I Used to Think...
I used to think that I was a princess, and one day I would live in a castle. And somewhere in time my Prince Charming would come and rescue me from the easily recognizable villain. I used to think that life could be a fairy tale if you so desired it to be. I was wrong.
I used to think that makeup made me pretty... That no matter how many flaws I had, I could disguise them and nobody would know. I used to think that the drab and dull face I saw in the mirror every morning was exactly what other people saw as well. I used to think that physical display is what made you beautiful. I used to think I was ugly. I was wrong.
I used to think that I would marry my first love. I used to think that when a guy told me he loved me he actually meant it, and when the words slipped from his prevaricating lips, it meant forever. I used to think that no person could ever have a heart cold enough to hurt me. I also thought that love was simply an intense emotion of sorts. I used to think I knew what love was. I didn't. I was wrong.
I used to think that everything, at the core of its source, was full of goodness. I used to think that words were always pure and truthful, no matter who they came from. I used to think that if someone said that I was worthless, than it must be true. I used to let people tell me what I think. I used to believe that what I thought was invalid. I was wrong.
I used to think that emotional pain was worse than physical pain. I used to think that illness was something that only happened to "other people." I believed that my blissful life could not possibly be spun so quickly that it hurt. I used to think I'd always have my loved ones by my side, and that luxury could not possibly be turned around so quickly. I used to think that I had to do things all by myself. And when things got hard, I simply had to keep my feet planted on the ground and keep going even if that meant I was going all alone. I used to think that asking for help was a sign of weakness. I was wrong.
It's incredible how life changes you. How it crushes your innocence, devours your hope, and simultaneously brings out your inner beauty and lets your strength bloom. The hardest things in life bring you to true discovery of oneself. I've come to know that life isn't always what I thought it was, but it's still what I make of it.
I've come to know that I'm not a princess, but something much more than that. I've come to know that just because I don't live in a castle, doesn't mean I'm not royalty in the sight of God. I've come to know that Prince Charming isn't so easy to find, and that some of those who claim to be princely are the villain in disguise. I've come to know that life is not a fairytale, but an incredible journey that gives the phrase, "Happily Ever After" a much deeper meaning than we as human beings can even comprehend.
I've come to know that makeup is not what makes a girl pretty. It simply enhances the natural beauty that takes place underneath it all. But real beauty, true beauty, that's something that comes from under your skin. Something located in your heart. Just because I see a drab, sick, and exhausted face in the mirror some mornings, does not define who I am as a person, or my level of beauty on the inside. I'm not ugly just because somebody says I am. My scars and flaws do not define me. How you look on the outside does not define who you are on the inside and what a mirror tells you is the least of truths.
I've come to know that marrying my first love would be the worst decision I could ever make. I've come to know that true love is so much more than just an inner stirring of the heart. I've come to know that people lie and that true love is so much more than just words. I believe that we as human beings cannot fully comprehend the depth and extent of true love, but that we are blessed to experience a piece of it in this life.
I've come to know that not everything in life is good just because someone says it is. I've come to know absolute truth is a real thing, established by God. I've come to have a mind of my own, and I believe that standing for truth is of utmost importance in life. I've come to know that I'm not worthless just because somebody states that I am, and in God's eyes I have a worth far above the price of rubies, as does all of God's children.
I've come to know that pain comes in all forms, and that physical pain is incredibly excruciating as is emotion pain. I've come to know that illness isn't just something that happens in other countries, or to "other people," but it's something that can take place in the walls of my own home, my neighbor's home, or even within my own body. Illness is astonishingly real all around us, and when it steals your quality of life from you or a person you love, it's incredibly tragic. But even with all of that said, it's okay. It's okay to feel pain. You are never alone, and asking for help is not a sign of weakness. God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, know exactly what you're going through and leaning on Him is what will bring you to your highest degree of strength and happiness even through your hardest times.
Life is an incredible journey. A journey of hardship, trials, laughter, love, joy, and endless growth and learning. I haven't learned all that there is to learn yet, but I find it incredibly crazy how much I've grown and changed over the years. I went from aimlessly wandering, to having a desire to put the most important things first in my life, because you never know when those things will be gone. Having a chronic illness, or watching someone you're close to go through that level of pain and suffering, is a rare and beautiful experience that leads to incredible growth of character. It takes a lot of faith and hope, something that I refuse to lose as I go through life. Life's a journey. Yes, it's painful. And yes, it's a struggle. But there is so much to learn in this beautiful journey and learning is the start of a beautiful life.
