The Lyme Equation: God = Hope

For many years, Lyme disease made me seem like a hopeless case to my family, my friends, and just about everyone who knew me.

I believe God changed that.

Looking back, I feel my main job in those days was to hold on to hope while I tried everything my doctor and I could think of to get better from Lyme. That was seven long years of being basically housebound, and when I was occasionally well enough to go outside for a walk, I moved at the speed of the average 90-year-old.

This span covered my late 30s to early 40s, as I was forced to live with my parents because my wife left me. It was day after day staring at the bedroom ceiling.

Most days I had to spend about 23 hours in bed. I once heard my mother telling a friend she was taking care of her invalid son. Invalid. What an awful word. I told her to never say that again. And I told her and others that someday I would get well. I doubt anyone believed me.

One morning my dad came in to my room and asked if I wanted an itinerant pastor to come pray for me. He mentioned the guy worked partly as a preacher and partly as a lumberjack.

At that time, I had been saving up my energy so I could get a badly needed haircut, so my first response was, “Dad, what I really need is a barber, not a lumberjack.”

But then I thought again. Why should I turn down an offer of healing prayer when I so desperately wanted to be well. Bring on the lumberjack.

This pastor didn’t really understand what I was going through, but he was a dedicated man who spent an hour praying with me, and then promised to go home and start fasting and praying that I be healed.

I’m not sure if it was his efforts that made the difference, as many people were praying for me, but soon after he visited, things suddenly started to happen.

Neither my doctor or I had made any significant changes in how my Lyme was being treated, but shortly after that prayer session, I felt well enough to go outside and stand in the backyard for 10 minutes. My legs had been so wobbly that I hadn’t stood for more than a couple of minutes at a time in years.

Then I started to stretch out my walks, and found I could go further and further without paying any price for it. I can still remember the day I was walking past a mechanic’s garage on our street and noticed that my legs felt solid. Eureka!

Things quickly fell into place. In the matter of a month or so I put on about 15 pounds after being underweight for many years, and started doing normal things like watching TV. This had been impossible for me to do for more than a few minutes, but now it became easy. I could watch an entire movie, no problem. And I could stand for as long as I wanted.

I didn’t get fully well, but I went from being that invalid to being functional. For those who don’t have Lyme, it would be hard to understand the joy you feel after being a prisoner in your own body for seven years, and then finally being released.

I’m still working at getting back to 100 per cent, and I believe I’ll get there, with God’s help.

So I can’t prove that God healed me, but I can’t think of any other explanation. Mainstream medicine would tell you that people who are practically bedridden for seven years don’t often all of a sudden get a whole lot better.

For me, the moral of this story is to hold on to hope. You just never know when prayer  is going to produce great results; you never know when God is going to step in. Scripture tells us that all things are possible for God. Even though Lyme may make things look totally hopeless at times, the truth is that holding on to hope makes a lot of sense.

 

Seven Things My Lyme Doc Taught Me

It took me a long time to find her, but I am fortunate to say that I have a good Lyme-literate medical doctor (LLMD) who has taught me a lot of important things.

If my count is right, she was the 14th doctor I saw before finding someone who was able to help me. Sounds like a lot, but many Lyme patients have a longer list. She could help because she had been through something similar herself, and had the knowledge and compassion to be able to help others get through their ordeals.

So what has she taught me? Probably more than I’m outlining below, but these are the things that come to mind.

#1 – A LOT OF THIS IS ABOUT TOTAL LOAD – Total load means the total amount to stressors your body is facing. Obviously, Lyme is a big stressor. So if you have Lyme, you have to reduce the other stressors.

Doctors who subscribe to the total load theory use the rain barrow analogy. Stressors are like rain that falls into a rain barrow. As long as the rain stays in the barrow you’re OK. But too much rain (i.e. stressors) and the barrow overflows. That’s when you get symptoms.

