Two years ago I wrote a letter to my future husband. Since then I've been engaged, planned a wedding, and then promptly called it off after the discovery of some unsettling deceit that took place in that relationship. At the time, my heart just stopped and my entire world spun miraculously fast into a deep hurt and sorrow that lasted quite awhile. Since then I've been blessed with lots of healing from a Lord and Savior who is incredibly merciful and who loves me very much. I'm so incredibly grateful for all of the healing that has taken place. My first letter was a call for true love, despite Lyme disease. This one is that hope continued and reinforced with a whole new perspective. My hope goes out to anyone who feels immense loneliness due to any form of brokenness. May someday someone come along and aid in making your heart whole again.
Dear Future Husband,
I never thought that loneliness could sting the way that a deep cut stings after it’s been disinfected. It never occurred to me at this moment in my life that I would be clueless as to who or where you are. I guess you could say that in a way, the disinfecting of my heart is occurring at a slow and steady pace. That’s the problem with love. You can’t stitch up a broken heart. You can’t cover a bloody and broken down soul with a band aid. To disinfect one’s soul stings so much worse than to disinfect an open wound on the surface of one’s skin. I suppose the only way for a heart, such as mine, to heal would be with the potent healing power of true love itself.
If only I knew what that consisted of… Or where I could find such a thing.
My sweet future husband, I wish to explain my prior disposition on the topic of love and romance. If you could catch a glimpse of my innocent girlhood explanation of love, you might find an unexpected smile creeping across your lips. Seeing the inner child in me is something that I can’t even seem to recently accomplish myself. So if I may dig a little deeper than I have lately, I believe it might do both of us some good to reflect on my prior preconceived notions of love and war.
When I was a little girl, I thought that love was centered on romance. I envisioned princes temporarily disguised as frogs, true loves kiss, and one immense climax that would ultimately determine whether or not we were destined to be together. I anticipated that feeling that plants itself in the pit of your stomach that resembles the fluttering wings of butterflies. I contemplated the sugary sweet moments of dancing in the rain, “spark flying,” and the heightened senses that occur when one seems to be “in love.” My “perfect romance” I envisioned as a child went by the book. Back then, to my younger self, love was never something that hurt.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen a darker side of things since my adolescent years. I’ve seen an unsightly mascara stained face looking back at me in the mirror as the uncontrollable tears streamed down my cheeks and dripped onto my bathroom counter. I’ve felt the crushing weight of betrayal on my heart like a knife cutting into a piece of raw meat. I’ve felt the pulverizing torment of deceit. I’ve seen the hands that are never to be held again, and the lives that have been grossly forced to separate because of the cruel and sick world that will do anything in it’s power to destroy God’s blessing of family, hope, and true love. I’ve seen and felt the dark and horrifying claws that mercilessly try to rip people apart, and in this case, succeed in doing so. I’ve now seen the dark side of love. And I suppose in hind sight, that dark side really isn’t love at all.
I’m writing to you today because I love you.
Because I’m not giving up. I’m not giving up on us.
Because someday, somehow, we’re going to find each other, and when that day comes, no pain, darkness, or disease is going to destroy us.
Because I can’t wait to meet you, and I still feel like we are worth fighting for
When I wrote to you two years ago, I explained that marrying a sick girl is no easy task, and that it’s going to take hard work and effort on both of our parts. I reaffirm that fact today. In fact, I will go as far as to say that it’s even more applicable now than it ever has been before. I have found that the suffocating grasp of Lyme disease is very stubborn, and seemingly never fleeting.
I’ve also found that surprisingly, Lyme disease may be the glue that holds us together in a society where love doesn’t last, commitment and loyalty is almost non-existent, and hard work and effort is a foreign concept.
Unfortunately, my fairy-tale reality that I had as a teenager has come to an end. But it’s been replaced with something solid. Something that lasts into the eternities. Although it may be true that a kiss is just a kiss, most frogs don’t turn into princes, and most princes are just men… It’s also true that most relationships don’t last unless they’re something worth fighting for. Most love is temporary until you find out that it can endure the most painful and tragic of life’s suffering.
We live in a society that wants all the perks of love, without ever having to fight for it. A society that wants the “relationship goals” without the time and effort it takes to reach those goals. We want the magic and the sparks without the communication and the understanding. We want the physical gratification without the connection and the companionship. Fortunately, this skewed view of “love” that the world has is not what you get when you marry someone who must fight every day for quality of life, for joy, and for happiness. Life gets very real very fast with me.
But here’s what I’ve learned from watching love and Lyme vigorously unravel in front of my own two eyes: Those long sleepless nights, the tears and the screams, the pain and the suffering, the standing by each other no matter what Lyme throws at us next is what will build us an unshakable relationship that will withstand the test of time. Society’s definition of “love” may be temporary, but God’s definition of love is abundant, nourishing, and everlasting. God gives us suffering so we can learn and grow, and I know that if we rely on Him through it all we will only grow closer together. And more importantly, we will grow closer to God with every step we take. And what a blessing that is.
“Does true love exist?” one might ask. I believe that it does. And my hope for healing from a broken heart is something that I fight for every day. Pain comes in many forms in this life, but the hope in that is that healing comes in many forms as well. Someday my heart will be whole again, and when that day comes, that’s when I’ll find you.
Stay strong my future husband… within the grand scheme of life, I’m sure out paths will cross soon. I love you so much.
