Friday, February 17, 2012

Brutal and Beautiful - A Lyme Morning

Brutal and beautiful.

Recently a friend used these words side by side. I would never have thought to use them together. They seemingly describe the opposite but in reality so much of life is both brutal and beautiful. And, if we choose to look at the brutal and find the beautiful there can be immense healing.

I have been thinking about these words specifically around cancer. When I was a young girl no one talked about cancer. We new it existed but it was a very private journey. I remember at some point in my childhood seeing a book or magazine with photos of breast cancer survivors. I remember being glued to the pages and amazed at their courage and their beauty. There they stood with missing breasts and yet their beauty shined even more brightly than I could have imagined. Those images were burned in my head.

This summer my neighbor was fighting cancer. She had long beautiful hair that probably hadn't been cut in a few decades. One day I looked out the window and she was walking down the street with a huge mohawk. The next day her head had been shaved. She walked bravely with her head uncovered for the world to see. I thought then how brave she was. Now I think of those words, brutal and beautiful.

Since I was diagnosed last Spring and started treatment for late stage Lyme Disease I have often compared it to fighting cancer. I have done this mainly because people in this area of the country have no idea what Lyme disease is, the seriousness of it and how intense fighting it can be. Comparing it to cancer treatment somehow gives them a point of reference. But really the two are not that similar and somehow what Lyme looks like needs to be shown to the public just like how those brave women showed us the face of breast cancer many years ago.

So, now comes the personal part of this story and where the words brutal and beautiful came from. A few weeks ago I noticed that one of the online facebook Lyme support groups was advertising a photo contest. She was looking for a photo that portrayed the physical, emotional and neurological aspects of Lyme and could also serve to educate others about Lyme Disease. My husband is a photographer (as a hobby), so I mentioned the contest to him.

We didn't really talk about the contest after that because I had a large die-off of bacteria and had an intense "herx" reaction. I was quite sick for the following weeks and photography contests seemed to be a distant memory. The last day to enter the contest was Sunday. For some reason what spoke to me most about what Lyme looked like in this house was my morning detox bath ritual.

Each night I take medicine that boosts my immune system (low dose naltrexone) and in turn kills bacteria. When I awake (often after having a very restless "sleep" with vivid dreams) I don't feel well and can actual sense the toxins (by looking at my tongue, smelling my body, etc.). I spend the next hour taking medicine, filling the tub, adding baking soda and salts, lighting candles, making ginger tea and lemon water, adding lavendar oil, dry brushing my skin and finally entering the dark candle-lit water. Once I enter the intensity begins. Sweating, nausea, retching, pain, heart palpitations, anxiety, fatigue are just a few manifestations. I know the process is deeply healing, so I tolerate the immense discomfort and just keep breathing. After nearly 25 minutes I rise and shower. Afterwards I have to lay down in the bed for some time because I feel so sick. Eventually the symptoms usually abate so I can dress and start my day. It's an intense process that for me defines what Lyme looks like. So, it seemed perfect to use this scene for the photo contest.

On Sunday my husband said to just do what I normally did and not pay attention to him. I went about my routine as he laid on the floor taking pictures. After the bath I was quite sick (as usual) so I went to lay down while culling through the pictures. Once weeded through, he did the editing of each shot. He came into bed to give them to me and burst into tears. I held him while he sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

The sobbing seemed to continue. The pictures now were calling to be put to music. We watched and sobbed. Looking at the reality, seeing the pain, is different from living it each day. My daughter came in and asked to watch it and cried. It then became clear I needed to share it. I started emailing it to friends and family and posted it in a Lyme group online. More tears from everyone who watched it. The tears seemed to bring an immense healing for my family and hopefully for others. Since then the anger and frustration, that had been prevalent for weeks, has melted. It has been amazing!

My dear friend sent an email that really defined what had happened. Brutal and beautiful she said. Even now when I type these words it gives me chills. Showing honestly our pain (no matter the reason) can be brutal. The beauty comes in the courage that it takes to be real. So, I offer this short slide show to you if you would like to see it (and feel free to share it). It is intense - be warned. A Lyme Morning is raw and real, just like life.

http://manaserenephotography.smugmug.com/Family/Lyme-Morning/21439707_SQH5rg

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