Loving your body through illness

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

Man up and spread some love

Today’s society seems to have some sort of ideation that they cannot show love to another person before it is shown to them first. And furthermore that they don’t want to show more love to a person than they are receiving from said person. No one can communicate without ego or fear anymore and I think it’s absolutely pathetic.

I try to always ask myself, “if this person were to die before I spoke to them next, what would I want them to know?” And this helps me say the things that I feel need to be said. No one can read your mind, no one knows if or how much you care about them unless you share that with them somehow. This does not have to be in words of course but it does have to be in a form that the other person understands. My main understanding is through words and that’s why I use that example.

My very good lyme friend suffered a massive unexpected heart attack last week and if her husband hadn’t been there to do CPR she would not have survived. In an instant she would have been gone and would she have known how much I love and appreciate her?

My mom was in a car accident last weekend. Everyone was ok, but it could have been much worse. Would she have known how grateful I am for her or how lost I know I’d be without her?

Lyme can unexpectedly stop your heart in an instant, lyme carditis, and although I don’t expect that that will happen to me I suppose no one expects it until it happens… have you told me everything you want me to know?

Our society is so scared of vulnerability that saying a simple thing like I love you and I am grateful to have you in my life is paralyzing for some people. I have distanced from some friendships because they simply cannot say these things and I don’t understand how someone could let their fear and cowardliness get in the way of what could be a wonderful, loving, supportive friendship or relationship.

What is so scary about spreading love and making sure your loved ones know that they are loved and appreciated?

If someone in your life was in an unexpected accident and died tonight, what would you wish you had told them?

An Open Letter to my Support Group

It’s a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, probably one of our few left for the year. I should be out with whatever friends I have left, enjoying this beautiful day and instead I’m laying in a detox bath attempting to ease my aching body. Although I do try to keep my blog very authentic and truthful and real, exposing the behind-the-scenes of Late-Stage Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease and chronic illness in general, I typically don’t share when I’m feeling this vulnerable. Even my closest friends won’t usually know when I’m suffering this badly, only maybe my mom and my support group or good Lyme-friends who are all living it too. Today however, as I was writing to my support group I thought, this is something people need to understand. So here it is, in all it’s unedited vulnerability, my open letter to my support group…

 

Feeling the lowest I have in quite a while today. I’ve been treating for over a year, sick for almost 3 years but only really unwell for 2. Which I know is quite a bit shorter time than many of you.. today I’ve basically been in bed since Wednesday afternoon besides doctors appts and picking up prescriptions. I’ve had to take the most time off work in the last week and a half than I ever have before. I only had to move 5 clients but to me that feels like the end of the world. Thankfully most of my clients are so wonderful and understanding and kind, I’m so grateful for that.

Usually when I write I get fired up and excited, but today while writing I just feel sad and numb. I’m only 26 and I couldn’t go hiking once this year. Last night I really wanted to go for a walk and see a few friends at a little event and I required a cane to do it, it was less than a 10 minute walk away. I’ve never let any of these people see me with a cane as I’ve always kept my invisible illness invisible for them. But I really wanted to be able to say that I went and showed my face, so I did.

When I got there I could hear the whispers which I would not have thought were about me if it weren’t for all of the looks that accompanied them. They’re all lovely people so I can only assume that they were whispers of curiosity and concern rather than judgement but I’m not sure that that makes it any more comfortable – at least if they were mean I could be angry and tell them off, lol, but instead it just feels uncomfortable and sad. People who used to look at me with such respect and equality, now don’t even know how to approach me and I don’t know how to approach them.

