Archive for the ‘Psychological Aspects’ Category

An Anthropologist’s View of Lyme Disease and Suicide

An anthropologist’s view of Lyme disease and suicide


By Aaron J. Jackson

It’s been almost a year since I tried to kill myself.

As a doctoral student living in the leafy suburb of Brookline, Massachusetts, in 2015, I chanced upon a tick—a tiny vampire the size of a poppy seed—that changed my life forever and nearly brought it to an end.

After being bitten by the tick, I was plagued with full-body joint pain, muscle twitching, night-time seizures, cardiac abnormalities, depression, fatigue, and other neurological disturbances. Early on, this confluence of symptoms confounded doctors.

Upon hearing my account, one neurologist shook his head. “That doesn’t make any sense,” he said, before suggesting that my caffeine intake might be responsible.

I was told repeatedly by various doctors that the mysterious ailment darkening my existence was psychological in nature, most likely due to stress. It took 12 months before I was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease.

But little changed after the diagnosis, contrary to what I had naively expected. My doctor prescribed four weeks of antibiotics and told me that if the medication didn’t work then it wasn’t Lyme. The antibiotics didn’t work.

Exiled from my body
Suddenly, I was alone—exiled from my body and others. My disease has been exacerbated by the social consequences of having a complex chronic condition. When an illness isn’t medically recognized or refuses to progress in a straightforward way toward better health, those around you often grow impatient or suspicious. People stop asking how you are or act as if your failure to recover is somehow a personal weakness. These silences and reactions can drive the chronically ill into isolation, despair, and existential confusion.

Sufferers are also often alienated by the unhealthy dynamics that characterize many doctor-patient interactions in the Western world today. The power imbalance between who can authoritatively describe what is going on in the body and who can’t has a deep impact on how illness is experienced and navigated.

Doctors hold the authority to determine which bits of a patient’s story are useful, which interpretations to act on, and which diagnostic tests are made available. The doctors and specialists I consulted consistently interrupted me, refused to order tests, and denied the severity of my symptoms. The subtle and oftentimes brutal rejection of my experiential knowledge and suffering slowly anesthetized me against hope.

I can see why this happens. Doctors face time and financial constraints, heavy workloads, and distrusting and contentious patients. They are taught to prioritize their technical capabilities and are faced with the challenging task of combing through irrelevant information for what is medically relevant. As a way to cope with a daily barrage of problems and complaints—and the deaths of some of their patients—some physicians become callous and numb.

The practice of medicine in the 21st century is a complex affair. But even under such conditions, appreciating the singularity of an individual’s life is essential to providing authentic care and good medicine. As the late neurologist and author Oliver Sacks wrote, practical scientific medicine and existential medicine are separate but inseparable—“not contradictory but complementary.”

Paternalistic relationships between doctors and patients in today’s medical system cause harm to many individuals. For me, they delayed my diagnosis, protracted my illness, denied me a sense of being validated and understood, and conspired to push me deeper into the depths of my despair. The practice of modern medicine doesn’t have to be this way.

The bacterium responsible for Lyme disease has a long history in North America. Katharine Walter, who studies infectious diseases at Stanford University, and her team recently collected and sequenced 148 genomes of the microorganism and found that it has cycled through forests for at least 60,000 years.

But it was only as recently as 1982 that medical entomologist Willy Burgdorfer identified the tiny corkscrew-shaped bacterium mysteriously afflicting some residents of Lyme, Old Lyme, and East Haddam, Connecticut, and Long Island, New York. In recognition of the discovery, the bacterial pathogen was christened in his name: Borrelia burgdorferi.

Digitally colorized scanning electron micrograph borrelia burgdoThe Borrelia burgdorferi pathogen causes Lyme disease. Janice Haney Carr/Pixniov

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) receives reports of approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease annually in the United States.

However, the organization estimates that about 300,000 people contract the illness each year. A variety of factors contribute to this significant disparity—but a dearth of reliable diagnostic tests is a key part of the problem.

