I was in a yoga class last Tuesday afternoon, August 30th, 2016. I had spent an hour “opening up” (insert: eye roll), breathing, and getting in touch with the silence and stillness of my body, feeling so grateful for how far I’ve come on my way to wellness. After savasana, I felt all calm and centered, all like “mmm namaste.” Slowly packing up my mat and water bottle, I swiped my phone out of airplane mode simultaneously driving my energy to erratic and off-center. A message from my cousin immediately popped up that read, “I’m sure you’ve heard the news. Will you be at the funeral?” PANIC. I hadn’t heard the news. I was about to hear the news. My 23-year-old cousin passed away tragically in the earliest hours of Tuesday morning. “Passed away” suggests some sort of peaceful movement into another realm, but, I can assure you, nothing about it felt peaceful. Not to me. For me, it was more of a disorienting impact, like when those cartoon characters see stars after getting hit really hard. I couldn’t breathe. The same room I had just gotten all namaste in, held space for my hysterical tears. I immediately thought of his mother—notably one of my favorite people on this planet— and his brother. My heart aches deeply for them. I made a fierce and confident decision in that moment, on my knees in tears, that no matter what, I would be at the funeral. Yes, I knew it was across the country, I knew my health wasn’t super stable, and I knew that I was super short on cash, but I also knew that I WOULD be there. My (almost) three-year long struggle with Lyme disease has taught me a thing or two or three or four about compassion, about humanity, and about empathy. Well “you” taught me, actually. You know who you are—all of the people who have had my back again and again and again over the last couple of years—you’re the reason I know how necessary it is to show up. After I pulled myself together from the shock of the news—out of the hysterics, floating into more a cloudy daze of confusion—I got in my car and drove home to look up airline tickets. Apparently, I had spoken too soon and too confidently. The cheapest ticket was $930.00, and painfully out of my price range. And yet, I went, and I went fully available to my family. How in the fuck, you ask? Because just when I thought I had been shown my fair share of love in this lifetime, I was proven wrong, love saved the day. . . again. As it turns out, there might not be a shortage on that shit.
I’ve always been way more comfortable in the role of care-taker. I truly believed that I didn’t need— “you” clearly needed love and support and help, but, me? I’d be just fine. I’m tough enough, I can take it, I thought. As a kid, I would watch my brother or mother suffer under my father’s cruelty and wish/pray that I could just trade places with them, thinking that I had some sort of magical armor that they didn’t. I played that role for a good long while— giving, giving, giving until I used up all of my energy, got Lyme disease and had nothing left to give. OK, I had to stop giving, but I certainly wasn’t going to ask for anything. GASP. How could I? I would just take care of myself, like I always had.
I continued working as a waitress (I don’t suggest this) to desperately try to pay bills. I refused almost every offer of accompaniment to the doctor, assuming I would just need a couple of months and lots of antibiotics to get back to my “normal life.” Without my asking, a couple of friends jumped in over this short period— my dear friend ran a $1,500 fundraiser so I could cover some antibiotics, another friend took me to one doctor’s appointment, my mom paid for a months worth of an intramuscular antibiotic, and my boyfriend held me while I cried a few times. I thought, at that point, that I had used up my predetermined supply of love, help, and support one gets in this lifetime; as though, upon entering the world, we are handed an allotted number of chips or tickets, and each time we are loved, we hand one in, making us want to “save them for a rainy day.”
My storm came. I took a nose dive into the unfathomable darkness of Lyme disease and multi systemic chronic illness. If I was going to get well or survive, I was going to NEED help—next-level help. I certainly didn’t know how to ask or what to even ask for. It seemed like I needed too much—like I’d probably die waiting for my needs to be met. Finding myself in fetal position, terrified and disturbed, I whispered out into the universe, “please.” Just. . . please. Looking back, it seems like all I had to do—once I surrendered to reality— was sit back and ACCEPT what people were offering me. Here is just a glimpse into what people have done for me over the last two years:
You fed me : One friend flew across the country just to cook me batches of healthy food. My freezer was full of cauliflower soup, lentil stew, lamb burgers, tzatziki sauce, and carrot ginger dressing. Another friend delivers me groceries or home-made meals during every single IVIG treatment. I’ve been treated to countless lunches, dinners, green juices, and smoothies. I have been sent gift cards to Whole Foods or Gelsons just…randomly. I’ve opened my front door to surprise packages from friends and family chock full of nutritious sustenance—from meat, to protein bars, to nuts and tea. hehe. My boyfriend has spoon-fed me / force-fed me more times than I can count, and my family—oh, my lovely family that knows nothing about the insane diet I’m on worked their asses off last time I saw them to meet my dietary restrictions. THANK YOU.