As I was standing watching this, the happy-go-lucky, friendly guy beside me asks me, “what’s new and exciting?!”
I thought to myself, “I can’t possibly respond with the only new thing in my life is that im about to start a new treatment that absolutely terrifies me, so what the heck am I going to say?!” So I just brush it off and say, “oh nothing,” looking away continuing to watch the ladies whisper. He pushes further, “come on! There must be something new and exciting!” I don’t know why I didn’t think to just change the topic at this time but my brain wasn’t exactly on 100% and I responded with the only thing that was on my mind, “I start IV treatment in 2 weeks,” well what did I think an average, healthy guy would have to say to that? But in all honesty I still wasn’t expecting his response, something along the lines of, “come on you’ve just got to be positive!” And some other words that I zoned out, basically along the lines of I wasn’t acting positive and happy enough for him and suggested that next time I see him I respond with something like “I’ve been skydiving and mountain climbing!”.
“I’m sorry I usually am positive, just give me a break today.” I said defeatedly. And that’s when I realized just how exhausted I was. I go to work 4 days a week with a smile on my face even when every joint in my body is firing with pain. I run to the bathroom in between clients to vomit and then I wash my face, grab some gum and water and continue cutting hair until my shift is over. But last night I couldn’t even look excited for one conversation. I may complain to my mom or a close friend or a Lyme-friend or turn to my blog but overall I do my best to stay positive and, I think anyways, that in the grand scheme of things I do an okay job of it.

Today I’m so tired, and in so much pain, nauseous, sick of spending my days laying on the couch, lonely, bored, and so irritated that someone would talk to me that way and question my attitude. I’m also possibly herxing because those always seem to make me suddenly depressed out of nowhere. As I poured my detox bath and started typing this I just sat on the edge of the tub and sobbed. Only for a moment, but in that moment I felt completely broken and helpless.

P.s. last night I also thought, “omg there actually are people out there stupid enough to say these things. This is literally what people write about that I always think there is no one dumb enough to say things like that to someone.”
But the truth is, he didn’t mean any harm at all and I’m sure if he knew it upset me he wouldn’t like that, but people just don’t know what to say to me anymore.

Life-threatening disgrace of a hospital

I feel bad for the woman at Shoppers Drug Mart this week who’s job it was to ask me (and every other customer) if they’d like to donate to the hospital. My filter-less mouth immediately responded, “absolutely not!” with disgust, without processing what I was saying or who I was saying it to. Of course as soon as my brain caught up to my mouth I apologized for my reaction and explained that I have been involved in fundraising for the hospital in the past but that unfortunately the way that they’ve treated me there is absolutely disgusting and I can’t possibly donate to them at this time, but that of course that isn’t her fault and that I understand she had to ask me that for her job and that I was so sorry for my reaction. To which she was very kind and apologetic and said “as long as you’re healthy that’s all that matters!” to which I just smiled, said thank you, and walked away.

Before my mom left this week to play in the BC Senior Games, she came over to help me dose out my week of medications like she or someone else does with me each week. As she was leaving I started to cry and said “what if something happens this week and I need you,”. It’s not very often that I feel in advance that something is going to happen but this week I did and it turns out that I was right, but that story’s for another day. Her response to me, along with words of comfort, was something along the lines of, “you know if something happens you cannot go to the hospital unless you’re absolutely desperate, and even then, you can’t go to the hospital,”.

Can you imagine being very ill, and it being more dangerous for you to go to the hospital than to stay home in an emergency?

Can you imagine being part of an association for over 8 years that fund raises tens of thousands of dollars each year for our hospital, and then going in there in an emergency and being treated so poorly that it doesn’t feel safe for you to ever return? Last year I arrived at the ER after collapsing at work and losing my ability to speak, only for them to stop all testing and treatment the moment Lyme disease was mentioned. I then received a lecture from the doctor who had not even seen me yet, on how Lyme disease doesn’t exist in BC and then he sent me home to wait for a psych evaluation.

A hospital may be important for our town, especially with all of the seniors here, and they may even save lives – in fact they saved a very good friend of mine’s life which I am extremely grateful for. When it comes to Lyme disease however, for the many people living in our town who have it, myself included, they are an absolute disgusting disgrace of a hospital. Never in my life have I been treated less like a human being than I have been there, and I’ve heard countless similar stories. I’ve even heard countless stories of them ignoring the classic bullseye rash that is 100% difinitive for Lyme disease and the only difinitive early marker for initial diagnosis, treatment and curing this disease. They have sent countless people home, laughing at them for coming in with a bug bite, setting them up for a lifetime of illness that could have been cured if they were properly educated. Children included. One family was told that they “don’t treat children under 6,”.

I am far from saying that we don’t need a hospital in Ladner. I am however, saying that they need to be properly educated on Lyme disease and bedside manner, and they need to stop treating us like we are trash to be thrown away for a lifetime of suffering. I actually want to vomit just thinking about it.

My day; exhausted.