The CDC recommends a two-tiered blood test to spot antibodies against the B. burgdorferi bacteria.

But this test is notoriously unreliable, in part because it was developed to track a group of Lyme patients, rather than for clinical diagnosis. Yet this inadequate test became the national standard for both doctors and insurance companies. As a result, there are many patients whose tests come back negative even though they have Lyme disease.

After overcoming the first hurdle of diagnosis, most patients face a treatment protocol that is also controversial. According to the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), a course of up to 28 days of antibiotics is recommended for those diagnosed with Lyme.

Yet according to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, a short course of antibiotics is often insufficient for treating Lyme.  And some clinicians have found that longer treatments benefit patients.

While the IDSA does acknowledge the enduring pain of some sufferers and instances of “post–Lyme disease syndrome,” there is a great deal of controversy over the use of longer-term courses of antibiotics.

Research has shown that Lyme spirochetes can take hold in a patient, even in the face of aggressive antibiotics, making Lyme a “recalcitrant and chronic relapsing infection.” Identifying those patients and how best to treat them remains a challenge, making chronic Lyme a complicated and disputed clinical beast.


Reported cases of Lyme disease have increased since 1996—but these Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics only capture about 10 percent of all estimated cases of the disease.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The IDSA’s recommendations are particularly controversial given an antitrust investigation undertaken by the attorney general of Connecticut.

In 2008, that investigation reported that the IDSA did not perform a conflict-of-interest review for any of the panelists on the recommendation committee, and that several panelists had financial connections to insurance companies and Lyme vaccine manufacturers. Those who acknowledge the existence of chronic Lyme disease were blocked from appointment to the panel.

All this leaves many people like myself to fend for ourselves as we suffer the horrors of unrecognized or misunderstood illness. It’s hard to say how many around the world have chronic Lyme disease—but we need to recognize the potentially serious and disabling nature of Lyme and how it has been mismanaged by the U.S. medical system and the government. It’s critical we increase research for better diagnosis and treatment.

After a year and a half, I experienced a brief period of remission. I resumed my regular activities, spent time with my children, and started training again. (I was a kickboxer in my former life.) But the reprieve only lasted a few months. Before long, I was bedridden again by numbness, nerve pain, tremors, and bone-deep exhaustion.

One night, two years into my illness, I experienced heart pains that dropped me to my knees. My partner rushed me to the hospital, and the medical staff decided to keep me overnight. In the morning, the cardiologist dismissed my blood pressure of 144 as “slightly elevated.” He struck me as aloof, even sneering.

Statistical fragment
In my own eyes, I was a boxer with a normal resting heart rate of 55 and a blood pressure of 110—and I had an extreme and unusual set of symptoms that were cause for concern. But to him, I was just a statistical fragment; he saw no reason to give a second thought to my claim that this number was abnormally high for me. While interacting with him, I felt like I had lost an essential part of myself. The “healthy boxer” loomed behind me like a breathing phantom.

Shortly after this clinical encounter, my mental state and behaviors changed. I began spending considerable time picturing what my absence would look like, convincing myself that my loved ones would be better off without me. I didn’t want to end my life. I wanted to escape the terminal collapse of my world.

The sky was pale white with indifference on the morning I tried to kill myself. When I didn’t answer my phone, my partner instinctively felt that there was something wrong.

She headed home and called an ambulance. I spent the next weeks in a mental health facility in a state of depressive catatonia. I don’t remember much beyond the green walls, gray carpet, my neighbor’s singing sessions in the shower, and the smell of cigarette smoke.

I knew then, as I do now, that I had fallen prey to something darker, more powerful, and much more ancient than myself.

For the rest of my life, I will struggle to incorporate my attempted suicide into my sense of self. Trying to explain the medical, psychological, and sociocultural conditions surrounding it has been one way of working to come to terms with my illness and related experiences.

