[I met Christy when her family moved to the Texarkana area when I was in the 7th grade. We were both on the basketball team and her mother was our coach. We would travel together for meets and Christy was always the tallest one on our team, so she was often counted on to make the win. One time we had a team sleepover at her parents’ house and I was enchanted with their home in the country. We kept up through high school, but didn’t talk much, but I have always admired her family and their honest approach to Christianity. The kind that you work and live in. When I heard that she was moving back to the area I just knew she was going to do some amazing things, because she always does amazing things, but I am not sure that anything would prepare me for what I learned in talking to her this summer. . . ]
When we moved to Texarkana, I lived so far out in the country I didn’t have a lot of friends to hang out with. I was on the swim team and I was always swimming.
I grew up in a home that was very uncertain. My dad was an alcoholic. He was often abusive to my mom. So growing up in that environment, I kind of learned to numb-out to a lot of things that happened to me. So if bad things happened to me, it didn’t effect me the way, perhaps it would affect someone who grew up in a nicer home.
I went through a lot of my life just being numb, and not being super close with people. I learned to have a really tough exterior that I presented to people. Because I was so tall and muscular, I think a lot of people thought they could be more brutally honest with me. But I was still very sensitive and people hurt my feelings a lot. So I dealt with a lot of hostility that other people didn’t have to deal with.
In college I went through a lot of abuse from other swimmers because I was a christian athlete. My coach was a Buddhist and he did not accept my Christianity.
There was a point in my swimming career, where I was into the party scene and then there was a point where I would get back with God, and when I did that, then there would be a lot of backlash from my teammates. So I dealt with this struggle of wanting people to like me, and yet, the more Christian I was, the more backlash there was. It got to a point to where my coach would not place me where I was supposed to be placed based on my abilities. Another girl and I would be put in completely different meets than the rest of the team. My coach wouldn’t let me lift weights with the other swimmers on a team. And when you are working out 4 hours a day doing grueling, grueling workouts and how hard it is, to have those constant attacks, feeling that every day, it is very very hard. It is very, very isolating.
At the same time, my dad had checked himself into a clinic to get help. My mom was let go from her teaching position for 15 years. There was a lot going on back home and there wasn’t much I could do about it. Because I had to train every Christmas in Hawaii for three weeks.
One day while we were in Hawaii, my coach got mad at one of the other swimmers and then made everyone else go to their rooms. I went to my room but then I went and talked to a friend outside my dorm room and saw my coach, who was talking with the security guard about the previous incident. My coach saw me and started yelling me and asking me why I wasn’t in my room. So I went into my dorm room but the door did not close behind me and the next thing I knew, he was in my room with his hand around my neck, choking me.
The other girls in the room screamed at him to stop. Finally he did let go.
At that point it was a very pivotal point for me. I had been fighting so hard to be this Christian and live this Christian life, and it felt like everything was against me. That was my junior year. I had the position to leave, and get him in trouble, but the seniors were putting pressure on me to not say anything. It’s really hard for a swim team to change coaches, especially for seniors.
After three weeks I went home. I didn’t say anything to the athletic director. But when I came back I got really sick and I had to see the athletic trainer. He must have heard what happened because he said,
I know why you are sick. You are sick because you are stressed out.
He had me talk to a counselor and then they called the athletic director in the office. Because of my childhood, I just learned to forgive and forget and so I just wanted it to go away. I totally dumbed it down. So nothing happened to him and I went through my senior year of college and I just tried to survive. I wish I had done things differently. I wish I had done a lot of things differently. But I just wanted it to go away.
So then, I married a guy who went to Wisconsin. At the time, he was everything that I didn’t think I wanted. He was quiet, and a little bit shorter than me, but I would look at him, and to me, I just saw him as the perfect person. Like, this is the person I should marry. We got married and we had two beautiful children. He wanted to stay in Wisconsin. But after a few years, some reasons brought us back to Texarkana, and then we ended up getting divorced.
I did remarry nine months ago. Whenever you marry for the second time and both of you are established, it is completely different and there are a lot different things to work through. You both come into the marriage with past hurts and expectations and your own boundary lines, then it is like you cross this, then you have walls that you don’t let people penetrate and then you have NO tolerance for those boundaries to be crossed.
We go to a blended family bible study on Wednesdays. We talk to people who have been through it. It helps a lot knowing that we aren’t alone, that other people have done it and come through on the other side. You start letting the devil tell you lies. When you are doing OK, then something happens and then another something happens–We will think we are doing good, and then something will happen with the kids and then we become mama bear and papa bear to our own kids and then we are fighting.
We fortunately have a great great church. We started going to a pastor and his wife and started talking to another husband and wife who were also blending a family. I think having that family as a connection that I can talk to and say – am I way off base for having this problem, etc. – just the validation that it is not just me and it is not just Nick, is really helpful.
It definitely takes a village.
In about August of 2016, I was training for a triathalon and training to be a swim coach at the St. Michael’s Hospital. We had a lot of good people on our team so it was a lot of fun. We ended up swimming at A&M and we were breaking national records.
But at the end of the day, my body was throbbing and my shoulder started hurting really bad. I thought, oh, I’m just old–and I just sort of brushed it off. But a week later I was getting done with a practice and I felt So HOT. I took my temperature, and it was 103. I thought , oh it is hot outside. I started brushing all of these weird things off.
Normally after going to the gym you feel awesome. I would finish working out and feel like a Mack truck just hit me. I would wake up drenched. I would feel like I had a flu. Back aches and neck aches. I thought, maybe I am just coming down with something.
