Many of us have heard of the theory of Pavlov’s Dogs, which teaches us the theory of Pavlovian Conditioning. In the 1890s, Russian psychologist, Ivan Pavlov, was researching salivation patterns in dogs in response to food. Pavlov predicted and was correct in the theory that a dog’s salivation increases as a response to food being placed in front of them. He later noticed that the dog’s salivation also increased as a result of hearing the footsteps of the person who was bringing the food to them.
This lead Pavol to a number of experiments that later proved that with a repeated conditioned stimulus, he could produce the same increase salivation in the dog. For example, when he produced the sound of a ringing bell to the dog, salivation would remain neutral, or stay the same. But after continuously ringing the bell right before bringing the food out, the dog’s salivation would increase at the mere sound of the bell ringing, even with the elimination of the food.
For a dog, food is an unconditioned stimulus, and salivation is an unconditioned response.
It happens naturally. So when you place a neutral stimulus in front of the dog (the bell), you get an unconditioned response (no salivation). But after repeated practices of the conditioning process (ringing the bell right before delivery of the food) you receive a conditioned response, (salvation from the bell, not the food.)
Let’s compare this theory of Pavlovian Conditioning to us, as human beings. For example, our need to protect ourselves from potential threats and dangers is an unconditioned response. It happens naturally. It’s hardwired in our brains and our muscles to be and feel safe. And if we find ourselves in a situation or circumstance where we feel unsafe it is an unconditioned response to remove ourselves from the situation or to apply the proper safety gear. This is why we teach our children to wear helmets when riding a bike or to look both ways before crossing the street. Because that is naturally the safe thing to do.
Staying safe is the right and proper thing to do in any dangerous circumstance, but that does not mean that we are free from Pavlovian Conditioning at times. So when something like the media or any leadership or authority comes out and tells us to “wear a mask” to protect yourself, naturally there are many who wouldn’t respond to that as a measure of safety at first, (because it’s a neutral stimulus). But after continuously producing information on mask-wearing as a form of “safety” we are naturally conditioned to comply, even if the information being produced is less than true. The mask then becomes a conditioned stimulus. Even if there isn’t a relation to safety from viruses by mask-wearing, we wear the mask and feel safe.
In the past three months, the world has been buzzing with information about COVID19. As a result, the whole world seems to be in commotion. Businesses are shutting down. People are now distancing themselves from their friends and neighbors. Our elderly loved ones are now dying alone, and those who are suffering from anything besides COVID19 are left to suffer by themselves. These are just the outward results of social distancing and the shutting down of America.
What we’re not seeing since this global shut-down is the increased use of pornography that destroys marriages and families, the increase of domestic abuse, and the increase of suicide rates because people were not built to live in eerie, lonely silence.
I understand the concept: we want to STAY SAFE. We have one global purpose under all of this bizarre behavior, and that purpose is SAFETY from COVID19.
So is what we’re doing really keeping us safe? Or are we simply conditioned to believe that all these rules and regulations are keeping us safe when in actuality, the government and the media have other intentions?
The intentions of the media and government are for you to study and come to a knowledge of the truth for yourself, but my purpose for this article today is to address and question the seemingly moral obligations we have to now wear a mask.
I am a devoted member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I believe in a living God and Savior who suffered and died to save us all. I believe we have a living prophet on this earth today. And I believe that the secret to a happy and joyful life is by having a personal relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ. And how do we do that? By learning all we can of His being and characteristics, hearing His words and counsel to us, and doing all we can to emulate Him in our day to day lives.
This past week, the Utah Area Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints sent us all an email stating that they are now asking us all to “wear face coverings when in public,” and this short statement has left Utahns and other members of our church in an uproar.
Members who don’t want to wear masks are being ridiculed and blamed for further spread of COVID19, and members who are devoted mask-wearers are now pointing fingers and accusing non-mask wearers of the choice to not wear a mask as being immoral, or breaking covenants because we’re not being obedient to this new invitation for all to wear a mask. The overall feel of social media is now angry and accusatory because supposedly, our safety is being threatened if we don’t all comply with wearing a mask.
