There is one truth that for the longest time I never believed for myself. But now I believe it, and I want everyone who suffers on levels such as this to know:
HEALING IS POSSIBLE. HEALING CAME FOR ME, AND IT WILL COME FOR YOU TO!
Healing is not something that occurs in one swift motion. Healing does not come in an instant, and healing isn't an easy process. Healing is a cleansing process. A cleansing process of one's mind, heart, and soul. Healing is a choice. We are NOT a result of what happens to us in our lives. We are a result of how we REACT to what happens to us. There are things that will come that are completely out of our control, but how we choose to react to those things will determine our destiny. If we choose wisely, we can experience healing along the road that at times will seem relentlessly long.
And here's the good news: WE ARE NOT ALONE ON OUR PATH TOWARDS HEALING! Isn't that a glorious message!? We have a loving and merciful God who is there for us every step of the way. We have a Savior who knows EXACTLY what we are going through because he suffered all of these pains we feel long before we felt them. And we have angels that we cannot see who are there to love and support us and they are fighting our battles with us. You see, we are never truly alone on our painful journeys. That was something I had to learn before I was able to get up, overcome the initial shock, and move forward in faith.
Healing doesn't come through choosing to be the victim in any certain circumstance, and for me I had to push past the agony that was taking place in my mind and heart, and make specific decisions and take action towards healing. Small choices I made back then made a massive impact on the state of my heart as time passed. These are action steps that every single one of us can make. And no, making these decisions doesn't make the heart-stopping pain hurt less, and it doesn't induce instant healing, but it teaches and heals one step, one second, one minute, and one day at a time.
These are the things I had to experience in order to reach healing:
1. I had to decide right away that I wasn't going to let this destroy me. Throughout the course of events I resolved to be strong even if I felt like the weakest person on the face of the earth. For so long I felt like a little girl that couldn't control her feelings or emotions. I felt insane and I figured that my sanity was out of my control at the time. To a point it was... there were things I couldn't control. I couldn't control the deep ache that settled in my chest for weeks. I couldn't control my inability to sleep, or my lack of appetite due to the nausea that seemed to follow me everywhere. I couldn't control the horrific nightmares I had when I did sleep, and I couldn't control feeling overwhelmingly heavy all the time, almost as if an elephant was constantly sitting on me.
So, I took hold of the things I could control. I controlled how often I fell on my knees and talked with my Heavenly Father. I controlled opening up God's word and reading to find peace and wisdom. I controlled the fact that I wouldn't allow myself to be left alone at any given time for the first little while. I controlled who I spoke to and who I did not. I controlled which texts and phone calls I answered and which ones I did not. I was constantly seeking for peace. Hidden in all of these little insignificant choices was my deep desire to not let this tragedy destroy me. I wanted so desperately to be strong, and I learned along the way that all of us are blessed with that strength inside of us. God is more powerful than pain, and He can bless us with extra strength if we so choose to develop it.
2. I decided to find myself by losing myself in the service of others. One wise teacher, mentor, and friend once told me that "you find yourself by losing yourself in the service of others." I figured in this case I didn't have anything else to lose so I might as well distract myself at least. I expressed at one point my deep and painful feelings to this friend who offered me the opportunity to come volunteer as his TA for a semester at a local high school. I'd be working with high school seniors, and for whatever reason I felt a desperate need to except his offer.
Without going into great detail about that glorious experience, I have to admit that it was a MASSIVE blessing at this time in my life to get to know those high school seniors. Being greeted with "Good morning Miss Dalton!" every morning brought such joy to my soul for a time, and my heart felt full with love for those bright and beautiful teenagers that I was working with. Serving others played a tremendous role in my healing process, and it can in yours too. It's all a part of opening up your heart again to be able to love. Love is the greatest healing power in the entire world, and when I let a small piece of my heart love again, it meant the beginning of that small piece being mended and restored little by little.
3. I had to purge my past and forgive. Forgiveness was one of my more difficult tasks on my path to healing. I wanted to believe that I had forgiven him from the beginning. And I had reached forgiveness to a point, but I hadn't let it all go. I spent so much time being angry at him for destroying me. I spent so much time agonizing and reliving those moments of horror. I spent so much time feeling terrified of the people I came in contact or with, or afraid that maybe I didn't have a future past this experience. Honestly, I had to experience those difficult feelings in order to truly forgive and surrender my past in a way that doesn't let it define my future. Along the way I learned some things about forgiveness.
First, forgiveness does not mean putting yourself in a place where your heart keeps breaking. It doesn't mean reinserting yourself into someones life who has hurt you tremendously. Sometimes we have to love and forgive people from a distance, and that's okay. Second, forgiveness is not the same as excusing. We do not have to excuse someone's wrongdoing in order to forgive them. In fact, the more we allow ourselves to experience and recognize the damage that has been done, the greater our capacity to forgive, change, and move on. And third, forgiveness creates a safe space to allow God to heal your heart. Restitution for me came from my Savior, and it came in the form of healing and restoration of my heart and mind. Once I achieved forgiveness with the help of the Savior, I was able to feel free again which opened my heart up to be healed and purge the negative emotions I had towards the one who had wronged me. We all have that power to forgive. And if we don't have that power in the beginning, pray for that power. God will bless you with the innate power to forgive and move on.
4. I had to give all of my pain to my Savior. I remember a very specific time in the course of events where I learned this crucial life lesson. I had just moved with my parents, I was in a new place, and I had met some new people that I was terrified to open up to or think about to much. I was sitting on the edge of my bed one night in horrendous emotional pain. I felt panicky and weak and my heart hurt tremendously. I felt confused and angry and I sobbed uncontrollably for the loss of my peace of mind. It had been months... I should be over it... I shouldn't be hurting so much. In that moment I wondered if I would ever feel peace again.
