I would like to introduce you to the latest addition to our family…Pootie. She is a toy Poodle that we fell in love with at a local rescue and she has filled the terrible void in our hearts since the losses of our beloved cat and dog over the past few years. Don’t let this picture fool you, she is full of pep and loves to chase her toys around the house! She watches everyone in the neighborhood out the window while sitting on Mama’s lap in the morning at the breakfast table and never fails to let us know with a resounding “woof” when someone is coming to the door. She has really raised the spirits around here and we are lucky to have her.
As far as my Lyme battle is concerned, things haven’t changed much. I am doing very well physically, thank the Lord. I am getting stronger every day, putting on more weight, able to do more for myself, suffering less and even doing some of my own errands. The battle now lies more in the challenge to resume a normal life.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the ability to transition back to living a “normal life” when you have been isolated from society for four years is a daunting task. I lost everything when I became bedridden. I lost my career, my apartment, my finances, my drive to excel at work, my stamina, my health, my confidence, my connections and my ability to relate to others. I became totally self-reliant, alone and comfortable that way which is not something that is easily undone. I have to somehow figure out a way to reintegrate back into society in order to live a life again.
In the past two months, I have taken some steps to do that. I have seen two doctors to address health issues that were not related to Lyme. Basically, I took care of maintenance issues that had been neglected because I had always been too sick with Lyme to get into an office to see to them before. I also wrapped up a tax issue that was hanging over my head and that was a great relief to me. Now I can move forward with some financial strategies before the end of the year which will lighten my burdens. I saw my primary care doctor and started researching for a counselor who specializes in people who have chronic illnesses that are trying to resume normal lives. Maybe talking to someone will help me work through hidden issues built up over these past four years.
I have also been offered a small job in my doctor’s office one day a week for a few hours, if I can handle it. This will not hurt me physically or disrupt my disability status with the government. I need a reason to get out of bed, a reason to get out of the house and this will give me a chance to slowly ease my way back into a work environment under the watchful eye of my primary care provider which is a win-win situation all around. She can monitor my progress while I work and if I am not doing well, I can always take time off with her understanding why I need to be out. I really can’t say enough about how much this woman has done for me throughout my illness. She is throwing me a lifeline from drowning in a sea of despair as I lie here in this bedroom.
If the office job does not work out for whatever reason, I will have to consider seeking the assistance of a headhunter to find employment. I am qualified to do many things but when trying to make a complete career change, in this unstable market and with the limitations that I possess, I can only imagine that I will need some serious help in finding a job. I can’t believe that having a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree would be a negative thing. Not to mention, I only want to work part-time, with no benefits and I don’t want to make that much money! One would think I should be pretty marketable. Geesh.
It is very difficult to start your life all over again in the middle of your life but what other choice do I have? I never expected this to happen. I began my career push at the age of 25 when I really put my nose to the grindstone, I found EMS, became a Paramedic and got serious about college. I didn’t stop until I was 32 and had finished graduate school then thought I was going to coast along and reap the rewards of all my hard labor. Six years later, I was bedridden with Chronic Lyme Disease and the entire thing was over.
Now, I will be approaching age 45 soon and will have to start all over again, twenty years after the time that I started my first career path. So many questions remain unanswered. Can any of my past carry over to aid my future? Do I even want it to? I have little desire to remain in the same field that I used to work in. Will my body even be able to handle going back to work full-time? Can I face a relapse of my disease? Will work push me to relapse? Will I find a job before the money runs out? How long will my Mother stay healthy? If she starts to fail, who will take care of both of us?
Chronic illness at the age of 39 was never something that I expected to face. I don’t think anyone plans for something like that. Now that it is here, I am just doing the best that I can to deal with each issue as they arise. I am currently at the stage of “how do I reintegrate back into society without relapsing” and it is turning out to be one of the most difficult stages from the mental standpoint. It is frustrating, hesitant, confusing, dark, lonely, discouraging, fearful and agonizingly slow.
I would like to be hopeful. I would like to think that I am highly qualified to do many things and I have such great life experience with all that I have been through that any employer will think I am a phenomenal asset to add to their team. It would be thrilling to believe that someone could hear my story and think, “Wow, this girl has got some serious courage to survive the past four years and be out here looking for a job to get on with her life. We need someone like her!” In all honesty, I am just not thinking like that right now.
I am only thinking of what a daunting task it will be for me to take a shower, put on a suit, get in the car, drive to an interview and survive a half hour of answering someone’s questions without being so tired that I want to throw up. I will be sitting there with my head swirling as I attempt to clearly decipher what they are asking me as I piece together words that sound witty as they leave my tongue while the sweat runs down the back of my neck. I will smile though my dry, chapped tongue is stuck to the top of my mouth. Then as I rise to leave on my unsteady legs, I will use all my power to gracefully exit the building like a swan hoping they didn’t notice that I have exhausted all my energy stores for the next three days.
As I sit before the blasting vent of the air conditioned car, chugging water, stripped of my suit coat, sweating profusely and waiting for my equilibrium to return so I can safely drive home I will remind myself that this is Chronic Lyme Disease. This is my life. This is my future forever and this is what it will take to get a job. Get used to it sister cause it doesn’t get any easier from here. Welcome to the rest of your life. If you thought the last twenty years was a tough climb to build a career, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.