Throughout my life, I've had the privilege of sharing my story with lots of different minds and hearts that I've met along the way. Putting the intense battle of so many various kinds of pain into words that are relatable to the average person always seems to be an arduous task on my part, and I frequently seem to receive the same message from people that don't know me very well yet:
"Wow, Claire... That's really personal." or,
"I'm surprised you just shared all of that with me... that's really personal." or,
"Wow... you've been through a lot."
As expected, these comments are usually accompanied with wide eyes, dropped jaws, and a look of bewilderment. It wouldn't surprise me if at times people read my blogs and think similar thoughts.
Now, don't get me wrong... I have experienced very valuable conversations with people about my adversities as well, and this isn't to say that I don't appreciate the chances I do have for listening ears and open minds to hear me out and answer my cries for help with love and compassion. Those people know who they are, and they are very much loved and have forever left handprints on my heart.
But for this particular post, I want to articulate to my dear readers why I'm so very vocal about illness and tragedies, and why I feel such a deep desire to share my story, even if at times it may sound terribly personal, or be overwhelming to listen to or read.
I recently came across this quote on a Facebook page I follow that is dedicated to spreading awareness for Endometriosis (something that I've struggled with for years). This quote really hit home for me personally and is partially why I felt inspired to write this post. Which brings me to my first reason for refusing to stay silent in the midst of suffering:
1. It took me a really long time to develop a voice, and now I finally have it. I vividly remember in high school I obsessively agonized over what people thought of me. I was the "perfectly well behaved high school girl." I couldn't stand it if a single hair on my head was misplaced, or if a single drop of makeup was smeared or absent. I didn't have enough courage to say what I thought most of the time, and when I did say what I thought I was usually ridiculed or quickly shut down by my peers or teachers. This subconsciously lead me to believe that being fake and keeping my mouth shut was the best option in most cases. That, or subconsciously believing that I was incredibly unintelligent at least kept me in a social standpoint where I never had to step outside of the status-quo unless I was around a trusted friend where I could finally just be myself.
All of these false beliefs turned out to be incredibly damaging to me as I grew older and suffered greater tragedies than mere harsh judgments from my peers. I reached a point where I truly believed that I was stupid and worthless, and it's been a battle ever since to remember who I am and why I'm here. About a year ago, I suffered tremendous loss in my life, and when that happened, something inside me finally woke up. Ultimately, I'm tired of pretending. I'm tired of being afraid. I'm tired of thinking that what I have to say isn't worth hearing. I FINALLY found my voice. And now that I have it, I'm not going to be silent.
2. Deep connection and inspiration don't come from silence. Here's something to consider: Why would all of us be put on this earth TOGETHER, to experience pain and suffering, if we were never supposed to talk about our experiences? Adversity and hardship exist so that we can learn, grow, and be inspired, but we were not meant to do that alone. If we were, we wouldn't all be here TOGETHER.
Everybody has a story that can bring tears to the toughest of people, but cold hearts and false beliefs are born out of silence. If I choose to stay silent about my suffering, I'm depriving someone else of the strength that they may not know exists yet. If I'm too afraid to share my story, I'm sending a message of fear to a society that is already riddled with fear and anxiety for the future. In order to understand and truly appreciate the light in life, you have to experience and understand the darkness. That's non-negotiable, but thankfully God blesses us with other people to help us to understand the darkness so we don't have to experience every ounce of suffering by ourselves. And through our pain and suffering, we can learn to succor others... which is my next point.
3. We're not meant to suffer alone. When I think back to the times that I've been bedridden for months on end, I've tried multiple times to pinpoint the worst part of it all. And I have to be honest... The worst part of Lyme disease and Endometriosis isn't the long nights of seizures, puking, and indescribable lower abdominal pain. It's not endless exhaustion, joint pain, and muscle pain. It's not panic attacks, depression, and fits of Lyme rage. The hardest part of chronic illness... is the isolation. I've had so many nights where I've felt like I'm the only one in the world who is suffering on such an immense level. I've felt completely and utterly alone as I've come to realize that while I'm fighting a disease, everyone else's lives are continuing on without me.
Nobody deserves to suffer alone. Almost 50% of America suffers from one or more chronic illnesses, and while the other 50% are near oblivious to the excruciating suffering of us warriors of invisible illness, we're fighting for our lives. Everybody needs help. Every one needs support. Every person needs compassion. We were put on this earth to help each other. We're put on this earth to experience pure love, but I truly believe that we cannot do that without experiencing hardship and being willing to walk the more difficult roads in life. If my story can bring hope, peace, or strength to even just one person... it's worth it to me. It's worth the vulnerability. It's worth the chance that I could be shut down or ridiculed by some. It's worth opening up and being personal. We all need people we can relate to. Silence cuts us off from that connection that we all need in order to survive this life.
This is why I refuse to be silent anymore. This is why I speak up and speak out. This is why I believe that we all need to be a little more personal... because connecting hearts and promoting comfort and healing is so much more important than feeding our fear and protecting our pride.