At the time a thought came to mind that I had read about how the Savior is just waiting to heal us of our wounds and misfortunes, but in order for us to allow Him to heal our hearts, we have to ask for healing. It occurred to me at that moment that I had not yet simply asked for Him to take my pain. It seemed impossible for one moment of inquiry to heal such a wounded and broken down heart. But I had to try, and I had to muster up enough faith for healing to occur. I retreated to my knees and pleaded with the Lord to heal me. To take my pain. And I remember clearly stating, "Please... I don't want this anymore!"
At the conclusion of my prayer I felt stillness, and I felt an obvious lift in my heart. I felt anger melt into the floor, and I felt peace fill my soul as the tears flooded down my face. I knew in that moment that my prayer had been heard, and that I was currently in the process of having it be answered. My merciful Heavenly Father was going to take all my broken pieces and build them into something beautiful. I just had to excersise patience, and after that moment, my grief and pain in the days to come was less intense, less excruciating, and more bearable. It was nothing short of a miracle and I know it's because when we lay our burdens at our Savior's feet, He heals us.
5. I had to recognize that I still had worth. I was broken, wounded, damaged... I've used those words to describe myself so many times. I knew that to most men I was "damaged goods," and in my mind I didn't disagree, and I didn't believe that I had anything to give or offer anymore. But in order to experience healing, I had to learn differently.
Nobody is ever just eternally broken or damaged unless they choose to be that way. I have so much worth, and so much to give in my interactions with others. I may be broken, and I may have some scars, but my brokenness has transformed me into something beautiful. It's ironic because in the midst of it all, in the past year my capacity to love others has grown. I know now that someday when I discover the man who I was meant to be with, my love for him won't be any less because of the love that I had for the man who hurt me.
You're not broken! You're not damaged! You're not worthless! And in the sight of God, you have infinite power and ability to love and be loved, and continue on your path towards success and happiness. That was something I wish I would have understood faster, because it's so crucial when we are healing to know who we are, and by knowing who we are, we can take back our power that God blesses us with to prosper and live life to the fullest.
6. I had to be thankful. Gratitude is essential for healing. Either I was cursed because I lost who I thought was the love of my life. Or I was blessed because I was saved from being put in a situation that would have destroyed me so much more if it would have gone on longer. I've come to know that I was gloriously blessed, and I thank my Heavenly Father every day for saving me without me even knowing that I needed to be saved. When we express gratitude, we open our hearts to healing and happiness and let go of things that we no longer need to hold on to. It's not easy to find gratitude after such horrific experiences, but it's possible to find it. We simply start by seeking for the desire to be thankful. After that, it will come if we exercise faith.
6. I have to keep striving. Stop crying. Get out of bed. Put one foot in front of the other. And continue on in faith doing the things you know you should be doing, and the rest will fall into place. You don't get anywhere in life if you spend it crying in a bed or a chair. You experience peace and healing by living and moving forward. And I will be the first to admit that it is not always easy. There will be days for a long, long time where you grieve and cry. There will be days where you will feel like you cannot continue. There will be days where all of your feelings come to the surface in the form of tears. And there will be days you just want to scream because you cannot avoid the prickly parts of healing from trauma.
But I promise you that there will also be days where you find unexpected smiles creeping across your lips. There will be days when you'll meet new people that you're meant to love and be loved by. There will be days when you find yourself laughing again. There will be days when you'll experience joy in the moment, peace for the past, and hope for the future. These moments are what make the painful moments completely worth it.
Healing is possible. It doesn't come instantly but IT DOES COME. There are still days that I hurt and struggle. There are still days that I have to relive the past. There are still days that I experience longing and hopelessness, but they get less and less the more I strive for healing. It's important to remember that you are always loved. And there is ALWAYS help and happiness ahead.
When a person undergoes such a deep traumatic event that is the betrayal of a loved one's trust in such a circumstance as mine, there are two realizations that occur. These realizations came so quickly for me, and they destroyed me to a point where I couldn't feel anything in the moment. I simply felt dreadfully numb.
The first gut wrenching realization was the betrayal itself. I felt like I'd been cheated on. It changed my entire relationship with him including all the happy memories that we had shared in the past. It made me feel worthless and unlovable. It made me feel like it was all my fault, and if I would have just done one thing or another differently, I could have changed something. The betrayal itself cut like a knife, but the second realization cut even harder.
My second realization was that someone I loved and cared for deeply had been expertly lying to me for the entire length of our relationship, and possibly longer since we had been friends for so long. All at once I was with a stranger instead of the person I thought I knew so well. In an instant I could never trust those lying eyes ever again. In order to lie to somebody that you spend such large amounts of time with, it takes expertise thought and effort to hide such a big secret. So not only did he lie, but he planned carefully how to lie and get away with it. And not once did it ever cross his mind how much that would hurt me. That fact stung. It stung deep, and it stung hard. All I ever wanted in a relationship was honesty, and it quickly occurred to me that the only honesty I'd known at that point in time was fake.
Neither of these deep realizations felt real to me at first. I woke up every morning for quite some time thinking that maybe it was just a sick joke and tomorrow would be better and back to "normal." It seemed so unreal to me, and I didn't know how I was ever going to live my life without him, or without my "happy wedding" going through. Along with everything else I was feeling, I felt dreadful loneliness deeper than I've ever felt before, or that I've ever felt since.
These intense feelings lasted for quite some time, and there were days that I wondered if I had lost my mind, or my sanity... or both. Nothing seemed to make complete sense to me as I was forced to navigate functioning in this cold and distant reality while everyone else went on with their lives in the present. I felt stuck as I learned that navigating this form of trauma was something I had to take one day at a time.
