Upon looking back at my medical history from birth, I now realize I wasn’t the healthiest child and teenager, but my health didn’t fully bottom out until May of 2012. I had a copper intrauterine device (IUD), which is called the Paragard, put in a month before, and unbeknownst to me I was suffering from copper toxicity, and quite severely at that. My mental and physical health quickly deteriorated and I started to lose my quality of life at 22. Thankfully, I met with a doctor who told me to get the IUD out and helped me start healing from the copper toxicity, but little did I know that my journey to restoring my health was just beginning.
Diagnoses Galore, But Little Improvement
The year after getting my IUD removed was full of doctor’s appointments, blood work, elimination diets, trying new medications and supplements, weaning off medications, and constantly researching to find out what was wrong with me.
Aside from heavy metal poisoning, the first diagnosis I received after my IUD debacle was Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome due to my hormones being out of whack and my irregular menstrual cycle. I then started working with an endocrinologist while I was in graduate school from 2013-2015 and I was formally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (hypothyroidism in its autoimmune form), adrenal fatigue, and had concrete blood work to show my hormonal imbalances.
After incorporating more elimination diets, lifestyle changes, and supplements to address my newfound diagnoses, I started to feel better, but nowhere near 100%. A year or so later, I sought genetic testing through 23&me and my results showed that I have genetic mutations that can affect methylation and detox pathways, so I then went down the rabbit hole with all the research that surrounds methylation, with little to no luck.
Eventually, I saw relief from eating the autoimmune paleo diet and sticking to it, but a year later I started to erupt with histamine intolerance issues. I began working with an integrative nutritionist who diagnosed me with leaky gut, histamine intolerance, pyroluria, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, candida, and I still had some heavy metal issues to sort out.
At this point in time, I had racked up a number of diagnoses, and while each diagnosis and implemented plan of action helped, I never truly felt like I was making solid progress. I kept having to remove food from my diet (I currently can only tolerate around 15 things), my digestive system and everything related to digestion was giving me trouble, and my mental health was still unstable.
Another Diagnosis, But This Time It Was Different
One night in my apartment, I stupidly put oil of oregano down my ear to try to fight an ear ache (NOTE: PLEASE DO NOT EVER DO THIS! It was the worst pain I’ve been in and I used to play rugby and I’ve been punched in the nose before haha :)). The ear ache went away, but the health crisis that followed a few days later and stuck around for over a month was the worst I have felt in my life.
I didn’t know I had Lyme at the time, and if I did, I would have known that oil of oregano causes Lyme bacteria, otherwise known as Borrelia burgdorferi, to die at alarming rates. This can cause a Herxheimer reaction, which is when your body is overloaded with toxins due to bacteria die-off. For me, my system was already overloaded with all sorts of bacteria and other toxins, that the die-off created what I like to call the worst traffic jam ever. Similar to my health crisis with the copper IUD, my mental and physical health quickly deteriorated.
Yet, I kept seeing Lyme disease come up in my research, and at this point I had years of conducting health research and a master’s degree focused on health communication under my belt. I ended up taking a test created by Dr. Horowitz, a leading doctor in all things Lyme, to see if you should get tested for Lyme. My numbers were through the roof and I immediately started trying to find a Lyme literate doctor (general practitioners are usually very misinformed regarding diagnosing and treating lyme, FYI) to help me.
The day of my appointment came, and the doctor confirmed my belief that I had Lyme based on my symptoms and my growing up in New York and attending college in the Hudson Valley, which is wrought with Lyme disease and ticks. During the appointment, he gave me a script for bloodwork to test for Lyme through a lab called IGenex and I completed it ASAP. A few weeks later, my test results came back and I was formally diagnosed with Lyme disease, even by CDC’s measures.
Who Thought A Diagnosis Could Make Me So Happy
After years of searching for the first domino to cause all of my health issues I finally found it: Lyme disease. I remember running around my apartment and dancing when I realized that I finally knew what I needed to address to truly heal. And while I’m still trying to forgive myself for not coming to the conclusion that I had Lyme sooner, I’m glad I caught it sooner rather than later.
Now, I can look back on both and childhood and young adulthood and write off a lot of symptoms and mental oddities to Lyme: intense chronic pain, stiff neck, brain fog, short term memory loss, neuropathy, muscle loss, hormonal issues, painful cystic acne, fatigue, hair loss, bladder issues, major stomach issues, extreme heart palpitations, joint pain, cold extremities, night sweats, tinnitus, difficulty reading, anxiety, depression, OCD, rage, insomnia, alcohol sensitivity, and muscle loss, among others.
The chronic pain I experienced in grad school, which I wrote off as being hunched over at a desk reading, researching, or writing, could now be attributed to Lyme. My nearly paralyzing anxiety, depression, and mood imbalances I suffered through during my entire young adulthood were not because I was crazy, but from Lyme. My stomach being a war zone wasn’t just because I had “leaky gut,” but because of Lyme.
Even though I have no idea when I contracted Lyme--I suspect it was at a young age since many of my issues started as a child--I now know that I am addressing the main factor of my health issues. I am certain that my energy is no longer being wasted trying to play whack-a-mole with a slew of diagnoses and symptoms. This diagnosis, while daunting, isolating, and very challenging at times, has helped me believe that I can heal, I will heal, and I am healing.