Melissa, Through The Eyes Of Another

lyme awareness email

Forward By, Melissa Cox

*KEEP READING FOR FULL STORY* 

Last month, a photographer and storyteller based in Seattle that I've been following on social media asked if she could do a portrait interview of me. I was up in Washington for a month of really difficult treatment for my chronic illness, but took an afternoon off to travel out to Whidbey Island for the shoot.

I never imagined how healing this adventure would be.

This woman - her soul - wow. We shared stories and life secrets like we'd known each other all our lives. We walked through ice cold water to get to a beautiful beach with driftwood. We took photos until we were frozen, and the sun danced behind the treetops, eventually disappearing behind the mountains. We had a picnic in the car, heat blasting, with numb noses and toes...And on our long drive home, I told her a little bit about what it meant for me to be ill, but more so, what it meant for me to step out of the shadows, and into light.

My illness stripped me of my job, relationships, independence, confidence -- the life I was building as a young 20-something grad. But it has gifted me so much, more than I could imagine. 

Doing this shoot made me feel more empowered than I've felt in a very long time. I felt beautiful, strong, whole. Thank you, Danielle Shull for capturing these, for sharing your time and talent. I cannot wait to see the final project! (*we can't either!)

'A Preview' By, Danielle Shull

How many times have I almost given up?

I say, I can’t do this.

I say, I’m going to sell my camera because I can’t see a way to make this work.

But every time, something happens:

The tide turns.

The wind changes.

Or I travel to an island with a dear friend and we wander along the water and pick up seashells and share stories about sickness and wellness, sorrow and hope, and even though we only met in person for the first time yesterday, it felt as if we’d known each other for years. 

The water we crossed last night wasn’t very deep and wasn’t even very cold, but this image keeps making me want to cry because I spend so much time feeling caught neck-deep in currents too strong for me, and because Melissa, in her life-long battle with Lyme Disease, every single day crosses waters so much deeper and more terrible than these, but she keeps crossing step by step, and she does so with such grace that everyone around her feels the light cast by her mighty heart. 

Here is courage.

Here is hope.

The Full Story...

On the drive home, I gave her my notebook and asked her to write me a letter. I wanted to remember the day that we, two friends meeting for the first time, took a journey together and shared our stories of pain and heartache and hope and healing. I wanted to remember what she said, about how days like these make the worst days worth it. 

Here is what she wrote:

This makes it all worth it. 
This is where it's at.
Every time we step out and allow ourselves to be vulnerable,
the magic shows up.
Thank you for allowing me to step out. I have always struggled with wanting to move past or escape from my current reality. Days like today make me feel alive again—they make me feel safe and at peace with where I'm at—even though my pain isn't gone.
You've already taught me so much in just one day. Thank you for sharing your day and pieces of your life with me.

Love,

Melissa

"Everything added up, and at some point, I broke.

I couldn’t pretend I was okay

because I couldn’t get out of bed

and I couldn’t show up for work .

I had to quit my job 

and I had to stop my public relations business.

I moved back home."
"We’re taught to push through, 

and if you don’t push through, 

you’re weak.

Being overworked is a sign 

of strength."

"Illness has a way of making you sit with yourself: with everything 

that’s wrong

in your life. 

There’s nowhere to go.

I had to learn to be comfortable with where I was: 

even if that meant I was in pain, 

and I was suffering, 

and I was scared."
"The pain starts in my hips and migrates 

all the way down to my ankles.

It radiates

from my bones.

Pain has a way of breaking you.

But I have more and more days where I can see 

that I’m healing.

I’ve been able to let go of some of my fear.

Finally, 

after so much time, 

fear is not controlling me.

I’ve started to let go of the illness.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t have more work to do,

I just feel like I can truly believe that I don’t have to be 

sick any more."

"I used to always say, 'When I’m well, I can do this.'

I don’t want to say, 'When I’m well,' 

anymore: 

I just want to start doing.

Finally, I believe in myself again.

I can’t say what shifted 

so that I can acknowledge that strength 

that I have, that we all have, 

to keep going, 

to keep fighting, 

and to seek a place in the world 

where, even when everything is bad, 

we want to keep going, 

and want to be a light.

It’s never going to be easy."
“But that is the point of existence. 

That is why we are here 

in this world: it’s not for the typical 

successes.

It’s for that genuine connection.

I’m finding that the more you seek it, 

the more it’s given 

to you:

the more you seek light,

the more it will show up.

I have found that to be true."

Celebrating Stories Told

And Those Who Share Them...

An extra big thank you to, Danielle Shull, a story teller who powerfully shares her stories through candid photographs taken on little, but impactful adventures.

In her own words...

"I've always been a storyteller. When I was little, I talked myself to sleep at night telling stories to the glow-in-the dark stars on my ceiling. I made rows of rocks in the mud in the yard and pretended they were people, and made up stories about them. I've got stories taking up space in my ribcage, pressing on my heart: I've got things I need to say.

I use photography to tell stories: mine, and yours. I like taking pictures that aren't perfect, that aren't posed—I love to catch those unguarded moments when people's true hearts really show. I think that's where the real beauty is."  

Click here to view the Full Story on her Blog + more!


Contact Information

Interested in working with Danielle?

Visit her website + Instagram to find out more about this inspiring woman and all that she does.

Want to find out more about Melissa

Visit our 'Who We Are' page + scroll down to the bottom to find out more about Melissa's role as Creative Director

Head to her Websites: Lipstick Warpaint + LymeDontKillMyVibe, as well as her Instagram for Inspiration + so much more!


Share Your Story #MoreThanLyme

*All photos taken by Daniele Shull*