Connection between Lyme and suicide
Suicide and suicidal thoughts are not unusual in the village of the sick. It is estimated that around 44,000 people killed themselves in 2015 in the United States; as many as 1,200 suicides annually might be attributed to Lyme and associated diseases, according to a study that scaled up one doctor’s chart review of more than 250 patients with Lyme.

There are plausible biological explanations for suicide and suicidal thoughts among those with Lyme: Studies have shown strong connections between brain inflammation, immune response, and suicide.

But just as important are psychological factors associated with the combination of pain, suffering, and frustration patients experience with inadequate care. In 2015, a 41-year-old man who likely had Lyme for nine years before finally being diagnosed with the disease took his own life. The anxiety and pain he experienced were relentless, his fiance said.

Gender differences
My own experiences with Western medicine confirm what many others have argued: Inadequate care is in part shaped by biased research, power imbalances, and mistaken perceptions. Biological differences between men and women, for example, are known to impact diagnostics and treatment.

The disproportionate study of men in clinical trials and other studies has skewed our medical knowledge. For instance, heart attacks are sometimes missed entirely in women because women are less likely than men to experience chest pain as a major symptom.

Inaccurate and gendered assumptions on the part of medical practitioners also impact the degree of autonomy and credibility that individuals are granted when recounting their illness experience. I have often wondered if stress was presumed to be at the helm of my alleged psychological disorder because I am a man—just as women are more often diagnosed with “conversion disorders,” formerly referred to as hysteria, in cases where psychic turmoil is attributed to unexplainable bodily dysfunction.

05-Sleep-Hysteria-Wellcome-Collection-1076x678In this photo from a 19th-century mental hospital, a woman diagnosed with hysteria-induced narcolepsy sleeps wearing a straitjacket.  Wellcome Collection

Those with inexplicable conditions often face a similar bias: a tendency for some doctors to dismiss out of hand individuals who have complex and unusual cases.

In cases of controversial illnesses, such as myalgic encephalomyelitis (a.k.a. chronic fatigue syndrome), patients can be belittled as “malingerers,” just as those with Lyme disease are sometimes disrespectfully called “Lyme loonies.”

I am not suggesting these practices and behaviors are systematically carried out on purpose or maliciously, but rather that they are based on tacit assumptions that influence the ways medical practitioners act.

The doctors I met often struck me as arrogant and unwilling to really sit and listen, making it easy for the complexities surrounding my illness to be misconstrued or not even conveyed, despite my desire to communicate them. Perhaps these doctors would have blamed me for being a bad oral historian.

I grew increasingly nervous and insecure as doctors asserted their patriarchal authority. I developed iatrophobia, a deep dread of doctors. And I started to see myself as someone damaged, with an unreliable testimony.

My body, my medium for experiencing the world, was transmogrified during these clinical encounters into something without personal meaning. Doctors overlooked what my illness felt like to me and how I experienced it within the context of my life, foreclosing other possible lines of therapeutic options—and my need for understanding and care.

Medical empathy
I wonder what would have happened if I had met doctors early on in my illness who were committed to listening empathetically and to practicing a style of medicine informed by humility, receptivity, and compassion. I don’t believe such an approach requires additional resources or time (although those would help), just an adherence to a different set of social and cultural values.

Critics sometimes claim that doctors who recognize and treat chronic Lyme disease are doing so dishonestly, exploiting others’ suffering for their own gain.  Maybe there are some who do. But I believe many of these doctors, who risk sanctions by medical boards for treatment strategies that break conventional protocols, are practicing existential medicine: They acknowledge that patients need not just answers but also understanding and comfort. For them, medical care is not only about easing suffering but about becoming an empathetic witness to suffering.

At the moment, I am in a better place. Hyperthermia treatment at a clinic in Germany helped ease some of my symptoms. But I still struggle with debilitating symptoms from my illness and large debts from the costs of seeking treatment. I have had to shed some of my identities that were shattered by my illness and that once defined who I was. I have been forced to understand myself—and give meaning to the world and to my relationships—in new ways. Writing about my illness has helped with this ongoing process of self-remaking.

