Tori Ashdown

This Is, Tori

Amidst the pain and uncertainty that over five years of fighting Chronic Lyme Disease has brought her, she manages to keep hope close to her heart through dancing, creating, spreading awareness, and continuing to prioritize her happiness. Prioritize the things that she knows will help her get through even the darkest of days. Tori takes this disease, and uses it as every reason to thrive, share her story, and encourage others to do the same...

To live a full and adventurous life, filled with curiosity and inspiration. A life of resilience when faced with setbacks, laughter when it's needed most, and motivation when doubt and question come into play. 

This is her story...

Six years ago, I was thriving. I was young, adventurous, and living life to it’s fullest. Spending countless hours at the dance studio doing what I love, going to high school and making new friends, excelling in academics, and receiving straight A’s; I was living a normal life. However, over night, I found myself to be barely surviving. December 6th 2010 I woke up in the most severe pain of my life. I couldn’t lift my head off my pillow, I couldn’t move. It was agony. My head hurt so bad I actually thought I was going to die. Three and a half months later, I was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease. I was happy to finally know what was wrong with me. What I did not know, is that the happy fifteen-year-old girl with a diagnosis would still be suffering at 21. 

I did not know I would have a never-ending list of debilitating symptoms and medication, and I did not know I would be strong enough to be writing this, sharing my story. 

Throughout the years I have learned that self-love is the most important gift I can give myself. Hating myself or my body for being sick was never the answer, because it was never my fault. I could never admit I loved myself, because I truly didn’t for the longest time. Recently, I have accepted myself for who I am.  I am strong, I am smart, I am dedicated, I am kind, I am passionate and I do not give up. I learned that loving myself would be a huge step in my journey to recover. As I take what should have been my Junior year of college off due to this rotten disease, I remind myself each day that I am loved and that I have a purpose.

When I am at my worst, lying in bed or on the couch curled up with my dog I find inspiration in places I didn’t look prior to being sick. I found myself drawn to nature, sunsets, sunrises, the seasons changing, snow falling, the way the light shines down into a room. 

I tap into my memories, and remember that my other bad days have ended and that this one will too. Tomorrow is a new day.

I lean on my family and friends and I remind myself that I am not alone. I remember the little moments that have made me happy or smile, and I remember that change is possible. 

I use creativity to heal through the use of my paintbrush and acrylic paint, creating a work of art I didn’t think I was capable of. I let my battles fill the space on the blank canvas and paint the light. Most of all, I find inspiration through dance. Dance has saved my life. I have danced with an IV in my chest and have performed in shows with a PICC line, I have had my parents drop me off at dance because I was unable to drive and would dance until I literally dropped. “Dance says what words cannot” became my way of speaking my emotions. No matter how I felt, I always got up, I always showed up, and I always left everything on the dance floor; leaving nothing behind. I even teach dance, so young girls can learn to become just as passionate for it.

Dance has gotten me through so much, and it continues to guide me through this dark storm each day. 

Recently I have been practicing yoga, and I look forward to it every opportunity I get. I love the feeling of rejuvenation consuming my body as I walk out, it truly is incredible for the body and soul. Modeling has helped with my confidence, my body may be attacking me on the inside, but I allow my body and positive spirit to shine on the outside. I never saw myself as a model, but for right now it makes perfect sense. I pour my emotions out through writing, journal entry’s, blogs, letters you name it. Writing is a creative outlet where I do not have to hold back, I can use my voice through writing and share my story, words are in fact wisdom.

I never thought I would be strong enough to share my story, but everyones journey is a beautiful one, and my story needs to be told. 

When I feel my worst, I get scared. Imagine the most immense fear you have ever felt and multiply it by ten. I do not like to show my loved ones that I am scared because it makes me feel weak and I know they worry enough. However, as a Lyme warrior I have started to accept that it is okay to be scared. It is okay to crack and let all your emotions show, you too, are human. In my darkest moments I fear for my life but I remember that I have fought through so much that my body will not give up on me now. I have a purpose to be on this earth, and I will not let this demon of a disease take that away from me.

Without Lyme Disease, I wouldn’t have learned to love myself. I wouldn’t have become the strong young women I am today or have such a powerful outlook on the beauty of life. My life is MORE than Lyme, and I try to live every moment to the fullest. I do not dare take a second for granted because just being here, waking up each day is a blessing. Without Lyme Disease, I wouldn’t be half the person I am today.

"The moment you think about giving up, think about the reason you've held on for so long."

To continue to follow Tori's story, be sure to visit her Instagram as she motivates us through movement, hope, and words of inspiration at @2storiesoftori + @toriashdown.

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