Blakeley and I are long distance Lymie friends who originally met through our various social medias. Ever since then, we have become so close even being so far away from each other. Because of our unique situation, we thought our audience would enjoy our thoughts and insights on chronic illness and maintaining relationships through chronic illness. Blakeley is like a sister to me, and I am so thankful for God's hand in bringing us together into this blessed friendship.
For the purpose of this particular post, and to make it easy for all of you to tell our answers apart, Blakeley will be answering questions in BLUE and Claire will be answering questions in RED.
A Little Bit About You!
I'm Claire, I'm 24, and I live in Utah. I am a small owner of a gift shop, sales representative for a monument company, and I have farm girl running through my veins with whatever time in my schedule is left! I love goats and the color pink, and I am the dog mom of multiple Yorkie puppies! I love crafting and creating beautiful things on my free time, and I can often be found with my nose in a wholesome book. Learning is my passion, especially learning about God and how I can learn and grow spiritually into a better person everyday. I also especially love learning about health and wellness. I am a certified health and wellness coach, and I've learned how to achieve health and wellness through my Lyme journey and I am working to achieve it a little more every day.
Even more important that any of the above labels, I am a daughter of God and I love losing myself in His work and His word. I know that because of Him there is a purpose for all the pain behind Lyme disease, and He is teaching me a little bit every day what that purpose is.
I was diagnosed with Lyme when I was 18, was sent home from college, and began the journey of a lifetime healing from Lyme. I have been actively treating Lyme ever since then and I am about 80-85% of the way better. I love blogging and being an advocate for the chronically ill, and I hope that I can continue to do that even as I continue to heal from this illness.
Hi, I’m Blakeley! To introduce myself, here are a few random facts about me! I’m 19 years old, I absolutely love anything that’s colorful and bright! I have a little dog named Cookie who has rightfully earned the title “sidekick,” as she is the most loyal and sweet dog ever. I love being with my family, being outside in nature, and I love Jesus with my whole heart. I am currently learning more and more about myself each day, as I am on a journey to find healing from Lyme disease. I spend many of my days in the bed, sick from this disease that tries to rob me of anything and everything.
I’ve now had the Lyme diagnosis for over two years. I’ve been treating it from so many different angles.
Most of my time these days are spent trying to move towards healing. That means treatments, therapies, or herxing from treatment. This journey and fight is extremely difficult. Lyme is a disease that steals so much, and leaves so little. Through all of this, I’ve tried my hardest to remain hopeful, and to keep my eyes looking towards Jesus.
How did you meet?
So way back when I was writing a blog post about how to cope with people's reactions to you when you have chronic illness, I posted a question about it on my IG story. Blakeley's mom was originally the first to reach out to me by answering that question on my story. She told me about her daughter who had lost all of her friends since her Lyme diagnosis, and I told her that I related so well and that if her daughter ever needed someone to talk to to have her send me a direct message.
Low and behold, I heard from Blakeley a little later with some idle chit-chat on IG. It was right about that time that I got my dogs, and after that I kept messaging her and asking her questions about puppy raising because I saw that she had gotten a dog about 6 months before I got mine. We literally originally bonded over Lyme disease and puppies! And the rest is history!
Claire and I met on Instagram! I had followed her, and she had posted an IG story about how having Lyme usually leads to people leaving you. She asked people to share their stories about how it had happened to them. My mom actually ended up telling Claire my story, and Claire kindly responded and told her that she’d love to talk to me. I ended up sending her a DM, and really it all just happened from there.
We both had puppies at the time, and we really bonded over that in the beginning. I think we just really started enjoying talking to each other, and getting to know each other more and more. Within a short period of time, I knew that I could trust her, and that we both needed each other. Really, we became good friends very quickly without even trying.
What was your first impression of each other?
Honestly, being a social media influencer and advocate means you talk to people everyday. Some of those people you're meant to know, some you're meant to help, and some are meant to be your best friends. And some are all of the above. Blakeley was truly a blessing to me from the very start, but I usually don't expect such a deep sisterhood to develop from social media. My first impression of her was her kind and generous heart, and it wasn't long before I realized that we believed and valued a lot of the same things, and we had really clicked from the very beginning.
