"Give Thanks in All Circumstances" … Are you serious God?

God commands us to give thanks in all circumstances1 Thess. 5:18 … and that means even when life sucks. Man, that’s easier said than done, especially when you’re new to pain, suffering, loss, and disappointment. When life sucks, giving thanks can “feel” utterly impossible, but it’s not. It just “feels” that way, and you can’t trust your feelings. Let me repeat what I stated in one of my recent blog posts (Life’s Not Fair!) …

NO MATTER WHAT IS HAPPENING TO US, WE STILL HAVE THE POWER TO CHOOSE HOW WE RESPOND!

When life sucks, the easy and natural response is to wallow, whine, complain, envy, worry, and get bitter. The difficult and courageous response is to pause and give thanks for the many good things in your life. You have the power to choose your response … and giving thanks is the response that God wants from us … and He has good reasons for that which I’ll explain shortly.

It’s no coincidence that God chose the Apostle Paul to be the man to write those specific words of Scripture … “Give thanks in all circumstances.” God did not choose a man who was enjoying a pain and problem free life. Far from it, God purposefully chose a man who deeply understood pain, suffering, illness, injury, loss, betrayal, loneliness, frustration, anger, anxiety, depression, and despair (far more than any of us). In 2 Corinthians chapter 11, we learn that the Apostle Paul endured multiple imprisonments, countless beatings, and was often near death. Five times at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders, he received a beating of 39 lashes. Three times he was beaten with rods. One time a mob stoned him and left him for dead. Three times he was shipwrecked at sea, and after one of those shipwrecks, he actually spent an entire night and day adrift in the sea. On his cross-country missionary journeys, he was often in danger from river crossings, from the wilderness, from robbers, from fake Christians, and even from his own people. He also mentioned that he constantly endured toil and hardship that involved many sleepless nights and was often without food and water which of course led to many days and nights of hunger and thirst. On top of all of that, he was constantly exposed to the brutal elements of cold weather on his missionary journeys and also during his imprisonments in nasty dungeons. Internally, he also battled anxiety. He mentions all of this in 2 Corinthians chapter 11. This is the man that God intentionally chose to tell all of us to “Give thanks in all circumstances.”

Paul is not the type of guy we we can look at and say, “Who do you think you are telling me to give thanks in all circumstances? You have no idea what it’s like to go through __________________.” You can fill in the blank, but no doubt … whatever it is, Paul gets it. He knows all about pain and suffering and life not being fair.

Over the past two weeks, I keep thinking about what it means to give thanks in “all circumstances.” I can’t get those two words out of my mind … “all circumstances.” At times, I’ve been angry over those two words and I’m like, “Really God? You want me to give thanks in ‘all circumstances?’ Do you not see what I’ve been going through for the past few years? This suffering that I’ve continually asked You to deliver me from, but You haven’t? Is this some kind of cruel joke that You play on us? It just doesn’t make sense! Why would You tell me to give thanks when you don’t answer my prayers and You continue to allow life to suck?”

Over the last two decades of reading and studying Scripture, I’ve noticed that there are actually quite a few things that God commands us to do that often don’t make sense to us, but I’m learning that this is where REAL FAITH comes in. When we trust and obey God even when it doesn’t make sense to us … even when it’s the complete opposite of what we naturally “feel” like doing … THAT’S REAL FAITH. So with this particular command of giving thanks in all circumstances, I’ve been daily trying to trust and obey Him, and here’s what I’ve been discovering …

When we make a practice of giving thanks, we actually experience incredible personal benefits (especially during those times when life really sucks). Not only does giving thanks glorify God, but it’s scientifically proven to personally benefit us: mentally, emotionally, and even physically. Scientific research has revealed that the practice of gratitude literally rewires our brains to give us a happier mood. In 2005, research was done by Psychologists Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California and Dr. Michael McCullough of the University of Miami … and they found that the participants in their study who kept a daily journal of things that happened throughout their week that they were thankful for ended up feeling more positive about their lives than those who didn’t continually recognize and write down what they were thankful for.

Other scientific studies have shown that routinely giving thanks also improves our sleep quality and reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. There’s also research/evidence that shows that people who routinely gives thanks have less fatigue, less inflammation, and they even reduce their risk of heart failure (even for those who are more susceptible to that particular condition). I also found it super fascinating that one of the neuro-chemicals associated with the practice of giving thanks is dopamine (the pleasure chemical). – Source Link

After reading about all of this, it began making sense to me why God commands His children to give thanks in all circumstances. He’s not trying to play a cruel joke on us. On the contrary, as our Creator/Designer, He’s known all along how much giving thanks will personally benefit us: mentally, emotionally, and physically … especially during those times when life really sucks … and He wants us to experience all of those personal benefits because He’s a good Father who always wants what’s best for His children.

