This article was first published on Lymeology in 2016, a website that is no longer active. Most of the links on this post are informational, but a few are affiliate links to help maintain this website.
We often think of personality as fixed. It's something you are born with and grow into as you get older. But when I look at my personality before Lyme and after Lyme I see a much different person.
Once upon a time I was the life of the party, energetic, and extroverted. I drank, stayed up late, and ate whatever I wanted. The only thing I knew about nutrition was the outdated food pyramid. I took no supplements whatsoever. Though I knew diet and exercise were important, I thought it was something I could change later in life when I really needed to.
I'd never heard of integrative medicine or complementary therapies. I went to my primary care doctor once a year and was followed by an endocrinologist for my thyroid disease (which I now know is related to Lyme). If a doctor told me to do something or take a pill, I did it, no questions asked.
I was very career focused and all my energy went to my job. I had zero work life balance and let stress get to me, but, again, I always thought it was something I could change later.
Then, along came Lyme. There are some things about the old me I miss and some things about the new me I prefer.
Here is a list of how Lyme changed me:
1. I’ve become an introvert.
Before contracting Lyme disease, I was what most people would describe as an extrovert. I was outgoing and always doing something off the wall. You would never catch me at home on a Saturday night.
Now, I still like spending time with friends, but in smaller groups and for shorter periods of time. Socializing is the thing that continues to be the most draining for me, so I have to do it in short bursts.
I enjoy spending time alone doing healing activities like meditation and writing. When I haven't had some "me time" in a while I crave it.
2. I've become very health conscious.
Five years ago I was eating take out for many meals. I thought it didn't matter as long as I felt okay.
I still struggle to maintain a strict anti-inflammatory diet, but now I know the importance of being gluten-free and limiting dairy.
In addition to eating better, I know the importance of practices like meditation and yoga to calm the fight-or-flight response and allow myself quiet space to heal.
3. I’m less “fun.”
I used to love going out on the town and staying out late. Some of that declines with age anyway, but now I don't drink at all. Bars no longer appeal to me and I have a strict bedtime of 10 o'clock.
Sometimes I worry that I’m a less fun person, but it just means I have to seek out different ways to have fun. I like low key activities, like sitting on the back porch and talking, going to a funny movie, taking a slow walk in a botanical garden, or going to a mellow concert.
I'm still fun, just not the same kind of fun, and my sense of humor never went away.
5. I stopped looking at my career as my identity.
"What do you do?" is often the second question new people ask you after learning your name. My career has always been very important to me. It's the thing you prepare for starting when you are 5 years old. I was a school social worker for 10 years, but I eventually had to leave for a part-time position. I was no longer a school social worker, but I learned that it didn't define me. It was what I did, not who I am, and there are thousands of other facets of my personality that are worthwhile.
6. I live in the moment.
I used to live five years out, always planning for when I was going to be happy. With Lyme there are no guarantees, so even if we are not feeling 100%, we need to be present where we are.
In the past if I was sick with a cold or the flu I would push myself to get out of bed and go to work or clean the house. Now I listen to what my body needs that day. If it’s a good day I will go out and do something, if it is a bad day I will take it slow.
7. I learned what was really important.
It's cliche to say I’m grateful for my illness because it opened my eyes to what I needed to change in my life, but it's true.
I also learned that money is not as important as your health. If you don't have your health, you have nothing. I left a steady well paying job, because I needed time and space to heal. It was a hard decision, because Lyme treatment is expensive, but in the end if I didn't leave I never would've gotten better.
Living with Lyme changes you. There are parts that are positive and parts that are negative, but in the end you simply have to adapt and understand this is the person you were meant to become.
"The changes we dread most may contain our salvation." - Barbara Kingsolver
I'm Kerry (She/Her/Hers) and I am a licensed therapist, group facilitator, poet, writer, & speaker. This is a place to acknowledge and validate our suffering and trauma, while also learning how to turn toward aliveness and spaciousness.