There was an itchy spot on my thigh. Resist the urge to itch, it’s just a mosquito bite. Nothing a little benadryl can’t fix right? It was the end of summer 2015, and I was feeling pretty good. I was waitressing and saving money for the next school semester, running farther and faster than ever (nothing really impressive, but I’d made real personal progress), my health was at its peak, I really felt like I was kicking asthma in the a** (although I was too pious to say a**), I was volunteering as an archery coach, I had just recently started dating someone, I had a new group of friends, was attending a super wholesome church with a loving community, and regularly attending a Bible study with friends I adored. My room was consistently clean and I was feeling really freak’n productive, for the first time since leaving the cult, I was feeling happy and content.
But that wasn’t a mosquito bite, it was a tick bite. The next few days I got a fever and couldn’t stay awake. I was in a haze. I felt like I was going to die. Thankfully the little bite swelled up into a bullseye rash – I say thankfully, because not all people who have lyme disease get the signature rash, but if you get that rash then you have certainty, and can get treated sooner. By Sunday I started the 6 week stretch of taking antibiotics. That escalated quickly.
Little is known about the autoimmune disease spread by little black insects, other than it has a bunch of various symptoms, often misdiagnosed, it’s hard to know you have it without a blood test or the bullseye rash, and it may or may not affect you for the rest of your life depending on when you catch it. Most lyme disease symptoms never even see a tick on them (I never did). Each day between the Lyme carrying tick bites you, and starting antibiotics could mean the difference between a lifetime of sickness, or a suppressed/conquered disease.
At that time however, there was really no way of knowing if I’d caught it soon enough. I cried myself to sleep, and in the morning, I tried to be brave, put on a smiling face, take my meds which made me nauseous, fatigued, moody, and extremely sensitive to the sun (yeah I was basically a vampire). Then I tried to have a productive day.. But, where had all my self discipline gone? It took all I had in me to get out of bed in the morning, to eat food, and not snap at my family members. Prior to learning that I had lyme that I had opted to take a semester off of school. Thank God for that, because I don’t know how I would have juggled family responsibilities, work, the financial stress of school, and homework with Lyme Disease.
I learned a valuable lesson that semester. One that I sometimes forget, but one that was vital to my personal development. There was the real possibility that I’d never really feel healthy again. Something I took for granted – something we all take for granted – could be gone just like that, with no warning. Good/decent health wasn’t something that I had to work too hard for up until that point. I mean, I lived in a 3 story house most of my life and I got a decent amount of daily cardio climbing staircases. It wasn’t too hard to be relatively fit. After that there was the few years at the house in the enchanted (Read: *tick infested) woods with ample views to encourage leisurely (Read: *deceptively peaceful) scenic strolls or hikes.
I was finally making an effort to go beyond that, I was trying to take ownership of my asthma and strengthen my respiratory, and physical health by running… and then of all times.. when I was at the peak of health, it crashed down and I never felt more unhealthy in my life. I had never felt so physically tired, or so sick. I remember forcing myself to get to work, change my diet to be more palatable with the meds, and tried to continue running, although failing miserably. I went from getting 7 hours of sleep and feeling full of life to getting 11 and feeling like I was sleepwalking. I remember cooking dinner for my family before heading out for my evening waitress shift and feeling too nauseous to eat the food I’d made, later sneaking crackers on the shift to settle my stomach. I remember trying to encourage my family and also take care of myself, and realizing that it was hard. Really hard. Really freak’n hard. It was frustrating because it felt like I had to put in twice the effort for half the results, and there was the possibility that I wouldn’t get better, and realer still was the fear that I might actually get worse. What if I couldn’t do it on my own, what if I couldn’t be the strong independent woman I was so proud of, what if *gasp* I had to ask for help? What if I lived like that for the rest of my life?
I remembered that there are people, wonderful inspiring people who have disabilities who are happy. There are people who have literally no choice but to to rely on others for their daily needs but God could still use them to be a blessing to others in some way. All I had was Lyme. Life gave me Lyme instead of lemons and I had to make do. I came to peace with the idea that I would just have to make the most of it. If I was to get worse, then I’d make the most of that too. I knew I’d have to learn to simply work with what I was given. After all, since when was good health a guarantee?
I thank God for His grace with me, that after 6 weeks of antibiotics and more time gaining back my strength, it became apparent that the fears I had come to terms with wouldn’t be my reality. That being said, I know health is not guaranteed. 3 years later, despite highs and lows, my health is in a good place. I can run over double the distance compared to what I could back in 2015 before Lyme, I can hike a mountain like nobody’s business and I consistently feel pretty energized. Like all gifts from God we should try to make the best of it, invest in ourselves and he’ll bless us. However blessing doesn’t always mean that he’ll give us more of the same, what I do think it means is he’ll give us strength to get to where we need to be. Sometimes that means allowing things like Lyme to cross our path so that we can learn, so that we can find strength in Christ where we previously thought we were making it on our own. Perhaps just as important is contentment and gratitude.
The old adage runs true, that if you’re not moving forward then you’re moving backwards. I’m not saying that we should be content with where God has us in this moment. I believe that we should strive to meet our full potential, to make use of the gifts God’s given us, but we also need to stop comparing our triumph’s with others, or where we were at a different point in time. We are all on different journeys, and have different capacities. Personal growth is still personal growth even if it’s not super impressive, God looks at the heart, and growth/personal development that might be particularly hard for you, and not so noticeable to those around you, is still growth. As a self-help book addict and someone who always tries to be the best version of myself, it’s hard for me to accept weakness, but without our weaknesses there would be nowhere for God to show his strength. There would be no testimony to give God glory.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.