One of the most heart-wrenching realizations I have ever had to accept was the fact that I was not well. For years, I agonized over this truth. Slowly, I was being swallowed up by a list of unexplainable symptoms that insidiously began stealing life’s joys and highs from me. I thought I was doing everything right. How had my life taken this path? Why was I unable to help myself despite having spent nearly a decade helping others? Would I ever be strong enough to heal from my illness and enjoy life again?
Failure, that overwhelming presence of insufficiency, in my life was never as strong as it was the moment I said my final goodbyes and left work. A large portion of my identity disappeared that day. I believed rest, a few select medications and supplements would help me regain my energy, but one year into treatment, it became apparent that this would not be the case. As relapse after relapse occurred, I became more fearful that exerting any amount of energy would cause me to go further into the depth of my illness. Moving, talking, laughing, listening–nearly everything became my enemy as all forms of stimulation became an energy zapping experience. More and more, I was becoming my illness. Lyme Disease had brought me to a frightful place and I could no longer imagine what it might be like to live life with it, yet still pursue happiness.
If I close my eyes, I can imagine myself fearfully lying in the bed for months on end. After all, I am not yet far removed from such days. I recall a sad time late last fall at my doctor’s office. While sitting across from my doctor, I tearfully told him that a full recovery was not likely, but at the very least, I hoped for a day where my mind would be filled with thoughts other than Lyme Disease and sickness. Indeed, my expectations had become quite low.
Two weeks ago, I caught myself pondering some new thoughts. As I thumbed through the food in our pantry, I recognized my head was filled with ideas about the future and questions like “where will our first vacation be when I am well enough to travel?” The mental milestone that I had been hoping to one day achieve had, without a doubt, been conquered. What was it that had shifted my thought process so I was able to dream? I realized that somewhere along the Lyme Road I allowed myself to like, even love things again. I gave myself permission to find me once more in spite of the struggles I may be having.
Much to my pleasant surprise, I have not relapsed and continue to slowly grow stronger and braver. I am finding that my sense of humor is returning, that I have an addiction to quirky-patterned button up shirts and my voice as an advocate for this illness is quite loud and clear. I will admit that rediscovering myself through this illness has been scary, but I truly like the person I see emerging. Yes, I have a chronic illness, but this illness no longer has me.