The Judgement & Scrutiny Of Living With Chronic Illness 

(*disclaimer at the bottom of article)
Judgment. 

Scrutiny.

 Those words immediately evoke feelings of negativity. Living with chronic illness is negative and difficult in itself, but have you ever stopped to think that almost every person batting a chronic illness also gets “insult added to injury” (literally) by being judged and scrutinized in everything they do?….. What they post on social media, every choice they make, every event they attend or don’t attend, everything they eat and every purchase they make? Yes. This is a huge part of living with chronic illness. 
   Can you imagine suffering from a condition and all of a sudden even “normal” activities and decisions come under the watchful and judgmental eye of everyone you know?
What do I mean? 
Example: “Shelley” suffers from chronic Lyme. All her friends and family know this. They know treatments are expensive and Shelley spends a lot of time at the doctor. Shelley also says no to a lot of family functions and activities with friends. Shelley also shares her struggles on social media and everyone knows she is struggling financially as well due to all her medical expenses. Some of Shelley’s family are very negative; they knew Shelley when she was active and vibrant and can’t understand how this sickness seems to go on and on without end. They think her posts about illness are attention-getting and that Shelley is needy, especially being that she is single and they think therefore she is trying to get sympathy. They think she is pathetic. Some of them let her know and express their anger. Some of them no longer speak to her at all.
Shelley also feels like she can’t win when it comes to socializing….
(NO) When Shelley says no to an event or dinner (or has to leave early or rest in the middle):
People think Shelley is being a drama queen again, or lazy, or being anti-social, etc. 
“She always says no so why bother asking”
“She is so self-absorbed with her problems. If she just got out more and acted normal she would feel better”
“Sickness has become Shelley’s identity. If she just stopped owning it she wouldn’t be so sick” 
“Shelley is not as sick as she thinks she is. Lyme is an excuse”
“Shelley has some kind of social disorder and is using sickness as an excuse”
“There she goes again, lying on the couch in the middle of a party. Apparently she wasn’t getting enough attention…”
(YES) When Shelley says yes to an event, or dinner: People think
“how can she be sick in bed yesterday and out today looking normal today?”
“She is such a liar, she said she couldn’t go out his morning and there she is tonight out with friends”
“She must be getting better, finally this Lyme thing is going away”
“You look good! You look healthy, you must be better”
“How can she afford to go out when she was just posting her Gofundme yesterday?”
“All this posting on social media about being sick, and yet when I see her she looks fine”
“Should she be eating that?”

You see I am Shelley. If you are ill and reading this, you are Shelley. And I know dozens and dozens of Shelleys that have the same experiences. 
Most people don’t think twice about going out to eat, taking vacations, hanging with friends, going to movies, buying a pair of shoes…

But when you deal with chronic illness things are a little different. Have you ever considered how much judgment someone who is sick receives? And this is on top of all the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and financial suffering. 
That’s why I write. Because most judgment comes from naivety and simply not understanding. 
I have to deeply think before I post anything regarding my illness; TMI? Who’s my audience? Sharing info with fellow Lymies versus relatives that are going to roll their eyes at another health post?

Am I going to get negative backlash?

Are people going to get the wrong idea?
I also think twice before I post anything about going out, being with friends, or anything that has to do with spending money….. 

You see guy can buy new shoes if you need them without a second thought. But if I do I have to assess who might judge me knowing that I struggle financially. See what I mean? And I also don’t want to hurt that friend that I said no to yesterday when I felt super fatigued when they see me out with someone today because I rested and feel a little better.

I also struggle with guilt and and moral questions whenever I do something fun or spend a little money. Am I “allowed” to have fun? Can I justify a purchase for myself? Even though I am. It by any means extravagant (I rarely go shopping, buy clothes, and almost never eat out) I feel funny when I do and feel I have to answer for myself to everyone I know. 
Conclusion. 

This isn’t a perfect essay, and I didnt touch on a lot (including judgment and negativity from the mainstream medical community that doesn’t understand certain chronic illnesses), but there are tons of bloggers out there and they are doing a great job being a voice for this community. All we can do is try our best, and have an extra dose of grace as we raise awareness to those who would judge us. 
*Please note that this essay is on the topic of judgment and scrutiny; There are a LOT of kind and understanding people who do take the time to learn, ask questions, talk and give support. Thank you all my friends and family that fall in this category. 💚

  

Advertisements

The Morning After (Payday)… Fun Isn’t Free

I did something yesterday, oh yes I did. Something normal, something fun.

I treated my sister for her birthday to go see Coldplay in concert. Firstly I had to make the decision how wise it was for both of us for two reasons; financially being that money is tight and medical bills are high, and whether I could justify using some of my personal savings on an extravagant birthday present. Second being that we both deal with chronic illness I had to weigh how much we would be affected by a long night out and take a gamble (being that I purchased tickets ahead of time) whether we would both be well enough to go when the event came. 

I went ahead and did it because Coldplay was here on the weekend right before my sister’s birthday (which seemed fortuitous) and she loves them enough I figured we would make it happen no matter how we were feeling.

