The Importance Of Creating + Story Telling While Fighting Lyme Disease. By, Justin Zimmer


From his feet swaying gently from right to left on the longboard that he used to carry himself to the salty shore as a young boy, to crisp alpine air, towering peaks, and the spray of a rushing waterfalls as he steps further into adulthood, Justin has always longed for adventure, letting it infuse him with gratitude and hope for better days to come. 

With a job he feels passionate about and his need for photography to play a prominent role in his life, Justin has pushed himself past his doubts and through to the core of his motivation, which just happens to be story telling. Story telling which in turn keeps his mind clear and heart full, no matter how difficult the present moment may be, and boy can it be hard...

Having fought this disease since he was young, Justin has found a great many ways to not only see, but feel the good that can come from this process, and all the many ways in which he considers himself lucky. Lucky to be breathing, thinking, and creating, honing in on ideas and getting after that with enough gumption to shake mountains and cause ripples through the ocean. 

This my friends, is Justin's story...

I’ve been struggling with Lyme since I was seven years old. I’m now twenty six. I’ve had a number of symptom free years but those years came with years of sickness without relief. Within those good years, I was super active. From surfing all day, to hiking, to running countless miles. I lived life too fast and kind of always have. When you live through a chronic illness that no one understands, It’s easy to get carried away in the moments that take your breath away.

I never strayed from attempting to grow and bettering myself.

The last year has been the toughest so far. I have a very active job with the National Park Service and started to spiral out of control in early July. I’ve been off since then because I couldn’t make it through a work day without leaving early or other complications. I have never seen sickness as a way to sink into a personal turmoil and wonder, “why me?” The greatest lesson I learned is to take a step back every once in a while. It’s ok to live life fast, but make sure you slow down and be in the moment from time to time.

Life happens fast and the most memorable experiences are in those small moments. Give yourself a chance to see them. Most importantly, reflect on them.

When I’m at my worst, there’s only a few things that get me through. I separate from negativity the best I can. It’s not the easiest but I’ve learned so much about myself while at rock bottom. When I think back to the days where I didn’t think I’d make it, I remind myself that I’m still here. I made it through those days.

I truly believe that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Even if the tunnel isn’t exactly in sight.

The human body is an incredible thing. Just believe it. Meditation is a huge aid for me. I remember when I first got into meditation. I was fifteen and I started every morning riding my longboard to the beach. Getting there before anyone else was awake. I’d sit in the sand, listen to the waves, feel the salty wind engulf me. It’s here where I would let go of all of my problems. Back then, the content of those problems were much different but I still practiced the art of letting go.

This was crucial for me because you can’t grow with negativity holding you back.

It will win every single time until you let it go. I don’t live near the beach anymore. Although, I take myself there in mediation sometimes. Now I spend most of my meditations at the base of waterfalls in the mountains. I’m lucky to be completely surrounded by nature. Mountains and waterfalls keep me going. 

One of the biggest struggles I’ve faced is to stay motivated to create. I’m a photographer that specializes in telling stories through my photos. I shoot to create something that is timeless, and I have to truly understand what the subject is to accomplish that. Brain fog, memory loss, and our other symptoms don’t allow me to get there too often. I’ve been able to climb out of my worst days and create. I’ve gotten that perfect shot on those days.

I started believing that this illness wouldn’t stop me from doing that. It’s taken enough away from me but there’s no way I’m letting it take my creative side.

Lately, I’ve been looking at things more simply. I’ve taken it back to basics even started shooting film again in this world of digital. We start losing our creative selves with technology. I went from taking one or two photos knowing that I got the shot I wanted, to taking twenty plus photos of the same thing. The instant gratification of seeing the photo on the display made me lose the way I approached a photo. Now that I’ve been spending more time with film, I’m finding myself inspired again. Seeing shots that I was missing with digital. Although my following loves my digital work, I was never really happy with it. I always felt like something was missing This reminded me to take it back to basics in my other walks of life as well. Especially with healing. 

The most important thing to remember is that beating Lyme isn’t an overnight success story. There will be more bad days than good ones.

Fight through the hard days. It’s not easy but trust yourself and trust your journey. Good will come out of this. You’ll find yourself in the process and that’s more than anyone can ask for. If and when you find yourself asking, “why me?” Turn that energy around and say, “try me.” Believe in yourself because I believe in you. Take it a day at a time, an hour at a time, a minute at a time.

I’m doing it right here with you. Lets heal.

It's amazing to see all that this community creates, and Justin is most definitely one of those creatives. Follow his story and live through his adventures by heading on over to his personal + photography based Instagram, both are equally as amazing.

And don't forget to share your story #morethanlyme