A “Good Day” To Be A Lymie

Today is a good day; it’s currently 12:10pm on a Saturday and it’s still my “morning”, being that I’m still convincing myself to get moving and I haven’t done much yet.

I am coming off of several weeks of an antiparasitic/antiviral treatment that was pretty hardcore, and it was phase 2 having completed phase 1 the month before last. I feel like it takes a while for my body to reset and rebuild after the onslaught.  I had a UVBI blood treatment on Monday and I’m still not sure what my reaction is being that I felt energized the day of and not so good the rest of the week. (I was told I could experience some die off).

I’m tired. Even though I’m done with that particular protocol I’m still on a TON of supplements, and as of a few days ago three new prescriptions. Still have to deal with Candida, hormones and other stuff. I’m tired.  But body pain today isn’t too bad, fluid retention (my pesky persistent minion) is at about a medium. All things considered today is a good day relative to how crappy I have been feeling. I might even try and go for a walk.

I am mentally troubled this “morning” as I contemplate where I’m at as far as treatment protocol and what the rest of the year holds as far as medical expenses and whatever the doctors will want to do next. 11,000 went on the credit card just the last 6 weeks for our family’s medical needs 😳

That said; I got confirmation from my main two doctors this week that the protocol to kill the viruses and parasites was very successful and I’m in good shape as far as that goes. Which leaves the remaining battle being the autoimmune disorder factor in this long-term disease, and that’s been a huge battle. 

Bottom line my body hates itself and I hate it. Not a happy cohabitation. So my Mast cells and histamine, cytokines and gut all need to decide to start getting along or my slow decline into self-destruction will someday be successful. 

That said I am hoping that the remaining months of this year will see big changes, that I will start to experience what “normal” feels like, and that next time I have a “good day” it won’t be in parenthesis because of relativity, but “good” will actually be good


Lyme Fund

The People Society Forgot

Have you noticed how insanely busy everyone is? And I do mean insanely!!! Life is non-stop running from this place to that, calendars are full, people have very little time to invest in each other anymore or cultivate relationships.

It is almost hard to remember days gone by (hey I’m getting old) before cell phones and social media when people actually talked to each other more. They had time for their friends, getting together to visit was simpler… it didn’t involve so much coordination and stress. Oh, and people cared for each other. Remember that? 

Now before I come off as bashing the character of everyone in our western society; I’m not sure who to blame, it just seems to be what happened to all of us, and most people are not unkind or unfeeling, it’s just that they’re so darn busy.

For the chronically ill that have fallen off the conveyer belt of this life that drives, drives, drives and never stops moving or let’s anyone take a breath…. we often feel forgotten. 

Now what’s great is that when you are not well enough to be uber social, cell phones and social media are a life saver, at least in some ways. You see we also have a window into the world that has forgotten us; people that goon hikes, hang with friends, go out to dinner, spend time with everyone but you because everyone else is up and mobile and, frankly more fun.

Ahhh the chronic illness suffer, we are like a low budget B movie that was made 20 years ago that most people forgot even existed, until someone says something like “hey wasn’t ‘_____’ like at that thing with that other person we went to way back when”?

Now you (normal person) may actually think of us from time to time, pray for us, have us run across your mind…. But guess what? We don’t know that!!!!!. 

Silence= I don’t matter and you don’t care. 

Again, I’m sure the person reading this is a good person, and a busy person, but maybe just as a favor to me, when “_____” comes to your mind and you haven’t seen them in a while and you know they are struggling, send a quick text, an IM, or maybe one of those old-fashioned phone call things. 

Please Imagine being too sick to do what you are out doing right now, and instead that you were home alone most of the time,  imagine (some) of your friends staying silent, for weeks, months…. 

Now Imagine now if they weren’t.

Thanks for listening readers 💚

Being Real

I wanted to speak to all of you from the heart for a few minutes (besides a health and circumstances update). I know that my posts can be a little wordy, but if you can stick with me to the end I would really appreciate it. I have had some serious ups and downs recently, not just physically but emotionally, mentally and spiritually too, and that is something I am going to try and be raw and real about.
As you all know these health difficulties have been plaguing myself and my family for decades, but especially my sister and I. And with this recent setback (again) it is so easy to feel depressed, lonely and hopeless….
Today on this sunny Saturday I think of all of you out there, socializing, having fun, seeing friends, being outside, doing things…. living normally. And for me this morning my POTS is acting up and it is hard for me to even stand without feeling breathless and weak and having waves of heat. (More on POTS below). Another day of my life sacrificed to the Lyme gods as they accept my life as an offering one day at a time (please no one be offended by this little metaphor). 
So this is going to be another in a long line of weekends for me basically in bed resting. I have given about 2/3 of my adult life to this: go to work, go to bed, repeat. I’m back in that cycle where I have just enough strength to work my part time job….and not much else. I call these cycles many things, including Survival Mode and the Chronic Illness Coma. I feel isolated, forgotten, left out and lonely. I keep seeing the years of my life tick by and my life eroding away, with opportunities disappearing on a fading horizon. 

