December 29, 2016

Looking Back, Looking Ahead, Giving Thanks

December 29, 2016

Looking Back, Looking Ahead, Giving Thanks

by Jennifer Crystal

The end of the year is a time to reflect. For those of us with a chronic illness, like Lyme disease, it can take a little more effort to look back, look ahead, and give thanks.

 

The end of the year is a time for reflection. As we prepare for what’s ahead, we look back at what’s happened over the last 12 months. By any measure, 2016 has been a tough year. We’ve suffered traumatic national and global events. Many people have suffered physically, mentally and emotionally from Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Some have gotten better, but some are still struggling, wondering when their sufferings will end.

The end of 2016 puts a hard stamp on all that has been and opens us up to us a blank slate for 2017.

We don’t have control over what’s going to happen. We can’t turn our calendars and write “Tuesday, January 2nd: Get better.” We can, however, control our perspective on what has happened and what might happen.

Think about driving a car. In order to do so safely, we have to glance in the rearview mirror every so often. We can’t merge, pass, or exit without knowing what’s going on behind us. What we see in the mirror helps us determine the best course of action when moving forward.

There are rules of the road for life, too. We have to learn from the tough roads we’ve already traveled. For Lyme patients, it’s helpful to think about questions such as: What did I do to take good care of myself in the past year? What created an obstacle to my getting better? What changes can I make—to medication, schedule, sleep hygiene, support system, attitude—to help me on my journey to health? Which lessons do I want to take with me into 2017 and which do I want to leave behind?

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If we are to keep moving forward, we have to leave those bad times and bad choices behind. We reflect on them, but then we drive away, watching them grow smaller in the rearview. The terrible experiences of 2016 may loom large now, but someday, they’ll just be a blip on your map—even if you’re currently bedridden, racked with pain, soaked with nightsweats, and crazed by the thoughts and songs and images flashing in your head. I know this because, as so many past years drew to a close, that was me. And now I’m driving far, far away from all that, hoping to never turn back.

I also know this because rearview mirrors aren’t the only point of reflection in a car. Don’t forget about side mirrors which sometimes catch obstacles in your blind spot. The message scrawled across those mirrors is clear: “Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear.” In other words, good health may be closer than you think. Better days in 2017 may only be hiding in your blind spot, ready to pull into view at any time.

And so, we must remain hopeful.

What was good about this year for you? There must be something. Did you finally meet the right doctor? Did a friend drive you to the pharmacy, or sit with you on a particularly hard day and make you laugh? Did flowers grow outside your bedroom window?

As I reflect on the year, I find it helpful to create a simple list of good things that happened, and then make a list of small goals for the New Year:

  • If I am not comfortable with my current doctor, I will search for a new one (click here for help finding a Lymeliterate physician;
  • I will work to get off of just one of my medications or supplements, if I am physically ready to do so;
  • I will find a new way to pamper myself (how about a warm bath each night, or a subscription to a light magazine?);
  • Each night I will write down three good things about the day;
  • I will give thanks to people who support me (give a hug, send a note of appreciation, or frame their favorite quote)

Writing these lists makes me feel grateful and hopeful. It makes me feel ready to take one final glance in the rearview mirror, and drive forward into 2017. See you in the New Year!


jennifer-crystalOpinions expressed by contributors are their own.

Jennifer Crystal is a writer and educator in Boston. She is working on a memoir about her journey with chronic tick-borne illness. Contact her at jennifercrystalwriter@gmail.com

 

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