The first signs of healing were the greatest blessing to me. The first signs of healing were like a massive weight being lifted off my shoulders by some Power beyond my own. That first taste of healing came in the form of less tears and a clearer mind. At one point I had finally lost the constant feeling of needing to scream all the time, and that elephant that was sitting on me finally left my presence. When that occurred the tightness in my throat and the constant nausea lifted and I felt incredibly thankful. The first bits of relief made me feel like I'd been delivered into a place where I could function in the present again, and I began to find myself and navigate my new skin. What I didn't know was that navigating my new skin would not be an easy task.
My new skin... I didn't even know I had shed an old skin. I just felt awkward and uncomfortable most of the time, and I didn't completely understand why. I felt vulnerable at that time, and as I learned to navigate my new skin that vulnerability beamed a little too brightly.
First, I found myself talking too much. Up until then I'd spent most of my life like a little mouse too afraid to say anything in fear of "rocking the boat," or "offending someone." Now, as if in one fell swoop, I couldn't get myself to stop speaking my mind. It's like I woke up one day and realized that I had intelligent things to say, and then I resolved to not let anything stop me from saying them. I felt like I had a story to tell, and I was going to tell anyone and everyone who was willing to listen. I rolled the events in my life over in my head a million times, and as a result of that I probably rolled those thoughts over to a half a dozen random people. Some of those people left deep hand-prints on my heart as they played an incredibly important role in my healing process simply because they were willing to listen. Some are now some of my closest friends, to which I'm thankful for that unique time in my life.
After this odd phase of grief, I went through what I felt at the time was a relapse. I spent many long nights crying myself to sleep, grieving over what I'd lost, and trying to keep silent about it because I didn't want to burden anyone with past pain that very much manifested itself in the present moment. I told myself it was past and I had no reason to be hurting this greatly now. I learned later that what I was experiencing was completely normal, and you don't just overcome trauma in a few months time.
Believe it or not, that phase of grief passed as well, and little by little I started to feel like myself again. I suppose that brings us to the here and now. It's been one year, and I feel like a completely different person. It's funny how pain increases your capacity to feel both the good and the bad...
I am now driven to tears so much easier than I used to be.
When others express their pain to me, I quite literally can feel their pain.
Fear is a constant companion of mine.
The thought of opening my heart up to someone again makes me feel sick and panicky.
I almost always feel suspicious of the people around me that I don't know.
The walls around my heart are stronger than ever and it's going to take a miracle to break them down.
I don't trust people. I just don't.
The problem with walls is that the resolve to have such a strong defense is lonely and isolating. But it's so much easier to resolve to never love again because if I stay on my own, I don't have to fear the cost of betrayal, or the cost of a broken heart. Such dilemmas as this are not things that I will even pretend to have figured out, because I have not. But... I do know that with the negative impact there have also been blessings...
I have discovered my strong will and determination to stand for what's right.
I now found the courage to speak my mind and the temperance to hold my tongue when necessary.
I have a new sense of resilience that rests in my heart at all times.
I have recognized that after such a deep wound to the heart comes the greater capacity to love those around me.
I have also identified the need that everybody has for compassion and the great ability I have to offer that love and compassion to those in my life who are going through difficult things.
I have gained a greater faith and hope in God's plan for me and for His eternal perspective of my life's purpose.
My trust in people my be slim to none, but my trust in God has increased ten fold and continues to sustain me through the pains that I still sometimes suffer from.
Betrayal trauma is real. It's long term effects are real. And the pain it causes is real. As a victim of betrayal trauma, you have every right to feel your pain at it's true capacity. And then once you've recognized the true capacity of that pain, it gives you the power to be able to shed it and then create something beautiful out of it.
Note from the Writer: This article is in no way, shape, or form intended to be used as a way to "man bash" or condemn my ex-fiance. In the past year of my life, I have felt complete forgiveness towards him and the decisions that he made at that point in his life. I truly hope the best for him and wish him well. I share my story today in hopes to reach a point of understanding and compassion for everyone who is going through, or who has gone through something similar. I know I am not the first woman in the world to be betrayed, therefore I feel a deep connection to all of my fellow sisters who have been hurt. This is to all of you who feel dreadfully alone... You are not. You are understood. You are loved. Heaven is watching out for you and God is aware of your tears. There is hope and happiness ahead.
I have always been a very religious person. Religion has always been the core and center of my life and actions, and I grew up being taught true principles of the institution of marriage and family. I was always taught God’s purposes for marriage and family, and how to seek for and live in such a way that we can be blessed with an eternal family and an eternal marriage.
“Families can be together forever.” That was my dream since I was a young girl observing my older siblings lives and watching them marry in the Temple and find joy through obedience to the doctrines and principles of the gospel. I wanted a marriage that would last forever. I wanted a love that was governed by God’s law, therefore making it the only true and pure form of love that exists in our world today. I dreamed of children and my joy being made full by raising a generation of strong and faithful children of God. These were all righteous and worthy goals and dreams. There was just one problem with this vision: I thought it would be easy.
Not only am I single as I write this article, but I’m THAT girl. That girl that spent 6 months with a ring on her finger thinking that I had finally found what I'd been looking for. The girl that was about to step foot into the journey of her "dreams coming true.” That girl that planned an entire wedding only to find a week prior that it was all a lie from the beginning. That girl that has a story to tell. That girl that believes that experiences like this MUST BE TALKED ABOUT because keeping quiet only leaves blank spaces for deeper wounds and undeniable scars. So today I’m finally talking about it. Because my hope is that someone else out there that reads this knows that she's not the first one to go through something similar, and it’s okay to hurt for a long long time. It’s okay to take time to grieve. It’s okay to feel broken for a while. And there IS HOPE FOR HEALING, even if in the moment, the healing that you seem to desperately be seeking for seems unreachable.