So here I am, realizing (once again) that even when God’s commands don’t gel with “common sense” or with what I naturally “feel” like doing … I still need to trust and obey Him because I don’t know everything that He knows … especially when it comes to the intricate connection and function of my brain, biology, thoughts, beliefs, self-talk, and conscious choices.

Stop and consider this … with these scientific studies regarding routinely giving thanks … science has unintentionally validated that God’s Word (the Bible) is not some outdated book that has no application for modern man’s complex mental, emotional, physical, and relational “issues.” God actually knows what He’s talking about. Ha. Go figure.

Listen, I know how difficult it can be to give thanks when life really sucks. I know it’s the last thing that you naturally “feel” like doing, but it doesn’t matter. You still have the power to choose your response regardless of what is happening to you in any given moment or situation. I did it last night as I was trying to fall asleep. For dinner, I ate something I shouldn’t have eaten, and severe stomach pains had me tossing and turning as I tried to fall asleep. In that moment, I decided to take control of my thoughts and I began thanking God for all sorts of various things (even my painful health issues). Did it miraculously and instantaneously heal me of my Lyme Disease? No, but within a few minutes I actually fell asleep. There was no more tossing and turning with frustration. Giving thanks obviously triggered the relaxation response in my body which allowed me to fall asleep more quickly.

God is showing me that regardless of what sucks in my life, there are still numerous things to be thankful for. It all comes down to my perspective and what I choose to focus on. Most people in this world choose to focus on the negative, the pain, the suffering, the loss, the symptoms, the suck, or what they don’t have that others do have (envy). That has often been me. I still struggle with it, but I’m battling to be different … to be better than that.

I encourage you to do what I’ve been doing … take time daily to write down what you’re thankful for in a journal. The next day, write down more things that you’re thankful for. Do it and keep doing it until it begins to transform you.

Another way I’m giving thanks is to take time to regularly thank the people who’ve been a blessing in my life. You need to do the same. Appreciate them. Write them a letter. Shoot them a text message. Post on their Facebook wall. Or tell them in person. Don’t wait to thank them at their funeral. That’s selfish! Tell them now while there’s still time. You have no idea how much they might need that word of encouragement in that moment (and of course, thanking them will also benefit you too … you’ll get yourself a fresh hit of dopamine).

I really encourage you to join with me in making a habit of giving thanks (REGARDLESS of your situation or circumstances). I’m daily battling to do this, and it’s not easy for me, but here’s something interesting that I’m discovering … when I continually focus on my symptoms and pain … I feel worse and my healing does not progress like I need it to. Also, if I continually look at social media and focus on other people who seem to be living a better, healthier, and happier life than me … I also feel worse and my healing does not progress like I need it to. The mind/body connection in regards to healing is legit and amazing. I’m just starting to tap into this realm of healing. Yes I still believe in going to doctors and taking your meds, vitamins, supplements … but I’m beginning to realize how much my thoughts, beliefs, attitude, words, and actions can either help or hinder my healing (and pain levels). I’ve been reading a fascinating book on this subject called Mind Over Medicine by Dr. Lissa Rankin – Amazon Link Here. I’m sure I’ll write about it in the future.

I’ll wrap this up by showing you the many blessings I wrote in my personal journal the night of Thanksgiving

  • Had a good night’s sleep last night.
  • Was able to enjoy a little coffee and read Scripture this morning.
  • Was able to eat some normal Thanksgiving food and it didn’t cause major issues.
  • Got to watch a movie with my wife.
  • Got to play a game of chess with my son and had no cognitive issues.
  • Got to play with the dogs.
  • Got to talk to my brother and sister on the phone and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving.
  • Got to talk to a few friends and family via text.
  • Was able to do some stretching and go for a two-mile walk in the neighborhood.
  • I have medicine, vitamins, and supplements to help me with my “issues.”
  • I have warm clothes and a warm house.
  • I have clean filtered water to drink.
  • My rib and abdominal pain were not as bad today.
  • I’ve been experiencing less headaches the last few weeks.
  • My anxiety has not been flaring up this week.
  • My wife and kids are healthy.
  • All the bills are paid on time.
  • I was able to speak at a recent youth event.
  • I’m forgiven of all of my sins.
  • Heaven is my home.
  • I’m eternally secure in God’s hands.

