When I share about fibromyalgia, oftentimes is to women. And it’s true the majority of people with fibromyalgia and other chronic pain issues are women. But there are men that suffer as well. (And I’m not talking about our husbands. ha!)
I recently met Jonathan Thorn. When I heard his story I decided it was time to hear about chronic pain from the viewpoint of a male. Jonathan is a stay-at-home dad working on his masters in Mental Health Counseling. Wow! Kudos to Jonathan! Come meet him with me…
Hello Jonathan. Will you share the short story of your chronic pain journey. What are your diagnoses? Tell us about your journey towards a diagnosis?
My journey has been tremendously impacted over the past 10 years…
In January 2010 I was coming off my night shift. On my way home I was making a left-hand turn per the light. I did not notice the box truck barreling toward me at 60 mph. He hit me and crushed my car. He was drunk with no license or insurance and injured his two young daughters in the back.
The Traumatic Brain Injury caused daily unrelenting severe migraines. In the fall of 2012, I experienced the first of four TIA’s/Strokes. The final one in March of 2013 took part of my sight permanently, stole some memories, twisted my intestines, and made it almost impossible to walk. With my right side weakened I had pneumonia 8 times that year and was in the hospital ER over 20 times.
Breathing became an issue doctors had me on nebulizers and inhalers multiple times a day. They did one test after another after a year they discovered I had nerve damage between my ribs. It was decided to put a neuro stem unit in my back with wires throughout my ribs so I could breathe.
During the recovery, I fell and tore my Planters tendon which led to permanent nerve damage in my right ankle. I have TBI, TMJ, severe migraine, nerve damage in my ribs and ankle, Tietze syndrome, arthritis. Carpal tunnel, hearing loss, tinnitus, and partial eyesight loss. This is on top of my Elhor’s Danlos syndrome which dislodges my ribs, shoulders, knees, and elbows every so often.
The Past Ten Years
Consequently, Over the past ten years, I have had over 650 injections and have had visits for myself to the ER no less than four times every year over the past seven years (this year is the first with none so far). My condition is complex, and I struggle with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Because of these problems I have lost three jobs.
What a trial! I can’t imagine dealing with so many struggles. Throughout this time, how was your faith walk impacted? Did you lose faith? Get Stronger?
I am not great. I do not believe that true strength is something we can have in ourselves but in God alone. I am only a man who has had many weaknesses and found greater strength in God alone.
There hardly was a time I did not struggle. For the crucible I walked in was constant. I did not just walk in pain but through also through my wife’s miscarriage, and the loss of two jobs. Many times, I got angry at God. Many times, I was mad about being hit one more time with one new health or financial problems.
Encouraged by Men of the Bible
- One story in the Bible stuck with me and that was with Jacob wrestling with God.
- I found Jacob’s zeal to not letting go of the true fight with God inspired me to do the same.
- First Timothy talks about fighting the good fight.
I have been in spiritual battles against demoniacs and such. Those were easy compared to this. This fight in myself. This fight to recognize God over every trial. Jacob didn’t hold onto his sleep, his bed, or worry about all the other things he could have easily worried about. He held onto the One who he wanted to know, even when his hip hurt he held on.
It’s What You Hold On to
In the times of trials, it is easy to hold onto the pain, the loss, and the despair of it happening again. It is easy to get mad at the dreams and false hopes that were trampled upon. The question is do we hold onto hope or The True Hope that will never leave us or forsake us. I remember the dread of tests and shots and being sent to the Emergency Department one more time.
Every time despair drained in me. The fire licked at my feet and I felt like I was walking on the broken pieces of me. In those moments, I learned, that in that crucible, at that moment, to hold onto who I was walking through that fire with me. That was God. Hupomone.Hold onto Who is walking through that fire with you Click To Tweet
Was there a specific event that became a turning point in your faith during this journey?
Placed There for a Reason
After my second stroke, the doctors put me into the heart wing of the hospital as it was the only place to put me. When I was rolled into the room there was a man there. He was pale, as white as a ghost and had a raspy breath.
The doctors were trying to figure out why I have problems. This one of the lowest points in my journey. The neurologist came in and told me I was crazy and made my pregnant wife cry. He kept me at the hospital anyway for more tests and to figure out why I struggled. After the doctor and my wife left, I curled in a ball and cried. I felt stripped from anything that made me human; like a horrible person for putting people through this. I prayed.
