I never thought I’d be writing like this. Writing about something so personal and putting it out there for the whole world to see. Never, ever did I imagine I would be writing again. Not to mention that I’d have the courage to actually share experiences and thoughts, like little pieces of my soul. Yet here I am.
Before I started jotting snippets about my Lyme journey, the last time I’d written something of essay-nature was most likely ten years ago in college. My old high school English teachers would probably be undeniably proud to see the award I received on graduation day for highest-ranking in English all four years not go in vain. I kid (laugh with me). Sorry, sarcasm runs deep here. But sarcasm aside, if this doesn’t constitute as important, what does? I truthfully don’t like to think about Lyme, share about it, or even talk about it. I usually try to keep it as far out of my mind as possible, because after all, who wants this to consume their life (as it does so well)? And that’s the truth of it. But it’s not that easy. If we don’t tell our stories, how will others know? If we don’t stand up and use our voice, even in a whisper, how will we yield change in our own lives and beyond? If we keep completely quiet, how will we help others suffering? How will we inspire hope? How will we save a life…including our own.
I hope you’re not thinking, “Oh, don’t be dramatic.” Because I’ll tell you something. Lyme disease affects a person’s quality of life so devastatingly that the #1 reported reason for Lyme related death is suicide. A sad, grim reality. Those with chronic lyme, and the host of other problems that accompany it, suffer beyond belief. Suffer in isolation, in silence, and in a room full of people. So when I say “save a life,” it’s no exaggeration. But, it doesn’t only help save other lives, it helps our own. Shut it in, and we are the ones who writhe under a more ominous black cloud.
It doesn’t necessarily mean writing blog posts, going to rallies, or public speaking. It could be extending our knowledge to a local who isn’t feeling well and can’t find answers, or maybe telling our truth when a relative asks how we’re doing instead of just saying “I’m fine,” regardless of their reaction. Maybe it’s simply talking to a loved one. All outlets carry significance.
Our stories of fighting, vulnerability, rawness, success, downfalls, hardships, and upswings all help the next person to not give up--even if that’s just in the trials of everyday life. To expand insight, to see hope, to feel connected. When I first jumped into the Lyme realm, I read article after article and story after story. I would print out stories that really coincided with how I was feeling and read them over and over so I felt less alone. I needed validation and to feel heard. I am grateful because that is what helped me keep going. And, helped me learn.
I’ll be honest. I’ve fallen into some serious and deep depression throughout this long duration of illness. I would also safely say, that I don’t think I know one person with Lyme that hasn’t struggled with some sort of depression. As I’ve said to those in my life without Lyme--it comes with the territory. There’s a mile long list that could account for where it stems from. The fact is--it happens with these illnesses. It tries to sink its teeth into you and doesn’t let go no matter how much you wriggle for freedom. Does it come from the illnesses themselves infecting every last ounce of you, including your brain? Does it come from the glares, sighs, and judgments for missing events, forgetting things, or for not keeping up on chores & errands? Does it come from the anger and admonishment for not being able to work or keep up with society? What about the abandonment and complete disregard our medical system has had you endure? Does is come from the people who refuse to care or understand, casting you as a burden? Do we feel guilt, stigmatized, degradation, and self-disgust just for being sick?
There is a current of not-being-good-enough that seems to flow through you at an ever occurring rate. Look up the word “worthless” in any thesaurus, and you can be sure most of the words listed would have many people with chronic Lyme raising their hands in unison, signaling a resounding “yes, I feel that way.” Not feeling like you’re enough, like you severely lack worthiness, or are even unlovable. That maybe we should be doing something different, acting another way, or trying harder. Shame or not, bravery or stupidity, I would be one of the people in the group raising their hand. I can honestly say I grapple with this. Your self-confidence and self-esteem take an incredibly monstrous blow--I’d say to the point where it actually can’t be put into words. You struggle and cry and claw to regain some feeling of positivity surrounding yourself and your self-consciousness. But even though I may feel like it, I know I’m not alone.
And this is the thing. You are enough. Even when this life is screaming that you’re not. Not tomorrow, not six months from now. Right now. Not once you get a steady job, or when you’re able to run or hike for miles. Not once you require less help from others, when you can please people more, or when you are finally able to cut down the quantity of medicines you swallow every day. Not once you can push your body a little harder, or when you can check off the boxes of society’s standards.
No, not then.
Not “if you can get back to the way you used to be.” No. Not then.
Right now. You are enough right now.
Photo Credit: Meg Walling
Meg Walling is a passionate, strong-willed, country-at-heart, conscientious nature lover from rural Upstate NY. She was diagnosed with Lyme and co-infections in early 2014 after going undiagnosed and misdiagnosed for a large portion of her life. Chronic illness is life changing on so many levels, but Meg is living by trying to turn these circumstances into a positive one.
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