This Is, Nicole.
An adventure seeker, creator of joyful moments, kindness spreader, hopeful at heart, and willing to do everything in her power to live a life true to her heart. To listen to her gut and seek out the moments that fill her up. That encourage her, as well as the people she surrounds herself with, to live a life more than their fear, doubt, or illness that hides beneath their skin.
No matter the obstacle, Nicole pushes herself to see the good in each moment, even if that piece of joy isn't discovered until years later, she finds it. She uses it as motivation to keep pushing, thriving, and encouraging her thoughts to see all that is right, rather than the things that need fixing.
This girl, she radiates hope while showing us all that it is possible to not just live, but thrive amidst the chaos.
This is her story...
I haven’t always been this sick. I haven’t always been so frustrated and angry. I haven’t always felt so weak, nauseous, incapable of doing things that used to come so naturally. Asking for help has never been easy for me, let alone depending on others. I have always hated taking medicine. I’ve always eaten whatever I wanted.
Life can change quickly and suddenly which I’m learning the hard way.
I grew up in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, or as we like to call it, “The Tick Capital of the US”. I can’t recall the number of tick bites I’ve had in my 28 years on this planet, the amount of times I’ve walked the 3 feet from my house to the car only to find ticks crawling on me, not to mention the several times I’ve traipsed unknowingly through a “tick bomb” only to run frantically to the house, shedding layers, to blast hundreds of baby ticks the size of a pin head from my skin with cold water. I find it humorous now that the thought of lyme being the cause of so much of my illness over the years had never crossed my mind. No bullseye? No problem!
Throughout my life every 5 years or so like clockwork some new auto-immune disease would rear it’s ugly head, leaving me confused and frustrated. Warts on my hands in elementary school, psoriasis in middle school, raynaud's in college, achy joints, etc. It wasn’t until the mood swings, lethargy, debilitating migraines, and inflamed chest cartilage set in that I knew it was time to make a change.
Not to mention that all of the latter kicked in within a 6 month period, an accelerated bout of illness that really proved concerning for me and my loved ones.
I met a wonderful man right at the onset of this recent struggle. One who has been not only understanding about my sickness, but who has also encouraged me to find out what was wrong, helped me when I’m down and who’s father is a Doctor that (get this) studies Chronic Lyme Disease! Not only has this dream team helped to diagnose me, but they’ve been helping to heal me, and been the most supportive wonderful people through a time when it’s easy to be misunderstood.
Now after all of this pain and sickness it’s easy to blame your environment but I honestly wouldn’t trade my childhood for the world (or the Lyme as it were). Running around my parent’s old cranberry bog with my dog while encountering all sorts of wildlife is about as wonderful an upbringing as I can imagine. I IMPLORE you, all of you, don’t sacrifice time spent outdoors for fear of illness. Even now, the thing that helps me most when I’m ill or battling my own thoughts, is nature.
Any time I spend in the mountains, on the slopes or dangling from the side of a rock increases my mood and helps ground me to the things that matter in my life.
This fall, before my diagnosis, I got a job that I thought would provide me with security, health insurance, and enough money to get better and not worry. The reality was: a job spent indoors, stressed out, in front of a desk, and increased illness due to that stress. It is difficult to explain to anyone, let alone a boss, how sick you feel when you don’t really look that sick. When your illness is hard to explain and comes in such a wide variety of symptoms it becomes increasingly difficult to make sense of. Now don’t get me wrong, I am fighting this disease tooth and nail, but I have retained a lot of positives from this negative experience. I’ve learned that this job, was not the job for me.
I learned that returning to a profession where I can continue to teach the world about the importance of the environment is what I am meant to do. Also that it is ok to ask for help. Not to mention the importance of feeding my body the right food with a new diet, giving myself herbal supplements to help combat the infections running rampant in my body, and how to let someone take care of me.
As my body and mind adjust to these changes I often feel scared and alone, but knowing there is a community out there who is combating all of this too gives me a sense of support and belonging that I never knew I’d find. Spreading the word about this illness and how it can manifest itself is hugely important and helping others to catch it sooner is something I am dedicating myself to.
An Addendum: I wrote this some 4 months ago and have been feeling increasingly better ever since. The days I cheat on my diet or don’t hydrate enough I FEEL. When I’m out of a specific medicine or change my routine, I notice it quickly. This all makes me understand the intricacies of my body in a whole new way but sometimes makes me feel like a slave to this revised way of life. I have been more active and able to do things I had no desire to do before (just out of pure exhaustion). I am choosing to see this disease as a gift rather than a curse.
A new lease on life and an inspiration to keep getting better and pushing my physical boundaries in a way that seemed impossible before!
Curious what Nicole has been up to recently? Head on over to her Instagram for recent happenings, thoughts + musings while living on the road, climbing + yoga adventures, and all the many reasons why listening to your gut and living a life more than the limitations that this disease can bring is oh so worth it.