Claire Dalton

@claire-dalton | contributor
Claire is 21 years old. She was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease when she was 18. She lives at home with her mother and father who have also been diagnosed with the same disease. Her mother has been suffering excruciating pain for years, and she is now home to walk this journey alongside her parents. Her faith is incredibly important to her and it truly helps her through this incredibly hard journey. She intends to someday heal from this and be able to live a normal, happy life, and she will never lose the desire to spread awareness for chronic illness, help others to see the beauty in suffering, and help people know they are never alone.
Community Voices

Let's Stop Making Health So Taboo

“What’s #LymeDisease?”

“Are you contagious?”

“So what do you eat?”

“That’s super sad that you don’t eat sugar!”

“Does your disease come from limes?”

“So I googled your disease….”

“Endo what?”

“You actually drink that?”

“Why are you on a diet?”

“Well at least it’s not #Cancer!”

“I think you should see a counselor!”

“So are you on any medications for your problems?”

Believe it or not, these are all questions and comments that I’ve received at one point or another along my journey of health and wellness!  It never ceases to amaze me how uneducated the human race is about the health crisis in America, all the different conditions that people can suffer from, and how we’re completely unaware of how to help these issues.

Yes!  I said it!  WE HAVE A HEALTH CRISIS IN AMERICA! And the scariest part about it is that most people are completely unaware of how our health is quickly plummeting to a state where obesity, #Diabetes, cancer, and #ChronicIllness of all kinds are running rampant in our society.  Feeling sick is the new norm, and trends of “it’s normal to feel sick” are increasing more and more every day.

I will be the first person to say that

It’s not normal to be tired all the time!

It’s not normal to be hungry right after you just ate!

It’s not normal to have frequent occurrences of short-term memory loss!

It’s not normal to have frequent headaches and stomach upset!

It’s not normal to be riddled with anxiety and #Depression all the time!

It’s not normal to have frequent gas and bloating!

And it’s not normal to feel sick on a regular basis!

These are all frequent symptoms that many people suffer from, and they are a result of our bodies crying out for help because of the toxins that we are so heavily saturating our society with.  Ultimately, it’s heartbreaking, and here at Chronically Beautiful we are dedicated to busting myths about health and illness, educating the public about healthy lifestyle and how to reduce these symptoms, and ultimately opening up the conversation about illness so that we can have enlightening and positive conversation in a way that helps us to see what our bodies are really trying to tell us.

We live in the “no shame” culture where we highly discourage fat shaming, pornography shaming, and anything that can “make people feel bad.”  But behind closed doors, we shame the things that are for our benefit and well being all the time!  As human beings, we use health shaming as a way to make us feel better about our own unhealthy lifestyles, when in the grand scheme of things we’re damaging our bodies and minds by speaking and thinking so negatively about healthy whole food, exercise, abundance, vitality, and overall balance and well being.  It’s time for a paradigm shift!  It’s time to start talking positively about health and wellness, and it’s time to realize that people who choose not to each fast food hamburgers and pizza all the time are not making a personal insult to you for choosing to eat those things.

To the average person, illness and disease is an uncomfortable topic.  It’s something we stay hush hush about because it’s “too personal” or “too private.”  But the average sick person will tell you differently.  The average sick person has to beg for someone, anyone, to ask about our lives.  To reach into our hearts!  To offer to listen!  The heartbreaking epidemic in America isn’t just about the illness our bodies house, it’s about the breaking of hearts and the lack of connection that is taking place that all comes down to one root cause: The health crisis in America.

So my message to you today is to STOP MAKING HEALTH SO TABOO!  We all have human bodies.  We all suffer.  We all stress. We all have insecurities.  We all have good days and bad days. So why can’t we take our physical imperfections and our own unique individual experiences and use them to create a movement that can change lives and hearts for the better!  Let’s make health less taboo.  Let’s talk about it.  Let’s ask people how they’re feeling, and then answer honestly.  Let’s get educated!  Let’s not mock those who are striving for good health by drinking green juice or saying no to Mt. Dew!  Let’s stand together.  And let’s make a difference!

Health may be an uncomfortable topic.  But we weren’t brought to this life to be comfortable all the time.  We were brought here to struggle, sting, and hurt at times, so ultimately we can learn and become stronger than we ever imagined!  Strength happens when we stand together.  Healing happens when we all begin to be on the same page.  My hope is to bring hope and healing in all aspects of life in order to feel more deeply and discover a deeper level of pure joy.  May we all be striving to find that joy together through health and wellness.

Community Voices

You're Right... I'm Faking It!

I frequently travel through my life with a sense of a double identity as our society loudly screams frivolous ideas of success and popularity that seem to be difficult to ignore. And as I attempt to “fit in” with my peers, I always find myself feeling slightly fake and two-faced.

As a woman living in a world brimming with Photoshop, Snapchat filters and unrealistic glimpses into other people’s lives via social media, it’s easy to chase after the false belief that in order for me to be a thriving influence in society, I must be living up to society’s standard: I must be going to school full-time, holding a job, eating the best tasting food, traveling to the most exotic places, fulfilling all my callings in the church and I must be stunningly beautiful every day. I must never have problems… and if I do I must keep my mouth shut in order to avoid causing anyone discomfort. If I experience emotional pain, I must quickly throw it under the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist. I must smile… but not too wide and not too frequently. I must be happy… but not too emotional or enthusiastic. I must be tired… but simultaneously drill myself to accomplish all the to-do lists, schedules and appointments. And while I’m juggling all that… I must also be having the most fun and posting it all to Instagram and Facebook so that everyone else can feel bad about how they’re not having enough fun. Thank you social media for this unrealistic and impossible view of reality.

I’ve tried to be that girl. That girl who has perfection in the bag. That girl who appears to have vitality and richness overflowing in her life. That girl who doesn’t talk about her inward struggles out of fear she’ll make other people uncomfortable or she’ll give the wrong image or idea. But that girl is fake. That girl isn’t real. That girl is living a double life and because I’ve always tried to be that girl, it makes it easy for my peers, associates and family to assume that I’m not really sick.