This article is not to generate more hate or anger amid the members of the church or to openly refuse any invitation that the general authorities of the church may offer us. This article is to point us in the direction that seems nobody has mentioned yet: and that is to our Savior, Jesus Christ; who is our perfect example for all life situations, traumas, or hardships.
As a devoted Christian, I know that Christ was never depicted in the Bible as one who would comply with social distancing or mask-wearing. Christ was depicted as a healer of hearts, wounds, illnesses, sins, and turmoil. Christ never avoided those who were sick or contagious, and He is often depicted in church videos embracing those who were burdened, touching the faces of those He was about to heal, laying hands on those who were suffering, and washing the feet of those who wondered if it was them who should be washing His feet. Christ went among those that society saw as “sick” or unfit to be among other people, and he dwelled with them and healed them.
Leprosy was considered highly contagious during biblical times. In fact, it was considered to be so contagious that those who suffered from it were often put in leper colonies where only leprous people could dwell so as not to spread the disease to other people. Does this not sound a lot like “social distancing?” And yet, Jesus never feared a single leper but instead touched them to heal them.
“And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately His leprosy was cleansed.”
As Christians, are we not counseled in the scriptures to be like Christ and emulate what He did for others?
As someone who has suffered from a debilitating chronic illness for years and has spent those years interacting with others who suffer debilitating pain that is often ignored or downplayed by other people, I know firsthand the detriment of being left to suffer from illness alone. I know firsthand that loneliness will kill a person far faster than the illness itself.
I also know that the loss of HOPE greatly decreases one’s chances of beating any sort of chronic or terminal illness. I also have come to find that a single person that offers Christ-like love to someone who is suffering can produce healing effects as powerful as our Savior had and still has on his brothers and sisters.
But our government and the media don’t believe in “one nation under God.” They simply believe in one nation. And unfortunately, we live in a time where many of our religious leaders have forgotten where our power comes from and that as we live worthy to receive and practice priesthood power, we can use it to heal and serve those around us.
Jesus went against the grain. He healed others because they BELIEVED and had FAITH that He could, and similarly we can heal others as we believe, and obtain faith.
“And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, when she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.” -Mark 5:25-27 & 34
Which part of those verses condemned her for touching his garment in hopes that she would be healed? Christ never condemned her. In fact, she was healed because of her great faith in Him. Similarly, Christ will heal us and help us to heal others as we lead with FAITH and leave no room for fear.
As someone who loves and sustains our prophets, I now feel deeply pressed to address the issue that one who chooses not to wear a mask is disobeying the prophet and church authority, and therefore breaking his or her covenants.
If there is any scripture outlining the covenants we make with God at baptism or in the temple that state that we are to obey every word the prophet states, then please correct me of my error. But I believe that our covenants state that we are to be obedient to our all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving Heavenly Father.
Wearing a mask is a personal choice. It is not immoral to not wear one. It isn’t selfish to not wear one. And it isn’t an act of charity to sacrifice your health and well-being because people in authority have conditioned us to believe that we’re protecting others if we comply and keep our mouths shut. Our founding fathers would not suffer silence to be tolerated in a country that was built on freedom, one of our freedoms being freedom of speech. The scriptures never use the phrase "follow the prophet." We are instructed in the scriptures to follow Christ. Christ stated:
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” -Matthew 4:19
President Russell M. Nelson stated four years ago,
"In the coming day, only those men who have taken their priesthood seriously, by diligently seeking to be taught by the Lord Himself, will be able to bless, guide, protect, strengthen, and heal others." (April 2016 General Conference, The Price of Priesthood Power)
We are counseled to listen and take into serious account the things that leaders instruct us to do, but even Brigham Young once stated:
“I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him… Let every man and woman know, by the whisperings of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates or not.” – JD, vol 9, p. 150
Later Ezra Taft Benson quoted J. Reuben Clark Jr. when he said:
“We need the constant guidance of that Spirit. We live in an age of deceit. “O my people,” said Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, “they who lead thee cause thee to err and destroy the way of thy paths.” (2 Ne. 13:12.) Even within the Church, we have been warned that “the ravening wolves are amongst us, from our own membership, and they, more than any others, are clothed in sheep’s clothing because they wear the habiliments of the priesthood.” (J. Reuben Clark, Jr., CR, April 1949, p. 163.)
