This was me, a little over 10 years ago, 16 years old at a cheerleading competition in Daytona Beach. Looking back at this photo, I see beyond the smile and momentary happiness, into the pain of what was going on in my life at this point in time.
When this photo was taken, I was well into a 3 year long journey with medical doctors to figure out why I was constantly in so much pain. Shortly after this photo was taken, I quit cheerleading in large part because my body was deteriorating (note I took off my knee brace that I was wearing full time to take this photo) and I just couldn't keep up with the other girls my age. I quickly turned to smoking weed and popping pills instead to numb not only the physical pain but also the emotional chaos that was my internal world.
About 6 months later, after a long and exhausting search, I was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease. That was 10 years ago today.
I remember being SO EXCITED because FINALLY I had a concrete answer! Doctors were finally listening and I had a clear next step. I was ecstatic to begin a new treatment that gave me hope for a pain free future.
Over the course of the next month, I became even more sick as the Herxheimer reaction began to kick in (a 'healing crisis' that Lyme patients know all too well, where the bacteria and their friends begin to die off, overloading the system with toxins faster than the body can release them). I ended up dropping out of high school just before Thanksgiving that year because I'd missed too many days and they were going to make me redo the semester. The depression deepened and for the next few years it was downhill from there as I desperately grasped onto anything that would make me feel even just a moment of relief (read sex, drugs, cutting, etc.).
I could go on and on about the anguish that the Lyme and its diagnosis has caused me over this last decade, and god knows as I cried in bed this morning from the neck pain and resulting migraine that's been plaguing me this last month, there's a part of me that wants to wallow in self-pity and ask again and again, "Why me?!"
But, I won't.
Because that's not what this journey with Lyme has taught me.
What living with Lyme has taught me more than anything else is how to have deep gratitude for this human experience. It has taught me to enjoy the little moments, both the ones filled with light and the ones filled with pain, because no matter how shitty the moment may feel, it's just an experience and at some point, eventually, there will be something else to experience. It has taught me that the only constant in life is change, and that instead of pushing against what is happening, I can surrender and choose to learn from it instead.
Living with Lyme has taught me to seek out the silver lining in every situation, because if I didn't learn to do that, my life would be all consumed with the sadness and fear that so frequently lies below the surface of my day to day interactions. It has taught me that we can use our pain to fuel our passion to spread more love and kindness into the world if we so choose.
Wherever you are in your journey, whether your day is filled with pain or otherwise, know that you DO have a choice in how you experience whatever is happening. Ask yourself, "If this were here **for** me, what would it be here to teach me?" Then, if you feel so inclined, you can ask life to reveal to you how to use what you've learned to empower and inspire others. If you have the courage to do so, life will never be the same. I promise.
Thank you all for allowing me to share this journey with you. I am so eternally grateful <3 <3<3<3