Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Better Living Through Lyme

by Spirochicks Contributor

Well, all right. Not “better.” How about “more focused?”
A few days ago, I woke up clear-headed for the first time in nineteen days. I reveled in the lack of rubber cement in my brain. And then I was really mad. It’s hard to untangle the thoughts in a linear progression-- they all arrived more or less together, like email after a long server malfunction. The upshot was that two of the most important things for me to focus on right now are my health and my career, and that I’d sacrificed one in a misguided effort to protect the other.
Six years ago, when I started my current job, a woman senior to me, we’ll call her Dana, took an instant dislike to me. I’m not unique in this regard--she is verbally abusive, to some degree, to a lot of people. I can take constructive criticism and I don’t shy away from confrontation, but I can be bullied, and Dana had my number. Eventually, she was in a quasi-supervisory position, reviewing some of my work. Her feedback was sometimes truly helpful, but it was laced with vitriol. Sometimes her language was frankly abusive (unless in your world “lazy” and “stupid” pass for constructive). I did everything I could think of to placate and please her. None of it worked. It’s been awful, but I’ve never thought of saying anything to my boss other than “Okay, it’s still bad now I’m going to try this...” Not a fan of confrontation, he’s been okay with letting me muddle through on my own.
Dana was the source of a tremendous amount of stress for me before Lyme came into my world. My very first herx started on June 3. It’s been bad. My doctor ordered me to work from home, half days, if I worked at all, while I weathered the worst of it. Afraid working from home would draw Dana’s wrath, though, I opted to go in every day. I’ve been sitting at my desk clocking in my four hours, utterly unable to do meaningful work and so exhausted I wanted to cry. The morning my brain de-fogged, the stupidity of this hit me. What Dana thinks of me has no effect on my career, really. What I’m doing to my health in the name of appeasing her...well, that’s extremely unproductive. So I went straight to my boss and told him I couldn’t take it anymore. And an hour later, my work was being funneled to two other seniors for review. A source of agonizing stress for years gone just like that--poof.
I’ll give you that doesn’t sound very exciting, or brave. It would be a more exciting story if I’d gone to Dana directly, defending myself and my fellow abused colleagues in a barrage of verbal glory. But this, I’m learning, is part of how I have to move forward, separating the things that are worth my energy from the things that aren’t. I’ve spent more than enough energy on was time for someone else to have a turn.
Since my Lyme adventure started, I’ve thought about parallel-universe me, the one who doesn’t have Lyme. I imagine all the things she is doing that I am not, that I can not do right now. No, this is not a soothing exercise. When I jettisoned Dana, though, for the first time, I did something I’m pretty sure parallel-me is not, was not, strong enough to do. I’m not saying I’m grateful for the Lyme. It’s making me take my SUV-sized life and cram it into a Civic. I’ve just started packing the Civic, and there are a lot of things I want to put in there. Not loading Dana leaves more room. Getting the blasted spirochetes to let me load the stuff I want is part of the challenge, but learning what to leave on the curb is a good lesson in coping too.


Alix said...

Hey Karen,
Great to have you here! What an inspiring story of standing up for what is right for your health, even with the pressure of bully in the office. That IS very exciting to hear about someone with you learning how to successfully manage our illness without totally letting go of our work and otherwise productive lives. I think it's hardest to tread water in the middle and most of us are too brain fogged to distinguish that we are now driving the Civic and scale down appropriately. It took me 6 months of going to work (running a worldwide research group) feeling like absolute crap to finally give in to the illness. By then it was too late. I was in bed 80% of the day for the next 3 years. And, I didn't get the correct dianosis until more than a decade later. Love the parallel universe metaphor - I'd love to know what parallel universe me would be doing now....

Alix said...

I meant to say "that is very exciting to hear about someone LIKE you learning...." I somehow typed "with" by accident. Lame.

Kim said...

Welcome to SpiroChicks! I especially loved your last five lines!! What a great analogy and so true!!! Thanks for the post!

Keith Smith (themadchemist) said...

Hey Karen

As with Alix's comment, I too saw this was coming and my refusal to lose my career I had clawed my way to, prevented me from getting help sooner.

I nearly always say, Lyme was a gift.
It allowed me to become a better me. I am more in tune with me then ever.
At times that is a connection I'd like to severe, but the sudden flash of negative, neural herx usually fades and I'm back to just the fuzzy brain.

I do know that the empathy I've gained from this disease has almost been worth the price. So has the self awareness and the ability to stand up for oneself as this disease slowly strips our ability to use the mask most others in this world covet. Our mask slowly crumbles and we become the real us.

Truely learning to love one's self has been a daunting task for me and the negative neural herx muddies the water of understand sometimes.
At least for me.

We each have our own parallel universe from each other. I just hope if there are one's for me - none have me or anyone else with Lyme. Hey how about we all move to the one where Lyme doesnt exist ( and maybe Dana doesnt either(I didnt say that)).

Just a thought.

Shine On
themadchemist (spirotech)