Don’t Miss Out On The Collateral Beauty 

I just watched a movie called Collateral Beauty; (you probably saw the trailer at Christmas time), a tale of a broken man and a call back to life from unexpected sources. Well not what I would call a great or life-changing film, I would say it was a good one, and it had some good life lessons that were given to us by “death”, “time”, and “love”.
One line in the film spoken by “love” to a hurting man who lost his child was “yes I was there in her smile, there in her laughter, there inside you in the happiness…..But what you need to know is that I am here also in your pain. I am in everything and the reason for everything. ”
I found this incredibly profound and in a sense very true; but instead of simple love as the world would understand it, I replace that with the person of Jesus Christ; Who in himself is the embodiment of love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son….”

He is the reason. He is the purpose. He is as relevant in our joy as He is in our suffering. He catches every tear and often we feel Him more closely in pain than in joy. 
In the blindness of our own humanity so often we fail to see Him working underneath the surface, but He is, even (especially) in our misery.

For He said He causes all things to work together for the good of those who are called according to his purpose. That is where our faith and our hope lies; nothing, I repeat nothing is wasted when we are in Christ. Quite the opposite. All things are redeemed for his glory and our good.

Sometimes we are lucky (blessed) enough to catch glimpses of Him working miraculously in the most difficult and tragic circumstances. When we get these glimpses of his hand at work sometimes we call it a miracle. But may I propose that this is the normal and not the extraordinary? Do we need to see with our eyes, or do we need to know what God is up to in order to believe that He is always, always working underneath the surface of all things at all times? For his ways are higher than our ways, his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. And in his omniscience He weaves webs with a million strands of intricacy with multi-faceted intentionality in every life circumstance. Not because of who we are, but because of Who He is.
So no matter what is happening, whether you see a purpose or not, whether you simply see the circumstance or maybe get a glimpse beneath the surface into the divine….. “just make sure you notice the collateral beauty”. 

When Life Punishes You For Living

Here I am again, posting on another “bad” day.

You see I’ve had some decent ones, even though I never feel “great” I’ve had consecutive weeks/months of having a better balance here and there. Inflammation has been acutely worse for weeks, but I’ve been able to maneuver around it to a point. Yes I’ve had days of crashing more and napping more, yes I’ve had to say no to going to church and Bible study because “extras” are too much. (Hey wait a minute! Maybe I’ve been struggling more than I’ve acknowledged). But anyway, then there is today; today when I feel my body is getting revenge for all my betrayal. Today when I feel stripped to the bone. I woke up at 11am (yeah I know), and still felt I could barely climb out of bed. Breakfast happened at 12:30 sitting in a detox bath, and I feel completely horrible: achy, stiff, toxic, beyond fatigued, heavy, swollen, fuzzy-brained. The autoimmune overactivity is high and I can both see and feel the fluid and pain.

So what did I do to myself to deserve this? That is always the question I first ask because self-blame is my automatic go-to. Well what I “did” was try being semi-normal for a few weeks: having to work a couple weeks full time, eating some “bad” stuff here and there (and by bad I mean bad for me personally; like dark chocolate, some organic mayo, some cayenne, a little vegan ice cream,etc.). Am I right in beating myself up? I am never sure how bad to guilt trip myself. It’s so hard when all you want to do is live and your body is just really not into that.

I am still counting the days until my new patient consult on the 14th at Sophia to address autoimmune issues and mast cell activation disorder (assuming that’s what’s going on). I’ve had a couple doctors confirm that Borrelia, Bartonella, Babesia, Epstein Barr, Erlychia…and all the rest including viral coinfections, are”fixed”, so I’m hoping the last hurdle is the autoimmune, but it’s a big hurdle. 

