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How to Cope With Lyme-Induced Anxiety

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I’ve spent such a large majority of time thinking as I’ve laid in bed sick, and I’ve come to believe that life often involves large amounts of loss…

The loss of a job…

The loss of an irreplaceable item…

The loss of physical abilities you once had…

The loss of someone you love dearly…

The loss of certain people you believe should be in your life, but just aren’t because they choose not to be…

I’ve lost all of these things at one point or another, and it’s led me to believe that loss is something that can create anxiety and depression in the minds and hearts of so many hurting people.

Because when you lose something precious, it opens the door to the fear of what you could possibly lose next.

I supposed that’s what happened to me in the midst of my Lyme journey… Lately, I feel as though I’m losing more imperative things…

My mind…

My patience…

My temper…

My will to live…

I don’t believe that my anxiety triggers my Lyme disease. Rather, I believe my Lyme disease is a root-cause of the severe anxiety that plagues me on a daily basis. And because Lyme disease never appears to cease, I’ve come to recognize that I’ve already lost so much… and my fear of losing more is petrifying at times.

There are countless times where I’m sitting in church, and my heart feels as though it’s pounding relentlessly hard in my chest. Over the next passing minutes, I begin to fear that one day my heart is going to suddenly jump out of my throat and run down the hall. But I cannot vocalize that feeling to people… because it sounds ridiculous.

There are times when I’m shopping in a store, and I feel like no matter how deeply I try to breathe I cannot possibly intake enough air in my lungs to stay alive.  So I feel this desperate need to breathe harder in an attempt to acquire more air, almost as if all the oxygen in the room will never be enough. But I cannot express this awful sensation to people… because it sounds ridiculous.

There are times when I feel like I have microscopic bugs crawling down my spine, hiding in my joints and lingering under my skin. And I feel like if I can scratch them out of my skin then maybe I’d be a little less broken, and a little more beautiful. In reality this illusion that my anxiety creates only leaves me with ugly scars and more feelings of brokenness. But I cannot verbalize this itch to people… because it sounds ridiculous.

There are times I fear like everyone is out to attack me. There are times I can’t get my hands to stop trembling. There are times when the pit in my stomach just seems to grow bigger and bigger without any warning, and suddenly I feel as though the world around me is about to explode in one massive freak accident. These feelings exist in my head, even if the world outside of me is perfectly silent, and perfectly at peace. But putting such feelings down on paper makes me feel “crazy.”

These are a few of the many sensations of anxiety brought on by Lyme disease, and the saddest component of it all is that these symptoms that so many of us experience are not talked about enough! It seems like nobody is listening and nobody is expressing enough compassion and love, thereby creating more fear, anxiety and a sense of loss in the hearts and minds of our society.

​So what do we do? How do we cope? How do we gain a sense of safety and security in an anxiety-riddled body among our fear-riddled society?

Well… I can share with you what I do:

I spend a little time every day breathing deeply and remembering the strength and power I have as a daughter of God. I avoid talking down about myself as I seek to recognize that the disease I have is very real, and I still have worth despite the regular symptoms I deal with. I seek to stand out in a shallow and uncaring society and attempt every day to love deeply, care about others and seek to have compassion toward those around me.

You see, illness and symptoms of illness such as severe anxiety are not in control of us. It’s important to recognize that we aren’t “losing our minds,” and there is always a reason to keep living. I don’t believe severe anxiety causes weakness; rather, it strengthens me. Every time I have a brutal flare, I wake up the next morning a little bit stronger than I was the day before. I become a woman with a little more resilience, a little more patience and a little more appreciation for the moments when I can and do feel a joy more pure and penetrating than I could have ever experienced before Lyme disease. The hope comes from knowing that all of us can grow from our sufferings in this way.

We all have the ability and the means to respond to our suffering in a meaningful and strengthening way. It will never be easy, and there may be days where you feel “crazy,” but it’s important to remember that you are absolutely no such thing. You’re not alone, you’re not “crazy” and you have something to offer. I believe every one of God’s beautiful children has something to offer, even if you struggle with an illness or from some other trial or struggle that seems insufferable at times.

You are loved.

You are remembered.

Your tears are accounted for.

And most importantly, your joy is something worth fighting for, and it is absolutely obtainable.

I believe that one of the most important things we can all do is listen. Don’t shut people down or shut people out because of the discomfort that can come with discussing such difficult things. Don’t spend too much of your time looking inward. Instead, look outward and look up. Listen. Love. Care. Have compassion. Everybody needs those things from others, that’s why we were all put here on this earth together. Whether or not the battle is worth it all depends on how we choose to respond.

We all can be Chronically Beautiful. Even in the midst of being chronically ill, chronically anxious or chronically in pain. There is always hope. We simply have to look for it.  

This story originally appeared on Chronically Beautiful.

Originally published: June 27, 2018
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