When Life Hands You Lyme Instead of Lemons

        Life and death are the two inevitable promises that bind us and make us human. We all live and we all die. In a reality full of grey, life and death are the only things that are black and white. Teetering on the edge of life and death is petrifying. Being sick and not knowing what’s going on in your own body or how to even begin healing is both nerve-racking and isolating. But there is a certain grit you obtain from fighting a battle that seems to drag on forever. Sometimes you’re the lion, sometimes you’re the lamb. Sometimes you can’t get a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s the dark moments that teach you. You learn how to pull yourself out of the hole and when you finally see the light, the sweetness of it all melts you like honey in hot tea.

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            About three years ago, I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. I never had the classic bulls-eye rash, which would have possibly prompted a quicker diagnosis. In fact, my symptoms did not occur until months after the initial infection. It started with fatigue, flu-like symptoms, muscle aches, headaches and an overall feeling of being unwell. I woke up, showered, went to work, came home and immediately lied down, falling asleep within minutes. I had no energy to dedicate to anything else. At the time, I was attending community college part time but was not excelling by any means in my academics. I had a hard time comprehending material. It was nearly impossible to retain information and I constantly forgot everything, including how to carry out routine tasks such as using my debit card to buy something. My symptoms progressed to heart palpitations (I eventually had to have a heart monitor), insomnia, fainting spells, stomach issues, severe depression and anxiety and progressive fatigue. I avoided the doctor this entire duration in hopes that my symptoms would disappear; however, after waking up one morning to the right half of my face completely paralyzed, I immediately rushed to the doctor. Multiple CT scans and blood tests later, my doctor determined that Lyme Disease was the culprit. I started a month’s worth of antibiotics. Every symptom I had intensified and I eventually ended up in the hospital for tachycardia (fast heart rate). I remember sitting in the hospital bed, IV in my arm and tears streaming down my face. I was losing faith. I was so scared and so ready to give up. But something in me begged me to keep going. My journey back to health has been a long one and I still have flare ups, but I feel so lucky to be alive. I walked through the fire because even though it burned, I knew I would make it to the other side.

 

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Japanese symbol for "hope."

            I am not writing this to evoke sympathy from readers. I write to spread awareness of this misunderstood and controversial disease. I want others who are struggling with chronic illness or mental health to read this and know you are not alone. Our struggles are unique, but we all face turmoil at some point in our lives. Facing the unknown can be scary, but I encourage you to never give up. Life is constantly changing and miracles do happen, so please take each experience as a learning one. Reach out to others if you need help and learn how to say “no” when you need to. One of the most important lessons I learned through being sick was to not overwork or commit myself to more than I can handle. I know it’s tempting to do EVERYTHING, but you have to know your limits. You have to take care of yourself. Your body is your temple. Nourish it and feed it love.

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            Life is a precious gift that is not promised to last for any determined amount of time. Make sure you live it while you have a chance. Jump in that freezing pool at 2 a.m. even though it’s illegal. Tell that special someone you love them, even if you’re scared of their reaction. Raise your voice, even if your opinions differ. Be a badass and never be ashamed of being “outside of the box.” Do what makes you feel alive. We are not promised tomorrow. Life is a gift that could all be gone in the blink of an eye. Unwrap the box and make the most of it.

 

Photo Credit: 1, 2, 3