, that nothing will ever change, that your life is worthless. Despair is when you have come to the end of everything - finances, strength, health. Despair is when living hurts more than anything else that you can imagine. Despair comes when death looks more beautiful than tomorrow.
Despair waits around every corner, at the end of every breath, with chemical sensitivities. He leaps out at you when you wonder what your child's life will be like with no friends. He strangles you when your whole week crumples down into simple survival as a fragrance laced chemical wafts through the air. He whispers in your ear as your friends melt away, one by one. Despair waits and takes advantage of every opportunity. He is of this world.
OK, I'm a bit tired of riding the bummer train. Because, the truth is, I faced despair several years ago. And despair kicked my behind. In fact, I sort of "tried God" as a last resort. Figured He probably wasn't real, but hey, if it was that or death, maybe just trying would be worthwhile, so I could convince myself not to give up. This was before MCS, but in the midst of the agony of constant pain and medications. And in trying out God, I found out that I was not strong enough to win. But that suddenly didn't matter because... well, it wasn't my fight to win.
I'd love to write something deep and spiritual here, but honestly, all I can say is that I had no idea that He was real. I'd heard about Him, but figured if He was real, He would change people - and the people around me when I was growing up were not changed. They said nice things but to me, actions speak louder than words. And the actions around me said that God was not real. That Christ was like knocking on wood - say you believe, just in case. And I learned in Sunday school that if you were good enough and proclaimed that you believed, that was the way to salvation. Whatever. I didn't want a God who was so little that people could say they were saved and that decided matters.
So, you could have knocked me over with a feather when God spoke in my life. That's private stuff, between Him and me, but I will say that He is real, Christ is real. I spent my life acquiring knowledge. I was salutatorian in high school, got a BS in biology, got a master's degree in Immunology with a minor in Biotechnology, and yet I missed the big picture. But you know what? That's OK. I could have said I believed and proclaimed Christ as king, but without God completely changing my heart, that would have been a road to nowhere. I can say what I want - but only the Creator God can truly change a heart.
So, back to the question of despair. I cannot fight despair. If it was me alone, dealing with this mess, I would just jump off a bridge. But I do not have to fight it. Despair will come, and sometimes mess me up a bit, but I'm God's, and no one takes anything of God's away. I'm in this world, but I don't belong to it. I will have down times, especially when my body is under attack. I admit, I have to suppress a shudder sometimes when I think of my future. More people will say well-meaning things. More people will disappear from my life. More disappointments will come. I will spend more time crying into my pillow.
But I find I cannot despair any more. I've never been to the Dead Sea, but I imagine it is something like trying to sink to the bottom in that buoyant body of water. It can't be done. I can flail around a bit, but I cannot hit the bottom anymore. God has put Himself between me and the bottom. He was willing to go down to those awful depths so that I don't have to anymore. The following verses may be very familiar to you. I've heard them many times. But let me tell you, followers of Christ who have MCS are blessed in a particular way. We live these verses every moment of every day. And the despair must always wither away in the Light which brings True Peace.
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies."
II Corinthians 4:7-10
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."
II Corinthians 4:16-18