I feel as though I'm walking on a tightrope with me on one end, and all of my possible dreams for the future on the other. As I carefully force my aching and trembling body to take one careful step at a time, there's this constant fear that nags at the back of my neck that someone, at any given moment, is going to walk up behind me and push me just enough to send me plummeting to the deepest depths of despair. Thankfully that hasn't happen yet. I'm still carefully placing one foot of my broken body in front of the other, and with that I slowly get one step closer to fulfilling my dreams, even if they are miles and miles away.
My entire life all I've wanted to be is a wife and mother. Ever since I was old enough to know what marriage was, I knew that was where I wanted to be "when I grew up." I envisioned my future husband, my future children, and my future home centered on God, love for Him, and love for each other. As I grew up I would make lists of things I would and wouldn't do as a mother, and lists of what my husband would be like. I would look at picture of homes and decide what I wanted mine to be like. I watched my mother raise all of my siblings, and me, and I took careful note of the loving and beautiful way she treated us, and her husband. I took careful watch of my dad, and how he treated my mother, and I took mental note of how I wanted my future husband to be "just like that." My vision was clear, and every decision I've ever made in my life has been conducive to that dream. That's all I've ever wanted. I believe that the amount of money you make does not determine success. My belief has always been that success is discovered through family, and the love and fulfillment that comes from having one.
The day I got diagnosed with Lyme Disease, was the day that all of dreams went flying out the window and off into a distant existence where I could no longer reach them. It was the day where I began my endless basket of questions for the future, and since then it's only gotten bigger and bigger. I don't know if my dreams are reachable at this point. And it scares me to think that I'll never be able to be the woman that an amazing man gets to come home to everyday. It scares me to think that I'll never have those babies that I'd get to raise and love. It scares me to think that my home centered on God, will never be.
I have other dreams too. I've always wanted to open a vocal studio. and give to children the incredible miracle of music that my first voice teacher gave to me. I've always wanted to write a novel. One that inspires and uplifts the human soul. I've always wanted to take my voice, and perform with the objective to uplift and inspire peoples lives. I've always wanted to learn how to cook. I've always wanted to become a teacher. I've always wanted to be the perfect homemaker and continuously develop skills that would make it so I could do that. I've always wanted to be someone. I've always wanted to help people.
But how will I ever reach such a far away destination when I'm stuck at home in bed, suffering so bad that I don't even know if I'll make it out alive?
I don't know the complete answer to that, but I'd like to try and answer it anyway.
.Chronic illness is something that you take one minute at a time. Not one day, one week, one month, or even one hour, but one minute. In fact, there are some days that I feel as though I'm taking it one second at a time. And with each precious pain, anxiety, and stress free second, I count that second as a blessing given to me from my loving Heavenly Father. Every piece of strength I manage to muster at any moment I consider a gift from God. I can not do this alone, and I'm grateful that God is always with me.
In every battle, there is always a secret weapon. My secret weapon in this battle is faith. Faith keeps me fighting, and faith keeps my hope for the future. I keep telling myself every moment of the day that I have to keep my faith. Faith that I'm going to get better. Faith that I can fight this and come out stronger. Faith that God is always with me. Faith that God can heal me. Or even faith that I won't be healed, but that I'll find a way to live happily, despite my broken down body, mind, heart, and soul. Without my faith, I am nothing, and my hope that I am so desperately trying to obtain slowly vanishes into thin air.
Some days I have faith that I'll get better, and other days I feel hopeless and despairingly distraught. I look at it this way. Every day I try to do at least one thing that brings me joy. Even if it's microscopically small. If I successfully accomplish one small thing, then I'm not finished yet. Lyme hasn't won yet, and I don't intend on letting it. This trial in my life is incredibly hard, but I want to stay strong. I want to fight this battle, and I want to win. I'm exhausted in every sense of the word, but I can't give up. I just can't.
I'm so grateful to my Savior for giving me the strength I need to continuously fight this. I'm so grateful for the support that comes from my family and others that I hold close to my heart. This is a lonely battle, but knowing that I'm never completely alone is extremely comforting. I'm not giving up yet, and even though the tears streaming down my face scream fear, anxiety, and hopelessness for my future, my faith says otherwise. I intend on keeping my faith in the present in order to dispel my fear for the future. I'll still have my home, my husband, and my children. It just my be a little different vision that I had before. The important thing is that the vision I had of endless amounts of love that takes place in my future will not change, Lyme or no Lyme. In times of fear, my faith will always come out conqueror.
It's crazy how excruciating physical pain can give the phrase "endure to the end" a whole new meaning. It never occurred to me that I would ever have to suffer such an excruciating level of pain in this life. And it never occurred to me how this illness would change my life in every aspect. Through it all one of the things that I've learned is that suffering, of any kind, can be an incredibly lonely journey. I also believe that it doesn't have to be. God did not put us on this earth to fight our battles alone, and yet there are people suffering all around us that we are completely blind to! And even when we are aware of who is suffering, we do nothing. No wonder suffering is such a lonely journey! I would personally like to break the status quo, speak up, and speak out. The more we know about someone's form of suffering, the more we can do to help. My form of suffering in this life is not something that is well known and is highly misunderstood. So my goal here is to kill the misunderstandings and hopefully help someone in need. So here's five things that everyone should know about chronic illness:
1. We're not crazy. We're just sick.
Some of the symptoms that I've experienced throughout my illness include, but are not limited to: stomach pain, excruciating lower abdominal pain, back pain, muscle pain and weakness, joint pain, joint cracking, stiffness in neck, fever, seizures, tremors, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, etc. etc. etc. This pain is REAL PAIN. Despite the fact that it's real, my mother suffered those same symptoms, with an addition to many more, and the doctors that supposedly know what they're doing told her that she was crazy and that they "didn't even know what to do with her anymore."
