Lyme Disease, Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Their Spiritual Lessons

Years ago I began a notebook, and at the end of the day I would write 3-5 things for which I was grateful. I can't tell you how many times I would go back and read those entries in the most trying of times.  I loved having a feel good book to lift my spirits and remind me how blessed I am.

Now, it has become such a habit to think in thankfulness that I automatically express gratitude throughout the day.  It sure beats focusing on negativity, complaints, and not feeling well.  Some days are easier than others, to be honest.

A few weeks ago it would have been easy to be sucked into the depths of despair, (and to be honest, I let myself go there for a bit) so I am grateful for a gratitude and positivity practice. This is a very conscious choice on my part.


© Marek Uliasz | Dreamstime.com - Practice gratitude in wood type

What’s Happening In My Body?

Several weeks ago, the severity and intensity of muscle pain and fatigue seemed worse than usual. I was also experiencing significant joint pain and swelling. My wrists, hands, feet, fingers, toes, SI joint, low back and right hips were burning and aching. I felt heavy and exhausted. I also felt so overwhelmed and recognized depression trying to settle in.

Many years ago I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at the same time I was also being treated for severe and disabling Lyme Disease. After several years of treatment, and 3 documented cases of LD (the first being untreated for 4 years) I finally reached a place of feeling like I was living again.

Life continued to be a struggle

It has been a constant battle between will and surrender. I just went with it, and kept the difficulty of daily living private for the most part, except when I just couldn’t hide it.   Usually I pushed myself and did way more than I could handle, said yes too many times until I crashed or flared. Then I paid the price. It was a vicious circle even as I learned to modulate, it is still difficult to find the sweet spot.

I often felt like a failure because I compared myself to others and even on the days when I was practicing self-love and knowing at some level I was doing the right thing to honor my body and its needs, I still felt worthless.

What plagues me the most is the inconsistency. I couldn’t keep with anything on a routine basis. Even things I love and enjoy. I started to blame it on the fact that I was recognizing my creativity, felt stifled by routine, bored by sameness (and I’m sure part of this is true) but truthfully I wanted to have some of that.

I recognize now that I can only push or will for so long before my body, mind, or spirit gives out in some capacity. Then I must do what is necessary to recoup and regain the energy needed to keep going. Do too much. Recoup. That’s the cycle. I am beginning to look for another way.

Honestly, I tended to discount Fibromyalgia as not being real, something I could ignore and pretend didn’t exist. I could battle it away like I did with Lyme Disease, except I am so tired of battling. I’ve been battling autoimmune disease for 20 years.


© Designua | Dreamstime.com - Fibromyalgia. signs and symptoms.

Today I found this description on a website for Fibromyalgia: (NFMCPA – National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Assoication)

“PATIENT PERSPECTIVE

Symptom severity of FM ranges from slight to severe. Fibromyalgia is life-altering.

If you ask any person with fibromyalgia what fibromyalgia is, their response would be pain; from the top of their head to the end of their toes. Pain that "waxes and wanes" from day to day and persists even with the use of scientifically accepted medical treatments.

The pain experience is described as deep muscular aching, shooting, throbbing, stabbing, pounding, along with many other descriptions, and at times it is unbearable. People with FM do not sleep well, waking up feeling like they have been hit by a "Mack truck," with morning stiffness or spasticity that makes it difficult to move.

Repetitive movement seems to accentuate the pain and forces many people with FM to severely limit their activities, including exercise routines. This lack of exercise results in people becoming physically unfit, causing their FM symptoms to become more severe.

The other major complaint is fatigue so severe that people have a difficult time performing everyday tasks, enjoying hobbies, staying employed or taking part in their children's activities. People may feel as though their arms and legs are weighed down by cement, and their bodies may feel so drained of energy that every task is a major effort."

© Adrenalinapura | Dreamstime.com - Tender Points Of Fibromyalgia

It sure puts so much in perspective for me. It also makes me realize just how blessed I am to have the capacity in my life to handle the ebb and flow of not knowing how you will feel from day to day. I am also grateful after reading this that the majority of my days are not on the severe end, but moderate and manageable when I take care of myself and honor the limitations.

Another Diagnosis

But, a few backs back, everything was worse and I began to immerse myself in research, rest, digging out of the fog and pain and doctors visits. I was having a definitive flare-up, yet I began to see that more was going on than just Fibromyalgia. Based on past blood tests, research and intuition, I was strongly suspecting RA. It has been confirmed that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, which threw me into a tailspin of fear, despair, overwhelm and self-pity. I allowed myself this space. I acknowledge my feelings, had compassion for them, processed them, then knew it was time to move on. This new diagnosis poses another opportunity to tune in to what the real message is for me, to heal and to grow.

Truth Serum

Our bodies do not lie and are always reflect something to us. I have 3 autoimmune diseases. By definition the body attacks itself.

For the past several years, I have slowed down, been kinder and gentler to myself, made adjustments, changed my diet, explored the best exercise options, honored my limitations, practiced a more feminine way, explored creativity, tuned in intuitively – all lessons I believe illness have taught me. Yet underneath it all, I was resentful, angry, and judgmental toward my body’s limitations and my lack of success at many things.

