Katelin Kuykendall

006_20a.jpeg

Welcome back to More Than Lyme features This week's theme focuses on the importance of Self-Love! To gain a better and more broad understanding of this subject, I asked a handful of Lyme Warriors how best they cultivate self-love and all that goes with it…

Meet Katelin. A young woman who is able to turn the pain, loss, and heartbreak that comes from having a Chronic Illness, into something beautiful. Her devotion and love for not only others, but herself, is truly inspiring. Katelin has the ability to hold on to hope even in the darkest of hours, never complaining or doubting her ability to push forward and remain positive, all while fighting such a cruel and relentless disease.

Here is her story.

Q: 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?

Katelin: My diagnosis came just as I was beginning to follow my dream of being a musician. I had worked so hard to make this dream a reality just in time for Lyme Disease to take it away. This illness chooses to affect my joints primarily, followed by cognitive functions. Due to this, I am no longer capable of being a percussionist. It took three (if not four) years to really grasp the reality of losing my music and appreciate the talents of others. I would break down at the simplest triggers, unable to mourn the loss of this passion. It was hard, ugly, and long, but I overcame. While this was a devastating and life altering realization, so many wonderful things have come from this new path. I’ve learned to appreciate what I had and look forward to what the future will bring. I transferred schools to have a fresh start and learned so much more about myself and my identity.

Adjusting to a new way of life - especially one of difficulty - can seem daunting. Just when you think everything is routine and under control, a new symptom sneaks its way in. Because of this, I’ve learned to take it as it comes; one day at a time, one appointment at a time, one feeling at a time. Looking too far ahead with treatments and tasks can be overwhelming, so it’s important to keep the right perspective.

Q:  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?

Katelin: I run. I know that’s one of the worst things to do when fighting an autoimmune disease targeting your joints, but it’s one of the few things that keeps me motivated. Throughout my treatment journey this has taken many different forms - from completing a half marathon to barely finishing one mile before collapsing on the driveway. Along the way I’ve learned how to listen to my body, so these runs are more sporadic and often include plenty of walking, but I still make sure to treat my mind and body to what it needs. The therapeutic aspect of running is something that helps me get through the good, the bad, the uncertain, and everything in between. It reminds me that even though I’m fighting this disease, there is still room to feel “normal.”

I am also passionate about helping others. Whether through volunteering, traveling, or simply being a friend, using my time in a way that is beneficial to those around me makes me feel whole. Even if I’m having a particularly difficult “Lyme day,” I feel accomplished and happy knowing that someone else is having a good day.

Q: 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?

Katelin: For me, prayer has become a powerful tool in keeping negative thoughts at bay. It puts the situation into a different perspective and calms my fears and doubts. I often find myself recalling verses and quotes to help through a spell of negativity (seriously, I have a Pinterest board dedicated to quotes and it’s a little out of hand). I have always been a naturally optimistic person, so it’s usually fairly easy for me to realize the positive side of a situation. Even if you can only pick out one small piece of positivity in the midst of negativity, it can become a beacon of light in the darkness.

Q:  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.

Katelin: There’s no answering this question without giving a huge shout out to my best friend. We lived together for two years before I moved home and I can’t even begin to describe how helpful she was when it came to day-to-day living. No matter what it was or how I felt, she was there to be a voice of reason that still allowed me room to grow and learn from my decisions/mistakes.

On days when all I wanted to do was stay in bed, there was someone else urging me to just do something - even if that meant walking outside long enough to check the mail. It’s so easy to become a stow away in your own home when you aren’t feeling well. There is so much power in nature. Even if all you can do is open (or have someone else open) a window, do it! I can’t even begin to describe how much better you’ll feel just having that little contact with the world around you.

It took me a while to let go of my fierce independence. Once I learned that asking for help wasn’t a weakness my life drastically changed for the better. There’s a reason we have community. They are the people who will pick us up and fight for us when we can’t stand the thought of going another round. I still try to do the majority of tasks on my own, but have a healthy awareness of the people around me willing to do whatever it takes to help.

Continue to follow Katelin through her Instagram: katekuy, as well as her blog: https://thiskatelives.wordpress.com for daily inspiration, adventure ideas, and fabulous recipes. Without a doubt, Katelin has enough gumption and drive to stand up against this daunting disease with a positive outlook, the biggest smile, and her favorite pair of running shoes.