As graduation approached last semester, people constantly asked what was next. What did I want to do with my life? Did I have a job? Would I stay in the city? Was I going to grad school?
Before my PANS relapse in August, I thought I knew all the answers. However, this disease returned not only to attack my brain, but to destroy all my plans.
As a summa cum laude graduate and valedictorian of my department, everyone expected me to have great things lined up after school. Instead, as I type this, I’m sprawled on the sofa at my parents’ house, too weak and sick from my Bartonella treatments to even unpack the rest of my belongings. I have no job and no plans to get one anytime soon.
To be honest, some days, I feel like a failure, because I’m unemployed and making no headway in my career at the moment. Although I’m grateful to be in a situation where I don’t have to support myself financially for the time being, as an over-achiever, it’s not easy feeling like I’m “slacking off” by doing nothing but blogging, tweeting, and Netflix on many days.
But now I’ve come to realize I’m doing something that has never come easily; in a strange way, it’s one of the toughest jobs of all for me: rest and recovery.
I’m one of those people that tends to get her identity too wrapped up in what I can do rather than who I am as a human being. It feels unnatural for someone as driven as I am to sit back and just “be.” However, I’m realizing that resting is what will allow my body to work its hardest at getting me well enough to return to what I love.
What Made Me Realize I Need to Rest So Badly?
My success in college came at a hefty price. Though I used plenty of healthy and clever strategies (which I’ll share in my upcoming guide/memoir book on college and chronic illness), quite often, my high GPA also involved a lot of adrenaline and pushing myself to the limit and nowhere near enough sleep.
To be honest, it’s astonishing I made any headway at all in my PANS/Lyme recovery over the last few years, given the level of stress I had.
Not surprisingly, now that college is over, it’s as if my body has realized it’s “safe” to fall apart. My Lyme is flaring up and/or I’m herxing much more often, so I literally feel like I have the flu half the time. A couple of months ago, I ran fifteen miles at once, but now, I’m lucky if I can run at all.
So I’m taking a step back and giving myself what I’ve denied over the last few years:
For the next few months, my number one priority in life is going to be rest and healing. If I don’t give myself the best shot at recovery now, I may never get back to the fast-paced, adventure-packed life I’ve long dreamed about. Rest is the pre-requisite not just for being well enough to start grad school in the fall, but for being able to live any part of my life hereafter.
So let me be clear: I’m not at all complaining that I can afford to put everything on hold and rest. I’m not trying to get you to feel bad for me, because I know plenty of people don’t have this unwanted “luxury.” It’s just that moving back in with my parents was never in my plan, and it’s harder than I thought to accept that I’m not well enough to work right now.
However, my time of “rest” for the next few months actually involves a lot more work than I first thought….
So What Does the Rest I Speak of Entail?
For ten hours per week, I’ll be going to intensive outpatient therapy for my eating disorder. My behaviors have gotten to the point where every other domain of my life has suffered because of them. How can I fight off an infection like Lyme Disease if I’m not giving my body consistent nutrition? In a lot of ways, my eating disorder recovery may very well be the gatekeeper to my wellness in all other areas.
As far as PANS and Lyme treatments go, I’m sticking to my Bartonella/Lyme protocol for a couple more months and seeing if it knocks out what’s left of my symptoms. I’m hoping the antibiotics don’t cause so much inflammation that I need IV steroids again, but if they do, that’s on the table. I won’t be doing Rituxan until absolutely certain there are no infections left—and then only if it’s unmistakably clear that I need it.
Finally, there’s one more thing I’m doing during my time of rest: writing my book on how I excelled in college while fighting my chronic illnesses. I hope that by sharing what I’ve learned, I can help others facing similar challenges while trying to do school—and hopefully help people avoid some of the mistakes I made. Yes, writing a book is a lot of work in some ways, but I’m finding it to be a refreshing and enjoyable process.
Okay, well, it’s 1:00 in the morning and I’m still awake typing this… Oops. I need to practice what I preach about making rest a priority!
So, anyway, I’m done feeling ashamed or embarrassed about not having a “real job.” My resting and pursuit of recovery in order to beat PANS, Lyme, and my eating disorder is no easy task—and in the end, has a greater reward than any job I could’ve taken right now.