Adapting Too + Creating Magic Outside The Boundaries Of Change: A Story Written By, Genevieve Goetz
Introducing the amazing, Genevieve...
It's been quite awhile since we last found ourselves here, diving head first into the words, the voice, the building blocks of this community, and I can't thank you enough for your patience and support as we re-set and focus our attention back on all that it means to be more than in 2017 and beyond!
With that said, there's lots to think on, mull over, create, explore, and work towards this year (whatever that looks like to you), and one of the best ways to start is by sharing with you a story that I believe encompasses many of the same virtues that we hold so close here at More Than Lyme: Adventure, movement, support, nature, creativity, and the art of sharing all of this with one another. Rather, the means for moving forward when things don't go as planned. When we, no matter how terrible we're feeling, pick ourselves back up, lend a hand, ear, and heart to those around us, all while leaning on each other as a community, eventually building up the strength we need to either keep doing, or start something we've always dreamed of!
*I'm sorry for the rambling, you see, I'm trying to set a baseline for the story you're about to read, but not doing very good job of it. So, why don't I just skip the fluff and get straight to it...
Genevieve, with your dedication to helping others while working towards your best self, even if that best self can't get off the couch some days, your ability to take a not so great situation and turn it into something powerful and life-changing is truly inspiring. I cannot wait for others to gain just as much as I have from your voice (your resilient, passionate, loving, sympathetic, and determined voice), and in turn, a mood-boosting and soul-sparking story.
When I was diagnosed with chronic pain, fatigue, and Lyme, it was almost exactly a year ago. I just turned 30, was living in a cute, small mountain town in MA for two years, and was going back to school to become an Occupational Therapy Assistant. I taught yoga for years and was very physically active. I had an active social and dating life. I wanted to help people with their bodies and empower their lives.
I quickly went from the role of practitioner to patient. I stayed in school part time but was forced to withdraw from the program overall. Suddenly, I was not able to teach yoga, drive or even hike. My body really started to deteriorate, having severe reactions to any kind of antibiotic over and over again. My mom moved closer to be my caregiver . We didn't expect she'd still be here an entire year later, still dealing with my Lyme. I had no clue what it meant to truly give care until my mom stopped her life to save mine.
Down the Lyme wormhole I went, so uninformed even though I have the best Lyme doctor, health insurance, a college education. I am part of white, middle class America, where Western medicine and the CDC "have all the answers". I was so naive to factual information on Lyme disease, though I live in an epidemic area. I was too trusting to think that I'd just get better and my life would be about the same. Or that friends and family will all be supportive and present to help me. I thought that since I had a diagnosis, I'd get better and move on in life. I didn't think taking medicine would make me feel worse. I was blind to the insidious reasons Lyme Disease really is an epidemic, or how many hundreds of thousands of people are in my same situation. I never thought that government would want to repeal my health insurance, or that my Lyme treatment wouldn't be covered financially by my insurance. Or that now, an entire year later, we are just starting to discover my body can handle an herbal regimen (kinda).
Facing my own mortality at age 30 was truly life changing. To sit alone and know there are invasive cells actively trying to kill me is indescribable. Superficial pettiness began to matter less and less. Right before and during my illness, most of my close friends made a mad exodus out of my life. One after another after another made their get aways, even my own sister. I've been on the end of victim blaming before, but this was scary and shattering. My body was falling apart along with my relationships. We are all adult women and not one would have a real dialogue, which was deeply shocking and disappointing.
The loss as a whole changed how I saw myself. I had identified myself within these people, who just up and left. Who's voice was true? What are they thinking about me now? What am I going to do? I was anxious, needy, and trying to feel safety within my own judgemental boundaries. I'm happy to have shed that skin.
My childhood was imperfect and many times I felt closer to friends than family. It wasn't until my parents came to help me fight Lyme that I saw the true importance of family. The closeness of years and years spent together, same blood in our veins, childhood memories. Being this sick showed me who would stay by my side into the great unknown. Who would hold my hand as I rage war inside my own body. I can completely trust other people to fully care for me no matter what, and in that is such freedom. Unconditional love and acceptance is now a daily experience. I was not so alone. I don't have to carry it all on my own. My renewed relationship with my parents has been the best blessing out of all this, along with meeting my boyfriend.
I was in the middle of moving to Upstate NY to be closer to family, when I connected with him from a dating site. He helped me see myself past all the Lyme insanity. I kept open minded and hearted, and now I'm happily dating my best friend, who is moving in soon! Even though I've never been more sick, I've never been happier and more excited about my future. Our partnership feels forged out of unbreakable bonds.
I didn't know Lyme would ever bring me anything but pain. But as I start my second year as a Chronic Lyme patient, I feel like I have new eyes, a new vision of what life could truly be like, what real happiness is found in. As much as the present moment can feel excruciating physically, we gain so much more fullness of life by showing up. Just simply being present with myself, and who is around me, and how I feel. I want to walk down this Lyme path now, instead of fighting against the inevitable.
Experiencing deep trauma earlier in life, prior to my diagnosis, has been strangely helpful. I was raped at a party when I was a 16 year old virgin. I had no coping skills or solid support team to help me through that time so I turned to my friends and drugs. It was a manic time for me. I was so young but experiencing so much more than any person should. I thought by partying and being with friends 24/7 my life would be fun. But I was just adding onto the hurt. Choosing self destruction without even being conscious of it. Leaving a road map of what not to do.