It’s been one year. One long year where I’ve had the opportunity to experience a cleansing process that has left me feeling like I’ve shed my old skin… And the funny thing is that at times I still feel like I’m trying to get used to my new skin. The new me. The me that was born out of indescribable and insurmountable levels of pain that I never thought I’d experience. It’s been one year since my entire world came crashing down within seconds, and my whole life changed.
I still remember that night as if it were yesterday. I was sitting on the couch with my fiancé, and everything seemed blissful. I was to be married in a week, and I loved this man very much. We had spent four years building a friendship, and almost a year cultivating a relationship of love that is patient and kind. A relationship that I thought to be above any other relationship I’d ever find. My life seemed like pure bliss, but even so, I felt a distant sting and fragility in the air that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, so I stubbornly pushed it in the back of my mind and tuned my thoughts to visions of wedded bliss.
I expressed to my fiancé the thoughts and concerns that seemed to buzz through my mind, but he assured me that all was well and that all would continue to be well. I believed him. I trusted him. And I resolved in my mind that I was just being paranoid with my own worries that were irrelevant and irrational.
I resolved to keep busy, concluding that my worries would subside. I suggested we go and run an errand for the long-anticipated wedding we’d been planning for the past six months. And for whatever reason, I stood up and reached for his phone instead of mine to inquire as to when a particular store would be closed.
That’s when I found it.
Three words on his search bar that changed my entire visage. Three words that concluded that he’d been searching for pornography possibly just hours ago. My entire demeanor must have changed in the brief second when I read those words because he inquired of me what was wrong. I asked why those words were typed into his search bar, and I looked at him with pleading eyes hoping that there was some logical explanation.
Somewhere within the course of those events, I exited out of that window on his phone, only to find multiple windows open of sick and twisted ideas of what women supposedly look like. I felt sick to my stomach.
He did a great job.
He put on a show.
He reassured me that his brother had a problem, so the only obvious answer was that his brother got a hold of his phone and it wasn’t him.
The coldest thing I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life is the lying eyes of the man I love gazing deep into the windows of my soul as multiple lies rolled from his lips. He knew it was all a lie, but for some reason, he could look at the woman that he claimed to love so dearly straight in her eyes and lie straight to her face. I never knew until that moment how unconsciously cold a single person could be.
We talked for hours… it felt like days… And somehow, he managed to semi convince me it wasn’t him.
I came home that night with a pit in my stomach. Feeling like there was darkness all around me, and for some reason, it wouldn’t leave.
I’ll never forget when the truth finally came out.
I called him on the phone and asked for reassurance again. I pleaded for the truth, but I didn’t believe it was him until it finally came out.
Those words still sting. “It’s me… I have a problem.”
At first, I thought it was some sick joke. It never occurred to me that pornography addiction would ever leak into my life or affect me in such a deep and excruciating way. I’d never thought too much about that particular aspect of people’s lives until it glared at me in the face through dark and wicked eyes. At first, I thought maybe I called the wrong number. I thought there isn’t a way in the world this could be true. I pleaded with God: “Please no… No. No. NO! Please don’t do this to me!”
The phone fell out of my hands and hung up before I had a chance to say much more. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted to kick and punch the wall. But in that moment, I felt paralyzed. I had a sudden frightening sensation of someone grasping at my neck as if someone or something was attempting to suffocate me to my death.
It wasn’t long before I found myself sobbing and screaming uncontrollably. Between sobs, my heart felt morbidly dysfunctional and stone cold. Little did I know it would feel like that for a very long time. I firmly called my wedding off as I sat across from the man I loved who suddenly seemed to be a stranger. I spent the night restlessly in a panic with uncontrollable tremors from my head to my toes. Everything felt dark and empty, and I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe the sun wasn’t going to come up in the morning this time. Maybe I’d be swallowed up by this suffocating darkness for the rest of my life.
The occurrence of events after that is irrelevant. Looking back, everything seemed blurry and painful for days and weeks on end. It was all over with him. But the pain wasn’t. And it wouldn’t be for a very long time.
The days passed in everyone else’s world, while my time seemed to have stopped. Time for me was now measured by all of the different kinds of agony I was feeling. It seemed to change so frequently.
At times I felt as though someone had taken a dagger and fiercely pierced it into my heart. Over time it would then slowly be yanked out and then thrust back in again.
I almost always felt on the verge of tears. And no matter how hard I tried to keep them inside me, my tries were futile.
I couldn’t eat.
I couldn’t sleep.
Everything felt lonely.
Everything reminded me of him.
Everything made me feel overwhelmingly sick to my stomach.
I felt paralyzed.
I felt traumatized.
I felt worthless.
And I felt incredibly afraid.
There were lots of times where I felt uncontrollably numb.
I’ve scrolled through Facebook countless times and have seen all of my friend’s wedding announcements and happy wedding days. When this whole journey began, I didn’t understand why the whole world seemed to be able to marry the first person they were engaged to. And I didn’t understand why everyone else deserved love and happiness, but I didn’t. I felt like I’d been robbed… Robbed of my eternal marriage and cheated out of my eternal family. And unfortunately, this feeling of being robbed was accompanied by emotional pain and suffering I never even knew existed. I didn’t even know that all of my extreme thoughts and feelings had a name. But for some reason, once I found a name for it, I felt less alone.
Dr. Jill Manning, a marriage and family therapist and Certified Clinical Partner Therapist, defines trauma as “a deeply distressing or overwhelming experience that is commonly followed by emotional and physical shock. If left unresolved or untreated, traumatic experiences can lead to short and long-term challenges.” Dr. Manning then goes on to state that “betrayal trauma occurs when someone we depend on for survival or are significantly attached to, violates our trust in a critical way.”
