This morning when I woke up, I realized that I actually felt refreshed.
I had not endured a night of constant shifting trying to relieve body pain. Or of bolting up eyes wide open at one a.m. and then finding myself stuck awake with raging insomnia for four or five hours. And the thing that struck me most this morning was, I felt at peace.
Lyme disease can affect every part of your body, but many people don’t realize how hard it can hit the brain. For me, one of the biggest symptoms has been crushing anxiety.
I wasn’t particularly surprised; when you’re in constant pain, can’t work, can’t dress or cook or do your own grocery shopping, you lose your sense of self and the worrying escalates. Will I ever feel ok again? Will I ever do the things I used to do, will I be able to work? How am I going to survive financially?
My worrying became debilitating, full-blown anxiety. A therapist helped me deal with it, and medication took the edge off on many tough days.
Here’s a surprise: I had no idea that that the anxiety I struggled with isn’t just triggered by the stress of this chronic illness, but by actual physiological changes in the brain kicked off by Lyme and co-infections.
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?”
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 →
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.
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.