It took me second (rather, few days) to gather my thoughts, as sitting down to write something for Sarah mean't coming up with an introduction that would be fit for such a well rounded, uplifting, heartwarming, laughter invoking, motivation driving story. A story that takes the complete and utter chaos that this disease can ensue, and make it into something that screams, "you can do this!" with every witty comment, charming anecdote, and pain filled realization.
It's as if we're doing it together, laughing, screaming, smiling, and dancing the whole way through.
It's as if we've met up for coffee in the cafe around the corner, snuggling up with our favorite drinks, stories, and moments gone wrong. Building, learning, and lifting each other up, only to come out of it life long friends ready to take on the world. So maybe instead of trying to gather together enough words to properly represent all that Sarah is, I'll let it take you, as it took me, to a place of comfort, security, reassurance, and hope. Because boy does it feel good to take off your shoes, curl up on the couch - or wherever you find yourself most comfortable - and be at home and present with yourself and the world around you.
With that person sitting across from you, because more often than not, that person is going to share so many of those same fears and doubts as you, and right now, I feel as if Sarah is that person, taking all that it means to be more than, and putting it into this story in a way that is entirely her own: raw, honest, charming, hilarious, real, and at times heart-wrentching.
So, without wasting any more time, this is her story...
I find it almost comical, the irony of the situation from where I write this. As I gaze out at a placid lake in northern Wisconsin, the setting and soil that has always rendered me most content in my 29 years. But I am not bemused to think that it is likely the very type setting in where I first contracted Lyme disease. I mean, who is to say, as I never had sight of the bite or rash. However with a childhood that was enveloped in the woods, barefoot and drenched in everything the midwest landscape has to offer, it would come as no surprise to me once I was diagnosed. And so, with this new-to-me reality, albeit posting up residence in my cells for years now, I am choosing to lean in to it.
Symptoms have underscored in so many major life events. Missed social events, forced smiles when my health takes a 180 degree turn–with no forewarning–in the middle of my favorite band’s sold-out concert, a bachelorette party, the ceremony of a wedding I am documenting; I’m only telling you things that you are likely all too familiar with yourself. (For which I am incredibly and sincerely sorry. I never want to hear that anyone is able to understand something so bizarre as this.) But recently, as I peel back the layers and begin to dig the surface of my emotional foundation –with what feels like a toothpick at best – I find that held at the helm of healing could in fact be me. This illness, after much deliberation (and believe you me, this stubborn Virgo deliberated) is not my fault after all. But in order to move on from it, it turns out it’s still my responsibility to steer this godforsaken thing to shore and leaving some of the cargo behind in my quest. That’s the only way I will find the permission to give myself the gift of love.
For as long as I can remember, I have always felt like I was an emotional erosion; so much so that I would withhold at the risk of being ‘too much’. I know what those who know me must be thinking: ‘But Sarah, you are SO open with your emotions! You are vulnerable and I see you cry, like, all the time!’ True, and thank you for pointing that out. But can you imagine? If you have seen me that emotionally vulnerable already, what the real wrath would be if I actually let it all unfold?I think it’s safe to say that anyone with a chronic illness of any capacity keeps a mini-Lou Ferigno of fervency buried deep down inside at all times; sometimes by choice, sometimes not. By stuffing every last fear into new pockets with a hoarder like dexterity, I am starting to learn that I’m only creating energetic barricades.
I have been taking up beautiful, ripe real estate in my very vesses that elicited toxicity where healing should be happening, and frankly nobody’s got time for that shit.
One of the most challenging aspects of having this disease is that symptoms are conspicuously waving both arms and unwelcoming so at all situations, like those lanky blow-up creatures outside of an auto body shop reminding you to get an oil change. But these symptoms remain invisible to those around us; albeit sometimes being able to feel the ripple effect they have created, like lack of patience. (Read: unnecessarily yelling at my husband for turning the pepper grinder wrong. I know the odd fits of rage are a culprit of Lyme, but it’s likely that 0/10 of non-Lyme individuals would believe that card to be true. ‘A cop-out’, they’d say.) Because of how we are conditioned as a society, there often times is a disregard at the plight of illness that is not easily seen. With the exception, however, of skin rash, weight fluctuations, and apparent lethargy in mundane tasks, in which we have usually chalked up to a whole host of other issues, or have been told to simply ‘deal with it.’ Instead of being angered by ignorance, where can we lean in and accept?
Here’s the real root of it all for me.
I have a propensity to fill space with chatter to alleviate discomfort of others, or pick up duffels of turmoil that don’t even remotely belong to me in order to lighten the load for everyone but myself.