My first impression of Claire was definitely that she was very kind, and caring. She is the strongest person I know. She reached out to me, and encouraged me even when she needed to be encouraged herself. She is extremely selfless, always putting others first. She is such a fighter, and she never gives up. She is also extremely funny! She never fails to make me laugh. She celebrates anything and everything, and she just has such a fun personality! She is always working hard behind the scenes to bring a smile to people’s faces, and to help the people around her feel loved and cared for.
How did Lyme originally connect you as friends and how does it still connect you now?
Lyme disease is EVERYTHING when you have it. It leaks into every aspect of your life, and I sometimes have difficulty recognizing when it's blessing my life instead of making it harder. If it wasn't for Chronically Beautiful Life, I would have never met Blakeley. And if I didn't have Lyme, I never would have started this outreach through my blog and social media, which is where I meet all of the beautiful friends I've made that have Lyme.
Lyme was originally our common ground. I believe it's always good to find common ground with your friends. At first we could talk all about what Lyme was like, what we were going through, and what our stories were, and it was a safe space to express all of those things. And after we had shared our darkest moments of Lyme, we literally learned that we could talk safely with each other about basically anything else as well!
Lyme connects us now because we know that whatever the other one is going through, the other has our back. We stand together in the light so that the darkness seems less dark. We know exactly how to respond to the other's pain because we've been through it ourselves. And it's a rare treasure to have that in anybody you come across in the chronic illness journey.
Lyme is often a very isolating disease. Last year, I found myself longing for someone to understand what I was going through. When I messaged Claire, she told me her story with Lyme, and I immediately felt understood. If I wouldn’t have had Lyme, I wouldn’t have followed her on Instagram, and then we wouldn’t have connected. I guess having Lyme has pretty much everything to do with us getting to know each other initially! We’ve both been through so much, and definitely understand each other so much because of that.
There hasn’t been one day since we first met on Instagram that Claire hasn’t gone out of her way to ask me how I’m doing. Lyme brings you to a point where you see life through different lenses. We support each other daily throughout our battles because we’ve been at that point that was so dark and lonely. I’ve found it to be extremely important in our friendship to talk about the things we face with Lyme. To give love and support in those messy, hard places. It connects us in such a hard, but beautiful way.
How do you maintain such a good friendship from so far away?
So I live in Utah, and Blakeley lives in Alabama. That's exactly 1,437 miles from each other. That's quite a bit of distance to maintain such a good friendship! Honestly, friendship isn't about distance. It's about EFFORT. You can put as little or as much effort into any particular person no matter how far away they are, and you will be as close or as distant as your effort is.
Keep in mind that you are not meant to be best friends with everyone, and that's okay. Some people are meant to walk into your life to teach you, to learn from you, to offer love, to give love. There's a plethora of reasons why we can cross any particular person's path in this life. But one thing I know for sure is that if you live you most authentic and true self, you will find the people that are meant to be your people. Even if it takes some time.
Blakeley is one of my people. She gives. She loves. She helps. She offers comfort. She listens. She makes me laugh when I need it. We also have very similar beliefs and values, and the things we disagree on we listen to each other with open hearts and respect for the other person's beliefs. That's how we maintain. She does all those things that I also strive to do myself.
Is it easy all the time? No. We talk all the time about how we wish we lived closer so we could be an actual human to each other, but at the end of the day it doesn't matter because we're close at heart, and God connects us the rest of the way for now.
I really don’t have some crazy explanation of how we maintain our friendship from so far away. Honestly, it just happens in the day to day. We talk to each other every day, and we become closer because we both enjoy getting to know each other. We hold each other up when the days are hard and long, and we celebrate each victory, no matter how small, along the way.
It’s never been a challenge to maintain our friendship. God has hugely blessed both of us to be able to become such good friends from such a long distance! I don’t think that either of us expected to become such good friends. It just happened over time, and I’m very grateful that it did!
How do you best support each other through Lyme disease and any other hardship?
