Welcome back to More Than Lyme's Self-Love Features! This week we'll be talking with, Keri. A woman who's experiences span across the globe, making it impossible to sum her up in just one word or phrase. She is a woman who embraces every moment of her story, both good and bad, because they all deserved to be told; they are all moments that have helped her to become the truly unique and inspirational human being that she is today.
This is her story...
Question: 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?
Keri: Letting go is very hard, especially because I really loved my extremely active and on-the-go life, and I miss it. By the age of 26 I had traveled to over 20 countries, lived abroad twice, and earned two college degrees. I find myself saying “before I got sick I did this...” “when I was healthy I was very...” so that type of language and thought implies that I can’t be myself or be who I am because of my symptoms and how this disease has plagued my brain. Besides the stress and pain of being sick, we are sick with bacterias that our government denies and doesn’t even know how to test for or treat! Now that I am out of my brain fog and have my short-term memory back, I adjust and cope by practicing non-attachment from yoga, realize that every moment, emotion, and body ache is fleeting, and I tell myself and my body how much I love them. It’s extremely isolating and lonely being sick, so I set up a schedule as though I am at work, with time slots as though I have “meetings with myself” for home yoga, emails, journaling, walking, yoga class, meditating, etc. It sounds silly but it does help focus my mind and attention on being productive. A lot of self-love, self-reflection, and inner work, which is hard but I am looking at it as a positive from being sick-that I get this time to be in silence and really get to know myself and what I want from my life. Otherwise I used to just cry all day, and I don’t want to go back to that place.
Question: 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?
Keri: This is a complicated one because when I was bedridden for months and had horrible brain fog, I really didn’t do anything. I couldn’t read or write or have the energy to have a conversation, so there are just gaps in my life where I don’t really...have any memories of, just pictures in my mind, if that makes sense. Which actually, I kind of prefer it that way since it was such a dark place! Now that I am getting better, I really practice and use the 8 limbs of yoga as a healing tool, which has helped tremendously. In terms of activities, I read, write, talk to friends, walk, spend time with my husband, etc. I see a reiki healer each week and a therapist, which have helped me so much in my healing process. Also, I find that really trying to stay present has been very helpful. I find myself being anxious about the future, I am terrified of getting better and relapsing again (this is my fourth relapse) or a place I have to be where I know my symptoms will be triggered, but if I take myself back to my breath and relax my body/mind into the present moment, I feel at ease.
Question: 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?
Keri: I used to be drowning in negative thoughts, they really pull you down. I am someone who really, truly believes in positive thinking and positive self-talk, yet all I did was think negatively all the time and felt so bad for myself, or my lyme-rage would take over my brain and I would become someone I didn’t recognize. I felt like a different person. However, after realizing that I would not longer let fear be in charge of my recovery, but love would be, I saw a big difference in how my mind worked. I started writing my favorite stories or memories of my life, which make me laugh and help me to see that as much pain and darkness I have felt and witnessed, I have also seen and felt so much love, joy, peace, and freedom. I am only 28, but I have had some really intense, wonderfully amazing experiences in my life, so if these such happy experiences can happen to me, then they can happen again. And that everything in life is a balance, and I am lucky to be alive. On the really bad days that I used to have which lasted for months, sometimes even just thinking “I’m alive” and “I can breathe” would get me through.
Question: 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.
Keri: I literally do not know where I would be without my husband. We started dating when I was 15, and got married on our 11 year anniversary. It was on our honeymoon that I got my first symptom, so I have been sick the entire time we have been married. He really shows me how to love, and his love and support has really been the foundation to me getting better. He has been there, everyday, over the past two years taking care of me, to the point of spoon feeding me dinner, never with a complaint or blame, but support, love and encouragement. At times I felt like my body and mind were black balls of negativity and pain, and he was the sunshine, the light piercing through the darkness and telling me everything is okay. He believed every symptom, and constantly reminded me how strong I am and how much of a fighter I am. I also have amazing two best-friends who are strong fierce women who love and support me, make me laugh and even organized and threw a lyme-awareness-fundraiser for me in our hometown. There are also 2-3 people in my life who have had lyme in the past or are still fighting, and I will never forget their constant help, advice, support, or allowing me the space to vent.
Continue to follow Keri's story as she challenges and pushes herself to be the best she can possibly be. All while motivating and encouraging us to embrace our uniqueness, cultivate self-love, and let go of what we no longer need.
You can find daily inspiration from her on Instagram: @yoga_fishh.