I have not paid any attention to fundraising for a long time; mostly being it makes me feel shamed, embarrassed, unworthy, guilty, and all the feelings that orbit the above. But more than that is my constant guilt of being a drain on my family. Thankfully family medical expenses have come down a bit from around 6,000 a month to around 2,000, which is good but still difficult. As my sister and I are about to embark pursuing this new clinic though they may jump up again exponentially, so I will put a link here so anyone that is able and led to help. Youcaring

So here I sit in bed on a Sunday afternoon wishing I could have gone to church, wishing I could take my dog out, wishing I could be out and about. Tomorrow may be better, I’ve been through this more times than I can count and I know that often things won’t be so bad the next day. On a day like this things always feel so bleak, but I know that tomorrow always brings new hope and a different viewpoint.

I’m glad I write on bad days, when I can’t move and I hurt and can’t think well; Writing gives me a sense of purpose and makes me feel I’m still here, still fighting.

See you tomorrow 🌅

The Chronic Illness Sufferer’s Dilemma: To Post Or Not To Post, That Is The Question

Nobody is normal. 
Everyone is unique.

That said,  long term illness changes a person; it changes your mind, your emotions, your perspective, your way of thinking… to say nothing of your body.

And the places in your mind that change can be impossible to perceive what is caused by the physical (hey come on, LITERAL viruses and bacteria in our brains) or the changes that come from long-term isolation, suffering, frustration, loneliness, abandonment, hopelessness…. (trust me even with the deepest introspection lines are blurry).
So when you are in this bubble of misery and feeling desperate; many of us reach that crossroad decision of whether to reach out publicly or not. Now some do so all the time, and some do so seldomly. I want to share with you, the healthy person, the “normal” person, what goes on in our heads and where the need to reach out comes from. Because to you seeing our (sometimes frequent) posts regarding how we are feeling physically and mentally can come off as….

Desperate

Attention-getting

Overly dramatic

Whiny

Ungrateful

Emotionally unstable

Lacking faith

Hypochondriac 

Lacking strength 

Or “_____” fill in the blank 
And honestly maybe some chronic illness sufferers are. BUT, I am asking you to consider grace, and here is why. 

Imagine you are living a fairly normal active life; you work, you socialize with friends a few times a week, maybe you are also busy with kids. You DO stuff! You go out to movies, you eat out at restaurants, you meet friends for coffee, you have a lot of human interaction at work, you sometimes take day trips or mini vacations, your life may not be perfect or exciting, but it is full. 

One day your body starts to betray you. Suddenly all the normal daily things that were no big deal become as hard as lifting heavy boulders. Your entire body is tired, tired to the point it feels like you have lead in your veins. You swear earth’s gravity just dialed it up a notch as you struggle to go up the same staircase you have been bounding up the last five years. 

You start sleeping a LOT more, so much more you start to feel guilt over your laziness. Even after a full night sleep your body starts to shut down in the middle of the day and you need to nap. The thing is all this extra sleep doesn’t help and you are just as tired and fatigued when you wake up in the morning as the night before. Even worse you feel hungover, even without alcohol: toxic, heavy, foggy, headache, basically like sludge.

So of course you pump yourself full of caffeine because you have a life and things to do… only the caffeine is a quick fix that doesn’t last, so you have more. After a few cycles of this you start to blow out your adrenals, and things get worse…. You start to feel like you are letting the people in your life down as you can’t be there for them in the capacity you were only a short while ago.
Oh and did I mention the pain? You are dealing with pain that has no business in your body at your age! You feel old and achy. Joints and tendons, muscles and tissues that you never even “felt” at all before, are making their presence known by infusing non-stop pain. 
Along with all of this (and a myriad of other symptoms I could mention) is the fact that your mind and your thinking are as foggy as your body. You know that feeling when it’s past your bed time and you feel your brain trying to shut down for the night? How everything becomes difficult if you are fighting sleep? Trying to just finish that chapter, watch the last 10 minutes of that movie as your brain wants to sleep….Now it feels like that ALL the time, all hours of the day as your brain is constantly trying to go down as you are trying to get it to go up. Every waking moment is a battle.

