I tend to wake up in the morning feeling like I’ve run a marathon and need another ten hours of sleep. And even though it’s been four years since my days have started like this, I sometimes still respond with a growl and a scowl, as though the intrusion of fatigue and pain that greet me every day were something new.
Thankfully, once I am up and about awhile I start to feel better, but only if I choose to leave behind the bitter thoughts that tend to accompany my morning slump.
In my book, “The Lyme Disease Survival Guide”, I write that gratitude and joy are not a function of circumstance. You would think so, though, the way most of us live. We say we’ll be content when we get well; when we get a job or a spouse or a promotion. Even if we know in our gut that it’s not about the external as much as the internal, we still have to meditate upon the truth that having Lyme doesn’t mean that we are cursed and that life can be good, even though we suffer tremendously.
I’ve already written about this subject, but what I haven’t mentioned, and what I have realized of late is this: that the jump from bitterness to gratitude isn’t as big as we might think; the distance from sorrow to joy shorter than it seems, and the line between prosperity and devastation, finer than we might imagine.
I’m speaking from experience. Whenever I pay attention to my morning symptoms and pay heed to the devil in my brain that tells me I’m too young to feel like this, that I should just give up and be sad because my life involves pain and fatigue, then bitterness springs up faster than a root in the rainforest.
If I continue about my day and don’t hack down the plant, then it keeps growing. In my interactions with others, it manifests as irritation, and in my thoughts are cultivated even more destructive beliefs. Then my joy for the day is trashed and I’m mad at God because surely, if He loved me, my life wouldn’t be so horrible.
Conversely, when I acknowledge my symptoms first thing in the morning–and this I have to do because frankly, the fatigue and pain are there and not going anywhere–and then decide to start thanking God for them, believing that surely something good will result from the agony, and then meditate upon this idea, then my thoughts begin to inch in another direction. If I continue to name things I am grateful for, from my eyesight to my morning mate tea and my ability to write, then my symptoms start to diminish as the focus of my thoughts shifts to encouraging, rather than discouraging aspects of my life. If I stay on the gratitude train and continue to acknowledge aloud reasons for my prosperous life, then I actually start to believe that my life with Lyme is a blessing rather than a curse. I realize how this life, so different than that of most of my friends, has a special purpose and how the suffering contained within it is a gift; a training program to align my thoughts with those of my god’s and to teach me to live a healthier life, so that no matter what the storm, I can survive it with a spirit of serenity and peace.
How starkly different are these two thought realities! You would think that in the latter scenario, my circumstances were different from the first, but they are not.
And while a bad hormonal day can leave me planting bitterness trees everywhere, the truth is, on an average day, I can mostly choose what kind of tree to plant.
I used to see depression, bitterness and sorrow as insurmountable obstacles. I used to believe that my biochemistry and the bugs were more powerful than God’s spirit within me. That hormonal shortages and holes in my brain were proof that I really couldn’t take control of my thoughts.
To some degree, I still think that the latter is true. I recall the days when obsessive fear claimed every last phrase that burst into my brain; when anxiety was so pervasive, it was like someone was holding a gun to my head 24-7, and in those days, it would have taken a miracle of God and a hefty benzodiazepene prescription to stop such powerful assaults. So I yet believe that when you are really sick, changing your thought patterns can be akin to trying to move a mountain.
As you heal, however, and get to a place of relative mental stability, changing your thoughts, and hence your world, becomes easier. Easier than you might think, if you are willing to let go of the notion that you aren’t strong enough to uproot that forest of darkness. If you are willing to believe that God’s spirit is bigger than your physical body and will help you. If you understand that moving from a life of ingratitude and devastation is really about discipline and a commitment to plant trees of life in your thought life, by starting your day with acknowledgments of the good, and not allowing yourself to get so busy that the practice gets pushed by the wayside.
Yes, much of prosperity and joy results from training and knowing you can build muscle in your thought life, just as you go to the gym to build up your physical body. But you gotta go to the gym and work out on a daily basis, not just every once in awhile.
The other part, (which I have personally overlooked for so many years), is believing that it can be done, if you are willing to do the exercise and ask for help from above. You don’t have to be a slave to your biochemistry and difficult circumstances. Yes, they will conspire fiercely against your prosperity, your joy and your attitude of gratitude; your battle will be more difficult than that of the average soul whose gray matter isn’t full of borrelia and bartonella, but like a runner who trains for a marathon, if you stick with your routine, you will slowly build mental muscle that, alone with your Lyme treatments, will help you to overcome. Believing is a chore when nothing seems to change and your best efforts result in setbacks; on the other hand, it isn’t for nothing that we tout the mind to be a powerful thing.
Indeed, it is, and in my theology, even more so when combined with a belief in God’s spirit, working in you to will and to do, for your prosperity and peace.