Thursday, September 19, 2013

Part Five: Living with Chronic Lyme Disease: a long and difficult journey

Part Five: Major Life Style Changes—More or Less Stress?

My job as a special educational consultant in a large suburban school district was a stressful position, especially with my health being so compromised. Added to these stresses were those of my husband’s job lay-off as well as living in a city where cross-busing children to provide for racial balance in the schools made us think twice about our life style. A stabbing across the street and being shot at while strolling on a bicycle path pushed us over the edge. We considered a major move across country to the rural life of Vermont. If stress was increasing my health issues, perhaps decreasing my stress would improve it.

We had visited Vermont during a summer break following my husband lay-off and traveled with a camper, so as to take our beds with us.  We stopped to see relatives along the way, including a cousin in Vermont while on route to my husband’s homeland of Massachusetts. Vermont, we decided would be "the solution" to our problems and give us the peacefulness and tranquility of a more rural setting and would help me to regain my health.  A job offer in Vermont was not to come for several years but when it did come, we didn't hesitate to jump on it.

Decreasing our stress did, however, mean that my husband moved ahead of the family by six months, leaving me behind with two kids to care for, along with working  full time, as well as the job of packing us to move after my daughter and I finished the school year.

All was falling into place or so we thought, until my husband left town.  The deal on the house fell through, and being so desperate to sell and continue with our plans of moving to Vermont, I decided to sell the house myself and did so more aggressively than our realtor. Of course showing the house and selling it on top of everything else was enough stress for the most normal of people and I was anything but.

I learned to pray my way through most days and nights and my oldest daughter grew up too quickly being my right-hand helper in early grade school! I don’t know what I would have done without her help of watching her little sister as I methodically and systematically packed a few boxes each night before going to bed.

The house was sold and we were packed and ready to move as planned in June of 1990, when my husband returned to move us via a U-Haul truck with a trailer on the back. I followed behind in my VW convertible, loaded to the roof and I remember stopping every few hours for me to nap and giving my husband and kids a chance to stretch.

This move was a growing step for us all! Bursts of creativity came with it! I stepped through the bottom of the back of my car only days before picking up my husband from the airport when he returned to move us. Desperate to keep anyone else from stepping through the hole, I pulled out the strongest pizza pan I had and set it under the back floor mat, spanning the hole.  I thought it a temporary fix and was temporarily safe enough as the hole didn't extend under the seats, but was shocked to see that the car repair man simply bolted it permanently to the bottom!  Our humor and laughs were growing along with our creativity, both invaluable coping skills in the years that followed.

In addition to the hole in the bottom of my car, the starter went out as soon as we left Denver and so we had to park my car on an incline whenever we stopped and my husband had to push it to jump start it all the way to Vermont! Life, we were learning was a series of challenges and creativity and humor added to our ability to cope! (to be continued...)

The illustration above is done by Hannah McMillen and the figure drawing by Sarah Kate McMillen.

(*Caution: These blogs are not meant to be actual medical advice but rather meant only to empower others to face medical issues as equal partners with their medical providers and never give up questioning and exploring what alternatives may be available for conquering their illnesses.  Living life with a chronic illness is a daily challenge and it is my prayer that no one give up on  living their life to the fullest extent possible.)