Kerry J Heckman

@kerry-j-heckman | contributor
Kerry J Heckman lives in Seattle and works as a therapist and freelance writer. She blogs on her website Northwest Somatics (www.kerryjheckman.com), which provides a compassionate message for those with chronic illness.
Jae Cobb
Jae Cobb @jaecobb
contributor

Being a Black Woman With a Chronic Illness Who Can't Protest

The past few weeks have been traumatic to say the least. First, it was the death of Ahmaud Arbery. Then it was the bird watching incident in Central Park. Then Breonna Taylor. And most recently, George Floyd. And perhaps George Floyd’s death hit the hardest. I will say it totally broke me down for many reasons. Now, many are gathering together in cities worldwide to speak out, protest and riot against the racism and brutality that hurt Black lives. We are letting the world know not only that we matter, but that we have had enough of the mistreatment because of our skin color — and we are doing this even if it makes people uncomfortable. Now, I will admit, when I heard the news of the deaths of Ahmaud, Breonna and George, and even the stunt the woman pulled in Central Park, I had so many emotions. I had anger, fear, sadness along with so many other emotions. I hurt because I am a Black woman with a Black father and a Black brother. I have Black cousins, nephews and a Black godson who is young and still doesn’t understand why this happens over and over, doesn’t fully get what makes him so intimidating as a 100 pound 5’4” teen. That just broke me all the way down and all I could do was cry because he doesn’t deserve to live in fear. And then I felt total heartbreak seeing my community torn to pieces, and seeing my neighbors just emotionally ruined as well. It just hit me harder. And then I also felt helpless because I couldn’t physically get out and help clean up, march against the injustices or attend these rallies. These protests, riots and rallies are happening despite the very real threat of COVID-19, and it doesn’t seem like many people are concerned about that. In fact, it’s beautiful that despite a pandemic, groups are still organizing and making their voices heard. However, many of us cannot join that rally or that march or that protest. Why, you ask? Well, it is simple. You see, for the millions of us who are immunocompromised or live with severe chronic illnesses, it’s difficult to be out around large crowds, especially with such an infectious disease like COVID-19 still ravaging our communities. As many know, this virus is especially dangerous to our population and of course being in an extremely large crowd increases our chances of contracting the virus. I have wanted to go out, but I just can’t risk it. And maybe that’s one of the reasons I’m feeling such sadness. I cannot be with my friends and neighbors as they hurt through this time. I have been supporting the movement as best I can from home. And that includes speaking out against privilege and racism, having honest conversations with those who are miseducated and have bias towards Black people or inadvertently make racist remarks, supporting Black owned businesses and not asking for a discount, and donating to nonprofits such as bail funds for protestors and Black Lives Matter movements and even community development funds for programs for Black youth and other minorities. Of course, another important thing we can do is vote to bring about new leadership and change in our communities! These things seem small, but they can make a huge impact. We will slowly see dynamics change and see shifts in how we are treated by police and other political figures. So to my other Black chronically ill friends, especially the Black women, there are few things I leave you with: First, don’t beat yourself up because you can’t physically participate. The fact that you are acknowledging the situation we are in is a great first step. Second, if you have Black men in your life, loving them harder is so necessary right now. They need our support and protection. Third, remember that making sure your bucket is full before helping others is just as important. We have to take care of our physical and mental health and ensure we are in a safe place and space. If not, then we will struggle even more than we already we do on a day-to-day basis and what good is that? Lastly, remember the behind-the-scenes work is just as important as the in-person, in-your-face marching, protesting and media. We need just as much support in making phone calls, fund development, supporting Black owned businesses and in community program planning… all of this makes the in-your-face stuff go round and evokes change as well. So stay strong, practice self-care and remember it’s not that all lives don’t matter — it’s that we need to remind the world that Black Lives Matter and deserve to be treated equally. Related: 8 Mental Health Resources for Black Folks – Because You Deserve Support 11 Ways to Support Black Lives If You Can’t Go to a Protest Who Is Looking Out for the Mental Health of Black America?

