One of the most difficult things I have faced in the midst of fighting chronic Lyme Disease, is how much it has changed me. Now, physically I have changed drastically, but what is most difficult is how it has affected me down to the core of who I am. I do not feel like the person I used to be. The person I remember was outgoing and loved meeting knew people. Now I am shy and find it extremely difficult to get to know people (which made it terribly hard when I barely knew anyone in both WA and CO). The person I remember was independent, but now I find myself painfully dependent on others. The person I remember loved to laugh from deep within. Now laughter does not come as naturally and I find myself forcing the appropriate chuckle when necessary. These are just a few of the changes that have occurred. It has felt like this disease has stolen so much of who I am.
This has not been a change overnight. Just like the disease has slowly ravaged my body (which I never imagined Lyme could do!), it has been a slow change within. As this changed occurred, I found myself becoming angrier and angrier at what was happening to me. It was only as of this past April that I knew what was the cause of all this. Before that, I had years of wondering and worrying about what was going on. I thought that if I knew what was going on I would not feel so hopeless and empty inside. That was not the case.
It was about the time that I received the diagnosis that I was hitting my lowest point physically. I was working full-time at a job that I thoroughly enjoyed, but was getting to the point that I physically could not do it anymore and it was exhausting hiding that fact. It was a relief to not have to wonder anymore. There was an answer and possibilities of treatment….hope!
We were thrown a curve ball and we needed to move in order to seek treatment. Andrew and I had to leave our jobs (which I was going to have to do either way) and in a matter of 5 weeks moved across the country. Those 5 weeks seem like a blur to me now, but it was exhausting both physically and emotionally. Getting to Florida was an absolute relief. I was finally able to rest and have the loving support of my family (which I always had but there is nothing like their actual presence).
After the initial relief of being home, I began to feel more and more like I had lost myself along the way. Now I not only felt like a different person, but I had absolutely nothing to do to fill my time and felt purposeless. I was not up to doing much at the beginning of treatment. So I had A LOT of time to think! This summer I hit my lowest in my identity crisis. Everything that I used to identify myself with had been stripped away. I felt like nothing was left of my old self….but I was so so wrong.
Not everything had been stripped away. The most important thing in my life can never be stripped from me. That is my relationship with my Lord and Savior. I have come to the understanding of what it truly means to find your identity in Christ. Having grown up in church, I have heard countless times that our identity is found in Christ, and if you had asked me, I would have honestly said I did. But it was not until everything, both in my circumstances and within, had been stripped away that I saw that I had not grasped this truth. I am a child of God and it is only in Christ that my identity can be found. I love Colossians 3:1-3, which says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” The most important part of me can never be stripped away!
This truth does not change the fact that this disease has changed me. In many ways, this is a gift. For one thing, if it was not for all of this, I would not have come to know what it means to truly find my identity in Christ. I find myself thanking God for Lyme Disease….crazy I know! In other ways, it is a difficult fact to swallow. I know that some of the “old me” will resurface as my body undergoes healing, but I will forever be changed. I will never be the person that I once was before this disease started to noticeably to affect my life and that is okay.
Even though most of my days are very quiet and I find myself having lots of alone time, I still have a purpose. My purpose, whether in sickness or in health, is to know and enjoy my God. When I don’t feel like the person I once was, I am able to seek the things that are above. On the days when I find it difficult to get out of bed, I am able to set my mind on things that are above. So, for as long as the Lord has me in this place, I will choose joy.