Cam Pak

Being "normal" destroyed my body • 6 min read

I have one of those now-popular auto-immune diseases.

Oftentimes it seems to get worse when I feel the pressures of the world weighing down on me, when stress rises, and when I feel helpless.

…she realized how much emotional pain she had been stuffing down. To cope, she had learned to channel her energy into being hyper-functional and indispensable at work, often carrying the pressures of everyone around her …these traits of self-sacrifice, suppressing negative emotions (especially anger), and high concern for social acceptance are common in patients with autoimmune diseases.

Blinkist of The Myth of Normal

Sounds like this person is talking about me, haha. I used to be very healthy. Like I'd never get sick, could eat anything I wanted, and was super active.

Was…

Just like the person in the quote, I drove myself into being the most helpful and dedicated person that I could be. I would sacrifice everything to be a help to people; I guess to somehow prove my worth and that I was good-hearted. I was the hardest worker around and very in-tune with the needs of those around me.

On the outside, I looked great. On the inside …well that's a different story.

I drove emotions deep down and became numb to them. I only felt happy, anger, or sadness. And I hated feeling the latter two, so I ignored them as long as possible.

You can only ignore your needs for so long until your health takes the toll.

March 2019 is when my health began to get worse and worse. I was working two jobs, full-time in college, dating Hannah, active in student organizations, and also planning a wedding and trying to find a full-time job. I guess you could say I was …stressed.

I thought that was normal. I thought the feeling of adrenaline and anxiety was normal. I did the things everyone around me was doing. I was working super fast and getting things done. I thought I needed caffeine to function and tried to minimize sleep so I could maximize meeting the "yes's" I've agreed to. I ate food that was bad for me. I did everything to put my body in conditions that were unfavorable and toxic.

It didn't stop after college and marriage. I just kept throwing myself into stress. Health continued to decline and I tried as hard as possible to prove myself in my job. It wasn't an easy job and required me to do a ton of learning, focusing and critical thinking, which is far from my default. I continued my caffeine habits, poor eating habits, and could not turn off my mind of anxious thoughts. My health dipped more and more and more.

Everything suffered because I didn't allow myself to feel emotions and take care of my own needs.

When my body made it clear I needed to rest, I drank liquid sleep (aka energy drinks). When I was overwhelmed at work, I continued to take on new projects whenever asked. When anger burned inside of me, I tried to ignore it. When anxiety took over, I also ignored that. When anything appeared that wasn't "normal" or what I saw in everyone else around me, I just ignored it. Anything that didn't feel "good" or "normal", I didn't want anything to do with that.

I struggle to say no when someone asks for help. I struggle to take time to care for myself. I tend to put others first, ultimately to my detriment, forgetting self. I struggle to say no to any request, even if it makes no sense or if I don't even know the person. I tend to even put them over the ones I love most. And, I think it's to prove that I have a good heart, because those who I love already know I have a good heart, so I want to make it clear to those who don't know me that I do.

That's not healthy. People's validation is fickle. I need something steady.

God's love is steady. God himself is steady, always faithful and true to himself. Always good, filled with grace and truth. Never-changing. This is the God who loves me. I don't need things or validation from people for me to feel known and loved. I have that in God and have absolutely no need to prove myself. And by grace, I have love from my wife, family, and friends.

Physical health is a journey connected to spiritual, emotional, and physical self.

I'm still on this journey of healing. It's an every day walk that isn't something that medicine alone will solve. I've tried all the medicines you can think of, and some have only temporarily helped. There was a time in 2019 when I was begging God to just take this all away from me. I begged and cried and pleaded.

And He said, "Cameron, if I healed you right now, you'd worry yourself back into the same place."

Amen. Absolutely amen. Instead of instant healing, God wanted to take me on a healing journey. Do I want relief or restoration? My God is in the business of restoration.

Things that have helped a ton are consistent quiet times with God, learning to be content with what I have and where I'm at, saying "no", eating healthy foods, limiting caffeine, learning to think slowly, taking walks, confiding in my accountability group, enjoying faith community with my LifeGroup, walking this life with Hannah Pak, counseling, sleeping, deep breathing, turning off the digital noise… And the big one: healthy boundaries.

Being "normal" by living a stressed and anxious life and stuffing down my emotions and needs destroyed my body, but I serve a God who redeems and restores. It's in His nature and He is faithful. I'm tired of being "normal". In fact, I want to be weird. I want to do things differently. Jesus lived a pretty weird life, far from the norm, and His impact can be felt even today.

I serve a God who redeems and restores, and I am confident He is enough for today.

— from Cam Pak, a weirdo who's tired of what's "normal"

P.S. At the time of writing this, I will be taking the rest of the year off from work to focus on healing, resting, counseling, and a simple life, so that I can create the right conditions for my body to heal. We have a wonderful support group of family and friends who are praying diligently for God's restoration day by day in my life.