Our prophet is a man to be respected as a prophet of God and I fully love and sustain him. With that said, our apostles and prophets have counseled us many times to seek personal revelation. To wear a mask or not is not putting my personal morality on trial. If the prophets or apostles advise us to do anything that is not backed up with scripture, it would do us well to fast, pray, and receive guidance from God himself via the Holy Ghost.
Even our beloved prophet Nephi, in the Book of Mormon, taught us the importance of trusting in God instead of trusting in the arm of flesh:
“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.” (2 Ne. 4:34.)
The arm of flesh in our time includes government authority, media, medical professionals, sometimes church authorities, and ANYONE who isn’t promoting personal righteousness and following God before anyone else.
We now live in a time that teaches the exact opposite of what our Savior teaches us in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and if you’re truly going to argue about “obedience to the prophets,” shouldn’t that mean all prophets that have ever lived; including those devoted and valiant men we read of every time we open God’s word?
I plead with you my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ: now is the time more than ever to seek for personal revelation. The more we talk to God, the more He’ll talk to us, and we’ll know without a doubt in our minds that it is Him who is speaking and not the thousands of other voices who are so much louder in our day.
Might I suggest that the solution to COVID19 is not mask-wearing and social distancing, but personal righteousness and repentance? This does not mean that if you practice repentance and personal righteousness that you are guaranteed freedom form Coronavirus or any other hardship. But it does mean that all sufferings that you are given at this time will be for your benefit, (D&C 122:7) and that God will not suffer your life to end before it’s time until you have finished your personal work here on the earth.
Repentance and personal righteousness are the balm this society so desperately needs. For when we repent of practicing the harmful traditions of men and instead practice those attributes of our Savior Jesus Christ, we are more inclined to serve, love, and live as He did.
Instead of letting society condition you to believe every rule and regulation that is robbing us of our freedoms, may we let God sculpt and shape us into the people that we must be in order to be protected and empowered during these calamitous times.
I may not be a mask wearer… but I am someone who loves God with all my heart. And I know that with choosing the path of God sometimes comes persecution and suffering for His sake. I’m not promoting wearing a mask, or not wearing a mask. I’m promoting personal righteousness, repentance, and personal revelation. If you wear a mask, then that's your choice and I will not ridicule you for doing so. But if someone chooses not to wear a mask, they should not be automatically shunned and mistreated because of it. I don’t believe that Christ would ever do that. Because I know my Savior, and His love for us and faith in His Father extends much further than that.
Treading Through Winter
There are times when winter is reminiscent of being swallowed by a deep black hole. And if we're not careful, we may forget the light that's right behind the cloud cover.
I hold deep antipathy for darkness, and I often look up at the sky in the wintertime wondering if the bleak gray of winter will come to an end. It's common to hear talk of "winter depression" or "seasonal depression," but I almost never hear talk of what it's really like, or what it even really is. I wish I could say that wintertime was merely a battle with sadness, but I've found it's often much deeper than that, and the PTSD that comes from long months of illness is as real as the PTSD that comes from fighting in a war. In all reality, this is a war for those of us who push through winter with chronic illness, one heavy step through deep snow at a time.
Last year at this time my family was walking right into "The Lyme Flare of 2019." I took up my bed in February of 2019 with pain so deep and penetrating that I couldn't lay on one side of my body for too long without having to sorely role over to another side to release any pressure that was weighing on my pained muscles. I had been in this place many times before, but this time was a complete recession from how I had slowly been improving throughout 2018. Like falling down the stairs or off of a tall cliff, I looked up at this beast referred to as a "Lyme flare" that I was somehow facing once again and felt completely destitute and defeated.
At the time I had been struggling with piercing feelings of insecurity, worthlessness, and the fear that I will never be enough. I had been striving so relentlessly hard to work through life on my own, that my mental health had completely receded. I prayed for relief from the monsters inside me and instead of relief I was left to cope with physical pain and my ability to do anything removed from my grasp. And it was in this time-frame that I resolved to surrender everything to God and hope that by some miracle I could be pulled out of this darkness that swallowed me while I lay helplessly in a bed or on a couch. The "winter depression," as one might call it, was so heavy that I often felt completely paralyzed. I remember at this time that every time I could manage to glance out of a window my eyes would be met with gray skies and cold frigid air.