How can a day like today make me this exhausted? Under normal circumstances, the amount that I did today was nothing.

I woke up to the dog crying to be fed, but my lovely cousin who is visiting got up and fed her and let her out for me so that I could stay in bed a little longer (after also getting up with my dog in the middle of the night for me when she was strangely crying to go out around 2 am). Her and her fiance then went to pick up breakfast while I continued to rest. Sometime mid-morning I actually got up and ate with them, taking my time and eventually did my detox sauna. It sounds so nice to be able to start my day with a hot, infrared sauna; trust me, if ever in your life you have to spend 1-2 hours a day, 7 days a week, detoxing, it won’t feel so nice to you. Don’t get me wrong, I consider it to be a huge luxury to have access to an infrared sauna in my own home, and of course it’s amazing and lovely for your body, but detoxing from an illness is not always a pleasant experience. At times it can be similar to detoxing off of drugs – the sweats, the shakes, the weakness, and tons of other possible symptoms. The point of the daily sauna or detox bath is to assist our bodies in the detoxification of the dead bacteria which have turned to toxins and are floating around our bodies. If I don’t detox enough my symptoms will be higher, if I detox too much my symptoms will be higher. It’s a fine balance and takes a lot of time and energy each day. I remember when I struggled to find 30 minutes in my day to exercise and now I have to find 1-2 hours a day to detox.

After my sauna I took a few minutes to gain my strength before showering, choosing which clothes would not cause pain against my skin, and scrunching my hair to avoid expending the energy that it would require to blow-dry it, a process that would only take about 10 minutes. I skip the makeup, as usual nowadays, take out the garbage and I’m ready to go. It is now about 12:30 and all I’ve really done is eat, sauna and shower.

Thankfully two of my favorite family members were in town staying with me until today and they were able to take me to my last minute doctor’s appointment in Steveston, since my mom who usually takes me is out of town playing slow-pitch in the BC Senior Games. We arrived in Steveston 20 minutes early so we decided to walk around a bit, well it took me almost that long to walk just a block. In my doctor’s appointment he explained to me that because I’m not showing improvement on our recent oral antibiotic protocol, and am getting quite sick even on my time off of the antibiotics, he wants me to do 5 vitamin IV’s between now and just over two weeks from now to boost my system and then is switching me to IV antibiotics. When this happens the IV’s could take up to an hour for me to run, plus travel time from my house to Steveston and back, which means I could be looking at up to 4 hours a day taken up by healing-related necessities.

After my 15 minute doctor’s appointment we went to a sushi restaurant around the corner where I barely touched my food (lack of appetite), and by 3pm we were back on the road to Tsawwassen Mills to pick up my prescriptions, since I find their Shopper’s Pharmacy there to be the best service with access to compound medications. I also picked up epsom salts and hydrogen peroxide for my detox baths since a bag/bottle only usually lasts me a week or less. By 5pm I was home, seeing my family member’s off on the next part of their holiday, and by 5:30 I was laying in bed, heating pack migrating across all the painful spots throughout my body, cancelling the dinner plans that I’d been looking forward to for a week.

Before I got sick a day like today would have been considered extremely slow and relaxing and boring. Yet this evening, I feel like I climbed a mountain.

2.5 hours free from “The girl with Lyme”

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.

Happily single or miserably dating?

Gone are the days of flowers and pick-ups and a guy planning and paying for a date. In are the days of dick-pics, splitting the cheque with a guy with no job because he’s “finding himself” or because he “gets bored easily”, and date-rape drugs. Yay for 2017, we’ve come so far and yet have lost so much.

I have such a love-hate relationship with dating. On the one hand, I love meeting new people, I love learning about other people’s lives and other cultures, I love learning about other families, the way they do things and the way their brains work. On the other hand, I seriously hate all of the “rules”. Perhaps hate is a strong word… but really, who has the time or energy for all of that bullsh*t?! Playing by the “rules” means we’re playing games, and I don’t have the patience for that shit.

It recently occurred to me that I’ve been happily single for a while now, so happily single that I have not made any effort to meet anyone. At all. Which is fine except that I’ll turn 27 this winter which means that if I want to be married and having children by approximately the age of 34, it wouldn’t hurt me to widen my opportunities to meet someone outside of the familiar people within my small town. And how does one do this in 2017? Through swiping left or right on their cell phone, obviously! (How the heck did we get to a place where dating has literally become swiping left or right on someones face if you find them attractive or not?!)