Try and picture for a moment if this was your life for years and years, and you found yourself in your late thirties having your youth behind you having never properly experienced it. You are alone. You’ve never had a significant other or even an opportunity to get one, and you watch most of your friends live there lives from a distance doing “normal” things that you have never experienced and are not normal for you.
I had a very bad weekend last week; besides having a scare and being in the ER on Saturday, I was also very depressed and the enemy saw an opportunity to open a wound. 
The mind can go down Dark rabbit holes so easily: This isn’t living. Alone. Single. Sick. Struggling. My brain and body betray me. Thinking about eventually having my parents die and (gulp) Shiloh in time, and being utterly alone and destitute with no one to be a support is not a fun thought. I also feel like I am such a financial burden and my parents would be so much better off and more secure if I just died. (That’s a major one Satan like to come at me with). 
Thank you to a couple friends who encouraged me last Sunday and reminded me who I am in Christ, and who just listened and let me be real with my feelings.

That said, I am peeking back out of that dark corner and God is reminding me that faith and Who He is for me and His power over my circumstances have nothing to do with my emotions or mindset or the infections in my body and brain that are effecting those things.

After all, faith is all about what we do not see, what we do not feel, and relying on He Who dwells outside the shallowness of those things. 
Why did I share all that? I don’t think it’s because I want pity. I want to be normal, I just want to live, I don’t want to be a person that needs pity! No, rather I just want to be heard and understood and I feel like when I drop off the face of the earth that I don’t do so to the people in my life as well, and I’m just forgotten. 

I do want to thank the couple people who do stay in contact with me, it means the world. Just a text, just a “hi”, nothing fancy, just knowing I’m not forgotten.
Why The Chronically Ill Post TMI

Thank you so much for reading this far.
As far as myself and my sister Holly as you know we are going through treatments right now to deal with some deep parasitic and other infections in our bodies that are not only gut related but are attacking our livers, kidneys and other organs too, and the treatment has been rough. I just did my retest lab work this last week to confirm what infections remain after phase 1 and how to approach my Phase 2 in this next round of treatment. I have had it confirmed that (among other things) I do still have Bartonella: What is Bartonella & its Symptoms?

 Babesia: What is Babesia & its Symptoms?

which are the two major Lyme coinfections. 

My POTS which is usually mild also goes to more of a moderate degree when I have a flare up, and that’s been difficult ( Lyme & POTS )
My sister and I could use prayer that these treatments work, and that maybe this will be the beginning to the end of this multi-decade battle.
Lyme (collective term for Borrelia, coinfections and complications) is so hard to treat because it can change form, hide from the immune system, be antibiotic resistant, cross the blood-brain barrier and infect any and all parts of the body, and treatments are basically going layer by layer, getting deep stuff to come to the surface, and repeating the process. 

A good metaphor would be weeding a garden: you pull weeds, you rototill, you use poison, you pull up roots and do your best with what you see. But you miss a few roots, you can’t always identify every weed, and the “poison” ruins the soil so you have to keep replenishing as you’re killing, and just when you think you got it all…. you find there’s stuff you missed that starts growing and taking over again.
Here is also a good link on why treatments make you feel worse: What is a Herx?

Wow guys, thanks for sticking with me and hearing me out! Even with all that writing it is still just a summary. 

Please also pray for God’s financial provision as for this season expenses have again skyrocketed into about 5,000 a month.

I have been unable to paint again, and that has been disheartening. If anyone has any clever ideas for fundraisers let me know! (It would have to be in the realm of my capacity). 

Steidl Family Lyme Fund
Jennifer’s Lyme Fund
Thank you again for taking the time to read all this. 

Confessions Of A “Functioning Lymie”

I look fine. I may seem fine. I probably sound fine. There are some new photos on Facebook from a couple weeks ago of me out with friends, smiling and having fun, having a few days of normalcy that are momentous and rare to me, but would probably not be a big deal for you and just a normal part of life. They were taken during one of those glorious and all too rare periods when I had several consecutive days of energy and feeling pretty good. (Today is not one of those days.) 

