The Mighty Logo

Why Living Abroad Is Exactly What I Need as I Live With Lyme Disease

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

In my first years as a Lymie, during the short occasions I was going out socializing with friends, I found myself talking about my Lyme disease. Usually people were talking about how great everything was going for them, what had happened at work, what shopping spree the girls had, what restaurant they have gone, and babies. None of those topics was contingent with what I had on my depressed agenda.

My days were passing at a totally different pace, in a different environment where I had to deal constantly with my sickness which had taken over my life. My sickness was ruling how my day would go. I never liked to identify myself as a sick person or make my sickness the mainstream of my life.

Let’s be honest, who wants to hear sad stories? Who has time for this? Who likes to be around sick people? Most of the people treat this topic with politeness but never go into many details for many many reasons. Maybe they don’t want to know, or it is scary. Maybe they don’t have the time.

Maybe they try to avoid such uncomfortable topics which they might feel trapped thinking the sick person would ask for their help. Or maybe they want to spare the the sick person of feeling down or embarrassed of not being able to share the same glorious lifestyle as them. Maybe they feel pity and they acknowledge that if they show it, it might offend the sick person.

During those social gatherings me and my friends were not reasoning on the same frequency. After a while I preferred to socially withdraw, invoking same sickness related excuses for each social event I got invited to. Back then I was depressed and I had no idea about it.

I felt I had nothing in common with my friends. They were going on with their fancy lives while I was fighting against the whole word, without them showing any bit of real interest in my cause. I was fighting the insurance company, their doctors, my employer, my friends and relatives who were telling me that it was all in my head.

Among the few allies were my Lyme specialist, my family doctor and two of my close friends. They kept me going. They still do! My new Lyme diet was tough and because of it I stopped smoking as well. I had my last cigarette on June 30th, 2011, on a terrace in St. Augustin, Florida.

For over one year I did not feel like going anywhere. More, I found repulsive the idea of doing so, just for the sake of some conventional gossip, superficial small talk and coming back home hungry after having attended a dinner party.

Getting ready for a dinner party it was taking much longer than before. Most of the times I couldn’t eat any of the dishes served at the table due to my strict diet.

A couple of times I even got angry and thought that my friends should have considered asking me what I could eat  instead of just apologizing in the end for it. After it happened a couple of times, I was not sure if they were doing it on purpose or not, but then I realized I was exaggerating.

Eventually I had reached the point where it did not matter anymore. They were doing it and that was it. I was tired of blaming people. I couldn’t take it anymore. Therefore I stopped calling and returning calls, I reduced the gatherings and visits to none. Slowly the invitations dropped to zero.

One morning I asked myself if it wouldn’t be easier for me to do what I could do and completely forget about the others. Solely focus on me and my needs. I kept on telling myself this until I incorporated it into my way of thinking. The moment I changed my way of thinking, everything seemed easier, better, brighter.

It hurt for a few weeks until one day when I discovered I was enjoying my new freedom. I felt free because I could have stayed the whole day without feeling weird, inventing excuses, or having polite conversation in an environment I did not fit.

Slowly I start identifying myself with different mentalities. I discovered parts of myself I had long forgotten, also new emerging ones, taking me to new paths.For me, my time had become precious. I started to spend more time on my own.

What was different this time was the fact that now I was spending time for me and with me. I learnt that small little pleasures could make up for a sleepless night or for couple of hours of pain. Happiness comes in small increments!

Lyme showed me life in a new light and that I had been taking for granted a lot of things, my health and mobility included. Later on, after I learnt how to cope with the pain and the rest of the remaining symptoms of Lyme, I decided to push my limits even further and make traveling possible again.

So what if I had to cary tons of pills and medicine with me? So what I had to be on a strict diet? It wasn’t the end of the world! I had gained back my mobility and my joy. Everything was possible as long as I was willing to try it! That year, the idea of becoming a nomad was born.

Everyone around me was shocked when they got the news that I was going to live abroad. You can imagine the look on their faces when I told them that I had no idea what I would do for living and that things would fall into place. A few peoples told me that I had lost my mind and I was a fool to leave into the unknown, especially when I was on treatment.

It turned out to be an inspired choice because traveling offered me exactly what I needed: a different reality, a new lens, a new perspective. A new challenge each day that enabled me to focus on other things than my life as a Lymie. Without knowing, Lyme did not seem such a burden anymore because I had embraced it. A few years down the road, I turned into a Lyme advocate and did my best to raise awareness about it.

Getty Image by dimarik

This story originally appeared on A-Z Lyme.

Originally published: September 28, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home