You’re talking to the girl who wouldn’t take yoga class because she’d burst out laughing during savasana – the meditative, still, yoga posture that always ends a session – out of the pure discomfort of being still.
Releasing myself from societal norms and 300 characters or less.
We live in a world that is afraid to be seen. We hide behind computer screens and then wonder why we don’t have any real relationships. We don’t want to listen to other people’s problems because they’re too real and we don’t like having to face that kind of reality but then we wonder why we’re all alone in our own. All we want is a date, a relationship, but we’re too afraid of being rejected to ask anyone out on a date. We stay within our comfort zones of 300 characters or less and a few photos and talk about how much “fun” our lives are. No one wants to do the hard stuff so we pretend it doesn’t exist until we can’t pretend anymore. But when we finally stop pretending
This weekend I did very little, because I chose to do little, not because my body forced me to. That’s not to say that I was bursting with extra energy, but I could have pushed myself to do more and I didn’t. I did a huge grocery shop Saturday, organized my meds, and attended a baby shower today. Besides that I vegged out and binge watched Grace and Frankie on Netflix (I’m going to be Frankie when I grow up LOL).
As I was laying in a soul and toxin – cleansing salt bath this evening topped with some beautiful gifted Sage lavender bath salts and Sage analgesic bath salts, meditating to a guided meditation for awakening your guide, I was surprised to be feeling both the highest and best parts of myself as well as the absolute darkest shadows during the “who am I?” question.
I am living my life with consciousness, and it’s teaching me that I can’t understand how the average person is not immensely grateful for what they have.
I don’t understand this and yet I was one of them. Living a fast paced, un-grounded, un-centered life of lack. Sure, I thought I was grateful, and in comparison to the people I surrounded myself with maybe I was, but there was always this sense of lack. An underlying feeling of not having enough. It’s Christmas time so it’s natural to be contemplating gratitude and all that I have but there’s more to it this year. I am going through a process of awakening. I am still so sick and yet I’ve never been happier or more grateful for what I have, with no sense of need for more. I still have goals and ambitions of course, and I would give almost anything to be healthy, but today, for this moment and in every moment, I have all that I truly need.
I no longer feel that sense of longing for the newest technology or a fancier house or car. I am not sad that I am spending the holidays single, or that on this Saturday night I am alone. There has been a shift inside of me.
One day recently I truly did not have it in me to make dinner and as I was eating popcorn and drinking tea on the couch in my pajamas’s I was surprised that I didn’t feel disappointed in myself for being unable to cook or for not having someone else to cook for me. Instead I felt truly grateful that I am a single person with no kids to feed because this allowed me to eat popcorn for dinner without guilt. The reason this feeling surprised me is because I didn’t have to think about it, I naturally felt that way. This is not something that always would have come naturally to me and has definitely taken training.
I don’t have a lot of money, and what I do have has basically been allocated to my treatment and bills, but with the major help of my parents with medical costs, I truly do have enough. I rent a basement suite that I have made home. I have a car that is old and run down but it works. I have a dog that is my soul-puppy. I am single but I have self-respect and happiness. I have so many beautiful people in my life. Do I never want anything more for my life? Of course not! But for today I truly do have more than enough.
I was recently chatting with a friend who, based on his family and who he is as a person I would have assumed wanted kids, so I was shocked when he told me that he didn’t. Not being able to afford to give his kids the life that his parents gave him was his reasoning. Well, I thought that this was completely delusional! First of all, no matter how much money you’re making, you’re going to be raising your kids in a completely different era than you were raised in. Even in the span of ten years the world changes so significantly. I’m 27 and I have not had kids yet and I look at the kids in schools now and can’t believe how different it is than when I was in school. The technological advances alone are enough to change society completely, not to mention ecological and economical changes. I live just outside of Vancouver, B.C., Canada. One of the most expensive places to live in the world. Even if I moved somewhere cheaper I would never be able to give my children the same life that my parents gave me. And they couldn’t give me the same life that their parents gave them, and so on and so forth. Not because of finances, but because the world has changed so much. The person that I was having this conversation with does not have a menial job. I don’t know what he makes but I know he’s on a great path to move up within a good company and that he makes more than I do for sure. Everyone has different needs and comfort zones when it comes to finances and I am not here to judge, but I can only assume that based on where he is now, if he were to have kids in the next 5 years, I think they’d turn out okay. I am far from saying that someone should have children before they’re ready, or that children aren’t expensive or don’t require extra care, the point is that this conversation, and a lot of my conversations with this person were very focused on lack. A lot of people that I talk to all seem to focus on lack. Even when I know that they have more than me, I often only hear about how little they have. The light-bulb that finally went on for me during this one particular conversation was “wow, it’s not that you don’t have enough, it’s that you’re not grateful for what you do have.” I wanted to shake him and say, “you’re 32, you have a roof over your head, you have a $60,000+ vehicle, you have a good job with benefits and room to move up. You get to go on a hunting trip once a year. You have holiday pay, sick pay, and over-time. Your work is paying for you to travel across the world next month. That is a lot more than many 32 year old’s have and if you don’t think that that’s enough right now then it doesn’t matter how much you have in the future it will never be enough!”
