The Central New York Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Alliance was nice enough to do an interview with me about the intersection of Lyme Disease and mental health. The Alliance asked me because many of my most serious Lyme Disease symptoms have been related to mental health, and it took a long time for doctors and myself to realize there was an underlying issue. The organization is doing amazing work in a Lyme endemic area, and I encourage everyone to watch the interview and support the organization.
Roughly eleven years ago, I walked out of my room and turned off the light switch. Instead of walking down the stairs, I turned back around and touched every pillow on my bed five times. This happened every day for the next few months. Touching objects repeatedly is a recognizable trait of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and so naturally, after being taken to the doctor, I was diagnosed with OCD. Doctors encouraged therapy, and they believed it would adequately manage the condition. And it did. That is, until it reappeared in other forms.
About nine years ago, I sat on my couch and in classrooms, in the car and during exams, thinking the same nightmare-ish thoughts every fifteen minutes. this lasted about four years. I was unable to break this intrusive pattern. The mental fatigue this took on my body and my spirit was significant. I quickly fell into depression and a fog that wouldn’t lift. I could be completely focused in the middle of an exam or lying on the beach and the thoughts were always present. They popped in my mind, not only at inopportune times, but always.
Each time one of these cycles manifested, I tried numerous therapies and medications, each failing or making my condition worse. There seemed no way out.
It wasn’t until I continued to decline, experiencing weeks in which I was sleeping less than 10 hours total, that I found a answer. My parents and I were relentless in our belief that something beside a mental health condition was taking over my body. If there wasn’t, then one of the countless therapies and medications would have made at least a sliver of a difference. So we continued our own research, finding doctors who would listen to what we found, but continuing to hit dead ends. Finally, a family friend recommended I get tested for Lyme Disease. It seemed as good an option as any, so I did. Looking at the long list of symptoms should have scared me, but instead, it provided relief. For every symptom I read, I was shocked that it was abnormal. I kept asking my family questions such as, “doesn’t everyone experience stabbing pain in their body throughout the day?” I lived with the disease for so long, I grew up believing my pain was normal. A positive Lyme test with numerous confections proved it was not. This was especially evident to me after a month of treatment for Lyme Disease. 80 percent of my psychiatric symptoms were gone.
The anecdotes above illustrate the intense psychological impact that occurs when Lyme Disease goes untreated and breaks what is called the blood brain barrier. This barrier usually protects the brain from harmful pathogens; however, as Lyme disseminates throughout the body, the bacteria burrows into brain tissue and can causes a myriad of mental health conditions. Eliminating this bacteria can help those suffering. In cases like this, the immune system, in an attempt to fight off the infection, inflames tissues in the body, including the brain, which also contributes to the manifestation of psychiatric symptoms.
In writing about this topic, I hope to spread awareness about the numerous symptoms of Lyme Disease. If more people and doctors understand, more patients will get proper treatment. Less individuals will suffer unnecessarily. There is hope when there seems to be none, even if your brain tricks you into believing there is not. Share this information with anyone who could benefit; it could change someone’s life. The most important idea to take away from this post is to keep fighting if something feels wrong in your body. With the numerous symptoms of Lyme Disease, it is always worth a check.
I’ve included a few research-based articles and studies about the effect of Lyme Disease on the brain. Scroll to the bottom of the page to subscribe to the blog for more information on Lyme Disease!