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An integral approach to healing from Lyme

Lyme affects all the systems in the body, including the brain and therefore the mental state. It seems important to recognize that Lyme, as a complex disease that can be very hard to heal from, must be treated from as many angles as possible.

I’m not writing about this approach simply because I read about it somewhere and thought it sounded good. I’m a walking, talking example of someone who beat Lyme because I practice an integral approach myself. It begins with recognizing that in any given event, there are four perspectives that represent the fundamental dimensions of an illness, as stated in the post above:
  • Physical state
  • Mental state
  • Cultural views
  • Social systems

We’ve already touched on the first two angles, and explored how you can see one but not the other. The doctors can treat your physical body with medicines while often missing entirely your state of mental-emotional health. Sometimes mental problems can clear up when only the body receives treatment. Other times it takes another approach.

Cultural views, the third angle, include other peoples’ thoughts and opinions about your experience. Think about the impact that your family members and friends’ ideas about your illness have influenced or affected you. Whose advice do you seek out in times of trouble? Your psychologist, your BFF, your mom, and the opinions of other important tribe members all play a role in your approach to healing Lyme. And in many cases, this has proved itself not a simple disease to heal. What happens to the people who have experienced recurring symptoms?

Say, for example, that your manager at work came across an article that restates the IDSA’s guidelines for Lyme treatment, and he knows you have completed the requisite three weeks of doxycycline when you suddenly begin to complain of arthritis or fatigue -- again. If he believes hands-down that the IDSA must know the optimal treatment for Lyme, he may not believe that you are still not well. He may even suspect that your symptoms are “all in your head.”

I remember when a writer friend whom I trust and admire queried me about my pain. I had confided at lunch that I was having trouble writing because I couldn’t remember from one sentence to the next what I had just said. You look fine, he insisted. I was hurt. It felt like betrayal. He didn’t believe me, and I hated being put in the position of having to defend my illness. The opinions of others still hold sway even if they’re wrong.  On the other hand, when others believe in us and hold a space for our healing, it can feel as liberating as fresh air. It opens the way for our progress.

The fourth angle of the integral approach is the social systems. Think of the health care system, and whether or not you can afford access to coverage. Can you not get access because you’ve been denied, or because you had to quit your job and can’t afford COBRA? Systems are simply there whether you are aware of them or not. The emergency room, for example, is a social safety-net system. If you haven’t been privy to a doctor’s care for one reason or another you may wind up in the ER in a health crisis. That’s an example of falling unintentionally into a social system that may be your only option. An example of an intentional use of a system may be your own research into alternative care, which leads you to an integrative doctor and a trip to the pharmacy for herbal tinctures and supplements.

As you can see, the social systems available to us are largely influenced by where we live, which country, and how near or far we are to the kind of doctor or medical team we need. Many people with Lyme disease have come up against the cruel realization that not enough medical professionals are educated about diagnosing or treating Lyme. Numerous people have had to travel by air across state lines, sometimes thousands of miles, to get to a doctor that will give them appropriate treatment. Social systems are not incidental to the story. They lie at the heart of it, influencing the outcome just as cogently as do the other three angles.

Bear in mind that these four perspectives are not unique to illness but always arise naturally, and always together, in any given event you can think of. Even when you’re healthy you can still identify all of these dimensions. Each area only tells a part of the story. Each part contributes to our experience as a whole. They cannot be separated.

Once we recognize how these dimensions work together in our day-to-day life, it’s easy to see where things are functioning well and where they aren’t. Being aware of dysfunction gives us a much better chance to change it. And to get better.

Learn more about this approach on the
Beat Lyme page.
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