Typically, that’s not the type of stuff I write in my journal. Typically (for the last few years), I list out all of my recent symptoms, problems, issues, etc. Yes, it’s important to track your symptoms when you’re battling a chronic illness, but if that’s all you’re doing with your journal … it can often leave you frustrated, discouraged, anxious, etc. So now when I write in my journal, I still track my symptoms, but I also reserve a separate page to write out what I’m thankful for on that day. I now consider this part of my recovery just as much as I do taking meds, vitamins, herbal supplements, etc. Call me cooky if you want, but I think the scientific research says I’m a wise man if I do this.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Hope this blog post in some way encourages and motivates those of you who are also in the midst of enduring some serious pain and suffering. You’re not alone. I know you may feel very weak and scared right now, but you’re a WARRIOR! It hasn’t beaten you! You’re still alive! You’re still breathing! You got out of bed this morning to face another day even with the pain and suffering … just like I did!

Good job.

Keep it up.

One day at a time.

That’s how we roll!

Battling with you,

Jason

Jason T. George is not a medical professional. The content of BattlingLyme.com is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read, seen, or heard from Jason T. George.

Life’s Not Fair!

I recently heard a super frustrated person say, “Life’s not fair!” 

That person is spot on. Life’s not fair. And we must stop expecting it to be fair because that’s not reality. That’s actually a distorted view of the human condition (see John 16:33). The sooner we accept this reality (that life’s not fair), the better off we’ll be in overcoming pain, suffering, opposition, and disappointment. No one gets a free pass on those things. No one. It’s only a matter of time until life knocks you down and kicks you in the face repeatedly.

Many of us are under the illusion that we’re in control of so many things in life, but the truth is … we have little to no control over a large portion of what happens to us. The only thing we truly have control over is our response to what happens to us! 

Holocaust survivor, Viktor E. Frankl, says it best, “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation … The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” 

If you’ve never read his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, you need to. If you don’t like reading, then get the audio book. It’s one of the most insightful and inspiring books I’ve ever read.

Take a few moments and really ponder his words … “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation … The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.”

Those words are powerful because of who wrote them. Frankl is not a mere philosopher or some sort of self-help guru who gave a TED Talk. He’s a man who courageously survived multiple Nazi concentration camps. From personal experience, he knew the dark depths of pain and suffering in ways that most of us never will (I’m telling you, read the book).

I’ve said it numerous times, but it’s worth saying again because so many of us need the reminder (including myself) … At times, life is going to suck (really bad)! That’s reality, and I believe the best thing we can do with that reality is embrace the suck, trust God through it, and make the most of it.

What good does all the fear, anxiety, anger, bitterness, envy, and complaining over life’s “unfairness” do for us? In my experience, it makes our situation worse. Over the last few years, when I’ve responded to my pain and suffering with fear, anxiety, anger, bitterness, envy, and/or complaining … it’s totally made me feel worse (mentally, emotionally, and even physically). It’s so easy to go down that rabbit hole. I hate it.

On the other hand, when I choose to do the unnatural thing and embrace the suck, trust God through it, and make the most of it … there’s an inner peace that can mysteriously show up. Don’t misunderstand me … my pain and problems don’t magically disappear when I embrace the suck, trust God through it, and make the most of it. I’m just saying that there have been times that I’ve experienced an inner peace when I’ve done those three things. It’s like I go from drowning in the crashing waves to riding them.

I recently experienced this mysterious inner peace when I was enjoying an evening on my bathroom floor (sarcasm). I was actually moaning in pain and considering heading to the ER. My anxiety was majorly elevated because of unresolved abdominal and rib pain that’s been my thorn in the flesh for over two months now. My Lyme Doc says it could be the result of a parasitic infection known as Babesia. Or it could be another type of parasite? Or it could be the fact that we are aggressively treating Lyme Disease with some hardcore homeopathic meds that can cause painful “herx reactions.” Who the heck knows?

All I do know is that in that moment on the bathroom floor, I chose to embrace the suck, trust God through it, and make the most of it. I began thanking God for every good and painful thing in my life that I could think of and I told Him that I trust Him through this pain. I then reminded myself that no matter what happens to me, I’m eternally secure in His omnipotent hands (see John 10:28-29). Then I began praying for several of my friends who are also physically and mentally suffering from Lyme Disease and co-infections (Sam, Dennis, Taco, and Hannah). I then decided to text two of them to see how they were doing. That’s what I mean by making the most of the suck. I turned my suck (pain and suffering) into something good.

It’s weird how it works, but when I get the attention off of my pain and suffering and I check on someone else who is suffering, it reduces my emotional pain and can even ease my physical pain. My chronic pain and suffering has definitely made me a more compassionate person (this is something I have majorly lacked in my Christian life).

Before you go thinking, “Wow, what a super saint Jason is!” Don’t. Because I’m not. Showing genuine concern and compassion without any selfish motive is not how I typically roll. I’m not as godly as I have often portrayed myself. Over the last year, I have become painfully aware of this fact.