“You don’t look sick.”

“She must be faking it.”

“You’re a beautiful girl who probably just feels like you’re not getting enough attention.”

“You must thrive off attention.”

Some of the comments #ChronicIllness warriors hear on a regular basis cut deep because most of us are simply trying to survive in our own skin to the best of our ability. What’s worse are the words that go unsaid. What’s worse are the gaping mouths and blank stares I often receive, which translate to the disbelief that any person actually suffers on that kind of level. What’s worse is the attempt of someone apologizing and stating how hard that must be because they don’t know what else to say. The silence is just as painful as harsh words, simply because it traps me in the corner of disbelief where I constantly feel the need to “prove” I’m sick.

So I’ll be the first to admit it… You’re right… I’m “faking it.”

I’m faking the smile on my face when I’m trying so desperately to hold back tears. I’m faking that I’m feeling OK when I’m usually riddled with muscle pain, nerve pain or severe #Anxiety. I’m faking that I’m living life pain-free when there are so many times I feel like I’m suffocating under my own skin. I’m faking my mental well-being when I feel like there are bugs crawling under my skin. I’m faking that I’m flying when at times I feel so utterly close to drowning beneath the pressure of it all. I’m faking that my heart is whole and complete, when really it feels exhausted, broken and bleeding.

When these things I’m faking are expressed out loud, I simply feel inadequate. I feel like I lack the ability to ever be “good enough.” I feel like it’s my fault and if I just tried a little harder… maybe my pain would subside. I feel ashamed of my own existence, and I often wonder why at times it feels like the world keeps turning while my time stops and I’m trapped in one place until my inward storm chooses to cease for a while. And as these feelings envelop me, the vicious cycle of feeling forced to “fake it” starts all over again.

So what’s the solution? Why does it matter if hundreds of thousands of people are roaming this earth pretending like everything is OK when on the inside so many of us are drowning in our sorrows and pain?

It matters because we can be the change the world needs. When we can recognize that there isn’t a person on the face of the earth who is as “perfect” as social media makes them out to be, we begin to face our trials and understand others in an eye-opening way. When we come to a place of understanding and compassion towards ourselves and others, then we are empowered to cope and deal with our adversities in a healthy way.

We live in a society that believes that pain can be relieved with substances.  We cope with alcohol, drugs, pills, porn, food, or anything we can do to numb our afflictions.  But at some point, we have to realize that the SUBSTANCES DO NOT HEAL US.  The substances numb us to the harsh reality.  Instead of relying on substances, we can rely on God and on each other so we don’t have to feel the desperate need to “fake it till’ you make it.”

I believe love is the key to healing. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” (John 3:16) God loves us, so He gave us His son so that we don’t have to suffer alone. Christ knows of our pains and our sorrows, and He loves us all the same. If we strive to be more like Him, we can act as a rock and relief for others who are suffering.  We don’t have to have all of the answers for the chronically ill.  We don’t have to take their physical pain away.  But what we can do is seek to understand the depths that others and in, and then… we simply love them through it.

Here’s the joyful message of it all… Because I have a Savior who loves and sustains me… I can find pure joy through pain and illness, and I’m not faking it. Because I know that people are more important than substances, I can understand that after I walk through my own furnace of affliction I develop the ability to love others through their afflictions. I also understand that as I suffer I gain a greater capacity to later help others which in turn helps me.  What I stop trying so hard to fake it, I can be true to myself in enduring pain and happiness.

So the next time you meet somebody, or the next time you’re talking to somebody… “treat them as if they are in serious trouble. And you will be right more than half of the time.” (www.lds.org/general-conference/2004/04/in-the-strength-of-the-lord) It would do us all well to bring our shallow existences to a halt. The next time that somebody says they are doing well and you sense that they are not, do not believe the words they speak. Believe the silent plea for help in their eyes. Believe their subtle look of discouragement and pure exhaustion. Believe that little voice in your head telling you that maybe this person needs help. Believe in the inherent ability you have to love somebody through their pain.

We all have that power. May we seek with pure diligence to know how to help ignite that power in ourselves and in others.

Claire Dalton

Coping With Anxiety Caused by Lyme Disease

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.