There’s no shortage of stressors – Lyme, other infections, emotional and physical stress, heavy metals, pesticides, poor diet, dental amalgam fillings and other dental problems, candida, etc., etc. One of the keys to getting healthy is eliminating and reducing stressors and keeping the water from spilling out of the barrow.

#2 – B VITAMIN SHOTS CAN HELP A LOT – One doctor told me not to bother with B12 shots because he said I didn’t need them. Another doctor told me B12 shots were quackery. But my doctor said I should try both B12 and B complex injections. She was right. They helped a lot, giving me some energy at a time when that commodity was worth about a million dollars an ounce to me.

#3 – CATCHING COLDS OFTEN MEANS YOU MADE A MISTAKE – During one of our visits, my doctor was chastising herself for getting a cold. Turns out she felt she made a mistake.

I’d always thought catching a cold or the flu was an accident that couldn’t be helped. But I now see it as something that’s an unavoidable accident about half the time and an avoidable mistake the other half.

Maybe I forgot to wash my hands after being in public during cold and flu season, maybe I skimped on sleep and my immune system suffered, maybe I got stressed out on a day when I felt the first sign of a tickle in my throat. Or maybe something else. This doesn’t mean being a germophobe, it just means that when you have a serious illness like Lyme, you need to be careful to not pick up other infections.

#4 – YOU CAN IMPROVE YOUR EYESIGHT – I’ve always been looking for ways to improve my vision, and I’ve asked several eye doctors this question. They all say there’s nothing you can do.

Not true, says my doctor. She had a strong prescription of -5.50 that fell to a moderate -2.50. That’s a huge drop. She said she did it by gradually healing infections in her body and eyes, taking a lot of antioxidants and intravenous vitamin and mineral infusions.

#5 – PUT THE TOILET LID DOWN EVERY TIME YOU FLUSH – This thought had never occurred to me. But one day I noticed a clipping on her office billboard showing results from a study that showed flushing with the toilet lid up results in a slew of often pathogenic bacteria flying around your bathroom. I’m not sure how much effect this has on total load, but every bit counts.

#6 – EAT ALL YOUR FOOD DURING A SHORT PERIOD OF THE DAY – I’m not sure if this works for everyone, but it works for me. The theory is that your body likes having a decent sized mini-fast every day. I’d mentioned I was having gut symptoms, so my doctor suggested trying to eat all my food in an 8-12 hour window each day.

Eight hours is tough to manage, but most days I eat my food in an 11-hour period and give my body 13 hours to fully digest it and work everything out. Doing this has helped reduce my gut symptoms.

#`7 – NEVER GIVE UP – My doctor has told me stories of her own desperate efforts to stay alive so her young son wouldn’t lose his mother. She never gave up and taught me the same.

The truth with Lyme is you never know when things are going to turn around in your favor. There are umpteen ways of treating it, and if you keep trying, you’re likely to find one that will work for you. So there’s good reason not to give up. It also helps, a lot, to find a doctor who won’t give up on you. When I was down and out and bedridden, my doctor made 10 house calls to try to get me back on my feet. That’s right. House calls. I told you I was fortunate.

Healing Lyme God’s Way

Imagine what it would be like if most Christians placed their main focus on Christ every day and not just at Christmas?

I think it’s a very important question, particularly if you are a Christian with Lyme Disease.

I don’t know about you, but when I first got sick with Lyme, my focus was squarely on me. I felt far worse than I’d ever felt before, I was scared, and I was running around from doctor to doctor to try to find someone to save me.

When you know in your gut that something is seriously wrong with your health, you tend to put your own needs in front of others. It’s a crisis, and you feel God will understand your selfishness.

This is what I thought, and it took me nearly a year to even start shifting my main focus away from doctors and treatments to prayer and looking to God for answers.

During this 10 month or so period, all the running around didn’t do anything but dig a deep hole that took me a long time to dig out of.

Now, what if I’d focused more on God from the day I got sick?

I’m not saying I shouldn’t have sought medical attention. Doing that was clearly appropriate. But the problem was a matter of focus. What was I placing my faith in and Who was I not placing my faith in?