Here’s some hardcore truth about me … negative, discouraging, and dark thoughts often invade my mind when I’m in the midst of pain and suffering, and sometimes they win the battle. I don’t always think “positive” or “godly” thoughts when all Hell is breaking loose. But let’s get real … no one does! It’s taken me a long time, but I’m slowly learning to let my negative, discouraging, and dark thoughts come and go. I don’t have to allow them to become permanent fixtures in my mind. God has given me the power to replace them with better thoughts (see Philippians 4:8 and 4:13). It’s not always easy. It doesn’t come natural. I have to work at it continually.

One last thing that I’ve been learning that I wanted to share with you is that I’m also really trying to stop expecting everyone to treat me the way that I want to be treated. That’s also a distorted view of the human condition. The Master simply tells us to treat others the way that we want them to treat us (see Matthew 7:12). That’s the code we’re supposed to live by. Just do that and expect nothing in return. Sounds so simple, but it’s not. I’ve really been trying to lower my expectations of how people should treat me (even with my family and friends). I believe that’s going to help my life go a whole lot better. Just focus on treating them the way I want to be treated without expecting anything in return. Period.

That’s all I got for now. Enjoy your weekend.

Battling with you,

Jason

My Backstory with Lyme – Part 3

So as I said in my last post, after my Primary Care Physician decided that I didn’t actually have Lyme Disease because I didn’t “technically” meet the CDC’s standards (CDC = Center for Disease Control), she referred me to a Neurologist and also wanted me to have a sleep study done. The sleep study sounded ridiculous to me so I never had it done, but I did make an appointment to see the Neurologist. I had to wait four months to meet with him. Crazy!

When I finally met with him, he asked me some basic questions about my symptoms and then did some basic testing of my strength, balance, focus, etc. Apparently I passed with flying colors. At that point, he didn’t really know what to do with me, so he suggested I get a CAT Scan done and go see an Infectious Disease Doctor. I thought to myself, “Wait, what? An Infectious Disease Doctor? So you think I might have an infectious disease?” This was all so confusing.

I was ready to schedule the appointment with the Infectious Disease Doctor, but a friend told me that it’s pointless to see him because he doesn’t even believe that late-stage or “chronic” Lyme Disease is a real thing. She said he wouldn’t even consider that as a possible diagnosis. I didn’t know what to do. I began second guessing myself, “Maybe I don’t have Lyme Disease? Maybe I have something else going on? But why was my ELISA Test positive and why did I have four out of ten positive markers on my Western Blot Test? What the heck?” Something didn’t seem right to me. It was time for me to do some serious researching and networking to try and figure things out.

I talked to my friend Stephanie who had suffered through a long and difficult battle with Lyme Disease and she told me that many people who have Lyme Disease don’t meet the CDC’s requirements and that there are many “false-negatives” with Lyme testing. After talking with her, I decided to schedule an appointment with a doctor who helped her with her Lyme Disease. She told me that he specialized in treating patients with Lyme Disease and other tick-related infections. He’s what’s referred to as a “Lyme Literate Medical Doctor” or “LLMD.” Even though he’s a legit M.D. (Medical Doctor), he has to operate outside the medical establishment just because he believes that Late-Stage or “chronic” Lyme Disease is a real thing and he’s not afraid to treat it. I found out that’s a big NO-NO with the medical establishment. In fact, some doctors have actually lost their license over it.

I drove two hours to see this LLMD (Dr. Paul Beals at Chesapeake Wellness Center in Stevensville, MD). My first visit cost me $450. Unfortunately, my insurance wouldn’t cover a dime because the medical establishment doesn’t recognize “late-stage” or “chronic” Lyme Disease. I didn’t care! I desperately needed help. At that time, I was having increasing difficulty functioning with work, ministry, and just everyday life. All of the essential oils that Meagen and Stephanie sent me definitely helped reduce some of my symptoms, but they weren’t enough. I needed more.

Dr. Paul Beals doesn’t do small talk. I sat down in his office and he got right down to business. As he looked over the results from my Lyme Test and Blood Work, he began circling things and drawing lines. He then grilled me with a series of questions about my history of symptoms. He was furiously scribbling notes the entire time I talked. We talked for well over an hour. Contrary to my Primary Care Physician, he was absolutely convinced that ALL of my health issues were completely the result of not only Lyme Disease, but also co-infections like Bartonella and Babesia. I wanted to cry. Just to be fully heard and have a legitimate and confident diagnoses from a medical professional felt like coming out of a dark fog.

Dr. Beals immediately launched into a detailed scientific explanation of what Lyme Disease (Borrelia Burgdorferi) and the co-infections (Bartonella and Babesia) can do to a person if left untreated. All of it was new information … with terms like spirochetes, biofilms, biotoxins, stealth pathogens, neurotoxins, the blood-brain barrier, mycoplasma, Bell’s palsy, neuropathy, mitochondrial dysfunction, adrenal fatigue, Herxheimer reactions, detoxification, etc. It was OVERWHELMING! I took as many notes as I could, but it was just way too much for me to write down and comprehend in one meeting.