What I didn't know at this time was that this wintry flare that left me feeling completely lost and pained, ended up being one of the greatest blessings of my life, and resulted in one of the greatest lessons of my life.
Up to this point in time, I was living subconsciously as if I have to do everything on my own for quite some time. I'd never done anything half baked, and I'd always found myself meeting my problems and pitfalls with ambition and hard work. Unfortunately, there are things in life that one cannot possibly do on their own, such as facing monstrosities like Lyme disease, betrayal, or abuse, and I often found myself passing blame to myself for the misfortunes that happen simply as a result of mortality. I blamed myself for my negative feelings, and I numbed myself to my heartaches and hurts as a way to somehow prove that I was strong and that I could heal and survive on my own.
If there was anything that "The Lyme Flare of 2019" taught me, it was that I simply could not do it on my own. I had been driven to a place where burning over my pains with work and busyness was no longer efficient because my body would not allow me to. And as one can imagine, I faced my pains with the quiet allowance of feeling. It was excruciating. But with that, I learned about grace.
It was as if God had answered my cries for relief by giving me permission to stay in bed and sleep for a month or two. I felt His love and support even when all I could do was rest. And surprisingly, life went on. He took care of what I couldn't and I felt great peace and comfort that this was a time of RECOVERY, STILLNESS, and HEALING.
You see, we are not expected to pass through toil and trial on our own. And in a world where I have heard the phrase "God doesn't give you more than you can handle" run freely from the mouths of those who have yet to taste bitter cups in this life, I commonly assumed that there was something wrong with me because THIS was more than I could handle.
Lyme is more than I can handle.
Betrayal trauma was more than I could handle.
Watching parts of my family fall apart because of this disease was more than I could handle.
Living day, after day, after day for years watching my mother in pain and suffering that is seemingly endless is more than I can handle.
And the heartache that comes from isolation and loneliness is MORE THAN I CAN HANDLE.
The truth is that there are many times in life that God will give us more than we can handle and that is simply because we were not meant to handle it by ourselves. We were given grace, tender mercies, each other, and a Savior who loves us tremendously. So as we pour out our aching souls to Him, He gives us grace for grace, and mercy for mercy. Who knew that lying in a bed in debilitating circumstances could teach me that I am enough, that I don't have to "handle" everything by myself, and that just because I can't handle something doesn't mean that He can't.
So now I face this winter with similar anxieties, pain, and emotions boiling to the surface. I still glance out the frosted over windows to see bleak skies and frigid air. I still often find myself in deep weariness of soul because there are some battles in life that do not merely end.
The increase of symptoms and the seasonal depression can still weight heavily on my body and heart, but this year I fight with a changed perspective. This year I fight with quietly loud faith knowing that I am not fighting alone and that I don't have to face the scary aspects of life on my own.
The winter will always pass through where I am. The skies will always gather clouds and the storms with often rage. The cold will often chill us to the bone, and sometimes coats and scarves won't always be enough to warm our troubled hearts. But one thing I can guarantee is that bright blue skies will always appear again. Light conquers cold and dark. And there is often something beautiful awaiting us in the middle of these merely bleak or utterly terrifying winters of our lives.
The trick is to remember in the middle of them that as we strive, we are enough, we're not alone, and sometimes you can even find some beauty within the storm. For I always thought that snowflakes could turn out to be quite beautiful anyway.
God's grace can and does sustain us, and I pray for that as we persist through another winter.
"What is Lyme Disease?"
I've come to know that the MOST common question that any Lymie receives is the aforementioned question above. I've found myself answering this question dozens of times, and I am quickly reminded how tragic the Lyme epidemic is due to the lack of information and education that the average person has on the topic. There is nothing "rare" about Lyme disease, as there are 27,000 new cases of Lyme disease in the United States every MONTH! And yet those who do not suffer from it often seem to turn a blind eye to it because the medical system has caused society to believe that it "doesn't exist." As a Lyme survivor myself, I can attest that it does exist, and it is one of the most challenging adversities that I believe a human being can suffer from.