~ Your Loving Future Wife
I often contemplate the events and experiences that have taken place throughout my life that have broken me down and ultimately made me the person I am today. As unpleasant as it is to relive the past at times, I have found that occasionally looking back on experiences with deep contemplation and gratitude can be a way in which one can turn something broken into something beautiful.
I was recently lead through an exercise that did just this for me. A mental exercise that allowed me to take a step back in time and give my heart the rare experience to see myself as I once was, and take careful note as to how far I've come. In this exercise I was told to close my eyes and think back to a time where I was at rock bottom, and at this point in the exercise I immediately thought back to all of those long and painful nights where my endometriosis pain would relentlessly torture me for what seemed at the time to be endless nights.
I remembered pain so intense that all I could do was scream and grit my teeth hard until the sharp pain in my lower abdomen would let up ever so slightly. I recalled this level of pain going on for hours and days until I'd slip into a seizure. I remembered the firm resolve it took to be a fighter through these extreme flares of pain. I also remembered the times I prayed for my body to surrender because at times the grip that Lyme disease had on me seemed too strong and dark.
After recalling all these painful memories of my personal rock bottom, I was told to return back to myself in the present, go to that girl in the past in her state of "rock bottom," look her in the eyes, and say: "You made it... You made it through." That moment where my present self met that broken down and hurting past self was a very pivotal moment for me. I felt this sudden urge to hug that hurting girl so tight, as if I could physically hold all of her broken pieces together, knowing now that one day the pain would be significantly less, and that healing was just around the corner.
After such an eye-opening experience, I resolved to try this exercise one more time, but this time with a different situation at a different time in my life. At that particular time I had hit a brand new rock bottom, with a whole different kind of excruciating pain that took place not so much in the body, but in the heart.
I still remember that night as if it happened yesterday. I remember the crushing feeling of time stopping all at once, along with my heart. I remember hanging up the phone as it fell out of my hand, and the sharp gripping at my neck as if to stop any airflow from occurring. I remember wanting to suddenly scream and cry, but for whatever reason, I couldn't manage to get a single sound to escape my lips. I remember my entire outlook for the past year of my life being completely crushed by the weight of the situation, and my entire world being rocked upside down and shattered within seconds. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of the long painful healing journey that I had ahead of me. There were a lot of sleepless nights ahead. A lot of tears. A lot of aching and emotional anguish that manifested itself physically. At that point, I honestly never thought that my heart could be made whole again.
When my present self met my past self this time, I desperately wanted to take her by the hand and tell her that there was healing ahead! That her heart would be made whole! That she made it! I opened my eyes this time to tears slipping down my face as I realized that I still have some deep scars from that past betrayal and heartache. Scars that I've always thought were ugly, but in hindsight maybe they aren't as ugly as I thought they were.
Throughout my life, brokenness is something that I have managed to become very well acquainted with, and something I've learned is an essential part of life. I recently had a good friend ask me, "Do you think God loves broken things?" After a moment of silence and deep contemplation within my own heart and mind I responded, "Well, He has to! Because I know He loves me..."
I've come to know since then that in order for something, or someone, to be made strong it first has to be broken down. In order for a muscle to reach its full capacity of strength, it has to first be broken down with consistent exercise. In order for a diamond to become the diamond that it is it has to undergo an extensive amount of heat and pressure. In order for a rainbow to form there must first be rain. As it is with us.
We all are a little bit broken. We are all a little bit bruised and battered. We've all undergone some weathering in this thing that we call life. I used to spend so much time agonizing over my brokenness with the false belief that being broken was a bad thing... But I've come to know that it's not.
Sometimes broken people are the most beautiful people. Brokenness opens the doors to things we never thought possible. Brokenness makes us strong, and eventually unbreakable. Brokenness allows God to work in our lives if we let Him. And what a miracle and a blessing that is.
So if you're feeling broken. If you feel like the Heaven's are silenced, and there is little to no healing in the near future, my message to you today would be that there IS HOPE AND HEALING AHEAD. There are better things coming. Even when it feels impossible, it is not. Our Lord and Savior does not leave us comfortless. Let your brokenness propel you to great things and always remember that God loves broken things.
It's been about a year since I've written in my blog, and as I recently skimmed through some of my old posts I found tears streaming down my face and I wondered how I could have left such an immense and deep-seated part of my soul in the past. My heart resides in this blog, and shame on me for burying such a special part of me in the dirt. I've changed and experienced so much this past year, and I hope to be able to share new messages of hope and peace to anyone who is struggling with any struggle, whether it be an outward struggle, like an illness, or an inward struggle, like feelings of inadequacy and fear of the future. I hope whoever comes across this can feel overflowing love from God, and hope for better things to come.
I desire to focus on healing. But I'm not one to sugarcoat experiences, or pretend like my healing journey was comfortable and effortless. I desire to share the good and the bad. The beautiful and the ugly. The tears and the laughter. The suffering and the blessings. The miracles. The hope. All of these things together make up my healing journey from chronic Lyme disease. And yet, I still find myself battling this dreadful disease. It's simply a different battle than it used to be.
Lyme disease is a monster. Perhaps one of the scariest monsters I've ever had to face. At times I feel as though I fight a grueling battle, only to wipe the blood off my sword and prepare for the next battle. It's been brutal. But it's been worth it.
My healing journey began with my angel mother. Despite her own extended battle with Lyme disease, while I was at my worst she spent all of her extra energy and time on discovering new ways to help me heal. And it was her who studied for days on end about the protocol I was to engage in. Everybody deserves to have someone like my mother in their lives. Someone who fights with you every step of the way and doesn't give up on you, even when the nights get long and the days get dark. It takes courage and endurance to be a caretaker, but the best of people do it because their love for the person who is suffering is stronger than any disability or illness could ever be. I'll forever be grateful to my mother for being that love that I needed. That love that helped me to find answers.