After that avalanche of scientific information buried me, Dr. Beals then began laying out my treatment plan. He gave me a prescription for antibiotics (Cefuroxime Axetil 500mg). He also told me I needed to completely change my diet by eating organic as much as I could and completely avoiding white processed sugar, dairy, gluten, and processed foods. He also told me that I needed to take a good multivitamin 3xs per day and take extra Vitamin C and Vitamin D. He also told me to take a good probiotic at lunch and bedtime (away from the time when I take my antibiotics). He also prescribed Trazadone and said it would help with my insomnia, stress, and anxiety. I immediately gave him pushback on the Trazadone. “I don’t want a med to help with my stress and anxiety. I’m already taking one.” He said he prescribes Trazadone for all of his Lyme patients and that it will totally end my insomnia … and then he told me how crucial sleep is to overcoming Lyme. He also assured me it was not habit forming and I could easily come off of it.

“Where have I heard that before?”

He insistent that I needed it and kept repeating that it was perfectly safe. Because he was a “Lyme Literate Medical Doctor,” I listened to him. I was desperate and willing to do whatever it takes to get rid of this #@$&@ disease and all the other nasty co-infections that came with it.

At the close of our meeting, he again mentioned this thing called a Herxheimer reaction that could result from taking the antibiotics. He said that when it happens, I would need to take Alka Seltzer Gold and drink lots of water. I had no idea what a “Herxheimer reaction” was. He really didn’t explain that very well, nor did he warn me of how horrible they can be, but I would soon find out! Fun. Fun. Fun.

Dr. Beals repeatedly told me that it takes Patience, Persistence, and Pills to overcome Lyme. Those were his three P’s … like he was some sort of Southern Baptist Pastor giving alliterated sermon points. I shook my head. Anyway … when Dr. Beals used the term “pills,” he was referring to antibiotics. I would soon find out that if one antibiotic didn’t do the job, he’d put you on a different one, and if that one didn’t do the job, he’d put you on a different one, and if that one didn’t do the job … you get the picture. He wouldn’t stop with the antibiotics! His primary approach to treating Lyme Disease and co-infections was with hardcore antibiotics.

He also warned me that there’s no quick-fix or easy cure to treating Lyme Disease and co-infections. I was like, “What do you mean? How long we talking Doc? A month? Two months? I got stuff I need to do with my life, family, business, and ministry!” He told me it could take years. My jaw hit the floor … “You’ve got to be kidding!”

He wasn’t kidding.

I didn’t like his answer (not at all). However, I left his office feeling quite optimistic and hopeful. “Bring on the antibiotics! I got this!”

Dude, I had no idea what I was in for! My arrogant @$$ was about to be humbled, broken, transformed like never before!

I’ll share more about my backstory with Lyme Disease as soon as I can. I only write when I feel well enough to. Unfortunately, this summer has been extremely hard for me. I’ve had a major setback in my recovery/healing. On top of all of the “normal issues” that I’ve been working so hard to heal, I found out this week that I may also have parasites. I’m not even kidding! The last two days have been ABSOLUTELY MISERABLE … I’m talking on the floor in a fetal position, moaning in pain! I’m going through all sorts of fun test this week (sarcasm). Tonight, I’m extremely thankful that I’m feeling well enough to write and finish this post. Thanks for taking time to read it.

If you’re battling Lyme Disease or some other chronic illness or disease, you’re not alone in your suffering. Don’t lose hope and don’t give up! This was my prayer this morning …

“But You, O Lord, do not be far off! O You, my help, come quickly to my aid!” – Psalm 22:19 ESV

Battling with you,

Jason

Me and my youngest daughter Gabrielle on a dinner date!

I’m not a medical professional. The content of BattlingLyme.com is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on BattlingLyme.com

My Backstory with Lyme – Part 2

As I said in my previous post, from 2003 to 2012, my “issues” were gradually improving. I was actually feeling like my normal self and enjoying life again. Periodically, I’d have some flare-ups with anxiety or depression or my horrible headaches would pay me a visit for a season, but they didn’t last. Then, in 2012, everything changed. Some very odd symptoms manifested and over the years they steadily became more intense and more frequent …

. . . chronic left-sided headaches down into the left-side of my face

. . . feeling dizzy or disoriented

. . . chronic fatigue that hindered or kept me from work

. . . frequent nausea

. . . low energy

. . . irritable bowels

. . . horrible muscle and joint pain that migrated

. . . frequent muscle twitching

. . . facial twitching (that was super annoying)

. . . insomnia (even though I was completely exhausted, I couldn’t sleep)

. . . memory issues (I’d forget basic stuff like names of friends, my zip code, etc.)