So what is Lyme disease? Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can spread to virtually any organ system in the body due to its spiral shape that easily can drill into any tissue, cell, muscle, or organ. Lyme disease and its co-infections can attack its victim and leave it completely paralyzed or in severe and unbearable pain for years, and Lyme disease is a constant battle to fight and the chances of beating it are slim to none. And yet there are thousands who fight every day, despite the harsh reality that is Lyme disease. Lyme disease is science, and yet it is so much more.
Lyme disease is pain. More pain than I ever believed a single human being could bear on their own until I was forced to bear it myself and watch many of my loved ones bear it as well. Lyme disease is loneliness, isolation, and insufferable boredom as you spend a lot of the time waiting for a treatment to work (or not work), waiting to feel better, waiting on doctors and support that never comes, and waiting to be well enough to be able to live life like anyone else. Lyme disease is blowing all your money on treatment that you don't even know will work, trying anything and everything to feel better, and crying in prayer during many dark nights because it's impossible to endure on your own. Lyme disease is hoping. Because sometimes when you've been stripped of everything, hope is the only thing you have left. And let's not forget that Lyme disease is resilience, patience, perseverance, and at times its just pure grit. Lyme leaks into everything, and it changed my life. And it is currently changing the lives of thousands and millions of others who are fighting the good fight every day of their lives.
Why is it important that we seek to crush Lyme? Because with so many suffering, we have to fight to crush the disease before it crushes us. And if we all ban together on this issue, we may find that doctors, friends, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters will start to listen to us. And once that happens we can change the world. We can offer more help and hope for the hands that hang down by the crushing the grip of Lyme.
So the next time you find yourself talking to a fellow Lymie, take time to LISTEN and offer love and compassion. That small act can truly be one big step into crushing Lyme disease and the stigma that comes with it. Lyme disease may try to crush us, but it never will because we do not intend to quit anytime soon.
This post was inspired by Splash of Lyme's "Crushing Lyme" campaign. You can follow this amazing Lyme warrior by following @splashoflyme on Instagram and checking out her amazing blog here. Thanks so much to Courtney for starting this and for sending love to all the Lymies this Lyme Disease Awareness month!
Lately, I've found myself pondering the pure and seemingly sparkling crystals that so frequently fall from the sky these days. Snow is a funny thing in that there is no one snowflake that is exactly the same. Each has its own Divine design, and the path that each snowflake takes to reach the ground is unique to that particular snowflake and looks different depending on its time and place.
Similarly, we as human beings walk different roads, come to different bumps and turns, and come equipped with our own unique design that God blesses us with when we came down here. I often wonder why my path in life often seems so different than other's may be... but then again I'm sure that all of us experience that daunting perception at some point in our lives.
With that in mind, I've watched many people suffer from chronic illness and the wide range of differences that come from being sick. This phenomenon is something that would do everyone some good if they took the time to look into the hearts and minds of these people who suffer on many different levels. The fact of the matter is that there are no two chronically ill lifestyles that look the same. We're all simply moving along on our own individual paths, trying to survive the best that we can.
The words "chronically ill" are usually accompanied by a substantial amount of expectations and perceptions from others. There's a certain "type" and "look" that apparently we're all supposed to have, but the reality is that some of us just don't have that "look" but that doesn't make our lives any easier, and it doesn't take our painful circumstances away.
The majority of people view illness by the book. When you're sick you lay in bed with body aches and head congestion while consuming large amounts of ibuprofen or Tylenol to relieve that pain and wait for it to pass. It may take a few days of discomfort, but it passes, and you move on with daily life. Others simply push past the pain and continue their daily lives and are lucky enough when their symptom cease, despite the need to persist in their prior commitments and responsibilities.
Now when you're REALLY sick it's a little different. When you're in unbearable amounts of pain, you rush to the doctor, load up on pain medications, and wait for hard-working health experts to diagnose and treat you. And after countless tests and hours, these loving and caring doctors treat you with medication or surgery, and you go home ready to recover and your pain eventually passes so you can live a normal life.