The Importance of the Green Heart Emoji in the Lyme Disease Community

Recently, I received a reply on Twitter to an article I’d written about living with Lyme disease. It said, “So true. So powerful. Thank you for writing this (green heart emoji).” Right away I knew this reply was from a fellow Lyme patient. The green heart emoji might not mean anything to most people, but for the Lyme disease community it’s like our secret handshake. Not surprisingly, the Lyme community chose lime green as our awareness color. It’s a cute play on a homonym. We use limes to represent many things. For example, one of our biggest fundraisers, “The Lyme Disease Challenge,” is to take a bite out of a lime and post a picture or video on social media. Currently, there is no lime emoji, so instead we use the green heart, which on some operating systems appears lime green. Other groups of people use the green heart emoji, but in our corner of the internet we have claimed it as our own. Many of us put a green heart in our social media profiles to symbolize our Lyme warrior status and when we write messages to one another many of us put a green heart at the end of the message to show we understand. Even large Lyme non-profit organizations, like the Global Lyme Alliance, use the green heart in their tweets and other social media posts. This practice has spread far and wide throughout the Lyme community. My Lyme story echoes most Lyme stories. From the time I first started seeking medical treatment for my strange symptoms, 10 years passed before I got a diagnosis. When I was finally diagnosed with Lyme, I went from being isolated to having a huge community of other people like me. Chronic Lyme disease is often denied by the mainstream medical community. They refer to it as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome and say there is no treatment. Most of us with chronic Lyme disease were not willing to accept that fate, and have created online and community support groups to help locate knowledgeable doctors and compare symptoms and treatments. I often turn to the online support group in Illinois when a new symptom arises. Usually someone else has experienced the same symptom and can point me in the right direction. The online community is also wonderful for those really bad days when I just need to vent or have a cyber-shoulder to cry on. When I first started my blog and social media accounts I didn’t know about the green heart, but slowly I noticed that after each tweet or direct message there was that heart. Soon, I started to use it, too, and I liked how it added something to the message, like a winky face, but just for Lyme. Eventually, I added it to my Twitter and Instagram profiles and when people came upon my profile they already knew a little bit about me and the type of symptoms I was dealing with. The green heart emoji is a little symbol of what we all face together and a small act of solidarity and love. Lyme patients, let’s keep spreading the love across the internet, one green heart at a time. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Why We Need to Talk About Health Anxiety in Lyme Disease

If you were to ask me, “What’s been your worst symptom of Lyme disease?” I would tell you it’s not the pain, or the fatigue, or the brain fog, it’s the unrelenting health anxiety. With the other symptoms, I can trust myself and take the appropriate steps to feel better. When it comes to health anxiety, it takes over my mind and I succumb to downward spiral thinking that often ends up with a trip to the emergency room. According to the DSM-5, “health-related anxiety is a non-pathological response to a serious illness.” In other words, when you’re sick it’s perfectly normal to be anxious about your health. It’s good to be aware and alert, but when not kept in check, health anxiety takes over and becomes counterproductive to healing (and then I become anxious about how the anxiety is impacting my health and the cycle continues). People rarely die from Lyme disease; however, it does happen, which causes me to be hyper-vigilant. When a previous symptom returns, I don’t worry, but with Lyme disease, new and worsening symptoms are frequent and change with every adjustment in medication. Each time a new symptom crops up (like a sharp pain in a new location or fluttering in my heart), a new wave of anxiety rushes over me. I’m afraid to take new medications and supplements, because I never know what new symptoms will be unearthed. I’ve also developed extreme body awareness, so I feel every single skipped beat and see every new mark, lump or bump. I’m not alone in this. Many people with chronic illness experience frequent health scares. The difference between this and other symptoms is it’s rarely talked about. Personally, I’m afraid to look irrational, or seem like a hypochondriac, so I keep it to myself. This creates more anxiety, because I worry if there is something wrong with me, and criticize myself for not being stronger. If more people talked about it, we could build more support within the community. If doctors and hospital staff were more aware of how health anxiety manifests in chronic illness patients, they could do a better job of sensitive and help navigate possible solutions. They could be compassionate to the fact that with each new prescription or invasive procedure comes a host new of worries, and have open conversations about the risks. Too often, I get told “not to worry,” which is easier said than done. However, I must give credit to the doctors who have gotten to know me and consider “peace of mind” a reason to run a test, and try not to overload me with medication and supplements. After about year of feeling stuck, I started searching for answers. I learned about Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). MBSR uses mindfulness techniques and body awareness to reduce negative thinking. Mindfulness breaks the cycle of ruminating on the past and the future. It’s an excellent treatment for health anxiety in chronic illness patients, because it is designed to help both adaptive and maladaptive stress. I found a course at a local hospital and signed up. In my class I learned about meditation as a way to quiet the “monkey mind,” the uncontrollable thoughts that bombard us throughout the day; and I trained myself to think with a “wise mind,” a balance between the emotional mind and the rational mind. I learned to trust my gut instincts, but to temper my emotional response with a rational problem solving approach. This mantra from “The Last Best Cure” by Donna Jackson Nakazawa has been a big help when I start to feel the panic set in: “These symptoms are present now, but they will go away again. And, if they don’t go away on their own, I can take action, call the appropriate doctor, go in for tests if need be – and yet still remain free in my mind to find beauty and joy and quiet as I do so.” While my health anxiety is far from gone, it has improved with mindfulness meditation and positive self-talk. It’s become less about hoping I will never have a new symptom to learning how to cope when a one shows up. My wise mind is becoming more reliable, and my monkey mind is finally taking a much needed break. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Photo by Pexels

