"It's not fair!" I repeated this useless phrase to myself multiple times over when I first was diagnosed with Lyme disease. How could it possibly be fair that my life seemed to point to one horrific disease that robbed me of my dreams!? How is it fair that my dream of someday finding true love seemed utterly impossible? All is NOT fair in love and war. Fighting a war against your own body is anything but fair.
I remember throughout my younger years I seemed to be in love with love itself. I loved the idea of falling in love, followed by a whirlwind romance, an extravagant wedding, and happily ever after. That dream seemed sufficient. Sufficient for lifelong happiness? I suppose so. Sufficient for long suffering, enduring to the end, and coming out conqueror with my faithful husband by my side? Well I suppose I never actually considered hardship grinding its way between me and my true love. Unfortunately for me my hardship came long before my true love ever made an entrance. Not only that, but at times it seems as though Lyme disease laughs in the face of love. And alas, "it's not fair."
To Lyme or Not to Lyme
The problem seems to be the never ending string of problems I seem to have. More like eternal string of symptoms, loud opinions, diet restrictions, supplements, and ex boyfriends. It all begins with a spark and ends with a burned out fire, and a few extra symptoms. It all really comes down to one question… “Despite my Lyme disease, am I worth it?” It’s something to consider when deciding the all-important decision of love and Lyme, or love and health?
So am I? Am I worth it? When I suffer headaches, skin lesions, excruciating pain, nausea, weakness, anxiety, etc… am I worth those daily battles? Battles that are not won by one simple gunshot but multiple gunshots aimed all at once. Eternal supplement intake, acupressure, heating pads, hot water bottles, increased water intake, hot baths, dietary restrictions, IV's, injections, detox, detox, and more detox! All of which are highly important battle techniques in fighting Lyme. One alone is not enough to relieve pain. They must all be implemented in order to defeat. Now tell me, what man in his right mind would want such a horrible fate thrust upon him when instead he could have a nice healthy woman who can pamper him to his heart’s content? Most men when given two different roads would quickly pick the easier route. And I do not blame them. It comes back down to that basic question of am I worth it?”
So far… the answer has been no.
Multiple Symptoms, Multiple Men
Throughout this journey I’ve managed to become acquainted with three “types” of men that are willing to date me for a short period of time. Each “type” of man has “symptoms” of his own that should send every woman with Lyme disease running! Lyme in not a disease for the shallow in heart. It simply doesn’t work with these kinds of men.
1. "The Hero"
The “hero’s” symptoms include the constant urge to “swoop in” and save the day! Any chance for them to rescue a cat stuck in a tree, or an injured bird is their cup of tea! This alone is not a bad quality, but when all of a sudden I become the injured bird then it becomes really degrading! I’d like to take a moment to clarify: I’m not a cat stuck in a tree, I’m not a wounded bird, and I don’t need to be “rescued.” I have a disease. This does not mean that I am incapable, or in need of “saving.” Finding my true love isn’t about finding someone to “fix” me. It’s about finding someone to support me. I don’t want to date superman, or spiderman, or batman. I’m not looking for a hero to “save” me. Service travels much further than saving. Forthwith compassion is much greater than “fixing."
2. "The Main Man"
The “main man’s” symptoms include the delusional idea that dating me would be equivalent to those tragically romantic movies about a terminally ill woman who falls in love with some hunk, followed by a whirlwind romance! This guy seems to think that he is the “main man” in my tragic movie plot. For the record, my life is not a romantic tragedy that you find in a movie. What they don’t show in those movies is the horrific pain flares, and the extra effort it takes just to survive the day. They don’t show the chronic migraines and the all over body pain. They don’t show the pure exhaustion, the seizures, or the daily routine of trying to eliminate as much pain as possible. Those movies are unrealistic. True love goes further than marrying someone just before they die of a terminal illness. There’s more to it than that. It’s so much deeper than that. My illness may not be romantic, but lucky for me I am much more than my illness.