Claire Dalton

Things I've Learned From Falling in Love, by a Fiancée With Lyme

Note from the writer: In May of 2016, I wrote and published the article Dear Future Husband, From Your Chronically Ill Wife . I posted that article on my blog, submitted it to The Mighty , and watched as the hundreds of comments poured in. I had a huge response to that article, and the stories that people shared in their comments either broke my heart, or touched me in a way that made me feel greatly compelled to write a response. I’d like to point out that at that point in my life when I wrote that article, I had dated my fair share of despicable men that treated me poorly, and that piece of writing was my hopeful plea to someday find someone better. At the time, I had lost my sense of what it truly means to be loved by somebody, and I surrendered to the plain fact that nobody in their right mind would love me the way that I had always dreamed. I felt like I wasn’t deserving of love because I’d be subjected to unbelievable amounts of hate in a way that broke me down and made me feel like “the sick girl,” with nothing else to offer. I have Lyme disease, and because of that, I felt like love wasn’t in the cards for me. The good news is that I’ve come to know that I was wrong. I was wrong to think I wasn’t deserving of love. I was wrong think I’d never fall in love the way I had always dreamed. I was wrong to think that nobody would ever love me. ​People expressed in their comments on that article that they love to hear success stories. So I’m grateful for the opportunity I have to share my success story. “I always thought that there was someone out there who was made just for me, and I’m so grateful that I finally found her!” I sat in the car with my fiancé the other night when he said that to me. He looked at me with so much love in his eyes and I was filled with a tremendous amount of gratitude for him. It was dark, and the only light that washed through the car widows was the moonlight and the faint porch light that made it possible for me to see the handsome man that sat next to me. Every heartbreak, every betrayal, every tear, every ache, and every pain in my life seemed to lead to falling in love with this man, and knowing that now I have him, gives me hope for my future and healing from my past. He is one of many things that makes my suffering completely worth it. The man I love has taught me many things about true love that I never considered before. In a way, he’s flown me to the moon and back, and opened my mind to things I couldn’t see by myself. He’s taught me miraculous things that helped me to open my heart to him and trust him completely. There are things in life that we don’t always see, until we find the person that helps us see them. The lessons he’s taught me are part of what makes our love story so special, because I will always treasure these things in my heart. ​Here are the things he’s taught me: True love does exist. Believing in true love is something I ceased doing after my long line of failed relationships. The men I dated taught me that soulmates weren’t real, love was painful, and that women (specifically a woman who has as many health problems as I do) were insignificant aspects of society. The sweet man I now have in my life taught me otherwise. He taught me that there is someone out there who makes you feel like you’re on top of the world. And when you find that person, you should cherish them, and never let them go. The connection I have with my fiancé is a connection I’ve never had with anyone else, and it’s something I will treasure for my entire marriage. I’m not a mere trophy to him, I’m the woman of his dreams that he loves unconditionally, whether I have Lyme disease or not. That alone means that world to me, and says to me that true love is possible, and that I have found it. ​Loving a sick girl really isn’t that hard. I found a man who supports me in every aspect, including my chronic Lyme. I found a man who holds me through my pain, and sticks by my side for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. I found a man who fights my illness with me, and does everything in his power to decrease my pain. True love extends to hardships and trials. True love endures through it, and grows even stronger as we work through those hard things together. Loving me isn’t hard for my fiancé because of Lyme disease. When I wrote to my future husband in that article, I was right. He never imaged marrying a sick girl. But he doesn’t hesitate for a second to love me the way that he does. He doesn’t cease to love me because I have Lyme. He loves me even more because he sees the person that I am because of what I’ve been through, due to my Lyme. Loving a “sick girl” isn’t that hard, because he’s not in love with my disease anyway. He’s in love with my heart, my mind, and the things that truly matter. True love sees beyond the chronic illness. “I’m not marrying a sick girl!  I’m marrying you!” The first time my fiancé expressed that to me, I realized that I’m not merely a “sick girl.” I have a chronic illness that limits my abilities and makes life a little more difficult, but my ability to love and be myself isn’t suppressed due to an illness that is out of my control. My potential isn’t limited because of Lyme disease. My spirit and soul isn’t altered because of the illness that my body houses. He always tells me that he doesn’t see me as a “sick girl.” He sees me as me. Lyme disease is painful and discouraging.  It’s not easy, and it adds extra complications to our lives. But in my personal opinion, Lyme disease isn’t a detour from our happiness. It’s simply a small bump in the road on our way to eternity. God blesses me when I least expect it. The best love stories are the ones that are least expected. I believe I had to take time in my life to let God write my love story, and when He did, it was more than I ever imagined it to be. I’m incredibly blessed with a man who is there for me and fights with me in this daily battle. I truly believe God lead us to be together. God put him in my life at the right time, and it is through God’s Divine hand that we finally came together. I believe God had a glorious plan for me that I didn’t even have for myself, and because of that I’m able to find joy in the journey, despite my difficult circumstances. Happiness is a choice. Life is hard! It is for everyone. We’re given trials to help refine us, but along the way, I don’t believe God wants us to be miserable. My Lyme battle helps me believe that happiness is something I discover in the little things. Then my fiancé helps me find the little joys in life that I struggle to see on my own. My fiancé helps me choose happiness, even amidst pain and suffering. When I found the one who brought me the utmost joy throughout considerable amounts of despair, that’s when I knew I had found something special. Something that I will always cherish deeply. I’m not a “burden.” I’m not a “sacrifice.” I’m a blessing. Every day he goes out of his way to bless my life in little ways that bring me immense healing and comfort. Whether that’s leaving flowers on my doorstep for me to wake up to in the morning, bringing me something that makes treatment less miserable, learning to cook my specialized diet, or even just telling me how much he loves me and why. He makes little sacrifices for me every day to make my life more comfortable, but he doesn’t see them as sacrifices. It’s incredible to me that when you truly love someone, what seems like a sacrifice isn’t really a sacrifice at all. It’s an act of love, and it’s completely worth it because when you truly love someone, you’ll do anything for them. Never stop dancing. About a month into our relationship he asked me, “How come we never dance?” He pulled me close to him and we slow danced in my basement for no particular reason other than to take a moment and make it perfect. I realized later that we originally met at a youth dance when we were about 15. I never thought that first dance would end up being the dance of a lifetime. Now, we dance at random moments all the time. Every time he asks me to dance, we create a perfect moment together and I realize that he’s taught me throughout our relationship that “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Never stop dancing with the people you love, because those perfect moments in life don’t last forever. I hope to spend the rest of my life dancing with my one true love. Love can be the most healing medicine. When you find that special person that you want to spend the rest of your life with, you begin to inwardly heal from all of life’s ailments and afflictions. In no way does that mean that my Lyme disease is gone, or that I live a pain-free life, or that things are always easy. It simply means that now I have someone that wants to walk this journey with me. He’s my rock and my helper. My companion and my partner. He’s my best friend and the healing that he helps me achieve is a blessing that I am eternally grateful for. Love plays a big part in my healing from all of my pain in life. One of the many things that led me to fall in love with him is that he made a sincere effort to understand what I’m going through. He made an effort to be a part of my life, even the parts of my life that aren’t all that pretty. Our relationship is a healing relationship for me. I love him so much, and I can’t imagine my life without him. ​It’s possible to find love even with a chronic illness. It’s not always an easy road, the first person you come across may not be the one, and there may be a load of heartbreak first… But just as I refuse to give up fighting this dreadful disease, I couldn’t give up hope that there was someone out there for me just because I have Lyme disease.  Lyme disease didn’t alter my love story. Lyme disease is just a simple appendage of my love story. It’s there, but it doesn’t put a damper on the fact that I’m marrying the man who was made for me, and whom I love with all my heart. I’m eternally grateful to him and all that he does for me, and all that he continues to do for me. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo by Archv