Almost three years after my tick bite, I now inhabit a space of hope that is every bit as tenuous as the future it anticipates. I know how fragile life is in the throes of illness and how easily it can be clipped with the shears of domination and misunderstanding.

Aaron J. Jackson is a doctoral candidate researching worlds of care, disability, and illness. Follow him on Twitter @Kodacruz. This work first appeared on SAPIENS under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license:

Read the original here:



Depression: the Radical Theory Linking it to Inflammation


Depression: the radical theory linking it to inflammation

Alison Abbott considers a persuasive case for the link between body and mind.

Collage of coloured sagittal MRI scans of the human brain.
Magnetic resonance imaging scans of the human brain.Credit: Simon Fraser/SPL/Getty

The Inflamed Mind: A Radical New Approach to Depression Edward Bullmore Short (2018)

Depression affects one in four people at some time in their lives. It is often difficult to treat, in part because its causes are still debated. Psychiatrist Edward Bullmore is an ardent proponent of a radical theory now gaining traction: that inflammation in the brain may underlie some instances. His succinct, broad-brush study, The Inflamed Mind, looks at the mounting evidence.

The book outlines a persuasive case for the link between brain inflammation and depression. Bullmore pleads with the medical profession to open its collective mind, and the pharmaceutical industry to open its research budget, to the idea. He provides a current perspective on how the science of psychiatry is slowly emerging from a decades-long torpor. He sees the start of a shift in the Cartesian view that disorders of the body ‘belong’ to physicians, whereas those of the more ‘immaterial’ mind ‘belong’ to psychiatrists. Accepting that some cases of depression result from infections and other inflammation-causing disorders of the body could lead to much-needed new treatments, he argues.

In 1989, during his clinical training at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London, Bullmore encountered a patient whom he calls Mrs P, who had severe rheumatoid arthritis. She left an indelible impression. He examined her physically and probed her general state of mind. He reported to his senior physician, with a certain pride in his diagnostic skill, that Mrs P was both arthritic and depressed. Replied the experienced rheumatologist dismissively, given her painful, incurable physical condition, “You would be, wouldn’t you?”

Mrs P is a recurring motif, as is the rhetorical question. Bullmore draws on more than two millennia of medical history — from ancient Greek physician Hippocrates to the work of neuroanatomist and 1906 Nobel laureate Santiago Ramón y Cajal — to illustrate his points. At times they seem like intellectual meanderings, but these passages also show how medical science often progresses by means of bold theories that break away from received wisdom.

After his training, Bullmore specialized in psychiatry, and quickly experienced its limitations. He describes his growing awareness of how poorly science has served the field, using the development of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) as a prime example.

That long and winding road began with the antibiotic iproniazid. It was discovered through scientific logic: by screening chemicals for their ability to kill Mycobacterium tuberculosis in the test tube and in mice. Iproniazid transformed the treatment of tuberculosis in the 1950s. Patients clawed back from the jaws of death exhibited euphoria — well, you would, wouldn’t you? — and the drug was soon launched as an antidepressant. Soon the theory emerged (based more on supposition than evidence, says Bullmore) that its psychiatric effects were the result of boosting the neurotransmitters adrenaline and noradrenaline. Drug developers began to focus on neurotransmission more broadly.

Prozac (fluoxetine), which boosts serotonin transmission, was launched in the mid-1980s, and many pharmaceutical companies quickly followed with their own SSRIs. It seemed to be the revolution psychiatrists had been waiting for. But it soon emerged that only a modest subset of patients benefited (estimates based on trials vary widely). That is unsurprising in retrospect, with the new appreciation that depression can have many causes. Bullmore holds that the emergence of SSRIs bypassed scientific logic. The serotonin theory, he writes, is as “unsatisfactory as the Freudian theory of unquantifiable libido or the Hippocratic theory of non-existent black bile”. He notes that, after SSRIs failed to live up to the hype, time once again stood still for psychiatry.