3. "The Award Winner"
To the “award winner,” it does not matter the tragedy that is taking place inside my body, because he simply does not care about what’s on the inside. His symptoms include his keen need to win. It’s all about claiming his “prize.” I will always be a trophy to that kind of a guy. Something that looks nice that he can brag about to others, but when it comes to my hardships and my struggles, he doesn’t care. It’s all about him and how he looks, and when I look bad or am too sick, I all of a sudden become “a sacrifice” to him, or “totally crazy!” This guy’s symptoms include his clueless nature as to what I go through on a daily basis. He doesn’t know me. He just knows what I look like. To this guy I’d just like to say that I am NOT your trophy. I am NOT your object. I am NOT your toy. I believe that this man is the most dangerous of them all, because he’s very skilled at pretending that he cares. Well, unfortunately he doesn’t. Heaven help the chronically ill woman who ends up with the “award winner,” because he is definitely not your prize to be proud of!
Lyme that's Real and Love that's Not
In today’s society we all seem to have this delusional idea of what love is. Whether that be the “flawless relationship” which includes “happily ever after” where nothing ever goes wrong, or the sex saturated relationship that is centered on physical pleasure and actually has no correlation with real, true, and pure love. Both of those concepts are a hideously skewed idea of what love is, and with the majority of people thinking that we “fall in love” it’s obvious why it seems impossible to ever have a successful relationship with anybody whether they be one of the aforementioned men above or not.
When you have Lyme disease you learn things that you otherwise would not have known. Like how an act of true love is helping someone walk when they’re in too much pain to do it themselves. An act of selfless love is sitting at someone’s bedside and enduring to the end with them. True love is about walking side by side together, not about one person walking in front of the other. True love is putting that other person before yourself, and working together to make things work. This concept goes for both the sick person, and their healthy counterpart.
Love is not always going to be “rainbows and butterflies.” At times love is enduring to the end. Love is watching the person you care about the most in pain and staying by their side through it all. Love is about compassion, understanding, and long suffering. For we do not “fall in love” as the saying goes. Love is not this frivolous concept in correlation to tripping and falling down the stairs. For to fall in love would make it too easy to “fall out of love.” We do not “fall in love,” but quite the opposite actually. If anything, true love involves “rising to love.” When the person we love needs them, we rise to the occasion! We ascend in kindness, charity, benevolence, patience, and so much more! When looking at love with this perspective it somehow causes us to look at the person we care for with a little more respect, love, and understanding. Lyme disease is real, but this concept of “falling in love” is not. If it was, then every man that so called “fell in love with me” would easily fall out of love when he discovered that Lyme disease is a test of endurance, faith, and so many more divine attributes that at one point or another we all seek to have.
One Man that I Forgot to Mention...
In my aforementioned list of men that we all seem to come in contact with, I forgot one special guy that I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting. This guy doesn’t have the negative symptoms of the others. This guy sees me as a human being, not just a disease. A man that strives so valiantly to put God first in his life that in return God blesses him with the ability to love his wife “in sickness and in health,” and “for time and all eternity.” A man who realizes that his strength and abilities come from the Almighty Creator and a man who’s attributes are reminiscent of Christ, our Savior, and Redeemer.
This man sees past my Lyme disease and sees me for who I really am. He doesn’t see me as “crazy” and “exotic” but passionate and wise. Someone who doesn’t see me as “sick” and “a sacrifice to him,” but someone who sees me as strong and a blessing to him, despite my illness. This man has courage, because dating someone like me is going to take a whole lot of courage. We all want somebody who loves us for what’s on the inside. This kind of guy knows how to do just that. This kind of guy is what every woman wants, healthy or otherwise.
True love is incredible. It’s incredible when it’s done correctly. It’s incredible when it is centered on true principles established by God. It is incredible when you have two people, brought together by God, striving to stay together through thick and thin. It is people who love each other so much that they would do anything to strive to be a better person for the person they love.
So is it Really Fair?
Just to clarify, this is not about me bashing on men, women, or dating. This is not about me stereotyping unfortunate courtships, and blaming one person or the other. Not every man is the kind of man in the descriptions above. This isn’t about me blaming healthy people or sick people for the painful relationships that we all seem to have at one point or another. This is me saying that we all deserve better than what we are getting, so should we not all be striving to be better than we are? Better for our future loves, and better for our Heavenly Father who loves us perfectly?