Claire Dalton

How Lyme Disease 'Ruined' My 'Perfect' Life

I remember participating as teenager in various Sunday school classes, youth groups, and general life courses in high school where the teacher inquired the following question: “Where will you be in five years?” or “Where will you be in 10 years?” I remember having a thorough, well-thought-out image in my head of what my life would look like in five or 10 years.  I planned to marry straight out of high school at age 18. I thought to myself: “I’m a socially apt, talented, smart, beautiful girl! I’ll snatch a man no problem!” I always planned that I would never date anyone who treated me like less than a queen, and I’d fall in love in a “whirlwind romance,” just like in the romance movies.  I’d earnestly mapped out my life. I’d attend college as a music major, while my husband attended for some other high end profession. I’d live in a modest home with perfectly trimmed lawn and flawless flower beds. By the time I reached age 30 I’d be a successful businesswoman with her own vocal studio, and six children. My family would be the type that wears matching pajamas, and holds hands all in a row at the store. We’d wake up at 7 every morning, never a moment later! My house and children would always be clean my husband would always come home on time. He’d greet me with a kiss, and I’d always be dressed flawlessly with my hair and makeup precisely in place. My children would never complain or make bad choices and they’d all grow up to be successful, well-rounded adults. As a teenager, my vision for life didn’t include imperfection and flaws. It wasn’t comprised of unexpected pitfalls and adversity. It didn’t encompass imperfection. It didn’t encompass Lyme disease. Lyme disease wasn’t part of the plan. When I was 18, I wanted a husband, but instead I got a diagnosis. I graduated high school as planned. I had two scholarships to the school I would study music at. I had a boyfriend, and a circle of friends that I was content with. I was ready to set sail into my “perfect” life. Little did I know that life is what happens after you make plans. I’ll never forget the night I received that phone call. I was sitting in my small room in my apartment and my mom called to inform me that she had received the test results for the 30 vials of blood I had drawn a week prior to leaving for college. The reality is that I already knew the answer to those tests. I was struggling beyond belief at that point. My fatigue was impossible to fight. My muscle and joint pain made it hard to move from class to class. The daily panic attacks that took place were debilitating, and my endometriosis symptoms left me all alone, in tears, struggling through fits of pain.  I lost a lot of weight, and I just kept shedding pounds as the time went by. Time passed.  More tests results came back positive for Lyme disease. In multiple moments of self reflection I thought: “I already struggled to watch my mom deal with Lyme. So why me? Why now? What about my dreams? What about my ‘perfect’ life?” I came home from college three months into it. I felt defeated. I felt exhausted. I felt depressed. I felt sore and achy. I felt ugly. I felt lonely. I felt unlovable. I felt like a failure. I was in tremendous amounts of pain, and I couldn’t help but feel like it was my fault. I couldn’t help but feel like my dreams had been burned right before my eyes. I couldn’t help but feel like my vision for my life was never ever going to happen. Thoughts recklessly spun in my head on a constant basis: “What man would want a sick girl? I probably can’t even have children. I’m worthless.” I spent a great deal of time in bed or asleep on the sofa. I stopped doing the things I loved. I stopped being the person I am. Through the pain and survival tactics I used, I forgot about myself. I left my identity in the distant past that I never thought I’d ever retrieve. I suffered excruciating pain flares that left me vomiting, seizing, and screaming desperately for relief. Pain medication didn’t help. For a long time I felt hopelessly aware that nothing I seemed to be doing was working. The panic in my inner being was inevitable. I lost my motivation for life. I found myself in unhealthy relationships because I desperately wanted someone to love me. There were times that I couldn’t walk by myself or stand up in the shower long enough. There were times I couldn’t wash or blow dry my own hair, and there were times I resolved to lay in bed and hopefully die there. At one point the day came that I found myself in a place so dark, I found that I wasn’t even the same person anymore, and the person that I was I didn’t like at all. Laying around feeling sorry for myself wasn’t working anymore. Complaining about having to take 20+ supplements a day, and other forms of treatment wasn’t working anymore. Negative relationships and my negative attitude wasn’t working anymore. Don’t get me wrong. We all must face a mourning period of our diagnoses. In no way does recognizing and fighting the negative forces around me invalidate my pain, or mean that I’m not in pain. I’ve struggled tremendously. I still do on some days. But since that dark time, I’ve had to change the way I think. I got down on my knees one day and prayed with all my heart that God would help me out of this dark place. I began studying my scriptures and striving for understanding of why I’m really suffering so much. I began to develop a habit of those two things, and in the process I began to discover myself again. Not just the me that was in my distant past, but a whole new me that just needed to find enough light to bloom where I was planted. I have fought a good fight, and I’m still fighting. I’m a changed person, and there’s still more to learn, and more in life to go through. Lyme disease doesn’t have to be restraining to the point where you can’t breathe. Lyme disease makes everything in life a little more difficult. In spite of that, I’ve found that if I look for the light and enjoy the Olympic moments that God blesses me with, it makes the fight a lot lighter and a lot more beautiful. What I told myself back then about being worthless, ugly, unlovable, and broken were all lies. Lies that tore at me for the longest time. But what I told myself when I was a teenager about having a “perfect” life someday without flaw or hardship was also a lie. In a way, Lyme disease “ruined” my “perfect” life. And I’m incredibly grateful that it did. I’m 20, I’m not married, and most days I wake up way past the time I plan to. I’m going to school to become a nutritionist instead of a voice teacher. I spend a large amount of my day taking supplements and undergoing difficult treatments. A large amount of the time I don’t wear makeup, and my outfits are less than flawless. I’m still in pain a lot and my energy levels aren’t as high as the average person. I’ve discovered that falling in a true and pure form of love doesn’t happen in a whirlwind, but in a slow progression that grows a little bit every day. I’ve learned that sometimes life is clumsy, awkward, and uncomfortable. I’ve developed a skill at catching the curve balls that life continues to throw at me. That’s life! And I’m grateful. I’ve learned that what I thought I wanted isn’t exactly what I really wanted. My perspective on life has changed a lot in past year. You don’t get married because it’s easy. You don’t have children because it’s easy. You don’t fight daily battles and search for light on a constant basis because it’s easy. Life isn’t supposed to be easy! The idea that I do things because they’re easy and will make my life “perfect” and “flawless” is ridiculous, and lacks eternal perspective. I believe God has blessed me with the strength and courage I need to keep pushing through, and to discover a better life for myself. He has blessed me with ability and intelligence to find ways to heal. He has blessed me with life long best friends who love and teach me  and understandingly and patiently suffer with me. He has blessed me with talents, skills, and knowledge that I continue to develop. He blesses me everyday with beautiful moments that I will always cherish, because even though I’m sick, I still am blessed enough to have those moments! He has blessed me beyond words. Lyme disease “ruined” my “perfect” life.  But thankfully, Lyme gave me a beautiful, crazy, imperfect, painful, magnificent, glorious life! Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. In fact, life is beautiful because it’s imperfect and because we have the opportunity to learn and progress in ways that allow us to understand our full potential. I plan to cherish the perfect moments. Laugh at the imperfect moments. Cry through the painful moments. And smile through all of the in between moments! I haven’t let go of my dreams for my future. But my dreams for the future have shifted and changed. I have Lyme disease! So what? I believe God has plans for me, and Lyme disease isn’t going to stop me from that beautifully imperfect life that He has in store for me. It won’t always be easy, but in the eternal perspective of it all, it’ll be worth it. Lyme disease may have “ruined” my “perfect” life, but it also helped me build a beautiful life. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here .