Those kinds of things happen to people with chronic illness everyday simple because chronic illness is so misunderstood. People that suffer on this level just want everyone to understand that we're NOT CRAZY. We're going through a really hard time right now, and we would like all of the understanding, love, and support that we can get. Extreme suffering is not the equivalent of insanity. Insanity is watching somebody suffer horrendously, doing absolutely nothing to help them, and then expecting them to be fine all by themselves.
2. I look good... So what?
There have been times throughout this trial in my life that I've tried to explain my illness to somebody and they respond with a discomforting, "Well, you don't look sick!" I've also had times where I've been seen in public by somebody that is semi close to me and they respond with an assumption of "Oh, you seem to be doing so well!" Through it all, I strongly believe that looks can be deceiving. People with chronic illness, including myself, spend most of their hours of the day at home, healing and coping with pain. When we find the strength to venture out into public, it does not mean that we are magically better and completely living normal lives now. It simply means we cannot live our entire lives in bed. Not only that, but we only go out in public on days that we feel semi-well. Of course you're not going to see us on the days that we're having seizures, violently puking, and screaming out in pain. People with chronic illness have good days and bad days. I personally believe that no matter what day it is, good or bad, everyday is a gift with new insight and beauty just waiting to be discovered. I personally would like to live every precious day to the fullest, whether I'm sick or not. Some days the insight that I discover is simply that life can be more painful than I ever thought it could be. Other days it's simply a feeling of gratitude in my heart for the love that God has for me and for the blessing that I'm still alive. Whether or not I look good, doesn't really apply to whether or not I feel good.
3. Somehow the phrase:"Well at least it's not cancer!" doesn't make me feel better...
On Facebook and various other social media sights, I have seen so many articles and posts about people that have cancer and expressions of how thankful they are for all of the love and support that they have received through it all. Also, on multiple occasions I have heard or read the phrase "Well... at least it's not cancer!" Now, let me clarify: in no way am I putting down cancer, or diminishing how huge of a hardship that is. I understand that cancer is incredibly hard and is a battle that is fought by so many people, some of which do not survive. What people don't understand, is that chronic Lyme disease and cancer share a lot in common. Cancer is painful. So is Lyme. Cancer kills people. So does Lyme. Both hurt. Both kill. So why is Lyme and other chronic illness and autoimmune diseases treated so differently in the social aspect of things?
In hindsight it's impossible to understand what someone is going through without going through it yourself. I suppose that goes for any form of suffering. Nobody can completely understand what I'm going through, but that doesn't mean that you can't put forth effort in someone else's behalf. You can always educate yourself. You can always show some support to someone in need. You can always send love in the direction of someone who desperately needs it. Don't frivolously throw out meaningless phrases such as "Well at least it's not *insert some other possibly horrendous trial here*" We all suffer in some way in this life. So shouldn't we try a little hard to love and understand one another instead of comparing our levels of pain to others? I don't know about everyone else, but for me, I'd like to live a life that is fulfilled through loving and serving others, ESPECIALLY when they are suffering. If we all tried a little harder to do that, I think the world would generally be a better place.
4. I'm not on a diet because I'm trying to lose weight. For me, it's either diet or die.
"YOU are on a diet?!" Yes. Yes I am. I truly believe that one of the main sources of health problems is the food that we choose to put into our bodies. I've had lots of people look at me like I'm crazy to be on a diet because I'm already so small. To clarify, I don't diet to lose weight. I diet so I don't die. Part of my healing journey is consistently doing things to strengthen my immune system. Bacteria cannot exist in a healthy, toxin free, alkaline environment. So staying away from GMO, acidic, and toxic junk food is probably my best bet for getting better someday.
Most people that suffer from autoimmune disorders quickly learn that changing their diet simply makes them feel better. I had to choose between eating junk food that really tastes good and feeling like garbage, vs eating a healthy diet and feeling better. Not to mention, junk food doesn't even taste good to me anymore. I've learned how to make lots of recipes that follow my diet and taste amazing. I didn't give up good food. I simple learned what really good food tastes like. The food that tastes good to me is clean, organic, and fresh. The way that food should be. Think of it this way: If there's a small "health food" section in the grocery store, then what does that make the rest of the food? For me personally, I don't live to eat. I eat to live. I just want to be healthy again, and I want to see my loved ones healthy as well. If that means changing my diet for a healthier lifestyle, then it's completely worth it.
5. There is always something you can do to help.
"I wish there is something I could do to help." There is always something you can do to help! If there is someone you know and love that is sick with something as horrible as a chronic illness, YOU can do something! Most of us simply ask for compassion. By compassion, I don't mean just feeling for sorry for us. Nobody likes to be pitied. True compassion is charity, benevolence, kindness, and love. We just want to know that we're not alone in this. That we have support. Everybody wants to feel loved by the people that surround them on a daily basis. That doesn't magically change if you get sick with a debilitating illness. Pick up the phone! Send a text of love and support! Show up on their doorstep and talk to them and show them that you love them and you want to see them get better! It's so much easier to feel like you want to live through pain when you feel like you have people that actually want you alive. True love, Christlike love, love for your neighbor, your friends, your family, charity should always be extended to all. Even if you don't know what someone is going through, the impact you have simply by talking to someone and loving them like Christ loved people is huge. Being sick doesn't exempt me from the love of others. No matter how awkward or embarrassing it feels to reach outside your comfort zone and offer compassion, it's not. It's an incredibly amazing experience to be able to feel the Savior's love through someone else. We all need that sometimes. There is ALWAYS something you can do to help.