I've seen joy and I've seen pain but through it all God proved faithful
by Kristin Conwell
Remembering my sister by giving her my bouquet on the day of my Wedding
As far as I'm concerned now, my life is an open book so it can be a testimony for God's glory. I'm not afraid of sharing my past anymore with anybody because I have seen God use it for good time and again already. The truth is even though I'm a pastor's daughter, I've had several major struggles with my faith within the last 4 years but I've come out all the wiser and stronger from them each time I reached the light at the end of a particular tunnel.
One month to the day after I married my husband, I suddenly started experiencing a range of symptoms that resembled elements of conditions such as MS, epilepsy, and dystonia. I experienced these symptoms daily in varying debilitating degrees and combinations, including fainting spells, vertigo, fatigue, headaches, blurred vision, numbness in my legs and arms, heart palpitations, a frequent inability to concentrate or remember things, slurred or sometimes even a complete loss of speech. The first time it happened I was leisurely talking on the phone with a friend, folding laundry. Repeated trips to different doctors, emergency rooms, and neurologists yielded no explanations nor help to me. By summer of 2008 I began experiencing involuntary movement mostly to my left side. This could range from a slight periodic twitching, similar to someone with Turret's Syndrome, to extremely hard jerking or complete loss of muscle tone so that I would fall down suddenly. Any of these symptoms could strike at any time of the day, whether I was asleep or awake, enjoying myself in the middle of a conversation or some other activity or sometimes if I was stressed. Oddly, I found that my spells occurred whenever I backed up, viewed images of anything zooming in or out or from a first person perspective, and every time I entered a building with lots of fluorescent lighting.
Since this all began my life was turned upside down. I was unable to continue driving, working, or my schooling while my uncontrollable and random symptoms seemed to escalate as each day passed…I had no idea what was wrong with me, for the longest time I couldn't find even specialized professionals who had a clue either. I didn’t know what to do to get better, I didn’t know how to work or how to spend my time not working and I got sick of it! Although I saw my on campus counselor for as many free sessions as my University allowed, I started to enter into a deep depression as the new year began. More of my friends were graduating and moving on with their lives. I had nothing new to tell any loved ones who remembered to call and check on me every so often. Robert had to work more and more (as I was denied disability with no diagnosis of course) to keep up with our bills and so I became confined to our apartment, trying to keep as busy and productive as possible but my condition worsened. I started suffering from insomnia, nightmares, and early awakening and therefore began sleeping most of my days away.
Robert felt our best and only option to help us at least temporarily would be to move in with his parents in Alabama in order to save money and be close to all of his family. Though I was extremely hesitant to move in with my in-laws and out of state away from my own family to a city with only relatives I barely knew, my situation in Florida seemed to be getting worse. I agreed, not being able to propose any truly viable alternative options and to see if a change in atmosphere would help me as my husband believed.
Unfortunately both my depression and symptoms escalated. Emotionally I began to deal with the stress by feeling either resentment, anger, despair, and numbness. Physically, instead of temporary twitching or jerking to my left side, I began to either lock up in contorted positions or suffer from fits of severe convulsing, experiencing involuntary movement over my whole body. I ended up in the hospital 4 times within 6 weeks either because the convulsing came so frequent or severely, or from hurting myself when they did occur. I started wearing a helmet and alternated between the use of a four pronged cane and a wheelchair to keep from endangering myself. After repeated CAT scans, EEG's, MRI's, and other neurological testing, the Mayo Clinic finally had my case reviewed by one of their expert Neuro-Psychologists. After taking into account my extensive personal history of turmoil over the past 8 years- having a rebellious lesbian teenage sister and all the drama that ensued with my overly strict Christian family, church, and friends at school. Her sudden tragic death from a drunk driver, my broken engagement with my high school sweetheart, my suicide attempt, enduring the driver of her accident's trial, my parent's financial and marital crisis, my beloved grandmother's death, and most recently, my progressively debilitating unknown illness that struck without warning, causing me and my marriage overwhelming stress, and loss of independence and control not to mention financial security- I was officially diagnosed in May 2009 with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and finally, Conversion Disorder. Conversion Disorder is typically very rare in North America but occurs when your body starts to relive suppressed stress or subconscious trauma through physical symptoms that have no biological basis of explanation.
