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Amy Tan

Patience — flip side of courage

A reader asks, how did I recover from Lyme disease?

I’ll tell you what I told him. It was the first thing that popped into my head, and it might not be what you expect.


Superman vs Clark Kent

Courage makes the headlines.

We all love to hear about daring, noble feats of everyday superheroes. Regular people doing unselfish acts.

It’s little wonder that feats like this restore our faith in humanity —

The man diving into the freezing pond to save an 11-year-old child.

The mother lifting a two-ton car off of a boy.

Your spouse refusing Ben & Jerry’s because they know you can’t eat sugar.

Courage is easy to admire because it’s easy to spot.

When it comes to battling Lyme, courage is as necessary as light is to life. Especially when you feel like you have to convince the doctor that you’re actually sick.

There’s no question we have to persevere, do our own research, and get a second opinion when necessary. Or a third, fourth, or fifth until we get the help we need. And it takes courage to question your doctor.

So this is where it helps to see that courage has a flip side. And that is patience, the unsung virtue.

If courage is Superman, patience is Clark Kent with his nose in a book. Granted, boring to watch. But he’s doing the work on the ground.

So that was my first response to the reader who asked what worked for me. Patience.

Patience and courage, because they’re really two sides of the same coin.


Patience and perseverance

Writer Amy Tan said when she had Lyme disease, she couldn’t remember the paragraph she had just read.

Has that ever happened to you?

It takes patience to start again, and again. You have to believe in your own body’s healing power.

Like Sisyphus pushing the boulder uphill. That’s perseverance. Never give up.

There is always something you can do. It begins with understanding what the Lyme bacterial complex is doing in your system. We’re talking about the mind-brain-body connection here.


Lyme bacteria in the brain

Science shows that the Lyme bacterial complex can cross over the blood-brain barrier. Not every bacteria can do that.

Think of the mind as the cloud. The brain is the device, the hardware. And science also tells us that the mind is located in our guts as well as in our heads.

Which is why there is such an important connection between the health of our guts, or intestines, and our mind-health. Feeding your body means also feeding your mind.

Lyme disease, when it affects your mind, threatens to erase your memories. It can delete your ability to put together a simple sentence. You can’t think of a word when you reach for it.


This is one of those tricky Lyme symptoms that is hard to explain to your friends. That’s because cognitive problems tend not to show up on the exterior.

Your interior

Inside, it’s as if your interior being — your mind, your faith, your thoughts, beliefs, memories, everything that makes you you — has been shredded to bits and dragged over rocks and tossed off cliffs into a deep mud pool far below.

With all that going on, it can be tempting to give in to despair. Who could blame you?

I’ve been there, looking down the barrel of mortality. I had to decide whether to keep fighting or give in.

I almost gave in because the pain was unbearable.

Who knows why, but after a while of not dying, I chose courage.

What I didn’t know was that I’d have to be patient — more patient than I thought was possible — before I could really express that courage.

So I patiently proceeded (along with my doctor’s help) to do everything in my power to get back to health.

Especially eating right and keeping my mind sharp.


Foods & activities for brain health

Fighting Lyme from every angle was what worked for me. Antibiotics, herbal supplements, homeopathics, exercise, positive thinking, prayer (without ceasing), and good friends. Yep, a huge dose of good old fashioned love thrown into the mix.

I sought the company of friends, community and laughter. My husband helped by renting funny movies for us both to watch—since he sorely needed to escape the drag of Lyme disease as well.

And getting my butt out of bed to walk around the block even when I felt like I was dying.

My naturopathic doctor and I also found a diet that would support my brain and body.

What did I do?

I ate foods rich in Omega-3, lean proteins, and a rainbow of vegetables which are high in antioxidants and key vitamins. Colorful veggies are also detoxifying and will help your immune system by supporting your elimination organs, the kidneys, liver, and skin.

Nourish your body with whole foods. Avoid refined foods, sugar, and white flour. Avoid alcohol and coffee.

Reach for scrumptious red and blue fruits, such as organic strawberries and blueberries.


Keep your mind fit

Exercise and stretch whenever possible, and by all means rest.

Sleep is the key to healing. Good sleep.

Exercise your brain.

It’s important to help keep your mind fit. Try new things, keep learning. You can learn almost anything online.

Play games such as crossword puzzles or Sudoku. Play games online. Check out lumosity.com or brainmetrix.com.

Teach yourself another language by playing an online game or challenging a friend through duolingo.com.

If you played an instrument before you got Lyme, take it down off the shelf. Sit down at the piano and tinker.

Music is healing, especially when you make it yourself. Play music with friends. Let it take you away.

What kind of art do you like? You can take virtual museum tours online.

Make your own art. Craft something. Learn how to make an origami crane — so beautiful. Paint, write, draw, color in a coloring book.

Read a book. Read a series.

Keep your mind active and fit. Nourish your brain with vital, healthy foods that make you feel good.

Diet and nutrition are only part of the whole picture, but they were crucial to my recovery and now maintenance of good health.

Above all, be patient and kind to yourself. There is no more precious thing than your life.

Then you can tell your own superhuman story about healing from Lyme.

I bet that our double-sided virtue, patience and courage, will both play have played a big part.
Comments

Who inspires you?

I'm a huge Amy Tan fan. If you haven't read her novels, you're missing out on some super funny and insightful stories. Read this and whet your appetite. I remember when I found out shortly after my Lyme diagnosis that Amy Tan also suffered for years from misdiagnosis and severe neuroborreliosis. Reading her story, I hung on every word. Of course, I had to read s-l-o-w-l-y. At that point, it often took me hours to comprehend one page of information. I determined that if the brilliant Amy Tan could slip so low and still pull herself out, I could too. She knew how tough it was. You know how it is. I don't want to be in this club, but since I have no choice I'm going to look around and find someone to inspire me.

Musician Darryl Hall was diagnosed with Lyme the same week I was. I feel solidarity with him. Another fabulous novelist, Rebecca Wells, has Lyme. We've got some great role models. GW Bush has had Lyme, and the White House doctors say he's fully recovered. Alice Walker, another amazing writer whose work I've always loved, has had Lyme disease. Just knowing we're not alone, and in fact, we're in some pretty good company, makes me feel a smidge better. Tell me, who inspires you?
Comments