Joy is different then saying you are “happy”. Joy is something that you can carry with you even through difficult times. When you are battling a chronic illness of any kind, this can be difficult to find.
I was diagnosed with Lyme in 2012 and went from being a healthy and active college student to being bed ridden in a matter of 3 months. My entire life came crashing down as I lay in bed wondering how I was ever going to feel normal again. To this day, I still don’t feel “normal” and I still suffer from symptoms every day such as joint pain, chronic fatigue and anxiety. The first two years were the hardest part of my journey, and there were so many days that I wish I knew someone who understood. I take any opportunity I can to give that sense of community to someone.
When talking with people with Lyme I always tell them that the mental battle is just as important as the physical. You need to take care of your mind and your emotions in order to get through a battle like this. We fight Every. Single. Day… and if you are not taking care of yourself as a whole, you will struggle to stay motivated and do the things you need to do to get to the best version of yourself that you can with Lyme disease.
Trust me, when I was bed ridden in the first couple years I had those thoughts of wondering if I would ever have a career, a family or any sign of a normal life. Although those thoughts creeped in at times I worked hard at ensuring I maintained a positive mindset and that I had hope for not only a normal future, but one that exceeded expectations. Battling Lyme disease has taught me so much about life, drastically changed my perspective and has allowed me to grow as a person.
The one thing I always tell people to do is to write in a journal. The best advice I was given was from my naturopath who said, “Every night I want to you do two things. First, write your “S#*&” list. Write down everything you are angry or upset about. Anything that is weighing on you, get it out. Second, write your gratitude list. You MUST write down 10 things no matter how hard it is for you”. After I wrote my list of what upset me I would crumple it up and throw it away, but I would keep every gratitude list to look back on. I ended every night with a grateful heart, no matter how much pain I was in.
If you have any family or friends that are by your side through this journey, don't hesitate to ask them to help you. This one was hard for me as I felt like I was giving up by admitting that I needed help, or that I couldn't make it to dinner with a friend. So I would push myself and end up in bed for another three days. If someone truly cares about you, they will come to you...but only if you ask. Once I was open with my friends and asked if they could come over with take-out instead of going out to dinner, they were happy to come over. Listen to your body and allow yourself to be honest with those around you. This is not defeat, this is you taking care of yourself so you can heal.
Finally I had to change my perspective with food and exercise. They became a healing tool instead of something that I "should do". I completely cut sugar out of my diet and eat mainly whole foods, nothing processed and look to my diet to help fight inflammation, heal my gut and give me energy. I turned to yoga and swimming for my exercise and I stopped trying to just get fit and looked at it as an avenue to ease anxiety, get away from the stress of everyday life and to help my body function better overall.
Have faith in yourself and your ability to heal. Have faith that things will get better. Although you are experiencing extreme suffering, there is still good in your world. Find your joy and make the best out of the life you are given. Joy is a choice you must make daily, and I hope you can make that choice today.
Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.
Contact Jessica at email@example.com