Claire Dalton

My Review of My Trip to the ER for Lyme Disease and Endometriosis

It had been three days. Three days of pain that forced a grown woman down on the floor, in the fetal position, screaming. I’ve felt this pain before. Every month my endometriosis symptoms kick into full gear and last for a few days. As the days pass the pain usually subsides until there is little or no pain, but this time it’s as though my body decided that a day’s worth of pure torture wasn’t enough. That third day I was so incredibly desperate for relief, and I’d already tried everything I knew to relieve pain. All that I knew wasn’t enough to tame the torture weapon lodged inside my gut. How do you endure three days of debilitating pain? I gave in and went the hospital… My mother wheeled me into the emergency room and I could feel eyes trailing my sorry state. My limbs trembled and my stomach lurched as my lower abdomen seemed to scream at me in pain. I was wheeled through some doors further into the emergency room, and I could feel stares from the nurses on their current shift. A nurse glanced at me and quickly blurted, “What’s wrong? Is she pregnant?” I didn’t have the strength to respond, for the room seemed to be spinning into a deep spiral all leading back to the unbearable labor type pains I was feeling. My mother quickly explained to the nurse that I had chronic Lyme disease and I had been in this frightening state for three days now, to which the nurse replied, “Chronic Lyme disease… What’s that? What’s it actually called?” My mother responded, “It’s called chronic Lyme disease,” to which the nurse replied, “Oh, it must be a disease then.” The nurse quickly helped me into a hospital bed, took my vitals, and promptly left the room, saying she would be back. I sat screaming in agonizing pain in that room for a good hour before they came back to administer pain medication. The nurse that gave me my IV told me to breathe slower and then said “it gets much worse from here.” A few tests, and endless hours later the doctor came in, told me that according to the blood tests, nothing was wrong with me, and informed me that I needed to take ibuprofen. He said he didn’t understand how bacteria could spread to your uterus, and he admitted he knew very little about Lyme disease. I was incredibly relieved when the nurse finally told me that I could go home. I pulled my aching and trembling body out of the hospital bed, and my parents held me up as we walked out to the car. It’s amazing how a night in the emergency room can make you incredibly grateful for your own bed, and the security that comes from being under your own roof. When I was 15 I went to the emergency room for generally the same reason, during that experience I recall nurses that acted quickly. I recall how nurses promptly administered my IV, pain medication, and tests. I recall a doctor who spoke to us respectfully and professionally, and nurses who tried to fulfill my needs as a patient as quickly as they could. Given the massive difference in experiences, I’m left with this inquiry: What has our medical system come to? When did we get to the point where the first assumption is that I’m pregnant? When did we become so uninformed that we haven’t even heard of certain chronic illnesses? When did we get to the point where instead of sharing words of encouragement and hope, we spread words of fear and irritation such as “it will only get worse from here so breathe slower?” There was one nurse in particular that I remember. She came to retrieve my insurance information and afterwards she asked if I needed anything. I felt heavy from the strong pain medication, and the room felt like a freezer. I asked for socks and a blanket, and to adjust my bed. That nurse was the one nurse who treated me like a human being. She acted quickly and told me that seeing me brought back memories for her. To that nurse, thank you for being a decent human being and showing compassion for a patient who really needed it at that moment. So what are we missing? My point in writing this is not to say that all nurses and doctors are like the aforementioned ones above. My point is not to say that I’m easily offended and “how dare these people treat me like garbage!” My point is to say that a trip to the emergency room is hard enough for people who are in pain. The last thing we need is for doctors and nurses to make it more difficult for us. Hospitals, emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, etc. are reputed to be places of healing. Places where people come for help from these nurses and doctors. What is our medical system if we aren’t actually giving help to people in need? So what’s missing? What are we all missing that maybe needs to be added to the medical curriculum? I can name a few: Love Generosity Respect Compassion Benevolence Kindness Humility These aren’t just qualities that nurses and doctors should have. These are virtues that as human beings we should all be striving to develop. It may not be your job to be kind or compassionate, but being kind and compassionate is something that should come from being a decent human being. To be a doctor or a nurse should be to play a part in help and healing, but if healing isn’t involved then how are you helping? We deserve better. We all deserve better. As people we have an obligation to treat each other better. My message to medical professionals today would be to try a little harder to be a little better. If we all showed a little more love in our professions I think the world would be a better place.