I woke up on my first day of treatment with a deep seated fear, but also a renewed hope. At the time I felt like I had reasons to fight. I was fighting for my future family. I was fighting for my Heavenly Father. I was fighting for all the people who suffer from Lyme disease and feel hopeless. I was fighting for my mother who has suffered twice as much and three times as long as I have.
My treatment was a seemingly simple detox therapy. The theory of the protocol consisted of killing the bacteria, bringing the bacteria to the surface of your body, and then sweating it out through your skin, which would then later be washed off in the shower. This happened in a step by step process that I completed every day for two months. My morning began with a protocol that would specifically target the Lyme bacteria, and kill as much of it as it could in one shot without killing me. I'd then orally take a specific dose of niacin and other supplements, followed by 30 minutes of exercise. The excersise would then induce what is referred to as a "niacin flush" which means that my entire body would light up bright red, bringing the bacteria in my body to the surface, which then puts my body in the perfect position to sweat out all the toxins. I would then spend the next hour and a half to two hours in a infrared sauna, at approximately 131° sweating, hurting, burning, and detoxing. The treatment was then completed with a quick shower, and spending the remainder of the day feeling weak, exhausted, and achy.
Ultimately, this treatment was a miracle in my life. But there's no denying that while I was suffering through it, I questioned whether or not it was worth it. I recall days where walking on the treadmill seemed impossible. I have memories of passing out and throwing up at random. I remember times when I felt as if I were enclosed in a box and experienced panic that comes from feeling like your air is being taken away from you. I remember the burn that came so fiercely across my skin. The kind of burn that feels as though there are tiny shards of glass embedded in every pore of my body. I recall the heartache and the tears, and the desperate waiting and watching the clock. The glorious mental relief that came when the timer would go off, signalling that treatment was done for the day.
We sometimes see healing and miracles as things that are easy and painless, but I can't say that's always the case. And if it were, we wouldn't ever have the divine chance to learn the crucial and vital things in life that we need to learn in order to overcome our greatest pains and suffering. Painful healing is sometimes necessary for the growth of one's soul. I was blessed with the glorious opportunity of a significant amount of healing from the plague that is Lyme disease. After two months I found myself with renewed energy. My pain slowly became less and less. My strength increased little by little. Even things like my face, hair, and skin seemed renewed and glowing towards the end of this era. It was nothing short of a miracle and I will forever be grateful for all the loving hearts and hands that supported me through such a crucial time in my life.
So to anyone who feels as though no matter how hard you try the more painful it seems, I encourage you to hold on. Because God may be healing you as we speak. Soul stretching moments of healing aren't supposed to be easy. But they're always nothing short of a miracle. There is always hope for healing. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. The day will come when we will all find healing from our seeming brokenness. The peace in the meantime comes from knowing that we're not alone, and that we have a loving God who's hand is divinely guiding us through it all. It's critical that we don't lose hope.
I've found that trauma and emotional anguish, over exertion, and a failure to continuously practice healthy living feeds Lyme bacteria. I've found that my greatest desire is to be made COMPLETELY whole, but I've also learned that that may never be a reality in this life. Despite all that, despite feeling like I've been pushed a little backwards, and despite that life is hard sometimes, I have a renewed outlook on life. I have a new perspective that helps me to see the beauty, the healing, and the mercy in life. My prayer is that we can all find that in life, even if at times that entails pain and discomfort.
A couple of years ago I found myself at the bottom of a gorge, lacking safety ropes, climbing gear, or harnesses of any kind. I sat with my back up against the steep cliff that was before me, and with a loss of breath and words I struggled for a desire to want to look up at the daunting task before me. That steep, unforgiving cliff was my only way out, I knew it and I didn’t want to except it.
I’m not sure how I got there. I’m not sure if I merely tripped and fell over the edge due to an exorbitant amount of overwhelming life circumstances, or if some insensitive person had simply caught me off guard from behind, and gave me a swift push. All I knew was that I was sore, exhausted, and I felt as though the walls were closing in around me. The hot sun beat against my skin as if it were mocking my very existence, and the hard ground lead me to realize that staying in one place wasn’t giving me any easier of an answer.
I managed to pull myself to my feet, and brush off my shorts and t-shirt that were coated in a layer of dirt and dust. I posed my hand to my forehead in attempts to shield my eyes from the sun, only to find a large, bloody gash in my forehead that made me now understand why my brain felt like it was pulsing beneath my skull.
I looked up in the direction I knew I needed to go. It seemed like miles of hard rock, scraped hands, and fairytale destinations. I could see my parents scaling that same cliff miles above me. They had begun this journey long before I had, and to be frank I didn’t know how they were still managing to pull themselves upward. It seemed like the impossible task, and I questioned whether the end goal was really worth it or not.
I resolved to begin my climb. I walked up to the menacing rock wall, placed my palm in a small indent in the side of the cliff, and dug my fingers around it in an attempt to obtain a sturdy grip. I placed my foot in a sufficient gap for a foothold, and pulled myself upwards. So far so good. I continued this pattern for a couple of arm-lengths worth of rock wall before my fingers slipped off my indent, I lost my footing, and fell mercilessly back down to where I started. My skin felt like it had been torn off around my palms, arm, and knees, and my head throbbed even harder in defeat.