Considering the fact that there’s a clinical name for it, I don’t believe that betrayal trauma is a rare condition. Nor do I believe that the number of people that are affected by it are small in number. Unfortunately the world we live in is filled with evil influences, traps, and snares that lead people to make poor choices, and therefore hurt the people that they are supposed to be loving the most. I suppose that’s why it’s so important that we cling to a loving and merciful Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ who is always the way back to hope and healing, no matter how far you’ve strayed, or whether you are the victim or the perpetrator in any given situation.
For my particular situation, I was the victim. And in such cases as mine, I had to reach the point where I stopped seeing myself as a victim, and saw myself as a woman of God with innate power and ability to experience healing and wholeness once again, which is exactly what I intended on doing…
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.
Two years ago I wrote a letter to my future husband. Since then I've been engaged, planned a wedding, and then promptly called it off after the discovery of some unsettling deceit that took place in that relationship. At the time, my heart just stopped and my entire world spun miraculously fast into a deep hurt and sorrow that lasted quite awhile. Since then I've been blessed with lots of healing from a Lord and Savior who is incredibly merciful and who loves me very much. I'm so incredibly grateful for all of the healing that has taken place. My first letter was a call for true love, despite Lyme disease. This one is that hope continued and reinforced with a whole new perspective. My hope goes out to anyone who feels immense loneliness due to any form of brokenness. May someday someone come along and aid in making your heart whole again.
Dear Future Husband,
I never thought that loneliness could sting the way that a deep cut stings after it’s been disinfected. It never occurred to me at this moment in my life that I would be clueless as to who or where you are. I guess you could say that in a way, the disinfecting of my heart is occurring at a slow and steady pace. That’s the problem with love. You can’t stitch up a broken heart. You can’t cover a bloody and broken down soul with a band aid. To disinfect one’s soul stings so much worse than to disinfect an open wound on the surface of one’s skin. I suppose the only way for a heart, such as mine, to heal would be with the potent healing power of true love itself.
If only I knew what that consisted of… Or where I could find such a thing.
My sweet future husband, I wish to explain my prior disposition on the topic of love and romance. If you could catch a glimpse of my innocent girlhood explanation of love, you might find an unexpected smile creeping across your lips. Seeing the inner child in me is something that I can’t even seem to recently accomplish myself. So if I may dig a little deeper than I have lately, I believe it might do both of us some good to reflect on my prior preconceived notions of love and war.
When I was a little girl, I thought that love was centered on romance. I envisioned princes temporarily disguised as frogs, true loves kiss, and one immense climax that would ultimately determine whether or not we were destined to be together. I anticipated that feeling that plants itself in the pit of your stomach that resembles the fluttering wings of butterflies. I contemplated the sugary sweet moments of dancing in the rain, “spark flying,” and the heightened senses that occur when one seems to be “in love.” My “perfect romance” I envisioned as a child went by the book. Back then, to my younger self, love was never something that hurt.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen a darker side of things since my adolescent years. I’ve seen an unsightly mascara stained face looking back at me in the mirror as the uncontrollable tears streamed down my cheeks and dripped onto my bathroom counter. I’ve felt the crushing weight of betrayal on my heart like a knife cutting into a piece of raw meat. I’ve felt the pulverizing torment of deceit. I’ve seen the hands that are never to be held again, and the lives that have been grossly forced to separate because of the cruel and sick world that will do anything in it’s power to destroy God’s blessing of family, hope, and true love. I’ve seen and felt the dark and horrifying claws that mercilessly try to rip people apart, and in this case, succeed in doing so. I’ve now seen the dark side of love. And I suppose in hind sight, that dark side really isn’t love at all.
I’m writing to you today because I love you.
Because I’m not giving up. I’m not giving up on us.
Because someday, somehow, we’re going to find each other, and when that day comes, no pain, darkness, or disease is going to destroy us.
Because I can’t wait to meet you, and I still feel like we are worth fighting for
When I wrote to you two years ago, I explained that marrying a sick girl is no easy task, and that it’s going to take hard work and effort on both of our parts. I reaffirm that fact today. In fact, I will go as far as to say that it’s even more applicable now than it ever has been before. I have found that the suffocating grasp of Lyme disease is very stubborn, and seemingly never fleeting.
I’ve also found that surprisingly, Lyme disease may be the glue that holds us together in a society where love doesn’t last, commitment and loyalty is almost non-existent, and hard work and effort is a foreign concept.
Unfortunately, my fairy-tale reality that I had as a teenager has come to an end. But it’s been replaced with something solid. Something that lasts into the eternities. Although it may be true that a kiss is just a kiss, most frogs don’t turn into princes, and most princes are just men… It’s also true that most relationships don’t last unless they’re something worth fighting for. Most love is temporary until you find out that it can endure the most painful and tragic of life’s suffering.
We live in a society that wants all the perks of love, without ever having to fight for it. A society that wants the “relationship goals” without the time and effort it takes to reach those goals. We want the magic and the sparks without the communication and the understanding. We want the physical gratification without the connection and the companionship. Fortunately, this skewed view of “love” that the world has is not what you get when you marry someone who must fight every day for quality of life, for joy, and for happiness. Life gets very real very fast with me.
But here’s what I’ve learned from watching love and Lyme vigorously unravel in front of my own two eyes: Those long sleepless nights, the tears and the screams, the pain and the suffering, the standing by each other no matter what Lyme throws at us next is what will build us an unshakable relationship that will withstand the test of time. Society’s definition of “love” may be temporary, but God’s definition of love is abundant, nourishing, and everlasting. God gives us suffering so we can learn and grow, and I know that if we rely on Him through it all we will only grow closer together. And more importantly, we will grow closer to God with every step we take. And what a blessing that is.
“Does true love exist?” one might ask. I believe that it does. And my hope for healing from a broken heart is something that I fight for every day. Pain comes in many forms in this life, but the hope in that is that healing comes in many forms as well. Someday my heart will be whole again, and when that day comes, that’s when I’ll find you.
