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 it seems like I've watched my body slowly deplete over time due to my Chronic Lyme Disease. I know that nobody sees it except for a few people that I hold very close to my heart, but to my own two eyes, I look sick. It's one thing to feel sick, but it's another thing to watch yourself be sick. Watching my body disintegrate to what feels like nothing is incredibly scary for me. Honestly, I want want my old body back. I want to feel the age that I actually am. I want to be able to run and not feel like I'm going to pass out. I want to walk like I used to. I want to be able to carry myself with posture and grace. I want the color in my face to come back, and I want my hair to grow back to it's original length. I want to gain the twenty pounds that I lost. I want to feel and look like me again.
Despite all the insecurity and hopes for my body to regenerate itself, I've learned a lot about myself since I've been diagnosed. My perspective of my body and how I see myself has definitely changed, and these changes are perspectives that I will hopefully keep with me all throughout my life, lyme or no lyme.
#1.I can be beautiful despite how I feel physically or emotionally about myself.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
This has currently become one of my favorite quotes. I figure I haven't quite found my way out of the depths yet, but I hope to reach that destination one day. I've known defeat, suffering, struggle, and loss. These are all things that I have agonized over and over again in my head as I've gone through trial after trial. I've watched myself bloom into an entirely different person than how I was before I suffered. I suppose that happens to all of us as we suffer and grow stronger. You don't grow and progress in a state of comfort. You grow and progress in states of misery, pain, fear, and so many other forms of suffering that we as human beings go through.
Our Savior, Jesus Christ suffered all of the sins and pains of the world. My ultimate goal is to become like Him. And in order to do that I must suffer just like Him. It is through suffering that you gain the attributes of Jesus Christ such as patience, long suffering, hope, faith, charity, and so many more. If through suffering I find myself one step closer to becoming like the Savior, then my suffering is completely worth it. Just because I momentarily feel ugly, does not mean that I am ugly. I'm beautiful because God created me to be that way, and I continue to become beautiful as I center my life on Christ and strive to become more like Him.
#2. Having a healthy body is a matter of taking care of yourself and balancing your life out in all aspects.
I'll never forget my high school Physical Education classes I had the pleasure of experiencing while I was growing up. The concept that I acquired from those classes are that if you work yourself to a pulp working out everyday then somehow you're supposedly healthy and in shape. My experiences in those classes were less than pleasant. It was simply a long line of self absorbed teachers that worked their students incredibly hard and then claimed that it was healthy for them. Well let me inform you that for me it just meant waking up everyday for the next week with aching joints and muscles and not wanting to even get out of bed. No offense to all of those teachers of times past, or to even teachers now, but you're teaching physical education completely wrong.
Keeping your body healthy and strong isn't a matter of working out so hard that your body can't move the next morning. Health is all about balance in all things that take place throughout your daily life. Eating healthy, a healthy amount of exercise, and filling your mind and heart with healthy pastimes are all a part of improving your physical health. Being sick all the time has taught me that maybe I can't go on a long run everyday, and maybe when I walk on the treadmill I have to walk at the lowest setting, but that's the level that my personal self is at. That's all my body can take, and that's okay. Living a healthy lifestyle is something we all have to work toward, and for me it's hard. I hate exercising. Just as some people may hate eating healthy food. But we can always progress in life. I've come to know that through living a healthy balanced lifestyle, I can feel healthy and do things to improve my physical self, despite my chronic illness.
#3. My scars do not make me ugly, but instead they signify strength in overcoming hard things.
Throughout my life I've developed a lot of scars. I once drew a picture of what I thought my heart would look like if you could transfer it to piece of paper. Pretty beaten up right? On a creative tangible level, that's how I pictured it at the time. I had been through a lot, and I needed a visual to get my thoughts straight. I suppose if I drew a current picture of my heart it would look quite different. There would still be scars, open wounds, and maybe even a knife or two gouging out a portion of it. But there would be a special part of my heart that has been healed from past experiences. Healed through patience, hope, faith, prayer, and lot of love from my Heavenly Father, and from the people around me.
I don't just have scars on my heart. Chronic Lyme is to blame for not just emotional scars, but physical scars as well. I don't like talking about my physical scars. I don't like drawing attention to them. I don't like their existence. But despite the scarring that will hopefully fade with time, I don't believe that scars make me ugly in any way. A scar, whether it be physical or emotional, is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and perseverance. I used to think my scars were a mark of defeat. But I've come to know that they are truly a mark of beauty and continuance of healing. As they continue to fade, they remind me of my journey with chronic illness and how far I've come. I hope one day I'll be able to look back and hardly see them at all, but know what I went through to heal completely. Some of the horrible things I've experienced through this illness I will always hold close to my heart simply because they've taught me a lot and helped me to grow as a person. My scars will be one of those things. Even as they fade, I still hold them close as a reminder of my incredible journey.
