My legs were too weak to stand and my brain too broken to sleep. I spent most of 2012 and 2013 lying agonizingly in my bed. Days became weeks. Weeks became months. Over time, my 10-year battle with Lyme Disease seemed impossible to overcome.
When I was about five years old, my family (my mom, my brother, my grandma and I) packed into a car and headed for a summer vacation in South Dakota to see the great Mount Rushmore. At that age, I was more excited about making sure our motel had a pool than seeing a bunch of dead presidents’ faces carved in stone.
After a long drive, we arrived at the motel just in time for me to get in a quick swim before dark. My brother and I jumped into our bathing suits, and with a giant splash, we were in the pool. My mom watched us from a lawn chair on deck. My brother, being 4 years older than me, was a good swimmer. He could go in the deep end, but I was still too little. I would hold on to the ledge and pull myself around the pool dreaming of the time that I could one day let go. Eventually my brother got bored of swimming with his little sister and went into the motel to watch TV.
I am a little uncertain as to how exactly the following sequence of events unfolded. I don’t remember letting go of the ledge, but I do recall suddenly finding myself in the middle of the deep end of the pool…sinking. I tried kicking my arms and legs but my attempts at the doggie paddle were ineffective for keeping me afloat. As my head bobbed up and down from the water, I called out to my mom for help.
My little body began to sink downward. Through a haze of chlorine-filled blueness, I could see my mom standing up from her lawn chair. She was quickly trying to remove her shoes. This became one of those scenarios where minutes seemed to go by but in reality, only a matter of seconds had occurred. I decided to stop struggling and with a giant gasp of air, allowed my body to sink to the bottom of the pool.
The water had become so dark that I could no longer see my mother. I was alone, but not really frightened. As I gazed around the depth of the pool, an idea came to me. I could jump with all my might to the top, take a breath, sink back down and continue to do this until I had bounced my way back into the other end. With all the might my five-year-old body had in it, I sprang from the pool floor and aimed myself in the direction of the shallow end. My head popped up through the water’s surface and I called to my mom, who was now frantically heading into the pool, “I’m okay!” as the water engulfed me yet again.
My feet landed on the bottom of the pool for the second time, but I could immediately tell I was no longer in the deepest parts. Instantly, I rebounded to the surface. “Look, I can bounce back!” I yelled to my mom before I faded back down under water.
“I am almost there.” I called to her upon resurfacing for the third time. By the fourth bounce, I had reached the shallow end, walked to the ledge and climbed out of the pool. I was unaware that my mom had actually jumped in to rescue me, but could now see she too was soaked.
“You could have drowned!” my mother cried as she hugged me.
Perhaps I could have, but thankfully and gratefully, I did not. Immersed as a five-year-old in the deepest parts of the pool, an inexplicable peace came over me at a time when panic could have set in and I realized I was going to be all right. I knew I was going to bounce back.
Fast forward into adulthood.
The last decade of my life has been submerged by a long list of bizarre and often puzzling symptoms. As the years have ticked by, I have forgotten just how many doctors I have seen, the dates that each symptom developed and the variety of names my illness has been called before I was finally given a diagnosis of Lyme Disease. Struggling for years to hang on to as much of my life as I could, it was an excruciatingly sad day for me when, in 2010, it became apparent I could no longer work.
By 2012, my health had slowly sunk into the depth of a really dark place. I had become bedridden as the fatigue overpowered me and the unrelenting burning in my brain left me extremely sound sensitive and unable to sleep even with the aid of a substantial amount of sleep medication. I remained bedridden for much of 2013, except for an occasional doctor’s visit that took a shear act of will to get to. I would cry on the days I had to leave my house. The intensity of the burning in my brain was unbearable.
Just when I felt I could no longer go on, peace showed up in the midst of my profound pain.
About 10 months ago, I began working with a new practitioner and changed my treatment strategies. Slowly I began to move forward, receiving momentary glimpses of what it felt like to finally have my head above water again, rather than drowning amidst a multitude of Lyme Disease Symptoms. New hope has emerged in me.
The road to recovery is long and often consists of many ups and downs, but with an ever-present case of optimism, I am actually anticipating that I will one day bounce back from this!