When did it all begin? When I was depressed in high school? When I had salmonella and giardia when I was living in Kenya? When I was so anxious and couldn't sleep in college? When my back gave out and I herniated two discs farming in Santa Cruz? Was I ever bit by a tick, spider or other insect that gave me Borelia burgdorferi? As a farmer living off the land there was a strong possibility that an infected insect bit me. If indeed I was infected, my perspective on life, and in particular my health, added in the spreading and succumbing to Lyme disease.
Lets back up. I started to feel really crummy in 2014 when I was farming on a 30-acre all organic vegetable and fruit farm in Santa Cruz, California. I had health issues before this, but during this time of high-stress and long physical work hours a lot of my symptoms worsened and many new symptoms appeared. The new symptoms included irregular menstrual cycles, cystic acne, insomnia, chronic fatigue, brain fog, anxiety and very poor digestion. Then my back gave out and a world of pain began. I left the farm in Santa Cruz and moved back home to Ketchum, Idaho. I started working with non-conventional doctors, practitioners: Naturopathic, Ayurvedic, Energetic, and Homeopathic practitioners. I saw seven practitioners and talked to many more in the course of ten months. I was diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue, Depression, poor digestion, SIBO and hormonal imbalances, each practitioner discrediting the previous one. I kept thinking, “well something has to be causing all these imbalances,” and kept searching.
My symptoms were getting worse: joint pain, irritable bowl syndrome, food allergies, iritability, chronic fatigue, despondent. I was getting desperate, looking for an answer. Was I creating or in some way perpetuating these symptoms?
In my desperation I saw an Ayurvedic doctor with mystic capabilities, who was able to see that my body was riddled with parasites. “Okay, now I have parasites. Add it to the growing list,” I thought. He recommended I see this female MD who specializes in infectious diseases. She was the first conventional doctor I saw, but she was still very open-minded when it came to alternative medicines. I filled out pages of my health history and she interviewed me very intensely, focusing on minute details. She said I definitely had parasites and possibly Lyme Disease. She ordered blood and stool tests. The blood tests were done by Immunosciences Lab and I came back positive in the multi-peptide Elisa Assay test for four species of Lyme, co-infections of Babesia, Bartonella, Erlichia, Rickettsia and a bunch of other parasites that were detected in my stool.
Woah! Freak out. Come again, Lyme disease? Four species! I was 25 at the time and my parents said “No way, we need another opinion.” After a couple months of waiting to get an appointment I went to a conventional Lyme Specialist, an LLMD (Lyme Literate Medical Doctor), who ran an IGeneX test. I did not show positive for Lyme disease, but I did show positive for all the co-infections. This doctor believes that once I took the antibiotics I would show positive for Lyme. I succumbed to my fear of Lyme disease and took Biaxin and Amoxicillin for three months.
During the first two months of taking the antibiotics I started to feel much better. My boyfriend and I rejoiced and took advantage of the time to play by spending some time outside, mostly swimming and hiking. I kept up the regimen of about 20 supplements per meal that had been recommended to me over the past year and added the antibiotics. In addition, I was gluten and dairy free. Despite all the medicinal input, this respite didn't last long. By my third month on antibiotics that little bit of energy and strength I was feeling was gone again. I retreated back into my house and my depression. I got tested after two months on the antibiotics and then waited a month for the results (IGeneX tests take about a month to get results back). The results showed negative for Bartonella and positive for Lyme disease and the other co-infections. So the doctor was correct, the antibiotics helped my body recognize that there was this bacteria living in inside of me, hence my negative turning to a positive for Lyme disease.
My doctor wanted to keep me on the same protocol I was already on, despite the fact that I wasn't feeling good. He believed that we saw success with the Bartonella. I was furious. I couldn't believe he expected me to stay on these same drugs for three more months when I was already going downhill. Not to mention that he only sees his patients every three months after the blood tests have come back. Essentially left alone with my antibiotics, I just had to wait. I didn’t trust the process, I didn't trust antibiotics, I didn't trust my doctor. I felt so alone in this whole process.
After another two months on the same antibiotics I got tested again. These couple months were a rollercoaster of fluctuating symptoms fogged by fatigue and depression. Another month passes and I get the results and finally speak with my doctor. The results…nothing had changed since the last test except my immune system is completely trashed according to my number of natural killer cells on a BioReference Laboratories test. My doctor decided to change up the antibiotics to Ciprofloxacin and Azithromycin. Before my appointment I had made up my mind to say goodbye if he didn’t change things up, but since he did switch things up, I decided to stick with him for another three months. Again with the change of antibiotics I had some temporary relief, this time lasting for about a month. It was February and I was freezing cold all the time and never wanted to leave my bed. My friends had a hard time understanding what I was going through and my boyfriend just wanted to have some fun again. I felt so much pressure to get better, like I would loose all that I love if I didn't get better fast.