A man who is on a date with a woman should respect her. A woman who is on a date with a man should respect him. It’s about time that men start treating women with respect and love and it is about time that women strive a little harder to become women that are worthy of that “prince charming” that we all so desperately long for!
The problem with Lyme disease is that it seems to place a wall between you and any potential suiter. It’s hard for anyone to look past such a drastic part of my life and see me for the woman that I am. This does not mean that I should give up hope.
So is it fair? I do believe it is. Lyme has somehow helped me to dodge more bullets than one. Lyme has saved me from marrying the villain with “nice hair” and “blue eyes” more than once. Lyme disease has somehow managed to be my own personal alarm system for the guys who think they somehow have a right to take advantage of me. I’ve dated my fair share of “heroes” and “award winners” and quite frankly Lyme has helped me to realize that it’s okay to take time to fall in love with the right person. Love is so much more than infatuation. Love takes time. Courtship is a time to become best friends and discover who you really are deep down.
No doubt about it, all is fair in love and Lyme. So to the chronically ill women who assume that you’ll never find “the one”, keep looking. He’s out there somewhere. Now is not the time to give up hope. I once had a friend of mine tell me that “it’s a good thing you dodged the bullet before it became a tornado, because you can’t dodge a tornado!” Your vulnerabilities due to your illness are very clear, and in a way they protect you from marrying a tornado. Love is so much more than what this world makes of it. You ARE worth it! Don’t give up faith or hope. God will provide a way. True love endures, which means we all can endure a little loneliness while searching for the love we’ve all been waiting for.
And to my future love, I can’t wait to meet you. I suppose life wasn’t meant to be fair, but fairness is irrelevant because I have Lyme whether that’s fair or not. I fight Lyme every day so I can someday make you happy. I fight Lyme so I can heal and be the woman that you need me to be. I strive to be a better person and center my life on God, so someday He will provide a way for me to find you. I may be chronically ill, but I can promise you that I will be the best chronically ill wife you could ever ask for. Not only that, but I do believe that I fight so hard so someday I can get better. I continue to fight so I will heal for you. I long to make you happy. I long to be your partner through life, for time and all eternity. “You lift me, and I'll life thee, and we’ll ascend together.”
I love the sound of a ticking clock. The sound of time slowly passing by. For me it's a reminder that I'm never stuck in one horrible moment. It always passes. Time never stops, and the ticking continues. It's calming to know that a bad second always passes with the next second, and it is our choice as to how we want to react to that second. That ticking clock is my reminder that through it all, I should always take time to breathe and soak in the fact that is life.
I don't consider myself suicidal. I've seen loved ones in a suicidal state of mind, and I know that I'm not there. I hope to never be there. I’ve felt overwhelming anger, sorrow, and pain throughout this illness, but who am I to tamper with life and death when God is at the helm of life and death itself? I cannot think to take my life when I know my Heavenly Father will call me home according to His divine timing. With that in mind, I do believe that being home with my Heavenly Father would be more desirable then the state of life that I have now. I have spent days flat on my back in pain, praying that God would call me home, and yet I'm still here. I'm still here, fulfilling this life of mine that I don't quite understand yet.
What kind of life is spent at home suffering pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and the ache of watching someone you love suffer the same? What quality of life forces rest and demands a life sentence of crushed dreams? Why must I suffer so? Why must I endure such a heavy burden? Some days I feel as though I know the answer to these seemingly simple questions. Other days my heart neglects to understand anything at all. I've learned so much, and yet the suffering continues.
Why must I keep fighting? Why is it my obligation to be someone when my illness stole my quality of life? Why do I feel so pressured to do things that I just can't do right now? Why must I keep living? Why? These questions seem to buzz through my mind on a daily basis. Who am I? Where am I, and where am I going? Every person has to ask themselves these questions at one point. For me, the answers seem more complicated than I’d like them to be.