Oh My Herx!
I feel like I'm running an eternal marathon against life. I run in one direction, as my dreams continually whisk further from my aching and overexerted body. How do you follow your dreams when your body is constantly fighting against everything you ever wanted? I feel as though all odds are against me and I'm ready to collapse in a defeated heap.
A herxheimer reaction is the immune system's reaction to toxins and bacteria being killed within the body. It's usually the reaction to a Lyme patient's treatment. Lyme doctors and patients usually refer to herxheimer reactions as "herxing." There were many days and nights that I watched my mom suffer through herxing as I silently suffered with her as an emotional reaction to that heartbreaking image. Now as I experience it myself, I realize how miserable life can really be.
When I was little I would come home crying with a scraped knee, and as mom provided adequate comfort and healing my tears would slowly fade away, along with the pain that enveloped my knee. Oh how I wish life was that easy now. Along with extreme anxiety comes the feeling of abandonment, heartbreak, and discouragement. As the tears come, they don't fade so easy. Neither does the pain that is reminiscent of a knife gouging out my heart. At times I feel as if I've fallen in a deep hole of total darkness, and there is no way out. There's times when I'm stuck in utter despondency and I feel my heart being crushed under the pressure of reminders that I'm sick, useless, and undesirable. Severe anxiety isn't something to take lightly. Not when utter despair surrounds the very soul that you base your entire existence around.
Herxing doesn't just come in physical pain. Although, that's also a major part of it. A herx for me is like a knife to the heart along with all of the physical pain that comes with it. Dizziness, nausea, headaches, weakness, trembling, chills... I'm feel like I'm losing my mind at times. As if it's slowly fading along with my body. I'm exhausted, and simply tired of being tired. After all those years of watching my mother suffer and not knowing to the full extent what she was going through, I agonize with her now because I'm literally feeling her pain. My mother is so graceful and eloquent in her method of suffering, and this disease has truly made her stronger and gloriously beautiful.
I want to fight this thing. I want to fight until my fighting capacity is weakened to almost nothing. I want to fight until the light of healing pierces through me. I want to come out alive and strong, just like my mother. I truly believe that I can beat this, and be completely healed with proper patience, long suffering, and enduring to the end. As I once lay awake in the middle of the night I thought to myself, "Through this trial I will cleave to my Savior so hard that no intangible substance, no person, and no illness can cut me down. And through Him, my burdens will be lifted, peace will flood my soul, and I will be healed." I'll never forget that spiritual confirmation that all will be okay in the end. Just because things are bad now, does not mean that they will be for forever. And even through my darkest of times I still believe that life is beautiful. I still believe that beauty and light can be found in every minescule crevice that life has to offer. There is light everywhere, it just has to be seen. Life is beautiful, and so is suffering.
Lyme Will Not Crush Me
There's a special kind of heartbreak that comes from having to say goodbye to people that I have come to know and love. It's the kind of heartbreak that accompanies the sense of failure and defeat that festers inside my heart as I turn the page of the story of life and move forward into a new chapter. I recently experienced all these feelings as I drove out of my college town and back to my home town where I can heal from the afflictions that have been burdening my body and soul since I began my journey into the college world, and inattentively before that.
I never asked for this. I never asked for Lyme disease. I never asked for long painful nights, decreasing grade percentages, extreme exhaustion, and my loss of ability to think straight or focus. I never asked to leave all the people that I came close to. I never wanted to be a quitter. I'm only a freshman in college and I've already failed at surviving my first semester. My hair is thinning out, my skin is breaking out, my muscles ache, my brain is exhausted, my heart is breaking, I feel like my body is literally deteriorating beneath my skin, and my emotions are screaming for help inside me. There's something extremely devastating about having to put all of my dreams on hold for an illness. It's days like today where I wish I could just crawl into my cozy bed and disappear from this cruel sick world.
These particular thoughts cross my mind almost everyday. I am determined to fight long and hard until they are cleansed from my heart and mind just as the bacteria that is eating away at me will be cleansed from my body. I'm not a failure. I'm not a quitter. There are much worse things than Lyme disease in this world. I truly believe, even on my worst days, that this disease is a blessing in disguise even if I don't quite understand why or how. Right now I'm discouraged and scared. My treatment is about to be increased and with that comes increased herxheimer reactions, which means increased fatigue, pain, anxiety, and depression. I'm not excited for the incredible journey ahead of me, but I'm ready to fight long and hard. Lyme disease will not crush me. I refuse to let it crush me.
