The Gift of Chronic Illness

I can’t believe that it’s been a full year of Lyme treatment and over 2.5 years since my first definitive symptom. Just over a year ago I didn’t even know what Chronic Lyme disease was. I had no idea the severity of the situation or how the Doctors of BC would quite literally leave me to die.

I’ve never fully trusted naturopaths but it turned out to be a naturopath who would save my life.
At the time all I could see was what I was loosing – friends, jobs, volunteer positions, strength, my body, my mind, my self confidence. This time last year I could barely read. A couple months later I temporarily lost my ability to speak. I’ve had days where my legs completely give out on me and I’ve had to swallow all of my pride and use a cane. My brain function was lessening by the day. My memory is still questionable but not as bad as it was. I couldn’t remember family members and friends names, only the letter that they started with. I would forget if I took my meds or if I fed the dog. Every second that I wasn’t working, was spent on the couch or in bed because I simply had no strength to do anything more. I thought for sure that this disease was going to kill me. And that our government medical system would just sit back and watch it happen.

I can’t believe how much I’ve learned in the past year. For the lack of brain function and memory issues, the amount of information that I have absorbed is remarkable. But I definitely know too much about the politics to ever fully trust a medical doctor or our medical system again. When I say that the Doctors of BC left me to die, that is not an exaggeration. It is the basic reality for me and thousands of other Lyme patients. The absolute betrayal and bitter disgust that I feel towards our medical community is something that can never fully be forgiven, however, I have had an amazing Lyme-literate GP from Maple Ridge offer to come and do Grand Rounds here for all of the doctors in Delta on Lyme disease and how to recognize and treat it within the guidelines. If we could get our doctors here on board and open to do this, then that would most definitely be a step in the right direction.

All that I have lost has made room for all that I have gained.

The friends that left me, made room for both new and old friends to come back into my life who all have stepped up huge to help me. On top of this I have learned which family members would really step up and which would not. I am forever grateful for both this understanding as well as for anyone who has willingly driven me to appointments, taken me for errands or groceries, done my grocery shopping for me when I cannot, cooked for me, cleaned for me, and even just visited with me or been a text or phone call away when I am struggling. The loss of everyone who couldn’t or wouldn’t handle my life with Lyme, made room for my people to find me and that’s been a huge blessing.

Getting sick to this extreme was the only way I ever would have stopped working 7 days a week, filling my schedule with 3 jobs and other volunteer positions that I thought made me worthy, that I thought made my life important. What I now know is that it isn’t my multiple jobs or businesses or volunteer boards that make my life important, what makes it important is simply that – my life. My intrinsic need to share my stories, my struggles, my mistakes, my wins; my willingness to be completely open and vulnerable for the good of others every single day. This is what gives my life meaning, this, to me, is what makes me important. This is what aligns my soul. Although some of my jobs and volunteering pushed me to be so open sharing these things, they were still for the purpose of a job. This was what I was “supposed” to do for that position. Clearing those positions from my life created time and space for me to understand that I don’t need a job or board to allow me to share my voice. That need is a soul-calling that I am ready to answer.

Another thing that getting sick taught me is that it’s okay to not be going 100 miles an hour 7 days a week. It’s okay to sit in silence. It’s okay to not have a schedule filled past its breaking point. It’s okay to turn off all notifications and take time for yourself. It’s okay to relax in a bath or read in the middle of the day or not get dressed until noon or to nap. It’s okay to spend a full day on the couch watching netflix if that’s what your body needs. I’ve learned that it’s honorable and difficult to not only listen to your body but to act on its needs accordingly, even if that means resting. There is so much that my body had to teach me and I made sure that I was too busy to listen, so it made me. If I had learned these things much sooner, I may never have gotten sick.

I see the world so much clearer now, past my insecurities and negative, taught self-beliefs. My third eye has opened. And I understand certain parts of me life so much differently and have been able to let them go. Things that have weighed heavily on me for years, situations where I based my entire self-worth in another person incapable of seeing it. I’ve accepted now that their issues are not mine and have no hold on how amazing I am or am not as a person.

I can’t, and won’t, say that I never have days that make me want to die. I won’t say that I never lay in bed or on the bathroom floor sobbing for the pain to stop. I won’t say that I am better or healed or that I can trust my legs or my memory or my brain now, because I still have a long treatment ahead of me. We’ve only just begun a new treatment protocol about 3 months ago and now we’re talking about the possibility of IV antibiotics in 5 weeks if I don’t start to see a difference soon. I still consider it a good day if I can walk up a flight of stairs or take my dog for a 5 minute walk. If I can cook or clean or go grocery shopping on top of a work day then that’s an incredible day. Last night I drove to Bridgeport, and that was a huge win being my first time driving outside of South Delta in ages. I have completely lost my independence and yet I’m wholey finding who I am.

I am not Denise, the fitness coach.
I am not Denise, the girl who went from a size 16 to a size 2.
I am not Denise, the mental health activist or the youth on the local action team.
I am not Denise, the LBA board member.

I am Denise. The survivor. The warrior. The leader. The truth speaker. The boundary breaker. The light worker. The creative. The feeler. The writer. The healer.
I am Denise, the one with the always open heart. And I never would have learned this if my body didn’t force me to slow down, shed all of which was weighing on me in order to survive, and be forced to sit in silence.