I felt guilty whenever someone needed me and I didn’t want to say yes. I felt guilty for needing more quiet and alone time. I felt bad that I wanted to have less overnight visitors to the inn. I criticized myself because it took so much energy to just to be around certain people. I felt like I was letting my ancestors, my family and myself down because I am tired of feeling like it is my job and responsibility to make sure everyone I know and love is happy and ok. I beat myself up for bad money decisions and failed goals. I kept pushing myself to do things that I didn’t really want to do. I ignored the things that were calling to me deeply from my heart and soul. I didn’t see what was in front of me all along - space, choice, ease, grace and a time for healing. I just couldn’t allow myself to fully give in to it, to allow it, to receive it fully. All the damn judgments and beliefs I had were battering me internally.

I could go on and on. You get the point.

When I compare my health in the past several years to the disabling and debilitating years of Lyme disease, it’s pretty good. Those were very difficult, painful and limiting years. Yet, I persevered and got through them. So I remind myself of how very blessed and fortunate I am to be surrounded by love, beauty, security and the space to heal. I live a rich and beautiful life. Any pressure has been my own. In comparison to what I could be dealing with, this isn’t so bad. Perspective and attitude go a long way in dealing with things in a positive and healthy way.

My life in the spiritual lane is throwing me an opportunity. What will I do with it?

Hopefully I will surrender even more deeply and just be happy. Enjoy my life. Do things I enjoy. Stop putting pressure on me to do more or have goals that just aren’t working for me or in alignment with my values and where I am in my life right now. Give myself permission to take care of me for a while and find a space that works for my health and my life (and resist the loud voice in my head that says how selfish I am. Actually rather than resist it, acknowledge it, and say that it is okay. I can be selfish. Be more mindful about my needs and really honor them rather than judge and resent them.)

I have changed my diet even more and so far it is helping. I am eating a Paleo Diet, and since this flare up have also eliminated night shades from my diet.

I am addressing leaky gut which goes hand in hand with autoimmune disease. I am also exploring and treating other underlying infections. I am doing all that I can within my control to reach a healthier state and allow my body to heal.

© Juan Moyano | Dreamstime.com - Eggs, chicken, vegetables and text paleo diet

Soon, I will meet with a rheumatologist and naturopath, creating an integrative medical team.

In addition, I will continue with this list of 20 things that have been helping me all along. For reals, I would be so much worse if not for these things!!

  1. Lots of EFT tapping  
  2. Years of Energy and chakra healing
  3. Active, Guided and Quiet Meditation
  4. Practicing Gratitude daily
  5. Respect my limits and know when to push and when to back off (without judgment)
  6. Setting healthy boundaries and respecting them
  7. Being mindful of my thoughts and attitudes
  8. Daily Pages Writing or Creative Practice
  9. Create a lifestyle that limits stress and anxiety and fosters creativity and joy
  10. Get the sleep and solitude I need
  11. Say no to things that make me feel contracted and heavy - that's my body's intuitive compass telling me it’s a no for me at that time
  12. Keep moving – combination of light weights, low impact aerobic and yoga
  13. Lots of time in nature (my favorites are the beach and the trees)
  14. Listen to my intuition and my body respectfully
  15. Consume good quality sources of meat and vegetables
  16. Limit exposure to toxic and negative environments and people
  17. Create environments of peace, relaxation and comfort
  18. Use skincare and beauty products with high quality ingredients that are safe for my skin and work really well limiting my exposure to toxic ingredients that could potentially cause more harm to health
  19. Use high quality therapeutic grade essential oils for everything from pain relief to cleaning products
  20. Spend time with loving and supportive people

I believe that Lyme Disease, Fibromyalgia and now Rheumatoid Arthritis have been given to me as a way to find my spiritual path. They have been a gift and blessing to waking me up to the inner healing that would set me free. I’ve been learning to listen to my body and spirit to see what’s off in my life and each year I seem to go deeper into this process. These questions guide me. So I once again ponder the answers for clue and guidance as to where I

Am I aware of my thoughts?

Am I denying my feelings?

Am I following my heart?

Am I respecting my limitations?

Am I being critical or judgmental towards others or me?

Am I worrying about things I cannot control, change?

Am I forcing something?

Am I denying my spirit?

Am I living in the present moment with gratitude and grace?

I know that I still struggle with forcing things rather than being in a state of exploration, wonder, creativity, acceptance, possibility and surrender. This is a constant battle that gets easier for me each year.

Sometimes, it is slow going. There is only so much we can handle and change at a time, and you must be ready to really make those changes.

What I have discovered works best for me is a little at a time, then going whole hog. After all, layers and levels are all part of life’s adventures. It is incredible what wisdom we have when we are willing to take time to listen and receive it, when we give ourselves permission to let things go that don't serve us and allow in the things that do.

I firmly believe we can always learn and grow.  There are many paths and I enjoy exploring until I find the ones that resonate and work. I hope that by sharing my struggles and triumphs it helps you to discover your own inner knowing and find your own way.

I also hope you don’t wait until something big hits you to begin to listen. Pick one item from the list above and begin to incorporate that into your life. When that becomes a natural part of your life, add in another. Wherever you are in your life, begin to make small changes to create a healthy and happy you.

 

Gratitude for cover photo to © Starast | Dreamstime.com - Pain in a woman\'s body

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