Stay strong my future husband… within the grand scheme of life, I’m sure out paths will cross soon. I love you so much.
~ Your Loving Future Wife
I often contemplate the events and experiences that have taken place throughout my life that have broken me down and ultimately made me the person I am today. As unpleasant as it is to relive the past at times, I have found that occasionally looking back on experiences with deep contemplation and gratitude can be a way in which one can turn something broken into something beautiful.
I was recently lead through an exercise that did just this for me. A mental exercise that allowed me to take a step back in time and give my heart the rare experience to see myself as I once was, and take careful note as to how far I've come. In this exercise I was told to close my eyes and think back to a time where I was at rock bottom, and at this point in the exercise I immediately thought back to all of those long and painful nights where my endometriosis pain would relentlessly torture me for what seemed at the time to be endless nights.
I remembered pain so intense that all I could do was scream and grit my teeth hard until the sharp pain in my lower abdomen would let up ever so slightly. I recalled this level of pain going on for hours and days until I'd slip into a seizure. I remembered the firm resolve it took to be a fighter through these extreme flares of pain. I also remembered the times I prayed for my body to surrender because at times the grip that Lyme disease had on me seemed too strong and dark.
After recalling all these painful memories of my personal rock bottom, I was told to return back to myself in the present, go to that girl in the past in her state of "rock bottom," look her in the eyes, and say: "You made it... You made it through." That moment where my present self met that broken down and hurting past self was a very pivotal moment for me. I felt this sudden urge to hug that hurting girl so tight, as if I could physically hold all of her broken pieces together, knowing now that one day the pain would be significantly less, and that healing was just around the corner.
After such an eye-opening experience, I resolved to try this exercise one more time, but this time with a different situation at a different time in my life. At that particular time I had hit a brand new rock bottom, with a whole different kind of excruciating pain that took place not so much in the body, but in the heart.
I still remember that night as if it happened yesterday. I remember the crushing feeling of time stopping all at once, along with my heart. I remember hanging up the phone as it fell out of my hand, and the sharp gripping at my neck as if to stop any airflow from occurring. I remember wanting to suddenly scream and cry, but for whatever reason, I couldn't manage to get a single sound to escape my lips. I remember my entire outlook for the past year of my life being completely crushed by the weight of the situation, and my entire world being rocked upside down and shattered within seconds. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of the long painful healing journey that I had ahead of me. There were a lot of sleepless nights ahead. A lot of tears. A lot of aching and emotional anguish that manifested itself physically. At that point, I honestly never thought that my heart could be made whole again.
When my present self met my past self this time, I desperately wanted to take her by the hand and tell her that there was healing ahead! That her heart would be made whole! That she made it! I opened my eyes this time to tears slipping down my face as I realized that I still have some deep scars from that past betrayal and heartache. Scars that I've always thought were ugly, but in hindsight maybe they aren't as ugly as I thought they were.
Throughout my life, brokenness is something that I have managed to become very well acquainted with, and something I've learned is an essential part of life. I recently had a good friend ask me, "Do you think God loves broken things?" After a moment of silence and deep contemplation within my own heart and mind I responded, "Well, He has to! Because I know He loves me..."
I've come to know since then that in order for something, or someone, to be made strong it first has to be broken down. In order for a muscle to reach its full capacity of strength, it has to first be broken down with consistent exercise. In order for a diamond to become the diamond that it is it has to undergo an extensive amount of heat and pressure. In order for a rainbow to form there must first be rain. As it is with us.
We all are a little bit broken. We are all a little bit bruised and battered. We've all undergone some weathering in this thing that we call life. I used to spend so much time agonizing over my brokenness with the false belief that being broken was a bad thing... But I've come to know that it's not.
Sometimes broken people are the most beautiful people. Brokenness opens the doors to things we never thought possible. Brokenness makes us strong, and eventually unbreakable. Brokenness allows God to work in our lives if we let Him. And what a miracle and a blessing that is.
So if you're feeling broken. If you feel like the Heaven's are silenced, and there is little to no healing in the near future, my message to you today would be that there IS HOPE AND HEALING AHEAD. There are better things coming. Even when it feels impossible, it is not. Our Lord and Savior does not leave us comfortless. Let your brokenness propel you to great things and always remember that God loves broken things.
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.
A couple of years ago I found myself at the bottom of a gorge, lacking safety ropes, climbing gear, or harnesses of any kind. I sat with my back up against the steep cliff that was before me, and with a loss of breath and words I struggled for a desire to want to look up at the daunting task before me. That steep, unforgiving cliff was my only way out, I knew it and I didn’t want to except it.
I’m not sure how I got there. I’m not sure if I merely tripped and fell over the edge due to an exorbitant amount of overwhelming life circumstances, or if some insensitive person had simply caught me off guard from behind, and gave me a swift push. All I knew was that I was sore, exhausted, and I felt as though the walls were closing in around me. The hot sun beat against my skin as if it were mocking my very existence, and the hard ground lead me to realize that staying in one place wasn’t giving me any easier of an answer.
I managed to pull myself to my feet, and brush off my shorts and t-shirt that were coated in a layer of dirt and dust. I posed my hand to my forehead in attempts to shield my eyes from the sun, only to find a large, bloody gash in my forehead that made me now understand why my brain felt like it was pulsing beneath my skull.
I looked up in the direction I knew I needed to go. It seemed like miles of hard rock, scraped hands, and fairytale destinations. I could see my parents scaling that same cliff miles above me. They had begun this journey long before I had, and to be frank I didn’t know how they were still managing to pull themselves upward. It seemed like the impossible task, and I questioned whether the end goal was really worth it or not.
