20 Unexpected Lessons I Learned From Late Stage Lyme Disease

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month. To some, it might mean seeing a few news segments about the risks of tick bites in Spring and Summer.  But for the rising number of us who have been diagnosed with Late Stage Lyme disease, this month holds meaning.

I’m 25 years old, and I have Late Stage Lyme disease. I’ve been battling it for almost 10 years now.  Through the experience of regaining my health, I’m learning that we’re all served our set of monumental challenges. Sure, some days its hard to watch my peers forge ahead in their lives, as they lay the foundation for their careers and start families of their own, while I make a career out of blending green smoothies and popping pills that smell like gym socks. But my peers have their set of challenges too. They may not involve ambulance rides, surgeries or medical anomalies, but I think we’re all given a set of obstacles that shape us into who we’re meant to be.

Lyme disease is my teacher. Though it’s weakened my body and sucked some of the life out of my organs, it’s taught me where my true strength lies and it breathed new life into my world. It’s taught me the value of gratitude, the true definition of courage, and the importance of unconditional self love. Because of Lyme disease, I know how to find the light switch when things have gone impossibly dark, and how to laugh when life doesn’t seem very funny. Though it’s been a hard lesson to learn, I’m learning to allow this disease to continue to shape me each and every day. Here are some other life lessons I’ve learned from living with Lyme:

1. When someone asks how you are, ninety-eight percent of the time they are expecting a one word answer. Unless it’s your mom or your grandmother who’s asking. Then your answer requires no less than 125 words.

2. Laughing is really important. It brings us back to the moment and reminds us to exhale, and to use up less of our moments worrying about the future or grieving over the past. But it’s okay to cry sometimes. That’s important too.

3. Moccasin slippers are a wise investment. When you accidentally forget to put on real shoes, people will be less likely to notice.

4. If you consume carrot juice, Quercetin, turmeric and vitamin C all in one day, you’ll wake up looking like you’ve had a bad spray tan. Don’t worry, it’ll fade.

5. If you want something to work, the first thing that you have to do is believe in it. The second step is to trust it, and the third is to commit to it until what you believed would happen becomes a truth.

6. A doctor, a teacher, a mentor or a healer can show you how to do it, but they can’t do it for you. You have to meet your guide halfway. It’s up to you to do the work.

7. If you’re going to sit in an infrared sauna, drink a lot of water before you get in, even if your bladder tells you otherwise. Don’t wear mascara.

8. Don’t let a closed door close your mind, or hard circumstances harden your heart. Staying open and gracious allows space for unexpected opportunities.

9. That inexplicable funny feeling that you sometimes get about things? It’s your intuition. Trust it. It’s smarter than your heart and less biased than your brain.

10. For those mornings that you wake up feeling like you have a massive hangover (or if you really actually have a hangover, no judgment here), keep a bottle of peppermint oil next to your bed. Sometimes it’s the little things that can really shift a girl’s day.

11.  Study ingredient labels like it’s your college major. And if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.

12. If your shampoo or perfume would be toxic if you ate it, then you shouldn’t wear it.

13. Sometimes, when you feel impossibly sick, it’s best to go back to the basics. Your body might just need some breathing room.

14. Stop looking for the “right answer.” Pause for a moment, breathe, and let it come to you. The further you go searching for what may not be yours, the farther you get from what’s actually meant for you.

15. Make peace with your sweatpants. The world is lucky you got dressed.

16. You can never have too many blankets, pairs of pajama pants, epi-pens or extra rolls of toilet paper.

17. The dishes will still be there in the morning.

18. Try not to underestimate yourself. Your body may be somewhat unreliable, but your spirit isn’t.

19. Asking the question “Why me?” just proves to the Universe that you haven’t learned the answer yet, and nothing goes away until it teaches us what we need to know.

20. When all else fails, call someone who loves you.

Candice is a volunteer for LymeLight Foundation, and is currently the Social Media Manager for Well Scent Apothecary. She’s a health advocate, freelance writer, and almond butter lover. Find her on FacebookTwitter or her blog. To learn more about Lyme disease, visit LymeDisease.org