Keep in mind that I’m not the type of person to quit while I’m ahead. So of course I got right back up and tried again. Grip, footing, pull! Grip, footing, pull! I never quite got the hang of it well enough to reach a certain destination without tumbling a few inches downward, but after a lot of sweat and perseverance I managed to pull myself up by my parents who welcomed me as we began the rest of the journey together.
Throughout my journey, I had a lot of interesting experiences. I ran into a lot of loose rocks, and unforgiving tree branches. Avalanches and rock slides. Tears and feelings of hopelessness. And of course wishes that I wouldn’t have to do this anymore. Just when I thought I was almost there some kind of obstacle left me scraping my skin down a few inches of the cliff. I also discovered various tips and tricks from my dear parents and the reasons why they were still holding on for dear life. Those lessons I learned helped me to keep going, and helped me to realize that now was not the time to surrender to that demeaning wall of rock.
Now, on this very day, I’m still gripping the side of that cliff. I’m so close to the top where I will find my way out of this horrible place. But I still have quite the climb, and throughout my journey I have discovered my will to live, the people I love the most, and the power that keeps me pulling myself upward.
Of course, I haven’t been scaling a million mile cliff for the past two years of my life!
What I have been doing is fighting a horrible disease that is highly analogous to that of scaling a cliff that seems to be miles high, and undefeatable.
My life’s mountain is Chronic Lyme Disease, and I intend to someday reach the top.
My lack of climbing equipment is comparable to my lack of doctors, health care, and treatment options for Lyme disease. No medical professional seemed to have the answer for me. No medications, no pain pills, no belief in the medical industry that Lyme disease even exists! My Lyme equipment merely didn't exist in the beginning.
That gash on my forehead and sun beating down on me is equivalent to all the headaches, joint pain, nausea, vomiting, seizures, excruciating abdominal pain, vertigo, fatigue, limited energy, and so many symptoms that began the long spiraling journey that assisted in my arrival in that gorge in the first place.
Those trees, rocks, avalanches, and rock slides that kept slipping and slapping me down, limiting my upward progress, are comparable to all the people that have told me that I’m crazy. All the people that tell me that I’m doing this or that wrong, or all the people that don’t believe that I actually have any problem at all, and all the people that continually push me down and hurt me more when all I’m trying to do is my best.
The journey up the side of the cliff that my parents made before me is something that I will always be grateful for. It is my mother that found safety equipment along the way. It is my mother and father that grabbed me by the hand, and pulled with all their might and found answers to help me through my difficult journey. It is my mother that gave me hope in the most difficult of times, and has lead me in my healing journey.
The higher I climb on my mountain, the closer I come to healing, and now I’m almost there.
It was around December of 2016 that I began to realize my swift turn around. I realized that I was hundreds of miles from where I started, and I was beginning to see the glorious blessings that God was blessing me with all along the way! I discovered love and healing, peace and comfort, hope for my future that I didn’t think I had. I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I just have to keep climbing.
This is what chronic Lyme disease feels like. It’s like scaling a million mile high cliff with no safety gear. It’s like falling over, and over, and OVER again and hoping that eventually you’ll reach the top!
Lyme disease is a rough journey. I’m EXHAUSTED! There are days that I don’t want to keep climbing. There are days that it would be easier to quit, but I just can’t. It’s interesting how you begin to discover love and healing, and you begin to see your future incredibly clear, and your will to live comes back. Healing always leaves a lot of room for hope.
A wise man once said, “Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. (Jeffery R. Holland, 1999)”
I believe that now. There is always light at the top of your climb. God does not leave us to suffer alone. God does not leave us without answers. God is always with us to offer us help and happiness ahead. That alone is enough to make me want to keep going.
So whatever you do… Don’t you quit. You keep walking. There is ALWAYS help and happiness ahead.
I remember participating as teenager in various Sunday school classes, youth groups, and general life courses in high school where the teacher inquired the following question: "Where will you be in five years?" or "Where will you be in ten years?"
I remember having a thorough, well thought out image in my head of what my life would look like in five or ten years. I planned to marry straight out of high school at age eighteen. I thought to myself: "I'm a socially apt, talented, smart, beautiful girl! I'll snatch a man no problem!" I always planned that I would never date anyone who treated me less than a queen, and I'd fall in love in a "whirlwind romance", just like in the romance movies. I'd earnestly mapped out my life. I'd attend college as a music major, while my husband attended for some other high end profession. I'd live in a modest home with perfectly trimmed lawn and flawless flower beds.
By the time I reached age thirty I'd be a successful business woman with her own vocal studio, and six children. My family would be the type that wears matching pajamas, and holds hands all in a row at the store. We'd wake up at 7 every morning, never a moment later! My house and children would always be clean my husband would always come home on time. He'd greet me with a kiss, and I'd always be dressed flawlessly with my hair and makeup precisely in place. My children would never complain or make bad choices and they'd all grow up to be successful, well rounded adults.
As a teenager, my vision for life didn't include imperfection and flaws. It wasn't comprised of unexpected pitfalls and adversity. It didn't encompass imperfection. It didn't encompass Lyme Disease. Lyme disease wasn't part of the plan.
When I was 18, I wanted a husband, but instead I got a diagnosis.
I graduated high school as planned. I had two scholarships to the school I would study music at. I had a boyfriend, and a circle of friends that I was content with. I was ready to set sail into my "perfect" life. Little did I know that life is what happens AFTER you make plans.