Note from the Writer: I've suffered from Lyme disease all my life, and one of the very critical symptoms of such a disease is severe anxiety. This is my personal account of what it feels like to suffer from severe anxiety caused by the physical bacteria in my body. Anxiety disorder is not always necessarily just a disorder all by itself, rather it is often times a symptom of greater imbalances in the body. This has been my case for years, and I've finally decided to open up about it and raise awareness for the inward torture that so many people seem to struggle with.
I've spent such a large majority of time thinking as I've laid in bed sick, and I've come to believe that life often involves large amounts of loss...
The loss of a job...
The loss of an irreplaceable item...
The loss of physical abilities that you once had...
The loss of someone you love dearly...
The loss of certain people you know should be in your life, but they just aren't because they choose not to be... I've lost all of these things at one point or another, and it's lead me to believe that loss is something that creates anxiety and depression in the minds and hearts of so many hurting people.
Because when you lose something precious, it opens the door to the fear of what you could possibly lose next.
I supposed that's what happened to me in the midst of my Lyme journey... Lately, I feel as though I'm losing more imperative things...
My will to live...
I don't believe that my anxiety triggers my Lyme disease. Rather, my Lyme disease is a root-cause of the severe anxiety that plagues me on a daily basis. And because Lyme disease never appears to cease, I've come to recognize that I've already lost so much... and my fear of losing more is petrifying at times.
There are countless times where I'm sitting in church, and my heart feels as though it's pounding relentlessly hard in my chest. Over the next passing minutes I begin to fear that one day my heart is going to suddenly jump out of my throat and run down the hall. But I cannot vocalize that feeling to people... because it sounds crazy.
There are times when I'm shopping in a store, and I feel like no matter how deeply I try to breathe I cannot possible intake enough air in my lungs to stay alive. So I feel this desperate need to breathe harder in attempt to acquire more air, almost as if all the oxygen in the room will never be enough. But I cannot express this awful sensation to people... because it sounds crazy.
There are times where I feel like I have microscopic bugs crawling down my spine, hiding in my joints, and lingering under my skin. And I feel like if I can scratch them out of my skin then maybe I'd be a little less broken, and a little more beautiful. In reality this illusion that my anxiety creates only leaves me with ugly scars and more feelings of brokenness. But I cannot verbalize this itch to people... because it sounds crazy.
There are times I fear like everyone is out to attack me. There are times I can't get my hands to stop trembling. There are times that the pit in my stomach just seems to grow bigger and bigger without any warning, and suddenly I feel as though the world around me is about to explode in one massive freak accident. These feelings exist in my head, even if the world outside of me is perfectly silent, and perfectly at peace. But putting such feelings down on paper makes me feel crazy.
These are a few of the MANY sensations of anxiety brought on by Lyme disease, and the saddest component of it all is that these symptoms that so many of us suffer from are NOT TALKED ABOUT ENOUGH! Nobody is listening and nobody is expressing enough compassion and love, therefore creating a more fear, anxiety, and a sense of loss in the hearts and minds of our society.
So what do we do? How do we cope? How do we gain a sense of safety and security in an anxiety-riddled body among our fear-riddled society?
Well... I can share with you what I do:
I spend a little time every day breathing deeply and remembering the strength and power that I have as a daughter of God. I avoid talking down about myself as I seek to recognize that the disease that I have is very real, and I still have worth despite the regular symptoms that I deal with. I seek to stand out in a shallow and uncaring society and attempt every day to love deeply, care about others, and seek to have compassion toward those around me.
You see, illness and symptoms of illness such as severe anxiety are not in control of us. It's important to recognize that we aren't losing our minds, and there is ALWAYS a reason to keep living. Severe anxiety doesn't cause weakness, rather it strengthens us. Every time I have a brutal flare, I wake up the next morning a little bit stronger than I was the day before. I become a woman with a little more resilience, a little more patience, and a little more appreciation for the moments when I can and do feel a joy more pure and penetrating than I could have ever experienced before Lyme disease. The hope comes from knowing that all of us can grow from our sufferings in this way.
We all have the ability and the means to respond to our suffering in a meaningful and strengthening way. It will never be easy, and there are absolutely days where you will feel crazy, but it's important to remember that you are absolutely NO SUCH THING. You're not alone, you're not crazy, and you have something to offer. Every one of God's beautiful children has something to offer, even if you suffer from an illness or from some other trial or struggle that seems insufferable at times.
You are loved.
You are remembered.
Your tears are accounted for.
And most importantly, your joy is something worth fighting for, and it is absolutely obtainable.
I believe that one of the most important things we can all do is listen. Stop shutting people down and shutting people out due to the discomfort that comes with discussing such difficult things. Stop spending the majority of your time looking inward. Instead, look outward and look up. Listen. Love. Care. Have compassion. Everybody needs those things from others, that's why we were all put here on this earth together. Whether or not the battle is worth it all depends on how we choose to respond.
We all can be Chronically Beautiful. Even in the midst of being chronically ill, chronically anxious, or chronically in pain. There is always hope. We simply have to look for it.
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.