After looking at facilities, specialists and treatment programs willing to consider me as a patient without insurance coverage, a feeling of hopelessness remained due to their outrageous costs and waiting list periods. Fortunately a beloved friend of my family's and to whom I referred to as my uncle, recommended me to a specialty therapist as soon as he learned of my diagnosis. He was an innovative world known doctor who combined different methods of therapy and promised “rapid resolution”. While I was skeptical of the untraditional methods my uncle and the Internet seemed to describe, I was desperate and willing to give almost anything a try at this point. I decided to trust both my intuition and my uncle.
Sure enough the miracle my family, friends and I had been praying for so long was able to be fulfilled through the one 3 hour session of therapy I received from that doctor. I know for sure that I've been healed. I have tested myself by using triggers I've always known to cause convulsions in me don't anymore. I haven't had a single one since the day I received treatment on June 20th. I left his office that day with the deepest sense of peace, clarity, joy and hope I have ever had since being saved. None of it has left me since. What's more, he called my father These past 2 months have been the first time in I believe at least 8 years I have not awoken or gone to bed without a single feeling of either depression, fear, anger, guilt or despair. These were all the repressed emotions I never learned to deal with correctly. I was able to forgive my parents for treating my sister wrongly, the driver who was responsible for her death, as well as my ex-fiancée completely. I have also not had a single nightmare or troubling symptom that I had previously lived with nearly everyday for the past year and a half. I feel free and reborn and like I have the fruit of the Spirit back in my life, which I have missed ever so dearly for the longest time.
My life is still uncertain and stressful no doubt, but since June however when God healed me, I cannot help but rapture in my newly restored health in my mind, body, and spirit. I know now that whatever obstacles lay ahead of me will forever be met with an optimism and confident assurance God helped me to find. I can't wait to pass on the same healing and enlightenment to whomever God puts in my path for me to share it with. I am still facing many difficulties; life did not magically bloom into a garden of daisies for me. I am still adjusting to making a home and a life here in Alabama with my husband and his family, searching for a job, friends and still unable to drive. Even so, I can't express the depth of just how thankful I am for God’s goodness to me everyday.
When I wake up I thank God that I was able to rest and not suffer from convulsions or nightmares through out the night. I delight in the fact that I don’t have to worry anymore about sustaining serious self injury from having a seizure while I do house work or go out in public. I do not have to fear or dread getting out of bed and on with my life anymore. Everyday has new opportunities, possibilities, and joys. God's word has restored life to me once again. John 16:33 says “In me you may have peace. While you are in the world you will endure troubles, but take heart for I have over come the world.” This verse means a lot to me because I guess I used to somehow think life would not be as difficult if you were a Christian, now I understand all the warnings Christ gave his disciples in the Bible of the cross we each have to bear. I am encouraged now more than I've ever been afraid since Jesus has proven good on his word that he would never leave me nor forsake me.
Frederick Douglass once said, “Without struggle there is no progress.” I realize that God was faithful to me the whole time I felt abandoned by him. Just as he has been to everyone he loves so dearly, including you Joshua. Now I can see where he brought me from and how much I am learning. He always makes good on his promises. He did not forget about me, I see now that he has been refining me...He purposely and painfully broke me so he could set me straight. He is the Ultimate Physician and he knew that I literally had to “sweat out” my illness. I am infinitely better off for every hardship that God allows me to go through. It was in no way enjoyable or easy but I do see now how much these times in my life are necessary. I can not wait to see all the good that will come out of them and that's why I want to reach out to help as many others as possible.