How I Learned How To Accept Grief And Fight Lyme Disease
I live every day with Lyme Disease. It's a struggle some days, but after the death of my brother, I learned that stress and grief can be physically felt and Lyme Disease tried to take advantage of that.
In 2012 my best friend and adopted brother, Lance was killed in an accident involving a distracted driver and his motorcycle. His devastating loss and my grief sent me into spirals. It was the first time I had to deal with both my disease and the emotional stress of losing a loved on. That year was brutal and I struggled to know how to cope. I turned to writing in hopes of helping others out there going through that same struggle.
I'll admit it; I have never been a cheerful person. It's just not my personality. In fact, those kinds of people who are always cheerful and chipper often make me want to scream. But I am not saying that I don't try at least to be in a good mood.
After Lance's death in August of 2012, I struggled to hold on as I learned how to manage grief and disease that wanted to kill me too.
Lyme Disease, Depression and The Holidays
I have never been a big fan of Christmas. Even as a child it wasn't my favorite day of the year. I actually like Halloween, but more I like birthdays. Birthdays are special because you don't have to spread out your time, there's no rush, and that one person feels special.
But Christmas has never been my favorite time of year.
Lance's birthday was December 26th… a yearly reminder that someone I loved so much should be celebrating another year, and isn't.
I will always remember 2012, as dark and depressing as 2020. Besides the loss of my brother, I separated from some toxic family members, and never spoke to them again. That year seemed so full of loss.
That was the year that I learned how to drink wine and fake more smiles. For some reason, people are much more comfortable with a woman drinking than crying. I was sad, my world turned upside down, and yet people felt that drinking settled everything. Sometimes it did.
In reality, 2012 was the year I struggled with depression and grief, so much that at times I thought of ending my pain forever.
Ho Ho.. Meh
Living with Lyme disease comes with extra challenges. Physically and mentally, it's all about making sure you save enough energy for all you hope to accomplish. Sometimes, it is a challenge to just get ready for the celebrations and talk of family time. That year I struggled in quiet alone places, cried a lot in the shower, and faked a lot of smiles. Watching others enjoy the comfort of their family time and knowing that I would miss my own special people was difficult.
Winter isn't easy when you live with Lyme Disease. There's just not enough light, and I don't get outside for long. The dark clouds always bring me down and even without the sadness of terrible things happening in the world I have a hard time being happy.
I understand Seasonal Depression; I get that.. it fits. Going out in the cold hurts my joints and bones because of my Lyme and Fibromyalgia. So if I have a choice, I will stay inside in my comfy sweats with my laptop and a blanket.
But staying locked up inside wasn't good for my mental health. I pushed a lot of people away that year, and for years later. I pushed so hard, that I stopped being the wife, mother, and friend that my people needed me to be. Those are years and relationships that will forever be changed and at the time, I had no idea that I had an option.
I didn't know how to enjoy the holidays and live with grief.
So how do you get through the holidays, the dark of winter, and missing the people you love? Well, I am pretty sure that letting the sadness drown you isn't the way to get through it. I have seen how grief and depression have destroyed people, turned them into shells just waiting for their turn to die. Drinking themselves to an early grave, neglecting themselves far past the point of no return, and letting the goodness of life just fall away. I didn't want to be like that. I love my family far too much to let that ever happen.
One day at a time.. one step forward even if it takes all day to make it. Put pen to paper and write a letter, you don't have to be chipper in the message, be yourself. I did that a few times, wrote people.. wrote to Lance, wrote to his sisters, wrote to myself. I discovered a relationship with Lance's older sister that she and I both needed more than we knew at the time. We bonded through our tears and our love. And to this day, she's my Go-To person when I'm happy, sad, missing him, or need a laugh.
I will always struggle with finding the holiday spirit and dealing with my grief. I know now that grief has no ending… not ever. But I try not to let it stop me from going to the parties and invites from friends. I make plans with other people when I feel myself withdraw from the world and want to slow down.
We were supposed to celebrate his birthday.
December 26th,2012 was the hardest day. When I woke up, it was the first thing on my mind. I wanted to roll over and pull the blankets over my head and push myself back down into sleep. That isn't going to get me through this day or the rest of them. He's gone. I have to keep on living.
The reality was that I had to be the one who helps my children through their rough days and my husband through his. I had to keep putting in the effort not to let the sadness drown me. Get up, get dressed… yes, really dressed in deodorant and everything. Go out in the snow and throw snowballs, meet up with friends, sing to my favorite songs, move through this day the way he would have wanted me to. Grief will not win and neither will the Lyme.
One day at a time, taking time to cherish the people who are in my life. Perhaps the birthday gift Lance gave to me this year was that of awakening.
Moments are Milestones
The first few years after Lance died were the worst. Every day I felt like I was drowning in both mental and physical pain. I hated myself and sometimes I hated everyone else. But I learned that by setting small goals, living through moments on my calendar, I could see my milestones and learn to overcome the grief.
It was an ugly journey, but it was one that I allowed me to process not just his death, but also a lot of trauma and pain that I'd carried around my entire life.
One of my goals was to learn how to meditate, take up yoga, and stop being a F*cking bitch all the time. I wrote it all down in my calendar and checked it off when I managed the baby steps. I gave myself a gold star when I bought a yoga mat and another star when I started drinking smoothies instead of wine. I gave myself a mental high-five when I stopped flipping off Santa and even went as far as saying “Happy Holidays” to the cashier at Target.
Lyme Disease and Fibromyalgia grabbed hold of my depression and grief, but setting goals and learning how to celebrate the small steps helped me to accept that both the physical and mental pain are both reminders that I am still alive and fighting for another day.