I resolved to begin my climb. I walked up to the menacing rock wall, placed my palm in a small indent in the side of the cliff, and dug my fingers around it in an attempt to obtain a sturdy grip. I placed my foot in a sufficient gap for a foothold, and pulled myself upwards. So far so good. I continued this pattern for a couple of arm-lengths worth of rock wall before my fingers slipped off my indent, I lost my footing, and fell mercilessly back down to where I started. My skin felt like it had been torn off around my palms, arm, and knees, and my head throbbed even harder in defeat.
Keep in mind that I’m not the type of person to quit while I’m ahead. So of course I got right back up and tried again. Grip, footing, pull! Grip, footing, pull! I never quite got the hang of it well enough to reach a certain destination without tumbling a few inches downward, but after a lot of sweat and perseverance I managed to pull myself up by my parents who welcomed me as we began the rest of the journey together.
Throughout my journey, I had a lot of interesting experiences. I ran into a lot of loose rocks, and unforgiving tree branches. Avalanches and rock slides. Tears and feelings of hopelessness. And of course wishes that I wouldn’t have to do this anymore. Just when I thought I was almost there some kind of obstacle left me scraping my skin down a few inches of the cliff. I also discovered various tips and tricks from my dear parents and the reasons why they were still holding on for dear life. Those lessons I learned helped me to keep going, and helped me to realize that now was not the time to surrender to that demeaning wall of rock.
Now, on this very day, I’m still gripping the side of that cliff. I’m so close to the top where I will find my way out of this horrible place. But I still have quite the climb, and throughout my journey I have discovered my will to live, the people I love the most, and the power that keeps me pulling myself upward.
Of course, I haven’t been scaling a million mile cliff for the past two years of my life!
What I have been doing is fighting a horrible disease that is highly analogous to that of scaling a cliff that seems to be miles high, and undefeatable.
My life’s mountain is Chronic Lyme Disease, and I intend to someday reach the top.
My lack of climbing equipment is comparable to my lack of doctors, health care, and treatment options for Lyme disease. No medical professional seemed to have the answer for me. No medications, no pain pills, no belief in the medical industry that Lyme disease even exists! My Lyme equipment merely didn't exist in the beginning.
That gash on my forehead and sun beating down on me is equivalent to all the headaches, joint pain, nausea, vomiting, seizures, excruciating abdominal pain, vertigo, fatigue, limited energy, and so many symptoms that began the long spiraling journey that assisted in my arrival in that gorge in the first place.
Those trees, rocks, avalanches, and rock slides that kept slipping and slapping me down, limiting my upward progress, are comparable to all the people that have told me that I’m crazy. All the people that tell me that I’m doing this or that wrong, or all the people that don’t believe that I actually have any problem at all, and all the people that continually push me down and hurt me more when all I’m trying to do is my best.
The journey up the side of the cliff that my parents made before me is something that I will always be grateful for. It is my mother that found safety equipment along the way. It is my mother and father that grabbed me by the hand, and pulled with all their might and found answers to help me through my difficult journey. It is my mother that gave me hope in the most difficult of times, and has lead me in my healing journey.
The higher I climb on my mountain, the closer I come to healing, and now I’m almost there.
It was around December of 2016 that I began to realize my swift turn around. I realized that I was hundreds of miles from where I started, and I was beginning to see the glorious blessings that God was blessing me with all along the way! I discovered love and healing, peace and comfort, hope for my future that I didn’t think I had. I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I just have to keep climbing.
This is what chronic Lyme disease feels like. It’s like scaling a million mile high cliff with no safety gear. It’s like falling over, and over, and OVER again and hoping that eventually you’ll reach the top!
Lyme disease is a rough journey. I’m EXHAUSTED! There are days that I don’t want to keep climbing. There are days that it would be easier to quit, but I just can’t. It’s interesting how you begin to discover love and healing, and you begin to see your future incredibly clear, and your will to live comes back. Healing always leaves a lot of room for hope.
A wise man once said, “Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. (Jeffery R. Holland, 1999)”
I believe that now. There is always light at the top of your climb. God does not leave us to suffer alone. God does not leave us without answers. God is always with us to offer us help and happiness ahead. That alone is enough to make me want to keep going.
So whatever you do… Don’t you quit. You keep walking. There is ALWAYS help and happiness ahead.
I remember participating as teenager in various Sunday school classes, youth groups, and general life courses in high school where the teacher inquired the following question: "Where will you be in five years?" or "Where will you be in ten years?"
I remember having a thorough, well thought out image in my head of what my life would look like in five or ten years. I planned to marry straight out of high school at age eighteen. I thought to myself: "I'm a socially apt, talented, smart, beautiful girl! I'll snatch a man no problem!" I always planned that I would never date anyone who treated me less than a queen, and I'd fall in love in a "whirlwind romance", just like in the romance movies. I'd earnestly mapped out my life. I'd attend college as a music major, while my husband attended for some other high end profession. I'd live in a modest home with perfectly trimmed lawn and flawless flower beds.
By the time I reached age thirty I'd be a successful business woman with her own vocal studio, and six children. My family would be the type that wears matching pajamas, and holds hands all in a row at the store. We'd wake up at 7 every morning, never a moment later! My house and children would always be clean my husband would always come home on time. He'd greet me with a kiss, and I'd always be dressed flawlessly with my hair and makeup precisely in place. My children would never complain or make bad choices and they'd all grow up to be successful, well rounded adults.
As a teenager, my vision for life didn't include imperfection and flaws. It wasn't comprised of unexpected pitfalls and adversity. It didn't encompass imperfection. It didn't encompass Lyme Disease. Lyme disease wasn't part of the plan.
When I was 18, I wanted a husband, but instead I got a diagnosis.
I graduated high school as planned. I had two scholarships to the school I would study music at. I had a boyfriend, and a circle of friends that I was content with. I was ready to set sail into my "perfect" life. Little did I know that life is what happens AFTER you make plans.