I was barely working, although I would make sauerkraut for a local health food store 15 hours a week and help out a local Ayurvedic practitioner with therapies on her clients. I was exhausted all the time and no end in sight. A family friend of mine started to get me to Monday night meditations hosted by the Oneness community. I had a personal practice that I had done for years, but when I joined this community I started to feel like I belonged to something again.
Two more months on antibiotics and I got tested again. The results this time were devastating. The Bartonella was back, which my doctor had originally said was impossible to come back, but was now saying it sometimes happens. Basically I was at square one, but worse because the nine months of antibiotics had wiped-out my population of good bacteria. I didn't say goodbye to the doctor, he just never heard from me again.
At home I didn't know what to do. I thought antibiotics were supposed to be the cure for Lyme disease. I felt more lost and alone than ever before. The Ayurvedic practitioner I was working for stepped in and offered her help. She had worked with Lyme patients before with success, so I started a three-month cleansing process. The first step was to throw out the antibiotics and also come off all the supplements I was on. Later I realized that the supplements were like a security blanket for me. Although they cause me so much stress organizing all the time and they cost a lot of money, I was hopelessly attached to them. Clinging to the hope that they would miraculously heal me. So I took a leap of faith and came off all the supplements and antibiotics.
The first month consisted of blood cleansing Ayurvedic herbs that I drank three times a day. Side note: Ayurveda is the ancient medicine out of India that seeks to balance and harmonize all layers of the body including physical, mental and spiritual. The second month consisted of more herbs plus a routine of teasel root tincture and sitting in a steam room everyday to sweat out the toxins. At this point all my symptoms were starting to flare up. My joints were killing me, I couldn't sleep, my head was always pounding, my skin was a pimply mess and my menstrual cycle, which I had balanced out through naturopathic creams, was out of whack again. This cleanse was bringing something to a head, that I could not deny.
The final month was the hardest. I started a strict diet mostly consisting of kitchari (mung beans and basmati rice with vegetables). I was already gluten and dairy free, but this diet also cut out meat and many inflammatory foods, like nightshades. I then went through a Vamana, Virachana and a Panchakarma for a total of 15 intense cleansing days. In the Panchakarma oils, herbs and other medicinal ointments are rubbed on the body in very particular healing ways. After each morning of bodywork, I did an oil enema or a herbal enema.
Looking back I feel so lucky to have had two incredible supportive women performing the Panchakarma, the practitioner and her assistant in the treatments. If I was not on the table receiving a therapy, feeling like these two women were holding me together, I was on the phone or texting them. Although everything was coming up and out on a toxin and emotional level, I had so much support. The attention I received from the practitioner during this time is unlike any medical care I have ever received before. When you choose to go with Ayurveda, the practitioner is really there with you on a holistic level.
The entire cleanse removes so many layers of toxins, inflammation, waste and emotional baggage. Basically, in Ayurveda the body consists of five elements and has seven layers. We cleansed all of these aspects, by the end I felt like a raw baby. To call this an intense and powerful process does not do it justice. It was during this cleanse that I was stripped to nothing and realized that my emotional state was the root of my illness. I couldn't cope with any of my emotions during this time. I was constantly frustrated with anyone I encountered, tears were constantly flowing, and I was in so much pain emotionally and physically. The Panchakarma ended. I felt a lot of depression. Emotionally unhinged I rested and started to build up my strength again. I was almost 15 pounds lighter, weight I didn't really have to loose. All that aside, my eyes were clear and I felt clean.
A month of rest passed and I started to feel stronger. I started to pick up my hobbies again growing food and spending time on rivers. I felt HOPE again! My emotional state was still very fragile. To my very core I felt like I wasn't good enough. I wasn't healthy enough, beautiful enough, strong enough, smart enough, successful enough. Mentally I was living in a place of lack. However, on a physical level, I was seeing improvement.
NATUROPATHIC PHASE II
I felt different after the Panchakarma, like a lot had shifted and I was now able to start healing. I called my old acupuncturist and told her my story. She had a short lived journey with Lyme disease that took her to West Clinic, a naturopathic clinic that focuses on building the immune system and killing bugs thought IV treatments. These treatments are either ozone, diluted hydrogen peroxide or Ultra violet light coupled with an immune bag of very high doses of Vitamin C, immune globulins, amino acids, zinc, Bs and Ds. I had heard about the West Clinic before, but had been closed off to the idea. Now it seemed like the next best option. The clinic is in Pocatello, Idaho, three hours away from where I lived so I booked a trip and off I went…all by myself.
