Everything is connected, and we are all multifaceted beings. But as we go about our daily routine, we seldom think about it until some obstruction or jarring event comes into our lives to rattle our cages and make us look at ourselves more closely. Such is the case with chronic Lyme disease, and as I talk to more and more Lyme patients across the country, I’m finding that their experiences frequently match my own when it comes to moving through the illness to complete healing.
Just like our bodies are complex, solving the healing riddle of Lyme disease is just as complicated. And because of this, it becomes abundantly clear to chronic Lyme patients that the more they focus on only one aspect of their healing to the exclusion of all else, they will get a corresponding result… and it is not complete healing.
In 1969, author Elizabeth Kübler-Ross published her book “On Death & Dying,” and in it she presented a famous formulation of the stages of grief that dying people tend to go through as they come to terms with the realization that they will soon pass. Since the book’s publishing, her stages-of-grief system has become more popular than her book, and it is now a part of our modern cultural awareness. Her five stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Inspired by Kübler-Ross’ work, I have begun to notice similar but different stages of consciousness, experiences and emotions for chronic Lyme patients as they move to complete healing. The difference in the staging system I’ve developed is that a patient can get stuck in a stage and never progress to complete healing. Conversely, in the stages of grief, a patient ultimately moves through the system and reaches the final conclusion of death whether they like it or not.
Like most Lyme patients, I went for a long period of time of being sick and undergoing tests before I received a definitive diagnosis. Like most patients, I was used to trusting my traditional medical doctor because whenever I had a cold or a fever, he would prescribe some antibiotics and I would get better. As simple as that.
However, when I came in with Lyme symptoms, my doctor didn’t have a clue. He ran his usual battery of tests, but because I didn’t have cancer, diabetes or heart disease, he literally said, “Oh well. I guess we’ll just have to chalk this up to being ‘just one of those things.'”
When I pressed him further on what exactly he meant by that, he said, “Your symptoms aren’t life threatening, so maybe you can learn to live with them.” My brain could barely process what I was hearing.