Boring Lyme to death

This blog post is going to be a real snoozer.

Rest is one of the most powerful weapons I’ve found in fighting Lyme Disease. So I’ll try to liven up the topic by talking about things like power napping, mega-meditating and super sleeping!!!! Now didn’t those exclamation points perk you up?

Maybe the most important trick to dealing with chronic Lyme is never to let yourself get tired and rundown.

I came across an article a while back that described it this way – “It’s a question of whether your voltage is adequate for your immune system to keep it (Lyme) under  control.”

I like that. It’s about your voltage. And how do you keep your voltage high? By making frequent visits to your battery charger, otherwise known as your bed.

I’ve still got a way to go before fully getting over Lyme, so I spend a fair bit of time charging myself on my queen size battery pack. Not usually for very long. Five minutes here, 10 minutes there, a few times throughout the day. A little rest after meals, a little rest after exercise, and a longish sleep at night.

If I were working in an office, this would be more difficult, but I know a friend who spends lunch hours and breaks taking catnaps in his car. I remember another friend who installed a small couch in his office and did likewise.

Even when driving, naps can be managed. If I drive for an hour, I’ll find a place to stop and shut my eyes for five minutes. I could go farther, but I stop before I get tired, so I won’t get tired. Keeping the voltage high.

Experts suggest that getting to bed early can be extremely helpful for anyone managing a case of Lyme. They say the hours of sleep you get before midnight are considerably more valuable to your health than any other sleep hours.

Taking their advice, I’ve gradually pushed my bedtime back from 10 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. I’ll make exceptions for social events of course, but I diligently try to stick to a regular lights-out time whenever possible.

This is not a particularly exciting way to do things, but it works. Frankly, I just want to get fully well, and I’m willing to sacrifice all the late night TV in the world to reach that goal.

So you may be thinking that anyone doing this sort of thing might as well become a monk. I don’t think that’s necessary, but I find that it’s a good idea to take a page from the monk’s playbook and meditate regularly.

Following their lead on living a peaceful, restful life would also be sure to give Lyme a hard time. Come to think of it, I wonder if monks get Lyme disease. Hmm.

I do a very simple 20-minute meditation exercise once daily. It’s called “Soften and flow”, and it works, reliably shifting me into the parasympathetic nervous system relaxation response if I’m not there already. You can find tons of other meditation approaches on the web.

So that’s all I have to say about sleep, naps and meditation. You could say I rest my case. Anyone still reading? Anyone still awake?

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Beating Lyme with the anti-inflammatory lifestyle

People with Lyme disease hear the words all the time. Eat anti-inflammatory foods, take anti-inflammatory supplements, and if you need to, take anti-inflammatory medications.

This makes sense, as the smart doctors tell us that inflammation is a key problem in Lyme.

But what about taking this one step further and living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle?

Now, what is an anti-inflammatory lifestyle? The idea occurred to me a while back as I was rushing around just trying to get things done that needed doing.  Basically, it means chilling out.

Having Lyme cuts into the number of productive hours I have in the course of a day. Let’s face it. Like many people with Lyme, I’m a type A personality, and I like packing as much activity into a day as I can.

But let’s face something else. Being type A might be one of the reasons I got very sick with Lyme. When it first hit, I’d probably have been better off if I’d been a couch potato. Just lying around and resting was what my body badly needed at that point, and I wasn’t wired to do that any more than necessary. The doctors said nothing was wrong with me, so I couldn’t justify quitting work and laying low as I should have.

My fight with Lyme has chilled me out quite a bit, and now I watch out for overdoing things. In fact, I don’t have a lot of bad days any more, but they usually come after I’ve done a bit too much activity. The problem is most likely to happen if try to pack too many things into a short space of time.

So I’m making a major change. It goes something like this. Remember the Seinfeld episode where George decides the way to success is to do everything contrary to the way he usually does it. That’s the basic idea of a Type A switching to the anti-inflammatory lifestyle.