(*disclaimer; I have to attest to the fact that I am still on an upward track with my overall health and what I am experiencing right now as far as this current setback is die off from recent treatment on May 23rd….at least I believe so). 

But what people don’t see are the days inbetween, the days that I spend in a hazy purgatory of fatigue, fuzz, pain, swelling, isolation and my body’s betrayal against life itself. 

I have to work tomorrow and I know that somehow I will pull together like I always do and put everything I have into doing my best at work, doing everything I can to just seem normal and do my job to the best of my ability, and thankfully I have been blessed over the years to stagger along in this manner; being a functioning Lymie.

 I also have a gathering to go to after work tomorow and this is causing me distress. Why? Not because I don’t want to go, but the complete opposite! I want to badly and it is vitally important to me. But for me I don’t usually do anything on a work day afterward because I just spent the day giving 100% to my job and I will be drained, tired and numb. Instead of having fun I am worried I will just be in a haze of fatigue and rather than enjoying myself I will be a half-human whose mind is only about 30% present and therefore will get about 30% enjoyment being with my dear friend. These are the challenges faced by the upright and mobile Lymie. Spoons anyone? (Spoon Theory)

That said, when others can’t see the sickness (I haven’t lost hair, I don’t have an IV port or a wheelchair, I’m not gaunt or jaundiced) how can I convey what it’s like to be a functioning Lymie? (Please note I am also using the term “Lymie”right now in a generalist sense because I believe I am clear of the Borrelia itself at this point but I just got treated for still-present coinfections: Erhlychia, Clamydia (non-STD form), Epstein-Barr, Lyme Virus Coinfection A, Lyme Virus Coinfection C and Protozoa. But as we all know chronic Lyme is never just Borrelia). 
I know that the yoyoing makes no sense to outside observers, those who don’t understand chronic Lyme; how can you be having fun at a festival one weekend and then in bed unable to socialize the next? Trust me it’s complicated, and frustrating isn’t a strong enough word for those of us that live through it. It is like being baited with tastes of life and constantly having it snatched away again. 

So what is life like when I’m not doing so well, and you don’t see me, and there are no photos taken? :

I wake up at 10am, I  don’t feel like moving. I feel groggy and heavy and “hungover”. I had a hard time falling alseep last night, like most nights. It’s a catch 22 because the stuff I take to help me sleep can also leave me feeling tired the next morning. Despite getting 9 hours of sleep I don’t feel rested at all….I may need to take a nap today. My brain feels like it is still in that state of shutting down, you know like how it feels when you are in the process of trying to fall asleep? It is doing the opposite of what it should be doing, being that I am trying to wake up. I do haul myself out of bed and I try and have some caffeine to counteract my wayward brain and body. I also take my morning pills. Since they are supposed to be taken away from food I wonder as I do every morning whether the creamy fluids are a problem. As usual the matcha green tea hemp latte isn’t doing it as far as waking me up, and although I am not supposed to have coffee, I reach for it anyway hoping that it will be my nectar of life. Sigh, I know this will continue the vicious cycle of inflammation and irritating my iGg reaction, but I so desperately want to feel awake. Choices choices…

I then decide to take a bath with Epsom salt and baking soda to help with the pain and stiffness, and to help me detox to (hopefully) help with this hungover feeling. After my tea and coffee and morning pills I feel too nauseous to really eat. I will probably have a bite of something here and there but on most days like this breakfast and lunch sort of meld together and meals get messed up. I also have my two doses of meds, morning and night that have to be taken two hours away from food and other pills….I am already off schedule and my day just started. I pretty much know that my dose of cholestyramine will get skipped yet again (like it does most days) because it also has to be taken 4 hours away from food or other pills. Then there are the pills to be taken with food… Might not get those in today either. This is impossible. 

I spend maybe an hour in the bath catching up with Facebook  and mail, listening to my current audio book, reading my Bible app and playing Candy Crush and Words With Friends. I eventually drain the water and spend at least another 30 minutes sitting in an empty tub because after a bath or shower I usually feel weaker, more lightheaded and struggle a little with feeling breathless and have a harder heartbeat. (This phenomenon: Why Do I Feel Worse After A Shower?). 

I finally get out and get dressed, my equilibrium is off and I’m a little tippy. This is not entirely normal for me and I attribute it to die off/herx (What is a Herx?)