I’m home alone on a Saturday night, hair still wet from my shower as I had to sauna as I do most days for my health. Every joint in my body hurts. It’s the Saturday before Christmas and I should be out with my friends but my health simply won’t allow it. I can picture them all, laughing and clanking their drinks as I sit in the empty quiet of my home. Some people would feel lonely. They would feel betrayed by their bodies and angry. Sometimes I feel this way too. But the truth is, it’s Christmas in two days. The weather has been mild but cold, and there is snow on the ground. I’m sitting on my couch writing this under a heated blanket with the fire place on, on a 10 year old laptop that although has broken keys and is painfully slow, clearly works well enough for me to blog. My fridge is full of groceries that I was able to go purchase for myself to make Christmas breakfast for my family. I am drinking a glass of wine from a bottle that I purchased without stress today, my dog is curled up beside me and I am looking at a dozen red roses that were dropped off this morning by a dear friend. How can I not be immensely grateful? There have been countless times that due to my health I was unable to go to the grocery store for myself, unable to get out of bed even. Vomiting from treatment for days on end, still going to work throughout it because I couldn’t afford the time off. There are so many people who right now are curled up with their kids in their car, trying to stay warm and keep from crying so the little ones don’t see. They’re trying to make sleeping in their car in the dead of winter not so scary for their children. The shelters are all full. There are men and women and children of all ages and backgrounds huddling under 2ft overhangs off of buildings, trying to stay dry.
Somewhere, someone is sitting all alone in the dark because they couldn’t afford their power bill. Someone else is grieving the loss of their child; another their wife. Someone’s child is lost and someone is being beaten, a child watching through the slats in the closet doors. Someone has just lost their ability to see, someone else to walk, another to hear. Somewhere, someone has just lost a leg. Somewhere else an arm; somewhere else, their life.
With all of this happening while I sit in a warm house with the lights on, sipping my glass of wine, how can I not be filled with immense gratitude? I hope that no matter how dark my life gets, no matter how sick I am, that I can always see and feel this gratitude for all that I do have.
Recognize yourself in this blog post? Start a gratitude journal. I used to write down every single morning 3-5 things that I was grateful for followed by 1-3 people that I wanted to send energetic love to. What you focus about comes about.
Well I might be sick with nerves in regards to posting this publicly on the internet, but here I am spending my Friday night the way I spend many friday nights, contemplating pretty much everything only to finally have my epiphany right before bed and then staying up way too late blogging. Only this time using my cell phone as my laptop hurts my eyes too much.
Having a potentially life-threatening illness really puts perspective on body-image. When I was fitness coaching I felt so good about my body even when I wasn’t at my ideal weight because I was working so hard and I was gaining so much strength. I put my heart and soul into it because I could feel both physically and mentally that I was taking control of my life. I was seeing myself in a whole new stronger, sexier way and mostly I just couldn’t believe that I had visible arm muscles, haha! I felt the best I’d ever felt in my life and I associated it all with the ability to exercise.
That’s what makes exercise the biggest loss to me since I got sick. In the beginning when we didn’t know what was wrong with me and before the people in my life began to understand how debilitating Lyme can be, some would try to tell me that exercise would make it better. Some friends still try to get me to “just come to the gym” or encourage me to workout and no one expects that teasing me to exercise more or encouraging it because they think it will help me is actually completely gut-wrenching for me because it is one of the abilities that I ache to get back the most. Not so that I can be a size 2 again, but because I want to feel that strong again. I need the emotional release from exercise again.
A year ago I would have written that I also wanted to love my body again. But the truth is I do love my body now even with the extra weight. I have to be grateful that this is the body that is fighting so hard for me right now. This is the body that is doing everything it can to save me. When you’re sick and losing control you tend to begin to hate your body. Not just the differences in appearance but you also begin to hate it for failing you. The trust between you and your body diminishes. But it’s not my body that has caused this, it’s my body’s natural reaction to the bacteria that are attacking it.
