I have been house-sitting in Costa Rica since November 10th. My current environment fits a preconceived vision I have nursed over the past two years about the perfect place to live with Lyme disease. I'm snuggled inside a ranch-style abode on the fringes of the rainforest, with no stairs to climb and no noisy or contentious family members or friends to live with. I'm a short distance to everything; my water filter, my supplements, my desk and bed, so I don't have to expend a lot of time and energy to move about. My neighbors are friendly and laid-back, as is the lifestyle here in the town of La Virgen de Sarapiqui. And the rainforest ensures an abundance of oxygen, which means that I have more stamina than back home. In my vision, and before I came here, I reassured myself that if I never healed from Lyme disease, then I would be okay spending the rest of my life in an environment such as this one, because it's relaxing, beautiful and clean. It demands so little of me physically and emotionally, and the cost of living is at least 2/3 of that of the United States.
But I had to come here to realize that my vision hasn't brought me the joy that I expected. I was right about some things. I feel better physically and life has been easier in some ways, but now that I'm settled, I know that I couldn't spend the rest of my Lyme life in this tranquil haven. While it is a greater effort for me to function in my inconvenient environment back home--I'm more tired, driving on Denver's crazy highways is a chore, and life is all about making it on time to the next appointment--I yet realize that my life back home brought me bits of happiness that I don't get here. Being able to relate to people of my own culture and spending time with other singles my age. Not having to chase ants and spiders off my computer every ten minutes. Not having to worry about power outages, water shortages and a decent internet connection, as I do here.
If you dream of being someplace else with Lyme disease, if you think that the key to your health resides in living on a tropical island or in a different environment, you may be right. At the same time, realize that the places you dream of are never what you imagine them to be. Difficulties abound no matter what and you will have challenges wherever you go, they will simply be different. Every situation is a trade-off. Life gives no free rice n' beans. Yes, some living situations will provide you with greater peace and opportunity to heal, especially if your current one is loaded with toxins, in the form of mold, chemicals or an abusive friend or family member. But beyond such considerations, know that the place where you imagine that you'd best heal from Lyme disease will also have its drawbacks, and it can take several months, if not longer, of living in a certain environment to know what these are.
Yes, that island of aquamarine waters and fresh breezes may be where it's at for you. You may heal faster in a home that's been built away from power lines. You may find greater happiness living in a community with other Lyme disease sufferers. You may believe that the wine in Italy, or the sunshine in California are the answer to your suffering. Just know that while you may benefit from being somewhere else, you will also have new burdens to bear. It's just the way life is. But if you can put those burdens on one end of the scale and the benefits of your perfect environment on the other, you may be able to more accurately discern whether it's worth it to pursue changing where, with whom, or how you live.
Photo: Parque Nacional Tayrona, Santa Marta, Colombia