All of my childhood I heard my mother tell my pediatrician that I was “healthy as a horse.”
When I was able to fully understand what she meant and when I started seeing doctors on my own, I adopted the same mindset. I felt like I was invincible—immune to any unexpected disease or disorder. After hearing that coined phrase over and over, it became part of my identity. At the time, I didn’t understand the full weight of those words. I didn’t realize just how much pride I carried around on my steadfast shoulders until one morning when I was hit full-force with the reality of my mortality.
I was 23 years old when I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. That was 11 years ago.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease that happens when your immune system basically gets confused and begins attacking your joints. This causes severe pain and inflammation. In my case, it started when I woke up with a swollen knee the size of a melon.
I had no idea what was in store when I took the journey to the ER that day. I assumed I had injured my knee somehow. I never imagined that six months later I would be discussing the side effects of the oral medication that I was to take weekly—a sort of low dose of chemotherapy to suppress my immune system so it would slow the progression of joint damage. Honestly, I felt like it was a dream. I wasn’t able to grasp the reality of my current condition nor the idea of what my future might look like. I didn’t want to believe it was real.
Days spent in pain were a constant reminder of the presumptuous dream of a dodged bullet. The day I picked up the pack of fluid-filled syringes was the day that I could no longer assume that the disease was biased…that perhaps it had made the wrong stop. Maybe God had mistakenly missed the mark with this one. Why me? My son needed me. I had to work. How was my husband going to deal with this?
“God, keep my head above water. Don’t let me drown.” (Head Above Water, Avril Lavigne)
There were days when I didn’t get out of bed. I had to call into work. I had to care for my son from a limited source of energy. My husband couldn’t deal with it.
I pleaded with God as I laid on my back choking on my own tears of terror and despair.
“Come to rescue me I’ll be waiting. I’m too young to fall asleep.” (Head Above Water, Avril Lavigne)
Avril Lavigne shared her heroic story with the world with the release of her new single Head Above Water. Along with her song, she shares on her website about how Lyme disease kept her bedridden for two years.1
Lyme disease is a bacteria that is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected black-legged or deer tick. Lyme disease can mimic a chronic autoimmune disease because one’s body will continue fighting the bacteria long after the bacteria is gone- when there is no post-treatment for Lyme disease syndrome other than the standard arthritis treatment.2
Having been out of the spotlight in recent years due to her disease, Avril has resurrected as a powerhouse voice.
Within the first few breaths of the song, my heart was captivated by the raw lyrics that spoke directly to the memories of those early days of my diagnosis.
“God… Don’t let me drown, it gets harder. I’ll meet you there at the altar.”
Head Above Water is a battle cry for those that have been on the receiving end of life-changing news. It is an anthem for anyone that has had to cry out from their sick bed—through the darkness, tears, and anguish—a song and a story that is relatable to so many that suffer from the uncertainty of an autoimmune diagnosis.
Avril Lavigne sings hope into hearts of those that seek to find refuge from the pain within the arms of an all-knowing and loving God.
He will keep your head above water.
Watch the official video to Head Above Water by Avril Lavigne: https://youtu.be/EKF6ghfcQic
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Don’t miss this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: Hardship Hit This Singer’s Life and She Chose to Fight! with Cameron James Pt. 1 – 048!
Photo from Avril Lavigne.