My Body Is My Partner Against Lyme Disease

My lab tests tell the story of a body in peril. My inflammatory markers are dangerously high, and my helper cells are very low. The MRI of my spine continues to alarm and perplex doctors. Nevertheless, here I am — upright and able to live a semi-normal life. My immune system been covertly fighting Lyme disease for more than two decades, and I only recently caught wind of the battle. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t been healthy this entire time. I’ve been on a slow decline for the last 10 years and my body finally cried uncle. I certainly didn’t do anything to help the fight. I ate more macaroni and cheese than I’m willing to admit, routinely talked myself out of working out and allowed stress to perpetually sit shotgun. Not only was my body fighting a smoldering infection, it was doing so without any ammunition. Often people with chronic illness feel betrayed by our bodies — and rightfully so. Our mind continues to grasp at a normal life, telling us we should be exercising and waking up earlier, meanwhile our bodies are in an endless tug of war screaming out for rest and recovery. I find myself saying “if only” a lot. If only I wasn’t so tired. If only I didn’t have a headache. Blaming my body instead of Lyme for letting me down over and over again. When I take a closer look, I see my body has come through for me every time. When the bacteria fueled itself off the iron in my red blood cells, my body shut down menstruation to keep me from becoming seriously anemic. When my adrenal glands became worn out from fighting the inflammation in my body, my thyroid gland kicked into overdrive to compensate. These were warning signs that my body was severely out of balance, but it did what it had to do to keep me functioning. Even when we are drastically ill, our bodies fight with every weapon they have to keep us alive. Thanklessly, my body marches on giving Lyme disease everything it’s got. My helper cells seek out the elusive bacteria hiding under the invisibility cloak known as a biofilm and hunts down the bugs taking refuge in my joints. At the end of the day, my body rarely asks for anything. It asks for the occasional nap, nutrient-rich food and a nice warm bath. Otherwise, it shoulders the heavy burden, so I can live my life. Sometimes my body needs weapons it doesn’t have on its own, such as the jab of an antibiotic or the uppercut of a supplement. My job is to do the best I can to supply it with the right ones. I give my body bullets of healthy food. I don’t suppress it with stress; I build it up with sleep and meditation. I try not to give the opposing army any advantages like sugar and yeast to feed on. Every day I get better at showing my body the respect it deserves. At this point in my treatment, my pain is diminishing and my energy is starting to pick back up. As I write this, I just returned from a social gathering where I met new people and caught up with old friends. I used to come home from events like this and immediately crash. Today, I’m sitting here typing with a brain free of fog. On paper, I should be struggling to lift my head off the pillow, but now I’m able to work part-time, walk my dog and occasionally go out with friends. I still have a long way to go before I can declare victory, but I’m getting better every day. When you feel betrayed by your body, remember it’s your partner in this microscopic battle royale. Long before you knew the war had begun, your body was there in the trenches. Even when it looked bleak, your body never, ever gave up the fight. My body is a warrior, and we will conquer this disease together. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

