Guest blogger Erika Arens writes about her eight-year journey with tick-borne illness.
I am very fortunate. Five years of treatment for chronic Lyme has left me with mild and occasional pain in my hands and feet, intermittent muscle aches and sometimes a muscle twitch or two. Sleep is more elusive than it used to be but I’m also at an age where sleep proves a bit more elusive for many of us. If you’d have seen me three or four years ago, moaning in agony, relentless pain and dealing with panic attacks, memory loss, insomnia, major depression, crushing headaches, constant abdominal distress, dysgraphia…the list goes on, as most of you know all too well.
I contracted Lyme in Rhode Island in 2006. It took me over a year and a half to get properly diagnosed, despite a classic rash, and to begin treatment. Because I reside in Colorado, where Lyme is not prevalent, I had to travel to Pennsylvania and California for my initial treatment – although I eventually found an excellent LLMD here in my own state.
When I look back on those six and half years of pure hell and five years of massive antibiotics – sometimes up to four different ones at a time – as well as IVs, supplements, dietary restrictions, meditation, and various other therapies, I wonder why my treatment regimen was effective but why others aren’t so lucky. Much of it was a persistent quest for answers and for a return to health. You see, I didn’t blindly follow any doctor’s advice. I sought answers from multiple LLMDs as well as other health professionals. If one recommended another treatment, I discussed it with my own doctor to work it in to my treatment plan. I also questioned what she prescribed and why. I asked questions. I read every book I could get my hands on about healing Lyme and bolstering the immune system. I looked things up on the internet. And I formed a relationship with my doctor that allowed me to have a say in my own recovery. If I hadn’t, I’d still be very, very sick.
As it turned out, either the Lyme disease or the treatment I undertook triggered Celiac disease and many of the symptoms I was experiencing were a result of gluten poisoning my system. Instead of blindly trusting my Lyme doctor when she told me, “Lyme distresses the gut,” as more and more drugs poured into my system, I questioned everything and educated myself along the way. Eventually, I saw a gastroenterologist and sought other answers for my relentless gastrointestinal problems and extensive weight loss. I also regularly saw my general practitioner and kept her informed of my situation. Both were instrumental in getting the proper diagnosis of Celiac disease and treatment for this co-morbid condition that hampered my recovery and contributed to my symptoms.
During my Lyme treatment, I saw a variety of supportive health professionals, including a naturopath. She assisted me with nutritional support and supplements to bolster my immune system, restore my energy, and protect the delicate micro floral balance in my gut from the harsh antibiotics. There were also chiropractors, massage therapists, and even employees at Whole Foods who were well-educated in nutritional support and probiotics.
In addition, I read books about how the brain is instrumental in healing the body – the belief that I could and would be well once again. I meditated. I exercised as much as I could. For a year and a half I forced myself to walk a quarter mile a few times a week which resulted in days of excruciating muscle pain. Today, I am able to walk five miles a day and have begun to work in some jogging. I swim several times a week, too. When the weather permits, I’ll take my dusty bike down from the ceiling in the garage, clean it off, and start riding again. Last year, I accomplished a personal goal of walking 1,000 miles. There wasn’t a single day that I didn’t think of all the Lyme patients out there still suffering. When I started this journey, I could only walk a tenth of a mile.
My point is this…leave no stone unturned in your pursuit of wellness and don’t assume it’s all Lyme. Your body might be a mess from Lyme attacking your system but you need to support it fully. Gentle movement and exercise is crucial. Proper nutrition and supplementation are vital. Keep an open mind. Search for support. Seek out answers. And, do this with a sense of balance and scrutiny. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is – and if it sounds too wacky, it probably is that, too.
Healing from Lyme is an exceedingly arduous journey but one that you needn’t take alone. Find a support group. Many hold meetings, if you are able to attend and others provide online support. Read as much as you can about your disease, treatment options, alternatives and supportive therapies and decide what’s right for you. Finally, don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. There are different approaches to treating chronic Lyme. Find one that works for you and that you believe in. Look past the immediate with trust and hope for a healthier tomorrow. Question everything and stretch beyond yourself to reach your goals.
You’re stronger than you imagine. Leave no stone unturned in your quest to be well. And that journey of 1,000 miles? Well, you know the rest…so keep putting one foot in front of the other.