A Q&A With Kourtney Wellette
From a Life That Felt So Certain and Clear, To Facing The Fear That Comes With Not Knowing Where Look For Hope, To a Diagnoses That Changed Her Life Forever...
This is Kourtney's story of how she was diagnosed with Lyme, and not only the pain and doubt she felt along the way, but the love and support she received from those close to her. Those that pushed her to continue to live her best life. A life that keeps her close to her sense of self. Rather, what makes her happy. And even if it's different from what the 10 year old Kourntey would have imagined, it still holds true through to her core.
As I sit here with my coffee in hand, blanket wrapped around my legs, and the sound of silence in my ears as the snow fall whispers outside, I try to come up with just the right words to describe this vibrant girl. Just a few weeks ago we had met for the first time, walking into the coffee shop looking for the other person who is also looking for another person. Her warm smile and honest words left me feeling certain that this community is carved and shaped into something bigger than us, by those that surround us.
Now, as I untuck my legs and situate myself a little closer to my computer, I am reminded that sometimes, the perfect words don't exist, and that's ok. That's ok because collectively my voice, your voice, Kourtney's voice, they all help to fill in the gaps, missing pieces, and moments when we feel as if our words fall short. So, with that, I will step aside and let Kourntey's words bring even more light to what we already know to be a community that has the power to conquer anything. That, and I am readying myself to go and get lunch with the lovely lady herself, and certainly don't want to be late!
Without further ado, here is a Q&A with the brave, loving, strong-minded, resilient, stubborn (that's a good thing!), and empathetic (also a good thing), Kourtney...
1. (Feelings Evolved) Describe how you saw yourself before being diagnosed with lyme, during the process, and after living with the disease for awhile (present day). Have the feelings towards yourself changed over time? If so, how?
That’s the thing, I think I have found some comfort in knowing what’s wrong. Throughout a majority of high school, I knew something wasn’t right. My mom and I often would spend hours in the parking lot ER because I was in so much pain, and we were scared, but the doctors answer was always the something minor, leaving us feeling wasteful. I was scared, exhausted, and mostly frustrated in my inability to carry out the person I wanted to be.
There are things that people know me for, like my struggle with spelling and reading the words in order. Or how often I think I am having a heart attack (weekly, maybe daily). I’ve always been known to be sort of a hypochondriac. Which makes me angry, because that’s not me, that’s not who I am. I care about presenting myself with intelligence and more than that I really don’t think I am lying to you when I say it feels as though my chest is going to collapse. It’s all together frustrating. Sarcasm and acceptance helps, knowing these traits are not me, and making light of the situation through jokes.
Looking way back, before the predicted bite (at age 10), I was fearless. I was going to be the first women president of the United States and I was going to change the world. I was constantly in the front of the classroom sharing my latest and greatest book or idea. I was not afraid of anyone. I know this somewhat has to do with the hormones and things we go through as adolescents, but from what I have put together in psychology, those overbearing traits should not have changed as much as drastically as they have.
While taming the Lyme induced anxiety in my brain, I lost many things about myself, but gained even more. I have this deep sense of who I am and what is actually important in this world.
2. (An Active Mind) When you're feeling at your worst, where do you pull inspiration from, and how do you keep yourself moving forward?
I believe that everyone has something they are struggling with and I find inspiration in hearing the way each person has fought their battles. I’ve met people who have escaped the wars of other countries and people that are facing the last battle with their own minds; Inspired by those who didn’t give up, I choose to fight. Other days, I have a difficult time recalling these stories, and find myself looking through Pinterest for words of wisdom.
The greatest motivation to fight is the people in my life. Each day I am reminded of the people who believe in me, even when I don’t. There are four people (and two dogs) that have never let me forget that I am worth it. Sacrificing so much time and money for my well-being my parents have given me everything I need to fight these “bugs” and not completely miss out on life. Their willingness to invest in me in this way, reassures me my fight.
Then there is my little brother; driving to school one day, I lost it. I was going on and on how I was losing everything. How I couldn’t play tennis anymore, how I could barely get out of bed. Instead of responding with aggression like the average teenage boy, he looked at me and said “I love you Kourt.” I’ve held onto that moment through everything, because even midst my rage and conceded anger, he felt love for me.