I find great comfort in knowing that God is with me through this journey, just as He is with everyone in the world that is currently suffering from the recent horrific current events that have taken place over the past week or so. My faith is strong, my hope is never unending, my prayers are always continuing. God hears and knows our cries and He can and will give us peace. I hope that through each of our individual trials and afflictions we can all remember Him in these increasingly hard times. Peace will come. Rest is just around the corner. God bless.
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." -Matthew 11:28-30
I'll Never Forget the Screams
It was a bitter cold December night. My eyes flickered open at the sounds of anguish and pain that I was so used to hearing in the middle of the night. I caught a sharp sliver of the moon out of the corner of my eyes. It pierced through one of my windows and gleamed down on my face as if it was mocking me. My heart felt heavy as I rolled over and pulled my blankets closer to my body, asking an inanimate object to protect me and take my fears away. I forced my eyes closed and wished I could do the same with my ears as the insufferable lamentation rang through my head and filled my aching soul.
I eventually lulled myself back into an unsettling sleep. Silence. Sweet silence. Sweet bliss.
I woke to the screams. The screams of my mother laying helplessly on the floor, going into a seizure and for a small moment in time losing her ability to move, speak, or feel. The screams pierced through the bitter cold air and traveled straight to my heart where it stuck like a dagger. Without hesitation I flung my blankets off and pushed my pillows out of the way, numbing myself to the bitter cold air that had been absent in my cozy cocoon. Following the sound of the screams, I ran to my mothers side on the living room floor. The darkness hid the shadows of her pained face. She was in so much pain at that point that she was losing her ability to function at all and I could almost physically see the small amount of light that was left in her fading away to nothing.
My dad knelt by her side with his hand in hers the entire time. His drained expression silently and desperately cried for help of any kind at that point. I fell down on my knees next to my mothers head. I thought this was it. I thought she was dying. I thought this was my last moment that I would ever get with her, and all I could think was "Dear God! HELP US!!" At that point we knew that prayer was the only thing that we could do. I frantically fiddled with my phone to call for help as Dad stopped me, knowing that they would do absolutely nothing for us. Knowing that it would be another night of being told that she was crazy and there was nothing they could do for her. With all hope lost, tears filled my eyes and the feeling of uselessness flooded my soul.
I've recently been reflecting on that experience that doesn't feel like it was all that long ago. I had no idea why our family was suffering so much and I always wondered, "Why us? My me?" It wasn't until months later that we found out that the source of Mom's suffering was Lyme Disease. And not until many months later did we find a treatment option that actually worked. I remember thinking that night would be the last night ever spent with my mother. I remember the fear that pierced through my heart and into my aching soul as I sat next to my dying mother on my living room floor. At that point I thought that healing was impossible, and I thought that life wasn't really worth living. I never thought I'd be grateful for an experience as horrific as what my family suffered that cold December night.
I remember about five months ago, I lay folded up in excruciating pain in the very same spot that my mom had suffered so many nights before. I remember wanting to scream my pain away, and feeling as if I couldn't breathe because it pierced through my stomach so hard like a knife mocking my very existence. It was then that it hit me that I was suffering a very minuscule piece of what my mother had to go through so long ago. And in some special way, I felt connected with her. I gained an understanding and a special kind of compassion that I didn't have before. It's not craziness. It's pain. Horrific, unbearable, excruciating pain. I wasn't suffering even half of what my mom suffered through so many days before, but I was feeling for her. And my love for my mother grew ten times more than it already was.
Back in December I didn't realize why I had to watch mom suffer. I didn't understand why this trial was being thrust upon my mother, and my family. Now, I feel like I understand a little bit better. If my mom hadn't gone through that, we never would have found a treatment option. I'd be sick right now and we wouldn't know why. If I hadn't gone through that I wouldn't have learned the sweet lesson of compassion. I wouldn't be who I am today for so many reasons even beyond that. I'll never forget the screams that woke my restless mind that night. And with that, I'll never forget the love that I have for my mother. It's a blessing she's alive today. I know that, and I hope that through Chronic Lyme I can learn to help others and have the opportunity to lift others burdens as they may be going through similar trials. God works in mysterious ways. Ways that I still don't completely understand. But I can honestly say that there is a reason why we suffer. I wouldn't be who I am today without my suffering. I'll never forget the screams, but I'll also never forget my faith that powers me through my most unbearable times.
