Taking a Gap Year

Taking a year off.

What does that mean for a Chronic Lyme Disease victim?

To be completely honest, I have no idea exactly what it means, but I’m sure that I will figure it out.

7aa01f7b02dc345383fd3a27c6f52410My gap year may not be the ideal situation, the perfect plan, or most productive time. This next year will consist of an unprecedented amount of prayer, throwing all of my trust into God, and giving my body a chance to heal.

Deferring from college is the best option for me, right now.

Why?

Because it is. Because when I lay in bed all day and have no energy to move, how would I be able to walk to class? Because when I take 3 hour naps regularly, how would I be able to keep a consistent schedule? Because when I have wacky sleeping hours, how would I be rested enough to learn? Because when being out for 4 hours makes me completely exhausted, how would I be able to keep up with activities on campus?

This gap year will allow me to get strong and healthy. I will once again feel refreshed after sleeping 8 hours, and I will once again have the ability to concentrate for 2 hours of class. This gap year will give me the opportunity to catch my breath (literally – shortness of breath has hit me hard lately) and get my feet back underneath me. I will once again be able to participate with enthusiasm, and I will once again have endurance to keep up with the academic work load.

Being diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease changed my life in more ways than I could’ve imagined. It’s not an easy thing to deal with, every day is different (even if everyday consists of Netflix and sleeping), and each victim has their own battle.

IMG_7465My battle consists of being robbed of my senior of high school, and my dream being postponed. (Check out my blog post regarding that dream here.) My battle with Lyme Disease does not define who I am, it’s just a part of the story that defines me. I am not Lyme Disease, Lyme disease just happens to be a part of my physical being. I’ve had to tell myself repeatedly, “I’m not giving into this disease, I’m being strong enough to know that my body needs to heal.”

Back to the gap year. What does taking a gap year mean when you’re sick, exhausted and in pain?

Well, lets start with the fact that I don’t have ANY expectations. I have dreams and ideas, but expectations and plans don’t always get met or don’t always go the way I wanted. I’ve learned that with expectations come frustration and negativity. But, I’ve also learned that with an open mind and flexibility comes happiness and positivity. Therefore, I plan to continue this year with an open mind and an abundance of flexibility.

I have ideas of what I would like to do with this next year, but I know that I can’t get those ideas too set into my head because chances are, I’ll be let down by the failure to complete said idea. I want to remain as positive as possible this year and to do that, I need to stay light on my feet and keep a wide open mind.

So, what do I want to do? What are my ideas for this year?

I want to get back into my yoga routine (more than 10 minutes a day),  I want to start riding my bike again, I want to try running again, I want to continue to blog about my life and what inspires me to keep going forward, I want to continue to take pictures and I want to get better with the camera, I want to get involved in my community and/or church, I want to visit people in MN and I want to have fun while I’m there, I want to visit UPS and I want to meet my future classmates, I want to explore Georgia, I want to get healthy, I want to rid my body of Lyme, I want to build endurance, I want to bake more, I want to be more crafty/creative, I want to build my faith, I want to strengthen my relationship with Christ, I want to trust God more, I want to learn more about Lyme disease, I want to do the best I can.

IMG_9520It’s kind of like a bucket-list, an open bucket-list; if I don’t get the chance to do something, that’s okay, I just move on and find something else to do.

Taking a gap year with no real plan is scary.

Why?

Because people judge me. I don’t have a real job (I nanny and babysit a few days a week for a few hours), I don’t have a real plan, it’s difficult to explain why I’m taking a gap year, it’s exhausting explaining my situation. It’s scary because it’s not necessarily traditional and it’s hard to justify sometimes. It’s scary because I want to be learning and I want to be exploring. It’s scary because making connections and building relationships is tiring and seems impossible at times.

With Lyme Disease, what does taking a gap year look like?

I am going to guess it looks something like this:

  • laying in bed all day
  • watching Netflix all day
  • binge watching stupid shows
  • finding weird movies to watch when you don’t feel like being productive
  • doing your best to detox, even when you know it makes you feel like crap (a.k.a epsom salt baths)
  • waking up at noon everyday because your body doesn’t know how to function without at least 11 hours of sleep
  • making sure you take your meds EVERYDAY
  • getting out of bed on the days when you feel okay
  • getting out of the house on the days when you feel good
  • eating good food for your body (when you don’t feel nauseous)
  • drinking lots of water (I take my water bottle EVERYWHERE I go)
  • blogging or journaling about your days, symptoms, people, events, thoughts
  • exercising/getting your heart rate up to stay in shape
  • sitting on Pinterest all day, dreaming about your future
  • online shopping, because who’s got the energy to actually go shopping
  • going shopping when you have the energy
  • making sure you’re on time to various appointments
  • falling asleep after a day out
  • talking to fellow Lymies about Lyme disease, but also about random stuff that makes you laugh and smile
  • talking to the few people who you’ve stayed in touch with
  • FaceTiming late at night, because what else are you supposed to do when you can’t sleep?
  • cuddling with pets
  • making lists of things to do for when you feel good enough to do them
  • finding places to go take pictures for when you feel good enough
  • finding music that lifts my spirits
  • singing along to my favorite songs
  • finding reasons to laugh and smile, even if it’s at the Friends episode that I’ve seen a hundred times

There are lots more things that I’m sure I missed, but that’s just a start to a list that outlines what taking a gap year with Chronic Lyme Disease looks like.

Taking a gap year for the sole purpose of getting healthy isn’t glamorous in any way. It may be relaxing for a short while, but soon it gets frustrating, tiring, and annoying. I feel restless, but I’m incapable of doing anything about it. I feel trapped, not just by the house, but by my body. I feel excluded, not by the lack of a social life, but by life itself. Taking a gap year will test my patience and my will to cooperate with God’s plan. Taking a gap year will teach me to listen to my body more than I ever have before. Taking a gap year will give me the opportunity to try new activities, to broaden my knowledge base, and to learn more about life in general. Taking a gap year will show me life without structure, a frightening but freeing thought.

IMGP9083It’s really hard to see all of my friends go off and do their ‘thing’ at their respective college. I’m so happy for everyone and I know that I will be there sometime soon. I know that taking a gap year is what’s best for me and I have come to terms with this year’s plan: to get healthy, but it still makes me sad to think about the fact that college freshmen all over the country are getting settled in and finding their way around their new home.

I am surprisingly grateful for moving this summer. At this point, I still get to explore a new area, I have the opportunity to make new connections, and I have a blank canvas for various adventures and lessons.

Taking a year off with Chronic Lyme Disease means: listening to my body, putting all of my trust into God, having faith in the unknown, staying mentally sane, and doing my best to get healthy and strong.

Xoxo,

Elise Hendrickson

“She is tossed by the waves, but does not sink.”

P.S. To my fellow Lymies who just need to not do anything for a while, don’t feel bad about taking time off, don’t regret the time off. You need to do what’s best for your mind and body. I always say, do what makes your heart happy, and if taking care of yourself makes your heart happy, then do it. Rest and relax, get your feet back on the ground and just walk for a bit, no need to sprint. Who cares if people don’t understand, it’s not their your life, and the way you live your life has absolutely no effect on the way their life ends up. Us Lymies have got to stick together, and for now we will just relax and get strong together. Stay strong, and keep on keepin’ on!

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