Normal conversations become difficult because it feels like you are fighting through fog to both process what you are hearing while trying to formulate the appropriate response. You never knew until now that it actually takes energy to communicate and be with people. You frustrate yourself as word recollection fails you and you feel dumb as you can’t seem to formulate articulate conversation.
As time goes on all this takes a toll and you start saying no to things. The energy it takes even to get ready, drive places, prepare for things… becomes too much, and you start having to pick and choose what you are able to do in a day, or even in a week or month as things get worse.

You start realizing that every activity also requires recovery time, and one afternoon out may mean you need two days in bed afterward.

Your world grows smaller.

As time goes on mentally and emotionally you for through all kinds of cycles that can be up and down and all around. These can swing extremely even over the course of one day from crying to anger to apathy. 
At first all the people in your life are supportive, but as time goes on and you don’t get better, and you have seen this specialist, and that specialist and tried every suggestion of every caring friend from acupuncture, to massage, to “this amazing doctor that helped my friend who had the same problem!”

… you have read every article ever sent to you on any condition that even sounds similar, you have done crazy alternative things you would never have thought you would ever try…. your friends start to drop away, they check in on you less and less, they stop inviting you to things because they know you will just say “no”. 

Life moves on without you and as the years go by your world gets smaller and smaller and smaller until you find you are alone most of the time.

You probably at this point have little to no money because it’s been spent trying to figure out what’s wrong with you and/or trying to get better. You also probably either can only work very little or not at all, and if you can work it drains you so much you have nothing left for any semblance of a life.  
Remember when I mentioned the muddled place of your mind and your emotions caused by both the physical and psychological? This is where you are now. You feel a little “crazy” and desperate and sad and lonely. Since you don’t see people in person so much anymore you reach out to your friends online; both your real-world friends and your friends who you have now met in your chronic illness forums and such.
So I am speaking to you; “normal” person, who I love and admire. When you see this chronically ill person prolifically posting, “wanting attention”, talking about what they are going through very publicly (sometimes) going into TMI territory…. know that this did not happen overnight. This is the same person you know and love and they are beyond desperate to be the person they once were. 
They post because:
They want fellowship,

They want friendship, 

They want to both hear and be heard,

They need a sounding block,

They want to feel normal,

They don’t want to disappear and be forgotten

They want to have a glimpse of normalcy and online may be all they have

They don’t see people much face-to-face so “face”-book is their life.
Hear me now as I write this for my sick brothers and sisters!

Everyone needs people! When you are sick and isolated online is your people!

We are not grand-standers or attention getters (at least not most of us) we are people just like you who have had our lives changed and shaped by our illness and our circumstances. All we want is to be normal and healthy. We covet the little things that most people take for granted; even just taking a walk on a sunny day. 
One more thing I want you to know; worry about the chronically ill people who don’t post and instead stay quiet. They are experiencing everything the communicators are, they are just internalizing their pain versus reaching out.  

It is: Having an outlet, versus internalizing everything

Isolation, versus reaching out

Honesty, versus putting on a happy face

I have seen too many of the “quiet one’s” obituaries online, (self inflicted.)
Please also know the  anxiety we go through on what to post and what not to post. 

It is SO hard to judge because (especially) on a bad day our perspectives are askew… and the reactions we get from people also vary greatly.:

You get the positive feedback from the chronic illness community;

 “thank you so much for sharing, I am not alone”.

  “so glad to hear another person’s perspective”.

“Thank you for being honest and blazing a trail for others that will come behind you.”

This community supports you and your difficulties as you support them. And this is a safe and honest place to be raw and real in your times of suffering. 

But, you also get the negative reactions of people who think you’re a drama queen, or are sick of hearing about your pain, or… (see list at beginning of post). So you get the negative feedback, or the stony silence of family members, or the snubs and shuns of people who used to support you….
In closing; why am I posting this? I will tell you it’s not for attention or sympathy. I am giving voice to the silent suffering ones. I am advocating for those whose families don’t believe them. I am opening a window into a world (I hope and pray) you will never experience so that you can have a better understanding of your sick friend or family member.