Bullmore recalls a teleconference in 2010, when he was working part-time with British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline. During the call, the company announced it was pulling out of psychiatry research because no new ideas were emerging. In the following years, almost all of ‘big pharma’ abandoned mental health.

Then a window seemed to open — one that shed a different light on the plight of Mrs P. Some of the textbook certainty that Bullmore had learnt by rote at medical school started to look distinctly uncertain.

In particular, the blood–brain barrier turned out to be less impenetrable than assumed. A range of research showed that proteins in the body could reach the brain. These included inflammatory proteins called cytokines that were churned out in times of infection by immune cells called macrophages. Bullmore pulls together evidence that this echo of inflammation in the brain can be linked to depression. That, he argues, should inspire pharmaceutical companies to return to psychiatry.

It seems unfair that someone struck down by infection should have depression too. Is there a feasible evolutionary explanation? Bullmore hazards that depression would discourage ill individuals from socializing and spreading an infection that might otherwise wipe out a tribe.

Other brain disorders might turn out to be prompted or promoted by inflammation. An exciting link with neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, is also being studied (see Nature 556, 426–428; 2018). But we need to learn from the rollercoaster history of brain research, and keep expectations in check. Beneath his bombastic enthusiasm, Bullmore acknowledges this, too.

Nature 557, 633-634 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-05261-



Lyme/MSIDS patients are often depressed.  I certainly was.  I found the worse I felt physically, the worse I felt mentally.  My mental state improved on appropriate anti-microbial treatment right along with my physical state.

I wholeheartedly believe the reason we are seeing suicides with Lyme/MSIDS is because patients are being abused at every juncture.  They are not believed and live an isolated existence where they can not speak honestly to those closest to them.  If you find yourself in this situation, please, for your mental health, get to a support group.  Once inside those doors you will be affirmed, believed, and listened to.  Don’t have a support group?  Start one!  With an estimated 1 million to contract Lyme/MSIDS this year (2018) there’s going to be a whole lot more of us!

For some other info linking infections to depression:




Caffeine More Dangerous Than Cannabis

 Approx. 2:30

According to Dr. David Bearman, in 1988 after a two rescheduling hearing, the DEA’s chief administrative law judge recommended rescheduling Cannabis to a schedule II substance.  He also said it was one of the safest therapeutic agents known to man & that it was safer than eating 10 potatoes.

According to two well-known addictionologists, Dr. Jack E. Henningfield (National Institute on Drug Abuse) and Dr. Neal L. Benowitz (University of California at San Francisco), Cannabis is less dangerous than caffeine.

 They ranked six psychoactive substances on the following five criteria:
  • Withdrawal — The severity of withdrawal symptoms produced by stopping the use of the drug.
  • Reinforcement — The drug’s tendency to induce users to take it again and again.
  • Tolerance — The user’s need to have ever-increasing doses to get the same effect.
  • Dependence — The difficulty in quitting, or staying off the drug, the number of users who eventually become dependent
  • Intoxication — The degree of intoxication produced by the drug in typical use.
The tables listed below show the rankings given for each of the drugs. Overall, their evaluations for the drugs are very consistent. It is notable that marijuana ranks below caffeine in most addictive criteria, while alcohol and tobacco are near the top of the scale in many areas.


The rating scale is from 1 to 6. 1 denotes the drug with the strongest addictive tendencies, while 6 denotes the drug with the least addictive tendencies.


Substance   Withdrawal   Reinforcement   Tolerance   Dependence   Intoxication

Nicotine           3                         4                       2                     1                   5

Heroin             2                          2                       1                     2                  2

Cocaine          4                          1                       4                     3                   3

Alcohol           1                           3                       3                     4                  1

Caffeine          5                          6                       5                     5                  6

Marijuana      6                          5                        6                     6                 4



Substance   Withdrawal   Reinforcement   Tolerance   Dependence   Intoxication

Nicotine             3*                       4                     4                        1                6

Heroin                2                        2                      2                        2               2

Cocaine              3*                      1                      1                        3               3

Alcohol               1                        3                      4                        4               1

Caffeine              4                        5                     3                         5               5

Marijuana          5                        6                     5                        6                4

*equal ratings

A neurobiologist shows the under explored potential of cannabis to address opioid addiction:


For example, previous research shows that cannabinoids have a stronger effect on inflammation-based chronic pain, while opioids are particularly good at relieving acute pain. Problematically, opioids can quickly lead to a deadly addiction.