What I Wish the Doctors in the Hospital Understood About Lyme Disease

I’m writing this from my hospital bed on the 13th floor of a well-respected hospital in Chicago. I’m lying here thinking, W hy do they have 13th floors in hospitals, anyway? At this particular hospital it happens to be the infectious disease floor. It’s my third visit to this floor; the friendly daytime nurse even recognized me. Chronic Lyme disease is a controversial illness with little to no acceptance or understanding in Western medicine; but when we become acutely ill, we still have to go to the conventional emergency room or hospital. There are no integrative medicine emergency rooms… yet. There are many serious symptoms of Lyme disease that could land you in the emergency room or the hospital, like seizures, paralysis, fainting, strange rashes, and the feeling of having a heart attack. For me, it’s been a persistent bone infection. Many Lyme patients avoid the emergency room out of the fear of being misdiagnosed or mistreated, because there is a lack of understanding of our complex illness. But even more so, we are afraid of being judged or told it is all in our head. In the emergency room yesterday, the well-intentioned doctor listened and took notes on my complicated history — the years of autoimmunity, the bone infection, the eventual Lyme disease diagnosis — and then sweetly asked, “Are you an outdoorsy person? Where would you have been exposed to Lyme?” We are asked this all the time, even though the CDC published a study that ticks carrying Lyme disease are in almost half the counties in the United States. When I am in the hospital or meeting a new doctor I have to make the decision whether or not to tell them about my Lyme disease. Do I tell them and risk being dismissed, or do I not tell them and risk hiding important information from a doctor? Many Lyme patients choose to go with the second option, because it is just too painful to be told the illness you battle every single day simply doesn’t exist. Lately, I’ve been going with the first option. I have this honesty complex, and I feel like eventually it will come out; I don’t want to look like was hiding something. The four-person infectious disease team crowded around my bed, and I felt all their eyes on me. A young resident asked the first question, “Why are you taking that medication?” Then, the head of the department asked in a condescending tone, “What is the name of your Lyme specialist?” A resident, who was about my age, said, “You’re the healthiest looking person we’ve seen all day.” I guess she was trying to make me feel better. They wrapped up their questions and then stepped outside my door. I tried not to listen to what they were saying. I heard someone mention “looking up symptoms on Google” and “sending blood work off to unverified labs,” then it came, laughter, right outside my door. I am a well-educated, intelligent person. I approach every problem with the utmost care and consideration. I had to find my diagnosis on my own with no help from conventional medicine. All I could do was sigh and tell myself, “They laugh at what they don’t understand,” and remain grateful and humble for the help they can provide me with my current issue. My message for doctors and medical professionals is simple: Use your empathy training. Put yourself in your patient’s shoes and think about what they may be feeling. Imagine going to a place for help in a desperate moment, only to be told what you are have doesn’t exist. Imagine being told your terrifying symptoms are “all in your head.” Imagine being afraid to tell a doctor your diagnosis. Imagine knowing the only doctor who can help you in an emergency probably doesn’t know anything about your illness. Imagine being dismissed because you don’t look sick. Imagine being made to feel ignorant about your illness when you’ve spent countless hours researching it. Imagine being laughed at by a team of doctors. I am capable of the same empathy. I understand the weighty responsibility doctors have to follow certain guidelines. To that I will ask two things. One, please educate yourself on Lyme disease and look at the controversy from both sides. Two, try saying something like this: “I trust you understand your body, but I see things from a different perspective. Let’s discuss how we can work together on this.” While I was finishing this article there was a knock at my door. A hospital volunteer walked into my room with a beautiful vase of pink lilies and carnations from the “Random Acts of Flowers” program. I was reminded of the overwhelming kindness of people. My doctors here at the hospital want me to get better. Though their approach is not ideal, our goal is the same.

