Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Lows and Highs of Recovery

I work with kids at a daycare center in the summers. We go on field trips, and do lots of fun things. A week ago I went to a theme park with lots of roller coasters with the kids. I was in a group of kids who had never been, but wanted to ride the rides that go upside down, cork screw, have height limits, and are really big thriller rides. I was in line with a particular 9 year old girl who told me she was scared to go on the first roller coaster of the day, one called, "Colossus," which went upside down twice. I asked her where she felt scared, she said it was in her stomach, that she had butterflies, but she wanted to go, she was excited. She then asked me why, in her head she was excited, but her stomach was making her feel nervous and scared. I didn't have an answer for this girl, but I had a word to describe what she was feeling, I told her the word for her emotion was anxiety, and that I felt it too. She looked up at me, in line, and asked why I was scared, she knew I had been on this ride before.

I didn't quite know how to explain to her that the last time I had been to that theme park I didn't have Lyme disease, I didn't have depression and crippling anxiety. I didn't know how to help her understand that in going on these big rides, was a big step in my personal healing process. If I was too sick to ride these, my own personal view of my healing and goal towards remission, would be set back farther than I anticipated. I didn't have the words to explain, or to help her understand. I just told her that sometimes my head and gut try to tease me and make me think I'm afraid, even though I'm actually excited for something new. I told her she could give into the part that was scared and get out of line and watch, or she could be brave, and fight it, and see how much fun it really was. I don't think she really got what I was saying, or even remembered the conversation but she did stay in the line, and the next thing both of us knew we were buckled in and on our gradual ascent up to the top of the roller coaster.

She loved the ride, and went on it two more times that day. I went on it one more time. I went half the day on crazy rides, and the second half of the day I just followed the kids around to where they wanted to ride and watched.

In accomplishing this milestone, of surviving (literally) this theme park, with zero setbacks the day after, I have come to see some knew things:

At the beginning of the year I set a goal to be in remission by the end of this year. Whether this happens by the end of 2017 or not, I am getting better. I feel so much better, I am doing things I couldn't do even 6 months ago. Physically, I feel so good, mentally... I am happier, but there are certain levels of anxiety that have come up that even I haven't faced yet, and it's a whole new ball game.

When I first was diagnosed, and began treatment, it was like 100-0 really quick, in knowing what I could and couldn't do. Mentally it was hard to not look back and think, I just want to feel good enough to do easy things, like go to the store, or to church; let alone, work and go to school, those were the highest goals. And in the healing process, I had to learn that I had to say no to certain things because if I stayed up too late, or went on that big hike, or went and did something to exhaust my strength, I couldn't afford the next 2 days of chronic pain or sickness off, in bed.

I became really good at knowing my limits, so good in fact, that now that I am healing, my body isn't telling me I can't do things anymore, but my mind is still stuck in the warning stages. Like the 9 year old in line to ride her first ever roller coaster feeling one half excited but another half scared, I am that way all the time.

I have anxiety over going and doing things, and staying out late now with friends, because a year ago those things would have put me over the edge. I have anxiety before working out all the time because 6 months ago, and when I first started nearly 4 months ago, I was being set back a day or so because of pain. But every time I do these things now, I am so surprised, and grateful. I am doing so many things that I haven't been able to do in years, but doing them is an effort almost more mentally than physically, because my brain is still in ultra healing mode.

I am afraid to get sick again, so much so, that I want to back out of things that I don't think I can physically do, out of fear of being beaten to a pulp again by Lyme, because that has been the ordeal for the past 3+ years. I have to learn how to work past the anxiety. Like I had to learn in the beginning of this disease, how to be sick, and let others help me, and all those really hard things. I now have to learn how to be healthy, and right now it's been proving a challenge, because every big thing I do I have near crippling anxiety telling me "What if this is the wall you are going to hit?" or, "What if this is the final tipping point?"

I can't live my life not doing anything out of fear of Lyme Disease, if I did, the disease could be gone, but I would still be living like I was sick, not doing anything, but without the disease. It would still be winning, even when it wasn't ravaging my body. I can't and won't let it win me that way. It has been hard to deal with, but every time I do something to prove my anxiety wrong I am both surprised and grateful that I am able to experience this high--of recovery.

-The Lyme Warrior