If you have ever tried to recover from a serious illness you may have heard the term “gray area.” While battling Chronic Lyme Disease everyone has to go through stages in order to get better. Recovering from this illness can seem insurmountable. This struggle not only challenges your body but it also tests your mind and spirit. As you attempt to return to the life you once had, you will spend a good portion of your time in the gray area. You will find that the black and white were the easy sections. It is the gray area that will kick your butt.
When you are at your sickest, you really don’t give a hoot about anything. You are so sick that all you can do is lie there and let the world continue to exist around you. You don’t care about eating, drinking, bathing or visiting with anyone. You don’t care about watching television, reading any newspapers or books, talking to anyone on the phone or answering any emails. The computer will sit there collecting dust because you simply don’t have the energy to type on the keyboard. All of the days turn into weeks and before you know it, months have passed by unnoticed. All you want to do is to keep breathing and to make it to the next day alive. This would be classified as the black area.
When you are completely recovered from your illness, you don’t have to suffer anymore. You are capable of eating and drinking without assistance now. You can shower without needing a chair anymore and you have the strength to bathe every day. Disease doesn’t dictate your life so you can visit with your friends, drive a car again and maybe even return to work. You find pleasure in reading, watching television, using your computer and talking on the telephone. You reach out to long lost friends whom you greatly missed during your convalescence. Socially you attend every function that you possibly can because you feel so good that you don’t want to miss a thing. This would be classified as the white area.
In between those two stages you must suffer through the worst stage of all…the GRAY AREA. This is the period of time that falls between when you are too sick to give a damn about anything and when you are so well that you are out celebrating with your friends. This gray area is the most difficult period to navigate. It is filled with frustration, disappointment, heartbreak, soul searching, celebration (for the small accomplishments), hard work, tears, encouragement, faith and love.
During the gray area we discover just how strong we truly are as human beings. We are forced to get up from our sickbeds and TRY to resume our lives. We attempt to walk again on limbs that shake with every step that we take. We force food down our resistant, parched throats even though each morsel feels like sandpaper traveling down our esophagus because without it we will die. We take our pills, drink our nasty green smoothies filled with the nutrients that our bodies need to fight this heinous disease, We open our eyes every day and face the overwhelming pain when we would rather just sink back into blissful sleep where the pain doesn’t exist. The gray area is relentless.
It never ends. It feels like we will never reach the white area. As much as we are happy to be out of the black area, it is no picnic to be living in the gray area. This section of recovery takes a monumental amount of work every day just to survive. We try to move forward and when we fail the discouragement is overwhelming. It gets harder and harder to try again. In the past when we failed at something, we just brushed ourselves off and said, “Tomorrow is another day, I will try it again.” But after three years of trying and failing, it gets more and more difficult to keep repeating that mantra. Psychologically, emotionally, physically, mentally…it is exhausting. However, we have no other choice. We must travel through the gray area if we are ever going to make it to the white area.
The willpower to live is a very strong thing. It pulls you from the depths of the black area. It makes you fight to walk away from the eternal light that is calling you towards the peace and comfort of no more pain, no more suffering. You have to be very strong to choose to stay on this earth when the end to your suffering is being held right there in front of you for the taking. However, if you know that your work here is not yet done, then you have to crawl your way through the gray area to make it through. No one promised you that it was going to be easy. You have to believe that there is a purpose for you to keep living.
So, if you find yourself in the gray area tonight do not fret. You are not alone. There are plenty of us standing right by your side. This is the hard part. We are all here with you, trying to rebuild our lives, learning to walk on trembling legs, struggling to eat solid foods without choking or feeling nauseated, battling the excruciating physical pain, shedding the tears of disappointment and failure, but still opening our eyes every day and saying, “I can do this.”
We will make it through the gray area together my friends. It is just a matter of time.