The Importance of Self-Confidence in My Journey of Healing
When I was first diagnosed, I could not imagine the changes I would go through while in treatment. As with every Lyme journey, we all have a different experience and no two are alike. I first grew ill in 1994. I had Bell’s palsy and that gave me paralysis on one side of my face. Being in the seventh grade, at an age where appearance started to matter, this was hard on my self-esteem. I hid it well, covering my face with my hands when I smiled, and I patiently waited the six weeks for when the doctor said it may or may not go away. They told me if it did not go away, we would have to try electronic stimulation to my facial nerves. Luckily, it did, but my symptoms grew from then until the time I was in my late 20s and finally got my diagnosis. The time in between that is a very long story, lots of ups and downs and quite a roller coaster ride. Despite all of my medical challenges, I really had an amazing and fulfilling life – I just did not know it could get even better if I had my health.
When I first got diagnosed in 2013, I was living in the Bay Area of California and really happy with my surroundings. After about six months of treatment there, my partner and I drove me home to the east coast to be near family and doctors here. Eventually he met up with me after two years of living apart and being long-distance. We both now live with my parents and have all of our items in storage back in the Bay Area. Those first two years seem like a blur to me. Now at almost four years, I have recently been able to get to a point where I can let go of the rigidity of treatment and allow more and more back in. With letting go of everything materially after my diagnosis, physically I let go of a great deal too.
On the Woman & Lyme website, when you request the free e-book, Romilia talks about self-confidence. Going through something like a healing journey can be a time when confidence can be lost and set to the side. For me, I lacked confidence because I was too sick to keep up with friends and for quite some time I lost the ability to even see friends and family. I also lost the ability to take care of myself and do small things like drive a car, walk or be social. With all the medications, doctor appointments and feeling sick, my salon haircuts became haircuts from my Mom or my partner and with all of my sensitivities, makeup was not an option. I made sure to do little things like brush my teeth and comb out my hair, wear clothes that were comfortable and buy some blankets and things for my room that made me feel more in my element. I focused on things that were temporary and realistic I knew I could maintain and do daily that would help me feel good about myself. My long runs as exercise turned into gentle floor stretching for 10 minutes and walking downstairs to do laundry or the dishes. I will admit, I am human and there were times where this frustrated me beyond words, but I tried to keep myself feeling as good as I possible could.
My physical confidence with treatment took a bit of a dive. I had not taken my picture in over three and a half years. The last photo I took was with a friend who came to visit when I first arrived back on the east coast and it was of her and I sitting in my bed. After that, I began my treatment regimens and taking my photo was the last thing on my mind. Recently, more and more, normalcy is flowing back to me. If you stick with treatment, it will come back to you too.
When I was diagnosed, I had been sick for 20 years, so I knew I had a lot of work to do and I had a wonderful team of doctors who told me they could not promise a cure, but they would never give up on me. That gave me confidence too, knowing I was working with people on my side.
This month, I also used that confidence to step out of my comfort zone in numerous ways. My partner and I took our first vacation together in over four years. For those of you with Lyme, or close to someone with Lyme, you know that is a huge milestone. We took along my whole regimen and found a place in an environment conducive to healing. We rented a house in the mountains where all we heard for four days were the sounds of crickets, chickens and the sounds of the rain and wind when small storms passed through. I was literally surrounded by support, beauty and wonderful kind people. It made stepping out of my comfort zone worth it and proved to me, the more I keep going out of my comfort zone, the more I will get better. It was not easy, but I did it.
Two years ago, traveling would have not even been an option, but in the peak of the experience, I always knew one day it would be again and getting out of my comfort zone gave me confidence. My partner wanted to take some photos and was surprised when I let him snap one of me. It is difficult to take photos of myself, exactly as I am right now, with confidence. He asked me to simply go look in the mirror and to look long and hard, and reminded me that the imperfections I see are not what he sees. He reminded me of the strong, persistent and beautiful human I am. When I did look, long and hard, it was like I saw myself very different. I saw myself as he did. The same picture I would have seen the day before suddenly made me feel proud, powerful and beautiful.
The interesting thing with my healing journey is that before treatment, I had been sick since 1994 and therefore I cannot remember what feeling good and healthy feels like. My whole adult life was spent going to doctor appointments trying to solve this mystery of what was ailing me and constantly living around my disease. The further I go with treatment and the more I see what life is supposed to feel like, the more I am amazed at how beautiful life can be.
Waking up next to someone I love every day and taking moments to just be. Sitting in the comfort and stillness of nature and taking the day as it goes. Having moments of deep belly laughs and laughter, spending time with my best friend and her husband, spending this time living with my parents and getting caught up with family. These are all things that come naturally now and the more I gain my health, the more of these things flow to me.
In the e-booklet, it helps you find ways to stay confident throughout treatment. I would have been thrilled to find something like this two years ago. I know on the hard days, taking a photo of yourself or finding the positivity can be hard, but just try it – no one has to see the photo and no one needs to see what you wrote. Make it for you. If it makes you feel less confident, then delete the photo and take a new one another day. Do what makes you feel good.
On my harder days, I would do small things like watching films I loved or journaling. A lot of the things I loved like music and art were not available to me, and now that they are again, taking the break from that area of my life has made me appreciate it that much more. I am also organically confident now. I am so proud of who I am and all of the work I have gone through. This body amazes me. Each of our journeys with Lyme is different. Your story is not the same as mine. Your story is your own achievement, your masterpiece and you should be confident and proud of exactly who you are. Take one step, one tiny step and keep going. This journey begins with one step.
This post originally appeared on Woman & Lyme.
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Thinkstock photo via vikialis.