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 Aviva. A young woman who has been working towards her dreams since day one. Sure, there have been challenges and set-backs along the way. Set-backs that would normally crush someone, motivate and strengthen Aviva's will to heal. They are a mere stepping stone to her future, a future full of writing, film making, and traveling. Aviva never loses sight of what she wants out of life by using the trust she has in herself, love for adventure, and the motivation and determination to achieve her dreams.
"No one has the right to tell you how you experience the world. You know your body best. You know you best. Trust yourself. Trust yourself. Trust yourself."
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?
Aviva: I became chronically ill the summer of 2010, the year before I thought I’d leave home and go to college in California. I thought life would be so different. Not following my prescribed timeline was incredibly painful. Especially when we are young, each age has symbolism attached. When you’re 18, you’re an “adult.” Having to stay home when all my friends had the opportunity to become independent, go on adventures, and see the world was really difficult.
I just turned 22. This age has personal significance attached as well. If everything had gone according to plan, I would be graduating college this year. Becoming chronically ill dramatically shifted my timeline. But, I like to believe that this timeline is going to bring me more opportunity, joy, and fulfillment than if everything had gone according to plan. Although I wish I weren’t battling chronic illness, I think this experience is shaping me into the person I’m meant to be. I’ve discovered how much strength, perseverance, and bravery I possess. I will keep fighting until I get my health back and have the freedom to pursue all I want in this life.
I spend a lot of my time in bed, because fatigue is one of my top symptoms. Experiencing such consuming symptoms is a message. I ask myself, “What are these symptoms trying to tell me?” Before becoming chronically ill, my body sent me a lot of messages I ignored or did not understand how to decipher. This experience has taught me to listen to my body. We live in a society that teaches us to ignore what our bodies are telling us, to just keep pushing no matter what. “Drink this energy drink. Stay up all night. Here’s a drug that can fix that, even though there might be a deeper cause,” society tells us. I refuse to accept a life of bed resting, but right now, my body is fighting so hard, and I need to listen to what it has to say.
Kris Carr, one of my health idols, encapsulates what I believe acceptance to actually mean. She says, “Acceptance is different from quitting. It means that no matter what happens to you, you won't abandon yourself in your time of need." I refuse to permanently adjust to this way of life, but in order for healing to occur, I must adjust accordingly in the present. When I am able, I try to appreciate the petite joys around me. If I have the energy, I push myself to go on miniature adventures, whether that be going to the movies with a friend or going on a short hike. However, healing is top priority right now.
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?
Aviva: Working toward my goals is extremely important to me. I have many professional and personal dreams, and sometimes I feel frustrated that I cannot work toward them at the pace I’d like. However, working toward them at all is a major accomplishment! Dreaming of a better future motivates me to keep going, to keep fighting for my health.
I took two years off after high school before my Lyme diagnosis. During that time I discovered one of my greatest passions: film! Despite my symptoms, I managed to work as an intern on a few feature films here in Seattle. Two summers ago, I was a production assistant for the art department on a film called Laggies, starring Keira Knightley, Chloe Moretz, and Sam Rockwell. I have had to take a break from working on films, because the hours are just too demanding, but I’m thrilled that I discovered the film world. I want to become a professional filmmaker and writer. I’ve completed my first feature script, and I’m currently writing my second, which is about my experience with chronic illness and Lyme. I hope to write a lot more this summer.
I’m also a part-time college student, which is exhausting and a huge struggle. However, working toward my degree is very important to me. Even if I’m working toward my degree at a snail’s pace, being a student significantly helps my mental health. I hope to apply to the creative writing major in the fall. Although my life feels very abnormal right now, going to class makes my life resemble a bit of normalcy, which is much appreciated.
A couple months ago, I decided to start a YouTube channel, which was something I always wanted to do. I was scared of the technology and also speaking in front of a camera. But, one day, I finally bit the bullet and made my first video. I’m thrilled that I’ve discovered a hobby that I can complete in the comfort of my own home. Productivity significantly boosts my mood. Connecting with people who are going through the same thing on YouTube and Instagram is therapeutic and makes me feel so much less alone.
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?
Aviva: Something I often forget is that my body is not the enemy. My body is fighting so hard to fight infection. It’s so easy to resent my body and even hate it because my symptoms are so intense. Depression and neurological issues are a few of my top symptoms, so positive thinking is definitely a practice.
Some affirmations I repeat to myself are: My body is not the enemy. My body is fighting so hard. I love my body, and my body loves me. My body wants me to thrive. I love and accept myself. I am still me under all these symptoms. My authenticity will come back. This too shall pass. I am strong. I am vibrant. I am healing.
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.
Aviva: Besides my family and a few close friends, my community is on social media. In the fall of 2014, I decided to start an Instagram account to document my health journey. I never would have imagined connecting with so many Lyme warriors from all over the world. Sharing my story has been beyond therapeutic. I used to be ashamed of my health, because people and society made me feel like I had brought this situation on myself. Being told that my symptoms were all in my head before diagnosis was beyond traumatizing. Connecting with people on Instagram and Facebook made me realize that I have nothing to hide. I love how we can still make a seemingly horrible situation into something beautiful. I love seeing the types of projects that people have started that stem from their chronic illness adventures. I have such love for all my Instagram friends. We motivate, inspire, and encourage one another. Deciding to share my story publicly was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Continue to be inspired daily by Aviva on her Youtube channel. Also, join her as she helps raise awareness of Lyme one #Lymechella video at a time. Click the link above ↑ to participate, or to just learn a little bit more about Lyme and all that it entails (in one of the most positive and uplifting ways out there).