I'll never forget the night I received that phone call. I was sitting in my small room in my apartment and my mom called to inform me that she had received the test results for the thirty vials of blood I had drawn a week prior to leaving for college. The reality is that I already knew the answer to those tests. I was struggling beyond belief at that point. My fatigue was impossible to fight. My muscle and joint pain made it hard to move from class to class. The daily panic attacks that took place were debilitating, and my endometriosis symptoms left me all alone, in tears, struggling through fits of pain. I lost a lot of weight, and I just kept shedding pounds as the time went by.
Time passed. More tests results came back positive for Lyme Disease. In multiple moments of self reflection I thought: "I already struggled to watch my mom suffer from Lyme. So why me? Why now? What about my dreams? What about my 'perfect' life?"
I came home from college three months into it. I felt defeated. I felt exhausted. I felt depressed. I felt sore and achy. I felt ugly. I felt lonely. I felt unlovable. I felt like a failure. I was in tremendous amounts of pain, and I couldn't help but feel like it was my fault. I couldn't help but feel like my dreams had been burned right before my eyes. I couldn't help but feel like my vision for my life was NEVER EVER going to happen. Thoughts recklessly spun in my head on a constant basis: "What man would want a sick girl? I probably can't even have children. I'm worthless."
I spent a great deal of time in bed or asleep on the sofa. I stopped doing the things I loved. I stopped being the person I am. Through the pain and survival tactics I used, I forgot about myself. I left my identity in the distant past that I never thought I'd ever retrieve. I suffered excruciating pain flares that left me vomiting, seizing, and screaming desperately for relief. Pain medication didn't help. For a long time I felt hopelessly aware that nothing I seemed to be doing was working. The panic in my inner being was inevitable. I lost my motivation for life. I found myself in unhealthy relationships because I desperately wanted someone to love me. There were times that I couldn't walk by myself or stand up in the shower long enough. There were times I couldn't wash or blow dry my own hair, and there were times I resolved to lay in bed and hopefully die there.
At one point the day came that I found myself in a place so dark, I found that I wasn't even the same person anymore, and the person that I was I didn't like at all. Laying around feeling sorry for myself wasn't working anymore. Complaining about having to take 20+ supplements a day, and other forms of treatment wasn't working anymore. Negative relationships and my negative attitude wasn't working anymore.
Don't get me wrong. We all must face a mourning period of our diagnoses. In no way does recognizing and fighting the negative forces around me invalidate my pain, or mean that I'm not in pain. I've suffered tremendously. I still do on some days. But since that dark time, I've had to change the way I think.
I got down on my knees one day and prayed with all my heart that God would help me out of this dark place. I began studying my scriptures and striving for understanding of why I'm really suffering so much. I began to develop a habit of those two things, and in the process I began to discover myself again. Not just the me that was in my distant past, but a whole new me that just needed to find enough light to bloom where I was planted.
I have fought a good fight, and I'm still fighting. I'm a changed person, and there's still more to learn, and more in life to go through. Lyme disease doesn't have to be restraining to the point where you can't breathe. Lyme disease makes everything in life a little more difficult. In spite of that, I've found that if I look for the light and enjoy the Olympic moments that God blesses me with, it makes the fight a lot lighter and a lot more beautiful.
What I told myself back then about being worthless, ugly, unlovable, and broken were all lies. Lies that tore at me for the longest time. But what I told myself when I was a teenager about having a "perfect" life someday without flaw or hardship was also a lie. In a way, Lyme disease "ruined" my "perfect" life. And I'm incredibly grateful that it did.
I'm twenty, I'm not married, and most days I wake up way past the time I plan to. I'm going to school to become a nutritionist instead of a voice teacher. I spend a large amount of my day taking supplements and undergoing difficult treatments. A large amount of the time I don't wear makeup, and my outfits are less than flawless. I'm still in pain a lot and my energy levels aren't as high as the average person. I've discovered that falling in a true and pure form of love doesn't happen in a whirlwind, but in a slow progression that grows a little bit everyday. I've learned that sometimes life is clumsy, awkward, and uncomfortable. I've developed a skill at catching the curve balls that life continues to throw at me. That's life! And I'm grateful. I've learned that what I thought I wanted isn't exactly what I really wanted.
My perspective on life has changed a lot in past year. You don't get married because it's easy. You don't have children because it's easy. You don't fight daily battles and search for light on a constant basis because it's easy. Life isn't supposed to be easy! The idea that I do things because they're easy and will make my life "perfect" and "flawless" is ridiculous, and lacks eternal perspective.
God has blessed me with the strength and courage I need to keep pushing through, and to discover a better life for myself. He has blessed me with ability and intelligence to find ways to heal. He has blessed me with life long best friends who love and teach me and understandingly and patiently suffer with me. He has blessed me with talents, skills, and knowledge that I continue to develop. He blesses me everyday with beautiful moments that I will always cherish, because even though I'm sick, I still am blessed enough to have those moments! He has blessed me beyond words.
Lyme disease "ruined" my "perfect" life. But thankfully, Lyme gave me a beautiful, crazy, imperfect, painful, magnificent, glorious life! Life doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. In fact, life is beautiful because it's imperfect and because we have the opportunity to learn and progress in ways that allow us to understand our full potential. I plan to cherish the perfect moments. Laugh at the imperfect moments. Cry through the painful moments. And smile through all of the in between moments!