As a mostly black and white person, I often struggle with balancing a life well lived and following protocol. My boyfriend (and best friend since high school) has taught me that I can still see the stars from the top of a mountain, it just might take me a little longer to get there. Watching him refuse to define me as sick, has allowed me to view myself as a person, not ill. He has also made me realize I am worth this fight. I pushed him away, and he persisted to show me his love. On his birthday he accompanied me as I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital (pre-diagnosis), mid snow storm he drove 3 hours just to give me a hug. Besides proving his dedication to me he has taught me to find balance within this journey.
Collectively, my strength to get out of bed comes from people. People who refuse to give up on their dreams. People who fought for their own happiness. People who refused to give up on me.
3. (Creativity) It's important that we keep doing what we love while fighting Lyme, even if it is that much harder to do. What are some of your favorite ways to tap into your creativity? And how do you think these creative outlets have helped you heal?
Both giving me a sense of control and comfort in my abilities, my biggest outlet is creating my environments. Sometimes this looks like hiking into a camp and soaking in the already made environment that nature has created. Other times it means painting my walls, moving around furniture, or finding DIY tricks to make my apartment more personal and nurturing. Even when I am not in the mood to move things around, I design houses for different circumstances in my life. Something about having a room that I adore or being surround by the beauty nature has created centers me.
On really good days, I indulged in my favorite CrossFit community where I love from seeing what my body is still capable of. In addition, rock climbing, running, hiking, anything to watch the physical strength of my body prevail. It’s not the same as it once was, but knowing what it has gone through inspires me even more.
4. (The Reality of it) When you're feeling your worst, what goes through your mind? What emotions take over, and how do you feel? Then, the hardest part: how do you overcome the pain, reminding yourself that you're worth the fight?
“Am I sick enough?” I struggle with this question more often than not, because I have heard the words of so many doctors questioning my diagnosis and my pain. I feel as though I am really not sick enough to feel the pain or be a part of lyme communities. Then I look back on the last four years of war with my body to confirm that there is a Bacteria fighting me. I think this is a really important conclusion to come to, because if you don’t really let yourself be sick, how can you have enough drive to get better?
Aside from me questioning my diagnosis, there’s the little things:
Eating endless veggie smoothies, skipping the glass of wine, the cheese, the sugar, leaves me feeling deprived.
Brain fog has caused me to throw my text book, in the middle of a silent library.
With Joint and fatigue I feel more like I belong in a nursing home, than a college.
Then I find myself asking, “Is this worth it?” I don’t even know what it is exactly I am questioning the worth of, but I find myself asking that a lot. It’s not like I can just up and leave this disease, but I think part of me wonders what it would be like if I just pretended it didn’t exist. If I went back to the days that I didn’t accept being sick, would life be easier?
“In order to rise from its own ashes the phoenix must first burn.”
Besides family, sleep gets me through, and when I can’t sleep I get high. But mentally, how I eventually get out of, pick the text book off the ground, or blend up another veggie smoothie is the small things. Making plans to see a friend for coffee. Snuggling my puppy by the fire. Even learning new things is sometimes intriguing enough to pull me from the flames.
But what helps that most in the middle of the darkness is stories and testimonials of others who have faced just what I have. I am not crazy. This disease is REAL.
5. (Change) Sure, there can often feel like endless list of downsides when it comes to fighting Lyme Disease, but what are some of the good moments and feelings that have come of it? And how do you think those things have changed who you are today.
Knowing: Knowing that I am not “crazy.” Knowing that my pain is real. Knowing that I am not alone.
Purpose: This disease has forced me to contemplate the reason my journey has led me here. Helping have a meaningful outlook on life.
Persistence: Nothing will ever be as scary as those last few years before I was diagnosed, and knowing that I made it through that gives me confidence that I can make it through wherever the universe takes me next.
Depth: Lyme is painful. This journey has been painful, but at 21 years old I have done more soul searching and self-actualizing than I ever would have been able to without the infection. I owe the depth of my character and wisdom to Lyme disease and for that reason alone, I am grateful for this disease.
Continue to be inspired by Kourntey and all that she does by heading over to her Instagram, where you can be witness to her adventures with her pup and loved ones, and all the many ways in which she chooses to keep on keepin' on...
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