Lyme Disease Research Database Independent reporting on all aspects of Lyme Disease

Lyme treatment choices: Do other people's perceptions matter?

Other people matter, this much is clear. We're social critters who need love and feedback from our peeps as much as we need food and water. But when it comes to our choice of Lyme treatment, can other people's opinions affect the way we perceive ourselves?

Look at a bottle of water, then look at a cup of water. The water conforms to the contours of each vessel. People, largely composed of water, are much the same. We tend to take the shape of the environment or community in which we find ourselves.

Other people's ideas of us have an impact on us. I don't mean to say that they control or dominate us (unless we let them). I mean their opinions and beliefs tend to influence how we perceive ourselves, and fit ourselves into our environment. The closer or more fully developed the relationship, the deeper can be the impact of their opinion of you, whether it is spoken or unsaid. We don't grow, develop, or heal (or become whole) in a vacuum.

Their feeling about a particular Lyme treatment may differ from ours. For example, imagine a scenario in which one person is eager to try treatment with an ILADS doctor, or begin alternative therapy, or an herbal protocol, yet her spouse has a low opinion of alternative medicine. He thinks she needs to stick with their IDSA doctor and go with conventional antibiotics. It may not be an easy decision to make.

We need feedback from people we feel close to, and we hope they support us. It's natural and necessary to seek support and emotional resonance. When someone in your life accepts and loves you unconditionally, hangnails, bad-math skills and all, you feel safe. Intimacy is psychological, physical, and emotional sanctuary, and healing can commence from that place.

Psychologists who study how personalities develop are currently revising their conclusions. The new thinking is that people's dispositions are not fixed, but more like a psychological language that can be picked up through immersion. Other people influence us.

When Lyme symptoms linger or come back long after the antibiotics are finished, the problems are more complicated. Social support systems, friends and family members, may be less available for the person who hasn't rallied quickly back to health.

Lymies do their best to fit in, be part of the norm, but chronic pain or exhaustion makes it difficult to be chipper, or even fulfill basic obligations. Even acting normal can tire out a person who is operating on insomnia and anxiety. Can you count the times you stuffed your pain and faked an answer to the perennial “how are you” with a glib, “fine thanks, you?” It's completely understandable. It can feel incredibly lonely and frustrating, like nobody wants to hear that you are still battling Lyme, especially when it seems that it never gets better.

And from the outside, understanding a chronically ill person's dilemma is not easy. A person with Lyme disease is in pain, and it's often invisible. One of the weird downsides is that people with Lyme often don't look sick. No one can see their bad headache, racing heart, or aching knees. “You look fine,” friends and family members will say. “You must be feeling better.” Beyond this, there is also a cultural undercurrent at work, the subtle shaming of a person who does not act chipper and perky, or at least look cheerful.

We all have many facets. Recognize that other people's vision of you – your uniqueness, depth, and your quirks – does have some impact on your vision of yourself. Others are, in a very real sense, mirrors to our growth and healing processes. This includes your doctor or medical team. So who is your support system, and what do they believe about your approach to healing? The only one who can influence a change in their opinion of you, is you. It's worth paying attention to.
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