What if I’d spent a lot more time praying and asking others to pray for me? What if I’d sought out healing prayer? What if I’d put my primary focus on God?

In most healing stories you read about in the Bible faith plays the major role. In Luke 17:19 (Amplified Bible), Jesus says this to a man he has just healed of leprosy. “Your faith (your personal trust in me and your confidence in God’s power) has restored you to health.”

So I ask myself, in those early days of Lyme, was I showing personal trust in Jesus and confidence in God’s power? Or was I immersed in a panic?

And what if I had decided not to be a bit selfish? My thinking went something like this. I have a wife and a small child and I need to get better for both my family’s sake and my own sake. So, in this case, I felt justified in the times I put my needs ahead of others.

But doesn’t the Bible stress putting others first? Does it say anything about that approach being suspended when you’re sick?

No, what the Bible says in Matthew 6:33 (NIV) is “Seek first the kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” To paraphrase, Jesus is saying put me first in all circumstances and you will be rewarded for it.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Lyme is a very serious disease and it requires placing a substantial portion of your overall focus on treatment. But that doesn’t require moving your primary focus away from God.

Focusing on God and placing complete trust and confidence in Him was the key to healing in New Testament days. Is it any different today?

Photo: Eric Davidson

Seven easy ways to not delay your healing

I was going to compile a list of “don’ts” here, but nobody likes to be told don’t do this and don’t do that. So why don’t I make it a list of “avoids”?

We people with Lyme are usually so focused on making sure we do this and take that and see so and so that we don’t pay enough attention to what we should steer ourselves away from.

It’s all about not accidentally shooting yourself in the foot and setting yourself back.Many times what you don’t do is as important to getting well as what you actually do.

#1 – AVOID watching a lot of TV news.  People underestimate the importance of keeping their headspace positive. I’ve worked in television, so I know that TV exists primarily to sell advertising.

To help further this, many things are sensationalized and made to appear more extreme than they actually are. You may have noticed this during the recent U.S. election campaign. It appears the trend will only worsen.

A little TV news can help keep you informed, which is a good thing. A lot can get you depressed and carrying a negatively skewed view of the world in your head. Not so good.

#2 – AVOID eating (much) crappy food. In recent years, health researchers and doctors have been increasingly stressing the importance of a good diet to maintaining health. I’ve seen in my own life what an incredibly positive difference eating the right foods makes. But let’s not go overboard. Healthy food is often tasty, but unhealthy food is often really tasty. So go ahead and cheat, a bit, especially now that we’re in the holiday season.

#3 – AVOID arguing unless you have to. This might be a difficult one for the politically inclined this holiday season in the wake of the recent U.S. elections. But love has an awful lot to do with getting healthy and positive relationships generate love. Arguing has a way of tearing apart relationships, and really, what purpose does it serve 99 percent of the time? Sometimes you have to take a stand, but those times are rare.

#4 – AVOID believing that you’ll never get well. I remember early in my Lyme journey when I just couldn’t see how I could get better. I felt doomed. Big mistake. In his landmark book, “The Biology of Belief,” written in 2005, Dr. Bruce Lipton wrote convincingly of how a person’s beliefs play a huge role in what actually happens to them. This concept is becoming so mainstream that National Geographic just wrote a cover story on it.

The truth is that many, many Lyme patients have emerged from seemingly desperate circumstances to get fully well. Sometimes it’s a new treatment that works for you when previous ones didn’t. Sometimes it’s finding a different doctor who figures out your problem when others couldn’t. In short, there’s good reason to AVOID giving up.

#5 – AVOID pushing yourself too hard. This is especially important to remember during the holidays. One of the most valuable skills a person with Lyme can master is learning how to say no. When your energy level will allow you to do only so much, politely explain to people that this is the case, and it’s very important for you not to overdo it.

