The Privilege In Knowing That I Was Sick: Discovering Beauty While Fighting Lyme Disease
Written By: Natalia Ospina
Unearthing beauty in moments out of her control, Natalia has taken to trusting in her gut, and encouraging others to see their very existence as a way through, over, and between the obstacles they face. In this case, Lyme Disease.
Her resilience is pulled from the roots of her family, the love, dedication, and life they have provided for her and her brother. And it's this resilience that has allowed her to see past the pain, uncertainty, and the changes that this disease has carved into her life. Yes, things are different, harder, more transparent than ever before, but just like a storm, there is always a silver lining. Even if it takes years to see it, it's there.
That is exactly what Natalia is honing in on; the power that our body holds, the impact that our words can have on each other, and in turn, the strength of our community when we lean on each other. Share, laugh, cry, and adventure together, through, over, and between the storm, the obstacles, the very things that could crush us. But they don't. They don't because we have each other, and that in itself is a tremendous thing.
So let's lean in close, and just like Natalia, unearth the beauty found in each moment.
This is her story...
When I was four my parents made the decision to leave their home country of Colombia and move to Raleigh, North Carolina. It wasn’t until many years later that I began to realize what a huge sacrifice that was. My parents left all that they knew for my brother and I to have the opportunity to do whatever we wanted with our lives. My mother showered us with unconditional support and motivated us to live whatever lives we wanted to live. This meant she worked from the bottom up, dawn to dusk, this meant coming to a country that we were undocumented in for some time. This decision, while terrifying for her, meant that I would get to travel, to question what I want to do. It meant that I was to have privilege.
When I got sick with lyme I began to question and resent the why. Why was I given this battle, why my family, haven’t we been through enough? What about all the other people who don’t have the resources to treat this disease? All those questions looming over me were the most difficult to process, and I’ve realized that part of my 'why' came from the selfishness that nobody wants to be the one with a chronic disease or any disease, and the denial...
but the hardest thing for me to accept with lyme was that I had the privilege of knowing that I was sick with this disease, a privilege I might not have had otherwise.
I had my first panic attack. I was driving my car and started to smell this cold, dark, cloud that yelled fear. I got home, paced around the house and cried. That was the exact moment I knew something was wrong. But I let it go and left for Berlin, Germany. I later returned and that’s when the diagnosing story became your classic lyme story. I saw dozens of doctors, had every test in the book (MRIs, CT scans, nerve conduction tests, endoscopies, blood tests), was deemed an anxious woman who probably just had “too much stress.” Finally, in 2015 I was diagnosed. It was a huge relief to finally have an answer to the moments of paralysis, the anxiety, the muscle spasms, the tingling, the feeling of detachment from the world I once easily participated in was crucial to my healing.
I no longer felt lost, and after 18 months, I didn’t feel so alone.
Here is where the story of my mother and my family comes into play. When the symptoms began as any family member will do, they dismiss them because when does anyone want their loved one to be sick? But as symptoms progressed, bills piled up, and hospital visits become more frequent, family, moms, and siblings all got worried. And I don’t know how to explain how challenging it is to see the people you love suffer with you too, but I can only describe it as a helpless aching feeling. I think it's worse than the illness itself because there is nothing that you can do, and at times you rack up the coping mechanisms by building up walls of “I’m ok”, oh no I wasn’t at the hospital for the 4th time this month. You see, you start to protect other people to protect yourself.
It’s a weird thing illness. It makes you see that you are a mortal being and that death, as morbid as it is, is there. That while you are just one individual, your soul, and your being, impacts those around you.
This, along with the realization that had I not been in a place of a privilege, made me see just how truly lucky I was that I at least knew what my disease was, and had means to start treatment. I don’t think that's talked about a lot with lyme, I think about marginalized individuals that are probably suffering with this disease and being treated for another illness, it’s cruel, and I can only advocate and hope that one day we will have a system that will recognize and treat whoever is impacted.
I don’t want to leave you telling you that this disease sucks. That there are people suffering that might never know what exactly they're dealing with. And even though this is all true, I want to let you know that despite illness, there is beauty.
The funny thing about chronic illness is that at some point you accept what you’re given to you and you learn to try and own it. And in the midst of the trying you get to a point where you realize that you are the only one who can control how you can feel about the situation. And that is the moment where you finally get some peace. This is a hard thing to learn, and still three years into this illness I repeat this cycle, but the process of learning this about yourself and going through that journey with yourself is enlightening, enriching, and so very empowering. There is empowerment in that surrender.
Yes I hate my body some days, I tear it apart. The why am I so weak, why don’t I have muscle, why am I not hungry, why can’t I do this and that. Those thoughts, they wreak havoc on my soul, on my mind, and when I get out of that space I remember all the things my body is doing for me, every single breathe it takes and I think just how powerful that truly is.
That appreciation and love for my body is something I wouldn’t take back from this experience. This journey its overwhelming, but emotional strength is the most difficult of things to achieve, especially at such a young age when you are constantly bombarded with things that you should be doing and the things your healthy peers are experiencing. But when you move past it and see the fighter your mind and your body are and the harmony they create you realize the beauty of the invisible strength of resilience. When you step out into the uncomfortable in your dysfunctional, hurting body and realize that you’re ok and surviving that is success, that is a victory worth celebrating, every single time.
I Choose, Happy
Every time you remember that you beat fear, that is also a victory. All these things while they may be seem small and mundane to some, is worth acknowledging as respect for yourself comes with self love. I am the woman I am now because of this illness, I breathe and see empathy and compassion and live for the smiles, the kisses of life. Would I be happy without lyme, I don’t know, but I can tell you I am happy with lyme, even in the darkest of days I know this is temporary and my wish to you is to find that little piece of you that knows that this will be okay.
Life is worth fighting for.