This is, Kat.
Colorful, dedicated, hilarious, creative, caring, and selfless come to mind when I think of the first time I met this lovely woman, but then again, those words are merely skimming the surface when you see all that she has done, where she's been, and the lives that she has, without realizing it, changed along the way - mine included. So, the more I listened to her talk, the more I wanted to know. The more I wanted to be part of her life, and there is no doubt in my mind that everyone she meets ends up feeling the same way.
Her dedication to this community is in a league of it's own. Her recipes, drawings, and view on approaching self-love will leave you full, uplifted, and inevitably coming back for more. She gives and expects nothing in return, nothing but support community, her happiness, and her health.
Kat, you are a teacher of all things beautiful and all things simple. Keep doing what you're doing, your voice is so much stronger than you think.
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?
Kat: Quite simply, I've had to let go of all the things that have ceased to serve me, including my self-criticism, perfectionism, and cynicism. I've had to work through my fear of uncomfortable feelings, my instinct to protect my heart at all costs, and my resistance to experiencing vulnerability. I've had to give up countless little neurosis, like my compulsion to frequently deep clean or live by a predictable set schedule. I've had to abandon relationships that left me feeling spent, insecure, or abused, even though it's meant distancing myself from my own family.
Most of all I've had to release my reluctance to show my true self. In order to fully embrace who I am, I've had to make peace with my past, and let go of the thought patterns and beliefs that were cultivated during it. I've had to process and release stored rage, grief, fear, hurt, and loss in order to understand myself in a vibrant new way: as a smart and resilient woman who has the power to inspire others by speaking her truth.
At the peak of my illness, I had to let go of virtually everything. During the years in which my life was far from certain, I came to understand the necessity of releasing my many attachments. I witnessed how my mind would desperately clutch at things beyond my control, trying to make them certain and stable, and I saw that this was not only futile, but also a source of exhaustion. Seeking peace from all that grabbing and strain, I began to let go. As the tight fist of my consciousness opened up to my direct experience, I learned to sit with the terrifying sense of groundlessness that accompanies an intense personal understanding of impermanence. In doing so I found a new freedom.
It's not really about what I've let go of. This journey has been about what I've made room for: self love, self acceptance, authenticity, intimacy, hope, and healing. The often painful process of letting go has been transformational. Only by emptying myself of so much, did I discover what it is to be truly full, of life, of love, and of the magic present in each moment. All of of the things I've let go of during my time with Chronic Lyme, I believe that what's most profound is the extent to which I've let go of my own suffering.
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?
Kat: I am passionate about being present. I've discovered that no matter what I'm doing, if I am fully present for it, the experience becomes alive with wonder. Laying in a patch of sunlight, listening to an old Johnny Cash record, walking slowly on a crisp morning, rhythmically chopping fresh greens, noticing the heat of tears on my cheeks, or breathing in time with my husband as we embrace: there are so many experiences to savor! When things are hardest my ability to be present nourishes me, and allows me to see with greater clarity what it is I need to bring love and healing to the situation. When I am well, it allows me to tap into deeper joys, and my heart feels like a fountain, over flowing.
So basically I'm passionate about being alive, and all the opportunities that the human experience allows for. However, my mind and heart often give rise to creative inspirations and my more specific passions are born from those ideas. I feel the most radiant and self-centered when I work towards manifesting the whisperings of my deepest self by creating recipes, drawing comics, playing banjo, and writing for my blog and Instagram feed. I would describe myself as passionate about holistic healing, healthy cooking, and spiritual living. Because I believe in these things, and in living life this way, I am sustained by my practices, my ability to express myself creatively, and by the connections I continue to make with others.
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?
Kat: When I began to tune into my thinking I was shocked by how cruel my my inner dialog was. Then I began to notice the repetitive nature of my thoughts, that they were like tapes being played, and that certain situations triggered specific tapes. These tapes, as I call them, were recorded by my subconscious during childhood; what they said had no basis in the present reality, as I'd always assumed. They were actually echos from my past. When I realized this, I understood that I had the power to create new tapes and to disregard the old ones.
