September is Suicide Prevention Month, and as such is the perfect time to talk plainly about this “touchy” subject. Nothing is solved by staying quiet, so let’s start talking.
We’re not going to sugarcoat it or regurgitate inspiring tropes. Chronic Lyme sucks. As a result of both the physical and mental symptoms, many Lymies find themselves suicidal. Between the physical and mental implications of the disease, your entire life is turned upside down and thrown in the wood chipper.
Life with Lyme, though insanely hard, is still very much worth it. Educating yourself on the complications of Lyme, depression, and suicide before they overwhelm you is the key to winning this fight. Understanding why and how these things are affecting you won’t take them away, but it will prepare you for the coming onslaught.
Suicide Prevention and Chronic Lyme Depression
Here are 4 things those with Chronic Lyme should prepare for in the fight against suicide:
1) Misdiagnoses of Chronic Lyme
Chronic Lyme sufferers are rarely diagnosed with Lyme disease—if ever. In order to treat a disease properly, a doctor has to first diagnose the problem. According to the CDC, less than 10% of the overall number of cases are ever actually diagnosed and reported. Suffering from an unknown disease is both terrifying and defeating.
How are you supposed to be strong when you don’t even know what you’re being strong for? Pursuing a diagnosis, though exhausting, is first priority. Be prepared to be frustrated and let down during this process and know that it is normal to feel down or upset in ways you have never previously experienced in your life.
2) Physical Symptoms of Chronic Lyme
Fatigue, joint and muscle pain, fever, and restless sleep are all physical symptoms of Lyme. These are the indicators you can feel and explain. The ones you can point to and say, “listen to me, this is real!” Their tangibility is both a comfort and a curse. Because of this, the toll this constant pain takes on the body inevitably affects the mind.
Often times, the chronic pain that chronic illness sufferers bear is what leads them to taking their life. The pain becomes seemingly inescapable. This is why it is so important to find ways that help you forget about the constant physical pain you’re in.
3) Mental Symptoms of Chronic Lyme
While it is natural to feel sad or angry about your chronic illness, it is much more complicated with chronic Lyme. Chronic Lyme encompasses both physical and mental symptoms. Depression, anxiety, rage, mood swings, dissociation, panic disorder, paranoia and neuropathy are just some of the mental symptoms. These side effects are not as easy to explain or define. No one has to believe you when you say that you’ve been blue or even knows what that means compared to your normal level of sadness. They don’t have to be understanding when you fly off the handle in a Lyme rage and hurt their feelings. They don’t have any obligation to investigate or dig further when you say you don’t know if it’s worth it anymore.
Jimmy suffered the mental symptoms of Lyme.
Being unable to pinpoint whether these symptoms are coming naturally or are attributed to Lyme makes dealing with it even harder. There is no surefire cure for depression, just as chronic Lyme seems to have no end in sight.
So, if you can’t pin it down or explain it properly, how do you deal with depression?
Mental illness is a hard monster to tackle. Many people find comfort and healing in a variety of different places. Our highest recommendation is to schedule an appointment with a therapist. Don’t wait until it gets worse. Seek help now. Professionals can help talk through it, provide access to medication, and stock your arsenal with extremely helpful coping mechanisms.
Our second recommendation would be to tell someone that cares about you. Have them keep an eye on you. Sometimes those that love us can detect a difference before we can. Suicide Hotlines are always available. Numbers for a few of these will be provided below.
4) Loneliness, Isolation, Misunderstanding
Dealing with chronic Lyme is a rare, isolating thing. The people you can relate to diminish greatly in number, and your life changes drastically. Doctors are skeptical, friends disappear, and the physical and mental symptoms creep their way into every facet of life.
Reach out to the lyme community around you. Create ties to people who will truly understand through social media. Try your hardest to hold on to those who love you and are trying their best to help. When put in this situation, it’s easy to push people away, and take offense when help is offered. You’re right, they don’t understand. They don’t know what it’s like. That doesn’t mean, however, that they won’t be willing to learn.
Understanding why these things are happening to us doesn’t stop them from happening. Expecting the rage doesn’t make you less angry. Knowing the fatigue is settling in doesn’t make you less tired. Being prepared, however, allows the wave of hurt to come and go. Instead of being washed away, we will remain in the wake of it.
We want to help prepare each other for the devastating effects of chronic Lyme—and not just during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. If you’re not already part of our Lyme community, join now. We’re here to support you.
National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255