This seems like a good day to do this, Christmas Eve when hearts should be open, love should abound, peace and charity reign over all else 💚

For Your Consideration… What to say when you are put down for “being your illness”

So I have been experiencing a lot of activity on one of my latest blog posts and I have also been reposting some others that are relevant to the struggle.

I have been getting saturated with great comments on those so grateful that someone is voicing their experience and giving credence to their experiences to their friends and family.

That said of course I get negativity once and a while (as we all do); but what really hurts is when it comes from someone within the chronic illness community. 

I see it too often (mostly on the Facebook feeds of others) attacking because someone’s experience is different than their’s, or they think the person is too vocal, or whatever….

Why do we do this? Why do we hurt each other? Why are we so narcissistic that we seem to think how we think or feel or our experiences has to universal and be exactly what everyone else’s experiences should be that has difficulty and is sick? Apparently this is a mindset that allows for zero tolerance or understanding that diseases manifest differently in different people and affect our minds, bodies and chemistry differently. Wow, what a concept!
So I offer up to you the following comment left on one of my posts (that was written to try and raise awareness and understanding),  and my re-buttal to this comment. I also want to ask you; the chronic illness community to join the conversation and share your experiences. I will ask that there be no attacks, swearing, name calling or ugliness, rather let us use this as an opportunity and platform to further raise awareness and keep the conversation and testimonies going.

Here we go..

Negative Blog Commentor:

“I have what is considered an invisible illness (a pretty freaky one), and honestly, at the end of the day, I can choose to live a normal, productive life. Are there challenges? Sure. But we all face challenges. ALL of us. Some are physical. Some are emotional. Some are psychological, financial, relational, career-centered, social… you name it. 
I’m uncertain as to why so many sufferers from invisible or even visible illnesses choose to be victims daily. It’s a choice to keep life in perspective, to keep moving, and to realize we’re not special because we suffer. Who doesn’t suffer? Did you know that the average person in the western world has, on average, 5 things going on with their body that could be/are serious? Illness doesn’t excuse us from life, so live it fully. 
Maybe you’re not datable because you insist on BEING your illness, 24/7. Is it all you talk about? Post about? Think about? Is there nothing more of you than your illness? Who wants to date someone who finds their identity in being sick? Do you bring your illness up every time you meet someone? Talk on the phone? Go anywhere? If you know to converse about nothing else, then you’ll stay single. 
Stop being your illness. It doesn’t make you special. It makes you common. Be the best parts of YOU… because you are not your Lyme, fibromyalgia, diabetes, epilepsy, MS, lupus, or any other invisible condition. You are YOU. Offer YOU. Potential mates don’t want to hear about nothing but your illness any more than you want to hear about all their exes, money issues, terrible living arrangements, bad pizza, or abysmal grades if you’re in school. Be you… stop being a victim.”
My rebuttal: 

“(Person’s name), I had to pause, think, stop and pray before responding because my immediate (fleshly) reaction was anger; anger that you have projected your own experience onto others without understanding that even though we all suffer chronic illness, the nuances, experiences, manifestations, brain chemistries, how we are individually effected, where the diseases have most effected us, our life paradigms, backgrounds… and SO much more differ radically! I cannot say this with enough emphasis. 
So first I want to praise you for your outlook and that you are “not your disease” (none of us truly are) and that you have the ability and will to live and thrive by fighting through. Not everyone is you. 
May I offer up to you for consideration that most of us want that very same thing. Who “chooses” to be a victim? Far fewer than you obviously think.

Maybe (just for the sake of argument) a very small minority that already have psychological issues or have an abusive background or “—–” might in fact use illness to further that inner victim mentally and to feed that need to get attention.

BUT! Most of those I have come across (by a landslide majority) who are suffering from chronic illness that has re-shaped their lives and the very essence of who they are… are desperate to be normal, to simply live and not be encumbered and isolated and in pain, fatigued beyond functionality….and missing out on life. 
I also want to let you know that having been chronically ill now for decades, and having experienced all the facets and manifestations (highs, lows and everything in between) I KNOW what it is like to be so physically and mentally (by this I don’t just mean mindset, but literal bacteria that has crossed the blood brain barrier affecting my mind in ways I had ZERO control of) sick that I was incapable of just “being me” or even having access to parts of my own mind or personality. 

