One of the ironies of human life is that some of the most painful things we experience end up being incredible blessings in the long run if we can look at them through the right lens. For me, Lyme has been one of those bitter blessings. Enduring the struggles of late disseminated Lyme disease has been one of the hardest challenges of my life, far worse in ways than going through a divorce, earning a Ph.D. or even having a child die unexpectedly from natural causes. I have been through a very difficult twelve year war with Lyme that has involved being bedbound, homebound, misunderstood, and in hellish physical pain. Yet despite the misery that I have endured because of Lyme, I see it as having been a catalyst for many other incredible blessings in my life.
The stress that Lyme placed on my former less-than-healthy marriage was what dealt the final death blows to the relationship. However, without the influence of the Lyme, I probably would have stayed in a marriage that was less than satisfactory because I was blinded from the reality I was living in. Lyme helped clarify how dysfunctional and unsupportive of a relationship it was and how the relationship wasn't built to sustain those vows of “in sickness and in health.” While the end of the marriage was deeply painful, I am far happier since I separated from my ex-husband than I was in most of the relationship with him. I am very grateful to be able to say that I am happily divorced.
Because I was so sick with Lyme, I was bedbound for the better part of two years and homebound for six. The isolation resulting from the illness has been a huge part of my growth. As Shakti Gawain writes in Living in the Light:
When we, as individuals, first rediscover our spirit, we are usually drawn to nurture and cultivate this awareness. This often involves withdrawing from the world to one degree or another, and going within.... Often it's a time of partial or complete withdrawal from relationships, work, and/or other attachments that pull us outside of ourselves....If we choose to follow one of the traditional spiritual paths we may remain more or less withdrawn from the world. In this way we can be true to our spirit and avoid dealing with the attachments and patterns of our form. Unfortunately, we never have the opportunity to fully integrate spirit and form. In order to create the new world, we are being challenged to move out into the world of form with full spiritual awareness.
Lyme has also forced me to me evolve spiritually. I would never have walked down the path I am now on if it hadn’t become a vital component for me to regain my health. I would have continued to spend my life, as I did in many previous lives, denying my metaphysical gifts out of fear of rejection and ridicule by those around me and in our society at large. Yet when accepting and using these gifts allowed me to heal when all else had failed, suddenly it no longer mattered what anyone else thought. I needed to be me, and I needed to help others to heal and be themselves, too.
Like any major illness, enduring Lyme for so long showed me what truly matters. I no longer take for granted things like going to the grocery store. I view it as a privilege, not a task. I no longer have an overwhelming need for material objects in my life; whenever I have a burst of health, I tend to use it to clean and purge as I’m still digging my way out from 12 years of accumulated clutter (partially due to living with a packrat and partially due to my inability to do anything besides the basics when I was so sick). I was never an incredibly materialistic person, but now, I’m even less so. Those things that used to bring me happiness no longer seem relevant.
I have also discovered who my true friends and family are. I believe strongly that family is the group of people you turn to both when you want to celebrate and when you want to cry. For many of us, those people aren’t our biological relatives. We create family where we can find it. We adopt families who accept us and love us exactly as we are. I definitely believe this is true for me. I have lost many friends along the way of my journey with Lyme, but I have also gained some new ones who are more amazing than I could have previously imagined.
So does this post mean that you should tell people who are going through some terrible trials that they are blessings in disguise? Absolutely not, unless you want to lose friends or risk life and limb with their reactions! Not everyone is in a space to be able to understand that their trials may eventually turn into blessings. Instead, the best response to people who are undergoing difficult times is simply to tell them that you’re happy to help them in whatever way would best serve them. Until they reach the point that time has helped heal their wounds and allows them to see what they have gained through their pain, the best thing to do is acknowledge their pain and offer loving compassion.
© 2015 Elizabeth Galen, Ph.D., Green Heart Guidance, LLC