Six years ago I was on vacation and something started feeling very wrong. I was slicing an onion and my vision disappeared for a moment. I developed weird pains in my arm. Over the next few days I started shivering as if very cold, but it was eighty degrees. Then the fatigue set in.
I spent the next two and a half years going to doctors and getting tested. No one knew what was wrong.
Because the tests kept coming back as “negative” the doctors gently suggested it was in my head. They put me on Prozac and Klonopin in hope of calming down my nervous system, but that was it. I was a wreck.
It took years before I finally got a diagnosis of Lyme disease. Ironically this happened in New Mexico where Lyme doesn’t even exist, rather than in Massachusetts where it is becoming epidemic. And it turns out that it had likely been in my system for many years.
My health was always something that I had taken for granted. I knew that I was supposed to feel grateful for my good health. In theory, I knew that anyone of us could be faced with a health crisis at any time, but I didn’t fully understand this until it happened to me.
I get it now.
I had always heard about the lessons people seemed to learn from being sick, that they just couldn’t get otherwise. This was also true for me. It took years to start to see them, longer to integrate them. And it’s only now that I’m coming out of it that I’m able to have more understanding.
One of the things about Lyme is that you can pass as “normal.” It’s an invisible disease. It took a lot for me to rally and put myself together to go out and socialize. I couldn’t do it very often because it took so much out of me. But when I was with people, they wouldn’t necessarily know how sick I was unless I told them.
I am incredibly grateful that I still felt my full capacity as a coach. I just couldn’t do as much of it.
The most important lesson for me has been learning about my limits. I had always been strong and able to push through to get things done. The invisibility of the illness allowed people to continue to expect the same.
Because people treated me as they did before, I still tried to push through, particularly prior to getting a diagnosis. It was also very difficult for me to accept and surrender to my limitations.
It has been a good and also challenging experience to expose more of my vulnerability and limitations. Not everyone understood and respected my reality, but luckily others did. I have also had to learn about surrender and receiving, as many of us eventually do.
Interestingly, while I have been going through this I also learned about being a highly sensitive person as well as an empath. I believe now that I had shut this sensitivity down as a result of the negative feedback I had received as a child.
Why was I so sensitive? So emotional? Why couldn’t I just toughen up and go along like everyone else? And buck up I did. At a price.
I knew I was different, and yet yearned to belong and be more like everyone else.
Now that my capacity is returning, I am aware of being tested in these crucial lessons. Can I stay more connected to my body and its messages, to my limits? I don’t want to override these messages anymore.
Even if it means I disappoint someone or that I don’t live up to their expectations, or my own, I now know it’s more important for me to stay connected to myself. And I want to stay open to receiving, rather than believing I need to be able to handle it all myself.
Right now, I have been kind of obsessed with crossing things off my to-do lists. I love the feeling of accomplishment and have been getting so much done these days! But, I know I need to be mindful here. I can sense the slippery slope of being the do-er that is so familiar.
Experiencing joy has also moved up my list of priorities.
I want to find and sustain the right balance now, more than ever before and I am choosing to raise the bar on how I live in balance. So I am leaning into the scientist within me to observe myself in this new territory.
Am I putting the right amount onto my daily lists? Is it realistic? Does it allow me to be in flow and ease around the doing? Am I too tired at the end of the day or still energized?
Luckily, I know that the most challenging parts of us are also the best parts. I know that my sensitivity can be challenging, but it also makes me a fantastic coach, friend and person.
There’s nothing wrong with me.