How Writing Helps Me Cope With Chronic Lyme Disease

The voice inside my head said, “You need to write.” It was takeoff. My head was spinning and my stomach started churning. My seat was right on the wing, so I didn’t have my go-to fix, which is to look out the window at the houses getting smaller and smaller. The airplane tilted all the way to the right and then all the way to the left. Just before I reached for the barf bag, the voice said, “Write.” Motion sickness has been one of the most persistent symptoms of my chronic Lyme disease. When my illness flares, driving makes me so sick I have to sit on the couch for half an hour after I get home and wait for the nausea to go away. It is getting better with treatment, but the last time I flew it reared its ugly head. I took out my laptop for a distraction and slowly my brain came back to me. Many people with chronic illness turn to writing as a way to cope with being sick. Some of the most beautiful writing comes out of a need to express pain. For me, writing has always been the activity that takes me away from my symptoms. Moving my fingers over the keyboard to the tune of my thoughts soothes me in a way nothing else can. It puts me in a meditative-like state, and the words pour out of me like a vinyasa flow. Even on the days when the words come out awkwardly and clumsily, I push myself to keep typing. I can always fix it later; the purpose is to find my groove and forget about Lyme for a while. Writing also helps people with chronic illness because it is therapeutic. There are a lot of things I can tell the computer screen that I can’t tell my loved ones. When I’m with friends or family the words don’t come out right. I usually come across as a complainer. The words come out better when I have time to think about what I want to say and write it down. Chronic illness also leads to a lot of anger and frustration; writing takes those emotions and gets them out of your head. It’s a cleansing process similar to therapy. When you feel like crying or screaming because you got bad test results or your medication is causing a nasty side effect, grab a pen and write it all out. Writing seems like a solo practice, but for people with chronic illness it is creating communities all over the world. Thousands of people write or blog about their experiences. When we find each other on the internet it makes us feel less alone. It’s a powerful thing to know someone out there is feeling the same way you do, even if you’ve never met. Last, but not least, writing spreads awareness. Even if all you can write is a 140-word tweet, you are spreading awareness. Websites and blogs have given a voice to people who feel silenced in one way or another. The more people who hear our stories, the more empathy and understanding there will be for our illnesses, which trickles down to more funding for research and treatment. Writing is an easy activity to do from bed, and it doesn’t expend a lot of physical energy, which is ideal for people with chronic illness. And there are so many different things to write: tweets, blog posts, personal essays, articles, poems, books, plays, screenplays, letters to legislators…the list goes on and on. Writing might not be your thing. I have a friend who says writing, even for fun, feels like an assignment. That’s OK – writing doesn’t have to be your “thing.” Find any activity that helps you cope with your illness. It could be singing, woodworking or rocking your baby to sleep. These things might not be all that easy to do on a plane, but should work in most other circumstances. I was up in the air for two and a half hours from a layover in Dallas to my hometown of Minneapolis. After I started writing, the flight went by in an instant and my motion sickness faded into the background, like the hum of the airplane noise.