I do understand that if you have not experienced this kind of illness you will have no comprehension, and I am honestly glad that you haven’t.

Consider yourself lucky, blessed, fortunate… there are many who are not.
I also want to add that no, in fact for the most part in my personal life I do not go around talking about my illness all the time. It is not the first thing I mention when I meet new people, it is almost never talked about among my coworkers, even with my closest friends we focus on other things, because I wouldn’t want to hear it all the time, why would they?

Again I also want to add that like I mentioned before my health goes up and down, I have about 2/3 of the year accumulatively that I am really struggling, and it’s in those times that I tend to write more about said struggle. But, I have good months where I feel much better and… guess what? I use it to my full advantage snd be as active as I can and as social as I can and LIVE and be me. I jump at the opportunity when my brain and body allow. And I am not alone. In fact it is pretty common for chronically ill people to overdue and set themselves back when they are feeling better because this is what they do desperately want. Because they know they are “not their disease”. 
So instead of judging others harshly, accusing, condemning, bad-mouthing and making great big assumptions that EVERYONE is exactly like you and your experience with a chronic illness, (because after all according to you everyone has a clear head, full access to their faculties, and an iron will to overcome anything and can’t possibly be so sick that they can’t just get out there and live) and should just pick up their bootstraps and “not be their illness”. 

Maybe do some reading and research, especially on neurological effects of Lyme and other illnesses that can cross the blood-brain barrier and/or mess with your hormones and other functionalities that make you “you” so that you can have a small piece of empathy for those that are less fortunate than you and desperately want to thrive instead of just exist.
*also I might add that I blog not to whine or “be my illness” but because I have deep empathy for the suffering and wish to give a voice and some comfort to those that have none. ”

Some Honest Thoughts On A Sunday Afternoon… When Life Reshapes Hope

I have no answers today, no deep wisdom (I don’t think), only a seeking mind on how to perceive life as it stands and on expectations for the future.

I was thinking that our hopes and dreams are built on a foundation of what we feel is possible. We do not tend to realistically hope for things that are not in the realm of possibility; I guess if we do we call them pipe dreams. But when long term illness and passing years rob you of the possibilities that are still reachable for a “normal” person, how do you dream? What does Hope look like now?

Of course the first dream for anyone that has been sick for a long time is for health, and of course health is the gateway to everything else we want in life: relationships, activities, happiness, success, travel,  family…LIFE. 

Now chronic illness looks a little different for every individual; For myself I am immensely blessed that I have come a long way in my (5?) years of treatment since Lyme diagnosis and there has been a lot of improvement. But the struggles continue and I may continue to struggle with autoimmune and other conditions for the rest of my life. So as my “younger” years continue to diminish like a fading horizon line, I am wondering how to rebuild hopes that are now built on a different foundation of what is possible.

I had an emotional reshaping of my hopes with this last downturn in health (Relinquishing hope), and a lot that I had been holding onto for many years got torn down. I have been living in that place of rubble for several months now and I guess I am questioning whether rebuilding the hope tower is worth it. Of course it will look very different than before and be much smaller, but right now I’m not sure what to build it with. Or should I? Is that my job or God’s? Honestly I’m at a loss. I have never stopped believing that my future and hope is in God, that He has a reason and purpose in everything He allows in my life, but what His plans are (obviously) are vastly different from anything I ever envisioned.

So here I sit on a Sunday afternoon in an empty house with a silky terrier puppy for company (who is under my care for the weekend), feeling quite lonely for some reason and pondering all of the above and maybe letting myself cry just a little. I am looking at turning 38 the last day of this year, and the years don’t slow down. Life for the chronically ill is like a treadmill; running in place and never getting anywhere but expending energy all the same and there is no end for exhaustion. 

So friends, as I have said goodbye to children, to love, to independence, to fulfillment, to financial stability, to success, to travel, to normalcy, and all the perks that come with those things…. how and with what do I rebuild my hope tower? We shall see. 

