The last time I felt like my old self was 2006 when I was 21 years old — I had just graduated college and was about to turn 22. Little did I know that my “real” life was about to start. I had 3 months left of studying for my new job, and one more summer before real adulthood. Never would I have imagined how differently things would turn out for me.
Looking back, with all the knowledge I have now, I see the signs of my illness all the way back to junior high. Random and unexplained pain in my wrist, headaches, trouble breathing, and “viruses” attacking my liver and thyroid. However, over the years none of these stood out on their own. Everything eventually went away or was managed and so I never connected the dots between all of it. I always recovered and went back to my normal life — until 2006, that is.
It was a slow decline, which started with a gallbladder surgery after severe pain in my side and back, but over the next two years I tried clinging to my old life, trying to keep my head above water. I was working 80 hours a week for months at a time, exploring a new city with my best friends, and filling weekends with bar trips resulting in too little sleep. I felt like if I stopped it would all come crashing down, but I couldn’t deny that I was getting sicker and sicker. I started to crack in January 2008 when work was demanding and I had no energy for anything else in my life. I would cry as I drove to and from work from the exhaustion. No one knew exactly what was wrong. The surgery to remove my gallbladder was supposed to fix everything because my doctors hadn’t found anything wrong, and so after that they sent me on my way. At the end of 2007 I started seeing a new doctor who finally believed something was actually wrong, which was so refreshing. After dozens of tests I finally received a diagnosis in April 2008. Finally! I thought my prayers had been answered — I had been diagnosed with Lyme Disease.
This was a disease I knew so little about, and later I would find out I actually had Chronic Lyme Disease. I believed whole-heartedly that once I received treatment my life would be mine again. I wouldn’t have this unrelenting exhaustion, this pain in my side and back that never really went away after my surgery would finally disappear, the headaches would go away, and my brain would go back to working like it did before. They warned me that the treatment for Lyme Disease was rough and that I would need to take time off work. Again, not a problem. I was willing to do what I needed to do and I felt like I could handle feeling a bit sicker if, in the end, I felt better. After all, I thought this would be a temporary thing. Possibly six months, maybe a year, but then I’d be back to normal. Normal… what does that even mean at this point? I sit here 13 years later. Still not able to work. Still in treatment for my Chronic Lyme Disease. Its symptoms are all still with me. I look back at how innocent I was back then, and I feel glad that I didn’t know the road ahead that faced me. It would have simply been too overwhelming.