Not all love is forever – and that’s okay.

Maybe I’m the last person who should be writing about this, since I’ve never had a romantic relationship last over 2 years, but I’ve loved enough to know that not all love is meant to be forever. I am someone who loves very openly and very easily, I feel love the same way that I feel everything else – so deeply it overcomes me. As an empath, I feel other people’s emotions as if they’re my own. I absorb them and somehow subconsciously take responsibility for them. Everything I feel, I feel deeply in my soul. This can be a blessing, as it makes me very in tune to other people’s emotions, and it can be a curse, as it is difficult to learn how not to take these emotions on as my own. I believe that a lot of my negative emotions growing up as a child were caused by the negative emotions that others around me were feeling, I absorbed them and as a child had no idea where they were coming from or what to do with them causing me great distress.

I remember my first love, and heartbreak. I thought it would be forever, and when it wasn’t, I thought I’d never love again. But I did love again – many times in fact. And all but one time that I’ve loved, I’ve left with more than I came in with. I don’t mean that in the physical, materialistic sense of the word ‘more’, but in life, knowledge, understanding of one’s self. And sometimes, I have even left full of gratitude.

I used to feel ashamed that I’d never had a ‘long term’ relationship. Until I had one, in which was only long-term because I allowed myself to be manipulated into staying far longer than I should have. That’s okay, because I learned from it. I got out before I got married or got pregnant or purchased a home. I got out, and I took the time and I found myself once again. Stronger, more resilient, and less easily manipulated.

They say you can’t help who you fall in love with. Maybe this is true, but I do believe you can in some ways control who you stay in love with. Some areas of love are all feelings and emotions, but I do believe that the long-lasting love, the kind of love that survives job losses, relocations, miscarriages, babies, financial crisis, and all of life’s chaos and conflict, is the type of love that is conscious. It’s intentional. It’s two people who have made a choice to love each other. It’s two people who recognize the other’s love languages and each make an effort to give and receive love in the way that the other needs. It’s two people who have made a conscious choice to love the other, support the other, and most importantly respect the other. They understand that there will be turmoil, that there will be disagreements, that there will be hurt, that both individuals will make mistakes. This couple understands and accepts that these are all part of life – that to be together sacrifices must be made, compromises need to be shared, and that forgiveness and patience are regular acts in a successful relationship.

Not all love is meant to be forever. And that’s okay. Some love is meant to teach you what you really want in life, some is meant to teach you want you don’t want in life. Some love is there to support you through a rough patch, some is meant for you to support your partner through something of their own. I believe that some love comes into your life simply to teach you how to love, how to be loved in new and different ways, how to accept and welcome love into your life, and to teach you that you are worthy. Worthy of love, worthy of respect, worthy of sacrifice.

I recently went through the best 6-month relationship of my life followed by the best breakup of my life. I dated someone who I have been friends with in varying degrees of closeness for 13 years. In some ways being friends for so long first created an ease in our relationship, and in other ways it created a greater vulnerability for me, allowing someone who was already so important to me that much deeper into my heart and my soul. The risk was higher than any other relationship in that the loss of his friendship would devastate me if it failed. Not to mention that I’d have to face our mutual friends with yet another failed relationship, forcing both of us to face our shortcomings in a new light.

The risk was well worth the reward.

Some relationships are not meant to be forever. And this was one of them. And that’s okay. I left with more than I went in with, I’d like to think we both did. I like to think that this particular love worked out the way it did because we were meant to date for a short time to learn from each other and support each other. So that I could show him love in a way that no one else had, and to show him that he is worthy, and that any of his self-deprecating thoughts that we all battle, are lies. And in exchange he was meant to date me to support me through a very difficult transition of being unwell, trying new treatments that made me sicker than ever, and to remind me that I’m not alone. When it came to its natural ending point I don’t think anything could have gone better. We left better friends than we started as, we continue to teach each other to love and be loved, continue to support each other, and most importantly we never wavered in our respect for each other. This is the type of love that although may not be romantic love, will never die.

What if you could leave every relationship you have with more than you went in with? I left this relationship with a full heart of love and a soul full of gratitude, and most importantly, an incredible friend.

Next time you love, consider treating the person the way you would a campsite – leave it in better shape than you found it. And remember, you can never love too much or too kindly – especially if that love is towards yourself.

Grateful

Less than a year ago by this time in the morning (8:45 am) I would have already completed my meditation, personal development reading, affirmations, to-do list, workout, breakfast, and be sitting at my desk helping all my incredible fitness challengers and coaches prepare for their days.

Today, instead, I am grateful that it’s a nice morning and that I’m able to get myself outside to sit for the 10 minute period after my meds that I’m not allowed to lay down. I’m grateful that I have other coaches helping me run my groups so that I can keep working. As I try to balance out what pills I can and can’t eat with and can and can’t take together I’m grateful that this week I only have 9 to juggle instead of last week’s 15. I’m focusing on how good a day Sunday was and how productive I was able to be instead of on how much I paid for it yesterday and this morning.

I’m focusing on being grateful because I know that no matter how many mornings I wake up in pain or feel like I can’t keep fighting there are so many other people who have it so much worse than I do and I have an incredible life that I worked really hard to create that I have to keep fighting for.