So basically, this is ridiculous. How I’m supposed to know within a few heavily filtered pictures and a bio of 300 characters or less, if this person is a) not a serial killer, b) not going to drug my drink and c) someone I’d actually like to talk to and, ideally meet, is not within my knowledge. Not to mention that you can’t smell a person through a phone, isn’t a good percentage of attraction scent? What if he smells like rotting eggs? Or ladies perfume? Not only are we heading into the dating realm without any physical sense of the other person’s energy, but without a nose as well.

One full week in I am making the most of it, I even met one guy in person. I don’t believe that he is a serial killer and he did not drug my drink. That being said, I don’t plan to see him again either. I learned about his several moves, his travels, his job, why he doesn’t like his job, why he hasn’t yet left his job, his alcoholic brother, his lazy sister, his lazy mother, his dad, his parents separation, his step dad, his step-parents separation, his time so far in BC, his trade tickets, what courses he’s taking and more. What did he learn about me? That I am a hairstylist and barber who rents a chair. It didn’t fully occur to me until after the date was over that he maybe asked me one question the entire 3 hours that we were together. At one point in conversation I even said, “Well you haven’t asked me anything yet,” and he replied, “Oh, I guess you just told me everything,”.

Why am I confident about sharing all of this in my blog so publicly? Because he doesn’t know it exists. Why doesn’t he know it exists? Because he literally knows nothing about me.

I am an open book, ask me just about anything and I will answer honestly. What I can’t play into is all of the so called dating rules. I say things that I’m not supposed to say, do things that I’m not supposed to do, and basically the rule book is up in flames. For example, when my phone rings halfway through the date and I wouldn’t normally answer it, but I have to because it’s my girlfriend calling to offer me an out and if I don’t pick up she’ll assume he’s kidnapped me, why can’t I tell him after saying, “I’m fine,” and hanging up, that it was my escape call? Doesn’t everybody do this? And even if they don’t, wouldn’t he be happy that I didn’t take the out? Or online before agreeing to meet, why can’t I send him a list of questions that helps me determine whether or not he’s worth meeting in person? Mine goes a little something like this:

“Do you smoke?
Is the glass half full or half empty?
Is country music a blessing or a deal breaker?
can you cross the border into the U.S.?
How much alcohol do you drink on average?
Do you like to party?
Do you have any children?
Are you currently married?
Assuming one day in the future you meet the right person would you like to one day be married?
Do you want children?
What is your goal on online dating?
Is this form of questioning too much for you? [insert mood-lightening emoji]”

I’m not stupid, but I’m also not desperate or looking for a cheap hookup. I realize that these questions will scare some people off, but the way I see it is that will weed out the ones who aren’t worth me taking the time and energy to meet in person. I mean really, if you can’t answer some pretty basic questions about yourself and where you would like your life to go, then should you be dating at all? Certainly you should not be dating someone like me!

My date last week was a good sport about these questions, which is why I decided to meet him, and when we did he told me that if he ever asked a girl a series of questions like that she’d stop talking to him. Are we so uncomfortable with who we are or what we want in life that these questions should be scary? There are a lot worse and scarier things being sent through online dating before meeting a guy! There are thousands of people online dating, so what if I don’t want to meet you if you smoke? Someone else is still going to want to meet you. So what if someone doesn’t want to meet me because they’re uncomfortable asking those questions? There are a thousand others to choose from. This is both the blessing and the curse of online dating. Your options are endless.

Would I ask this series of questions to someone who asked me on a date in person? No, of course not. When you get asked on a date in person you can sense the other person’s energy. You have a gut reaction based on this energy that tells you whether to say yes or no. Online all you have are potentially fake photos and conversation in which the person may or may not lie. No facial cues, no body language, no tone of voice, no eye contact. I would think that in an age where the dating options were endless, people would be true to themselves more than ever, knowing that if one person didn’t like them, another would. However, all it seems to have done is increase our chances of rejection and hide us behind a computer screen so that we can portray ourselves however we think the other person will want us to. In a time where we are more free to be our true selves than ever in the past, why are we all still hiding and playing these games?