I look down at my body which I usually try and avoid at all costs; it is swollen and the edema is especially bad, and my legs are jiggling like a water bed (you think this is an exaggeration, it is not). The water retention makes my legs much bigger than they would be (come to think of it I haven’t seen what my body would look like without fluid in the last 7 years or so), It has also been this long since I have worn jeans or slacks because of aforementioned fluid. Did I mention it also hurts? Imagine the worst sunburn you have ever experienced, now picture the deep muscle ache of a hard workout after having not worked out for months… Got it? Okay. Now combine the two together and imagine them not on your skin or in your muscles but in all the deep tissues in your legs. Now imagine that pain is constant and you’ve had it for so many years you can’t remember a day without that pain. The only variance is that on good days it’s a low-grade 2, and on bad days it can be an Advil-inducing 8. This is a further incentive to keep a strict diet because increased pain and swelling can be almost instantaneous with ingestion of “bad” foods. (although I fail so often with a bite here, a nibble there…and remember the problem of coffee!) Thankfully for the most part it has been improving and today the fluid is bad , but the pain is maybe a 4, even though the lower half of my body  (that I always hide and cover up) looks like Rosemary from Shallow Hal. I am just blessed not to have cankles today. 

I see my face in the mirror for the first time today and it is of course all puffed up, most notably under my eyes. This is now of course also my normal and I wonder what I would look like “unpuffed”, I do get glimpses from time to time.

It’s now into the afternoon, I  haven’t eaten much, I feel fuzzy in my head and tired despite my green tea and coffee. I really don’t know what to do with myself today because I’m too tired, so I sit on my bed with my phone. I would love to go on a walk or bike ride, but I feel like I can’t even force myself to get up and go do anything. I have my standard low grade headache; this is something I actually don’t really complain about or even acknowledge because it is so normal I don’t know what it feels like not to have a headache. 

Many of you wonder why I don’t paint or do something artistic on my days off like this, it’s hard to explain. There is a definite disconnect in this hazy purgatory where you are aware that there is a part of you that can do those things and enjoys doing those things, but you can’t access that piece of yourself, even if you wanted to. Believe me I’ve tried! I’ve sat down and tried to paint on days like this and it’s like trying to draw water from an empty well…it just doesn’t happen.

So here I sit, another day of nothing. Another day of waste. A day where the tears do come. Another day sacrificed to the hungry Lyme gods that eat our lives and our souls…one apathetic day at a time.                                                                   

I’ve given so many years of my life to days like this they can’t be counted. I’ve given my twenties, and now most of my thirties. Only Lymies will understand this, but this disease EATS YOU! It eats your body, your mind, what makes you you. It also eats your time on this earth.. Like water eroding the shoreline.

Today I need to pray more. Today I need to focus on God’s truths; because on days like today that are empty nothing’s sucked into the void, I have nothing else. 

Looking “fine” a couple weeks ago

Hope, And A Look Back

12/23/15. Hope,
I wrote the short essay below about 3 years ago. I remember acutely how it feels to be in this place; it is like a living death in some ways… losing yourself.
2012 was one of the worst years of my life even though I finally had a diagnosis of what was wrong with me. It is the year I went through being bedridden during initial treatment, being unemployed and unable to work, unrelated to illness I was devastated that I had been believing something for 7 years that I thought was from God and ended up being false. My faith for the first time in my life faltered and I stopped talking to Daddy.
How much has changed in 3 years. I am however incredibly grateful because I can look at what God has done in my life and how He has changed me (for the better!). He has truly taught me what rejoicing in trials looks like and that I can live the truth that all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. He has used me in unexpected ways and brought people into my life that I would not have met if it had not been for my illness. Now that is God.
For those who are still in a place of deep suffering my heart reaches out to. I would be happy to be contacted either through this blog or my Facebook page so that I can do my best to encourage you.
So here is what being a little lost girl felt like:

Little Lost Girl
The Other Toll Of An Auto-Immune Disease

At some point I stopped looking in the mirror; of course not quite literally because I need to do my hair and makeup in the morning, but a long time ago I stopped “seeing”. So it was a bit of a shock when one day I actually did see, and I didn’t recognize myself. I look old, I look sick, I look puffy, I look fat, I look frumpy. Gone is the girl I see in photos from several years ago, and not just physically, because that girl had things she enjoyed doing… people she wanted to spend time with…she had an inner passion for the things she loved, and had so many hopes and dreams….

