At the Very Least, You Must Love Yourself

By Jana

May 31, 2023


My battle was very long and very hard. It has taken me three years into remission to realize that, at some point, I stopped loving myself. Sure, from the outside it appeared that I was taking care of myself. I was regimented about my treatment, I did everything I was supposed to do. I followed my doctor’s orders to a tee. But, I stopped loving myself. With the benefit of hindsight, I realize that my journey could have been less torturous. It could have been a little less frightening. If I had simply loved myself. While you’re treating this horrific illness, at the very least, if you do nothing else, you must love yourself.

Love yourself, every damn day

We have all heard the saying, ‘you can’t truly love someone else until you can love yourself.’ I am certain that, to varying degrees, this is true. What I want to know is, can you heal your body without loving yourself? My suspicion is that yes you can but it’ll take much longer. I also believe, from personal experience, that your ability to live a thriving life once you reach a state of wellness will be much harder. In fact, studies have shown that healthy well-being impacts the prognosis of physical illness.

I have been in remission for a little over three years now. Within a month of reaching that benchmark I was diagnosed with complex PTSD. I have spent the last three years in different modes of therapy, from EMDR to soul re-integration therapy. What I have come to learn from the wonderful women who have coached me back to healthier mental versions of myself is that I must love myself. A big part of loving myself is accepting myself exactly as I am. But, my biggest issue, in the realm of loving myself, has been not fearing my body. Let me back up for a minute and take a look at my life during treatment.

Regimented but not Warmhearted

When I was finally diagnosed I had been sick, in various ways, for at least fifteen to twenty years. Over those years my body was slowly breaking down, and along with it my confidence in myself was wavering. As a ballerina from the age of three, my body was everything to me. I had relied upon it and it had never forsaken me. Until Lyme began tearing it down. One could say that by the time I was finally diagnosed I had already begun to neglect myself. In other words, I was steadily losing love for myself.

Upon being diagnosed, I was so relieved to finally hear that validation but I was also immediately spurred to action. My mentality became one of regimented duty to fix this body of mine. Most days I was terrified but I was determined. I took my doctor’s prescribed regimen of medicine and followed it like my life depended on it (which, of course it did but hopefully you catch the deeper meaning). I did not sway, I did not falter and I left myself little wiggle room for grace or kindness. When I began to herx I pushed harder. When I began to feel worse I knew I was on the track and I forged onward. I was regimented not warmhearted towards myself.

My body feels foreign so I’m separating from it

Part of this behavior stems from societal pressure but I also believe some of it was a lack of love for myself. As is the case with so many Lymies, I didn’t really look sick. Hell I often didn’t act sick (I got really good at hiding my deficiencies). Therefore I must be faking it or I’m not really sick at all. As a consequence, the twisted part of my brain, felt legitimized by the herxing because I definitely looked sick when I was herxing. So, I pushed myself. Hard. The flip side of that is that I had lost love for myself. This was a direct result of fearing my disease riddled body.

I have talked about this before but it’s worth repeating. I spent two-and-a-half years literally running and hiding from my body. Every twitch, every tingle, every pain, rash and misstep… I ran. When new symptoms appeared I curled up in my shell and hid from them. I was terrified and so I separated myself from the experience. My body no longer acted like it was my own and so I abandoned it. I abandoned my body. Please don’t do the same thing to yours.

You must love yourself. More to the point, love yourself because you’re fucking awesome

It literally took me at least a year to recognize how fucking awesome I was. I also spent lots of money in order to see what an amazing warrior I was. I wish that I knew then what I know now. It might have made the battle a little less painful. I am hear to urge you now to love yourself. Nurture yourself. Love this body of yours that is working so hard for you, day in and day out. I talk about this a lot but truly it can’t be said enough.

Loving yourself while in the midst of a chronic illness is more challenging than one might think. So, how do you do it? It’s really quite simple. Sit with yourself. Allow yourself to be accepting of where you are. In this success-driven society this concept is especially difficult. “I can’t be sick, I have to work.” “This sickness can’t slow me down, I have things to do.” “I can’t be sick, I have to take care of my children.” But you can be sick and yes dear ones, you are in fact sick. Accept it and love yourself through the process. There is no one magic pill that will make it go away over night. Your body needs you to slow down and listen.

How do you love yourself? With kindness

If you’re herxing really bad, slow down. You don’t have to reach that full dose in three weeks. If it takes four weeks, five weeks or even six weeks, that’s okay. There were times when I never reached my full dose. (I got better at listening to my body as the years ticked by.)

You may really want to go on that vacation. Your mind might even convince you that you can make it work but stop and ask your body what it wants. I bet if you really listen you’ll hear it begging you to please stay home. It knows the toll it’ll take on your immune system and the difficulty of sticking to healthy eating habits while traveling.

When the pain really ramps up and you want to give in, stop and listen to your body. Don’t get angry with it. After all, it’s not your bodies fault. It’s those damn spirochetes drilling in and proliferating. Maybe lay off the sugar or gluten. Or, treat those sore bones to a nice hot Epsom salt bath. Your body can’t handle the heat of a hot bath? Okay, that’s understandable…how about gently massaging yourself. If you’re lucky, maybe you have a friend or loved one who would be willing to do so for you. Gentle dry skin brushing can be surprisingly soothing to those aches and pains, plus you’re helping to remove toxins at the same time.

Love yourself fiercely and with abandon

The next time you’re struggling to find a word, stumbling to get through a sentence or finding the focus to watch your favorite TV show, be gracious with yourself. Yes, it’s scary, demoralizing and frustrating but fight the urge to crumble in on yourself. Take a deep breath and smile at yourself for trying. Accept that this is a phase that you’re going through. Remind yourself how strong you are for battling this horrendous disease that has seemingly taken everything from you. Stand tall and recognize the warrior in yourself. Keep stumbling through those sentences and if people judge you don’t join them. Look them straight in the eye and tell them you’re a badass battling a nasty disease.

Now, I drop my mic, step off my soapbox and join the choir once again…but not before I quietly pick my mic back up and gently whisper into your ears, love yourselves my dear Lymies even if you do nothing else. You are worthy of love, compassion and to be heard.

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