In my last post I ended my story at age 18, after my trip to Puerto Rico.
My eighteenth year was quite momentous for me. Although I still did not know what was causing me to be so ill, I had a dream and no one was going to stop me from going after that dream. I wanted to go to college.
During that year I finished the last two years of high school in five months and got my GED. Soon after receiving my GED I became a licensed driver, and my search for jobs began. My pain had not subsided but I was determined not to let life pass me by any longer. After three failed suicide attempts, I realized that death was not going to release me from my illness and neither were doctors so somehow, I had to release myself.
Thus began the years of “faking it.” Oh boy, was I good.
When I was nineteen I entered the work force and hid my illness from everyone. I disliked even discussing it with family. The only way I could survive each day was by pretending that this illness did not exist and by pushing away the immense fatigue that followed me everywhere. Friends had no idea that I was battling world war three inside because I did not show weakness and made sure my dress and makeup revealed someone “ordinary,” someone I desperately wanted to be.
Eight years of faking it. I was able to make it eight years. Few people outside of my family knew the real me and even when I did disclose something, it was only a miniscule amount of the real story. To show weakness meant that I felt weakness, which was something I could not feel if I wanted to survive. In the workforce, I excelled quickly and was put in positions of management. During the evenings, weekends and summers, I took college classes and received high grades. My dates/boyfriends saw the woman I chose to show them: an energetic blonde with a beautiful tan and gorgeous smile who was determined to make something of herself.
My over-taxed and under-appreciated immune system, along with my weakened liver, would not allow me to lose weight. I felt that in order to be successful and appear healthy it was essential that I be thin and so, in desperation, I developed an eating disorder. After six months I had lost nearly 50 pounds but had also become addicted. Due to the disease ravaging my body along with the complications that come from an eating disorder I visited the ER on multiple occasions.
It was during these years that I had finally gotten two diagnoses from a doctor: Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Due to the fatigue, joint and muscle pain and weakened system these evaluations made sense but also helped lead my mother to the idea that Lyme disease could be the culprit behind this mystery.
Lyme disease – a dirty disease that no doctor wanted to discuss or deal with, so my mother (always my advocate) begged a prominent LLMD in the area to see me even though she had not taken new patients for a while. It was with her that I finally tested positive for Lyme disease (after several negative test results in the years previous, an all-too common occurrence). Although I was now seeing a qualified and dedicated LLMD, I was resistant to truly taking care of myself. “Lyme Disease” was a sullied diagnosis and ostracized by even the medical community. Many people regarded my diagnosis as fake because, after all, “chronic Lyme disease does not exist” (Lyme disease that remains in your body after the initial treatment of a few weeks on antibiotics). By this time the disease had ravaged my body for ten years and my condition was most certainly chronic, but I was determined not to let it define my life.
My LLMD started me on multiple antibiotics and for several years I pulsed these medications while supplementing my routine with needed vitamins, minerals and a gluten-free diet. Other therapies were attempted, such as natural IV treatments, saunas, particular herbals and homeopathics (to name a few). My body was maintaining the lifestyle I desired but still at a high cost. It took the end of a long-term relationship to motivate me to truly recover from my eating disorder and seek healing friendships and counseling for the mental toll this disease was taking on my life.
After over five years of pulsing oral antibiotics I felt that something more drastic was needed in order for my body to truly fight the Lyme disease and cause it to go into remission. I sought out another prominent LLMD and began IV antibiotics. Unfortunately, my immune system was so taxed at this point that the IV antibiotics did more harm than good and after five months on them, I was forced to stop not only the medications but also leave my job. The worst had happened yet again; I was bedridden from my illness.
To Be Continued… (tomorrow’s post will be the last of my story)