Monday, February 22, 2016

How to Let Go of the Past and Embrace What Is

"At some point you just have to let go of what you thought should happen, and live in what is happening." - Heather Hepler, The Cupcake Queen

What I THOUGHT should happen was a successful acting career, marriage and kids. What DID happen was Lyme Disease, Babesia, Breast Cancer and early menopause, making the kid thing obsolete. There was painful disappointment, bitterness and tears. But I refuse to be bitter.  I only have so much time left on this earth and I won't use up my energy in bitterness.

My apartment furniture is still in storage in Los Angeles, and has been since 2009. First I assumed I would be heading back any day to get my things out of storage and continue my acting life where I left off.  Then I thought eventually I would head back and try to pick up the pieces. It has taken me seven years to accept that I'm not going back, ever, and the physical objects in my storage unit were a painful reminder of my hopes and dreams that weren't going to be fulfilled.  Letting go of that stuff felt to me like giving up on the dream.

As the new year dawned I finally had the mental and physical energy to go through old paperwork and files from that time in my life.  I shredded bags worth of old energy and upon doing so felt a huge release. I finally gave up some clothes from my life in Los Angeles, and now I'm ready to tackle my storage unit and truly let go of what that represents.

Steps that helped me let go and move forward:
1. Acknowledged the pain that was there regarding lost opportunities, unfulfilled dreams or difficult life detours or tragedies
2.  Forgave myself for not being able to achieve my goals
3.  Acknowledged the limitations I had in the present
4.  Accepted my life as it was in the present
5.  Cleaned out my physical space, when I was ready, of old items that didn't serve me in my life as it is now 
6.  Meditated and created an open space in my heart and soul for possibilities

I have found the sooner I can let go of the bitterness of unfilled past expectations, the sooner I seem to be healing in the present. I think that also translates into finally joyfully moving forward into an exciting and opportunity filled future.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Suicidal Side of Lyme

This is hard to talk about, and hard for family members and friends of Lyme disease patients to hear. It's depressing, scary and dark. But it's real and we need to talk about it because Lyme patients are committing suicide.

Imagine you are addicted to peanut M & Ms or any food you know isn't good for you in large quantities. You think about them all the time and you can't stop eating them. Then you realize you're gaining weight, the sugar is making you feel sick and you know they're bad for you. But when you wake up, the first thing you think about is having a peanut M & M. All day, you can't stop thinking about them. A little voice keeps whispering "just do it, have an M & M." Eventually, you might succumb and have just a few. Then more. Ugh. It's so hard to resist.

This is what if feels like to have suicidal ideation (unusual preoccupation with suicide) when you have Lyme disease. The Lyme bacteria (borrelia burgdorferi) have invaded the brain and there is severe inflammation. The bacteria affect the emotional center of the brain and along with depression, anxiety, paranoia and Lyme rage comes relentless suicidal thoughts. You can't stop thinking these thoughts. It's like a heavy pressure that weighs constantly on you. The suicidal thoughts aren't a conscious, "I want to kill myself." Instead, there's a dark voice you don't even recognize as you that haunts and taunts, whispering constantly, "just do it." And it's so hard to resist because there is so much pain, every day, all day long, compounded by a deep depression that has no end. Committing suicide is the better option.

It takes a very strong person to resist these thoughts when the body is so weak, in so much pain and fighting for its life. Add to that the pressure of outside influences like a doctor and family members who don't believe the patient that they are really "that sick," and what you get is a patient who follows through and listens to that dark voice.

What the patient needs is a doctor and family members who will validate how sick they are and who will constantly remind them of who they were, that the suicidal thoughts aren't them and that it is, indeed, a serious bacterial infection in their brain making them think this way. The patient needs people around them who validate that they need to be treated, who will give them support while they are treated, who will remind them that they are loved, that their life is worth living, and that they are valuable.

Somehow, I resisted that dark voice. It spoke to me every day for more than a year, although prior to Lyme I had never had a suicidal thought. When I woke in the morning, before I opened my eyes, the first thought that whispered to me was, "how will I kill myself today?" I would run through in my mind the various ways I could and it gave me a strange comfort to know that I had an out. I had an out from the hideous pain and deep, dark all encompassing depression I was in. There were many days I wanted to give in. It would be so easy to just give in and not feel the pain in every nook and cranny of my body. The hardest part about Lyme is that when you start treatment and the bacteria die off they release toxins that can exacerbate your symptoms and suicidal thoughts. Just when you are in the most pain, you have to dig even deeper to  keep going. To me it felt like a demon in my brain challenging me to fight with everything I had left.

But I found a way to keep the pressure of that dark voice out. I am one of the "lucky" ones because I had friends and family and a knowledgeable doctor and therapist whose love and support kept a pin prick of light shining through the darkness. I grabbed on to that light and it grew and with years of medicine, treatment and healing the suicidal thoughts are gone. Gone. Lyme disease did that to me.

If you have Lyme disease and you are having relentless, suicidal thoughts, reach out to other patients and support groups. Find a knowledgeable therapist who you can speak to. Don't try to fight it alone. If family members and friends don't understand, don't waste precious energy trying to make them. This is a fight for your life. Find the people who will listen, who understand what you are experiencing and who will remind you that your life is worth living, because it is. I have been in the deepest, darkest place and if you can just hang on for another second, and then another one, and keep fighting those bugs, there will be light.

We need to talk about this because, in the throes of this illness, Lyme patients are committing suicide. 

Suicide Prevention Web-site

Suicide Prevention Hot-line - 1-800-273-8255

Yahoo Lyme Groups By State - Scroll Down for Groups Listed by State - You can connect with members of the Lyme community in your state.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I am a Lyme patient and I am sharing my own experience. If you have Lyme disease or think you have Lyme disease and are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please consult a Lyme literate doctor or psychiatrist. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Pain Acknowledgement

Here is what has been said to Lyme patients regarding illness..."You just need to get up and get moving." "Get over it." "Gee, I wish I could stay in bed all day and do nothing." "What's your problem?" Here is what would be much more healing and helpful..."I'm sorry you are in so much pain." "How can I help you feel better?" "Yes, what you're going through sucks."

Sometimes, what a person needs, is to have the pain in their soul, the break in their heart, the physical aches in their body acknowledged and validated. We are a culture that says, "It will get better, get over it, move on. You'll find someone or something better. You'll be fine." But this does not allow space for the hurt to be recognized and in being recognized start the healing process. Sometimes what we need is to hear, "Yes, your pain is real, what has happened is awful and it may never be ok. And that is ok." Somewhere in the acknowledgement of "not ok," healing can begin.