In autumn 2003, just as I was beginning training for ordained ministry, I had my first acute attack of rotational vertigo. It was terrifying and I thought I was having a stroke and might die. This was the first of a series of attacks which forced me to bed for weeks at a time, unable to get up unattended, sometimes unable to move my head or even my eyes.
Since then I have experienced the fluctuations and many severe restrictions of life with a chronic vestibular (balance) disorder – ‘compromised health’ indeed. These years have been painful in many ways, not only for me for but also for my husband and three daughters. We have all had to adjust our expectations of family life and accept changes we had never imagined.
But despite that pain (and it remains real pain), somehow a new layer has been added to my sometimes chaotic and confused inner life – a layer of richness and insight which I continue to delve into and learn from. Due to the path to the priesthood which I had embarked upon and the whole process which had led me to that point, a spiritual dimension quickly crept in to my struggle with this unpredictable disorder.
My prayer life became intense and remained so for a few years. Insights poured into my mind and one of the first was the following phrase: “You are touching the suffering of the world.” I realized that my experience of suffering, although unique to me, connected me to others in the world. I felt particular empathy with those held captive to situations of poverty, sickness or conflict; thousands of people whom I will never meet but with whom I feel a connection because of the struggle and pain that we endure. It is a connection that comes through God because He grieves when any one of his beloved children suffer and longs for our healing and wholeness. I hold on to this belief and it brings comfort and hope that one day I, and all who struggle in whatever way, will find release and freedom.