I began to do this with a simple practice: every time I would catch myself engaging in self- destructive thinking, I would take a deep breath, and then tell myself the opposite ten times. For example, “I'm ugly” would be met with 10 repetitions of “I'm beautiful,” which I would count off on my finger tips. It didn't matter if I didn't believe it, or if even thinking it caused me to grimace. I simply followed the simple formula of selecting whatever was opposite and affirming it. After a couple years of doing this the landscape of my mind shifted and the old, hurtful thoughts ceased to overwhelm me.
I continue to use a daily affirmation practice and some of my favorites include: I am safe, I am loved, and I am healed. Whenever I'm in doubt as to whether or not my thinking has application to the current situation, I ask myself three questions: Is the thought kind? Is the information expressed useful? Is what's being said undeniably true? The thoughts that don't pass through this filter I trust I can disregard. Like the thought, “I'm not going to get better.” I can't know that's true, the words don't feel kind, and they're certainly not in the service of continued healing. Therefore I choice a different thought: I am going to completely heal and experience radiant health and wholeness.
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.
Kat: My main source of support is my husband, who for the last eleven years has also been my best friend. The truth is I would not be here were it not for his love, dedication, and care. His love for me has been radically healing. Before experiencing it with my husband, unconditional love was foreign to me. You often hear that first and foremost you have to love yourself. However, I honestly didn't know how to. Because of the nature of my upbringing, unconditional love wasn't something I saw expressed, nor was I shown how to cultivate any form of self-love. In contrast, from the very beginning, my husband has loved me selflessly and whole heartedly.
At first, I was quite skeptical of his motiveless love, which was unlike anything I'd ever known. Early childhood neglect and abuse stunted my development of the neurotransmitters that stimulate feelings of love and belonging, a bio-chemical response that has been well documented in cases of children from Eastern European orphanages. It took several years of being with my ever-loving hubby for new neuro-pathways to develop, allowing me to feel deep in my core, and for the first time, what it means to truly be loved. Of all the ways that my husband has helped me, it it the gift of this Love that has been most healing, and his love continues to give me strength.
Asking for help was very hard for me in the beginning. By the time I was bed-ridden I was quite exasperated by my need for assistance (with basically everything.) The totality of my dependence infuriated me, which further drained me and quickly began to alienate my loved ones. Eventually I saw the necessity of looking within and unearthing the root causes of my difficulty in asking for and receiving help. What I discovered was a long-held fear of dependency and a critical lack of self-worth. These causes were blocking my ability to comfortably request and receive assistance. By understanding and honoring the context from which these conditions arose, I was able to move forward by making empowered choices based on my present needs: I needed lots of help and I needed to be able to ask for it and receive it with an open heart.
We all posses a natural goodness that inspires us to help out others. Especially if the person in need is someone we care about, it's instinctual to want to help, and it's important to give others the opportunity to do so. Allowing others to help, and receiving their help gracefully, encourages greater kindness and compassion which benefits everybody. Giving people the opportunity to be helpful is also a powerful antidote to the feelings of helplessness that chronic illness can give rise to. When I remember these truths it eases the tension I can feel when I recognize I need assistance.
Along with my husband (aka Wonderhubs) the people who have, and continue to help me include my caregiver Santa, my little brother and in-laws, my dear friends old and new, and everyone in this incredible online community. Whether we're hurting, helping, or healing, we're all in this together; there is no other, and there is always hope. It is my firm belief that as we heal ourselves we also heal each other and the world at large. I am so very grateful to be a part of all this healing.
If you're looking for ways to connect with Kat, here are a few options, and even though Instagram is the 'hub' of her community, you should be sure to follow her blog, www.hopehealcook.com! It's there that you can find all things delicious, as well as treatment updates, natural wellness tips and tricks, her hand drawn comics, real food recipes, and so much more!
Follow her daily insights and recipes with Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter // Links below.
Twitter: Hope Heal Cook
Facebook: Hope Heal Cook
Wanting to share your story? Be sure to use the #morethanlyme or feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep on Keepin' on!