When I first went to a yoga workshop in the mid-1990s, I was struck with the life-changing sense of being in my body. Connecting to my breath without a benchmark to achieve or a solution to seek, I had my first inkling that perhaps my body was not a problem to be solved, but just my home. I was struck by how very new this feeling was.
Almost two decades later, Lyme really threw this sense for a loop. First, in the current political climate, no one will give you a chronic Lyme diagnosis. You have to fight the system and assert that you are not imagining your symptoms (and that they would not, in fact, happen just from stress). You have to find a specialist and pay a lot of money out of pocket for consultations and a tests. If you manage all of this, you still need to become an expert, researching the s**t out of the disease. This takes differentiating propaganda from research while contenting with an appalling dearth of actual studies. Going through horrifying experiences that no one can see? Dominant institutions not believing you? For so many of us who grew up in unsafe homes, these feelings can be all too familiar.
Is this sounding like a good time yet? It gets better. Most of the literature out there is profoundly alienating. It goes as far as to refer to people with chronic Lyme as “the host:” e.g., Lyme will adjust the temperature of the host to make it an ideal environment to reproduce. How is it to read this about what’s happening in your own body? I know I just wanted to crawl out of my own skin. Long shed notions that my body was against me crept back in through these awful times. The narratives of blame were all too familiar. Familiar, and a bloody lie.
If you have a chronic illness, your body is contending with an incredible amount of difficult things to process. Maybe you are contending with a virus, bacteria, or parasite. Maybe you have an auto-immune condition and your body is working really freaking hard, perhaps misguidedly, to protect you. You do not need to believe that you or your wounds are to blame. Maybe this condition is just happening because the world is a complex place that is full of intricate eco-systems: some support us, some are harmless, some get in our way. When I look into everything that takes place just for one breath to happen, it is no wonder that our systems sometimes go awry. You do not need to take on military metaphors of invasion or alienating notions that you are an incubator for a condition. Instead of buying into the alienating metaphors, I will keep returning to my yoga practice to cultivate a sense of love and reverence for how hard my body works for me.
No matter what you are going through, you are entitled to a loving way of understanding your own body. You are still entitled to cultivate a sense of home inside your own skin. It is your freaking birthright!