Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Curse is also a Blessing: How Lyme has Changed my Life

Since I am being as transparent as possible during my journey through Lyme treatment--which is a very dark and difficult process--I would like to share some of the lightness and joy I have experienced during treatment. I don't want this blog to be all doom and gloom! Just honest.

After I complete my treatment, I know that my life will be so much more fulfilling than if I had never been sick in the first place. Living with Lyme has taught me so many lessons, and already I am a happier person because of it. I have found a closeness with God that I didn't realize was possible and have completely let go of all my fears. One day a few months ago I was having a dark day...Lyme attacks your brain, some people more than others, but the spirochetes can literally change your mood, behavior, personality, etc. It is not "I'm depressed because I'm sick" syndrome..the spirochetes literally attack your nervous system, "producing learning disabilities, mood swings, anxiety and depression, panic attacks, obsessive behavior, sudden rages and other psychiatric diagnoses," according to 'Can A Tick Bite Drive you Crazy?' (click here to read the entire article). I believe this is the most evil aspect of Lyme, I have seen it change personalities (even mine for periods of time) and it truly feels like the Devil is whispering in your ear and has a hold of you. During these times you cannot think straight and can go into fits of Lyme rage. Sorry for going off topic--too much doom and gloom again.

Anyway, I was suffering from a rather gloomy outlook and it seemed as if my treatment would go on forever and it would never end. I was in a very child-like state--feeling so sorry for myself and thinking over and over again that I will never beat this--and while in this state I had an uncontrollable yearning to be held by my father like when I was a child and he would tell me "everything will be okay"...and he seemingly always made things better. I always felt safest that way and when you are a kid you truly believe with all of your heart that your parents can make everything better. 

I called him to talk to him and could not reach him (he was going through treatment, too, and was having a very sick day and could not even talk on the phone). Then I started thinking...what does he feel like when this happens to him? His father passed away a few years ago and his mother passed away when I was young. I just couldn't imagine being parentless and going through all of this. Where do you go when you need the comfort a child receives from their parents? This made me even more depressed and the cycle of darkness continued. 

I remember laying on the bathroom floor in a ball of pain and crying, rocking back and forth, and screaming "Why God? Why!! I cannot do this. I just need someone to hold me and tell me I will be okay." I suddenly realized that the yearning I felt was not for my father on earth, but for my Heavenly Father. At that moment I felt a tremendous weight lifted off my shoulders and a warmth that calmed me down enough to fall asleep. The next morning I woke up and felt something new deep down in my Soul. It was not a belief that I will get better and I will heal, it was a profound and factual knowledge that I WILL conquer this disease, without a doubt. 

I have always felt close to God and prayed in the morning, before meals, and at night. But on that day I felt lifted up so high as that I could see everything from God's perspective. Every day since then I have grown closer and closer to God. And I have learned not to compartmentalize my time with him. Instead of walking with Him Sunday mornings and during quick prayers before meals, I started to learn how to live with him by my side at all times and share with him everything I do and everything I am going through. My yoga and meditation practices even became spiritual...a time to calm my mind and just listen, and to take the time to thank Him for his healing Grace and in advance for my health that I will gain back and my life that I am starting to take back. 

At the time my usual 115 pound frame and small bone structure had ballooned by 25 pounds in a month and a half. I was not eating more or moving less, the antibiotics had just made me retain a massive amount of fluid in my belly (about 6-7 months pregnant looking) and the rest of my body became swollen and stretched so tight it looked like I might burst. I went to my doctor here in town and looked at a chart on her wall--given my short height and my now 140 pound body--I was medically considered overweight. This is quite unusual for someone who received her mother's genes. She is tiny...weighing in at 90 lbs when she married my father, thus I have always had a small bone structure and frame. Every time I looked in the mirror I saw Jessica Simspon waddling around in my reflection (at the time she was VERY pregnant). I also had developed a pretty severe case of acne. The combination left me looking like a very pregnant teenager. My LLMD told me that our bodies detox through our skin and that is its normal. I will eventually do a post about the embarrassing things Lyme does to you to teach you humility and show pictures of my belly, I'm just waiting until my pride allows me to do so. 

But once I started living my life close to God, the image in the mirror changed. This diseased body of mine is just something my Soul is living in while I am on Earth. My soul is not sick, just the capsule that carries it. I am not saying that I was able to get over my pride overnight, but it did make it much easier to handle. By the way, to show you how crazy the treatment can be, I lost all of the weight in a few months by switching antibiotics and now have lost too much weight (I'm closer to 105 right now with no muscle tone). Random weight gain and weight loss occurs in a lot of Lyme patients, as does severe muscle atrophy. 

Before my body put on the brakes and completely quit on me, I was working 60-70 hour work weeks working for my father. He in no way required this of me and even told me to stop working so much, but my overly-compulsive Type A personality would not allow it. I held positions (usually the PR head) on so many different junior boards that I could not keep things straight. I knew I was sick (and had been for years), but found that if I never took a break I couldn't feel the pain as severely. As long as I was going, my mind could trick my body into being numb to pain. It was like a drug I was using to mask my symptoms and after a while my body demanded I stop using. It actually boycotted me doing anything and I was stuck in bed for several months, taking hours to gather up enough energy to walk to the bathroom to bush my teeth and wash my face. This was all before I was diagnosed with Lyme. 

Fast-forward to now: after a lot of hard work and yoga, yoga therapy, ayuverdic therapy, meditation, breathing exercises with a biofeedback machine, etc I have learned to control the beastly Type A overachieving personality and become closer to Type B. This is not something I am doing so that I can get better and get back to work and my old ways--it has been a complete lifestyle change. I have learned to love myself exactly as I am and to not judge my body on what it is going through. I have a greater appreciation of God's creation and even see colors more vividly. I feel so at peace in nature and have a peaceful mind--something that I have never had before. Instead of judging my self-worth based on my accomplishments (I was named Birmingham's top Young Professional and received several community service awards...something at the time that was so important to me but now seems like a past life and means very little to me now), I stopped judging myself all together and learned to love myself as God made me. 

I know that after I am healed I will head down the same path. I have made a major lifestyle change that will remain with me the rest of my life. I am still the same person--a little too competitive and obsessive at times--but on a much lower scale. God has found a light in the darkness of this disease. I will never be the same as I was before and thus my life will be so much more fulfilling. This curse has become my blessing and will change the course of my life forever. My once-guarded heart is opening up again and I am filled with divine joy and love. My life will never be the same.

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