I know one thing for sure, I’m here for a reason. God loves me, and He needs me here for a very specific reason that I am completely unaware of at this present time. Through my suffering, I’ve learned so much, and He continues to teach things I would not know otherwise. This illness prepares me for my future, which gives me all the more reason to keep fighting, all the more reason to carry on in faith, and all the more reason to live. With that said, these are my reasons to live:
1. To be alive is a gift.
When we receive a gift, we make time for it. We treat it with a sense of wonder and respect. We treasure it. We show gratitude. We appreciate the thought that is put into it. So even when life is hard, should we not treat it the same? Should we not treat it like the gift it is? I for one, am not the perfect example of this, but the thought that life is a gift gives perspective that the average person would otherwise never consider.
Life is a gift given to us from the Almighty Creator. Every breathe I take, despite my disabilities, is a gift from God. My moments of joy are a gift. The people I love are a gift. This illness, believe it or not, is a gift, a divine gift sent from God. Sometimes I consider what life would be like if we treated every morning like Christmas morning. How exciting and joyful life would be if we thanked God every day for the gift that is life. Sometimes I don’t want to be here anymore. I want to go home to my Heavenly Father, I want the suffering to end, and I want peace. Despite my suffering, I know I’m here for a reason and I’m determined to fulfill that reason before I journey to my eternal home. That gives me ultimate desire to keep living even through suffering.
2. I live for my family.
I cannot express the gratitude I have for my incredible parents. I know that I am one of the reasons why my mother fought so hard to live, despite the pain she suffered from this awful disease. In return, I must fight for her now that it is my turn to drink the bitter cup. We need each other. Young people in my generation sometimes fail to see the treasures of wisdom that our parents hold. We fail to see how precious it is to keep a relationship with our parents, even long after we have grown into adulthood. As I have suffered with my parents, I have come to know and love them on a greater level than I ever thought possible. We need each other, we understand each other, and we lean on each other for support in times of trial and affliction. I love them dearly. I have a will to live because of them.
3. I live for my future family.
Someday, I want to fall in love. I desire to love and be loved so deeply that nothing could ever tear us apart. We tend to think in today’s society that the kind of love that exists in books does not exist. The reality is that true love is so much greater than the kind of love that is portrayed in books. True love is kind, understanding, compassionate, patient, long suffering, and eternal. One day I will find the man I am looking for. One day I will find a man that will make all the bad dates, horrible relationships, and all the heartbreak completely worth it. One day I will find a man who will marry me for time and all eternity. A man that will be the rock of our household and the patriarch of our family. I fight this disease for that man. I continually strive to be a better person a little bit every day for that man. I come closer to my Savior and my Heavenly Father so I can have a grasp of eternal love and love that man right. As I dance with God, someday He will let the perfect man cut in. I live for my future husband and children that I will someday love and cherish for time and all eternity.
4. I live because life is beautiful.
butMy hands burn, my neck glands are swollen, my head seems to make the room spin at times, and I have open lesions on my skin that bleed and hurt. My stomach hurts, my hands tremble, and my legs feel weak and distressed. My heart feels heavy and my lungs seem to fight my desire to breathe at times. My symptoms are real, and I feel anything but beautiful. Life feels anything but beautiful. My gut and my brain tell me to stay in bed, while my heart screams to come out of this prison and do something useful. Where’s the beauty in starring at the blank white ceiling day, after day, after day. Where did my joyful motivation go?
Despite all of these sore hardships, the beauty in life is still there. You simply have to open your eyes and look a little closer than you have in the past. There’s the beauty that lies in the bright blue skies on a clear summer day. There’s the beauty that comes from walking barefoot through the grass and soaking in the sweet rays of the sun. Beauty that comes from looking in the mirror and knowing you’re a child of God, who loves you beyond any capacity that any human could ever imagine. Beauty that comes from looking past my pain and seeing the love and blessings that rain down on me despite my hardships. The beauty that comes from knowing that God is real and God is good. Life is beautiful. We will all suffer in this life, but we can do it! We can make it! We can strive for the glorious and reach for the stars! Life is incredible. Life has a certain hidden beauty that you have to suffer through in order to see. I live for the beauty that is life and beauty that comes from the glorious connection that we can have to the Heaven’s and the earth that the Heaven’s created.
It’s going to be okay. Yes, you will struggle and things will be hard. But it’s going to be okay. God is with you. God is amazing. It’s going to be okay. There are always reasons to live.