“If you look at both drugs and where their receptors are, opioids are much more dangerous in part because of the potential for overdose. The opioid receptors are very abundant in the brainstem area that regulates our respiration so they shut down the breathing center if opioid doses are high,” says Dr. Hurd. “Cannabinoids do not do that. They have a much wider window of therapeutic benefit without causing an overdose in adults. However, children have overdosed from consuming edible marijuana so that’s something to consider when making decisions regarding medical use.”

…..Accumulating evidence suggests that cannabinoids could have long-lasting therapeutic effects.


You may not be aware that medical cannabis is legal in 28 states and the District of Columbia, yet the DEA classifies cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance, the same category as heroin, yet there is no toxic or lethal overdose effects of cannabis.  No one has ever died from cannabis.

You may also be surprised to learn the United States Department of Health Services owns a patent on cannabis:

The Patent covers the use of cannabinoids for treating a wide range of diseases. Yet under U.S. federal law, cannabis is defined as having no medical use. The patent (US6630507) is titled “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants”. It was awarded to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in October 2003. It was filed in 1999, by a group of scientists from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), also part of the National Institutes of Health.

Even the U.S. government’s own NIH researchers concluded:  “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule 1 classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”

For a video guide on the science of cannabis & opioid information:

If you want to learn more on the medicinal uses of cannabis:

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Airing FREE June 20-27, 2018.

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The Sacred Plant: Healing Secrets Examined is a groundbreaking 7-part documentary series centered on the most powerful and potent healing plant on earth. This series will be available to you absolutely FREE online from June 20-27, 2018.

What is The Sacred Plant? Cannabis sativa. Its natural and non-toxic healing powers have been used for 5,000+ years to prevent, treat, and even beat hundreds of medical conditions and disorders. Including Cancer, PTSD, Autism, Seizures, Dementia, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Anxiety, and hundreds more with no harmful side effects, which are common with pharmaceutical drugs.

Through the stories and expert advice of global health leaders, doctors, scientists, patients, and survivors…you’ll discover The Sacred Plant’s miracles and misunderstandings. The stories you’ll witness will inspire and move you. If you or a loved one is suffering right now from a debilitating disease or chronic condition, it’s important that you get educated and empowered on The Sacred Plant. It could change and even save your life and the life of a loved one.


Establishing Balance, Using it or Losing it, and Lyme With and Without Coinfections: Q & A

lyme warriorby Jennifer Crystal
Every few months, Jennifer Crystal devotes a column to answering your questions. Here are her replies to questions she has recently received. Do you have a question for Jennifer? If so, email her at
These desires are natural, but they are also a chronic Lyme patient’s Achilles heel, because doing too much at once will send you right back to bed, which is not where you or I want to be.

For me, taking on too much while ignoring and/or not understanding how to manage my limitations, caused a complete relapse. I ultimately learned that it’s better to dip your toe in the water slowly than dive in head first. The second time I battled my illnesses into remission, I started some volunteering before starting to work part-time. I went out for brief lunches once a week or so, but gave myself recovery time in between the outings; and I worked very slowly at physical therapy. Even now, when I’m so much healthier, I maintain balance by living my life within the context of my chronic illness.

Another pitfall chronic Lyme patients, including those with tick-borne co-infections,  fall into is not giving themselves any time “off”. I used to think, “Well, if I can only work part-time, then I need to put every once of energy I have into that work, to show that I’m  earning my keep.” But that led to burn out. It’s actually very important to take the time to simply relax, expending your energy on simple pleasures like watching a silly TV show or perusing a light magazine. So the best way to establish balance in your life is to first give yourself permission to have it!