Claire Dalton

Letter to Future Children From Mom With Lyme Disease

To those of you who are chronically ill, don’t ever let your illness get in the way of bringing children into the world, or raising a child of your own. I definitely have my fears of raising children who have the possibility of being born with my disease, but I know my future children will be a great blessing in my life, and that I can still be a good mother even if I’m sick. If my mother had let her illness stop her from having children, I would not be here. I’m grateful to her and the example she is to me, and I intend on being that to my children as well. Dear Future Children, My dear babies, I know the difficulty of seeing your mother as young girl herself, but as I sit in the silence of night, being my inexperienced age of 19, I find myself dreaming of you beautiful children more often than not. I’ve always dreamed of you, but the closer I get to finding your father, and making a life of our own, the more I find myself longing for your presence in my life. I often find myself dreaming of every precious memory we’ll make together. Your first word, your first step, or even the first time I have the privilege of laying eyes on you. I envision my sweet little clan following me into church, like a stream of ducklings clumsily swimming after their mother. I dream of every laugh, tear and joy that will come from a calling as fulfilling and celestial as motherhood. I picture your first date, sending you off to college, and starting beautiful families of your own. And I can only imagine the joy that will fill my heart and soul as I watch you follow God, and live your lives accordingly. With that said, I don’t believe that motherhood is all endless bliss. I realize that for every laugh there will be a tear. For every joy there will be a heartache. I especially know that chronic illness will somehow manage to find its way into our family. That thought is my worst nightmare. If it comes to pass, just remember that despite the hardships that will come our way, I’m still thrilled at the idea of bringing each and every one of you into the world. Raising you in a home centered on love for each other, and love for God will be one of my greatest joys. Every precious moment with a child (whether that child be young or old) makes the hardships completely worth it. I truly believe that. My precious children, right now your mother is in the process of suffering though something awful. I hope and pray that you will never have to suffer on this excruciating level for this prolonged amount of time. But if it comes to having Lyme disease thrust into your life, your mom will always be with you. I will fight with you, I will fight for you, and I will love you every step of the way. I’ve traveled the road of hardship, I’ve felt the physical pains of chronic illness, and I’ve endured emotional trauma caused by physical ache and pain. It’s not over yet. Your mother still has a battle to fight, and I intend to fight until the end so I can bring you children into this world and be the mother I intend to be. With that said, there are things I want you all to know. Things that you should cherish. Things that are a part of your heritage. These words of wisdom from your mother come directly from my heart, and they will help you to navigate your way through illness and affliction. I will teach you as you grow, and I only hope that you will cherish my words and keep them tucked safe inside your heart. Lyme is no easy battle to conquer, but as you fight, remember your mother who will never stop fighting until she comes out conqueror. Know that I love you very much! My love for you is eternal. A mother’s love for her children is so precious and sacred that I can’t even begin to comprehend the love that I will have for you as time goes by. You have not yet entered into my life, and I already know I love you very much. Never forget that. Never forget the power of a mother’s love for her children. There will be times when your mother is too sick to do normal things. You’ll come to understand this as you suffer with me, as I have with my mother. Always remember that as a family we can get through anything. We must support each other in our hardest of times. There will be times when you are in such excruciating pain and you will be completely debilitated from daily activity. Do not fear this knowledge, and do not fear the incoming pain. It’s horrific. It’s unbearable. It’s excruciating. But it has no power over you as long as you don’t let it defeat you. You are stronger than you think. The more you suffer, the more you will truly discover how strong you really are. Don’t ever let anybody lead you to believe it’s not OK to grieve your pain. Physical pain does not go away just because you have a positive attitude. It’s OK to grieve. Grief is not negativity. Screaming from excruciating pain is not negativity. Expression of one’s feeling of pain is not negativity. It’s reality. Life is not always bliss. But if you don’t suffer, then you will never know and appreciate pure joy. There will be times when people manipulate you to believe your illness isn’t real, that you’re weak, or that you’re less then something because of your illness. Don’t ever believe these people. Your illness does not determine who you are. It is how you embrace and react to your illness that shows your strength. Just because you are unique in your medical history or opinions does not make you less of a person. It does not define you as “weird” in the eyes of people that love and understand you the most. There’s a certain kind of beauty that accompanies uniqueness. Embrace that beauty and let is sculpt you into the person you were intended to be. Never listen to the naysayers. Embrace who you are. People can always talk you down. This somehow seems to be more prevalent when you’re sick. Always respond with talking them up and strengthening their souls. Misunderstanding, ignorance, and misguidance are the culprits of verbal cruelty. Don’t listen to what people tell you. Never stop believing what you know to be true. It has been my faith, and my devotion to truth and following God that has kept me going through this illness. It can do the same for you. Always stay true to what you know is truth. Stand firm even if it isn’t necessarily the “popular” thing to do. Don’t ever let anything deter you from doing just that, because standing firm in truth will lead you to overwhelming peace and serenity even through hard times. Never lose your faith. There have been times that your mother has doubted, feared, and felt her faith crumble underneath her. The more this happens, the bigger the fear and doubt become. Don’t ever let that happen! It’s the lack of faith that causes that to happen. Once I realized I was lacking faith, my faith grew into something unstoppable. Trials will always come. There will be tears. There will be despair. Always remember your great worth and don’t ever quit. Everything will be OK in the end, and if it’s not OK, then it’s not the end. You will come out stronger in the end, as I have. Your loving future mother Follow this journey on Chronically Beautiful. The Mighty is asking the following: How would you describe your disability, disease or mental illness to a child? If you’ve done this before, tell us about that moment and the child’s reaction. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines. *Sign up for our Chronic Illness Newsletter*

