Two things in particular sustain me: natural beauty and friends.
For a long time now, I’ve been in a place where viewing the lives of friends through the window of Facebook is incredibly painful. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just enjoy the happy happenings of others instead of being overcome by my own piercing grief, frustration, and regret?
I checked my page today and saw a lot of posts from folks, many of whom I have not seen since I got sick. They’re experiencing all kinds of major life events. Meanwhile I’m facing major limitations.
This morning when I woke up, I realized that I actually felt refreshed.
I had not endured a night of constant shifting trying to relieve body pain. Or of bolting up eyes wide open at one a.m. and then finding myself stuck awake with raging insomnia for four or five hours. And the thing that struck me most this morning was, I felt at peace.
Lyme disease can affect every part of your body, but many people don’t realize how hard it can hit the brain. For me, one of the biggest symptoms has been crushing anxiety.
I wasn’t particularly surprised; when you’re in constant pain, can’t work, can’t dress or cook or do your own grocery shopping, you lose your sense of self and the worrying escalates. Will I ever feel ok again? Will I ever do the things I used to do, will I be able to work? How am I going to survive financially?
My worrying became debilitating, full-blown anxiety. A therapist helped me deal with it, and medication took the edge off on many tough days.
Here’s a surprise: I had no idea that that the anxiety I struggled with isn’t just triggered by the stress of this chronic illness, but by actual physiological changes in the brain kicked off by Lyme and co-infections.
I’m no stranger to major loss. As a teenager, I lost my beloved family home and other ties to childhood in the wake of huge financial losses for my parents.
Then came the death of my father after a five-year struggle with lymphoma. Later came the excruciatingly slow passing of my mother-in-law to Alzheimer’s, and my own mother’s declining memory.
Then, the nearly unbearable abyss of divorce. A few years later, I’d only just started to approach feeling whole when a tiny tick transmitted the lyme that knocked me to my knees—and even further down.
The holidays, a touchstone to the past, intensify the grief. I feel it in every cell of my being.
Recently I said to my therapist, who is helping me get through the many stresses of chronic lyme, “A year ago, I thought I had a handle on the losses lyme has sent my way. And I sure thought I had processed all that grief from childhood, and all that terrible pain from the breakup of my family. Why am I so overwhelmed all over again?”
And she said, “Because grief is like a rubber-band ball.” Continue reading