I look in my closet and there are the clothes that I no longer wear, the digital camera that I have never used, the containers of craft materials that I no longer have an interest in….because life used to be not only about today, but about tomorrow too. Now I struggle to get through just one day at a time, just surviving, there is no energy for anything else, and it is more than physical, my brain is tired too. I used to love crosswords, but sometimes it is too hard to recall the words I know that I know, or to spell words that I know are locked somewhere in my toxic mind.  People are too hard to be around, not because I don’t like them, but talking and engaging takes mental energy, and that is easily used up doing my job everyday (thank God He has given me the strength. So when I am quiet and don’t feel like talking, I am more than likely not in a bad mood, and it has nothing to do with you, I am just shut down.

I miss my personality; it is actually hard to recall who I am. I know I used to enjoy so many things, but I am not sure what they all were. I think that I will need to rediscover myself, and see what emerges when the chrysalis of illness falls away.

So, I am writing this not to whine nor for pity, but just to share what chronic illness can do to the core of who you are as a human being. My sister and I talk and share all the time about what we are going through, and how what we are feeling affects us socially and mentally. How each of us wants to tell everyone we see from our friends to people in the grocery store “You don’t understand, this isn’t me, I’m really someone else…”
But thankfully there seems to be hope. Treatment has been rough, and the different medications aren’t fun, but I believe that finally after possibly two decades of having this garbage in my body and not understanding what was wrong with me, there are answers. I have been told by my two doctors and even by friends and acquaintances that next year everything will be different. I want to hope so badly that this will be true, and if it is, I might emerge again, but will I be who I was or a little different? We shall see…

How Do You Apologize For Your Brain?

lyme_brain (information from underourskin.com)

Before proper long-term Lyme treatment on the left, and after proper treatment on the right. The left image reveals an oxygen starved brain. Interestingly enough when I was diagnosed with Bartonella in my brain and brain stem in July I was told I was not getting enough oxygen to my brain.

I am going to try my best and blog tonight through the fatigue of the aftermath of a 16 hour (so far) day. The last couple months have been really rough with worse fatigue, brain fog, body pain, water retention and other stuff…

I am pretty certain I have entered the ring of fire of die-off yet again since my last two treks to Idaho October 13th and December 1st, but things have greatly intensified since the 1st. My body pain and fatigue have been intense. On my last visit the doctor identified a co-infection in my bladder and blood and treated them both. Since coming back to Washington I had been feeling so poorly that I saw my doctor here to help support this round of herx. Besides just viral die-off she thinks there is some other stuff going on and she is running some blood word to check on things that my body is making antibodies to. In my visit with her I was too overwhelmed with the amount of information that she ran past me and I really can’t repeat even a quarter of the conversation… But basically among other things my body is very high in ammonia and having immune reactions to things it shouldn’t (including animal protein!) along with fighting the Lyme and co-infections.

I am aware that I am doing a poor job of explaining things right now and that’s ok, I am trusting my care to the docs who do know what they are talking about and who are not slurring through sleep-deprived, co-infection-brained, pea soup-like neurological firings.

The main purpose of my post today was inspired by a now good friend who told me that when she first met me she thought I didn’t like her. This took me aback because my initial impression of her was rather the opposite. Hearing this deeply saddened me because I am aware of how much my illness affects my personality and more specifically my “response time” to social situations or when anyone speaks to me. First let me quickly say that for the most part this has greatly improved since this summer and I have felt more like “me”. But that said there is something about this disease that puts up a little inner wall in your brain where you feel like you are not quite connecting and the logic of proper socialization is sort of lost.

I have also found sometimes upon reflection and much to my dismay that I have said or done things over the years have been incorrectly perceived (even though it made perfect sense to me at the time) or at times I have incorrectly perceived others. This is massively frustrating on every level and I HATE feeling shut off and vacant when I’m having a bad day and/or I am overly tired.

I am over it today but I have had a few days recently where I have felt a bit dirty and subhuman for coming off wrong….cold….stoic…..grumpy…..   😦

I still know that there will be better days coming again so I am hopeful and optimistic. As for my friend who told me about her perceived initial impression? Well she has two lymies in her life so she has come to understand this disease better and loves us both in spite of ourselves 🙂

Here are some good pages on neurological Lyme (keep in mind that Bartonella and other co-infections can also pass the blood-brain barrier):

This —>   http://www.tiredoflyme.com/lyme-disease-brain-fog-what-it-is-what-causes-it-and-how-to-help-reduce-it.html#.VJJTY3s1gYo

http://www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk/about-lyme/neurology-psychiatry/

http://www.igenex.com/psychological_effects.htm

http://lymedisease.org/news/touchedbylyme/jesse-colin-young.html

http://www.thehealingartspartnership.net/lyme-disease_symptoms.htm