This is what illness looks like, right? This is how we manage our health and wellness so we can feel vitalized and renewed, right?
A flu virus is one thing, but being chronically ill is an entirely different paradigm that requires a lifestyle change and a realization that maybe being sick isn't what you thought it was in the first place.
Many chronic illness patients do spend a lot of time in the hospital, and many chronic illness patients do treat their symptoms with pain medications, which is definitely not something to downplay and consists of an incredibly difficult road. But my story and many other's stories are different, and that doesn't make any of our pain less valid or less painful.
What most chronic illness patients don't tell you is just HOW MANY doctors they had to go through in order to find one that would finally help. What a lot of us don't talk about is the PTSD that comes from how badly we're treated by people, and the desperation we all have to find answers. And what a lot of us don't tell you is that hope may not be found in a doctors office or in a medication, and that doesn't mean that we're crazy or that all of our symptoms are psychosomatic. It simply means that our path is different, and our answers are different.
I'm never in the hospital.
I've don't take any medications.
I treat my symptoms with natural food, remedies, and protocols.
And I never managed to find one doctor in my area that helped me very much.
And the things I'm doing now are HELPING ME TO HEAL!
My symptoms can range from tremors to being light-headed, to passing out after taking a shower, to skin lesions, panic attacks, extreme fatigue, and severe abdominal pain. But sometimes the pattern is that one day I can feel healthy and strong, and the next day I can hardly function at all.
Sometimes I feel like I'm losing my mind.
Other times I feel free and hopeful.
I pray every day for the feeling of the floor falling out from underneath me to cease, and for the grief that comes from illness to pass. Some days it does. Some days it doesn't. And that's just a normality for me and many others.
Chronic illness is a wide spectrum of struggle and perseverance, and there is no one size fits all. For some of us, it's doctors and hospitals on the daily. For others, it's constant protocols that never seem to end. And for others, it's diet change and learning how to be healthy half of the time and sick the other half of the time. For others, it's all of those things combined and it's often overwhelming and exhausting trying to keep all of the daily health routines straight.
Whatever it is, and no matter your place in your journey... your pain is valid and I urge you to heed not the expectations and perceptions of others who have never walked in your shoes. It would do the world some good if all of us could increase our love and compassion towards those who suffer in any way. The more we're aware of the suffering around us, the more empowered we can be to pull others out of the swamps and dark places that we all can find ourselves in.
Despite the difficulties and the struggles, there are some things that all chronically ill people have in common:
All of us are warriors. All of us have battled sore affliction. And all of us are beautiful, resilient people who are seeking to live life to the fullest and emerge out of the norm of society to bring light and healing to a world that craves those things. As we're sculpted into the warriors that we are, we're transformed on our path and seek to touch the world with our newfound being, just like the snowflake that travels to the ground to ultimately bring beauty into our lives and nourishment to our earth.
I'm Claire Dalton, I'm 22 years old, and I suffer from endometriosis, anxiety disorder, depression, arthritis, joint pain, muscle pain, chronic fatigue, and a whole host of other symptoms that can be wrapped up in a pretty little package that is referred to as CHRONIC LYME DISEASE. I'm bold, strong-willed, and driven, and when my quality of life was ripped out from underneath me, I desperately needed all of those qualities to keep myself alive. My story is a story of blood, sweat, tears, and a family burdened with Lyme disease who chose not to quit and still chooses to stay and fight every day. Lyme is brutal, but not brutal enough to kill us.
My story begins when I was a teenager my junior year of high school. I was sixteen when my mother became gravely ill and bedridden in a more permanent manner. I don't ever remember my mom being completely healthy. She frequently experienced flares of illness of every kind throughout each winter season, and in the summer it would improve. Come to think of it, this was my pattern as well, but we never gave it a second thought because we were so frequently met with comments like, "it's normal for kids to be sick all the time" or, "all kids are frequently sick during flu season." That was the belief in my culture, my home, and my family, and we didn't realize how wrong that statement was until one day my mom went down and didn't come back up. One day everything simply plummeted... and this time waiting it out didn't make it better.