I haven't let go of my dreams for my future. But my dreams for the future have shifted and changed. I have Lyme disease! So what? God has plans for me, and Lyme disease isn't going to stop me from that beautifully imperfect life that He has in store for me. It won't always be easy, but in the eternal perspective of it all, it'll be worth it. Lyme disease may have "ruined" my "perfect" life, but it also helped me to build a beautiful life.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Chronically Beautiful people! I hope that despite the trials and tribulations we've been through this year, we can find something to be grateful for! I love this time of year because even if my body aches, my heart can manage to be full because I know that I'm incredibly blessed.
This Thanksgiving feels like a huge milestone for me. This time last year I had just come home from college, I had lost twenty pounds, I had a rash all over my face, and my hair was falling out! It was the beginning of a long hard road that I'm still on! I remember last Thanksgiving I couldn't eat meat, gluten, or dairy. This year I'm grateful for the many miles that I've come in this Lyme journey, and I'm grateful for the beautiful, organic, refined sugar-free meal that my family is going to sit down to. I've come so far, and I'm grateful for that.
Every year around this time I like to make list of things I'm grateful for. Last year I didn't make that list, and so now I'm going to make up for it.
Things I'm Grateful for this Year:
1. My Heavenly Father who loves me and blesses me and provides me with the strength and power I need to keep going.
2. My Savior who died and suffered for me so I'm not alone in my suffering and so I personally can repent and progress in life.
3. The Holy Ghost who is my constant companion so I can know God's will for me, and so I can feel peace during dark times.
4. The Prophet on the earth who guides and receives revelation for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
5. Joseph Smith and his strength. For without him, I would not have this beautiful gospel in my life.
6. The scriptures that hold so many precious truths that help guide my life and give me peace and wisdom as I read and study.
7. Prayer and the opportunity I have to talk to my Heavenly Father all the time.
11. The light of the gospel in my life.
12. My parents, best friends, and caretakers. (Bob and Leanne Dalton) I love and respect them so much!
13. My siblings.
14. My close friends.
15. People who have come into my life and left hand-prints on my heart.
16. My family. (Including members who have passed on. I will see them in the eternities).
17. Healing (in every aspect of the word).
18. Knowledge and Wisdom
19. Lyme Disease (I never thought I would say that but I've learned so much and my pain is worth it if I developed the knowledge and compassion along the way to help others who are suffering.)
20. Chronically Beautiful (my blog).
23. American Heritage School
25. Baking and cooking and the stress relief that they give me
26. Opportunities to serve others.
27. My heart
28. My mind
29. The body that God blessed me with. (Even though I hate it sometimes, I can't be on earth without it, so I'll take the cards I’m given).
30. My life.
31. Every breathe I take even if some breathes are heavy and exhausted.
32. Tender Mercies from God
33. My Spirit
34. I'm grateful for me. (There was a time that I would never say that. But now I know: I'm God's daughter. He created me so I should be grateful for that).
35. My home which is my sanctuary, my place of safety and love.
36. My goats (especially Miracle)
37. My dog. (She really brings me a lot of relief when things are hard)
38. The things that God has blessed my family with to heal from this horrible disease.
39. Little moments that I'll never forget.
40. The 10 commandments
41. God's principles and laws that help me choose right from wrong.
42. My agency.
44. Colors (I love colors!! Especially pink!)
50. Natural Beauty
53. My future eternal companion (whoever he may be)
54. My future children
55. Hard Work
56. Courage and strength that God gives me.
60. Laughter (especially when things are hard).
61. Crying (sometimes a good cry is just really refreshing).
62. The Temple
63. Humbling Experiences
65. Wise people
67. Our Country (The United States of America)
70. The Atonement
72. Everything virtuous, lovely, or good report, or praiseworthy.
73. Everything that God has blessed me with, and continues to bless me with, and will bless me with in the future.
Despite my trials, I truly believe that there is much to be grateful for. Here's to a Happy Thanksgiving! And a Happy Holidays! Wishing you all the best!
I'm currently taking an online "life skills" class from BYU Idaho, and this week the lesson was on work. As I read this week's material and worked on the assignment I had a good opportunity to reflect on the past few years of my life, the progression I've made, and the things I still need to work on. The small required assignment inspired me and I decided to create a blog post out of it.
I just want to take a minute to give a shout out to American Heritage school, and the faculty, teachers, and students who left hand prints on my heart. I also want to give a shout out to my amazing parents, Bob and Leanne Dalton, for teaching me the value of hard work, and never giving up on me no matter how difficult the circumstances.
To my chronically ill friends, my message to you this week would be to keep working hard through this tough journey. Even if all you can do on some days is say a prayer, do it! The effort you put into your life, even if it seems small, will bless you in the eternities. I hope the best for all of my chronic illness community, and to everyone who is struggling in any way this week! Keep working! Keep taking it one step at a time!
Music Credit: Jericho Road
“Claire has courage.” My heart beat incredulously hard as those words rolled of the tongue of a teacher of mine one night prior to my high school graduation. I was attending my Senior dinner dedicated to the graduating class of 2015. Each student received praise from a specific teacher, and for me I never thought that specific teacher would say that. I had been a lot of things throughout my high school career. I never considered courage being one of them. I had been hard working and diligent. Headstrong and stubborn. Exhausted and discouraged. And a lot of other things at that time in my life… but courageous? I wasn’t so sure. Since then, those three words have echoed through my mind and heart multiple times throughout my existence as a silent sufferer. “Claire has courage.”
What exactly is courage? Some bold feat that none other would be crazy enough to attempt? Daring to be different? Daring to stand strong in your convictions and your thirst for knowledge and truth? Following your dreams and having success in high finances and authority? Maybe. These things all seem courageous enough, but I think I’ve gained a new definition of courage in the past year of my life.