I met Dr. West, who spent a good amount of time learning my history and then we looked at my blood under a high-powered microscope. Just like that we could see intercellular bacteria, yeast, fungus, stress, heavy metal toxicity. I didn't have to wait a month! Dr. West suggested I needed about 30 treatments to clear the bacteria out of my body and activate my immune system to heal itself. At the time this seemed impossible, but it is amazing what you can do when you are determined to feel better. The first IV I did at the clinic was the UV light. It was amazing, that night I slept for what seemed like the first time in years. I was shocked by the instantaneous impact. The next morning I went back for a second treatment before I drove home. When I got to the clinic they informed me that they lost the pictures of my blood and they needed to look at it again. To my amazement, in just one treatment there was a noticeable decrease in the bacteria load in my blood. SOLD! “I will be back soon,” I decided.
I continued to go to the clinic every other week. After every treatment I felt nauseous, headachy, exhausted and sore, but I soon realized this was only a Herxheimer reaction (a short-term detoxification reaction in the body). Once I had about 12 treatments under my belt I started to feel less vulnerable and had more energy! I was able to do so much more on a day-to-day basis. I was still gluten-free and dairy-free, but I could exercise and hang out with friends! I felt hope again!
I continued at the West Clinic and also tried 10 sessions at a local hyperbaric chamber on some of the days I was not at the clinic. I would have a herxheimer reaction while I was in the chamber, but when I was done with the treatment I felt so energized! The high levels of O2 helped to heal some of my acne too. I really felt like I was on the right path. After every 10 treatments at the West Clinic we would look at my blood and I saw little improvements. Symptomatically I was feeling better, but I will admit that I was frustrated with the results. I wanted no signs of Lyme or co-infections and I wanted it NOW!
Around my 25th treatment I started to plateau. I was a functioning person at this point, completely able bodied once again. However I was still not 100% recovered. I still had joint pain, headaches, acne, hormone imbalance, abdominal discomfort and food allergies. So I started to get restless with the treatments at West Clinic and started considering the idea of trying something new.
very alternative phase
One of the best things about the West Clinic is the community of people you get to sit with and share stories, while you are hooked up to the IV. One day I learned about Advanced Cell Therapy (ACT) and didn't think much of it. I was still focused on the treatments at West Clinic and I didn't want to throw too many cooks into the same kitchen. When I started to think about trying something new, again someone mentioned ACT. I decided to listen in on one of their information sessions. Everything I learned made sense to me, most of all that the body is intelligent and can heal itself if you allow it to do its job. I knew I had a lot of emotional patterns and beliefs that were holding me in this cycle of sickness. The treatments are cheap and I could do them from home so I signed up. Every week you keep track of your symptoms, the goal to get rid of all of your symptoms. So I was able to look at the numbers and see them all start to slowly go down. As I write this I am on week 8 of treatment with ACT and I can proudly say I no longer have sleep issues, brain fog, my hormones are balancing and all of my other symptoms have improved. I am going to continue to do ACT and I will get occasional treatments at the West Clinic to keep my immune system strong.
I keep thinking back to my emotional state a few months ago and having a greater understanding of how my identity was intertwined with Lyme disease. The emotional baggage of chronic illness cannot be underestimated. The feeling of not being good enough for me was a daily struggle. I did hypnosis, meditation, clairvoyant counselors, often finding myself crying and in deep discomfort with my current state. I never stopped trying though. I was constantly in a state of self-improvement, desperate to find the path to freedom, freedom from suffering. After two years of meditating with the Oneness community in Ketchum, Idaho I was in good enough health to go to India to attend the Oneness University. This had been a dream of mine since I found out about the place, but was never stable enough to go. Now I was healthy and I went for the month of January 2017. While I explored my health perceptions, emotions and beliefs I was able to see clearly that my body wanted to get better, but my subconscious had a self-sabotaging tendency that kept me from fully getting better. I was able to clear many of these patterns and can now say that I was the one getting in the way of fully getting better.
I would have glimpses of clarity of how subconsciously I was holding onto the identity of Lyme disease and “being sick.” I was barely working. Besides the days when I was feeling healthy enough to enjoy life and play a little, my health was my full time job. I was so down on myself for not being a productive member of society that I clung on to the fact that I was sick to justify my “lack” of productiveness. Those around me saw how hard I was working; I was just unable to see that I was being productive because it was in a way that society doesn't value. People would say this to me, “that sounds like a fulltime job managing all the supplements, doctor appointments, diet restrictions all the while on an emotional rollercoaster.” I wouldn't accept my health for what it was and I could not see how I was being productive. So I beat myself up emotionally and subconsciously clung to being sick to protect myself from failure. Failing at my health, relationships, work, you name it I felt like I wasn't good enough.
From where I sit today, I see this as a journey to love myself. The lessons abound and what I walk away with is this: the mind is a powerful tool that can will itself to be sick or healthy. Given the right tools, the body can heal itself.
To say that I overcame this would be wrong because in fact it was WE. I cannot recollect a day when I did not have someone to call or be there for me. Internally I felt completely alone, but the reality was that my friends and family supported me the entire time and without them, I would still be in bed.