It’s hard to know for sure, but I believe my Lyme Disease “issues” began back in 2001. I was 26 years old. I’d been married for five years, and we had a beautiful two year old daughter named Autumn. I was also an extremely energetic Youth Pastor of a growing Youth Ministry. I had no type of serious physical or emotional or mental “issues.” For the most part, I was pretty normal (my wife may disagree with that statement).
Suddenly, out of nowhere, I began suffering from panic attacks which led to generalized anxiety which then led to social anxiety. There would be sudden heart palpitations, muscle twitching, debilitating fatigue to where I couldn’t think straight, insomnia, bouts with depression to where I’d have to force myself to get out of bed … and there were even times when I’d just break down crying for no reason. On top of all of that, I also began having horrible chronic headaches. I mean HORRIBLE chronic headaches! The type where you pray for Jesus to return. Where was all of this coming from? I had never dealt with anything like this in my entire life. Why now? And why all of a sudden?
As it persisted, I literally thought I was having a nervous breakdown, and feared that I would soon be forced to live in a padded room at a psychiatric hospital away from my family. I’m not being overdramatic when I say that. That fear seriously haunted me, because no matter how hard I tried or how much I prayed … I just couldn’t “get it together.” I soon fell into a dreadful condition known as the fear of fear cycle (also known as Phobophobia).
For the first time in my life, all of my inner peace and joy were completely AWOL! All of it! It felt like God had completely abandoned me, but I knew that the Bible said He would never do that to one of His own. In Hebrews 13:5 God says, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you.” That truth no longer felt true in my life. Day after depressing day
my prayers were nothing more than … “God, where are You? Why have You abandoned me?” As I read through the Psalms, I related to how King David often felt …
Psalm 10:1 “Why, O Lord, do You stand far away? Why do You hide yourself in times of trouble?
Psalm 13:1-2 “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”
As I continued to spiral down, my wife became very scared. She’d never seen me like this. Heck, I’d never seen me like this. This was NOT who she married. I’d do my best to put my happy face on around her and others, but behind it was a terrified man who was constantly questioning, “What the heck is going on? This is Not me! Has someone secretly drugged me or something?”
After multiple visits to my Primary Care Physician (PCP) and after multiple medical tests (blood work, CAT Scan, MRI, etc.), my PCP finally told me that the root of all my “issues” was stress/anxiety. On my medical paperwork, he used terms like Generalized Anxiety Disorder … Panic Disorder … and Atypical Migraines. I read those terms and felt scared, confused, and angry. I remember thinking, “What the $#@%? … Are you serious? … That’s my diagnosis? What in the $#@% is happening to me?”
It didn’t make sense to me.
After almost a year of battling all of my various “issues,” I became utterly desperate for some sort of relief, and finally agreed to take the antidepressant/anti-anxiety medicine that my PCP recommended (Effexor ER). I remember that conversation like it was yesterday …
I asked him if it was addictive.
He said … “No.”
I asked if I could easily come off of it.
He said … “Yes.”
That young and highly educated Med School graduate was dead wrong on both of those answers. Back in the late 90’s, Effexor ER was a relatively new “wonder drug” … but at that time, medical professionals didn’t know everything about it that they know now. I totally regret ever agreeing to take this specific drug. It has been one of the absolute WORST drugs to try and come off of. If you cold turkey it, prepare to walk through HELL! It’s HORRIBLE! If you wean-off too quickly (like I tried to several times), that’s a little better, but you will still hate your life!
I do need to say that Effexor ER did help lessen some of my symptoms … BUT I never relied on just a pill to help me manage anxiety, panic, depression, and headaches. I also had multiple sessions with a counselor … I also read (and reread) dozens of books and articles on stress, anxiety, depression, and headaches … I also listened to hundreds of podcast episodes on how to better manage my anxiety, panic, and depression … and I also often saw a chiropractor. All of those things did far more good for me than just popping a pill.
With anxiety, panic, and depression, I’m light years from where I was, and it’s definitely NOT because of Effexor ER. Over the years, I’ve learned to better manage my major “issues” using a holistic healing approach that involves talk-therapy, journaling, prayer, meditation, relaxation, good sleep habits, healthy diet, exercise, vitamins, herbal supplements, and essential oils. Don’t get me wrong, antidepressant and anti-anxiety meds definitely have their place in certain situations, but in my opinion they are too quickly prescribed by medical professionals to only lessen symptoms rather than deal with the underlying causes through a healthy holistic approach. I don’t judge or look down on any person who is using antidepressants or anti-anxiety meds. Under my doctor’s supervision, I’m still slowly weaning-off one of them.
Anyway, with all of that, here’s the million dollar question that I often find myself asking … Was the sudden onset of all those various symptoms back in 2001 the result of Lyme Disease and co-infections or did I suddenly acquire Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Depression, and Atypical Migraines?
No doubt, at that time in my life, I was not living healthy … my diet was horrible … I didn’t exercise like I should … my sleep schedule was all over the place … I consumed insane amounts of caffeine and sugar to try and keep pace … and here’s a big one … my spiritual life was out of alignment. I had some personal sin-struggles that I wasn’t properly dealing with. So yes, it’s possible that I definitely caused some symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression to come on … but deep down, it felt like something more was going on … like something wasn’t right inside of my body!
Looking back on my childhood and teen years, I was constantly in the woods … hiking, biking, climbing trees, building forts, camping, hunting, fishing, etc. That was me all the time. I’ve had more tick bites throughout my life than I can count!
Did I ever have a bulls-eye rash?
Not that I recall, but at times I definitely had a rash where I removed the embedded tick from my body. I never went to a doctor, so I never received any type of antibiotics for any of my tick bites. Like many of you reading this, after each tick bite, I just went on with living life.
In 2003, my “issues” began improving. I was starting to feel like my normal self and enjoying life again. Periodically, I’d have some flare-ups with anxiety, depression, and my horrible headaches … but they didn’t knock me back into the pit. Then, in 2012, some very odd symptoms/issues began messing with me, and they became more intense and more frequent. At that time, I recorded these words in my journal … “Something is definitely wrong with me and I need help!”
I will continue the rest of my backstory with Lyme Disease in my next post! Thanks for reading thus far. Feel free to leave a comment or ask questions.
If you’re battling Lyme Disease, I hope I can be some sort of encouragement. You’re not alone in this battle … so don’t lose hope and never give up! I know it’s hard. Believe me … I KNOW!
Here’s one of my favorite quotes that motivates me to persevere through the really tough times …
Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.Louis L’Amour
Battling with you,