You tucked me in: I kid you not, I have been rocked to sleep. My back has seen many loving hands, and my forehead has been calmly caressed by countless. I have been sung to, massaged, and even CHANGED into pajamas. YUP. Those were the days…when I’d be so sick I couldn’t take my own pants off. More than one person has changed me into comfortable clothing. More than one person has seen to it that I fell asleep. More than one person offered their bed or couch or arms when I needed comfort. THANK YOU.
You STILL take me to the doctor: In extreme ways and not so extreme ways, I have been taken to the doctor. One woman who suffers her own struggle with Lyme disease, took me to get blood drawn before she ever even met me a couple of years ago. Other friends held my hand for blood draws or took me to the doctor when I simply COULD NOT do it alone anymore. And then there were three special people who did long-term treatments with me. One friend took me to Florida and did a week-long doctor visit with me. He wheeled me around in a wheel chair so I could be a tourist in between doctor appointments and bedtime. Another friend traveled to Indonesia with me for two months, reading me books, singing to me, and cooking for me while all of my blood got removed, restored, and returned. My boyfriend met us during that treatment and has sat through days and day and days of IVIG treatment with me and doctor’s visits and ER visits with me, entertaining me with things like, “Heads up.” THANK YOU.
You paid my way: We raised over $18,000 to help cure me. I think about 300 people donated to my health. 300 people! Each one of those souls played a part in my recovery. Some people donated 1,000 dollars and other donated 5.00 and every penny cracked me open a little more, showing me just how abundant love is. I needed every cent that came my way, and I still do. A sweet friend of mine just purchased me a very expensive air purifier that I couldn’t afford, my aunt and uncle got me a much-needed new pair of shoes, and my mama buys me supplements. I wouldn’t have had a chance in hell without your help. A certain “you” gifted me a laptop. UH, THANKS. And a certain “you” gifted me crazy expensive supplements, coffee enema supplies, meals, and striaght-up cash. THANK YOU.
You LOVE me: You have listened to me, you have let me cry on your shoulder, you have had endless compassion and kindness for me. You have talked to me for hours, given me advice, loaned me special weird healing things, cried with me, cried for me, sent loving texts, made me laugh, came to visit, taken me for walks, called to check in, skyped with me, and cheered me the fuck on. THANK YOU.
That’s just grazing the surface of the last two years. Here’s what happened in one day:
Last Tuesday, August 30th, 2016, I sat talking to two of my favorite humans about my cousin’s passing, “I don’t know what to do,” I said, “I want to be with my family, but I don’t know how to get there. I can’t afford it. It hurts to be so far away.” And one of those women, a woman who knows too much about death, said, “do you want me to put it on my credit card?” Just as I was saying “no. . . that’s too much..” my other friend casually said, “Why don’t I see if I have miles.” I’m still not super good at accepting help. I STILL think I’ve used up my fair-share so instead of saying, “oh that’d be great, thank you,” I was more like, “well. I mean. If you’d be willing and..” awkward weird space-filling chatter and shifting and nail-biting. While I got weird, she found a flight and booked it. When I said, “you’re an incredible human,” she said, “nah, just a human. You’ll do it for someone else one day.” Two people were willing to get me to my cousin’s funeral. And two other people helped me pack/decide what to wear, AND another person drove me to the airport at 4:30 in the morning the next day. I swear all I did was whisper please.
I landed in South Carolina on Thursday afternoon, walking into the heartbreak. I’m wordless. I just love them so much, and I don’t know what else to say about it. I watched person after person flood the home of his mother with food, flowers, and hugs. I watched her struggle to accept all of the kindness. I watched people step up and pay for expensive and necessary things because death is not only so heartbreaking for the loved ones, but it is also bank-breaking. Grief is not a weekend deal. It goes on for a long, long time and so should support.
Before I left, I told my his mother, “keep accepting the help. Everyone wants to help you. Let them.” She looked at me and said, “But I’ve already gotten so much help over the last year.” She has been in the throes of her own serious health struggle this year. “There’s no point at which you’ve used up help, support and love. There’s always more,” I said. And I KNOW that to be true because of what “you” have shown me.
For some reason, I still slip back into thinking that I’ve used up my chips. I landed back in LA around 1 am on Sunday night and, get this, two different friends offered to pick me up from the airport. At 1 am! Just when I thought I’ve had enough, my phone rings, a text comes through, a note comes in the mail, someone donates to my fundraiser, or I get a much needed hug.
I love you, my friends and family. I only hope I can give back an iota of what’s been given to me. Thank you, Lyme disease, for giving me an opportunity to learn about love so that I can show up during this trying time. And *please*, if you read this and know my family, show up for them right now and in the months to come. It takes a freakin village and every single person counts, every single hand, counts. And, I beg of you (I’m not whispering now) if YOU are the person who needs help, ask for it. Ask anyone.Because shame is deadly.
Here is my cousin’s memorial fund.
love upon love upon love,