It started yesterday: diarrhea. I made it to work, but had to cancel my appointments in south county. There was no way I could go that long without ready access to a bathroom.
I wondered about this, being the Eve of Thanksgiving. As the night progressed, so did my symptoms. I was just well enough to go to the store and stock up on chicken & rice soup, yogurt & ice cream. Sure, dairy is not the wisest decision for my ailments but they’re soothing. At least the ice cream is made with fresh ginger.
Today? It’s all worse. Now there’s nausea. The smell of pretty much anything aggravates that so I cannot fathom smelling turkey and stuffing. Blehhhhh.
But I’m counting my blessings. Among them is Lyme Disease. Is that crazy?
Many of you know I’m in AA. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a 12-step program. Many (including me at first) confuse it with a “support group.” There are meetings, yes. We share our victories, trials and tribulations – yes. But it’s more than a hug and an “It’s gonna be okay.” It’s a program, a road map for life. Lyme Disease beat “program” into me. It made me aware that I’m perfectly capable of being on the pity pot. It made me realize I can fall victim to catastrophic thinking. It made me realize I can focus on the negative and forget to be grateful for what I do have. It opened my eyes to a lot of things.
I’m the type of person who does not change unless I’m in pain. And isn’t that true of anyone? We don’t quit our jobs if they’re satisfactory. We don’t dump our significant others if everything is OK. Most of us wait until it’s unbearable because it’s scary to leave the familiar, isn’t it? Lyme Disease gave me enough pain — inner and outer and all-arounder — to stop the madness and change.
So here I sit, a better person. A stronger person. A better equipped person. I’m someone who can, for the most part but not always, live life on life’s terms. Today I help people with disabilities get jobs and keep them. I never could have fully understood physical limitations until I suffered from them myself. I never could have fully understood the intricacies that go along with it, too — like wanting to do things we used to do and sometimes doing them when we shouldn’t. I never understood fatigue; I used to just think “Well, maybe if you just get up and move around……..”. I never understood how it feels to have trouble going upstairs — not just the pain that accompanies it, but also the embarrassment and apologizing to the more physically fit person lagging behind my slow ass. I never understood how painful it can be emotionally to get back downstairs only to realize I left something up there and I NEED it and to laboriously crawl back up to get it. I never understood limitations in stamina and not being able to work a full 8-hour shift or how adapting my work life could make working an 8-hour shift possible. I never understood these things and maybe I HAD to understand them by experiencing them firsthand.
I am more compassionate today. I am more accepting. I am more tolerant. I can decipher between ‘wants’ and ‘needs,’ such as I needed my pain to be eased even though I was wanting it to go away. This is something my sponsor taught me and it’s why I’m not dependent on pain killers today. Because believe me: before I had the doctor I have, there were plenty who offered to “give me something.” I am a lot of things today because of Lyme Disease and they’re all good.
Yes, I have a stomach bug. Yes, I am staying home on Thanksgiving and yes, I am doomed to eat Chicken & Rice soup instead of turkey and potatoes. Yes, I wish this was the holiday with the Twilight Zone Marathon — and it’s not. But I’m thankful today to even have Chicken & Rice Soup. I’m thankful to have my warm and toasty home. I’m thankful to have my boys — my son and my beloved boyfriend who makes this house more of a home than a shelter with things in it. I’m thankful for my son’s grandparents who are taking care of him today and who will show him a good weekend during a trip out of town. I’m thankful that while I’m not rich, I have enough money for my needs to be met. I’m thankful I’m not in a wheelchair. I’m thankful to be alive. There were plenty of dark days with Lyme Disease – particularly before being diagnosed – where I genuinely did not know this wouldn’t kill me. There were nights I woke up not breathing. I had pain so severe that it made my heart beat differently. I felt like I was being tortured from within and I was so insufferably tired that there were days I was scared I wouldn’t wake up. I can’t even articulate all of these things — but if you’re reading this, I can count on the fact that you probably already know. I talked to my son’s grandparents about ….. “if.” That was a hard conversation and it was harder to surrender to the fact that it might come to that, to that “if,” that it’s ultimately not up to me whether or not I’m around to protect my child. Thankfully I’m here today.
Thank you for reading. Happy Thanksgiving.