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Mind your brain health!

Whether we’ve recently received a diagnosis of Lyme disease, or we’re dealing with recurring symptoms, eating right and exercising are core considerations of a good protocol. We know the importance of foods rich in Omega-3, lean proteins, and a rainbow of vegetables which are high in antioxidants and key vitamins. The physical health of the body is usually our main focus in healing from Lyme.

But what about mental health? You know, brain fog. One of the most disturbing things about Lyme is that the bacterial complex can actually cross over the blood brain barrier. That means it may affect your cognitive abilities, the ability to pay attention; your speech centers, creating stutters or slurs; your memory; your balance and more. I’ve found that
herxing can bring on a ridiculously frustrating case of brain fog, even when other symptoms have faded.

What is really hard to explain to someone who has never been through it, is the unique torment of days filled with sensations and events that you can’t know with certainty even exist. Did I hallucinate that smell, those sounds, or is there someone else in the house? And if that isn’t real, how can this physical pain be so tortuous? My heart goes out to anyone who is at that stage of Lyme.

As Winston Churchill famously said: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Having been dragged by Lyme through the murk and come out on the other side, I can now look at that component of the disease with some objectivity. Yes, it’s crucial to take your
antibiotics (whether conventional or alternative), nourish your body with whole foods and detoxifying fruits like strawberries and blueberries, exercise and stretch whenever possible, and by all means rest.

But because of this mental component of Lyme, it’s also absolutely necessary to
exercise our brains, and therefore help keep our minds fit. The general rule is to try new things.

Try this:
Play music - dust off your violin or sit down at the piano
Go to a museum or concert - if you’re not well enough to do so, take a virtual museum tour online


Play games - try lumosity.com or brainmetrix.com
Paint
Write
Cook
Play Sudokus or do crossword puzzles
Read a book - on an iPad or the old-fashioned paper kind
Try learning a language

Almost anything can be learned online, either with a live teacher/virtual classroom or software program. If you have a yen for learning something, from Yoga to Mandarin Chinese to how to improve your fingerpicking technique on the ukelele, the important thing is to try something new. When you can.

Make a promise to your mind that you’ll do whatever you can to help your brain stay fit so that when you come out on the other side of Lyme disease, you will be smarter and healthier than ever. For it’s true what Nietzsche said: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

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Has Lyme changed your mind?

Every New Year's Eve I write down my goals for the New Year. Written lists have an uncanny way of materializing -- perhaps not as soon as we would like, or in the way we imagined, but all in all the act of writing down your goals for the coming year does seem to influence your ability to achieve them.

I also write down my goals for each month, putting them in a journal dedicated for that purpose only. I got my journal out today and looked it over, scanning to see the trajectory of the last five years since I've been dealing with Lyme.

My goals were strikingly immediate in the beginning, and health naturally became my number one priority. In the past they'd had everything to do with professional, financial, and relationship aims. But starting in 2005 my written goals became narrow and specifically focused on getting healthy. Common actions and abilities I once took completely for granted -- thinking clearly, talking without stammering, walking around the block, putting in a good day's work, sleeping peacefully, or waking up rested -- it all seemed very hard to imagine.

From the perspective of today, I look back at that time with more than a little fear. 'What if' questions start gathering in my head like storm clouds. What if I ever get that sick again? No matter how far behind you the illness gets, once a powerful antagonist like Lyme has twisted you like a rag and hung you out to dry, one is never the same. Revisiting my deepest wishes I'm amazed at how much faith I had managed to express. I kept my focus on positive affirmations. One month is a simple list of 10 goals, each a variation on the same theme of trust in my body's innate wisdom, in its ability to heal.

Please do not misunderstand. I'm not saying that I believe I healed from Lyme because I wrote down my goals. The point is, writing them down strengthened my resolve to work hard at healing. Going through the long dark passage of disease and emerging on the other side is one heck of a life changing experience.

The brain and all the systems of the body can be affected by the Lyme bacterial complex. But even when the brain has been affected there is hope. Further, there is the miracle of transcending brain changes and tackling new studies, such as learning a new language, an instrument or sport.

For proof and a shot of inspiration, read this New York Times article by Oliver Sacks:

This year, change your mind.
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New Lyme test for neuro symptoms

Like you, I've devoted a lot of my time and energy to figuring out how on earth to get better. "Be well" is my mantra, and I'm sure I'm not alone here. So when someone points me in the direction of research that's being done in the name of Lyme testing, I'm all ears. Here is something you might be interested in hearing more about as well: a new test for Lyme disease.

As we know, many people sick with a Lyme infection are routinely dismissed by medical doctors who aren't trained in diagnosing or treating Lyme as "crazy," or at best, "exaggerating." This type of reductive response from medical professionals can really sting. Nothing like being kicked while you're down, and from the very people you have turned to for help. I know how it hurts, and I've experienced firsthand the fearsome mental disorientation that this disease can cause.

I remember hearing my (deceased) father clearly saying my name. I jerked my head in the direction of his voice, fully expecting to see him standing next to me.  I remember hearing the phone ringing, ringing, ringing, and each time I picked up, a little girl on the other end pleading to talk with someone whose name I did not know, someone who she swore lived there. I recall sitting in a chair all day for one entire day, afraid to move, practically afraid to breathe, for fear that movement would make the utter despair I felt inside even worse. It felt like standing, during an earthquake, on the brink of insanity, where even one small tremor would send me tumbling into the chasm below.

But I wasn't crazy. I had Lyme. I had an infection that was affecting my brain, and that's all. And I have gotten better. I continue to heal, and of course that is also my deepest desire for you. So what about this new test?

Evidently, there are neurological manifestations that have non-neurological root causes.  It is important that doctors understand this when dealing with patients who present with neurological difficulties and challenges.  The new Lyme test is capable of assessing whether someone has had "an immune response to the Lyme disease bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and whether the infection is currently active."

The test has been developed by Pharmasan Labs, Inc. in collaboration with NeuroScience, Inc.

From their website:

NeuroScience, Inc., by virtue of its name, has its foundations built on understanding the nervous system. Our understanding of the nervous system has led us to a point where, from a biochemical point of view, we must further consider the role hormones, cytokines, and neurotransmitters play, not as the messengers of individual systems, but rather as parts of a much larger picture. Our goal is to embrace a more global perspective on health that incorporates facets of neurology, immunology, and endocrinology. This newly emerging field has been defined as “neuroimmunology” and it forces us to rethink our approach to health and disease. Our adoption of the principles of neuroimmunology have resulted in an expanded menu of laboratory services that now include a wide spectrum of neurological, endocrinological, and immunological markers.

There are a lot of big words in that paragraph. Don't let them put you off. I think this test, this lab, may be onto something very important here. I'm looking forward to talking with their scientists very soon. Stay tuned for an interview, and meantime read up about their new Lyme test (and how you might use it), on their website.

Be well.
Think positively.
We can get better.



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