“Do You Feel Joy?”

I waited nervously for a response. Lingering in the air were my unanswered questions about this new type of intense fatigue I’d been experiencing.

My long-time doctor leaned forward. Eyeballing me, she asked in a confusingly pointed way, “Do you feel joy?”

I didn’t know how to respond. Like a Rubik’s cube, joy is complex and multifaceted. (Yet, once solved, the cube looks so neat. Did she have the cube solved? Was that why the question seemed simple to her?)

Now she was waiting for my response. My mind swivelled and twisted towards a tidy answer…

Joy? Well, I delighted in my toddler’s antics. I liked watching silly comedies with my husband. I enjoyed soaking in the sunshine on sunny winter days. I loved laughing and eating and sharing stories with old friends. I savoured the taste and the texture of chocolate as it turned to a liquid in my mouth.

What does it mean to feel “joy” anyway? I wondered. Does it mean you’re never overwhelmed by sadness?

Is it a lightheartedness? I don’t feel that, if that’s what she means. I often feel flat. Numb. Heavyhearted.

After a moment I let out an unconvincing, “Yes, I feel joy.” My doctor sat back in her chair. A twinkle of skeptical amusement flashed in her eyes. Undeterred (and a little intimidated), I continued, “But I feel really faint and tired.”

Resolutely, she pronounced her verdict. “I’ve got patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, but I don’t believe you have it. I think your fatigue stems from depression.”

As someone who lives with clinical depression plus a debilitating autoimmune illness (diagnosed by a different doctor who, subsequently, took my physical symptoms seriously and found abnormal immune markers in my blood!), I’ve had my share of struggles:

Demoralising encounters with doctors. Unhelpful teachings and awkward interactions at church. Overwhelming despondency that leads me down self-destructive thought spirals.

This week’s post is about joy. I don’t write as an expert — joy is still hard for me! I write as a fellow “branch” who is desperately dependent on the Vine.

May God guide you and bring you comfort as you read.

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