To Myself on the Day I Was Diagnosed With Lyme Disease
Dear Newly-Diagnosed Libby,
Today you got some news, and it wasn’t good, but it wasn’t so bad either. Today you got the results back — you’re positive for Lyme disease. Your doctor has assured you the infection is easy to treat with a few weeks of antibiotics. And for now, you believe him, even though that part of you that worries about everything is still fearful for the future. You are going to tell that worrying part of you to stop; this isn’t a big deal.
You aren’t going to like this, but that worrier inside of you? Well, she’s right to be worried this time. You won’t heal from this quickly. The first few rounds of antibiotics will leave you exhausted, but ultimately no better. You will nap your way through the rest of high school, missing parties and quitting your cross country team because of this disease. You will see numerous doctors, all claiming they will have you better soon — but each one will let you down after months and years of treatment with no improvement.
You will meet a boy, and the two of you will understand each other better because of the pain you have each been through. You will sit on the sidelines together, and when it seems like the world is passing you by, the two of you will create your own quieter, tired world —a place where you are both safe and comfortable together. That boy will keep you going with his love and friendship for years to come.
Good news: You will find out that you are a fighter. You will work hard, and you will get through college. You will be tired all the time, and sometimes in a lot of pain, but you will push through. Insomnia will keep you up late into the night, pushing you to the very edge of your physical limits. But you will do it. You will graduate with your bachelor’s degree (and a 4.0 GPA!). You will work part-time at your school, and you will even plan a wedding at the same time, because that wonderful boy you met sees every bit of your struggle, and wants to love you through it.
You will marry that boy on an incredibly happy day, and you will get even sicker that summer. This will be the darkest time of your life so far. You will be fatigued beyond belief, in pain every day, dizzy, anxious and depressed. You will struggle through panic attacks, depression and suicidal thoughts as your disease eats into your brain and affects every part of your life. You will start to doubt your worth, as your dreams and goals for the future seem to crumble to dust. Instead of that job, you will get a couch to lie on, and instead of grad school, you will learn a lot about yourself.
You will be frustrated by the limitations of your disease. You will be embarrassed when you misplace words and forget the punch lines to your jokes. You will grieve the life you had in the past and the life you thought you would have now.
But most importantly, you will survive. You will realize how strong you are, even as your body seems to fail. You will rediscover your creativity, and you will begin to paint and write again. You will appreciate the people in your life like you haven’t before. You will realize how faithful your friends and family are; they will love and support you through your limitations. They will pick you up on the days you can’t drive, and sit by you on the couch on the days you can’t move. They will send texts and call from across oceans and states to make sure you are OK. They will have hope for your future when you don’t, and they will believe in your strength when you don’t feel strong. They will listen to your frustration, confusion and tears.
And they will carry you through it.
Your husband will take such good care of you. You will quickly learn that “in sickness and in health” will not be empty words. He will wipe your tears, hold you through panic attacks, bring you food when you are too tired to move, and make you laugh when you are at your lowest. He will be the best friend and caretaker you could ask for, all while working hard at a stressful job. Getting through this year will be hard, but getting through it together will bring you closer than ever before.
There is so much ahead of you — a lot of pain and tears, but a lot of good, too. You will become a stronger person because of your fight with chronic illness. You will develop compassion for others as you learn how to suffer. You will find you can still give a lot to the world, even if you are giving it from your couch.
Don’t give up. There is a storm coming, but you will make it out alive, and you will live to tell the tale. I’m proud of you and who you will become.
If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.
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