Chronic illness is something only some of us can relate to, whether it is someone we love and care about, or ourselves. Chronic illness has a way of robbing people the quality of their lives, and can take away precious times that can't be reinstated. Dreams are lost, friends are forsaken, and people just do not understand the way we wish they could.
Well, at the age of 15, Lyme Disease is the chronic illness of my DNA's choosing that bereaved my dreams of becoming a collegiate swimmer, seized my confidence, and left me feeling like I got hit by a bus. But, eventually it changed my life for the better. After years of treatment and gained perspective, the most important thing I can genuinely say about my illness is that I am thankful for it; but, I am more thankful for what I learned from it.
Before Lyme Disease became my life, I spent countless hours in the pool. Swimming was my outlet where I let go of my every-day frustrations about typical high school aggravations. But, whenever I competed in swim meets, my times did not reflect how much effort I put in the pool. My times seemed slow, and not nearly as fast as I hoped. I became discouraged and wondered when all my hard work would pay off. Eventually, this mindset progressed the way I viewed my grades as well. I felt like everything I did had no purpose, and I wasn't "exceptional" at anything. I craved the idea that I would be known for something. It seemed like all my classmates had something they were known for: being the class-clown, being the known athlete, or being the straight-A student. But, I did not consider myself to be any of those things and I was just "average." I tried so hard at school, but the grades on my tests were not as good as I hoped they would be. Once again, I wondered when my effort in not only swimming, but school would pay off.
Little did I know I wasn't the problem. After finally acknowledging that something wasn't physically right, I found out my diagnosis of Lyme Disease. It turns out I had been sick for so long that my symptoms seemed normal, and it took a lot for me to realize I was not "just tired from swimming". In order to go through treatment, I was told I needed to stop swimming completely, so I could boost my immune system and recover, which was devastating. I was crushed when I was confronted with the fact that I would not have a chance to swim in college.
After many years of vigorous treatment that included many pills, shots, and IV's, I developed a bigger perspective of the world because of Lyme Disease, which allowed me to come up with these conclusions:
1. SO MANY people feel like they are not good enough.
Whether they are not good enough for other people, themselves, parents, for their job ect. Far too often we carry around the acquisition that we need to be amazing at something or everything, and can develop a sense of learned helplessness if that does not happen. "Perfectionism" is often the case. But you are enough. Your effort in whatever you are doing is enough; and when you recognize that everything you do is for a greater purpose, you will find value everything you do.
2. Not everything in life is fair.
This is easy to say and harder to believe, but, once it is experienced, I promise it is not as cheesy as when our mom's say it. Did I deserve to get Lyme Disease? Absolutely not. Did my friend's mom deserve to lose her life to cancer? Absolutely not. But life isn't about being fair. Terrible things happen to amazing people, and people who do bad things get away with their bad decisions. It is a sickening concept but if we ruminate on this fact, we are wasting our precious energy that could be put into making life amazing. The world is imperfect, and so are people, and that is something that will never change. So, if something unplanned, like chronic illness, comes crosses your path, or if you feel wronged, just accept it with grace and understand it is for something much bigger than you can imagine.
3. You cannot take life too seriously.
It is okay if you gained the freshman 15 (not ideal, but also not the worst thing in the world). It is okay if you fail a test, and it is okay if you flunked your first semester of college. It is okay if you have no idea what you are going to do with your life because honestly who does? There are trial and error periods in life, but without that, how would we ever learn? It is okay if you get depressed, sad, or angry; we are only human. It is okay to pull an all-nighter watching your favorite Netflix show (New Girl probably because it is amazing), and it is okay if you are going through a rough patch and fight with your parents all the time. It is okay to be mad at the world because it can be cruel, just don't remain mad forever. But most importantly it is okay to love yourself. Give yourself permission to accept your mistakes and learn from them, but you do not have to tear yourself down because of them. I can also guarantee if you're anywhere near the age I am (aka 19 and making questionable decisions daily) a lot more mistakes will be made in the near future, so you might as well just laugh at yourself (or your friends).
4. You never know what other people are going through.
People suffer in silence, and it is the downfall of American culture. We are taught that showing emotions make you weak, and to act like everything is O-K even when it is not. But, showing your emotions gives you strength, and it is okay to let people know when you need help. I have learned that you never know when your darkest place can be someone else's light.
So, I challenge you to listen to others, give them the grace that you never received, and never take a moment of your life for granted. I am convinced that every decision, of every moment in every event of our lives sets us up for the rest of our future, so choose wisely. Life can be shitty, but that does not mean that we have to be. With that being said, Lyme Disease is easily the best worst-thing that has ever happened to me, so what is yours?