Claire Dalton

Chronically Ill Wife Writes Letter to Future Husband

Dear Future Husband, You’re probably comfortably settled in your bed right now, on your back with your hands tucked up behind your head. And you’re probably staring at the ceiling, contemplating work, school and other various complications of life. You may or may not be asleep, but either way you’re probably thinking or dreaming about your future. And while your thoughts are dancing through your mind, at this very moment, I’m thinking about you. I’m fantasizing the first time we meet, our first date, our first kiss and every memory we’ll make thereafter. I’m questioning if I’ll ever find you or if you’re simply a distant dream. I’m lying in my cozy bed, wrapped in my comforting blankets, clutching a pillow close to me, wondering if you’re thinking of me too. But future husband, wherever you are, and whoever you are, if you’re thinking of me, I bet you’ve never considered marrying a “sick girl.” You’ll never consider it until you meet me. And when you meet me, I hope you’ll be able to look beyond the disease and see the person who is so much more than the illness her body houses. Just know, chronic illness or not, I intend on being the best wife you could ever ask for, and I truly hope your intentions toward me are the same. You should know it won’t always be easy. I suppose an undertaking as celestial as marriage is never easy, but I truly believe marriage is what you make of it, and what you put into it is what you’ll get out. I’ll put my whole heart and soul into our marriage. And through it all, I believe God will guide us. But before we dive into matrimony, there are things you’ll need to know. Marriage with a sick person is no easy task, but I promise I’ll make it worth your while, and I promise through it all, I’ll always love you. Here are the things I want you to know: 1. You will not simply be my husband. You will be my husband, my help-meet, my caretaker, my best friend and the love of my life. The love I have for you will be eternal, whether I’m sick or not. 2. There will be days that I’m so sick, I can hardly get out of bed. On those days, I need your love and compassion. Please don’t abandon me when I need you the most. 3. There will be days I will need help doing simple tasks simply because my body aches with too much pain to accomplish things by myself. I’ll need help washing my hair, getting out of bed and walking. I’ll need your help. And as you help me, you will learn a lot. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, a lot about me, a lot about service and a lot about love. You will help me, and I will help you. That’s how I intend for our marriage to work. We will always help each other, no matter how large the task may seem. 4. There will be days when I’m in so much pain, I’ll scream in agony. Those screams will haunt you. Those screams are something you will never un-hear, but they will strengthen you. 5. There will be days you want to give up and the discouragement will be overwhelming. Never give up. I need your strength. I will be strong for you. I will always keep fighting for you. Please do the same for me. 6. There will be days when you feel like God has forgotten us. I promise you, He has not. I believe He is always there, even if we can’t feel it at the moment. Overwhelming peace and joy will enter into our lives even through our darkest times. 7. Always pray. Pray personally, and pray with me. Pray for me, and I will pray for you. When you no longer have the strength to stand, kneel and pray. When you feel incredibly blessed, kneel and pray. When you don’t know what to think or feel, kneel and pray.  Never stop praying, whether things are hard or not. 8. Never lose faith. There will be days when I need your faith, and days where you need mine. We’ll rely on each other. Suffering is never easy, but if we keep our faith, we can overcome anything and life will always have its joy and beauty. I love you, my sweet future husband, wherever you are. One day your path will cross with mine, and our beautiful love story will begin. I can’t wait for that day. Prepare yourself. You might be surprised to find I’m your future wife, but I’ll always be the best I can be for you. Stay true to who you are, and always have righteous desires, and our paths will cross very soon. I will always strive to be the best friend, wife and mother I can be, even if I’m sick. I believe God has greater plans for me than this illness. I believe He has greater plans for us. Together we can get through anything. Your Loving Future Wife​ The Mighty is asking the following: What do you want your past, current or future partner to know about being with someone with your disability, disease or mental illness? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Claire Dalton

Tribute to My Mother With Chronic Illness

It’s been almost six months since I came home from college. I can’t believe how fast time flies. Within that short period of time, I have been blessed to become incredibly close to my mother. I used to wonder if I did the right thing, leaving college in the middle of the semester to come home for my health. I know now, without a doubt, I did. My mother is an incredible woman. Words cannot express how highly I esteem her, and always will. Lately, I’ve had the precious opportunity to read some of her old journals that she kept as a teenager, young adult, and young mother. Through reading her beautiful writings I have learned so much about her that I never knew before, and I now see my mother in a greater light. I understand her better. I know where she came from, and how she was carefully sculpted into the incredible woman that she is now. Even when she was young, she had a stunning light about her that she carried with her everywhere she went, and still does to this day. When I was little, I used to think that my mother was perfect. I believed that she knew everything, and I wondered how she got that far. As a young girl, I always carefully crafted my actions after her. I wanted to be just like her, and I wanted her wisdom to somehow rub off on me. My mother gracefully raised six children in a home of love and righteousness, and even though we’ve all entered into adulthood, she still continues to raise and love us. Home was always a safe haven for me, and still is, because of the wonderful atmosphere that my mother created. As I grew up, and learned a little more about life, I came to know that my mother is not perfect, but that she strives everyday to be the incredible woman I believe God intends for her to be. I feel great gratitude and appreciation that I was sent to such an amazing woman, whom I get the privilege of calling my mother. My mom has been sick lots of times. Ever since I was little, I can remember a large number of doctor’s appointments, hospital runs, and hospitalizations. Doctors never had the answers for us. There was no drug, no procedure, and no surgery that could make her better. As a family, we took the good days and weeks as they came, and stood in bewilderment and discouragement at the days that were bad. We never knew what to do, until it got so bad that we had no choice but to figure it out. During my junior and senior year of high school, my mother was bedridden and in an indescribable amount of pain. There were so many endless nights that we thought we were going to lose her, but we didn’t. I thought I wanted to understand, and I wanted to be there for her, but the reality of it was that back then, I didn’t know how to be there for her in a proper manner. I didn’t understand the debilitating pain she was in 24/7, or the emotional trauma that took place. Claire and her mother I had no idea how excruciating and unbearable physical pain can be. I was oblivious to the hurt that overtook her body and soul. When you have a chronic illness, you do not just feel physical pain, but you hurt mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The hurt engulfs your entire body and soul in every way possible, and there is no way to escape it, other then to wait it out. How do you wait out unbearable pain? How do you find the patience for that? How do you survive? How do you keep fighting? How do you resist temptation? How do you overcome in such circumstances? I never realized how nearly impossible all of those things are to do, until now. And despite the near impossibility, my mother did it, and still continues to with beauty and grace, every day of her life. My mother works hard, she never quits, and she never gives up on what she knows to be true. When I was little I always wanted to be like her, and that hasn’t changed. I see my mother in a completely different light than I did when I was young, but it’s a light that only keeps getting stronger and stronger. So to my mother: Mom, Thank you for all you’ve done for me. Thank you for raising me to be the woman that I am, for consistently putting up with me, and never giving up on me.  Thank you for being an incredible example. You never stopped fighting, and you still continue to fight your disease. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for making me want to keep going now that I’m hurting, too. Thank you for helping me every step of the way. I love you, and I can only hope that someday I am even half the woman, wife, and mother that you are. Sincerely, Your Loving Daughter Follow this journey on Chronically Beautiful. The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to another person with your disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Claire Dalton

