Growing up as a young girl, I was fortunately very healthy and hardly had any medical issues. I routinely went to the doctor for checkups and besides several cases of bronchitis, a few illnesses, and the common cold, thankfully I was well most of the time.
My life would change drastically in my early twenties and unfortunately to this day, it has not stopped. The irony of it all is that I live a healthy lifestyle. I am active, I love to walk, and I eat balanced even though I love junk food as well! I drink a lot of water, and I try to stay as socially active as I can, though I have become quite withdrawn in the last few years.
I am now in my late thirties and when my dear grandparents were alive, I used to joke that they were healthier than me and they were in their nineties! It’s really not that funny, but sometimes in life, we just have to make a joke to keep things light.
Here’s the Story
A few months after I graduated college, I started having a lot of strange symptoms. They ranged from mild to extreme and affected me mentally and physically. Some of the symptoms that I was having were headaches, dizziness, severe joint pain, lack of appetite, hot flashes, muscle pain, and severe brain fog.
I went to so many different specialists and I wasn’t able to get a diagnosis. A year went by, and I grew sicker and sicker until I was bedridden. I was sleeping close to 22 hours a day. I had no quality of life, I had no appetite, and my brain fog was so bad that I could not recall memories or even events that happened that day. I knew something was terribly wrong with me, but no one could tell me what it was. I remember truly feeling like I was dying.
After many doctors’ visits and tests, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Lyme Disease caused by a bite from an infected tick. By the time the doctors found out what was wrong, the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), was in every single organ and part of my body. Typically, Lyme Disease is caught early, and antibiotics are enough to get rid of the disease, however, in cases like mine where the disease goes undetected, the effects can be lifelong.
I had a great circle of friends at the time, but once they realized how sick I was and that I could no longer party and hang out with them, they dropped me like a hot plate. I lost every single one of my friends except for my best friend who I still know today. I felt so alone, especially being this sick at such a young age. I recall one of my friends being really upset with me when I told her that I was too tired to get coffee, no one understood.
Due to my condition being undiagnosed for so long, it wreaked havoc on my body and unfortunately, the damage is permanent. The doctor said with the severity of my symptoms, that the bacteria could have been in my body for up to 6+ years and was possibly dormant for some time. I have had more surgeries than I can count on two hands due to nerve issues and other complications from this bacterium invading my body.
Mentally, I have experienced more depression and anxiety since this event in my life. Lyme Disease can change the way that the brain works. I also have a hard time recalling certain memories. I suffer from brain fog and lack of concentration more than before. MRI scans have shown several lesions on my brain where the bacteria has caused damage.
I can never go more than a few months without a new medical issue popping up. I have seen so many specialists and have had so many tests done over the years. In a way, this is highly nerve-wracking because I never know what will happen next. I am just thankful that I have a very strong immune system that keeps me going. I am thankful that I hardly ever get sick, but medically I am a mystery.
I have also been diagnosed with other medical issues that have stemmed from Lyme Disease like Fibromyalgia. My joints hurt every day and I feel numbness and tingling in my arms and legs sometimes. This disease has changed my life forever. I have learned to deal with it, but it has made me see life in a very different way.
Minus some scars from the many surgeries that I have had, no one would ever know that I have been through this. I would like to take a moment to remind everyone that what we see on the outside may not be what has or is happening on the inside. Looks are very deceiving. Everyone is struggling with something and has many battles in their lifetime.
Having medical issues at a young age has taught me a lot. It has reminded me that life is precious and that we can never take our health for granted because it could be gone in a heartbeat. It has taught me that only your true friends will stick around. Hard times will show you who they are. These friends are the ones that will stay by your side because they love you and not because it’s convenient.
Being chronically ill has taught me that illness and struggle knows no age. The body is a miraculous thing, but it will not work perfectly forever, we must take great care of ourselves in every way possible. Had I not lived a healthy lifestyle, the effects could have been even worse than they are.
This experience reminded me that life can change at any moment and that what we have today may not always be there. This experience taught me how much strength I have inside even when I felt like I was failing. My persistence to get better and thrive was never dimmed, I didn’t give up hope even though I came close. We must always keep hope alive, sometimes it is all that we have.
No matter what happens in life, I like to think that it happens to make us stronger people. That it leaves us with a certain strength that we didn’t have before. Our story can be told over and over again to help others who are now following our path in life, we can be a source of hope and inspiration. We can make a difference in someone else’s life by sharing our knowledge and what we have been through.
To those of you that struggle with health issues, I know that it can be a very sad, lonely, confusing, and scary time. You are not alone, there is someone that understands you. To those that don’t have medical issues, your support for someone that does can be a lifesaver!
We all have a story to share, sometimes we may not be ready to share it, but when we are, the impact that it could have on the world is infinite.