I went to school like a normal teenager. I looked like a normal teenager. I worked hard and studied hard like a normal teenager. But my home life was far from normal and I was often filled with overwhelm and fear because I never knew whether or not my mother would be alive when I came home from school that day. It almost seemed at times like we were simply waiting for death to pass over our house because death would mean the release of pain for my sweet mother. Our home was often filled with moans, groans, screams, tremors, and seizures due to how much pain she constantly suffered from. I desperately wanted my mom to live, but not like that. Not while death seemed so close on such a constant basis. Hospital runs, medications, being forced out of our house, trial and error of every diet under the sun! It was a living hell in my house, and I prayed so often for the feeling of the floor being ripped out from underneath me to cease.
Medications made things worse. Doctors assumed my mother was psychologically unwell. Friends and neighbors stayed away in fear of "catching it" or simply not knowing what to do. My mother went undiagnosed and misdiagnosed for a seemingly endless period of time. We craved a diagnosis. We craved answers. We craved an ending to the constant suffering.
In the year 2014, we finally received a diagnosis. Chronic Lyme disease. We received a diagnosis only to find that there is no proven cure and no doctors in our state that knew very much about Lyme disease. We searched elsewhere for answers and protocols, and the long and arduous journey of healing for my mom began.
Meanwhile, I worked hard to graduate from high school. I recall major brain fog, severe anxiety, extremely painful menstrual cycles, and a constant state of stress in high school. It never occurred to me that I could be diagnosed with the same disease I listened to my mother scream from night after night, but my first semester as a freshman in college was my trigger, and I went down fast.
I remember existing in a constant state of panic in college. Nothing ever felt right and my heart and nerves often felt tightly clenched as I spent many dark nights experiencing panic attacks all by myself. My heels and feet would hurt and ache every time I walked across campus to the point where I tried buying gel inserts for my shoes that never worked anyway. I couldn't remember hardly any word that came out of my professor's or tutor's mouths, and I had to come home and sleep for three hours just to make it through each day. I suffered from severe excoriation disorder and would claw at my own arms until they bled and would leave massive scarring. I had major joint and muscle pain, and my menstrual cycles were nearly unbearable. My hair kept seeming to fall out in massive amounts, I'd break out in skin lesions, and I was losing weight faster than I could count.
"Your test results came back positive." That's not a sentence any college student wants to hear, but I heard it and my heart sank. Doctors appointments, tests, and 30 vials of blood later, I knew I had Lyme disease. I also knew that if I didn't change my lifestyle and get on treatment soon, I'd end up being the one in screams.
I started my first treatment while I was still going to college. At the time my mom had been on a cancer protocol for about a year that was known for being very beneficial to Lyme patients. So far that protocol had healed her to the point where the screams had stopped and there were some days that she could get out of bed. We decided at the time that the best route was for me to go on the same treatment. This began an entirely new way of living.
I remember throwing everything out in my pantry and changing my entire diet. No more sugar, dairy, meat, gluten, citrus fruit, tomatoes, or spices of any kind for a while. I didn't know how to cook and I submitted to eating bland food for quite a while. I remember sleeping with oxygen tubes to prep for treatment the next day. I recall waking up early, taking all my supplements and my treatment, and hoping that I wouldn't herx too hard so I could make it to all of my classes that day. At the end of every day, my treatment required me to record all of my vitals and rate each symptom from one to ten. I so often marked high numbers on each symptom, my heart rate was always in the hundreds, and I always seemed to be bone cold. My grades dropped dramatically, and everything felt awkward and uncomfortable. I had good days and bad days, but the bad days usually left the good days as recovery days. The problem with Lyme is that it usually gets worse before it gets better. As was the case with me.
I left college before the semester was over. I felt like a failure, but I fell to the floor and cried tears of joy when I finally reached home that day. It felt so good to be home. It felt so good to know that at least now I could be sick in my own house. I looked in the mirror that night and wondered who the girl was that was staring back at me. I pleaded to God for help. I knew I had a long road ahead of me. I just don't think I knew what that entailed.
