Saturday, October 24, 2009
The Lyme Invades '07/'08
If you are reading this, maybe you suspect you have lyme disease. Maybe you have felt like you are losing your mind and doctors keep telling you there is nothing wrong with you. Maybe you've started to think you should see a therapist. Maybe, like me, you were an active, healthy and happy person, and now you feel like your life is slipping through your fingers and that maybe it would be better if you just ended it. Listen to me now...you are not crazy and you are not alone...
Two years ago I was living in Los Angeles, pursuing my dream of becoming a film actress. While I had aches and pains like anyone and suffered from migraines, I was healthy. I exercised 4 to 5 times a week, drank no caffeine, did no drugs, drank little alcohol, and ate very healthy. I was an active person in great shape, I liked to walk on the beach, I went skydiving a couple of times, spent time with friends, traveled and was generally happy in my life. Most importantly, I had energy and enthusiasm for my life and the people I loved.
In the summer of '07 I shot a film in Idyllwild, CA, in the mountains east of LA. Right after that I visited home outside Philadelphia, PA, for 2 weeks. Looking back I now suspect that it was during those trips that I was bitten by a tick. I started feeling weird in the autumn of 2007, but at the time I had no idea how sick I was. It started with fatigue, and very painful menstrual cycles. I thought I was just tired and stressed from life in LA.; I was working full time, auditioning, dealing with some financial stress, an apartment situation (my roommate and I were being displaced due to a condo conversion), and I noticed that I was having a very difficult time sleeping. I chalked the sleep issue up to life stress. I was also getting increasingly depressed and it was beginning to crush my spirit. I would wake up in the morning and wonder why I should bother getting out of bed. I started losing my temper with the people closest to me. I was incredibly quick to anger, like I was seeing red, but it would be b/c my roommate made noise and woke me, or the cat meowed one too many times. My heart was racing all of the time and my body felt like it was in "fight or flight" mode 24/7. Sometimes I thought it was natural nerves from racing to an audition in the middle of my workday, but the panic would stay in my body long after the need for adrenaline. I began to experience a fatigue so deep it felt that it resided in my very cells. I would walk up a flight of stairs and need to sit down to re-charge. I would take a shower and need to lie down for 20 minutes before I got dressed. Life and every day was something to be gotten through as opposed to be enjoyed. My libido, which was very healthy, disappeared. I cried constantly. When the weekend came I spent all of Saturday in bed. Social engagements disappeared. My roommate, Samantha, asked me to join her for fun activities every weekend and I turned her down consistently. I then started to think I was in peri-menopause, and that I was having hormone related symptoms. I spoke to my general practitioner in LA, Dr. S. I told him we had a history of depression in our family, and now I realize when he heard that he assumed that was the main problem and recommended an anti-depressant. So instead of trying to dig deeper to see if there was an underlying cause to the depression, he wanted to just treat the symptoms. I resisted b/c I really didn't want to be the "kind of person" who takes an anti-depressant, and also b/c despite my family history I had never been depressed like this before. He also thought that perhaps I was suffering from a recurring flu or a virus and it would resolve itself. Each month throughout 2008 the symptoms got worse. I began to get a wicked tension headache that would last 3 days, most often during ovulation. Then, during my period, I would feel toxic, like my own blood was poisoning me. I got horrific pms, cramps, aching in my lower back, shoulders and neck. My left eye started twitching, my lid became swollen and developed a rash. I thought this was an allergic reaction to my make-up, so I stopped wearing it. I had irritable bowel. All of these symptoms would come and go and never seem to happen at the same time, so I was never in a state of such crisis that I thought they were all related. Most of the time I felt ok, but then the symptoms would appear again.
In September of '08 I traveled to Ireland. It was a quick trip and I didn't get much sleep. On my return I started getting sick on the flight from Dublin to Atlanta. I was on a stand-by flight for Atlanta to LA and became deathly ill. I could barely walk and felt like I was going to vomit any second. Everything hurt. I waited for what seemed like days for my flight and when I was finally put on a flight to LA I curled up in my seat in the fetal position and didn't move for the 5 hour flight. I thought for sure I had caught something while traveling and the lack of sleep had exacerbated the symptoms. It started to dawn on me that often when I traveled I would get very sick a few days after, and I wondered if THAT had something to do with it.
Each month after that to the end of 2008 I continued to have even more painful periods. As I tried to understand and figure out what was happening in my body, I assumed my body chemistry was just changing as I got older. I thought I was having a drop in progesterone or an abundance of estrogen throughout my cycle, particularly b/c the symptoms seemed to be "cycling" around my period. I was on-line constantly, researching hormones, and adrenal fatigue, anything that seemed to explain why my body felt the way it did. December of 2008 was the best month I had that year with mild symptoms, but I had a quiet month and got more sleep than usual due to the holidays. I thought maybe I was going to be ok and that it had all been due to the stress of the year and that the worst was behind me. But the worst was yet to come...