. . . anxiety (sometimes feeling like I wanted to jump out of my skin)

. . . depression

. . . And did I mention headaches? … HORRIBLE CHRONIC HEADACHES!

Then I’d have weeks where I’d feel like my normal self. My symptoms would lift and I’d get a false hope that all is well. Then, for no apparent reason, the tsunami would return … sometimes for days and sometimes for weeks. It was SUPER frustrating. I desperately wanted to know what the heck was going on and I wanted it fixed!

During this time in my life, I was living in Missouri and at least once per week I was in the woods mountain biking. Tick bites were definitely par for the course. On June 4, 2013, I recorded in my journal that I removed an embedded tick from my upper torso. This was not unusual. I never went to the doctor because a bulls-eye rash never developed. Growing up, I was led to believe that if there’s no bulls-eye rash then you’re good to go.

THAT’S A BUNCH OF BULL!

Now that I’ve become a student of Lyme Disease (out of necessity, not desire), I’ve learned that the whole bulls-eye rash thing is 50/50. Experts say the bull’s-eye rash known as “erythema migrans” can be absent in at least 50% of Lyme Disease cases. So I have no way of knowing if that particular tick bite on June 4, 2013 infected me with Lyme Disease and co-infections (by the way, ticks are carrying way more than must Lyme Disease) … nor do I know which ticks carried Lyme Disease that bit me all throughout my life. All I know is that at least one of them definitely carried Lyme and co-infections because in 2017 I tested POSITIVE … but I’m getting way ahead of myself so let’s back up …

On Sunday, April 12, 2015 … something really strange happened to me. I was speaking in Indiana at a weekend youth event, and for the most part, I was having a great weekend with no major symptoms. I slept great on Saturday night and woke up on Sunday morning optimistic and ready to finish the weekend strong. I had one last teaching session to complete. As I was leaving my hotel room I was suddenly hit with MAJOR fatigue … I’m mean MAJOR fatigue … like someone shot me with a tranquilizer gun! It didn’t make sense because I had just slept a solid 8 hours. I remember repeatedly saying to myself, “What the heck is wrong with me?” I went to the local Starbucks hoping a venti coffee would pull me out of the abyss, but it didn’t.

The strange fatigue made the entire day a blur. I remember constantly praying throughout that day … “God help me through. I can’t do this without You!” All I wanted to do is cancel everything, go back to my hotel room, and SLEEP! That entire day I really struggled as I interacted with people from the church. It was like I was in some sort of dark fog. My mental comprehension was like molasses. Later that afternoon, nausea decided to join the party, and I couldn’t shake it. As I said, I kept thinking, “What the heck is wrong with me?” and I kept praying, “God help me through. I can’t do this without You!”

I was scheduled to teach one last time that evening, but I didn’t think I could do it. An hour before the event began, I finally mentioned to the Youth Pastor that I wasn’t feeling well and asked him if I could go lay down in his office to rest before it was time for me to teach. Thankfully, he was cool with that. As I laid on the couch in his office, I continued to beg God for His help and I also texted several friends to pray for me.

When it was finally time for me to take the stage and teach, it was nothing short of SUPERNATURAL … All of the strange symptoms suddenly vanished. All of them! God totally gave me the energy and mental clarity that I needed to teach with boldness and enthusiasm. Never underestimate the power of prayer! Over the many years of battling late-stage Lyme Disease, I’ve used it to get me through many incredibly difficult days -especially when I’ve been on the road teaching. My symptoms easily flare-up when I’m dealing with the stress of traveling and public speaking.

The next day, as I was driving home from Indiana to Southwest Missouri, I was mentally trying to make sense of it all … “What the heck happened yesterday? … Why did I all of a sudden feel like someone drugged me? … Am I sick with something? … Could that have been some sort of demonic attack to keep me from teaching?”

FYI = I realize that some of you reading this don’t believe in the reality of the paranormal. Things like “demonic attacks” have no place in your educated/scientific mind. If that’s you, I want to encourage you to check out an insightful and startling article by Dr. Richard Gallagher, a board-certified psychiatrist and professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College – link here. It may completely change your view regarding the demonic. If not, no worries. It doesn’t offend or anger me.

Anyway, as I was saying, I was making the long drive home from Indiana to Southwest Missouri and mentally trying to make sense of everything that happened the day before. Clueless and frustrated, I called my friend Clayton King to see if he could help me figure things out. After I was done rambling for 20 minutes, he asked me a series of questions about my diet, caffeine intake, sleep schedule, exercise routine, etc. He didn’t really have any answers for me. Honestly, I didn’t expect him to. I think I mostly needed a friend to vent to, and Clayton isn’t just a friend, he’s also someone who understands the pressure that comes with being an itinerant evangelist/teacher. He’s been a mentor to me for many years. As our conversation ended, he prayed for me but also strongly advised that I go see my doctor when I returned home.