The herxing was brutal at first. I remember my first major herxheimer reaction was so excruciating that I lost my ability to get up and walk to the bathroom by myself. I recall my head throbbing every time I opened my eyes, and my entire body hurt so bad that I couldn't lay on one side of my body for too long because the weight of my own body was too much. I remember everything spinning, and passing out in front of my bedroom door after I attempted to walk by myself. What I didn't realize then was that overcoming that herx was the first of many baby steps to getting my quality of life back.
After a year of that treatment, I changed my diet again. I gradually reintroduced spices, dairy, gluten, and meat back into my diet, taking care that everything was organic, whole, and clean. I had no desire to eat refined sugar again, and I still don't. I found myself gaining some of my life back as symptoms began to peal off little by little. The severe pain that came with endometriosis was torture every month, but the improvement of symptoms the other times of the month gave me hope for healing. I continued trying different protocols. I tried high dose vitamin C IVs, magnesium injections, large amounts of supplementation, and light exercise as I could. Some things started to clear. Others didn't. Lyme disease always seemed to leave me frustrated and confused because things would come and go and extreme pain left me scarred with memories and fear of if or when it would come back.
The Sauna Detox Protocol is the treatment that CHANGED MY LIFE. After a vigorous two months of sweating it out in a sauna, I began to feel like I had my life back. My skin cleared, I began to gain the weight that I had lost, my hair started growing back, my pain lessened, and the herxheimer reactions decreased. I gained my energy back and my panic attacks eased. My brain fog, fatigue, and cognitive dysfunction lessened, and even my endometrial pain improved! I never believed that I would get my life back, but to a point, I did. I don't have non-stop excruciating pain anymore, and I can't begin to express how thankful I am for the healing that I have been able to experience in the past two years.
Now, I have the unique opportunity to look back and contemplate everything I've been through, and I often take time every day to allow myself to feel the emotional pain that comes from experiencing such large amounts of physical pain. I still struggle with severe anxiety, lower abdominal pain from Endo, and excoriation disorder and I'm still fighting to overcome. I now treat my Lyme with AmpCoil, and I've found that if I don't regularly practice treatment and self-care my symptoms will reappear. What helps me function is consistent 8 hours of sleep every night, drinking half my body weight in oz. of water every day, and only consuming organic and whole foods.
PTSD is a real thing that Lyme patients suffer from, and I often find myself having flashbacks of severe pain flares that leave me paralyzed for a time. With that said, I often find myself holding onto God's love in those moments, and that gives me a reason to keep going and keep striving for a cure. I am not "cured." I do not live an easy and symptom-free life at all times... but there have been so many blessings and miraculous amounts of healing that have taken place in the past couple of years, to which I am incredibly thankful for.
To anyone suffering from a chronic illness... I've learned that even in the darkest nights, there is HOPE FOR HEALING. Some of us in life are called to pass through the darkest nights and the scariest of circumstances, but those experiences are for our refinement and for our good. The road ahead may be full of darkness, but there's always a light. I've now gained the wisdom to know that it takes more than one protocol to find healing. It usually takes many tools in your toolbox to survive the depths of Lyme disease. I've also gained such a love for the concept of suffering and why some are called to pass through such deep adversities. I'm learning every day how to accept my illness and love and appreciate the good moments. I'm learning to love my scars, for they are my battle wounds that tell the story of how I overcame something horrendous. I'm learning how to be patient and flexible with God's timing instead of my own. And I've gained a passion for loving and helping people who suffer through dark misfortune and come out stronger in the end.
Chronic illness warriors are INCREDIBLE people! If you want to learn about resilience, dedication, desperation, hard work, and perseverance, love somebody who is sick. Because when you get sick for the long haul, something inside you begins to bloom that is the only thing that will keep you going during your most desperate nights. And then one day you'll wake up and realize that the bloom inside you grew into a garden of flowers that you didn't know you were growing.
Some days are good. Some days are bad. Some days are bland and some days are more than I feel like I can handle. Progress is not a constant upward motion, but a roller coaster that makes you want to scream at times and laugh at others. It's all about learning how to enjoy the ride. This is Lyme disease. This is invisible illness. This is my Lyme life.
You can find more information on the Sauna Detox Protocol HERE
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.
Merry Christmas! (Even on Sick Days)
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.