Do you know any cases where someone became unfit to work due to taking too much time off? I worry that by not using my brain, I’ll lose my capacity for work.

This is an understandable concern, but you have to remember that your body is working very hard to heal from tick borne illness. I used to worry that my body and brain would succumb to entropy, but even after years of illness, they did not. My mind did not turn to mush, despite brain fog, syntax errors, mental confusion, and sleep disturbances. My body did not wither away, even though I lost and had to regain most of my muscle.

But I did ultimately restore both my physical and mental faculties, and I don’t think I could have done so if I had not given myself the requisite time needed to recover.

Your brain is working right now, fighting bacteria. Don’t push it before its ready. Whenever I tried to do that, I paid the price. My brain fog would only worsen, and I would only get more frustrated and discouraged. When I tried to exercise before my body was ready, the spirochetes only increased their activity, making me feel worse. Lyme is not a “just push through it” disease like, say, some types of flu. It’s much more serious and requires a sensible long-term view when it comes to recovery.

That said, do allow yourself to slowly regain your capabilities when you’re ready. When I was too tired to complete articles or essays, a friend of mine would play short writing games with me. He’d make up rules such as, “Send me two sentences using only three syllable words,” or, “Make up a funny story about a dog and tell it to me using only short sentences.” These activities helped me to pass the time, but also allowed me to use the language center of my brain without overworking it. Eventually, I was able to build back up to my original capacity. Though I remain heedful of overstimulation, now I can read and write articles, edit student essays, and write this column—plus work on my book. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that had I forced my body and brain to work before they were ready.

Can you have Lyme without co-infections?

Yes, and vice-versa. This is one of the most important and misunderstood facts about tick- borne illnesses. Ticks can carry multiple infections, not only Lyme disease but others as well. I personally tested positive for Lyme, babesia, and bartonella, and they all required different treatments.

Had I only been tested or treated for Lyme, I would have only been fighting half the battle and, what’s most important, I would in all likelihood still be sick.

On the flip side, it’s also possible for a person to have a co-infection, but not Lyme disease. I know someone who had only ehrlichia, and another person who had only babesia. It’s very important to be aware of the symptoms of each-tick borne illness and, if you have any of the symptoms or have a tick bite or rash, that you visit a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor who can accurately diagnose and treat you.

jennifer crystalOpinions expressed by contributors are their own.

Jennifer Crystal is a writer and educator in Boston. She is working on a memoir about her journey with chronic tick-borne illness. Contact her at


Lyme Society’s TBD Education Conference Part 4 of 4“>

 Approx. 1 hour 13 Min.

Part 4 of 4 of the Lyme Society’s Tick-Borne Disease Education Conference with Kenneth Liegner, MD

The Lyme Society’s Tick-Borne Disease Education Conference was held on May 12, 2018 at the Hampton Inn in Staten Island, NY. It was filmed by Andy Levison of Staten Island Community Television.

Part 1 – Brain Fallon, MD – Latest Advancements in Research
Part 2 – Robert Bransfield, MD – Lyme Disease & Mental Health
Part 3 – Pat Smith – What & Where They are and What is New for 2018
Part 4 – Kenneth Liegner, MD – The Disease that doesn’t Exist: Chronic Lyme Disease


Lyme Society’s TBD Education Conference Part 3 of 4“>

 Approx. 1 hour 13 Min.

Part 3 of 4 of the Lyme Society’s Tick-Borne Disease Education Conference with Pat Smith

The Lyme Society’s Tick-Borne Disease Education Conference was held on May 12, 2018 at the Hampton Inn in Staten Island, NY. It was filmed by Andy Levison of Staten Island Community Television.

Part 1 – Brain Fallon, MD – Latest Advancements in Research
Part 2 – Robert Bransfield, MD – Lyme Disease & Mental Health
Part 3 – Pat Smith – What & Where They are and What is New for 2018
Part 4 – Kenneth Liegner, MD – The Disease that doesn’t Exist: Chronic Lyme Disease