I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason and I have no doubt that being diagnosed with Lyme disease changed my life for the better.
As hard as it is to believe this at times, it really has pushed me into a much healthier lifestyle, but that doesn’t come without hardship along the way.
Take dating, for instance. Let’s be honest, dating is hard enough as it is! But then throw a curveball in there like any kind of chronic illness and it really can complicate things. In all the complications, however, I learned some valuable lessons about myself.
I’ve learned to not feel guilty.
Often, we feel a sense of guilt when we do not meet our own expectations for how we ought to be. If we do not live up to what we expect to be, we feel guilty and ashamed and start blaming ourselves. It’s tough when you’re dating because you always want to be looking and feeling your best—the last thing you want to do is be the one with the “problem.”
Looking back, I was always powering through a date at some dinner or movie, or struggling to finish some hike when really I was hurting so badly on the inside. I should have been honest with how I felt, but I didn’t want to seem weak and I never wanted to use Lyme as an excuse for why I couldn’t do something.
What I was really doing was ignoring the issue of having Lyme and instead feeling guilty and shameful. Only when I started accepting Lyme as a part of me without judgment was when I was able to release the guilt. Lyme is a part of who I am, good or bad, and there was nothing to be ashamed of. Frankly, if someone was going to think differently about me because of Lyme, well then it made my decision to move on a lot easier.
With more compassion, understanding, and love for myself and I was able to release the unrealistic expectations I had set, take ownership of my current situation, and liberate myself of guilt and shame.
I’ve learned to trust myself.
Lyme has been an amazing teacher on fostering a healthy relationship with my body because really, only you know yourself the best. I always felt compelled to explain my illness to guys I dated and why I did things a little differently. Whether I am eating a certain way, drinking bone broth, being a stickler about my rest and how much stress I am taking on, I always felt compelled to have to explain my choices.
Being in a relationship, it’s common to want to help each other or try to understand one another but sometimes that can lead to a lot of questioning and self-doubt. Regardless of whether his intentions were good or not, the questions about my health led me to start doubting how I really felt.
I noticed that I soon began to question my own health, “Am I making this up?” “Is he right, is it really that bad?” “Do I really feel sick or is this all in my head?” I had to take a step back and again and focus on my relationship with myself.
You know yourself better than anyone else and you have to have faith that your feelings are valid, even when others are questioning you. I learned to trust myself and my feelings and that I didn’t need validation—being honest about the way that I felt was good enough. If I was not feeling well, then that was that and I didn’t need to explain myself.
It taught me to trust my feelings and move forward.
I’ve learned to love myself.
When battling a chronic illness, we’re faced with a lot of ups and downs, good days and bad days. What I’ve learned (and am still learning) is to wholeheartedly love myself throughout it all. This means accepting where my body is at, physically and mentally, at any given point. This was always easier for me when I was single because I never had to share my life with anyone; the good days and bad days blended together and it never mattered how I felt.
But when you’re dating, things change. In new relationships, at least for me, I always felt like I had to be on-point every time. That meant looking and feeling my absolute best. This quickly prompted an unhealthy relationship with my body because I’d become frustrated, angry, and depressed on the days I wasn’t feeling well. Again, if I wasn’t living up to those crazy expectations I had set for myself, I felt like a failure. What I’m learning is to love myself unconditionally. This means fully accepting and appreciating my body as is with all of its imperfections on good days and bad days regardless of the situation.
I’ve learned to love myself completely before I can love anyone else. It is with that unconditional self love that you’ll not only be able to accept where your body is at, but it is also from here that you will find someone that will love you even with those imperfections.
Learning to establish a solid relationship with yourself is a powerful foundation that will support you for life, regardless of if you’re suffering from a chronic illness or not. It wasn’t until I completely surrendered and accepted Lyme as a part of me that I was fully able to being the healing process. I’m grateful for the different relationships I’ve had that have taught me about myself and ultimately have helped me manifest a healthy self-relationship.
Author: Carley Smith
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: CIA DE FOTO at Flickr