Am I the weird one or is everybody else? Does everybody who successfully online dates play into the social standards and so-called norms? To meet someone do I have to pretend to be someone I’m not, scrap my list of questions, let the guy send me an un-requested dick-pic and smoke in the car after not picking me up? Personally, I’d rather stay single.

 

Send me your online dating horror stories to share! Do you follow the rules or play by your own?

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.

Still Broken

•Sometimes I forget that I’m still broken.•

Or should I say remember; because really it’s more often I think that I’m whole than not. Or maybe what it really is, is that I forget that it’s OK to be broken.

I’ve over come so much for so young, I wonder if sometimes I believe that I shouldn’t ever struggle anymore because I am so much happier than I used to be. Did I believe that once I became a genuinely happy person I would never struggle again? That none of my past trauma would ever rear it’s ugly head or that no new trauma or heart break would ever occur? Or that when it did I’d suddenly be invincible to life’s challenges?

I don’t know if it’s the smoke in the air right now, or a neurological Lyme herxheimer reaction, hormones, the inability to exercise, or mourning the loss of a really good friend who is still with us, however, is just not the person I needed him to be. I thought that maybe if I could get from him what I could never get from my dad, then maybe I’d be good enough (typical right?!). Whatever it is that’s causing it, I am learning that I am not immune to sadness.

I believe my heart has been broken so many times that it will forever stay open – and I love that! Without heartbreak there is no love, and that’s all that should ever be – love.

For as long as I can remember I’ve longed for a family that fit into my box. My version of what I view a family should be – a group of people, blood or otherwise, who love each other, check in on eachother, hang out together, eat meals together, enjoy eachothers company and genuinely look out for one another. I have longed for this and searched every corner of my life to find it, and maybe I still will someday. Maybe I already have it and don’t even know it. Maybe I have more to let go of in order to create space for it. I’ve held on so tightly to so many nouns that just anchored me. I have pulled around the weight of years of grief for so long now, but link by link that anchor is being left behind; soon I will be weightless. Soon, I will fly.

As you walk through your life, may you all take each step forward with love and an open heart.

“You Look Like a Lyme Patient”

Tonight was a really big step for me. Usually on the really bad days when my legs feel like jello and aren’t stable enough for me to rely on, I stay home alone and hide. Thankfully most days I’m able to rely on them enough to get by, but this treatment is kicking my ass and I have to accept that it’s going to be like this sometimes. I finally asked myself, am I going to stay home and hide myself every time I feel this weak? Or am I going to do all that I can to still get out and enjoy some of what life and this summer has to offer?

I haven’t been able to play on my ball team at all this year but I still love to go out and watch, visit with my friends and enjoy the fresh air. I am embarrassed to say that I was absolutely mortified to go out in public with a cane. The walk from the car to the ball diamond felt like the longest walk of my life. I almost fell over my own feet even with the cane to keep me stable. I swallowed back tears and pride the entire time because I was determined to get over this self-worth issue and enjoy as much as I can of my life in treatment.

For the most part everyone was kind, people didn’t comment and mostly treated me normal which was greatly appreciated because I’m sure I would have burst into tears if they had. I kept telling myself that it’s just one night, I don’t have to use it all the time, and that I should be proud of myself for getting out when I could have easily said I wasn’t well and stayed home.

While I was sitting watching the game, as well as sitting socializing afterwards, I felt normal. Although having an invisible illness can have its downfalls, one of the benefits of it being invisible is just that – people don’t usually see it. Having to use the cane, in my mind, made it suddenly visible which made me extremely uncomfortable.

I bought this headband last weekend and I love it. I love the colour, I like how my waves stick out the sides and back of it, and mostly I like that it wicks the intense sweat that I get on the back of my neck from the infection. So as I’m sitting there socializing, someone very close to me says to me, infront of a handful of other people, “you should take that thing off your head you LOOK like a Lyme patient.” ….

My feelings in that moment were such a mixture of confusion, hurt, shame, sadness, embarrassment, anger, I don’t even know what else. The one thing that I can somewhat appreciate about having chronic lyme disease is that in my case it is usually invisible. The majority of the time I can get away with looking like everybody else.

I was so worried about what I looked like as a 26 year old with a cane, and I end up getting called out for wearing a headband that “makes me look like a Lyme patient,”. For once I may truly be lost for words…