Lemons with Lyme

by Emily Harrison

Living Well Magazine Autumn 2015

At 33 I have late-stage Lyme Disease – a complex multi-system infectious disease with no known cure. For many years I didn’t know why I was spiraling further into ill health. In Australia Lyme Disease is not currently recognised, making early diagnosis and intervention difficult, as well as having no treatment costs covered. It has sadly become a very political disease that has lost sight of the patient, but let’s leave the politics aside.

I’d like to talk about what it means to heal from a chronic disease, even if that means making peace with living with it and maybe only ever being ‘relatively’ well.

In my search to find answers and better understand health and wellbeing, I found myself at The Gawler Cancer Foundation Conference several years ago.

It was an inspiring weekend and uplifting to be in the company of so many like-minded people. It provided an opportunity to pick apart the many different layers of ‘health’ and put small changes into place. I discovered qi gong and techniques around meditation and pain management that I still use to this day. In fact meditation has been a life-changer.

For a long time I was fighting not to become my illness, while simultaneously forcing myself to overcome it. Neither strategy was particularly successful, in fact it kind of made things worse! It was surrender (at first through utter despair) that softened things.

It was the soft surrenders, the depths of acceptance and the gentle whispers of the heart which truly changed things. The healing and peace-making had to begin from the inside out.

Lyme Disease, like so many illnesses, can feel like the silent thief that ransacked your life. On top of this, the treatments involved can make you feel worse and some days you’ll just feel like a witness to life, stuck on the sidelines wondering ‘why?’ Some days are just really hard, yet ironically from the outside looking in, you generally look pretty well and ‘normal’ to the  rest of the world.

But in its place it gives you many lessons and opportunities to try out the tools you’ve learnt. It might not be pretty, sitting with the despair and frustration and wrestling with the depths of one’s soul to find stillness, peace and light – in and beyond this – but it’s worth it in the end. 

For amidst all the heartbreak, grief and pain it will teach you to find gratitude in the seemingly simple things: a brilliant blue sky on a sunny day, a meaningful connection, a pain-free or clear-headed day. It is actually a very humbling disease in this sense – with blessings in disguise. Life’s toughest and greatest teacher.

While I don’t know what’s ahead or if I will ever be the level of ‘well’ that I would like, I know my life will never be the same and I only have this day, this present moment.

To go from hell to well is a love story for me – one that starts  from the inside out. That’s what a life of lemons with Lyme has taught me.

Please note: The Gawler Cancer Foundation does not provide medical treatment advice or deter people from taking up medical treatment options prescribed to them. We respect the treatment choices of all individuals, whether a lifestyle approach is the foundation of their treatment plan or complementary to their medical options.