Welcome back to this weeks' feature. How do you overcome a pain so strong that you don't remember life without it. When the idea of moving forward seems near to impossible, how do you find joy and love? How do you even fathom what a "normal" life would be like when you can't even get out of bed? Well, like Laura, you keep going, you keep fighting, and you keep the love that it takes in your heart to march forward and beat this thing. Laura has, over many years and with a lot of hard work, turned the overwhelming feeling of "giving up" into an opportunity to heal, cultivate positivity, and inspire others to embrace the beauty that exists throughout this seemingly endless battle. A battle that can leave you empty, hopeless, and alone. A battle that leaves you with an overwhelming pile of unanswered questions and an aching head. A battle that can leave you feeling anything but beautiful.
This is Laura's 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?
Laura: I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease in early 2013, after ten years of searching for an answer to my chronic migraines which turned into chemical sensitivities, mold sensitivities and neurological symptoms. My health became drastically worse about one month after I married my husband, when I moved into his home- a brand new starter house. You may not be aware that new building materials are highly toxic and give off chemicals such as formaldehyde in the form of a gas. Some people with strong bodies have no noticeable problems with this, but I was not one of those people. My body was so damaged from the Lyme Disease I did not yet know I had, that the chemical off gassing triggered downward spiral. We barely had a newlywed stage and jumped right into "in sickness and in health". The saddest part of this experience for me has been fighting for better health instead of being able to immerse myself into my marriage right away. I'm not able to work full time, because the stress of being mentally "on" for forty hours a week is too much for my adrenals to handle. I am grateful that I can work part-time and that I was able to complete my Master's Degree in Health and Nutrition Education this spring. Due to my increased chemical sensitivities and severe mold intolerance, it has become very hard for me to find buildings I can be in for extended periods of time. This makes finding work, homes, and hotels while traveling a challenge. We are still able to travel, but often finding places to stay can be a huge and embarrassing ordeal. I also really miss having ample energy and mental concentration.
It was very hard to cope at first with the onslaught of sensitivities and neurological issues. I hated my body and was so angry to lose the life that I felt that my illness had stolen from me. It was terrifying wondering if things would ever improve and not have any answers. I felt like my personality was sucked out of me. I wondered if I would ever be able to enjoy anything again, because I literally couldn't fathom not feeling miserable.
After a year of daily vertigo that my Lyme treatments had not helped, I began going to acupuncture. My acupuncturist slowly helped me shift my negative mental state into a positive, healing state. After actively changing my negative thought patterns into more positive ones, and adopting self love practices in to my life it was like a switch flipped! It was only a matter of time until I became able to accept my body and my challenges and find silver linings. While there are still things I'm afraid of, I refuse to let fear rule my life anymore. I've learned valuable tools along the way and I'm able to recognize when my thoughts are becoming negative and can catch myself from getting caught up in that pattern. This isn't to say that I don't still have bad days.
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?
Laura: I've always been a creative person, but never felt like I had the "right outlet". I've been a musician for as long as I can remember and have even tried my hand at writing a novel (it was definitely not a masterpiece...or even completed). When I started making YouTube videos about holistic health, green beauty and living an all around natural lifestyle, it was like everything clicked. It's really important for me to constantly be thinking of new topics to share whether it be a really important health topic -like adrenal fatigue or something fun and beautiful like a makeup tutorial. Being able to share my passion for living a natural, chemical-free lifestyle and my knowledge about holistic health via YouTube has truly changed my life because of the connections I have made with others who have similar passions or struggles. I also continue to work out on a regular basis and hop in the far infrared sauna multiple times per week. Getting my blood pumping and lymph moving are not only great ways to detoxify, but are also important stress relievers. I read a lot of books. Driving can be really stressful for me, due to my neurological symptoms, so I like to listen to audio books in the car. Even though I'm in my late twenties, there's nothing better than a really fantastic young adult novel. I think that I've also found the balance between "doing" and "resting". When I'm operating in that beautiful balance with room for work, creativity and rest my health and attitude are so much better.
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?
Laura: I focus on the wonderful things that have happened to me as a result of being chronically ill. I've met so many amazing people in person and online with similar struggles and a common goal-to encourage each other through it! I think about the next place that I want to travel and make elaborate itineraries. Something that has really helped me is having determined my "core desired feelings", using the book The Desire Map. In moments of negativity, it helps to circle back and remind myself how I want to feel instead. It takes me out of the negative mindset and into a mindset of action. For instance "I'm really angry about ____, but I know that I want to feel joy, so what is something I can do right now that will move me towards joy?" No matter how angry and exhausted I feel, it's impossible to forget that if I wasn't going through this I would have never discovered my passion for holistic healthcare. If all else fails, I just think of my dog, Teddy, because he's the cutest, sweetest little guy with the biggest personality. Oh, and he gives the best slobbery, puppy kisses.
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.
Laura: I am so blessed to have an amazing community. My husband is amazing. I truly can't imagine what it's like to marry someone and suddenly have your life turned upside down and be helpless about it. He's so supportive of my treatments (even the weird ones), but he doesn't let me feel sorry for myself when I have set backs. He's constantly pushing me to socialize when I'd rather stay home and sulk. I'm always happy that he's encouraged me to get out of the house after the fact! My parents are equally as great, my mom has similar health problems although her sensitivities are much more severe, so we're always researching and talking about treatments. Working in holistic healthcare for the past several years has also helped me make connections with practitioners and patients who are understanding. Lastly, the community I've stumbled in to on Instagram and YouTube. There are just no words. I had no idea how many people were like me in the world. These networks have connected me to so many people and I'm so incredibly grateful. Although, I will most likely never meet many of these people face to face, it's so encouraging to know they can understand what I am going through.
Continue to be inspired by Laura via Instagram: @laurasnaturallife
Her incredible YouTube Channel: Laura's Natural Life
Website: Laura's Natural Life (laurasnaturallife.com)
All of these outlets are filled with the kind of goodness that can only be found through someone as caring, self-love-motivating, and encouraging as this lovely lady. Thank you Laura, for all that you give. This community would not be the same without you.