I'll never forget the night I received that phone call. I was sitting in my small room in my apartment and my mom called to inform me that she had received the test results for the thirty vials of blood I had drawn a week prior to leaving for college. The reality is that I already knew the answer to those tests. I was struggling beyond belief at that point. My fatigue was impossible to fight. My muscle and joint pain made it hard to move from class to class. The daily panic attacks that took place were debilitating, and my endometriosis symptoms left me all alone, in tears, struggling through fits of pain. I lost a lot of weight, and I just kept shedding pounds as the time went by.
Time passed. More tests results came back positive for Lyme Disease. In multiple moments of self reflection I thought: "I already struggled to watch my mom suffer from Lyme. So why me? Why now? What about my dreams? What about my 'perfect' life?"
I came home from college three months into it. I felt defeated. I felt exhausted. I felt depressed. I felt sore and achy. I felt ugly. I felt lonely. I felt unlovable. I felt like a failure. I was in tremendous amounts of pain, and I couldn't help but feel like it was my fault. I couldn't help but feel like my dreams had been burned right before my eyes. I couldn't help but feel like my vision for my life was NEVER EVER going to happen. Thoughts recklessly spun in my head on a constant basis: "What man would want a sick girl? I probably can't even have children. I'm worthless."
I spent a great deal of time in bed or asleep on the sofa. I stopped doing the things I loved. I stopped being the person I am. Through the pain and survival tactics I used, I forgot about myself. I left my identity in the distant past that I never thought I'd ever retrieve. I suffered excruciating pain flares that left me vomiting, seizing, and screaming desperately for relief. Pain medication didn't help. For a long time I felt hopelessly aware that nothing I seemed to be doing was working. The panic in my inner being was inevitable. I lost my motivation for life. I found myself in unhealthy relationships because I desperately wanted someone to love me. There were times that I couldn't walk by myself or stand up in the shower long enough. There were times I couldn't wash or blow dry my own hair, and there were times I resolved to lay in bed and hopefully die there.
At one point the day came that I found myself in a place so dark, I found that I wasn't even the same person anymore, and the person that I was I didn't like at all. Laying around feeling sorry for myself wasn't working anymore. Complaining about having to take 20+ supplements a day, and other forms of treatment wasn't working anymore. Negative relationships and my negative attitude wasn't working anymore.
Don't get me wrong. We all must face a mourning period of our diagnoses. In no way does recognizing and fighting the negative forces around me invalidate my pain, or mean that I'm not in pain. I've suffered tremendously. I still do on some days. But since that dark time, I've had to change the way I think.
I got down on my knees one day and prayed with all my heart that God would help me out of this dark place. I began studying my scriptures and striving for understanding of why I'm really suffering so much. I began to develop a habit of those two things, and in the process I began to discover myself again. Not just the me that was in my distant past, but a whole new me that just needed to find enough light to bloom where I was planted.
I have fought a good fight, and I'm still fighting. I'm a changed person, and there's still more to learn, and more in life to go through. Lyme disease doesn't have to be restraining to the point where you can't breathe. Lyme disease makes everything in life a little more difficult. In spite of that, I've found that if I look for the light and enjoy the Olympic moments that God blesses me with, it makes the fight a lot lighter and a lot more beautiful.
What I told myself back then about being worthless, ugly, unlovable, and broken were all lies. Lies that tore at me for the longest time. But what I told myself when I was a teenager about having a "perfect" life someday without flaw or hardship was also a lie. In a way, Lyme disease "ruined" my "perfect" life. And I'm incredibly grateful that it did.
I'm twenty, I'm not married, and most days I wake up way past the time I plan to. I'm going to school to become a nutritionist instead of a voice teacher. I spend a large amount of my day taking supplements and undergoing difficult treatments. A large amount of the time I don't wear makeup, and my outfits are less than flawless. I'm still in pain a lot and my energy levels aren't as high as the average person. I've discovered that falling in a true and pure form of love doesn't happen in a whirlwind, but in a slow progression that grows a little bit everyday. I've learned that sometimes life is clumsy, awkward, and uncomfortable. I've developed a skill at catching the curve balls that life continues to throw at me. That's life! And I'm grateful. I've learned that what I thought I wanted isn't exactly what I really wanted.
My perspective on life has changed a lot in past year. You don't get married because it's easy. You don't have children because it's easy. You don't fight daily battles and search for light on a constant basis because it's easy. Life isn't supposed to be easy! The idea that I do things because they're easy and will make my life "perfect" and "flawless" is ridiculous, and lacks eternal perspective.
God has blessed me with the strength and courage I need to keep pushing through, and to discover a better life for myself. He has blessed me with ability and intelligence to find ways to heal. He has blessed me with life long best friends who love and teach me and understandingly and patiently suffer with me. He has blessed me with talents, skills, and knowledge that I continue to develop. He blesses me everyday with beautiful moments that I will always cherish, because even though I'm sick, I still am blessed enough to have those moments! He has blessed me beyond words.
Lyme disease "ruined" my "perfect" life. But thankfully, Lyme gave me a beautiful, crazy, imperfect, painful, magnificent, glorious life! Life doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. In fact, life is beautiful because it's imperfect and because we have the opportunity to learn and progress in ways that allow us to understand our full potential. I plan to cherish the perfect moments. Laugh at the imperfect moments. Cry through the painful moments. And smile through all of the in between moments!
I haven't let go of my dreams for my future. But my dreams for the future have shifted and changed. I have Lyme disease! So what? God has plans for me, and Lyme disease isn't going to stop me from that beautifully imperfect life that He has in store for me. It won't always be easy, but in the eternal perspective of it all, it'll be worth it. Lyme disease may have "ruined" my "perfect" life, but it also helped me to build a beautiful life.