If your truck was falling apart from rust, and you were using water as coolant and regular gasoline in a diesel then you wouldn’t blame the truck for breaking down. My healthy eating definitely kept this disease down longer but I was filling it with stress every day and not repairing past trauma and the Lyme was floating around wreaking havoc and eventually my body broke down. And for that I hated it.
My point is, for all that is against it right now, my body is putting up a good fight so how can I hate it?
I recently have had no appetite. I have gone through periods of lack of appetite, nausea, vomitting, and food aversions mixed in with other periods of being absolutely ravenous on and off throughout treatment. This period of lack of appetite has been particularly strong and long-lasting so I thought I should check if I had lost any weight. I’ll be totally honest, part of me was wondering in hopes that maybe I could have lost some of the weight I’ve gained back and another part of me was wondering in fear, knowing the dangers of losing too much weight with Lyme disease. When I stepped on the scale however is when I realized just how much of my weight I’ve gained back. At the start of my fitness journey I was 186 lbs. My fittest was 148 lbs. My “feeling best” was somewhere in the low 150’s. When I stepped on the scale the other day, I was 190 lbs. I might throw up with nerves and embarrassment about posting that publicly to the Internet, but what I’ve come to understand is that my weight at this point in my health situation could have the potential to become a life or death issue. Never before has my body been so reliant on its own self for nutrients.
Some Lyme patients develop complications of the disease that cause the body to stop absorbing nutrients properly. I’ve read more than one story about this where the patient ends up requiring a feeding tube, but one story that has always stood out for me is of a young lady in BC around the same age as me, who’s body, due to complications of Lyme disease, could only properly absorb nutrients from a certain type of feeding tube food that was not covered under medical and she ended up dying. My body so far has not only continued eating for now, if less lately, but has also stored a good amount of fat that would give me so much more time if it ever came to that. I expect that my appetite will come back 10-fold in a couple of days like it usually does, but that’s the thing with this illness, you just never really know what’s around the corner.
Chronic Lyme does have a way of teaching you things that you never thought you needed to know however, and if there was ever a time for me to appreciate my body for holding a little extra weight, this would most definitely be it. It has been and continues to be an interesting and important lesson on body image and I am learning to love my body, with the extra weight, for all that it does for me.
For more information on my past fitness and mental health journey visit my old blog at www.strengthenbodynotexcuses.com
I went on a date this afternoon with a guy who doesn’t know that I’m sick. Mental health came up, that’s no big deal, what I mean is, Lyme never came up once, at no point in our conversations did I feel like I had to talk about Lyme, or being unwell, or how I was feeling. Of course it popped into my head when I was having trouble walking as well as when other symptoms pulled at me, however, besides those, for 2.5 hours I felt like an average person again. There was no talk about doctors and treatments and how fucked up our medical system is. No pain discussions or explaining symptoms or why I’m still not better after a year of treatment. No wondering if someone offered to do something for me out of general kindness or feeling sorry for me. No wishing someone would offer to do something for me because they can see that I’m struggling. No discussing gluten or dairy or sugar tolerance or what diet is best for Lyme patients. No explaining that the reason I’m making and selling jewelery in my spare time is because I’m making any attempt at trying to cover the cost of treatment. No one telling me that long term antibiotics will kill my stomach or my liver or my kidneys. No explaining that the long term antibiotics may hurt me but they also are the most likely treatment to get some form of my life back. No talks of vaccines or why I can no longer get them or why I’m not necessarily 100% pro-vaccine. No sorting through pills or talk of IV’s. No discussion about why I’m not currently fitness coaching or why I’ve gained weight, why I sleep so much or why I can’t workout or why I only work 4 days a week.
No one looking at me with those sad eyes, or politely trying to find a way to ask how I am. No one telling me how sorry they feel for me.
For 2.5 hours I was Denise the hairstylist, the business owner, the mental health advocate, the French bulldog mom. For 2.5 hours I wasn’t Denise, the sick girl.
On Sunday I went to an event at our cabin and I had to use a cane. I could barely walk at all. I was stiff and in pain, embarrassed and exhausted. To all of the people around me who are used to seeing me put my happy face on and swallow back the pain, my invisible illness suddenly became very visible. The way that people look at you in that situation, some with understanding, some with confusion, others with judgement or compassion or simply surprise, is awful. And when they ask me how I am I swallow the giant lump in my throat and change the subject. I do believe that the majority of people mean well, but all of the stares and the pity is an unexplainable level of discomfort that made me want to live in a cave.
I have no idea how I will approach the subject of Lyme with this new guy, I have no idea if I’ll even see him again. For tonight though, I am just so grateful to have had 2.5 hours where I didn’t feel at all like Denise, the girl with Lyme.
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.
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.