Not pushing yourself too hard also comes into play when it comes to treatment. Lyme medications can often cause serious die-off (Herxheimer) reactions, but many doctors in the field are now saying that it’s best not to promote these Herxes as a good thing to be aimed for as has often been done in the past. I believe the newer message is better. It says that Herxes are sometimes unavoidable but that you should try to avoid them.

#6 – AVOID getting down on yourself. I belong to several Lyme Facebook groups and I see a lot of people expressing their dismay at not being good enough wives or husbands or mothers or fathers or sisters or brothers or whatever.

For those who feel this way, give yourself an important gift this Christmas. Look in the mirror and repeat these words. “It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault.” You got sick with a serious illness that limits what you’re able to do. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.

#7 – AVOID focusing too much on Lyme. Fighting Lyme is such a full-time job that this one can be difficult. But it helps a lot if you can work towards having as full a life as possible with Lyme being only one component of it. Maybe try setting aside one day a week when you don’t say the L word or even think about it. Maybe Christmas day would be a good day to start.

Photo: shonna1968

The Best Thing About Lyme

I’m not one of those people who say they’re glad they’ve had Lyme. No matter how many life lessons it teaches me, I’ll always wish this miserable disease had never become part of my life.

Lyme has stolen an unbelievable number of things from me, mostly the most important things. If I could sue Borrelia, I’d ask for millions upon millions of dollars in damages.

But the truth is that having Lyme can make a person better. And I’d say the best thing about Lyme is that it gives you tremendous incentive to be the best you can be.

It’s like an athlete training for the Olympics. Every day you focus on doing exactly what you have to do as well as you can, sometimes just so you can survive. When I was really sick, I used to divide the day into three-hour blocks. The goal was to make as few mistakes as possible in each block and perform each task as well as I could.

Those things were often pretty mundane. Make sure I had three glasses of water in the morning. Do a brief series of stretches, because that’s all the exercise I could do. Make sure I took my supplements exactly as I was supposed to, and at the times I was supposed to. Check mark in box on this protocol sheet. Check mark in box on that protocol sheet.

I’m in much better health now in, so all this isn’t as intense as it once was. But I’m still not fully well, so the incentive to max out in all realms of life is still there.

Probably the most important area is simply trying to be a good person. Whether you believe in God or karma or the universe of whatever, anyone with chronic Lyme who aims for 100 percent wellness is going to need some wind at their back.

Christianity teaches that what you sow you reap, and much of karma is about what goes ’round comes ’round. I believe in this, and I badly want to be fully well, so my incentive to goodness is powerful. Let that driver in the traffic jam in front of me? Glad to. Practice random acts of kindness? With pleasure. I’m no more perfect than anyone else, but trying to do the right thing has become a habit.

When your heart’s desire is total wellness, it does wonders for your discipline. Before getting sick, I ate a lifetime’s worth of junk food. Now you’re going to have to wrestle me down and jam that crap down my throat to get me to eat it. If I feel tempted, I remember how wretched I felt, month after month after month, and my appetite for sweets quickly fades away.

Exercise? Now I see it as a privilege. For a long time, it was a struggle to walk the eight steps from my bed to the bathroom. Compared to that, going for a pleasant stroll is bliss. Are you kidding? Fresh air. Sunshine. Seeing people, animals, trees, clouds. Unbelievable! After being released from prison Lyme, you start to see the world as a small child would.

Even something like cleaning the house. For a long time, I wasn’t very good at that. But now I know a few things about microbes, and frankly, I don’t want a lot of them hanging around.

The potential downside of all this incentive is that it could lead to perfectionism. But after doing a ton of Lyme research, I know that perfectionism is a stumbling block to healing. So I remember to take it easy on myself, laugh a lot, make time for relaxation, and meditate every day. Still checking off those boxes.

So like an Olympic athlete, my habit is to maintain a laser focus on my tasks. For Olympians, everything they do right day in and day out is one step closer to a medal podium. For Lyme patients like myself, the steps are much smaller but they lead to an even bigger goal – getting back a better life than you had before Lyme entered your life.

Getting good with God

“Are you mad at God?”