I came home and immediately scheduled an appointment with my Primary Care Physician. I wanted him to completely rule out things like diabetes, hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, even cancer. I came to the appointment with a list of all of the bizarre symptoms that were increasingly plaguing me. He ordered a basic blood test, but not a Lyme Test. At this time, Lyme Disease never crossed my mind, nor did it cross his mind. Two weeks later, the results came back and my PCP assured me that everything looked normal. He then tried to convince me that all of my symptoms were most likely the result of stress and anxiety. He advised me to reduce my stress and take my anxiety meds. Because he’s a doctor, I just accepted his diagnosis as the truth and followed his advice (reduce my stress and take my anxiety meds). After that conversation, I did all I could to fix my “stress and anxiety problem.” Daily I devoured books, articles, and various podcasts on the subject. I even went and saw a counselor. My attitude was … “Damn it, I’m going to fix this stress and anxiety problem! I want my life back!”

At the end of 2016, our family relocated halfway across the country from Missouri to Maryland. Maryland is where my wife and I grew up, and we felt it was time to be closer to family and old friends. After the dust settled from the big move, I began working for a friend’s home improvement company when I wasn’t doing my ministry stuff.

My journals from that time period reveal that my symptoms were increasing and they began hindering my work. Joint and muscle pains became much more frequent and more intense. Daily I had to wear wrist and elbow braces as I worked, and I also took 800mg of Ibuprofen in the morning just to try and lessen my pain so I could work.

My left-sided headaches had become chronic. I hardly ever had a headache free day. I’d wake up with a headache and go to bed with a headache. Pain would shoot from my left temple area down the left side of my face, and sometimes the whole left-side of my face felt would feel numb. Sometimes even the left-side of my tongue would ache. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s the truth. What really scared me with my headaches is that they made it difficult to think and articulate. For the first time in my my life, finding the right words and actually saying them wasn’t easy for me.

To say the least, I was frustrated, discouraged, and becoming more and more irritable. I felt like I was losing who I was. My productivity was down by at least 50%. My irritabillity was definitely negatively affecting my relationship with my wife and kids and I hated that. In my journal I wrote, “How can all this be stress and anxiety? Something else has to be wrong with me! Please God, heal me! I don’t know what to do or who to turn to.”

God answered … In February of 2017, I was teaching at a winter youth retreat in New Hampshire, and in one of my lessons I began sharing about my daily struggle with all of my weird symptoms. After I got done teaching, a lady leader asked me if I’d ever been tested for Lyme Disease. I said no. She asked if I’d ever been bitten by a tick. I told her multiple times throughout my life. She looked at me perplexed and asked why I’d never had a Lyme Test? I said because I never saw a bulls-eye rash. She was adamant that `I should get tested when I returned home and she then began telling me about her own long and painful battle with Lyme Disease. She had battled it for many many years. To my surprise, many of her symptoms were identical to mine. I was baffled, but curious … “Could I really have Lyme Disease? Is that what’s been causing all of this for all these years?”

In March of 2017, I met with my new Primary Care Physician and asked her to test me for Lyme Disease. She seemed reluctant, but did it. She just wanted me to have a sleep study done. In my head, I was like, “A sleep study? What the $#%@ are you talking about? You think all of my issues are simply the result of not sleeping right? Are you freggin’ kidding me?”

A few weeks later, the test results came back. The first thing that was noted is that I tested POSITIVE for reactivated EBV (Epstein Bar Virus). I had it in high school and now it was back, flaring-up in full force. No wonder I was utterly exhausted all the time. Then, lo and behold, the ELISA Test for Lyme Disease came back POSITIVE, and the Western Blot Test for Lyme Disease revealed that I had 4 out of 10 POSITIVE indicators for Lyme Disease.

So I looked at my Primary Care Physican and said, “So I have Lyme Disease?” She said, “Not technically.” She then informed me that the CDC (Center for Disease Control) says that a person must have not only a POSITIVE ELISA Test, but must also have at least 5 out of 10 POSITIVE indicators on the Western Blot Test for that person to be diagnosed with Lyme Disease. My Primary Care Physician looked at me and matter-of-factly said, “So you don’t technically meet the criteria for Lyme Disease.” I said, “But what about the ELISA Test that showed the presence of Lyme antibodies in my system? What about the fact that I’m positive for 4 out of the 10 indicators on the Western Blot Test? And what about all my weird chronic symptoms that fit the profile for someone with Lyme Disease?” She looked at me and simply said, “It doesn’t matter. You don’t meet the CDC’s criteria, therefore, you don’t actually have Lyme Disease. I recommend that you go see a neurologist about those headaches and go get that sleep study done.”