Three months after graduation I stood in my apartment the first day being dropped off at college. I was alone, and I was terrified. I felt that at that single moment in time all my courage (if I even had any) had been tangibly torn from my inner being. What happened to the girl who supposedly had courage?
My courage seemed to continually plummet as I suffered each painful flare, and each life failure. Failing college, coming home from college, being sick 24/7. Everything just seemed to make me weak and useless. Eventually when your body lays in bed like a shriveled mess for such a long time, you decide to choose courage. Courage to get out of bed. Courage to try new things. Courage to develop new skills and abilities. Courage to study so hard that you know more about your disease than doctors do. Courage to grow closer to your loved ones. Courage to have compassion like you’ve never had before. Courage to enjoy the good moments, even if those moments are small and insignificant. And courage to submit to my Heavenly Father’s will, even if it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I don’t know if I had courage at that moment in time when my teacher declared me as “Claire the courageous,” but I have discovered that as I strive every day to have a little more courage, faith, and hope, I start to have a clearer understanding of what those things are, and how they all go hand in hand. I may have courage now, but not because of anything I have done. For without God, I am nothing, and it is because of Him that I have become the person I am, and I have the courage that I do. Not only that, but I still have so much to be taught by the Lord, and so much more to learn. This week I wanted to strive to be more courageous, and despite feeling sluggish, exhausted, and sick, I can tangibly feel the Lord’s hand in my life, and it is Him that gives me courage to keep going. What a blessing that is!
So my message to you this day: Don’t quit. Keep fighting. Be courageous in the way that the Lord would have you be. It is the Lord that provides me with my courage on a daily basis, just like he can provide you with. Sometimes you just have to open your eyes wide enough to see it. Not only that, but seeing isn’t just about seeing with your eyes, it’s about seeing with your heart and once you understand that, you'll develop courage beyond your wildest dreams! It is not always the big worldly things that indicate courage, sometimes it the small and simple things that bless lives and give hope to others. Continue forth in courage and God will bless you to continue on with faith and hope for the future.
We've all seen those movies. Those feel good movies that inevitably end in "happily ever after." The story line being generally the same for every new movie. Guy meets girl during some romantic season of the year (which can basically be any time), guy and girl never see the inevitable in the beginning, but always end up falling madly in love in the end. Or perhaps they're childhood sweethearts that are completely blind to the romance "blooming" between them. Or maybe it's a simple story of Santa sending a "boyfriend for Christmas." (How convenient would that be?!) In the end the plot is generally interchangeable with any other Hallmark movie under the sun. It always ends in remarkable love for family, success in life, and the one and only "true love's kiss."
I personally grew up on these movies and for some reason, in the mind of a young teenage girl, I always thought that my life would eventually end similar to these fictional character’s lives. Ever since I can remember my goal in life was to find true love, settle down, have a family, and live “happily ever after.” There comes a time in life where you have to be realistic. All too quickly my “remarkable love for family” turned into a disease that seemed to rip me from my family ties. My “success in life” developed into immense effort to get well so I can live a “normal” life. And my “true love's kiss” shifted to 20+ pill intake, three times a day, in order to control pain, symptoms, and bacteria levels. So much for my “happily ever after.”
People have always stated the mantra, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” I suppose you could look at life that way, but the realistic view of things has to take into account that if life doesn’t give you sugar and water as well, your lemonade is going to taste awful. To make matters worse, if you're lucky enough for life to give you sugar, chances are that the sugar will probably give you Cancer, or Lyme disease, or some other terminal illness.
I suppose you could call me a pessimist, but that's not exactly my point. It’s not really a matter of pessimism or optimism. It’s a matter of ignoring the lemons that life throws at you, and trying to see the blessings and opportunities that have come from hardships. I can be as positive as any well known optimist if I wanted to be, but that doesn’t change the fact that I suffer from chronic pain, I’m discouraged from life, I’ve been abandoned by people because of my illness, I’m lonely, and I’m exhausted! When you’re suffering tremendously it’s okay to be real! You don’t have to sugarcoat things for other’s convenience and comfort. My life didn’t turn out like the Hallmark movie I hoped for, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be an incredible story.
Sometimes life doesn’t become the story you hoped for, but it’s not so much the circumstances you’re in that determine success, happiness, or worth. Sometimes the happiest people are the people that simply choose to be happy. Don’t wait for the “true loves kiss.” Don’t stand idly by waiting for life success. I can’t waste my time waiting for Prince Charming when I have things I need to do in the meantime.
I believe that the secret is to look for everyday miracles. In Hallmark movies the miracles are obvious. The miraculous business decision that saves the company. The rain fall that saves a year’s worth of crops. True love coming together against all odds. Sometimes life’s miracles are not as obvious to the human eye. In reality, the secret is to see with your heart. The miracles that take place in my life are my own source of “Hallmark” moments. Those moments are a gift from God, and with such a miserable disease that seems to steal my life at times, it’s so vital that my heart be opened to every beautiful mercy that God blesses me with.
I know in the depths of my heart and soul that no matter what we go through in life, we can find pure joy in the moments. My life didn’t turn out to be the “Hallmark” story that I had hoped for, but it turned out to be so much more. I have been blessed with a certain depth to life that is only found through suffering and difficult life lessons. I have had moments that are so incredible at times they have brought me to tears. The older you get the easier it is to be brought to tears because you know the darkest and scariest corners of life, and with that comes the blessing of knowing how the Lord blesses us in so many aspects. All we have to do is open our eyes and hearts to His will, and what glorious blessings will come of such simple obedience!
