Category Archives: Mental Health

5 Ways to Help Others “See” Lyme

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Actually, I’ve learned many people need a little help from me to truly see the pain.

Lyme is known as an “invisible” disease. That’s because oftentimes we look pretty good on the outside despite feeling myriad symptoms inside. And—unfortunately—many of us are darned good at keeping those symptoms invisible.

My own reasons include:

  • I don’t want those around me to worry.
  • Pride.
  • I don’t want people to know how sick I really am because I’m afraid they’ll abandon me.
  • I hate the thought of becoming that depressing person who is constantly complaining about how crummy he or she feels.

But I’ve come to see that a dose of reality is a good thing. When people understand the seriousness of this illness, they offer empathy and support.

Beyond that, we need others to know how serious chronic Lyme can become, so more people understand diagnosis and prevention—and stay well.

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One Window at a Time

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A job half done is better than not at all. Maybe I’ll get the rest of these wreaths and other holiday decorations put away by February first…

My brother was visiting recently from Manhattan. It seems to me he’s been checking up on me often now that my son has left for college, and I have to say the company is welcome.

One particular day, I was obsessing about all the things undone around the house, including how filthy the windows have become after several years of neglect.

I can’t afford the professional window cleaners I employed when circumstances were different. But I certainly don’t have the energy to wash more than 20  windows myself.

So I was feeling frustrated, angry, and stressed about my lack of energy—and lack of money, too.

Just wash one, my brother said. One a day, and you’ll be done in less than a month.

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Gifts from Lyme Disease

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When I was felled by Lyme, my college roommate Tracey said, “I know you don’t see it this way right now, but your Lyme battle is going to change your life in good ways, too.”

My immediate response was, “Yeah, right. Lyme is a nightmare.”

It’s easy to focus on the dark side.

But she’s right. Now that I’m a little better, I see that  chronic illness definitely gives you perspective about what’s important.

Sure, I miss out on a lot of life. But what I can do, despite limitations, is somehow sweeter. Exhilarating, even.

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Grief is a Rubber-band Ball

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I’m no stranger to major loss. As a teenager, I lost my beloved family home and other ties to childhood in the wake of huge financial losses for my parents.

Then came the death of my father after a five-year struggle with lymphoma. Later came the excruciatingly slow passing of my mother-in-law to Alzheimer’s, and my own mother’s declining memory. 

Then, the nearly unbearable abyss of divorce. A few years later, I’d only just started to approach feeling whole when a tiny tick transmitted the lyme that knocked me to my knees—and even further down.

The holidays, a touchstone to the past, intensify the grief. I feel it in every cell of my being.

Recently I said to my therapist, who is helping me get through the many stresses of chronic lyme, “A year ago, I thought I had a handle on the losses lyme has sent my way. And I sure thought I had processed all that grief from childhood, and all that terrible pain from the breakup of my family. Why am I so overwhelmed all over again?”

And she said, “Because grief is like a rubber-band ball.” Continue reading

No Whining

Well, maybe just a little.

Well, maybe just a little.

Today everyone at my office is getting ready for the holiday party. I can just see them all, arriving in the kitchen in a flurry to stuff the fridge with their pot-luck contributions for later this afternoon.

I talked to Sonya on the phone last night while she made bread pudding. Charlotte can always be counted on for a gourmet surprise. I, however, will not be there with my hot buffalo chicken dip complimented in years past. I’m into my third month of being unable to go to work.

I know I should avoid whining, but  I’m going to embrace it and indulge in a little pity party. Then I’ll get on with my day. I decided to follow this approach after seeing a cancer patient interviewed on a t.v. talk show (yes, I watch talk shows these days, another lyme-inspired low). Continue reading

Video: Negative Thinking Got You Down? “Stop It.”

I tend to call it “going around the mulberry bush.” My therapist calls it circular thinking. But the best analogy, the one that truly tells you how irritating repetitive negative thinking can be, is “like a broken record.”

To those of you too young to have heard a record skip, trust me. The grating sound sets you on edge just like this destructive thought process.

Negative thoughts start zooming around in your brain, one begets another, and pretty soon they are following each other in a maddening loop that keeps playing over and over. The loop invades your days, and it wakes you from slumber at 3 a.m.

“What if I never get better. What if I can’t get my life back. What if I can’t keep my job. What if I lose my house and savings because of out-of-pocket medical costs. What if my spouse/partner/friends abandon me? What if…”

I have two words for you from the great comedian and t.v. therapist Bob Newhart: Stop it. (Sure, this video is tongue-in-cheek and there’s certainly a time for professional therapy. But sometimes you can change the perambulations of your mind all by yourself. And humor definitely helps.)

Cultivate the mental discipline to cut those thoughts off with one swipe of a magic scythe. Because you don’t have room in your life for stress right now.

To recover fully, you need more than medication to kill the bacteria; you need a strong immune system. Do all you can to avoid stress. Start by watching this video. Hopefully you’ll enjoy a laugh.

Then, listen for Bob Newhart’s voice whenever you catch yourself pointlessly repeating worries.  And just stop it.

Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh

Last winter, housebound and often in bed, I watched the video above many times every day. Who knows why it makes me laugh out loud—though I will admit, dogs and food rank as two of my favorite things.

At any rate, more than 123 million YouTube views say I am not alone. I am pretty sure I accounted for a healthy portion of that number.

Let me just say that it’s a downer struggling to recover from a disease that affects your mind, your body, your family life, your career, and your bank account. Sometimes you just have to look to humor to get by.

To my daily task list (swallow pills, infuse IV drugs, inject blood thinner, follow steps to detox, rest, exercise (baby steps), rest some more, and eat loads of vitamin-rich food), I have added: laugh.

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