My favorite thing about Blakeley is that she doesn't expect our entire sisterhood/friendship to be based off of text messaging. I love DM's as the helpful tool that they are, but I greatly appreciate other forms of interactions that make me feel more human in all of this isolation we're all experiencing.
Mail is a huge tool we use. Especially when the other is having a particularly hard time. And it's not about the STUFF that we send, as much as the huge amount of heart that goes into it. Sometimes I just get random letters from Blakeley in the mail and they help lift the burden of Lyme and help me to realize that I don't have to carry it all by myself.
We also utilize tools like phone calls and facetime. I can always count on laughing hysterically when I'm on the phone with Blakeley. Especially after a long drawn out time of grief or pain.
The main thing is that we SHARE LIFE with each other. We celebrate life together. We cry together. We vent together. Friendship is a lot of sharing, and it always helps when the person you share things with listens well, and shares with you as well. And then of course after all the sharing, I believe we both spend lots of time praying for one another as well.
If you have a chronic illness, or are close to someone with a chronic illness, then you know how draining it is. Lyme disease steals so much away from you. Sometimes you’re left completely exhausted and defeated.
Claire and I both know and experience that. We really support each other through Lyme disease by just always being there for one another. Since we can’t do that in person, we take the time to text, call, pray for one another, or even send surprises in the mail.
Even though Claire lives no where near me, I know she’s always there to encourage me. She’s there to support me. She’s there to remind me to never give up. When we’re both having bad days with Lyme, honestly, we’re a mess! We’ve cried together, and we’ve laughed together...but no matter how bad this disease gets, or how defeated we both get, we never let each other give up. We push each other on. When we fall, we pick each other back up and keep going.
What is one thing you have learned from each other throughout your friendship?
Honestly I've learned that good people still exist. I have been at my wits end so many times throughout Lyme with how hostile, mean, and dishonest people can be toward the chronically ill. Don't get me wrong, I know that good people exist. But so many times before I started Chronically Beautiful I wondered if maybe I just wasn't meant to meet nice people.
I started my IG and I learned that there are absolutely good people left in the world, because I have met the kindest people through IG and my blog. And then when I met Blakeley, it was a huge realization that I'm still worthy of love and care, even with Lyme. Sometimes your born with a great sister, and sometimes you meet her later in life. Although I'm also blessed with a great sister by blood too, I'm thankful for the sister that I have found in Blakeley.
I’d say that it’s a lesson of love, care, and sacrifice.
Claire is one of the most caring and selfless people you could ever know. Even when she is really struggling, she takes time to make sure I’m doing okay. She always goes out of her way to make every day a little bit brighter.
Even when she is in the darkest place, if she knows I need her to listen, or to just be there for me, she does it with no question. She is always there, reaching out her hand to help. She has taught me so much about loving and giving to those around me. She’s taught me about sacrificing, loving, and caring for any person who is struggling, or needs hope.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is chronically ill about making and maintaining friendships?
Friendship is not about what one can GET out of someone else. And it's not solely about what one can give either. Friendship is about the giving AND receiving of light.
Every single one of us can be a being of light to others if we choose to be. All of us are made of light, and every good thing comes from God. So when we are sharing goodness with one another, we are spreading light that is the bond that holds people together. This is a glorious blessing that God gives us if we choose to partake of it.
Blakeley and I both participate in giving AND receiving light, and that is why we can be such close friends from so far apart.
There are so many lessons that come with being chronically ill. It’s extremely difficult, and sometimes you have a hard time interacting with people when you’re so sick. I think that a very important thing in a friendship when you’re chronically ill is to make sure that the other person knows your physical and mental limits well.
Claire knows that some days I won’t be able to talk on the phone, and she understands that. She knows that some days I’m not able to text her as much. She knows and understands when I need someone to listen to. Get to know your friend as much as possible. Learn their physical and mental limits, and respect them.
Understanding and compassion go a long way.
Claire and I both have Lyme disease, and we’ve learned so much about each other through that. We’ve learned to grieve with and for each other, and to also be happy with and for each other. Our friendship is definitely not perfect, but it’s special, and beautiful, and sometimes messy. Friendship means loving, caring, understanding, and forgiving. Even when it’s hard.