I was dating Nick at the time and I walked over to his house and my hands were shaking. Maybe I just drank too much coffee. I brushed it off again.
I finally went to my doctor and I said, I think either I have cancer or I have MS. He laughed and said, you don’t have either. I said something is wrong with me and you better figure it out. So he did some blood work. These things came back elevated, my white blood count was high, a few things were weird. The only thing he commented on was the low blood sugar. I had never had any blood work done that wasn’t normal. I went back to him that he needed to figure out what was wrong with me. I knew I had never had blood sugar. I am not going to accept that I just need to drink water or eat. Because I just had three eggs and toast and water and coffee.
The doctor said, I am also going to add west nile and lyme diseasse to the blood tests. I had never even heard of lyme diesease before but I said ok.
A little while later I got a phone call: “Hey Christy, Dr. Bowen wants to talk to you about your results. Now when you hear something like that, your stomach sinks and you just think, well I have cancer or I have ms, or whatever. But instead he said, well you have lyme disease -it looks like a more recent disease, so we should be able to treat it with no problem.
I went home relieved, but then I went to look on Google. I joined some groups and then my heart just sank. It just sank. I had found out that the 21 days of antibiotics were not going to be good enough to treat my condition. I asked him to give me more but he would not. He referred me to an internal medicine doctor in Little Rock. I learned that you have to find a special doctor for this disease. So eventually I found a lyme doctor 3 and a half hours away in Louisiana.
The doctor put me on 3 antibiotics and a bunch of different supplements and another doctor put me on holistic supplements. I was on antibiotics for a year and a half and it still wasn’t gone. It would come in waves, like I would feel OK for weeks and then I would be pretty sick for a couple weeks.
Through that, I had lost a couple jobs. I wasn’t well enough to work. I couldn’t work a couple of hours before my fever would spike and I started feeling like – – this is how my life is going to be for the rest of your life. For someone who is active and wants to be outside all the time, this is like having your legs chopped off.
I would like to say I had support, but –no one really understands what you are going through. Nick would try but he didn’t really understand. This disease can cause lyme rage, psychosis, a lot of different problems, or anxiety. I would get anxious with him and he would not accept that it was part of my behavior and it called a lot of problems and with the stresses of divorce and custody, it was just almost too much.
So when I had lost my house and then when you come to a point when I would think about not continuing to live anymore, it had gotten that bad. I didn’t have any money left, and when that happens you start looking for other solutions.
I was trying to go through my real estate license and it was very difficult. My brain was not working right and things would not compute into my head. And yet somehow, I got through it, and I became a realtor last May. Things started to change around. Nick and I got married in September. we got pregnant and had a miscarriage. Then either the week before or the week after my miscarriage, my ex husband served me saying he wanted complete custody of the children,
The more strains you have, the more severe your symptoms are. the more long term damage it causes a lot of people commit suicide because it is like living in hell on a constant basis.
The doctors you see are cash only. So it is a very expensive disease and it is very lonely. So people start looking at you like–This Person Is Crazy. There is no way that a little tick can cause that many people to get sick– There have been times I said I wished I had cancer. Most people are sympathetic to cancer. It is covered by your insurance. There is support. Lyme disease is a lot harder. It is more of a loner disease than anything else. I mean obviously cancer is horrible. But when people have cancer, it evokes some thing from people. Almost everyone knows what cancer does to a person. But anything else, there is some judgment that comes along with it, like what was your problem that you got this. What is wrong with you that you got divorced. There is a lot of doubt and misjudgment.
I had both of my kids tested for lyme disease because it can be transmitted. Tyler came back with a couple of strains, but not specific to lyme. He had some antibodies of phlagella and antibodies of a nonspecific inflammation of some form. He didn’t have the one certain to lyme disease, so it was kind of vague. The tests are kind of unreliable, so I took another test, but his father refuses to accept that he has lyme disease – – it becomes a paranoia for me – is he going to be sick – is he going to have to go through what I have to go through?
Tyler was bitten by another tick last week and his dad removed it and his dad is refusing to treat him. He has accused me of different things. The attacks never stop. I don’t expect that they ever will.
I was having a really hard time a couple days ago, so I went into my daughters room, and I just felt like God was going to give me the words and promise that I need to stand on. We are going into court a couple of weeks ago and I just got served the papers for it. Reading through that and all the emotions, I closed my eyes and asked god to send me what I could stand on. I have always had a relationship with God, but usually my relationship with God is strongest when I am struggling. Usually God will let me go flat on my back to get my attention. So now I have kind of gotten to this point that I don’t have to be brought to my knees in order to have a relationship with God.
From my Bible study book I came to 1 John 4:4.
“For he who is in me is stronger than he who is in the world.”
I was like oh my gosh. I don’t need to be scared. My God is stronger than my ex-husband. He is stronger than my lyme disease. I don’t have to be scared. It was so comforting.
As I think about it, it’s amazing how God does things. You might think he was taking me away from my job but he was leading me to something better with the real estate. I say to myself, if any of my story can help someone else, or if it can help someone else then maybe it is worth it. So I try to be a huge advocate for the exposure and prevention of lyme disease. I believe that in 10 years 8 out of 10 people will have some form of lyme disease — and I had a mild case.
I had to go through quicksand to get through, but I got through it. I don’t remember who says it, but somewhere in the scriptures the Lord doesn’t say it is going to be easy, but he says it is going to be worth it.
So, just know that it can be quicksand for a while, but it will get better. Something will turn around. Something will help you understand the reasons. Just keep your faith. Keep up the servant heart. That is what God loves, and that is what God will reward.