I hope we all have those “Hallmark” moments that add a bit of spark to life. Granted if life is only handing you lemons at times, try and find the sweet spots that are hidden among the sour moments. I promise it will be worth your while.
It had been three days. Three days of pain that forced a grown woman down on the floor, in the fetal position, screaming. I've felt this pain before. Every month my endometriosis symptoms kick into full gear and last for a few days. As the days pass the pain usually subsides until there is little or no pain, but this time it's as though my body decided that a day's worth of pure torture wasn't enough. That third day I was so incredibly desperate for relief, and I'd already tried everything I knew to relieve pain. All that I knew would not suffice. All that I knew wasn't enough to tame the torture weapon lodged inside my gut. How do you endure three days of debilitating pain? I gave in and went the hospital...
My Hospital Experience
My mother wheeled me into the emergency room and I could feel people's eyes trailing my sorry state. My limbs trembled and my stomach lurched as my lower abdomen seemed to scream at me in pain. I was wheeled through some doors further into the emergency room, and I could feel empty stares from all of the nurses on their current shift. A nurse glanced at me and quickly blurted, "What's wrong? Is she pregnant?" I didn't have the strength to respond, for the room seemed to be spinning into a deep spiral all leading back to the unbearable labor type pains I was feeling.
My mother quickly explained to the nurse that I had Chronic Lyme Disease and I had been in this frightening state for three days now, to which the nurse replied, "Chronic Lyme disease... What's that? What's it actually called?" I didn't have time to process the amount of ignorance that hung in the air that moment. My mother responded, "It's called Chronic Lyme Disease," to which the nurse replied, "Oh, it must be a disease then." The nurse quickly helped me into a hospital bed, took my vitals, and promptly left the room, saying she would be back.
I sat screaming in agonizing pain in that room for a good hour before they came back to administer pain medication. The nurse that gave me my IV told me to breathe slower and then made it very clear to me that "it gets much worse from here." I sat in that room for what felt like endless hours while snail paced nurses supposedly did their job. A few tests, and endless hours later the doctor came in, told me that according to the blood tests, nothing was wrong with me, and informed me that I needed to take ibuprofen. He admitted he knew very little about Lyme Disease and didn't quite understand how bacteria could invade your uterus. I was incredibly relieved when the nurse finally told me that I could go home. I pulled my aching and trembling body out of the hospital bed, and my parents held me up as we walked out to the car. It’s amazing how a night in the emergency room can make you incredibly grateful for your own bed, and the security that comes from being under your own roof.
To the Nurses in the Emergency Room
When I was fifteen I went to the emergency room for generally the same reason, during that experience I recall nurses that acted quickly. I recall how nurses promptly administered my IV, pain medication, and tests. I recall a doctor that spoke to us respectfully and professionally, and nurses that tried to fulfill my needs as a patient as quickly as they could.
Given the massive difference in experiences, I'm left with this devastating inquiry: What has our medical system come to?
When did we get to the point where the first assumption is that I’m pregnant? When did we become so ignorant that we haven’t even heard of certain “not so rare” chronic illnesses? When did we get to the point where instead of sharing words of encouragement and hope, we spread words of fear and irritation such as “it will only get worse from here so breathe slower”?
I can honestly say that there once was a time where "STAT" meant right away, and a time where the emergency room actually treated serious medical problems as an emergency. Part of me wonders if I had never said certain words like, "Lyme Disease" or "endometriosis" if they would have treated me differently. Or maybe they treat all of their patients like old dish water. Honestly the whole time I felt like the monkey exhibit at the zoo. To the people that were supposedly "helping" me, for them it isn't about helping people. For them this is just their day job.
There was one nurse in particular that I remember. She came to retrieve my insurance information and afterwards she asked if I needed anything. I felt heavy from the strong pain medication, and the room felt like a freezer. I asked for socks and a blanket, and to adjust my bed. That nurse was the one nurse who actually treated me like a human being. She acted quickly and told me that seeing me brought back memories for her. To that nurse, thank you for being a decent human being and showing compassion for a patient who really needed it at that moment.
To all the rest of the nurses: you’re really missing the point of your job.
So What are We Missing?
My point in writing this is not to say that all nurses and doctors are like the aforementioned ones above. My point is not to say that I’m easily offended and “how dare these people treat me like garbage!” My point is to say that a trip to the emergency room is hard enough for people who are suffering. The last thing we need is for doctors and nurses to make it more difficult for us.
Hospitals, emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, etc. are reputed to be places of healing. Places where people come for help from these nurses and doctors. What is our medical system if we aren’t actually giving help to people in need? I am sick. I have a bacterial infection which spreads to other organs in my body, and yet they act as though I’m a foreign object. If you don’t believe my pain, my disease, or my screams, I don’t know how else I can convince you. All I can say is that for people who spend a large amount of time and money on medical school, I think maybe some time and money need to be spent on common sense school, or kindness school, or charity school. Not only that, but why does medical school neglect to teach our medical professionals about very common bacterial infections? I am not the only one suffering from this. There are thousands suffering like me. Ignorance and arrogance are the worst combination.
So what’s missing? What are we all missing that maybe needs to be added to our medical curriculum? I can name a few:
We deserve better. We all deserve better. God didn’t intend for us to live in a world deficient of love and kindness. As people we have an obligation to treat each other better. My message to you today would be to “try a little harder to be a little better.” If we all showed a little more love in our professions I think the world would be a better place.