Friday, April 29, 2016

2 Mantras for Lyme Disease

I have been dealing with my Lyme Disease for over 2 years now. Sometimes I feel like I have the upper hand on it, and then other times I don't. Having a chronic illness makes me feel super alone frequently, there are many things that are inconsistent with Lyme Disease... there is the lack of sleep, (this one is very debilitating), there is lack of a social life sometimes, because my health has to take precedence over what I have planned on Friday night. My symptoms are always inconsistent. And finally, because of all these things, I find that my confidence is inconsistent.

As much as things are inconsistent with my Chronic Illness there are also things that are as consistent as my confidence and self-esteem is inconsistent. Lyme, is always, always consistent, and as inconsistent as my symptoms are, they are still a consistency. They vary in how they show up in my life, but I can be sure they are always there. Doctor visits and prescription refills are also a consistency that I have in my fight for health.

So with all of these consistencies and inconsistencies in my life I have found a few ways that I am still able to be excited about life. So that the negativity of everything with my illness doesn't get in the way and bring me super far down.

There are 2 mantras that I have incorporated into my life to help when I'm feeling overwhelmed with all the inconsistencies, or consistences that bombard my life:

1) Broken Crayons Still Color

When I am feeling over run by all the prescriptions I need to refill, and by the lack of sleep and everything, I can start to feel my life is being controlled by outside forces. That Lyme is controlling me and that I have nothing to offer in life. Because my life is Lyme.

First, that is a lie. And second, if I believe this, then Lyme has won for that day. So I focus on this mantra, and it takes my mind off of myself. I get rid of the pity party for one that I was throwing for myself and I relax enough and take a breather.

What I love, love, LOVE about this concept is it can be explored in so many deep ways. A crayon is only perfect once... And then it is used. So if we look at everyone as a crayon, everyone is a broken crayon in some form or way. The sad reality is that people don't see that. They see everyone as perfect , brand new colors all the time. They see everyone as one of the brand new crayons on the first day of school, never been used; a perfect cayon. And they see themselves as a stub, with no paper, not even worth the time to be used to color something. That is how people think, and I am just as guilty as everyone else.

I have spent the last 3 months bringing myself down, tearing down every single little piece of me. Putting myself down again, and again, and again. It was a disgusting, pitiful trap I put myself in. And no matter how many times people told me to stop comparing, I just didn't feel useful, I felt like a waste of space, it was as if I was addicted to comparing myself, it was a habit I had formed.

The good thing is, when I think of this mantra.... It makes me think that if everyone is broken, and we just can't see it, then everyone is still coloring. And if everyone is still coloring, than I can too. I can keep going. I can beat this disease. And I can beat it and make a difference while dealing with this stupid illness. This mantra gives me hope. Hope that I can still make a difference even though I'm sick and feeling like I just can't take another minute of this dreaded illness. It gives me hope that I can help someone. And sometimes that is the only thing that keeps this broken girl going.

2) I love tough things, I'm the first to do tough things, I do tough things first,

This mantra was introduced to me at a time when I was so naive to the things of the world. I had just turned 19 and thought I knew it all. I was a brand new missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint. I believed that I was going to go out into the world and do hard things and accomplish everything. Losing was not an option in my mind. I was going to win everyday and conquer everything that came in my path. Then the president of my mission introduced this mantra to me, and I said it every morning and every night before bed. I felt like this mantra explained everything I felt. that I would win because I did "tough things first."

As time went on I learned just how "tough" life really was compared to how tough I thought my life had been. I didn't realize how blessed and easy my life had been until that point. And eventually, as my health declined on my mission, this mantra had a new meaning for me. My definition of "tough things" changed.

My idea of a "tough thing" was physical. Lifting heavy things, running faster than your opponent on the basketball court. Powering through the defense to score a lay-up and get the foul. Or, working all day in the hot sun in the garden and getting dirty--grit and physical, hard labor. I quickly learned however, that physical toughness only gets me so far. 6 months into my mission I started having signs of depression. I told myself if I was "the first to do tough things" then I shouldn't feel down all the time. I should suck it up, "forget myself, and go to work (as the saying goes)." The thing I didn't realize is the harder I tried to be "tough" and "suck it up", the deeper into the dark pit of depression I fell. And of course the tougher I felt I had to be. It was like 2 forces yanking me, ripping me apart from the inside out. My naivety and pride working to pull against the depression, which I was quickly finding out was bigger and stronger than my pride.

The only way I could fully understand this mantra was to fail it. I wasn't a finisher. I couldn't do the "tough thing" that I wanted to. I came home 6 months early from my mission. I wasn't tough, and I definitely wasn't a "finisher." My pride was broken, and I was dealing with a "diagnosis" of "bipolar disorder." I had failed. And I hated "tough things."

I used to hate my Lyme. I loathed it. But now, I realize that this is the toughest thing I have ever done. and I can look back and see the person I am now. The empathy I have for others; was non-existing before. I can see the humility in me that wasn't there, also. And most of all I have learned to truly love "tough things." I used to love hard work because I felt like I looked tough and that was something I thought I had going for me. But that was not the case at all... Being tough on the outside is not something the world needs. And my Lyme taught me that the world doesn't need anymore people who are tough. The world needs people who know what it is like to go through tough things, and then come out more gentle than the tough thing they went through. The tough things people go through don't need to make them hard, stoic, and without-feeling like I used to think. The world needs more empathetic people who are willing to try and understand other
s who are also going through tough things.

I have learned to love tough things because they make me better, more empathetic. Not because they make me numb to the things of the world. But because I know that there is always room to grow. And if I'm "the first to do tough things," then I can be the one to grow from it. If I love tough things, then I can get through them faster. It is hard to love something that is so constant like a Chronic illness (fighting this is probably the hardest thing I have ever done), but I now understand that sometimes, it's ok to lose some battles, because that is when I learn the most, and that is what I'm here to do. Learn more, and live each day focusing on whatever matters most. And these mantras help me when things get too hard, when I feel like I can't take it anymore, and when I'm focused more on Lyme than on others, and on things that matter most. When I'm too exhausted to keep going, and ready to completely give in. I can just remind myself that 1) Broken crayons still color, and 2) I love tough things, I'm the first to do tough things, I do tough things first. I AM A FINISHER!

-The Lyme Warrior