My answer started with about a minute of silence. I hadn’t thought of that before until a pastor friend asked me one morning.

During that minute, I thought back to some of the difficult things I’d been through in my Lyme disease battle.

I’d lost my health, my marriage, and my ability to work. I’d had to move three hours away from my son and my friends to live with my parents because I wasn’t able to take care of myself. I had become disabled and lost my ability to do a bunch of things I loved to do. And I’d lost an awful lot of money as well.

“Yes,” I said. “I think I am mad at God.”

I suspect a lot of people who have struggled with Lyme and co-infections would answer the same way.

If you believe in God, then you probably believe that God could have spared you from all the misery you’ve experienced. And if you are a praying person, you’ve probably asked Him why.

I’m not the type who shakes his fist at the sky or anywhere else for that matter, so I’ve had to work through the problem in other ways.

The book of Job in the Bible is perhaps the only place where God clearly deals with the question of why bad things happen to people for no apparent reason. Job was singled out as one of God’s all-time favorites, a man beyond reproach, but he gets pelted with horror after horror. His wife advised him to “curse God and die.”

Job didn’t do that, but he did complain about God. Then, at the end of the book, God appears and has His say.

He starts a lengthy discourse by saying, “Where were you Job when I laid the foundations of the earth?” By the time He finishes speaking, His point is clear. He is so far above us that we cannot possibly understand His ways. If it had been the 21st century, He might have said, “Job, you’re just not wired to understand this.”

I believe that Job’s reply is also crucial for anyone trying to come to grips with terrible things that have happened to them. He starts by saying, “Behold, I am of little importance,” and shortly afterward adds, “I have uttered that which I don’t understand.”

The first point is that Job, like us, is only a human being. There’s a cliche that we are the clay and God is the potter, but I think it’s true. I believe that human beings have tremendous value, but in the overall scheme of things, it’s not all about us.

His second point is accepting God’s point about him not understanding. This, I feel, is the biggest key to working through anger toward the Almighty.

If you accept the scriptural view that God’s ways are so far above ours that we can’t possibly comprehend them, then you can say to yourself that there was a reason you went through this hell, although you may never know what it is.

I know a guy who lost his wife to cancer at a young age. She had two small children when diagnosed, and she went through agony hanging on to life long enough to be there for her kids as long as possible. After watching that play out year after year, he became bitter toward God and lost interest in the Christian life.

It seems to me that he’s giving up a lot. I can see things more objectively when I’m looking at it through the lens of another person’s experience rather than mine. My faith and my relationship with God are two of the most important parts of my life. They are things that I want to keep, no matter what.

So am I still mad at God? I don’t think so, but I can’t say for sure. I’ve worked through this to some degree, but it’s difficult to know how I feel in the depths of my being. Still, like Job, I can now honestly say I understand and accept that there are some things that I’ll never be able to understand; and that’s okay.

Photo: Eric Davidson

 

5 things that got me out of Lyme hell

I can’t recall the name of the comic strip, but I remember this hairy little troll living in a dungeon. You’d always see him on his knees digging in the dirt, trying to make a tunnel out of prison.

This is what it’s like being stuck in the middle of a really bad case of Lyme. Every day you try to gain two inches of ground and try not to lose more than one.

I know. I was there. For a long time.

Bedridden week after week, housebound month after month. Things would occasionally get a bit better, and I could go outside and walk at the pace of the average 95-year-old for 20 yards or so, but rarely more than that. This went on for seven years.

How bad was it? First of all, my doctor thought I might be dying.

Beyond that, I spent years not being well enough to see friends, not well enough to go anywhere, not able to talk on the phone or read for more than 10 or 15 minutes a day, not able to watch TV for any longer than that, not able to do much of anything but lie in bed thinking mostly about ways to get out of this predicament.

Worst of all were the times when I wondered if I was dying.

After falling asleep exhausted, I’d sometimes wake up a few hours later and still be so exhausted I’d have to lie there motionless for a half hour or more to get the strength to make the seven-step walk to the bathroom.

