How I Found Hope through Ongoing Illness
Pain has a specific purpose for our bodies: it tells us when something isn’t right. This normally means a bit of rest, some pain killers, or a trip to the GP to find the cause. But for people living with consistent or ongoing pain the reaction can be quite different. Pain becomes a regular part of our lives, something that must be pushed through to be able to keep going.
My experience with ongoing pain started in 2017, when existing pain became more regular and more severe. Trips to A&E started me on a road to seeking a diagnosis for endometriosis. This led to months where simple things like going to work were exhausting, hospital appointments ended in frustration, and to days of ‘endo belly’ when my stomach was so bloated that strangers on the tube offered me a seat because they thought I was pregnant. All this meant that I became more isolated, avoiding people on days where I felt bad and not wanting to commit to plans in case I had to cancel at short notice.
I found it difficult to talk about, not wanting to make anyone uncomfortable or come across as negative. But there is a reason that peer support is such a big part of what is offered to anyone living with ongoing illness. Not talking about our experiences, or not feeling able to, adds to feeling different or apart from our friends. By talking to Claire, another woman in the Bethnal Green service who is living with ongoing pain, I found comfort – not only in shared experience, but in a total understanding of how I was feeling. She helped me feel more able to talk about what my experiences really were.
This is why we’ve set up SGOI, a support group for people who are living with ongoing pain or illness. Jesus encourages us to live openly and honestly in our church community. This doesn’t just mean when things are going great, as much as it’s always nice to do that. In fact, in Matthew chapter 11, Jesus makes it clear to us that He is here for us when things feel too much. When Jesus offers that all can come to Him and He will ‘give them rest’, He means it. Living in London, where it can sometimes feel like you always have to be ‘on’, this is a relief that I sometimes have to remind myself of. With SGOI, we want to combine the day-to-day of living with ongoing pain and illness with our belief in God’s healing power.
Peer support doesn’t mean having to share everything – there’s no set expectation of participation – but it does mean that when you do want to talk there are people there to empathise, to have a chat with, and to offer encouragement to turn to God when it all just feels a bit too much.
If you’re interested in finding out more and seeing what SGOI is about, we’re having our first meeting on Wednesday, 14th November in London Bridge and you can sign up here. We’d love to see you there!
If you would like to talk to a member of our pastoral team about this or anything else, contact them here.