I remember when I first had it suggested to me that I was depressed. It wasn’t just that I wouldn’t believe it, but I couldn’t believe it. I knew that depression wouldn’t just jump at me when I was doing some of the best things at the time in my life when I was loving life. I was serving a Mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It was fun hard work. I loved it, but why was I feeling not just sad? It was like I emotionally could not be happy. It wouldn’t happen. So when it was suggested to me that I see a doctor and get professional help I just could not believe it.
Then when I eventually had to break down and go to a doctor and get put on some anti depressants I was embarrassed, frustrated, confused, but most of all I couldn’t accept it. I kept saying “this is not me.”
Then when I came home early from my mission I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease which mimics other illnesses, the Lyme in my brain was mimicking Bipolar Disorder and Manic Depression. So at that point it was easier to accept that there was a cause to the disfunction inside my brain. I just didn't realize how much worse things were going to get.
From the Herxhimer reactions, to the brain fog, to the nausea to less and less sleep at night, plus the constant dark cloud of depression and anxiety hanging over me, I found myself wishing it was just Bipolar disorder again. In my brain I thought that if I accepted what was going on all around me it would make things worse. If I said "ok I have Lyme." It was like me saying "Ok, I am Lyme." and there is a big difference that I didn't know about.
If someone decides they are going to be a brain surgeon and they are going to start school, they can't say, "hey I'm a brain surgeon." They can say that they are going to become one, or that they want to be one. But that doesn't mean they are yet.
Maybe that is a bad example... If you are going to go cliff jumping, and haven't ever been, you can't say "I have cliff jumped before." It's a lie, you haven't experienced the thrill, or butterflies in your stomach as you jump off the cliff. You haven't felt the wind rushing past you as you fall down to the water with a splash. And right before you jump, there is a moment, where you have to accept that you are going to jump. you are going to allow your feet to either step off the cliff and fall, or to run and leap off. It is your choice, but I know for me, the first time I jumped, I took about 5 minutes to allow myself to accept that I was going to jump. It is scary, and your brain is probably screaming at you not to. I know I had a list going of everything that could go wrong with that first leap. But when you finally just go, it is a thrill, and your brain doesn't hold you back anymore...
It took time, but the moment I was able to say, to myself, "ok, I have Lyme. It doesn't mean Lyme is me, but I do have it." In that moment when I said it and accepted it, I could then start healing the healing that needed to take place that wasn't exactly physical. With any chronic illness that last for long periods of time, you have to heal physically, but you also have to heal mentally, and emotionally. Something happens to a person when they have been sick for a long period of time. The inability to function as a normal person should be able to, can do mental, and emotional things to said person. As the chronic illness takes over the body physically, the time starts to take over the mental and emotional well being of a person.
So, how do you accept it? How did I accept it? I am not a professional at acceptance, but there are a few things I have learned about accepting hard things.
When you have a chronic illness you start to have a lot more "you time" then is probably healthy. You can A) binge watch netflix B) depressingly stalk all your friends on Instagram and see how awesome their lives are as you fall farther and farther behind where you want to be. OR, you can practice healing techniques of the mind. There are so many studies done on how healing the mind, can help heal the body. Take time for yourself, (netflix doesn't count) go for a walk outside, if your too sick to do that sit somewhere quiet and focus on your breathing. I don't want to sound like a hippie or some crazy mainstream hipster. I just know that mediation can help with healing, but mostly acceptance.
2) Trust a medical professional
This one is probably really hard for anyone with Lyme, and many other chronic illnesses. You see, trust in a doctor, or doctors (plural) is hard when you go from doctor to doctor telling you "it's all in your head." Or where you go to one physician and they tell you something totally different from the second opinion you just sought out. Trust is so hard. But I know when I had no idea what was going on, and why I was having crazy mood swings, and after I had come home early, I was stuck. I was in pain, and I went to my chiropractor. He had helped me through many out of place ribs and bruised tailbones during my high school basketball career. And so I went for an adjustment, just to try and relieve some of the pain. He told me there was something more to my depression. He knew me very well. He said he didn't know what was wrong, but he wanted to help relive me of pain until some doctor that I was seeing at the time could figure out what was going on. The fact that I had someone outside of my family believing me, and in the medical field was such a relief!
Now, I realize that some people probably think they will never trust a doctor ever again. Some people might not even know what is wrong with them, they just know whatever they have is chronic and no doctor will believe them. So have at least one person in your life that trusts you, that believes you are really suffering, and don't lose that. My sister knew it wasn't really me. While my parents supported me all through this of course as loving parent do, I knew my sister knew that something else was going on. When I told her I couldn't do something, she believed me, and left me alone. My parents would still try to get me to go places with them, when I knew I couldn't get up off the floor, this was their way of supporting me, I know that. But it was probably the least helpful thing at the time. My sister realized when to give me space, and she gave it perfectly. And I'm so grateful for that.
3) Find Hope
Once you have found trust from a doctor, and trust that what is going on in life will have some common relief, you can now search for hope, for more meaning. I have so many reasons to hope. I hope that my trust in my doctor is the right choice for me. I hope I can get through a day doing more than just functioning. I hope my Savior is there carrying me when I feel like that dark cloud of depression is looming so close to me that I can't breath. I hope that the medication I've been prescribed is not withheld from me by my insurance.
There are always things to hope for, but unless you have trust, or faith behind that hope, the hope is more like a wish. I came home knowing that I just wanted to help people. That is what I did on my mission, and I loved it, and that is still, to this day, what I want to do. But when you can't get out of bed, how do you help people? My new hope was to figure out a way to help people while I was in my state. And that is what I did. I started this blog, to try and help others who were suffering through the same thing. This is my hope, that I can help spread awareness about my condition in hopes that it will help someone. Whether it's someone suffering with Lyme, or someone who has come home from their mission, or if someone just really struggles with depression. I don't know! I just know that finding a way to still help people kept that hope alive in me. And when I have that hope I have a renewed purpose.
All in all, acceptance of any chronic illness, not just Lyme can take a very long time. It did for me. and these are just a few ways that I have come to acceptance of where I am at in life. There are many other things that can help us accept where we are. Reaching out and finding others that are feeling the same things we are is also a way for us to gain acceptance of where we are at. Reaching out to others as played a huge part in my acceptance of not only lyme, but also coming home early from my mission. Acceptance is gradual, but it is crucial in the gateway to healing.
-The Lyme Warrior