When I was younger, before I was diagnosed with Lyme disease I was losing a battle with the Lyme Monster in a war I had no idea I was fighting. Lyme is evil, there is no other word for it but evil. Because it’s not just a disease of one area, you never know what’s actually happening to you or why. When I was in my 20’s I was losing the battle. Lyme comes with a range of psychiatric reactions too. Some experiences including paranoia, dementia, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, major depression, anorexia nervosa, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are common with Lyme disease. Studies have 26% to 66% of Chronic Lyme patients suffering from depression.
As my body grew weaker with the disease, my heart and soul did as well. I was going through a really hard time in my personal life, trying to be a single mother and grow up at the same time. I didn’t have any friends to turn to and I felt like there were times I really just wanted to give up and sleep forever. I look back now and just want to hug 23-year-old Me and tell her what was wrong and how someday soon it would get better and she would have answers.
One of the favorite attacks the Lyme Monster used against me was attacking my adrenal system and hormones. Not only was I having a hard time moving around, remembering things, keeping my emotions in check, and staying awake.. but my body began to put on weight as well. My self-esteem just took a massive blow. After the birth of my third child I watched in horror as weight gathered in places and refused to budge no matter how much I watched my diet and tried to work out. The pain of working my muscles at the gym would last for days and ache deep and hot. Exhaustion after going to the gym was mind numbing and all I wanted was to sleep so I didn’t hurt anymore. And like anyone else, after putting myself through so much pain daily and feeling so run down, I pulled away from the gym too.
Lyme is a sick bastard, it tears at your self-esteem, your personality, and your body. I had to learn how to fight on a different level. I am always fighting it. I know that when I give in, even for a day, I will feel worse for much longer.
I know I am not alone in my fight against Lyme. Robert C. Bransfield, MD found in his study of Lyme disease that depression is the most common psychiatric syndrome associated with late stage Lyme disease, like I have. Although depression is common in any chronic illness, it is more prevalent with Lyme patients. There appears to be multiple causes, including a number of psychological and physical factors.
From a psychological standpoint, many Lyme patients are psychologically overwhelmed by the large multitude of symptoms associated with this disease. Most medical conditions primarily affect only one part of the body, or only one organ system. As a result, patients singularly afflicted can do activities which allow them to take a vacation from their disease. In contrast, multi-system diseases such as Lyme, depression, chronic Lyme disease can penetrate into multiple aspects of a person’s life. It is difficult to escape for periodic recovery. In many cases, this results in a vicious cycle of disappointment, grief; chronic stress, and demoralization.
It should be noted that depression is not only caused by psychological factors. Physical dysfunction can directly cause depression. Endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism, which cause depression, are sometimes associated with Lyme disease and further strengthen the link between Lyme disease and depression.
Suicide is the weapon that Lyme uses to finish us off. Sadly suicidal tendencies occur in approximately 1/3 of Lyme encephalopathy patients. Few of us are ever free of the thought of helping out the disease and sleeping forever.
The Jarish-Herxheimer reaction is hell and it’s a hell we will go through for the rest of our lives. When in treatment, the Lyme fights back and it wants you to think you are dying and even worse.. it wants you to help it take you down. Some patients have described becoming suddenly aggressive without warning. For me, antibiotic doses have to be increased very gradually or else suicidal thoughts and depression swim in my head constantly and I beg for help. I’ve felt as if the antibiotics were actually killing me with each dose and would beg my husband not to make me take another dose.
But please, don’t think that Lyme will always win. Medications are out there to help with this part of your disease as they helped with mine. After suffering from terrible tremors and body vibrations, my doctor suggested a low dose of Sertraline daily to help settle the nerves in my body and keep my system from going into a hormonal panic attack. It works, really. I have more energy and strength to keep fighting. And I am not going to let it take me down, nor help it win.
I am not my Lyme. I am a beautiful strong artistic woman who loves her children and husband dearly, enough to keep fighting through the pain.
Please, if you have these thoughts and need someone to talk to. I am here and there are others who are waiting to help you too.
- Brewer family establishes fund to aid those with Lyme disease (bangordailynews.com)
- May is Lyme disease Awareness Month (grandrapidsmosquitosquad.wordpress.com)
- Chuck Norris defends kids from crippling disease (wnd.com)
- Calling for the Hon. Deb Matthews resignation ASAP (lymedout.wordpress.com)
- Request A Test Announces New Lyme Disease Testing Services (prweb.com)
- The Lyme Twilight Zone (crashingedge.wordpress.com)
- The Bleach-Wielding Lyme Monster (lifeinthelymelight.wordpress.com)