We got nosebleed tickets (hey closer tickets were outrageous!), but it turned out fine because it was a great venue complete with fireworks, laser show, and audience armbands that lit up. It was fun.

My sister is happy and grateful and this is one the nicer gifts I’ve been able to get her. Thankfully also we are both having slightly better days with health the last couple weeks, meaning we can manage a bit more.

But, the reason I’m writing this is because this is a chronic illness blog, and as fellow sufferers know after fun comes….. pay day/days. 

It began actually even at the concert last night; I started feeling tired, and even in the middle of something fun I was enjoying I started wishing I could be home in bed knowing that even after this thing is over there would be a long walk to the car, sitting in traffic, and a long drive home.


This morning as I lay in bed writing this my entire body hurts..a lot. I’m swollen and puffy and completely wiped. Not only do I have the deep aching pain in every joint but I also have the deep tissue burning pain that goes with the autoimmune (Mast Cell/histamine) reactions of having some different foods yesterday.

Yes, this is “Pay Day”, and I know there will be more than one of them and I need to be careful the rest of the week.

So, is it worth it? I think so. Simply because I do things so seldom, and it feels good to be more normal once and a while; it gives me hope that one day the normal days will multiply and I can handle more, maybe even… gasp, having more than one activity on a weekend. We shall see.

For today though I’m glad my sister had something special for her birthday, even though she will be having her own pay days to follow. I will rest, recoup, detox, and try and make it to something tonight I promised some friends I would attend… yes, I am going to attempt two things in two days. Prayers appreciated 

A “Good Day” To Be A Lymie

Today is a good day; it’s currently 12:10pm on a Saturday and it’s still my “morning”, being that I’m still convincing myself to get moving and I haven’t done much yet.

I am coming off of several weeks of an antiparasitic/antiviral treatment that was pretty hardcore, and it was phase 2 having completed phase 1 the month before last. I feel like it takes a while for my body to reset and rebuild after the onslaught.  I had a UVBI blood treatment on Monday and I’m still not sure what my reaction is being that I felt energized the day of and not so good the rest of the week. (I was told I could experience some die off).

I’m tired. Even though I’m done with that particular protocol I’m still on a TON of supplements, and as of a few days ago three new prescriptions. Still have to deal with Candida, hormones and other stuff. I’m tired.  But body pain today isn’t too bad, fluid retention (my pesky persistent minion) is at about a medium. All things considered today is a good day relative to how crappy I have been feeling. I might even try and go for a walk.

I am mentally troubled this “morning” as I contemplate where I’m at as far as treatment protocol and what the rest of the year holds as far as medical expenses and whatever the doctors will want to do next. 11,000 went on the credit card just the last 6 weeks for our family’s medical needs 😳

That said; I got confirmation from my main two doctors this week that the protocol to kill the viruses and parasites was very successful and I’m in good shape as far as that goes. Which leaves the remaining battle being the autoimmune disorder factor in this long-term disease, and that’s been a huge battle. 

Bottom line my body hates itself and I hate it. Not a happy cohabitation. So my Mast cells and histamine, cytokines and gut all need to decide to start getting along or my slow decline into self-destruction will someday be successful. 

That said I am hoping that the remaining months of this year will see big changes, that I will start to experience what “normal” feels like, and that next time I have a “good day” it won’t be in parenthesis because of relativity, but “good” will actually be good


Lyme Fund

The People Society Forgot

Have you noticed how insanely busy everyone is? And I do mean insanely!!! Life is non-stop running from this place to that, calendars are full, people have very little time to invest in each other anymore or cultivate relationships.

It is almost hard to remember days gone by (hey I’m getting old) before cell phones and social media when people actually talked to each other more. They had time for their friends, getting together to visit was simpler… it didn’t involve so much coordination and stress. Oh, and people cared for each other. Remember that? 

Now before I come off as bashing the character of everyone in our western society; I’m not sure who to blame, it just seems to be what happened to all of us, and most people are not unkind or unfeeling, it’s just that they’re so darn busy.

For the chronically ill that have fallen off the conveyer belt of this life that drives, drives, drives and never stops moving or let’s anyone take a breath…. we often feel forgotten. 

Now what’s great is that when you are not well enough to be uber social, cell phones and social media are a life saver, at least in some ways. You see we also have a window into the world that has forgotten us; people that goon hikes, hang with friends, go out to dinner, spend time with everyone but you because everyone else is up and mobile and, frankly more fun.

Ahhh the chronic illness suffer, we are like a low budget B movie that was made 20 years ago that most people forgot even existed, until someone says something like “hey wasn’t ‘_____’ like at that thing with that other person we went to way back when”?

Now you (normal person) may actually think of us from time to time, pray for us, have us run across your mind…. But guess what? We don’t know that!!!!!. 

Silence= I don’t matter and you don’t care. 

Again, I’m sure the person reading this is a good person, and a busy person, but maybe just as a favor to me, when “_____” comes to your mind and you haven’t seen them in a while and you know they are struggling, send a quick text, an IM, or maybe one of those old-fashioned phone call things. 

