My P.S.A. for Summer
We have all seen the signs, heard the public service announcements: Wear sunscreen to protect against skin cancer, or bug spray to protect myself against West Nile and now Zika. but what about those tiny disgusting bugs known as ticks? What about Lyme Disease?
Growing up in New Hampshire, I knew their was always a possibility. Sure I had found ticks after hiking mountains. Usually I would freak out, scream bloody murder, and flick it to the far reaching corners of the room so someone else could squash the little buggers.
I never really thought about Lyme disease. I knew they could carry it, but it seemed like a nightmare to haunt my sleep then actual reality.
Moving to New York, I knew I had to be careful when I visited Connecticut, or the countryside, but again I never worried about walking through Central Park, or lying in tall grass at Carl Shurz. It never seemed that prevalent. Ebola, seemed more scary then Lyme.
That all changed a year ago in December, when I became incredibly sick, fevers, chills, fatigue, body aches, upper and lower respiratory including the most baffling of all, a cough which I dubbed the Smokers Cough.
Every doctor had a different diagnoses, and most of the symptoms would come and go, except for The Smokers Cough. I invested in every cough medicine ever created. Tried every inhaler known to human kind. Nothing worked.
I would be in class trying to Om my way to blissful peace and in the middle start hacking up a lung.
For eight straight months this went on. Steroids, antibiotics, inhalers, no one knew what it was. I tried to go on with life as best I could, but it was difficult.
Taking Russian during my Spring Semester, I had to get up and give an oral presentation as part of my final. For weeks, I was in tears, stressed out and anxious over how I was going to speak. It was bad enough to teach yoga and give cues with my cough. But to do so in another language where emphasis is on guttural sounds and throaty noises. Impossible.
I even contemplated dropping the class, and taking an incomplete, which would have been a first for me. I NEVER failed. At ANYTHING. My type A personality wouldn’t allow myself too. It was not my finest moment, but I made it through, thanks to lots of tea, water and cough drops.
Instead of feeling accomplished, I just felt even more defeated. My favorite time of the year was approaching, and it felt like my life was crashing down.
I have always struggled with depression and anxiety, especially during the winter months. Now it seemed it was becoming a way of life.
After coming through so much in prior years. Working to accept my body, to love it and nourish it, it felt like my body had decided to reject me. I couldn’t even do the things that made me sane, like running and yoga, without feeling like I was going to collapse. Living in a walk up, albeit only three floors, my studio that I had come to love so much, felt like I was walking the plank to my prison.
A huge part of me felt ashamed. More so even then when I had battled my eating disorder. I needed to suck it up, but I had reached the point where even I, the queen of faking it, could not anymore.
My friend was renting a house for the Fourth of July in York, Maine. Mentally I was so excited. Physically I felt sick and exhausted. The weak part of myself wanted to cancel, but I refused.
I honestly have no idea how I made it through that weekend. Monday I was meeting a friend, and again part of me was begging for her to cancel, so I wouldn’t have to admit how weak I was.
That morning I had woken up with a pounding headache, but I pushed through going to the beach, and then for a boat ride. For a few blissful hours I was able to forget. but the moment we got off the boat I felt horribly sick. My doctor had put me on an antibiotic that had adverse reactions to the sun. I assumed it was that. Buying large iced coffee and water for the ride home, I said good bye and began the hour and fifteen drive back.
At times I felt like crying, I could’t even listen to music without my head feeling like it was going to split open and I was so hot I felt like I had been scalded by boiling water. At first I thought maybe I had gotten sunburned, but I had been Obsessive about applying sunscreen. I hadn’t even gotten a tan.
I called my mom and talked to her on speaker for part of the way, something I never do, to purely distract myself from how crappy I felt.
When I arrived home, I couldn’t even eat. I thought a bath would help. It was wishful thinking.
The minute I got out, not only did I think I was going to pass out, I started shivering uncontrollably while also sweating. I had never thought that was possible until that moment. I took my temp and it was one hundred and three degrees. My lymph nodes were as big as tennis balls. Some thing else I had always thought was more for dramatics in art, then actuality.
My mom wanted me to go to the ER, but I refused, I had a doctors appointment in the morning. I would be fine.
