Aly Shwedo

Welcome back to More Than Lyme features! Today's topic is: Self-Love. To gain a better and more broad understanding of this subject, I asked a handful of Lyme Warriors how best they cultivate self-love and all that goes with it…

Meet Aly. She lives with a passion for the little moments, the moments that are spent with the people that she loves, places that inspire her, and the dreams that will one day become a reality. Aly has been able to turn this dire situation into an opportunity for something great; the connections she has made, the people she has met, and the perspective she has gained has only made her stronger and more able to tackle whatever comes her way, all while keeping hope and planning for the many adventures to come!

"My biggest passion is traveling. I feel completely alive and at peace when I'm exploring a new place, and it’s always been my goal to travel the world."

Here is her story.

Q: Letting go. In the process of being diagnosed with Lyme Disease, what things have you had to sacrifice and let go of? And how do you cope and adjust to this new way of life?

Aly: My life now compared to my life two years ago barely resemble each other. I’ve had to give up pursuing my education, my job, my friends, my independence, and almost my entire way of living through this disease. I am still grieving the loss of my former life, but I think sacrifice is a much better word to use when it comes to chronic illness. Lyme disease strips you down to your core. It is easy to look at our situation as a negative experience, but I have been given more than I have sacrificed to this illness. I have gained compassion and respect for anyone affected by chronic illness and hardship. I have been shown what moments in life truly matter and have a greater appreciation for every opportunity that my health allows me to do something “normal”. I do not have the same goals in life as I did before I got sick. I noticed that I had been neglecting the things that truly matter: the connections and experiences we share with friends and family. Instead of pursuing a high-intensity career and education, I realized that I wanted to spend my life traveling. So while I have temporarily had to release my former life and the expectations I had for it, I have permanently gained a greater respect, admiration, and appreciation for the incredible people and moments in my life.

Q: Following your passion. What activities do you do for yourself that help feed your mind and body? And how do these activities help you stay motivated through the good and the bad?

Aly: My biggest passion is traveling. I feel completely alive and at peace when I’m exploring a new place and it’s always been my goal to travel the world. It’s borderline ironic that I fell ill my last trip abroad. While I can’t handle traveling like I used to, I try to turn every opportunity out of the house into an adventure. Whether it’s traveling to Tennessee to see my LLMD, Florida to see my boyfriend, or just down the road to the pharmacy, I try to appreciate and enjoy every moment of my adventures. On the days that I’m stuck in bed, I like to browse travel blogs and plan for all the trips I’m going to take when I’m healthy again!

Q: Being mindful of what you think. Negative thoughts can be overwhelming and difficult to keep in check--what are some of the positive thoughts you focus on when you're feeling down?

Aly: I am a huge advocate for therapy. Having a professional to help work through the negative and anxious thoughts has helped me more than any pill or supplement. I also continuously remind myself that my illness is temporary and to trust in the path that I am on. I also never stop planning for the future. I do not know how long I will be in treatment for, but that doesn’t stop me from planning trips, places I want to live, and the life that I want to live. I know that I will be healthy one day and I have so much to look forward to!

Q: Someone to lean on. Asking for help can be hard, especially when you're suffering from Chronic Lyme--simple tasks often become difficult and you are forced to look to others for support. Tell us about your community, who they are, and how they help you and challenge you to keep fighting.

Aly: I’ve always been fiercely independent so it was extremely difficult for me to ask for help. Moving home and giving up my independence was a big lesson in gratitude for me. Without the help and support of my family, I wouldn’t be able to write this post. I am also thankful for the friends that I still have. I consider myself lucky that I have friends who still push me to get out of the house or come over to watch Netflix with me when I can’t. I still struggle with asking for help when I need it, but I am getting better.

I’ve also connected with tons of people all over the world with Lyme disease through social media. When I was first diagnosed, I checked hashtags to find success stories to use as motivation. There’s a fantastic Lyme community on Instagram. I find it easier to connect with people that are climbing the same mountain and these people have become some of my closest friends. My boyfriend and I actually met through a Lyme support group! We both share an understating of the realities of Lyme and are able to connect and relate beyond our illness. He inspires me to keep fighting and to take care of my body when I need to. There is strength in numbers and I think it’s important for healing to surround yourself with people who are positive and compassionate.

Continue to follow Aly as she lives each moment with the kind of passion and drive that it takes to conquer this cruel disease... 

find her on Instagram: @alyfaceee, to see where her travel bug will take her.