There was one hot night when I felt I would pass out, and I staggered across the hallway into my father’s room to where the window air conditioner was.

So how did I get out a hole as deep as that?

I can think of five main things that made a huge difference. They are as follows:

PRAYER:

I come from a Christian family. My father is a preacher and has many preacher friends. I never stopped praying, and neither did my mom or my dad or their friends or people at my church. My name was on the church prayer list every week for years.

Several times prayer warriors drove more than an hour to pray with me, and one preacher friend not only prayed but fasted to try to aid my cause. I believe God answered those prayers because I started getting well very suddenly.

I started by making my walks a bit longer, and soon I found my legs had normal strength for the first time in nearly a decade. The whole process took several months, but I went from maybe 10 per cent of normal to about 70 per cent of normal.

Now I could see friends, I could talk on the phone all I wanted to, I could exercise, I got my driver’s licence back, I could do a whole bunch of things I hadn’t been able to do before. Bedridden no more, housebound no more. And I hadn’t made any significant changes to what I was doing.

This sort of thing just isn’t supposed to happen after seven years of being so low. Did God heal me? I believe he did.

BELIEVING I’D GET WELL:

I must admit there were days when I fought off feelings of hopelessness, but I truly always believed that I would get well. I told people that many times and could see from their expressions they didn’t believe me. Once I overheard my mother talking on the phone with a friend, referring to me as “an invalid”. My mother acted heroically for me in many ways, but I sternly told her never to call me that again.

I remember back in the dark days I bought a pair of running shoes. At that point, I couldn’t have run if the house had been on fire, but I did it because I believed I would run again. I don’t know the science behind belief very well, but I do know that many studies have shown that the mind is extremely powerful and so is simple belief.

HAVING SOMEONE TO LIVE FOR:

This may be a cliche, but having someone or something to live for can save your life. In many concentration camp stories, survivors point to that as what got them through.

For me that someone was my son, who was one when I got sick. My illness coupled with a stressful job made life extremely difficult for my ex-wife, and she decided to leave.

Because I couldn’t take care of myself at the time, I was forced to move in with my parents who lived three hours away from my son lived.  I tried every possible arrangement to stay in the same city as my son, whom I have always loved like crazy, but nothing worked.

I did not see my son for seven and a half years, but I thought about him every day. I’d call him on the phone regularly, usually on Saturdays. Friday was a total rest day. I would do nothing that wasn’t necessary, so I’d have enough energy saved up to talk for the 10 or 15 minutes I was able to manage.

There was no way I could give up. I had to see him again. There was nothing I wanted more than to be a proper father to him, and I was determined that was going to happen.

KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH A GOOD DOCTOR:

I was very lucky to find a skilled, compassionate doctor who had gone through a similar experience herself. When I still lived with my wife and son, she made at least a dozen house calls, and when I moved to live with my parents, we had short phone consults every two months.

There wasn’t a lot she could do from a distance, but she monitored my situation and made many helpful suggestions. Maintaining contact with her was vital for me because I knew that I wasn’t fighting this alone, and that an experienced doctor could guide my steps.

MOVING IN THE DIRECTION I WANTED TO GO:

I mentioned buying a pair of sneakers earlier. That was one example of keeping my brain thinking that I would get well and preparing my body for the day I would be well.

It also meant doing everything I knew of to live as healthy a life as I could, whether that meant only eating healthy foods, getting as much fresh air into my room as possible, being as active as I could be under the circumstances, or spending a lot of time thinking about what I needed to do step by step to get through each day as well as I could.

That meant if I felt well enough to walk for even 10 feet, then I’d walk for 10 feet. If it meant I could do a bit of light stretching without feeling negative consequences, I’d do a bit of light stretching. If it meant having someone come to pray with me even if I felt wretched, then I’d do that. Digging that tunnel out of jail bit by bit by bit. And, finally, freedom came.

 

Photo: Eric Davidson