Diagnosed in 2012 with Lyme disease, I live each day in relative peace or pain with the Borrelia burgdorferia bacterium, the organism that makes up the disease.
The disease’s three year pain-peace cycles are erratic: throughout, I have dipped low with fevers, mood swings, hormonal failures, relationship challenges, and an inability to work. I’ve reached highs with my husband and I marrying, month periods of good health, dancing again, and growing in a new career.
At first I resisted the pain Lyme disease brought, fighting it like it was an internal terrorist constantly evolving its guerrilla tactics to wipe me out. But it persisted.
After 15 months of fighting it and then receiving lackluster test results, I couldn’t fight it anymore. My will gave out. When this happened, I truly began to accept having Lyme disease and to surrender to this. In surrendering, Lyme disease became a teacher, showing me ways in which my soul was wanting to grow.
As I listened and followed, I began to come home to myself.
Most of us have experienced persistent health, familial or financial challenges. To support you in listening to how your own challenges are teaching and guiding you inward, I’ll share the ways in which Lyme disease does this for me.
It teaches me to have compassion for people who endure chronic illness. Also, it’s a reminder to practice compassion for all people more often, because we all endure hardship.
Fearing Lyme’s symptoms only exacerbates the symptoms.
Learning to love Lyme disease in words and thoughts was a big shift. I realized that using violent language such as “I am going to kill or fight this Lyme disease” limits my ability to heal. Violent language makes me fearful and can trigger a fight-or-flight reaction, which pumps cortisol into my blood and causes my endocrine system to overwork. For some people, aggressive competition or war-like words rally their spirits.
For me, kind and encouraging words calm my sympathetic nervous system and make me feel better overall.
The disease reminds me to know in my bones, blood, muscles and every inch of me that “What resists, persists.”
It tells me to let go, even if it’s for 20 seconds.
I now understand that feelings are not fact: It is okay to feel uncomfortable and to not do something to numb out feeling uncomfortable.
I now roll with imperfection.
Lyme disease shows that the world goes on regardless of whether I ingest my 20 herbs, vitamins, detoxifiers and supplements in their exact prescribed order. It showed me how perfectionism can be life or death for me. In a perfectionist hole of stress and constant picking fights last year, my Lyme symptoms reappeared after a food born illness wrecked my immune system.
Then the disease and parasite fueled a five-month perfectionist spiral that lead to a near-death allergic reaction to a medicine. This showed me perfectionism when coupled with Lyme disease and its side effects, could be life or death. Now, practicing imperfectionism daily, I’m feeling more grounded, healthy and present.
I have learned to understand that there is nothing “to better” about me. Lyme disease illuminates subconscious beliefs like “I am not okay as I am,” which undermine mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health. For the first two years of my treatment, when a flare up occurred, I would call my doctor, push his staff to get me an appointment quickly, and then take every medicine and supplement he prescribed.
This rarely led to me feeling better, usually made the symptoms worse, and sometimes the symptoms would disappear before I even started taking the medicine or supplements. At some point, I saw the pattern that was happening, and that it was playing out that old belief of not being okay. Now, I don’t call my doctor and entourage of health care practitioners unless my symptoms are severe or acute. This is saving a lot of money and stress.
I know now to just trust that I will be fine, even if Lyme disease is in my body for life.
I now know humility. Lyme disease taught me humility by stripping away my identity as a well-educated, high functioning, competent attorney and consultant. Ceasing to derive your identity from your work and educational background, while simultaneously experiencing your income and health plummet, provides an excellent opportunity to mature.
I know now how to come home more into my body and to start to love all of me, including my Lyme disease.
If you listen carefully and you will hear that your persistent challenges are speaking to you, leading you softly and gruffly home to yourself. Can you hear them?
While Lyme disease arrived in my body as an invasive stranger, it now is an unwanted but respected teacher who takes me by my body and leads me to myself. Sometimes it instructs gently and other times harshly.
However Lyme’s teachings arrive, they lead me home to myself.
Author: Cecilia Culverhouse
Editor: Renée Picard
Photos: author’s own