My New Definition of Beauty Since Becoming Chronically Ill

It seems like I’ve watched my body slowly deplete over time due to my chronic Lyme disease. I know nobody sees it except for a few people that I hold very close to my heart, but to my own two eyes, I look sick. It’s one thing to feel sick, but it’s another thing to watch yourself be sick. Watching my body disintegrate to what feels like nothing is incredibly scary for me. Honestly, I want want my old body back. I want to feel the age I actually am. I want to be able to run and not feel like I’m going to pass out. I want to walk like I used to. I want to be able to carry myself with posture and grace. I want the color in my face to come back, and I want my hair to grow back to its original length. I want to gain the 20 pounds that I lost. I want to feel and look like me again. Despite all the insecurity and hopes for my body to regenerate itself, I’ve learned a lot about myself since I’ve been diagnosed. My perspective of my body and how I see myself has definitely changed, and these changes are perspectives that I will hopefully keep with me all throughout my life, Lyme or no Lyme. 1. I can be beautiful despite how I feel physically or emotionally about myself. “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” ― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross This has currently become one of my favorite quotes. I figure I haven’t quite found my way out of the depths yet, but I hope to reach that destination one day. I’ve known defeat, suffering, struggle and loss. These are all things that I have agonized over and over again in my head as I’ve gone through trial after trial. I’ve watched myself bloom into an entirely different person than how I was before I suffered. I suppose that happens to all of us as we suffer and grow stronger. You don’t grow and progress in a state of comfort. You grow and progress in states of misery, pain, fear and so many other forms of suffering that we as human beings go through. 2. Having a healthy body is a matter of taking care of yourself and balancing your life out in all aspects. I’ll never forget my high school physical education classes I had the pleasure of experiencing while I was growing up. The concept that I acquired from those classes are that if you work yourself to a pulp working out every day, then somehow you’re supposedly healthy and in shape. My experiences in those classes were less than pleasant. It was simply a long line of teachers who worked their students incredibly hard and then claimed that it was healthy for them. Well, let me inform you that for me it just meant waking up every day for the next week with aching joints and muscles and not wanting to even get out of bed.  No offense to all of those teachers of times past, or to even teachers now, but you’re teaching physical education completely wrong. Keeping your body healthy and strong isn’t a matter of working out so hard that your body can’t move the next morning. Health is all about balance in all things that take place throughout your daily life. Eating healthy, a healthy amount of exercise and filling your mind and heart with healthy pastimes are all a part of improving your physical health.  Being sick all the time has taught me that maybe I can’t go on a long run everyday, and maybe when I walk on the treadmill I have to walk at the lowest setting, but that’s the level that my personal self is at. That’s all my body can take, and that’s OK. Living a healthy lifestyle is something we all have to work toward, and for me it’s hard. I hate exercising. Just as some people may hate eating healthy food. But we can always progress in life. I’ve come to know that through living a healthy balanced lifestyle, I can feel healthy and do things to improve my physical self, despite my chronic illness. 3. My scars do not make me ugly, but instead they signify strength in overcoming hard things. Throughout my life I’ve developed a lot of scars. I once drew a picture of what I thought my heart would look like if you could transfer it to piece of paper. Pretty beaten up, right? On a creative, tangible level, that’s how I pictured it at the time. I had been through a lot, and I needed a visual to get my thoughts straight. I suppose if I drew a current picture of my heart it would look quite different. There would still be scars, open wounds, and maybe even a knife or two gouging out a portion of it. But there would be a special part of my heart that has been healed from past experiences. Healed through patience, hope, faith, prayer, and lot of love from I believe my Heavenly Father, and from the people around me. I don’t just have scars on my heart. Chronic Lyme is to blame for not just emotional scars, but physical scars as well. I don’t like talking about my physical scars. I don’t like drawing attention to them. I don’t like their existence. But despite the scarring that will hopefully fade with time, I don’t believe that scars make me ugly in any way. A scar, whether it be physical or emotional, is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength and perseverance. I used to think my scars were a mark of defeat. But I’ve come to know that they are truly a mark of beauty and continuance of healing. As they continue to fade, they remind me of my journey with chronic illness and how far I’ve come. I hope one day I’ll be able to look back and hardly see them at all, but know what I went through to heal completely. Some of the horrible things I’ve experienced through this illness I will always hold close to my heart simply because they’ve taught me a lot and helped me to grow as a person. My scars will be one of those things. Even as they fade, I still hold them close as a reminder of my incredible journey. 4. I’m not beautiful because of how I look; I’m beautiful because of who I am. Beauty comes from prayer and through our trials and afflictions. I’m not beautiful because of the amount of makeup I use to cover up my gray face. I’m not beautiful because I wear less than a size two and have a thigh gap that is apparently “attractive” according to social media. I’m not beautiful for any physical aspect of me. In fact right now, I feel sick and ugly. I used to think if I looked a certain way I would be beautiful. That’s as far from truth as it gets. Beauty doesn’t come from outward appearances, but from inward struggle, testimony and I believe purpose given to us by God. Follow this journey on Chronically Beautiful. The Mighty is asking the following: What’s the hardest thing you deal with as someone with a chronic illness, and how do you face this? What advice and words of support would you offer someone facing the same thing? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.