Oddly enough, my nose is an indicator of how well I’m doing. When I start to rush around too much, my nose starts to get a bit inflamed and red. At least in my case, there is clearly a direct correlation between rushing and doing too much and inflammation. The more I rush, the bigger and redder my nose gets.

This gives me both a guide and incentive, as my natural nose is a nice size and color and my inflamed nose isn’t.

Here are some of the changes I’ve made.

  • I used to like combining trips, thinking how much time I could save. Now, when possible, it’s point A to point B and back again, followed by a five-minute rest.
  • I used to drive a bit fast, but now I follow the speed limit.
  • I used to think there was no way I could meditate. Bo-ring! But now I meditate 20 minutes a day, and throw in 10 deep breaths three times a day on top of that.
  • I used to eat fast. Now I try very hard to eat slowly whenever possible.
  • I used to hate napping. Now I schedule a few 10-minute mini-naps daily, and whenever I feel my system is going too fast, I’ll toss in another one.
  • I used to rush around trying to do things as quickly as possible. Now I’m trying to take my time and enjoy doing basic things that I couldn’t do when I was very sick with Lyme.

The idea is to keep my body in the parasympathetic, or relaxed mode, so the immune system can better do its job. Too often our busy lives throw us into sympathetic, or fight and flight mode, which impairs the immune system and gives Lyme an edge. Sometimes rushing can’t be avoided, but as soon as the rush is over, I’ll lie down and rest for a bit.

So far, I’ve found the anti-inflammatory lifestyle works well. It keeps the inflammation down, gives Lyme a hard time, and it even keeps my nose from looking like I should be driving Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve.

Rope a Lyme dope

Remember Muhammad Ali and his rope a dope trick. Well, that was a long time ago, so maybe you don’t, but here’s how it goes.

Ali was the world’s heavyweight boxing champ for much of the ’60s and ’70s. He didn’t know it, but he was stealing one of the Lyme bacteria’s killer strategies.

In many fights, he would spend the 14th and second last round huddled against the ropes, gloves up covering his face and his brawny arms covering his torso.

His hapless opponent would pound away at Ali’s rock-hard midsection, and the champ would barely feel it. He didn’t punch back, but just stood there getting his second wind.

Then came round 15 and Bam!, a fresh Ali knocked out the dope who’d just worn himself out a few minutes before.

Sound familiar Lyme sufferers? Who among us hasn’t been that chump? While Lyme bides its time waiting for an opportunity to strike, we often wear ourselves out trying to fulfill our commitments with the limited energy we have. When we do have a window where we feel better, it’s so tempting to try to rush to get things done. Never enough time. Always catching up.

Like so many people, I didn’t know I had Lyme when I first got sick. There was no bullseye rash and the dozen or so doctors I tried to get help from never even brought Lyme up as a possibility.

I felt absolutely dreadful all the time, but the doctors said there was nothing wrong with me. I asked if I should stop working and they could see no reason to do that. “You can’t hurt anything,” one said. And I believed him.

So I kept working, thinking it was some flu bug that would soon pass like all the other flu bugs had over the years. Like most people, I had a stressful job, and I kept running around, wearing myself down until I finally had to stop working.

I desperately wish I had that to do over again. The way to beat rope a dope, I’ve learned since, is to chill. Be like Ali, conserving your energy. Now if I start to feel I’m rushing around too much and getting tired, I stop and take a brief nap. I also take a short nap after lunch and spend time meditating after dinner.

I don’t work full-time, so I can do that. But even if I had that kind of employment, I could make adjustments to keep myself from getting overtired. For example, I have a friend who spends many a lunch hour sleeping in his car.

So, my rule is never, never, never knock myself out. Exercise, yes, but not to the point where I’m bushed. And maybe there’s something I really want to do, but it’s going to require getting stressed out. Regretfully, I pass on it. Too many times I’ve overextended myself and given Lyme the upper hand in our daily tussle.

By refusing to play the dope anymore, I’ve slowly been able to gain back ground from my arch-nemesis in the black corner. It’s rematch time. Lyme won the first battle, but I’m winning the second one.