I first want to say to you that I’m so sorry. Watching a loved one go through this disease is heart-breaking and challenging. You may feel helpless. You may have questions that can’t be answered. You may be bearing the financial and physical burden of helping them. It’s tough. It’s so tough — physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
I will have many things to say to you, dear friends, throughout the course of this blog, but I want to begin with some basic things that my loved ones have done for me from the beginning, that have made a hard situation much sweeter. I hope these will be helpful for you to know / keep in mind.
- Learn what you can about Lyme Disease… I would go about this a few ways. First, I would ask your Lymie loved one. Ask them open-ended questions that let them explain what they want to explain, including how they personally feel about what their life is becoming. Asking technical questions to understand the disease are helpful, but it’s also helpful for you to hear their version of what they experience. Next, read some books! A great, comprehensive book to look into is “Everything You Need to Know about Lyme Disease“. There is also a great documentary called “Under Our Skin” if you prefer film-style learning. And, of course, we’re in the Google age. You can find lots of stories and helpful info online, as well. Just don’t believe everything you read on the Internet
- Know that your Lymie loved one needs “the benefit of the doubt”… Lyme Disease is an invisible disease, which means your loved one may look fine, but will often be going through major trauma physically and mentally (Lyme wreaks havoc on your brain and leads to awkward, confusing situations). If they seem distant, if they don’t know how to communicate about what they are going through, if they go though periods of grief or depression…. your relationship may feel strained. It can feel like a personal reflection of you. But it’s not. They’re just having a tough time; they’ve never been sick before. They don’t know how to “be sick well”. Where you can, (and I know this is hard) work to give them the benefit of the doubt — that they love you even when they are not quite acting themselves. It’s not a reflection of how they feel about you; it’s a reflection of the trauma they are working through. The greatest gift you can give them is the grace not to “have it together” yet.
- Keep in mind that your Lymie loved one needs help, and look for ways to bless them!… They may not know how to ask for help or even know what is helpful… But they WILL need help. They may need a shoulder to cry on, a meal made for their family, a ride to the doctor’s office, etc. I have a lot of wonderful people in my life who have blessed my socks off by doing these kinds of things. They have many times offered to help me. I haven’t always known how they could help me, but I have kept a mental list, so that when I could use a helping hand, I can give them a call. I’ve been given countless rides to doctor’s offices, financial assistance, moral support, meals for months… And the very best part of all of this isn’t even the actual help… It’s the reminder that I’m loved and not alone in this. That’s what people need in life (regardless of whether or not they’re dealing with a disease). People need to feel loved and known, and my loving friends and family meeting my needs reminds me that I am not alone. Best thing ever.
- Make sure that your “help” is a gift, not an obligation… Your heart for your loved one is most certainly to support and love them, not to add any obligation to their life. However, presentation is everything. I am in a unique situation in that my church has had several other Lymie people before me. They have learned how to be great supports to sick people, and I have benefited greatly by it. Here’s an example of “good presentation”: a lovely friend of mine, Johanna, recently discovered a supplement through her doctor that has greatly relieved her pain and supports immune system health. As we were talking a few weeks ago, she began by telling me the story, and said something like this, “I just wanted to mention this to you, because it’s been so helpful to me. If you’re at all interested in hearing more or trying this supplement, I’d be happy to get you more information. If not, no worries at all.” She offered up her help to me as a gift, not an obligation. It gave me the freedom to decide, while still knowing that regardless of my decision… our relationship would be in exactly the same place. Awesome!
Okay, that’s it for the first post… But I want to talk to you more! I have such a tender spot for loved ones of Lymies. As always, please ask questions in the comments section, and I’ll be happy to respond directly to you.