Now, I know the dark, lonely road of punishing yourself for things you can't control. I know the level of injustice and pain inflicted. I know where I'll end up if I start to hate myself.
So this time, when another life altering event occurred, I did the opposite. I started talking about my Lyme Disease right away, to everyone on social media. I kept my goals together and in line for when I am healthy again. I kept my morals and my self love. I surround myself with hope because I am absolutely sure this will get better. I reached out to the Lyme community so I knew I wasn't alone. I have a sturdy group of amazing souls holding me together and onward into true health.
Yoga has always been a natural love of magnetic force. I started practicing while in high school. When I moved to Hawaii after graduating college, I became immersed. Yoga wasn't just a class but a lifestyle, giving me so much peace and self expression. I got certified as a Vinyasa Yoga Teacher in Philadelphia (my hometown) over four years ago. I have truly loved teaching until past year, when I had to stop.
Throughout my past year of being sick, I intuitively move my body to stretch, strengthen and find comfort while in alignment. My mom noticed once at the ER how strong my body was. I was standing straight on one leg, while holding the other straight up by my chest, due to excruciating nerve pain. I wasn't going to fall over when transferring myself from the high hospital bed to the low wheelchair. What yoga really teaches is our boundless strength, hope, and patience. Having the philosophies of yoga so ingrained into my identity has truly helped me cope and heal from Lyme.
Since having Lyme, I jumped back into writing full force. I studied Creative Writing for my BA, but started working in education after school. Now, that I'm in what I like to think of as an "extended writer's retreat", I can fully unpack my Lyme story and connect with others. Through writing I learn so much about myself and the message I want to share.
I also learned so much much while studying to be an OTA, like how to create treatment plans for myself. Occupational Therapy has given me the framework on how to operate as a sick person in a healthy way. "Occupations" is used to reference anything throughout the day that gives you meaning. It can be as small as brushing your teeth to as big as implementing career goals. The OT is not on the front lines of battle, but in the soft spots of recovery where help is truly needed. ADL's is a common term for activities of daily life, hygiene, eating, use of motor skills. Raising the quality of life and level of independence is why OT's provide services. Learning so much anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, pathology, and OT practices and philosophies truly helps me heal.
My career goals are now even bigger. I plan on finishing my degree when I'm healthy and working specifically with people who have chronic illnesses and/or mental health issues. Now I will have the knowledge of what being a patient and a person with a debilitating disease truly is, so I can really relate to my future patients. I want to implement yoga workshops and classes into my OTA practices, so my patients with chronic illnesses can receive the healing benefits of a routine yoga practice. I will have the gift of giving back to a community that's helped me so much now. I'd love to teach free classes for Lymies at local studios and provide private sessions via Skype.
But for now, I'm stuck on my couch inside my house for an unknown amount of time. I can't just do nothing, it's not in my nature, so out blossomed Lyme Yoga Warrior. It started as an Instagram account and now is so much more. I have been published on The Mighty and other blogs, like Living Grace. I create yoga tutorials and online classes for those who have Lyme or another chronic illness. My blog is full of experiences from this last year. The real reward is hearing that my Lyme friend practiced one of my yoga classes and is feeling better. Or getting a message from someone in a foreign country, saying that they were moved by my last piece and do not feel so alone or afraid anymore. Lyme Yoga Warrior has broken down walls I never knew existed and started a new phase of happiness and joy in my life.
Change is the only constant so I embrace whatever come next, even if it's worse. At a moment's notice it could all change again. I see all these Lyme changes as chapters in a book, but not the end of my story. Some people despise adapting, especially at the rate Lymies have to. But I love it. It's an adventure. It must be from my years of traveling in my twenties, and living out of a backpack, car, hostel or an off-the-grid hut. I was always adapting to a new places and cultures, new routines and faces, while learning how to exist there as myself. A life of on-the-go smoothed the rough edges of my past, and allowed me to truly explore myself and what I want for the future. It gave me great friends and the happiest days.
On my difficult days now, I float in the atmosphere of Hawaii alongside Pele, the goddess of volcanoes. Beautiful waterfalls, fresh dirt between my toes, salt soaked skin, black rock beaches, papayas, coconuts, avocados, lilikoi, taro. Riding in the back of trucks with the wind blowing everywhere, enveloped by a canopy of monkey pod trees. I remember the ultimate freedoms I allowed myself to have then, and the struggles too. One day, I'll be able to go back and breath in all that magic once more.
Adapting to new is a challenge we all face, but for Lyme Warriors it's much harder and complex. I invite you to find the positivity amongst the chaos. As a Lymie, all this adaptation can be completely devastating and overwhelming. But once we can catch our breath, we can choose to see all the strength we've gained. How much progress we've really made. And that everything is temporary. Once we can fully accept ourselves, riding the waves of change seems only natural.
Want to be involved in all the amazing things Genevieve is dong? Whether it be daily tips + tricks, yoga practices no matter how you're feeling, or advice when it comes to living with a chronic illness, she has created a space for you to be your best self.
Blog: Lyme Yoga Warrior Blog