This could be due to being an textbook empath, in which case you would be right. But one thing this illness has not-so-gently brought to my attention is that–while sincerely caring about the betterment of others– I subconsciously also do this as a means to avoid. (Healing Self quote reference here)
Once I read this, I realized that the moment I can look at this as no longer happening to me but for me, even if only 50% of the time, some serious changes can occur.
Some days I am motivated and see Jean Grey looking back at me in the mirror. I’m a notorious multi-tasker. For example, if I am texting you, I am also likely peeing, cleaning an ear with a q-tip, taking one of the too-many-to-count supplements (you know the ones, that can only be taken 15 minutes after eating, but only 2 hours before the next meal.) And sadly, I am typing the aforementioned text to you instead of using Siri talk-to-text because she still types ‘duck’ after all these years and I have control issues, because everything else in life feels like grasping for straws right now. These moments, pathetic as it may sound, make me feel productive. So, I lean in more to that feeble victory.
I recently had an friend battling similar circumstances tell me she felt so proud for having gone to the Post Office that day. Case in point.
Then there are days where I am irritated at this beast and the idea of walking my sweet dog feels about as much fun as putting on a damp swimsuit. You know the feeling. Where you can’t decide if you are foggy because you’re on the brink of a Herx reaction or because the brain fog is so jarring in comparison to the marathon you could’ve ran just a mere 12 hours prior. You are floating through life looking at yourself from an drone view somehow, and that’s when the unsolicited advice comes in. From your peers, from someone you’ve never met, all in regards to your health. “I’m sorry, stranger at Target. I am having a hard enough time deciding if I should pay the extra money for this parabon free lotion, while feverishly googling, ‘but what REALLY are the effects of parabans anyway?’ to even make headspace to comprehend your theory of my health.” So now, I choose to lean in deeper.
The sooner I can feel this moment, the sooner I can let it pass and wipe my hands clean. Only I get to decide how I am feeling; it is not serving me to let others dictate that.
You name the healing modality, I’ve done it. Hell, I’d wrap my head in a hot towel while eating animal crackers if someone told me it would make my joint pain subside. But this one healer in particular as of late hit home. One of the (thousands) of things she said that struck all the chords was that more than ever, I need to trust. Not in that I should trust I will show up, because I’m already doing that. Not in that I will take my supplements or do all of the daily rituals, because they’re being done to the nth degree.
But what if, just for a moment, I trust that I loved myself enough to even want to heal? That I shifted my thought process to no longer needing to fix and “plow through and blast this thing”
...but because at the end of the day, I want and deserve to live my life to it’s highest potential? If it were your dog or your younger sister, wouldn’t you do your very best to ensure that they were living their best life? Surely you can think of a mammal you have a deep enough affinity for that you fight out of love. Where is the disconnect in having the same gusto for our own magnificent bodies?
So again, I lean in so far to the discomfort that I topple over and sit in my stockpile of equal parts defeat and empathy. I wonder if sometimes healing takes longer because deep down in our subconscious, we don’t want to fully do it. We may be so done with the symptoms and the empty wallets it’s left us with, but after years of questions with little to no answers, our silent suffering has a name, and that makes it real and tangible. Are we still worthy of healing once it’s gone? Of course, dear one. Of course we are. And that very notion is where I am at, and I no longer need the Lyme to justify.
Because while this disease and all of it’s variables will never, ever make sense to me and I wish to eradicate it more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my entire life, it’s brought me to my knees.
It’s dropped me down to a level where self-care is no longer an indulgence, but a necessity. Epsom salt baths are essential for my liver functioning and yoga class may be replaced with a coffee enema, and that is okay. That is where I am at and energetically I can’t afford to be anywhere else but here, wading in the thick of it. And guess what? Even when the day comes when this pest no longer takes residence in my body who never even knocked in the first place, I will lean in to this time as it gave me permission to love myself again. In a consistent, guttural way that truthfully, I’m not sure I ever have. And you get to have that, too.
I can now hear my chocolate lab barking as the vibration ricochets off the lake and doubles in frequency. There has to be a metaphor in there somewhere, right?
One of my absolute favorite things, is when I can not just see, but feel the person and how they really, really feel in this moment, healing, working, striving, healing, and putting their voice out there in a way that makes each and every one of us feel a little less alone.
With that being said, Sarah, we are beyond honored to have you as part of our collective voice, because dang, it could not be more true than to say that we are so much stronger fighting this thing together. So please, share your story and continue to laugh, cry, and feel "crazy" (crazy is a good thing) with and in the little joys that make up Sarah's life by following her on...
And did I mention she is not only an incredible photographer, but creative director for all thing amazing?!?