At the time she thought it could possibly be meningitis. Though when I woke up the next day a bit better, that idea was quickly nixed. My doctor saw me and immediately did a full blood panel on me. She sent me home with another antibiotic, and for 24 hours I just slept. Mornings I seemed to do better, and by the afternoons and evenings my body felt like it had been to the UFC and back, weak, and running fevers. I literally slept on my parents couch. At times it felt like I was in a crazy psychedelic dream similar to the graphics on that 70’s Show.
That quickly changed when I began to throw up.
I hadn’t thought life could get any worse, as someone who could have made it a career throwing up seven to ten times a day when I was in the throws of my Bulimia. This was to much. I was done.
Friday I got the surprise of my life. My doctor called and told me that everything was clear EXCEPT the lyme panel which was inconclusive. She wanted to test me again in two weeks. I told her what had been going on. She immediately decided to put me on doxycycline a drug known for treating lyme. She also told me if I got worse over the weekend to go to the clinic or Emergency Room.
As they say, it gets worse before it gets better.
That night I began throwing up again with my fever spiking to One-hundred and three degrees once more. My mom immediately told me in no uncertain terms she was taking me to the ER. I didn’t even resist this time.
Feeling like I was going to pass out, they admitted me right away where I found out my thermometer was a degree off my fever was actually one hundred and four degrees, yet I was shaking like I had been dropped in Antarctica. Nude.
Again they drew a ton of blood, that if vampires were real, they could have had a feast. They started me on IVs, and thankfully did not ask if I had been to Africa (it seemed every time I went to the doctors they would ask me that question) I literally laid in the fetal position, unable to get comfortable because the IV was in my left arm, the side I usually sleep on.
My mom who should be canonized for sainthood, stayed with me the whole time, until almost two o’ clock in the morning. My only saving grace was that I got the brunt of my illness when I was home visiting my parents, and my mom who is a former nurse had no qualms about not only mothering me, but also channeling her inner nurse and taking care of me.
After what seemed like hours where they were trying to determine whether it was meningitis, mono, or something else, the hospitals test came back positive for lyme.
The doctor who had my number down as a perfect patient (sarcasm intended) told me to keep taking the doxycycline, to rest, and to know that it might take awhile to feel better.
What every Type A perfectionist wanted to hear.
My mom took me home. We were both utterly exhausted, but for the first time in months, I began to feel the clouds lift, and I even dared to believe their was hope and health just around the corner.
Two days later, that was confirmed, when my Smoker’s Cough, that had plagued me for months, suddenly vanished. Prescription cough medicine, over the counter, herbal, even steroids. NOTHING had touched it. Within days of being on the antibiotic it went away.
After months, of being sick, fighting depression, undoing all the hard work of loving my body and myself just a few years prior, and having my mind in overdrive, wondering if it was some form of cancer, superbug, or maybe I really did need to be institionilized, the answer was something I truly never expected.
All the symptoms I had been led to believe represented Lyme Disease, I never had. I don’t remember a tick biting me. I NEVER got the bulls eye rash. Thirty percent of people don’t. Being diagnosed with Lyme, is even rarer and people go years without an accurate diagnoses.
Almost a year out, I am incredibly blessed and grateful for how far I have come, for the chance to be healthy again. I never realized how far I had sunk, how depressed or sick I was until I had the blessings of being able to be healthy again.
The one bright side, as well as saving grace to my mental sanity was, while sick laying in bed unable to do anything, I began to seriously write. I have always been a writer. My mom still has my five year old scribbles about a girl and her dog saved in a scrapbook. But with everything else seemingly been taken away, writing was the one thing I had, and could pursue.
While very few people knew the struggles I was going through, and no one knew the mental anguish and despair I was struggling internally with. Writing was the one way I could express myself and pen my troublesome thoughts. It was also where I could lose myself in my characters. It was during that time, that I had my first article published. I wrote some of my darkest, but also intuitively honest pieces.
As the Rodney Adkins song says, “If you are going through hell keep on going.” It is true. Their were times where I truly didn’t want too. But last year wasn’t the first time I had been in a dark sick place and both times have made me stronger. While I have always chosen to be a lover, it also showed I can be a fighter if need be.
For More information on Lyme Disease.