How Lyme Disease Taught Me Strength

You have to be your own advocate.

May is Lyme Awareness month and every year I share what I’ve learned through an invisible disease that few know can kill. While I’m now on the other side of Lyme, the effects on my life and body has shown me much about the type of person I am.

There were many times in my Lyme journey that I wanted to give up. Throwing in the towel would’ve been easier but I wanted to see my kids grow up and I desperately wanted to meet my to-be grandchildren one day.

What I’ve learned about myself is that …

You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice

– Bob Marley

It’s true that in times that you face adversity, you find out what you’re made of and I found out that I’m much stronger than I thought.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Stand up for yourself — if people aren’t supportive, you can choose (yes, you have the choice) to be around other people. Different seasons in life require different communities. Hang around those that lift you up and give you hope. Eliminate the time you spend with others who don’t believe the disease is very bad (or exists). You train others how to treat you. Require that those you choose to be around treat you with dignity and respect.

Ask for help — I tried to continue the superwoman façade and it only made me physically and mentally worse. I hated needing a caregiver and I hated depending on someone else. I thought asking for help would make me weak, but it really made me stronger. Guess what? It actually blesses the person who helps you out too. I also came to realize that admitting that I couldn’t do something wasn’t the end of the world and I learned to stop judging myself for my limitations.

Courtesy of Unsplash

Reject conventional medicine’s depressing prognosis — you can either accept or reject someone else’s prediction of the rest of your life. Les Brown was told his prostate cancer had spread and there was nothing left to help him. He’s still here today because he never accepted it. Find inspirational stories and listen to motivational speakers daily to get you pumped up about kicking Lyme Disease! Don’t accept that it’s forever.

Fight for what’s right — I fought for years to get social security disability. Don’t give up and if you can’t do it on your own, ask for help. Get a good lawyer (ask for referrals) and keep fighting. Never give up on what’s rightfully owed to you.

Live fully — no matter what stage of Lyme you’re in, commit to live your life to your fullest capability. Do what makes you happy and if that’s a Netflix night, then so be it, but never think that you or your life is anything less than magical each and every day. Even though the treatment makes you feel worse before you get better, visualize the day you’ll be able to go back to the ski slopes or out in the backyard to toss a ball with your kids. It could take more time than you’d like and it is totally possible. As soon as you lose the belief that it’s possible, it won’t stand much of a chance to happen.

Know someone with Lyme Disease and don’t know how to help?

Offer up something specific so that they can accept the help. People generally don’t mention anything when you say, “Let me know if you need anything.” It’s much easier to say, “Thank you,” when a meal shows up at your doorstep (make sure your meal is Lyme friendly). I would’ve loved this and through it all, would you believe I got 1 meal? Another great thing is to just announce that you’ll pick up their kids for an activity. Driving is very hard for a Lyme sufferer.

Spread the message this month and always. Lyme Disease is serious. You can get it from any biting insect. There’s no set amount of time they need to be attached. I believe I got Lyme from a mosquito, so be safe, be aware, and if you know someone with Lyme, tell them how proud you are of their strength to endure and keep going. It could just inspire them to keep faith that it will get better and believe more in themselves.

Originally published at medium.com

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