March 5, 2018

Coming to Terms With the Truth About My Health

March 5, 2018

Coming to Terms With the Truth About My Health

by Emily Croot

Learning to acknowledge my Lyme disease is a powerful gift that only I can give to myself

I recently rewatched one of my favorite TED talks, Susan David’s “The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage.” As I listened to her, I felt like she was speaking directly to me. I have for so long hidden my Lyme illness because I didn’t want to be viewed as broken or damaged. I wanted everything to be good and happy. As David puts it, I valued “positivity over emotional truth,” much to my own detriment.

I don’t like talking about my problems because it means I have to acknowledge they are real. I don’t want to have to say that I’ve been having trouble walking and don’t know why. I don’t want to admit I miss classes because I feel like I’m drowning in exhaustion. I don’t want to tell people I feel unsafe in my body. I don’t want to talk about it because I don’t want it to exist. I have been in denial.

But, as I have been told many times and was reminded by David’s talk, pretending isn’t going to make me a healthier person. Although I don’t want my illness to become my identity, the more I hide it, the more of my persona my illness claims. I am very scared about my future but I am ready to talk about it. In David’s words, “courage is not an absence of fear; courage is fear walking.” (I would say that courage is more like fear hyperventilating on a treadmill on fire but it’s not quite as succinct, is it?)

I plan my day around when I can lie down and simply exist. My life revolves around medication, figuring out how to make the most of my useful hours, and fighting to appear normal to others. Everything I do has to be carefully planned out and even then it doesn’t always work.

I feel like the world is happening around me instead of to me. I feel I have no agency. I feel unsafe in my own body. It’s hard to walk sometimes. I want to exercise and run like I used to. I want to do a lot of things I used to do, but this is my circumscribed life for the moment.

I have no idea what my future holds. Who among us truly does in the long run? Nor do I know how long my recovery process will be. I have a wonderful doctor who believes me and who is by far the best physician I have ever had in my life. But healing is a process which takes time and I don’t quite know what comes next.

But I am still me. I may be swimming in unfamiliar waters, but I can see the lighthouse. It’s a bright and beautiful lighthouse against a cloudy night sky. Its beam is strong and yellow while also warm and soft. It is all the parts of me that I love and can hang onto. It is my friends and family reminding me that I am not in the black waters in which I tread, not really. The lighthouse represents my friends and family, TED talks, books, molecular biology, fuzzy blankets, libraries, wool socks, kitchens and cookbooks, running trails, church choir, friends, and family. I can see all of these things in that wonderful beam of light that’s directing me back to terra firma.

In other words, I am still myself and I refuse to give in. I need to stop pretending that treading water is easy; the pretense only makes it harder. I’m done with that nonsense about pushing my emotions away (seriously, watch David’s TED talk below, it’s wonderful). And I’m done worrying about things I can’t control. I’m ready to keep moving toward my lighthouse.


Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.

Emily Croot is a student, writer, and cook splitting her time between New Hampshire and Union College in New York. She wants to help others and change her little corner of the world one person at a time.