The man on the other side of the room asked if I was okay. And we began to talk. We had breakfast and lunch and supper together. At one point the nurses came in to check on us as we were laughing so loud. God opened an opportunity for me to pray with him. He was already a believer, but the fellowship helped us both grow.
When I left the hospital, they pushed the wheelchair by the nurses’ station. The nurses stopped me. They said they thought this man was not going to make it but now it had seemed he was going to be fine.
God was there!
I thanked God for the stroke because without it I would not have been in a place to minister to that man. It brought me to the place of understanding that though trials suck, God is there. We need only to be open to him and turn those trials into something for His glory.
What scripture has become a comfort for you in this journey? Why?
In the middle of the storm I do not look to the storm for peace but to God and in God for peace. He alone is my anchor and the stillness I need to walk through these shards of ice that beat my body. In my true being, I find Him alone. I see God who is over any flame or darkness through which I may walk.
Beautiful. These are favorites of mine as well. So how do you find comfort on especially painful days?
God is my life. My center. My breath. Breakthrough pain is horrifying. It is crippling. Unexpected. Maddening. It feels like a tornado of icy glass is spinning around piercing me and trying to dig into who I am.
When I get hit. I feel weak and tired. I struggle to breath and to expand my chest to find air for my lungs; curling up in a ball on the corner of my couch as pain tremors quake my body.
When this floods me. I pull pillows around my chest. I bring myself inward and center myself, my True Self, my being on God who is in my heart. Knowing He never left me or forsaken me while my body broke my trust.
He was there.
I recognize the pain and let it go to God.
I anchor myself in Him with sure footing, one foot then another.
Then, in that place of peace, I find stillness in His presence.
My body is often very weakened after breakthrough pain to the point where it is hard to move even a finger. In those moments I try not to worry about moving but focus on God who is my life. My center. My breath.
What are some things that your family and friends do that bring comfort in your pain?
Amazing Friends and Family
My family and friends have been amazing in my crucible. They have given me grace and forgiveness when I get snappy. I’ve been given an ear to talk to when I feel overwhelmed. They have reminded me of who I truly am as my peace parries with the pain. My friends and family have constantly asked if I need anything and at times protected me from doing things that may hurt me.
Pacing is hard.
Asking for help feels helpless.
They provided me a safe empowering place to just be me while I am broken into pieces.
Are you involved in any ministries or community service to reach out to others with chronic pain? Share about this.
Being Who I AM
I can only be who I am. I do not hide who I am. When I am in pain, I hold strong but when asked how I am, I answer truthfully. I share my tribulations openly.
But, with each turn, I focus on God. I share with others how God has held this body and my soul together when it is scattered and the winds in the storm have tried to shade me from all hope. Even in those darkest of times God has given opportunities to minister to others.
I share my journey on Facebook and my blog. Many of my friends whom I have met on Facebook deal with chronic pain, depression, and anxiety. My blog is a place where I encourage others in the faith who are facing trials.
God opens doors for ministry where we walk, we need only to be open to these. I have made bread for all my neighbors in my condo complex. This has given me the opportunity to pray with many of them.
At the store,
God opens up conversations with strangers who I am able to encourage and pray with. Many of these men and women have chronic pain and I am given the opportunity to encourage them.
In the ER
I have been in the ER many times and I pray for those sitting there and talk with them. God has even given me the opportunity to encourage and pray with nurses and doctors.
At church I was supposed to work on putting together a pain management group unfortunately COVID has delayed this.
Finally, Can you offer some words of encouragement to those searching for comfort in their own chronic pain journey?
My favorite Coine Greek word in the Bible is hupomone (the ‘e’ sounds like an ‘a’). It is translated into perseverance. But in a deeper study into this word, it means to turn your disadvantage into your advantage.
Romans 5:3-5, ‘Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us freely.’Hupomone! turn your disadvantage into your advantage Click To Tweet
Hold On to True Hope
In our pain as it parries with peace hold onto True Hope. Let the pain be where it is as you hold onto what is greater. I know this is hard. I know the pain and how draining it is.
You have got this because God has got you. Keep walking through this valley of fire with the Lion of Judah beside you and in your heart.
Anchor yourself in Him who is in you who is greater than anything in the world. Our life comes from A Greater Hope.
You are loved always.
You are not alone in this fight.
Wow! Jonathan, You had me in tears of sorrow and joy and especially hope! Hupomone! Thank you for sharing your story with us