Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Surviving Chronic Illness

I know I've said this before, but it's worth saying again: It is incredibly hard to be sick day after day. But being chronically ill does not mean that you cannot find happiness and peace in your situation. Lyme disease ripped me straight out of the ground--uprooting me from a life of normalcy, and replanting me on what felt like an entirely different continent. I had two choices: learn to grow where I was replanted or whither away...

Having a chronic illness doesn't have to mean a miserable life just because it's a different life than you expected. You, and only you, are in charge of which way you choose to look at it. When your body doesn't cooperate and you can no longer do the things you want to do, it is frighteningly easy to let yourself get sucked into a deep pit of despair. It is no surprise that many people become depressed when battling a long-term illness.

You might be housebound, or even bedbound, but the sooner you can understand that you are still useful and that you still have a purpose in life--though it is likely much different than you thought it was going to be--the easier it is to pull yourself out of that dark place. If you can no longer do what you could do before you were sick, your goal is to find your new purpose, because chronic illness, like a tornado, sucks you up and abruptly drops you in a very unfamiliar place. Your purpose is still there, it's just not where you thought it was. You are different after the tornado of your illness and you are on a new path now. "New" can be scary, but it can also be a very beautiful thing.

As a plant grows, the weakest and oldest leaves die off. This gives the plant more energy to focus on its strong and healthy leaves. In order to grow stronger and taller in your present life and live in harmony with your illness, you have to let go of the bitterness and negativity you've likely picked up along the way from losing your health. I had to accept that I can no longer do many of the things I love to do. That was the most difficult part of my journey so far--even harder than coping with the pain--and I had to go through the stages of grief before I could accept my illness.

My life does not look like what I thought it would now, but it is a good life--full to the brim with many blessings and wonderful friends. Living with an excruciating and controversial disease is not easy, but it is quite possible. My heart has bloomed with beautiful flowers that have grown out of nuturing the seeds of hard work that were/are required to live in harmony with chronic Lyme disease. It has not been an easy path for me, but my walk has been made more bearable by wildflowers of encouragement planted along the way by friends and family.

I would love to hear what you have done to survive your own chronic illness or what you have learned from loving someone with a chronic illness!


  1. Oh, Alyson, this is just beautiful! Lately I have been really struggling to remain above water which is unusual for me. This stomach issues have taken me down....fear has twisted my thinking. I share this because lately I have felt God saying to me...
    "Remember...." Remember the many times I have walked with you....remember the blessings you have....remember those who love and care about you....remember what my Word tells you....remember you are my child...I formed you in your mother's womb...and on and on.
    Remember is my word for 2011...
    My husband and I are both ill. It is challenging, but life is still good. We laugh, cry, pray, and enjoy life together more...every precious moment. Reading inspirational books and blogs is helpful...deliberately finding the delights of each day. Enjoying nature....and truly living one day at a time. My LLMD told us yesterday that she lists 100 things she is grateful for every morning before getting out of bed! she also has lyme....
    Thanks for this post, Alyson...a true gift to all your readers.

  2. I just found your blog through a google search. I do not have lyme disease but I suffer with chronic fatigue and severe allergies that interfere with my eating, my sleeping... and pretty much everything. It is an invisible problem. I am young. Healthy in every other way. I can play sports. I am trim. No one can see on the outside what is going on beneath the surface. I have a large family and struggle to care for them. I am grumpy easily with my children because I have constant headaches and fatigue. I fall quickly into depression because I am constantly on the battle field physically.

    I don't know why I'm commenting here. Anonymously, no less! I feel alone and overwhelmed. My husband is supportive but doesn't really know what it's like. I have told him that my good days are like discovering the real me again. When I am sick, it is like life is hazy and times drags by... and slips by at the same time.

    I am normally able to push through. Today, I am struggling. I can't get things done. I can't make appointments on time because I don't have what it takes to get everyone ready on time. I can't get letters written or laundry hauled up the stairs. But I can't stop moving or else nothing will get done. So I sludge through.

    Please pray for me if you are a praying person. I need it today. God bless you.

  3. Dear Anonymous,
    Your story sounds very similar to mine! I will definitely keep you in my prayers.

    Keep your chin up!

  4. My story is like so many others in the Lyme community.... Misdiagnosed for the last 15 years. Just started very aggressive treatment for all three co-infections and feel like I'm losing it. I have slipped into a very severe depression which my LLMD says is from die off of Bartonella in my brain. Having panic attacks, an increase in seizures etc. None of which I had (except for seizures) before treatment. Sometimes I feel like giving up. I just want the pain and suffering to end.

  5. Anonymous, please, PLEASE make sure your doctor knows about any suicidal thoughts you may be having. Suicide is the number one cause of death from Lyme disease, because of the intense pain and suffering it causes.

    I understand the feeling of wanting to give up. Lyme disease and treatment is so, so HARD! But it is worth it. In the beginning of treatment when it was hardest, I used to cling to this (I wish I could remember where it's from!): Never, NEVER give up; your breakthrough may be just around the corner.

    A dear friend of mine committed suicide a few years ago and the pain, suffering and guilt suicide inflicts on loved ones left behind is unimaginable.

    I'm so sorry you are having such a difficult time. Your LLMD needs to know that you are struggling so he/she can slow your treatment down.

    Much love!