When a Diagnosis Doesn’t Cure Your Disease

Amber Ginter

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Updated Aug 28, 2023
When a Diagnosis Doesn’t Cure Your Disease

If you’re suffering from any diagnosis, please know that any setbacks or set of conditions you face in this temporary life don’t triumph over the value Christ has placed on your identity. Your identity is in Christ Jesus who has filled you with His Spirit and His power (1 Corinthians 3:16).

The fall after I graduated college, I was in and out of the ER half a dozen times. After months of nauseating abdominal pain, a diagnostic procedure was done, and a pamphlet was thrown at me. Finally, there was a diagnosis! 

“IBS-C,” the pamphlet read in bright red letters. 

The doctor gave me the generic spiel to increase my fiber and take some vitamins. Things I was already doing. He even suggested that my symptoms could be caused by anxiety: 

"If you get your anxiety under control, your IBS-C could disappear in five to six years."

The doctor may have been trying to cheer me up, but his words felt like grasping for straws, empty promises of something I didn’t know how to achieve. Answers not given.

Later that evening, in the comfort of my home, the doctor’s words replayed in my mind. 

“Five to six years.”

But all I could think was: “What about now?” 

As I moved to my bed and wrapped the comforter around my ears, I felt the bitter reminder that blankets don’t cover pain any more than diagnoses do. 

When I first received this medical diagnosis (alongside my mental disorders), I felt fearful, paralyzed, and broken. Diagnoses do a good job of naming and identifying the pain you feel, but they do a terrible job of comforting the affliction you’re left to navigate. When a diagnosis leaves you reeling, I want you to know that your pain is valid, a diagnosis doesn’t define you, and healing takes time.  

Your Pain Is Valid

Half the battle of being diagnosed with a mental or physical disorder is believing what you’re experiencing. Many suffering individuals feel the need for their pain to be validated before they believe it’s “real.” 

But the reality is that physical or mental pain deserves to be validated regardless of your diagnosis. So don’t minimize it. Growing up, my mom constantly told me, “Someone always has it worse.” She was right and didn’t mean harm. Someone always does have it worse. But when that was her default response to my suffering, it ignored my need for validation. And her words took their toll.

Over the years, I unconsciously began to ignore my physical and mental needs. When my anxiety began to spiral, I worked harder. As my family crumbled from drugs and abuse, I did more at home to pitch in. It wasn’t until I graduated college that I reached my breaking point, both mentally and physically. My IBS-C diagnosis was just the beginning. Within a few months, I was formally diagnosed with not only anxiety and depression but numerous health concerns. All the ignored years of trauma kept score on my body. They’ve probably kept score on yours. But now it's time to start the healing process. 

A Diagnosis Doesn’t Define You

Once you have a diagnosis, it can be hard to separate your identity from the condition. There are many days that I feel like a walking laundry list of symptoms. When Endometriosis was recently added to the list, I wasn’t surprised. But I’m learning that you are not your diagnosis, and it doesn’t define you. 

You are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), but because of the fall of mankind, sin exists in you and the world (Romans 5:1). While you’re saved by the blood and grace of Jesus (Romans 5:8), suffering and calamity are still part of everyday life—some simply because we live in a fallen world, some due to wrong and sinful choices we make (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21).

If you’re suffering from any diagnosis, please know that any setbacks or set of conditions you face in this temporary life don’t triumph over the value Christ has placed on your identity. Your identity is in Christ Jesus who has filled you with His Spirit and His power (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Yes, there will be times when your diagnoses will weigh you down, tempting you to believe you’re weak and useless. But you can use these moments of darkness to remind yourself of your need for Christ and why it’s important to care for the bodies He’s given us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19–20).

After I was diagnosed with IBS-C, anxiety, depression, and Endometriosis, I started to realize two things:

  1. My need for someone greater than myself.

  2. My need to rest and listen to my body.

We live in a society that praises busyness and devalues our needs. They celebrate rushing to the next phase of life, checking off to-do lists, and endlessly working hours into the night. However, the Bible tells us living with such ambitions is useless and fruitless (Psalm 127:2). 

Diagnoses may threaten your quality and enjoyment of life, but they don’t have to. With God’s power within you, you can use suffering to remind you of your need for Jesus and release the pressure to heal yourself, learning to attend to your needs.

You Can’t Rush Healing

Just a few months after I started counseling for my mental and physical health issues, I stopped. I was sure I was better, had learned all the skills, and could recover on my own. The unfortunate truth was that I was just trying to rush the healing process. 

Two of the most common questions my counselor hears as a therapist are “How long will it take to get better?” and “Can I do this faster so I can speed up the healing process?” But you can’t rush recovery and healing. 

Aundi Kolber, in her book Try Softer, pens these thoughts when it comes to healing:

“It takes as long as it takes. It’s okay to be unfinished. It’s absolutely normal to be imperfect. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. And what’s more, God is neither surprised nor dismayed at how slowly we progress.”

Kolber and my therapist are spot-on: true healing and recovery take time. Just as it took time to receive your diagnoses, it’s a process to understand living with them. 

Living with Your Diagnosis

With a shudder, I feel the cool wind from the fall when I graduated. The time all my pain began. The days I received my first set of diagnoses. 

I was a twenty-something girl lost, afraid, and in so much pain she wished to bottle it all inside so it might dissipate. 

If I could go back, I’d sit with her in the waiting room of the doctor’s office and extend a warm hand. I’d pull her in for a hug and remind her that though she feels heavy now, these diagnoses were never meant to harm her.  

I would tell her the same thing I want to tell you: your diagnoses don’t cripple or define you. But they can empower you to look to your Creator. As He enables you to care for yourself along the process, be reminded that true healing is not a race but takes time. “And what’s more, God is neither surprised nor dismayed at how slowly we progress.” (Aundi Kobler, Try Softer).

Agape, Amber

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Cunaplus M. Faba

amber ginter headshotAmber Ginter is a teacher, author, blogger, and mental health activist who resides in the beautiful mountains and cornfields of Ohio. She loves Jesus, granola, singing, reading, dancing, running, her husband Ben, and participating in all things active. She’s currently enrolled in the Author Conservatory Program and plans to pitch her book: Mental Health and the Modern Day Church for Young Adults, soon. Visit her website at amberginter.com.

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