Fun Things to Do While Coping With Illness

Chronic illness has a way of hiding in every nook and cranny of your life. Every meal revolves around what you can and cannot eat, every half hour you are taking a different supplement, and if you’re not tired you’re in pain, and if you’re not in pain you’re tired. There are very few moments throughout the day where you feel… normal. About six months after my chronic Lyme disease diagnosis, I realized it was all I ever thought about. From the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep, Lyme was always there. Then, I made a decision. I needed to focus on healing, not disease, and if I couldn’t focus on healing I needed to find ways to distract myself from disease. Of course Lyme continues to permeate my daily life. Scheduling appointments, maintaining supplements and medications, and tracking symptoms is a full-time job, but just like my other job, I don’t want it to be my life. Here are 10 ways to take your mind off your illness: 1. Read a book you can get lost in. I love this quote from Jonathan Franzen: “To me, the point of a novel is to take you to a still place. You can multitask with a lot of things, but you can’t really multitask reading a book. To me, the world of books is the quiet alternative — an ever more desperately needed alternative.” You cannot read a book and multitask; therefore, if you are reading a good book you won’t be thinking about your illness. The best books to get lost in are fast-paced suspense or page turning science fiction/fantasy. Chronic illness patients tend to read only books about disease and healing. Sometimes we need to escape into a completely different world. 2. Follow/like people on social media unrelated to your illness. I write a blog about Lyme disease, so most of the people I follow on social media have Lyme or are involved in Lyme advocacy and awareness. One day I realized my Twitter feed was all Lyme all the time. Sure it was informational and even inspirational, but not very diversified. I took action and followed some of my favorite celebrities, a couple of like-minded politicians, and a few motivational quotes. Now my feed is mostly Lyme with some happy distractions sprinkled in. 3. Discover a funny new podcast. Podcasts are all the rage, so it’s likely one of your favorite comedians or comedic actors has one. Search for “comedy” on a podcast app, like iTunes or Stitcher, and listen to one or two episodes of a few different podcasts until you figure out which ones make you laugh out loud. I love walking the dog listening to funny people banter. And, as we know, laughter is the best medicine. 4. Find and walk a labyrinth. A labyrinth is a walking meditation. It’s a spiral patterned path you walk to quiet your mind. Sometimes people walk the labyrinth looking for answers to a question or because it is grounding. The website World-Wide Labyrinth Locator has an extensive database. Do a search of your area to see if there are any labyrinths near you. They are commonly located on church grounds or parks and are usually open to the public. 5. Take an adult field trip. Remember when you were a kid and field trip day was the best day ever. You completely forgot about school and were even excited to go to school. Why should you lose that feeling simply because you are an adult? I plan adult field trips all the time in Chicago where I live. I’ve toured famous architectural buildings, spent a day at the zoo or nature center, gone to the science museum, I even consider going to movies an adult field trip — anything to get you motivated to get out of the house. 6. Revisit your favorite childhood movie. There is something timeless and innocent about your favorite childhood movie. Most likely it’s a movie you watched over and over again and haven’t seen in awhile. Nostalgia is a great way to transport yourself away from thoughts of illness. Do yourself a favor and take a walk down memory lane. For me this would be the “Anne of Green Gables” miniseries. It’s amazing how I’ll go years without seeing it and still remember every single line. 7. Find and listen to your feel good song. You know that song that comes of the radio and your mood immediately goes from a 2 to a 10? That’s the song you need in your back pocket when you feel stuck in the endless loop of “What now?,” which is ever present with illness. Sometimes when my mind takes over, I turn to music to make the static a little more clear. And why stop at just one song? I have an entire playlist of “feel good” songs. See number eight for some suggestions. 8. Have a solo dance party. I don’t know about other people with chronic illness, but nothing sounds more exhausting than going out dancing. However, I love to dance. Sometimes I’ll turn on a favorite song just to dance through a chore I otherwise wouldn’t have had the energy to do. Suggested Playlist: “Africa” by Toto“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” by The Beatles“I Really Like You” by Carly Rae Jepsen“You Make My Dreams” by Hall & Oates“Best Song Ever” by One Direction“I’ve Just Begun” by Britney Spears“Wannabe” by The Spice Girls“Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen“Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon 9. Read a gossip magazine. The beauty of gossip magazines is they require very little thinking to “read.” Flip through the pictures to see what celebrities are up to these days. Gossip magazine writers get paid to make stories as enticing as possible, so you are bound to get caught up in which celebrity just got plastic surgery. 10. Help out a friend or family member. A good way to forget about your illness for a little while is to turn your focus outward. Is there a friend or family going through a difficult time? Could they use a little assistance or a kind message? A person with chronic illness most likely won’t be able to help someone move or clean someone’s house, but you can send a nice email or make a phone call. Chronic illness can really feel like an inescapable cage, but remember every cage has a small door. Find your key to unlocking the door and use it as much as you can.