Is Hope A Burden? And Accepting Circumstances…

I have been in a different place as of late; all I can say is that there has been an internal shift and this last round of die-off did something to me on a deep level.

As you know (I think at least) I had kind of a double whammy that began with starting a cellular detox May 20th followed by treatment by my LLDC May 23rd where he found that the three B’s were in remission, but that I had Epstein Barr, Non-STD Clamydia, Erhlychia, Lyme Coinfection virus A and C, plus Protozoa.  The first several days after treatment I was fine, felt great in fact and even had some activities with friends. But then I got hit hard and went back down the rabbit hole as I call it. I had been experiencing horrible body pain (much worse than the norm), bad enough to keep me from sleeping at night and causing several bouts of tears, both from the pain and frustration. Also any energy I had got snuffed out, went into a foggy place again, swelling worse… You know, all the usual stuff. 

Somewhere in the midst of this the hopeful light in me went out; it’s just been too many years….too much struggle. Thankfully I felt a slight lift a few days ago and checking the calendar it coincided almost exactly with six weeks post/treatment (they always say die off runs about six weeks with this therapy). I am still not feeling great but I think (hope) this accute bad spell is behind me. But I am left on the other side of this most recent storm a little different than when I went in. It’s hard to explain; I have been through the mind-numbing years when things were unbearable and I was in a state of apathy, grieving and hopelessness, simply surviving one day at a time. I have been through the period following this of awakening and letting go of grief and the regrets of lost time and loss of life and having so much hope for the future… Letting myself dream again. But now I seem to be in a place of complacent acceptance where hope itself has become a burden and not a joy. 

I guess I need to clarify that I have not lost hope in the Lord or the fact that He has good things planned for me or is doing good things, not at all. By His grace I have grown so much and continue to grow. I am blessed by a family I love dearly and we all weather this ongoing storm of chronic illness together because we are all in the same boat, it’s drawn us closer. I am blessed by some of the best friends a person could possibly have. I am blessed by my dog who is a gift from God (Shiloh’s Story). I am immensely blessed by my current job and the people I work with. But I am coming to recognize that some things I hoped would happen in my life are not happening and may never happen, and living every day thinking about what may never be is exhausting. So I am mentally closing the door on finding love, having a family, being “normal”, traveling, all the stuff that people do….  If God chooses to open that door that’s up to Him and it will be welcome, but I need to accept this little room and this life the way it is and just live my best for God one footstep at a time, one encounter at a time. If an online platform for fellow I.I. Sufferers is my calling and my little window out into the world, I have to be okay with that.

No I can’t be financially independent. Yes I have limited energy and have to manage my spoons. Yes life is a yo-yo with periods of brief normalcy followed by times of scraping by. Folks I’m just tired, and desires for the big stuff has kind of been squelched. 

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Honestly I’m not sure, and the answer may be a little of both. I have been reminded a few times lately of Joni Earicson Tada and her story and her amazing minsistry. She had to come to acceptance of the fact that she would never use her arms or legs again (something that is unimaginable to me) and she has lived in so much grace and love. She has touched millions and that never could have happened if she grew bitter or kept striving for healing that would never come. I can’t think of a better role model than Joni. Who am I then to think I deserve better than this life of struggle I am living? Even if I am single forever and I never have a typical/normal life or the things most people take for granted, Or will never be able to eat everything I want, or do activities I want, if I forever have to pick and choose between things in life according to my energy level, if I have to deal with a certain level of constant pain, fatigue and swelling…I am still blessed and I can do a lot if I just let God do whatever He wants to do with me day by day.

So today after having taken a nap that has (again) become a common occurrence, sitting here on my bed with a bit of deep tissue pain, the usual swelling, headache and fatigue… I recognize I was also able to take a little walk in the pleasant summer rain with my fur baby love of my life, come home to a safe comfortable place to my loving family, and be able to write this post. Life is hard, but it can still be good 🙂


Beautiful slightly stormy sky this evening