Please Imagine being too sick to do what you are out doing right now, and instead that you were home alone most of the time,  imagine (some) of your friends staying silent, for weeks, months…. 

Now Imagine now if they weren’t.

Thanks for listening readers 💚

Being Real

I wanted to speak to all of you from the heart for a few minutes (besides a health and circumstances update). I know that my posts can be a little wordy, but if you can stick with me to the end I would really appreciate it. I have had some serious ups and downs recently, not just physically but emotionally, mentally and spiritually too, and that is something I am going to try and be raw and real about.
As you all know these health difficulties have been plaguing myself and my family for decades, but especially my sister and I. And with this recent setback (again) it is so easy to feel depressed, lonely and hopeless….
Today on this sunny Saturday I think of all of you out there, socializing, having fun, seeing friends, being outside, doing things…. living normally. And for me this morning my POTS is acting up and it is hard for me to even stand without feeling breathless and weak and having waves of heat. (More on POTS below). Another day of my life sacrificed to the Lyme gods as they accept my life as an offering one day at a time (please no one be offended by this little metaphor). 
So this is going to be another in a long line of weekends for me basically in bed resting. I have given about 2/3 of my adult life to this: go to work, go to bed, repeat. I’m back in that cycle where I have just enough strength to work my part time job….and not much else. I call these cycles many things, including Survival Mode and the Chronic Illness Coma. I feel isolated, forgotten, left out and lonely. I keep seeing the years of my life tick by and my life eroding away, with opportunities disappearing on a fading horizon. 

Try and picture for a moment if this was your life for years and years, and you found yourself in your late thirties having your youth behind you having never properly experienced it. You are alone. You’ve never had a significant other or even an opportunity to get one, and you watch most of your friends live there lives from a distance doing “normal” things that you have never experienced and are not normal for you.
I had a very bad weekend last week; besides having a scare and being in the ER on Saturday, I was also very depressed and the enemy saw an opportunity to open a wound. 
The mind can go down Dark rabbit holes so easily: This isn’t living. Alone. Single. Sick. Struggling. My brain and body betray me. Thinking about eventually having my parents die and (gulp) Shiloh in time, and being utterly alone and destitute with no one to be a support is not a fun thought. I also feel like I am such a financial burden and my parents would be so much better off and more secure if I just died. (That’s a major one Satan like to come at me with). 
Thank you to a couple friends who encouraged me last Sunday and reminded me who I am in Christ, and who just listened and let me be real with my feelings.

That said, I am peeking back out of that dark corner and God is reminding me that faith and Who He is for me and His power over my circumstances have nothing to do with my emotions or mindset or the infections in my body and brain that are effecting those things.

After all, faith is all about what we do not see, what we do not feel, and relying on He Who dwells outside the shallowness of those things. 
Why did I share all that? I don’t think it’s because I want pity. I want to be normal, I just want to live, I don’t want to be a person that needs pity! No, rather I just want to be heard and understood and I feel like when I drop off the face of the earth that I don’t do so to the people in my life as well, and I’m just forgotten. 

I do want to thank the couple people who do stay in contact with me, it means the world. Just a text, just a “hi”, nothing fancy, just knowing I’m not forgotten.
Why The Chronically Ill Post TMI

Thank you so much for reading this far.
As far as myself and my sister Holly as you know we are going through treatments right now to deal with some deep parasitic and other infections in our bodies that are not only gut related but are attacking our livers, kidneys and other organs too, and the treatment has been rough. I just did my retest lab work this last week to confirm what infections remain after phase 1 and how to approach my Phase 2 in this next round of treatment. I have had it confirmed that (among other things) I do still have Bartonella: What is Bartonella & its Symptoms?

 Babesia: What is Babesia & its Symptoms?

which are the two major Lyme coinfections. 

My POTS which is usually mild also goes to more of a moderate degree when I have a flare up, and that’s been difficult ( Lyme & POTS )
My sister and I could use prayer that these treatments work, and that maybe this will be the beginning to the end of this multi-decade battle.
Lyme (collective term for Borrelia, coinfections and complications) is so hard to treat because it can change form, hide from the immune system, be antibiotic resistant, cross the blood-brain barrier and infect any and all parts of the body, and treatments are basically going layer by layer, getting deep stuff to come to the surface, and repeating the process. 

A good metaphor would be weeding a garden: you pull weeds, you rototill, you use poison, you pull up roots and do your best with what you see. But you miss a few roots, you can’t always identify every weed, and the “poison” ruins the soil so you have to keep replenishing as you’re killing, and just when you think you got it all…. you find there’s stuff you missed that starts growing and taking over again.
Here is also a good link on why treatments make you feel worse: What is a Herx?

Wow guys, thanks for sticking with me and hearing me out! Even with all that writing it is still just a summary. 

Please also pray for God’s financial provision as for this season expenses have again skyrocketed into about 5,000 a month.

I have been unable to paint again, and that has been disheartening. If anyone has any clever ideas for fundraisers let me know! (It would have to be in the realm of my capacity). 

Steidl Family Lyme Fund
Jennifer’s Lyme Fund
Thank you again for taking the time to read all this. 

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 🌅