Lessons About Chronic Illness I Learned From Hamilton Musical

They say that illness comes into our lives at the right time. A diagnosis is a wake-up call. Our bodies are telling us something is out of balance and we need to make changes in order to heal. I say art comes into your life at the right time, as well. I was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease in January of 2016, after over 10 years of undiagnosed health issues. Around the same time, I discovered “Hamilton: An American Musical.” Obsessively listening to “Hamilton” over and over has been a beautiful distraction from my constant pain. Sometimes I turn it on to provide me with the motivation to fight through my chronic fatigue to do a chore or two around the house. Beyond that, writer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics have been an inspiration as I accept this illness and learn to live fully in spite it. Alexander Hamilton beat the odds over and over and that’s what I intend to do as well. Here are five lessons about chronic illness I learned from the lyrics of “Hamilton.” 1. “There’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait.” This lyric is in the title song of the musical, which chronicles Alexander Hamilton’s young life when he escaped dire circumstances to reach America. He fueled the fire of his ambition with the wood of his tragedy. Due to my illness, I feel like there are million things I haven’t done. People who are ill often feel like life is passing them by. Chronic illness can either be your anchor or your springboard. It can drag you down or propel you into the person you were meant to be. When people who are ill find a way to live out their purpose, well, just you wait. 2. “Scammin’ for every book he could get his hands on.” This line is also in the title song. One of the ways Hamilton was able to rise above his station was by educating himself. Chronic illness patients are information junkies. We read book after book trying to find anything to help us heal. Many people say having a chronic illness gives you a Ph.D-level of education in the medical field. Chronic illnesses, like autoimmune disorders, or chronic infections, like Lyme, are said to be incurable. The only treatment is medication to manage our symptoms. There are thousands of books out there written by experts who offer different solutions, such as diet or other natural means of healing, and believe me I’ve read almost every single one. Like Hamilton, we have to be our own best advocate and learn everything there is to know. 3. “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” This lyric is a present throughout the musical. It speaks to how lucky people were to be alive during the revolution and witness history in the making. Gratitude is the antidote to any illness. We must take notice of our good fortune in the midst of pain. No matter what, we are lucky to be alive. In the late 1700s it was witnessing the birth of new nation; in 2016 it could be thousands of things: modern conveniences, advancements in medical care, our friends and family, the list goes on and on. If you look around enough, you will always find something to be grateful for. 4. “I am not throwing away my shot.” This to me is the most important lesson from Hamilton. Seeing it is the masterpiece of the show, I’m guessing Lin-Manuel Miranda thinks so, too. Throughout the show, Hamilton continuously reminds himself not to throw away his shot. I started doing this in my own life. When I’m having a bad day I tell myself not to throw away my shot. I might go out and meet a friend, write that blog post, or call my doctor about a new treatment. Anything to keep myself from being idle. It is important to note that being idle is different from being at rest. Those of us with chronic illness need a great deal of rest. Rest is intentional, idleness is not. We have one shot at this life, no matter what cards we have been dealt, and we can’t throw it away. 5. “When you knock me down I get the f*ck back up again.” My favorite line from the entire musical. I swear, someday I’m going to hurt myself yelling this while driving in my car. It is sung/rapped by the character Hercules Mulligan (seriously, that was his name), a spy during the Revolutionary War and friend of Hamilton’s. If there is one thing people with chronic illness know about, it’s getting knocked down. It could be a bad test result, a new painful symptom, or the sting of being left out of yet another social event. Sometimes it feels like we just can’t win. And, you know what? Every single time, we dust ourselves off and get the f*ck back up again. We have to, we have no other choice. If you’re the one person who hasn’t yet listened to this Pulitzer-Prize-winning masterpiece, I suggest you purchase it or stream it immediately. Let it transport you to a different time and place and, if only for a while, away from your illness. Follow this journey on Body. Mind. Lyme. The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a scene or line from a movie, show, or song that’s stuck with you through your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.