#4. I'm not beautiful because of how I look, I'm beautiful because of who I am.
"Do you suppose it matters to our Heavenly Father whether your makeup, clothes, hair, and nails are perfect? Do you think your value to Him changes based on how many followers you have on Instagram or Pinterest? Do you think He wants you to worry or get depressed if some un-friend or un-follow you on Facebook or Twitter? Do you think outward attractiveness, your dress size, or popularity make the slightest difference in your worth to the One who created the universe? He loves you not only for who you are this very day but also for the person of glory and light you have the potential and the desire to become." -Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Each and every one of us have individual worth given to us by God. Without this quality we would be nothing. Without God, we are nothing. He is the almighty creator that created us and is the reason behind every divine breath we take. He loves us. And in His eyes, we are of infinite worth. To Him it does not matter how sick I am, or how sick I look. His love for me is infinite and it is through THAT knowledge that I have come to know what beauty is.
Beauty comes through living the way that our Father in Heaven would have us live. It comes from prayer, love for God, and believe it or not it comes through our trials and afflictions. I'm not beautiful because of the amount of makeup I use to cover up my gray face. I'm not beautiful because I wear less than a size two and have a thigh gap that is apparently "attractive" according to social media. I'm not beautiful for any physical aspect of me. In fact right now, I feel sick and ugly. But despite that, I'm beautiful because I'm a daughter of God who loves me and my love for Him is everlasting and true. I used to think that if I looked a certain way I would be beautiful. That's as far from truth as it gets. Beauty doesn't come from outward appearances, but from inward struggle, testimony, and purpose given to us by God, our Father in Heaven.
One thing I truly love about writing is that I get to be completely real. We all have struggles and trials in our lives, and yet we cease to talk about them. We paste on a fake smile and play the tough guy while inside we're falling apart. Well my writing is my safe zone to be real. No fake smiles, no masks, no reminiscence of a barbie doll, and no sugar coating. Just me and my inner most thoughts and feelings; imperfections and all. Sometimes coping isn't possible if you can't get your thoughts and feelings straight, and I suppose that this is my way of saying "Hey, I'm real. I'm a human being. No, I don't look perfect right now. Yes I'm in pain right now. And yes, I did just spend my entire day in bed because of my chronic illness and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that."
With that said, I'm going to be completely real with you now. The holidays are not easy. They never have been. Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas, and I acknowledge the most important parts of the holidays. But even then, there are some days that I'm in too much emotional and physical pain to care about the holiday season at all. Two Christmases ago, my mother was so sick that she could barely get out of bed to spend Christmas morning with us. Since then it feels like the domino effect has taken place in my home and family life. Just one thing after another. What do I have to be thankful for when I don't even really have the strength or motivation to get out of bed on some mornings? How do I put the happy into the holidays when knives are stabbing me in the stomach and my legs feel like they're going to give out at any moment? Where's the merry in Christmas when I'd rather do anything but lie in pain, but my chronic fatigue rather have me lay in bed. I was doing so much better for a couple of weeks, and then it's almost as if my Lyme got bored and decided to torture me for its own sick joy.
A few nights ago I lay on my floor, wincing in pain, and praying for some relief. The tears burned down my smeared face and discouragement flooded my mind and heart. All I wanted was a form of rest at that moment. With Chronic illness sleep (if you can obtain it) is your best friend. Your brief escape. Your peace of mind for the time being. I'm so grateful that even despite all the pain I feel, I'm still able to sleep soundly and forget my agony for a small moment. And with that, there are so many more small moments in life that I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of.
Coping with chronic illness is all about looking to the small moments. I'm so grateful for my family and close friends that I have that bless me with those small memories of joy during a hard time in my life. Life is not all bliss, but seeing the bright side of even the smallest things will bring just enough light into life to make it through the day. So to all that are struggling through the holidays, (or anytime of the year in that case) you're not alone. You're loved, and I pray that every small moment of joy will flood your heart which in turn will allow sorrow to flee from your mind. Look to the little bits of joy that life brings. It's those things that will get you through your hardest times. I hope your holiday season to be full of love, and I hope we can all find Christ in Christmas. I wish you enough strength to get through the holiday season. Happy Holidays, and Merry Christmas.