Appreciating the Small Stuff
It recently occurred to me how much I didn't appreciate the little comforts in life until I lost those comforts. I remember back to a time when my mom was in the most dreadful stage of her journey through Lyme. My mom and I sat in the parking lot of Costco while my dad was inside buying groceries. I remember the moaning and groaning that fell out of my mother's mouth as we sat in that car. Back then I wanted to cry for my mother everyday. My strong, beautiful, incredible mother whose life had literally been diminished to nothing. Where common activities such as going to the store were a rare instance in her life. I wanted to do something for her. I wanted to take her pain away from her. Impossible as that was at the time I tried to keep her spirits up through talking to her and keeping her laughing. Hearing Mom laugh back then was almost like partaking of a breath of fresh air.
As we sat in the car that day I remember pulling out a small little pad of paper as I told her that she should make a list of things that made her happy in order to increase her spirits. After promptly writing my dad's name and my own name at the top of that list I asked her to think of other things. The conversation went absolutely no where from there. She sat there agonizing her pain level and I sat there feeling completely useless. I remember going home that day and writing a list of things that made me happy. I remember that with tears in my eyes, I promptly wrote, "Mom getting better" as number one on that list.
It's really occurred to me in the past month how much I need to appreciate the little things in life. About a month ago I discovered that I had Chronic Lyme. And two weeks ago I began my treatment. It's been a really rough journey. My diet has been diminished to almost nothing. No more chocolate... No more comfort food... No more going out with friends after study sessions... No more dates that involve food. No more anything that tastes good. Not to mention, the things that I do have to eat I detest. Drinking straight vinegar and garlic in order to kill the bacteria that's eating away at my body is a far from pleasant experience.
Sleeping has been a wide awakening (literally). In order for my treatment to work properly I have to sleep with oxygen every night. Yes, that means one of those scary looking machines that disturbs the peace. And those long never ending tubes that I can only hope I don't accidentally strangle myself with while I'm sleeping. Not to mention that I have these two awkward tubes shoved up my nose with the oxygen that burns all the way through my sinuses. It's ironic how oxygen is supposed to help you breathe but when you're on the machine in the middle of the night it feels more like it's trying to murder you in your sleep.
It hit me as a shock to find out that having random shooting pains that go up through my stomach and into my spine are not normal. Feeling light headed as a result of standing up is not normal. Having a heart rate in the high nineties all the time is not normal. Being exhausted and ready to crawl back into bed by the time noon rolls around is not normal. Feeling like I'm losing my mind because my body won't keep up with me is not normal.
Now, I tell you these things not because I want you to feel sorry for me. Not because I want a pity party, and not because I want attention, but because these things are REAL THINGS. It hurts! It's exhausting! It's uncomfortable! It's real. And it's okay. God didn't put us on this earth so we could be comfortable. We were put on this earth to struggle. To experience pain. To feel things even when they're unpleasant. It is through uncomfortable experiences that we learn and grow the most.
Back then, my mom didn't know what brought her joy, but as I've watched her grow and heal, she appreciates things so much more now. As do I. Mom's eyes light up at the sight of a beautiful sunset, and she gets excited simply by spotting a dear in a near by meadow. Hearing her laugh over some dumb joke that my dad told, or hearing her comment on how pretty the changed autumn leaves are is incredible. All of those small little blessings bring her joy. Mom discovered how to find joy in the small stuff, because at one point, she lost the small stuff. And at times, the small stuff is all she had. It's amazing how sometimes the small stuff is transformed into incredible miracles.
For me, I appreciate any moment of sleep I get that I don't have to have my oxygen impaling my nose. I appreciate when I get to school on time even though it seemed pretty impossible because I woke up from my sleepless night incredibly late. I appreciate when a friend asks me how I'm doing. I appreciate a short little phone call or text from a friend or family member. I appreciate every beauty in nature that crosses my path. It's strange to me how people are so oblivious to things like beautiful rainbows, the flap of a butterfly's wings, the beautiful changing fall colors, or gorgeous little rain showers. Those things hold so much depth, beauty, and joy in them. They're a piece of beauty that God so obviously bestows upon us on a regular basis. God's small little blessings are in fact incredible miracles!
Yes, I have Lyme, but it's through the little things that I come to find joy even in my time of hardship. By all means, Lyme Disease does not make life easy, but it sure makes small things beautiful.