I was done with her. I went and found a new Primary Care Physician who wasn’t so narrow-minded, and (above all) I decided that I was going to take charge of my health instead blindly following everything I was being told by the medical establishment. I decided that I was now my own Primary Care Physician, and I decided that I would begin researching Lyme Disease like I was working for a PhD. The very first thing that struck me as I began my research was the fact that many top medical experts vehemently disagree with the CDC’s standards for diagnosing Lyme Disease. The latest research overwhelmingly reveals that the CDC’s standards are outdated and just plain inaccurate. Of course, insurance companies love the CDC’s current standards for diagnosing Lyme Disease because it means that the millions of people suffering from it don’t receive any insurance coverage to help with it because they the CDC says they don’t technically have it.

Something has to change with this … and soon! There are now an overwhelming amount of respected medical doctors, researchers, and organizations who are speaking up and fighting for the CDC to change their standards because of what the latest research reveals about accurately diagnosing Lyme Disease. Personally, I think the big dawgs at the CDC are in bed with the big dawgs at the insurance companies … and sadly, that’s why nothing has changed!

Through my research, I also learned that my ELISA test revealed that the Lyme antibodies in my system were not new. They had been in me for quite some time. Meaning … I didn’t just recently contract Lyme Disease in 2017. This made sense with all that I’d been going through for so many years. I know it sounds strange, but I actually felt a HUGE sense of relief knowing that I had Lyme Disease … YES! Now I know what it is, and we can get this #$%&@ disease out of me with some antibiotics or something!”

Dude, I had absolutely no idea what I was in for!

I immediately contacted the lady leader (Meagen) who I met in New Hampshire (the one who told me to get the Lyme Test). I told her l had Lyme Disease like it was some sort of good news. She was thankful that I finally had a diagnosis, but she wasn’t excited for me because deep down she knew what I was in for. The LONG and extremely DIFFICULT journey towards healing late-stage Lyme Disease was about to begin and she knew it was going to rock my world.

At that time, I was so utterly clueless about Lyme Disease and how to treat it. At various times, I’d text Meagen or my friend Stephanie who also battled Lyme Disease for many years, and I’d grill them with all sorts of questions about it … “Did your legs twitch too? What about your face? Did that twitch? How bout chronic headaches? How do I get rid of them? Is there an essential oil for that? What about anxiety? Did Lyme make you feel anxious? Did you get dizzy?”

Meagen and Stephanie were always gracious to respond. They both ended up becoming incredibly encouraging friends (literal lifelines). More than once they both sent me packages of DoTerra Essential Oils with personalized notes on how to use each one of them (I’m talking hundreds of dollars worth of DoTerra Essential Oils). I tried to pay them, but they wouldn’t let me. Meagen said that many people helped her through her Lyme Disease battle and she was just “paying it forward.” Stephanie also just wanted to be a blessing to me. It blew me away. Who does that?

Also, when I would go various places around the country to teach, Meagen and Stephanie would let me know that they were praying for me because they knew how bad I was hurting with Lyme, and they both knew from personal experience how hard it is to put on a happy face when you’re around people and they couldn’t imagine how hard it must be doing it up on a stage. Prayer literally got me through each time. I came so close to backing out of numerous speaking engagements right before I was scheduled to take the stage, but God somehow got me through each one of them. I can assure you it was not my inner strength, talent, grit, or whatever. Prayer. That’s all I can say.

Big shout out to Meagen and Stephanie! God used both of you at just the right time. No one should ever have to go through Lyme Disease or any other chronic illness or disability alone!

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. My email is Jason@Narrowtrail.com

If you’re battling Lyme Disease or some other type of painful chronic illness or condition, my goal is to be some sort of encouragement to you. At least you’re seeing that you’re not alone in this battle. Literally millions of others around the world are suffering too, and many of them have it far worse than you and I … so don’t lose hope and never give up the fight for your health! It can get better, but everyday you have to choose to be optimistic and keep battling … research, research, research … You be your Primary Care Physician. Take those vitamins and herbal supplements, improve your diet, exercise frequently (even if it’s just a walk), get under the care of a Lyme Literate Doctor, pray, meditate, detox, journal, get in a support group, talk to a good friend, don’t bottle things up, etc.

I want to leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, an Austrian Neurologist and Psychiatrist who also happened to be a holocaust survivor. He endured multiple German Concentration Camps. His international bestselling book, Man’s Search for Meaning is one of the top 10 books I’ve ever read in my life (and I’ve read a lot of books). Let this truth sink in and let it motivate you to change your mindset/attitude to what’s happening to you!

The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstances!

Victor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning.

Battling with you,

Jason

  • I’m not a medical professional. The content of BattlingLyme.com is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on BattlingLyme.com