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Even in Recovery, Lyme Is Lonely

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Living a healthy life style is a choice. For me, it is a mandate as well as a choice. Because of chronic tick-borne illness and an overactive immune system, I consider it a personal directive to do what I know will support my health and feeling my best.  Living in integrity with this mandate requires some tough choices that can isolate me.

Food can connect or isolate.

Food is used to connect families in communities and cultures all over the world.  People share a meal, talk and find common ground in their lives. It is about enjoyment and tradition rather than health. I need to eat nutrient-dense foods, to rebuild systems that are undermined by the Borrelia and other pathogenic agents that
live in my body.

This is more important than food for enjoyment. The bugs constantly steal nutrients I need, so I have to stock up. I also need a low-inflammation diet to keep these squatters from depleting me and doing more harm.

This translates into eating at home most of the time and cooking from scratch. It is challenging. Many of our friends go out for dinner as the vehicle to get together. Now, this doesn’t work for me as a regular thing.

On the rare occasion when I cave from loneliness, I have to be careful.

When everyone is munching on the bread or popcorn brought to the table, I sip water. I often order specially prepared items.

My friends are used to this, but I still have to watch them eat macaroni and cheese or fish and chips while I pick at a salad and broccoli. I actually enjoy the way I eat most of the time. It would be great if more people ate nutrient-dense food, but when we go
out in a group, I feel isolated by food choice.

Social life or sleep?

My Lyme symptoms will escalate if I try to burn the candle at both ends. Too little sleep increases pain levels, stress and suppresses healthy immune response. A tired brain slows down and is less accurate. Sleep deprivation can simulate or stimulate Lyme symptoms.

Consistent rest can be difficult with Lyme, often people wake from pain or stress associated with Lyme inflammation. Weakened bladder control also wakes you up
more than average.

So I target eight to nine hours of rest a night with a wind-down and detox routine before I hit the sack.  This means I am in my bedroom way earlier than the average adult. No late movies or TV. I won’t be up for the last half of the Super Bowl. When friends and family talk about the latest the greatest show or Tom Brady’s performance I am kind of clueless.

Healing requires quality sleep, not tossing and turning to get comfortable or waking up and getting up every couple of hours. Because of my need for restful sleep, I sleep alone, I can’t afford any extra wake ups from my husband or pets. Sometimes this is lonely too.

Deep sleep is the time my body digests my day and helps me heal, so skipping it is harmful. Going to bed on time and being relaxed enough to fall asleep is in my control, but sometimes reaching deep restful healing sleep is not. I do my best.

Relaxation space.

It is much better for my health to leave a good bit of white space in my calendar.  Time and space for rest keep me from getting depleted. I make choices in my work and social life to keep space open. I see the hustle friends and mentors have in actualizing their business dreams and have to own I am on a different track.

I have released a lot of the distractions in my life. Being alone can be lonely, but I know myself in a deeper way. This way when I go out and engage, I have the energy to have fun.

Before my diagnosis, I ran a pretty full schedule and pushed myself beyond exhaustion to keep up. I didn’t know I was sick and didn’t honor my own decreasing capacity. Now much recovered, I know better and get that no is a perfect answer to an invitation or event that will put me over my limit.

Tough choices are better than no choices.

In dealing with chronic illness and recovery, sometimes we face hard choices to balance career health and social life. Speaking from experience, tough choices are way better than no choices. Loneliness is an emotion to feel and learn from. Now I connect with my online community as well as my local one to feel love and connection in a way that supports my energy.

When maintaining wellness with chronic Lyme impels you to march to the beat of a different drummer, it can get lonely. You feel separate. But the alternative of feeling exhausted and sick would make me lonelier still.

Getty image by primovich.

Originally published: July 1, 2019
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