I have Lyme. I’d like to not have it anymore. I also just want cake.
My own version of thank you notes. Like Jimmy Fallon’s Friday night Thank You Notes. Except with a twist… more serious, less funny, no sarcasm, and 100% genuine. So actually not at all like Fallon’s, but well… anyways. Commence my thank-yous.
To those who have voiced disagreement or disbelief to me over my chosen treatment path in ways that were rude or unkind, thank you. You’ve reinforced within me how strongly I believe in the truth that anger is a poison. You’ve successfully knocked away any frivolous or unsteady crutches I may have been leaning on in order to survive this treatment, because at times, you forced me to stand alone with my decision and it’s made me more confident in me. You frequently wouldn’t let me “follow the crowd”, do whatever everyone else was doing, or do what you thought I should be doing. You helped me search inside myself for what I felt was right for me, and your sour-but-never-sweet messages made me do it for me. Not for your congratulations. You’ve also taught me how dangerously damaging discouragement can be to a person already knocked down by life’s punches. You’ve taught me exactly how I won’t speak with those I may come across in my future with whom I disagree, and with whom is necessary to voice disagreement. You’ve taught me that there are unhappy people in the world and it’s not my responsibility to satisfy them all – something we throw around frequently in theory but when it comes to a public platform such as one I have put myself in, is harder than it looks. You’ve taught me that sometimes people are just angry and feel they need punching bags, and how extremely important it is that I never make a person my punching bag. Your messages have made me check and recheck my words to others. You’ve taught me how much farther supportive encouragement goes to a soul crumbling under the weight of the suffering this illness produces, all because of moments like receiving a message from an anonymous you, sent to me one morning after I had spent the entire night on the bathroom floor that was anything but courteous when describing my choices. Your messages have made me want to love others regardless of their choices, and I am all the better for having been exposed to your unkindness.
To those who have ridiculed my faith and the sacred spiritual feelings I have shared and written about, thank you. You’ve helped me put my money where my mouth is. You’ve made it, in some ways for the first time in my life, publicly difficult to practice what I believe. And that is exactly the kind of test I wanted my faith to be able to endure. You gave me practice, and I’m stronger for it. You’ve gone out of your way at times to make me feel that I was unpopular, small-minded, weak, or full of nonsense. This too, has placed me in a completely different landscape in which to speak about my faith, and it wasn’t very friendly. But as I observed this landscape, as I walked upon it and felt of its cold and dreariness, and then as I would look down into my hands at this glowing, bright, warmth that was my faith and testimony that I held, I could easily perceive how much brighter was this thing that I held, compared to the world you described was apart from it. You reminded me over and over why I’ve chosen my world over yours. You’ve reminded me over and over why I want to share my faith in case there is anybody stuck in that cold and dreary landscape who is looking for something more. You only inspired a further desire in me to want to hold up my light higher in an attempt to illuminate this new and barren landscape that your vitriol and ridicule created. You’ve shown me how much the world could use it. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to defend my faith by not hiding it in response to your comments. That was always the kind of person I wanted to be.
To those institutions and organizations who have conspired to deny me medical care, thank you. You’ve taught me what it feels like first hand to be disregarded over material gain. You’ve shown me how cold the world can be when people are treated as items on corporate ledgers and financial statements. As a collective group of people, you’ve modeled for me the type of person I don’t want to be – the kind who puts self-interest, pride, and the need to be right above the needs of others. You’ve opened my eyes to how terribly wrong things can go when the scientific process is fueled by greed and not discovery. And in so doing, you’ve taught me how to stand on my own two feet. You’ve fueled my own scientific discovery. You’ve taught me how to use tools and resources at my disposal to do what you are not. Your abandonment of people who share my disease has banded us together without you and it has created a family I didn’t know I had. Because you didn’t care, I sought out those who did and am forever blessed by their love, friendship, and support. Thank you for making me more self-reliant, for requiring me to seek knowledge for myself, and for forcing my family and I to work hard together to obtain treatment and endure its difficulties. You’ve created an environment that has fueled many special moments and memories for me that I will never forget and would never trade. You see, good will flourish without you. And that’s been an amazing lesson in hope for me.
To those doctors and specialists who did not believe me or take me seriously, thank you. It stung at first, but mostly because I felt you were resigning me to an unending torture with your inability to diagnose me. I’ve long since forgiven you. The vast majority of you did the best you could with your skillset. But in the process of so many of your doors closing behind me, you taught me resiliency. You taught me how impactful the simple words “I believe you” can have on a person who is suffering from things you’ve never heard of before, by not offering them to me. You taught me, the hard way, how to cope with loss and the unexplainable. In our generation of instant gratification and endless information at the click of a mouse, you taught me to wait. You taught me we don’t yet know everything and you taught me to be okay with that. You helped me to take a step back from this demanding and entitled generation I’m a part of, and you helped me to give you space to not know everything and an allowance for not being able to fix everything. You gave me opportunities to allow you to be human too. I was always a person who would have rather errored on the side of mercy than justice, and this was a great exercise in that. You taught me patience under conditions where patience is very difficult, and that’s a quality I had always admired in others before this. You’ve taught me to love you and respect you and show gratitude to you for your service, even if you could not ultimately help me individually. You’ve taught me how important it is to maintain the belief that all medical textbooks are open ended; there is never a final addition. And lastly, when you couldn’t diagnose me, you inspired me to search and educate myself and because of this I was able to diagnose me. Thank you for urging within me the ability to be proactive and self-reliant in a field where far too many put the full responsibility on you for the health of their bodies. These skills will serve me well for the rest of my life.
