Living with a chronic illness will teach you a lot. I do not know what it is like to have always lived with an illness, but I do know what it is like to have to suddenly completely alter one’s life around one. There are more then 5 things that living with Chronic Lyme Disease has taught me, but here are 5 that I have been processing through more recently.
Beauty in the Moments
To often we take the simple things for granted. Some of life’s most beautiful moments are found in the quiet everyday occurrences. When you have an illness, these simple moments you see with a whole new light. They are moments you long for and hold tightly to for when you need a little hope.
While enjoying dinner at a restaurant with conversations surrounding me, my adorable nephew suddenly slides his arm through mine and looks up at me with his joyful brown eyes. He just leaves it there, continues eating and steals sweet smiles with me. A moment that brought such joy and continues to!
Or how every night when my husband gets home, he yells “Beautiful woman! I’m home!” and kisses me exclaiming that this is the best part of his day. He does this every single day. He makes me feel cherished with that simple welcome.
The Power of Presence
Until I spent hours upon hours alone day after day, I did not comprehend how powerful the presence of another person was. My family has surrounded me with their support, but they all are busy with work and life so it left a lot of time by myself. I have longed for companionship! It is difficult to cultivate new relationships when one is home bound…or rekindle old friendships.
My family has given me their companionship as often as they can. From making special trips just to see me, going with me to doctor appointments, sitting with me during treatments or making sure I’m not alone when I’m in my worst pain. These are just a few ways my family gifted me with their presence during my greatest isolation.
My best friend, who lives states away, has called and texted me frequently. When she could not get a hold of me, she checked in on me with my husband. She may not be able to be physically present but she is so present in my life! Her love and consistency through this difficult season of life has meant so very much to me.
Their presence is a strength, an encouragement and it’s healing to my spirit. Even though I am no longer home bound, the feeling of isolation continues (although not as strong as before). Never doubt the power of your presence in another persons life!
Self Care is Vital
I believe this is important for everyone, but when you have a chronic illness it is mandatory. If I do not take the time for self care daily, I am not able to function. Most of my self care is for my body through healthy meals, exercise, rest, sauna, massage and salt baths. All of these things have been vital for my healing and maintenance. My life is very routine and planned ahead. I do not do as well with last minute things because I have to be sure to have the rest my body needs daily. I miss the days of spontaneity!
Self care emotionally is important as well. Make sure to do something enjoyable and fun! This does not require spending money. Some of our favorite things are to go to the beach (or just anywhere in nature), play a game, read, watch a movie (at home) or just go for a walk. Try even for 15 minutes a day, it can reshape your perspective.
One’s Attitude Determines Your Reality
We may not always have control as to what happens to us in life, but we can control how we respond. Your attitude has a significant affect on your life. I have seen this to be true every day of my illness. When I respond to my circumstance negatively, it affects not only how I perceive my reality but it also affects my reality. It’s not just emotional. Your attitude affects you physically as well.
My body responds to how I think. The pain in my body grows stronger the more negative or stressed I get. It is actually quite amazing how quickly my body reacts. How we respond is a choice. I am definitely not always successful, but I am learning to stop myself and check my attitude.
Interacting With Pain is Difficult
It is difficult to know how to interact with people’s pain. What do you say? What should you not say? It can be uncomfortable. From my experience, I just desire people to make themselves known. A call, letter, text, or any form of communication from someone letting me know they missed me, were praying for me or thinking of me goes a long way. When people make themselves known or available, it makes it easier to share the pain with them.
Through this season of my life, I am also learning how to interact with my own pain. I have had a lot of time to think and reflect in the last couple of years. There has been past hurt and pain that I had not fully addressed and worked through. Holding onto pain only makes life more difficult. It is hard but healing requires interacting with pain.