This is from a long time ago. For reference, that’s my daughter, and she’s a junior in college now. I believe this is about a year before I got sick and everything unraveled.
I’m staring at this photo and thinking about what I didn’t know then about what was to come. I’m also thinking about how relatively unscathed I was then. Sure, I had experienced life’s ups and downs just like everybody else, but at that point, I was moving through life with relative ease. I was fit and healthy and fully alive. I laughed a lot. My GI tract still worked properly and I was not yet emotionally gutted.
I’m sure I enjoyed all that ease, but I probably didn’t savor it enough. I simply took it for granted that my life would continue on that same trajectory.
Right now, I’m thinking about how scary and dark it got inside my head when my health fell apart. And I’m thinking about how, when this photo was taken, my mind and body were blissfully free of all that darkness.
I’m just smiling. I was happy. My life was defined by living not by fighting to survive, as would soon be the case.
I have spent most of the past eleven years in survival mode, trying to overcome the devastating physical and emotional wreckage of chronic lyme disease and mold illness.
I’ve done my best to stay optimistic and hopeful. I tried hard every day to help myself heal. And at a certain point, I let go of the endgame and focused solely on my effort. Which is not the same as giving up. No. It’s a radical acceptance of what I can control and what I can’t. I can control my attitudes and my actions, but I can’t control what they do and don’t add up to.
Well guess what? After all these years, my efforts have added up to something. I’ve had periods where I’ve felt improvement, but they were always short lived. Now, for the first time, I have the confidence to say right out loud that I’m turning a corner. Unless you live with chronic illness, you have no way of comprehending what a bold statement that is. To finally have the conviction the light at the tunnel is not a train not something I’ve come by lightly.
How did this happen? The biggest thing that’s changed is the fact I’m finally fighting the totality of my problem. I’ve been sick for eleven years, but I’ve only known I have Lyme AND mold for about a year and a half. Which is another way of saying I’ve only been addressing part of my problem for most of the time I’ve been sick. (I’m not bitter about that, if you’re wondering. Yes, several doctors missed the mold, but it’s not like they did that on purpose. They did their best to help me).
As I replay the tape, I’ve discovered I’ve been living in houses with mold for most of my life, until very recently. You may recall, my doctor discovered I have a genetic defect that prevents my immune system from being very effective at clearing mold, so I’ve been collecting it all these years. He believes my body was somehow getting by until I suffered a bout of acute lyme which turned into chronic lyme, which lit the match for CIRS (mold illness), which set off a cascade of inflammation that had devastating consequences on my GI tract, resilience, brain function, and mental health.
So, that’s what happened. And that’s why I haven’t been able to recover in spite of years of copious interventions.
I finally started turning a corner when my husband doubled, no tripled down on making our house safe for me. Keeping a house mold safe requires tremendous diligence, and my husband continuously walks the perimeter making sure there is nothing in this house or our cars that will harm me.
My clean home, combined with adding new detox therapies like the infrared sauna and several supplements, and discontinuing treatments that were giving me intolerable side effects, have made a world of difference.
I’d say my energy has doubled over the past few months. My anxiety has decreased tremendously, and my GI symptoms have lessened, although there is still much work to do here.
I also still have work to do in the brain area as well. It’s still much more difficult for me to concentrate than it used to be, and I have much more difficulty assimilating new information than I used to. These are both very common symptoms of mold illness.
But here’s the most important thing. Aside from any symptom I may or may not be having, I have started to engage in life again. I’ve started making plans. I am laughing more, and my husband says my personality is returning.
In the past, I’d try to talk myself into engaging in life because I thought it might help me feel better. But here’s the thing. Now, I’m engaging in life because it seems like fun. I’m not forcing myself to do it. It’s just happening. And it’s happening because I’m feeling better.
In fact, in the past few weeks, three different people have told me I look and sound healthier and more energetic.
Am I anywhere close to the way I was in that photo? Absolutely not. But for the first time in so, so long, I can remember what it feels like to be that way.
And that’s a start. A blessed, blessed start.