To my illness, thank you. I hated you at first. I dreamt of being able to unzip my skin and walk away from you often. You drove me to the edge of a cliff many times with the supreme discomfort you’ve nagged my body with day after day. But my second biggest thank you goes to you. All of my previous paragraphs sprouted from you. You are the mother of them all. You shook up my life in a big way. You waltzed in, under the radar, and you suddenly took the little life I was building away. You revealed “my life” for the house of cards it was. You taught me nothing is mine; all of it can disappear in the blink of an eye. You taught me that the only thing I can ever claim is mine and that I can ever exert 100% control over, is my attitude and how I choose to perceive my life. You challenged me on this. You snipped all the strings my happiness was tied to and you stared at me in the face as if to dare me: “what now?!” You confined me to a house, a couch, a bed, a single room. You did this for a long time. Thank you for this. Thank you for putting me in the type of soil that would grow innovation, hard-as-nails-resolve, greater faith, and most of all, the skill that is making lemonade out of lemons – in a big way. Thank you for forcing on me a paradigm shift because as a result I got creative. I answered your “what now” and re-found happiness that attached itself to no earthly thing. You taught me how futile complaining is, how much harder is was to be angry, and how much more miserable life was if I let hope slip from my grasp. You gave me an opportunity to challenge those tendencies in myself and to grow their opposites. When the deepest desires of my heart was to help people, you disabled me, and I found ways to help people from my sick bed anyways. I found ways to be useful and find purpose. You taught me there are no chains on happiness and love and there is no human condition that validates withholding it. You taught me true gratitude. You forced me to re-organize my priorities and ironically I find so much more to be grateful for nowadays. You’ve taught me to see every challenge as a blessing, and that makes me unstoppable. You’ve planted in my heart a belief that I feel is part of my purpose on this planet now – to tell everyone I can that trials are a gift and that if we embrace them and endure them with grace, these same trials can catapult us towards our full potential. You’ve taught me that what the world calls tragedy, is always and will forever be opportunity.
Finally, to God, who remained silent far more frequently than I’d have liked, thank you. Thank you for opposition in all things. Thank you for not answering my every little cry. Thank you for being the ultimate teacher and allowing me to stumble a bit and learn things for myself. Thank you for this life that presents circumstances which help me to develop character by presenting me with the very opportunities that tempt me not to. Thank you for guiding me only as much as I absolutely needed throughout my diagnosis and treatment process and requiring of me courage and bravery and leaps of faith for the rest. It has allowed me to grow and stretch and be a more capable person who has not had every little answer handed to her. Thank you for not removing the hard things from my life. They constantly remind me that I need you and I am a far better person when I keep you in my life. Thank you for these painful experiences that have taught me empathy, love for humanity, and perhaps a small taste of the unfathomable love you have for all of us. Thank you for teaching me you do not abandon, even if you are silent. In fact, your silence has taught me so much, and at times, more so than when your voice was heard. Your silence taught me things like this isn’t the time for me to be catered to, or this isn’t the time for me to be at ease, that comfortable living does not develop a soul, and most especially, I’ve learned that I will still be here when your voice returns. Your silence has taught me to exercise faith, which you require. I could never do that if you answered every little prayer. You’ve taught me that victory isn’t going to be overcoming my illness, but overcoming the challenges in mind, heart, and soul that the illness imposes on me. You’ve taught me to be okay in difficult moments, because you’ve showed me that the illness is irrelevant when it comes to what’s really important. Will I have loved through it? Will I have lifted others? Will I have cultivated long-suffering, faith, and hope in spite of it? Not will I still be sick tomorrow, or next week, or next year. You’ve taught me that you heal souls, and not always mortal bodies. And that is far more valuable. Thank you for teaching me it isn’t all about me. By making me most needy, you’ve opened my eyes to the needs of others and my focus has left myself for them. Thank you for this. Just, thank you for not shielding me from hard things. You’ve touched my life in moments absolutely needed, and you’ve taken off the training wheels for the rest. I see the wisdom in this, and love you for it.
**Obviously, God is not my adversary, but as one who allows my opposition, he certainly deserves my gratitude for the lessons each has taught me.
Sincerely, again, me.