As most of you know, eighteen months ago, I was in a serious car accident. Despite my injuries, I actually felt pretty lucky to get off as easily as I did given the situation. As I slowly healed, I experienced some pretty miraculous things in certain respects which I’ll share with you eventually. But the truth is that I have been grappling with debilitating chronic pain for months now. We could not figure out why it is so intense and what to do to fix it. It’s been a long journey with a lot of doctor appointments and scans and specialists.
For a long time, I have done what I always do: carry on anyway. I have kept up with a brisk speaking and travel schedule. I have done my best to keep the disruption of my own body from the world and even from my children. I began writing again. I took on the chairmanship of the board for Heartline Ministries. I wrote a manual for maternal care in the developing world with the midwives at Heartline so that we can begin to replicate our model of care worldwide in developing communities (more on that eventually – super proud of what we’re doing there). I contracted a new book. I planned the Evolving Faith conference with my friend, Rachel Held Evans. I flew here and there and everywhere for conferences and churches. I kept going and now I can’t keep going anymore.
Because my body continued to struggle – not only was I not getting better, I seemed to be getting worse. My acute pain days (or as I euphemistically spoke of them “Body Days”) have been growing more and intense and more frequent as time goes on. My family has been worried for a long time but I have been blissfully disassociated as only an Enneagram 9 is capable of being. I would come home from every conference where I met you, weeping with exhaustion and pain, barely able to walk, and then take a week to recover. I have hidden in green rooms and hotel rooms when I wasn’t speaking in order to rest and try to find some relief. I used my suitcase as a cane so I could hide my limp in plain sight. I made jokes about “being slow” when people walked with me. My children have missed having their mum at her full capacity – I haven’t been able to join them camping or bike riding or even for a walk around the neighbourhood for a long, long time. I spend a lot of time recovering from the basic functions of being a human person – cleaning my house or cooking a meal knocks me down for hours.
And this past summer, the answers eventually arrived. I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia along with a few other things I’m not quite ready to share yet. Apparently this is a thing that can be triggered particularly in women of my age who experience sudden trauma … like a car accident. Reading through the symptoms for fibromyalgia especially felt like someone was peeking into my life – I was amazed at almost every single thing I have been enduring was named so completely from the debilitating pain to the exhaustion to the “foggy thinking” to the nerve damage and so on.
In some ways, it was a tremendous relief to have a name for what has been going on in my body but honestly? I am quietly devastated because these issues are chronic and often life-long. Life may not ever look the way that it used to look for me.
We have been putting together a treatment plan to hopefully manage the pain and reduce the frequency and severity of my “Body Days.” I’m working with a great team of medical specialists and doctors who are treating me with seriousness for which I am grateful.
However – and this is why I am sharing this news publicly – I have had to cancel almost all of my speaking engagements for the rest of 2018 and into 2019. In order for me to get any traction on establishing a treatment plan and give my body half a chance to learn how to manage my New Normal, I will have to avoid travel if possible. Airplanes, time changes, and the stress of travelling is a major set-back for me. I need to make room for rest, for pain relief treatment, for momentum to have a chance to build. (The only exceptions are the quickly approaching MOMcon in September because it was too late to bow out and my own conference, Evolving Faith in October. It won’t be pretty but I will still be there. And if you haven’t heard yet, we just opened up a live webcast for Evolving Faith for the others who find travel prohibitive.)
My booking agent, Jim Chaffee, has been an absolute champ throughout this. We have both slowly been working with all of the event organizers who are directly affected by this change and every single one of them has been kind and supportive. You need to know that every person inconvenienced by me has only blessed me to do what I need to do in order to get well. (Which almost makes it worse: if they were a bit more frustrated and irritated, I wouldn’t feel as bad as I feel about having to cancel.) If you have bought tickets for any event at which I was scheduled to speak this fall, winter, or spring, I hope you will still go and show them your support. Whoever replaces me at those events will be a gift to you, I’m sure. Hopefully in the future, I’ll make it up to these lovely folks.
And then after that: I will stay home for the foreseeable future until this is – I want to say “fixed” but that’s not quite it…maybe the word is “manageable.” Until this is manageable. It is likely that I won’t ever be able to return to the pace and schedule I enjoyed before the accident: even if I can resume travel again at some point, it will have to be modified and lessened significantly.
I love this aspect of my work and find it deeply meaningful. Connecting with you all in person is a big source of joy and inspiration and meaning for me. Out of all the things that this car accident has changed in my life, this loss – the loss of my ability to travel and preach – is near the top of the list.
The good news is that my primary work as a writer has been continuing from here at home – and I am hard at work on a new book already that will hopefully be in your hands in 2019 if all goes as planned.
But this summer, I have finally accepted the truth: my main job for the rest of 2018 and into 2019 is to find a New Normal that reduces my pain and returns me to a decent quality of life.
My family and my friends have endured a lot because of this situation and I’m sad for that. The best way I know how to thank them is to cooperate with what a healthy life may look like now and to take this seriously at last.
If you pray, I would appreciate your prayers more than I could express.
Thanks, my friends. I appreciate your understanding and your grace.