Trust Thyself?

Howdy out there! Well, yes, the Astros won the World Series, folks, and we here in Houston, Texas are celebrating! Good stuff! 

So, just a quick recap: I’m now officially off all antibiotics for a 2nd time now in my 5 years of treatment for Chronic Lyme disease. Sure, lately I’ve been a bit paranoid, wanting to chalk every.single.everything. up to Lyme. I certainly try to keep track of any weirdness or symptoms cropping up. You know, JUST IN CASE.

Lately, I’ve been feeling pretty fatigued in the afternoons. It hasn’t affected my ability to work, but I certainly do not get much of anything done after work. I’m not really noticing too many other symptoms so that is encouraging. There was one day this past week that I had a lot of stiffness and joint pan throughout the day, and it’s been a few months since that has happened. Again, good news.

But, yeah, the fatigue can be scary. Ever since I was so very sick this past March, the fatigue kinda freaks me out a little, I won’t lie. It’s one of those lingering symptoms of Lyme and especially Chronic Lyme. It’s like a shadow that follows me everywhere. I can’t seem to shake it. Even when I was off during the summer, it was always there, lurking. I feel like I have to always be on guard about the fatigue. It swallowed me up whole this past Spring, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to come out of it. Luckily, I did but it certainly wasn’t a given. Fatigue is stealthy and ninja-like too. It comes on slowly but quickly too and before you realize it, the fatigue takes over everything.

When I’ve been in the dark depths of this illness, in the pit of the chronic fatigue, the pain, the headaches, nausea, there have been times where I have actually doubted my own sickness. What I mean is, there have been times when I have questioned whether if I am really sick. I’ve  thought: maybe I am just  lazy? Maybe I just don’t want to work or maybe I just don’t like my job anymore?  Maybe I was sick, but I’m not anymore? Maybes, maybes. Why would I even question myself like this?

I think some it has to do with being ill for so long. I’m not sure. It took several years if feeling sick to get a correct diagnosis and then, in my case, even when I began treatment, I did not see any real progress in feeling any better for many years. I am sure there are many out there with chronic illness that sometimes doubt themselves. PLEASE DO NOT DOUBT YOURSELF, EVER.

Of course I am sick! In fact, I can almost remember the very day I realized something wasn’t right in my body and that was in November 2009. Then it took almost 4 more years and at least 8 doctors to get correctly diagnosed with Lyme disease.

I know it’s utterly illogical to think otherwise. Whenever I have a little more energy and if I feel a little better, I am doing things I haven’t been able to do in a long time. It’s so stupid to blame myself formy  physical ailments. And yet. Those thoughts have crept in from time to time. Perhaps it’s some sort of weird coping mechanism? I’m not sure. 

But now that I have a reprieve from a lot of the symptoms, I know that these doubts were silly. I have to keep reminding myself to trust my gut and to trust my instincts. They haven’t failed me yet. In fact, they are what saved my life. 

Here’s a tidbit from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance” (we have been studying this in class and seems relevant. Maybe not, but I like it LOL):

“Every man discerns between the voluntary acts of  his mind, and his involuntary perceptions. And to his involuntary perceptions, he knows a perfect respect is due. He may err in the expression of them, but he knows that these things are so, like day and night, not to be disputed. All my wilful actions and acquisitions are but roving;— the most trivial reverie, the faintest native emotion are domestic and divine.”

And also Emerson says “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”

That’s exactly what I intend. 

Have a happy week, friends. – b

 

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You’re Kinda Cool

Howdy out there! In  our neck of the woods, we’re enjoying the 60 degree weather and the World Series brouhaha. We’re also hoping the Astros win!! Fingers crossed.

So, I’m off of all antibiotics now for Chronic Lyme. It’s been about a weekish. In the past 10 days, I have been feeling the fatigue creeping back in. Not drastic by any means, but I can feel its weight. By about 1 p.m. in the afternoons now, I’m pretty much  done and I’m ready to go home and rest. A few nights this past week, I have gone to sleep by 7 p.m. While I’m not noticing a lot of other symptoms, I’m still worried and pensive about not being on medication. I did blood work last Tuesday, so hopefully the results will be back this week and I’ll hear from my doctor. 

I know I shouldn’t worry and that “it is what it is” but easier said than done. It’s hard to find a balance between ignoring and obsession! I am trying to be hyper-vigilant without being a freak. Hmm.

Work is going well. My students are great, and I think we all adjusted after Hurricane Harvey postponed our start for a few weeks. It still feels weird though that Thanksgiving is just 3 weeks away. How did that happen?

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Anyway, being a teacher and one that is chronically ill, 5 performances daily can be extremely difficult (teaching is a demanding job even when one is healthy!). I work hard at projecting an energetic and positive image while in the classroom regardless of how I may be feeling. My audience is 15-17 year olds, and they can sometimes be a very tough crowd, even on a good day! 

But here’s a note I received in my mailbox from one of my students on Friday:

“You’re kinda cool, I guess.”

I literally laughed out loud. Really, this is like receiving an Oscar in my line of work. I’ll take the wins when and where I can get them.

Stay kinda cool, my peeps. Have a great week! – b

I Still Gots the Lyme!

Hi all!! I know it’s been a skip and a beat. The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey ate up much of my time, then school started. Starting school 2 weeks late has thrown things off and so, I admit, it has taken me awhile to get back into the swing of things. I honestly didn’t realize that it had been so long since I had posted.

I hope this finds you and yours well. While the first day of Fall has come and gone, I can attest that it certainly has not arived whatsoever here in Houston much to everyone’s dismay. In fact, yesterday, the high was 90 degrees. No bueno. Yes, the shadows are changing, birds are gathering, and clouds look “fall-like” and yet, it is no cooler. I believe there is a cool front rolling through this evening (LIES!), but I don’t dare to look at WeatherBug and be disappointed again.

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But hey! I still have Chronic Lyme disease! However, the months of July, August, and most of September were the best I have felt in the past 4 years!!  It has been like the clouds in my brain cleared away and the sun felt brighter and life was more beautiful. Sincerely.  When I saw my OT (out of town doc) in September, she asked me what I thought was working and making the difference. Here’s what I told her:

  1. the additional thyroid medication she put me on in May,
  2. being off of work (I had all of June, July and half of August off completely),
  3. and maybe the combo therapy of antibiotics ahe put me on in June.
  4. But really, I don’t know for sure.

I started back to work in mid-August, then the Hurricane/flooding, then 2 weeks off, then back to work. This is week 6 of being back to work full-time. So far, it hasn’t been bad. But I can start to feel a change in my body. It feels like I’m slipping somehow, albeit very slowly.

At my OT doctor appointment in early September, my doctor decided that it was time to start weaning off the antibiotics. I was hesitant but I also know that we have to see if I can manage without them. I have been on Rifampin since March and on Ceftin and Zithromax since June. I eliminated Zithromax first, then Ceftin, and this is my last week on Rifampin. I felt alright without Zithromax. But the week I stopped Ceftin (about 3 weeks ago), the daily headaches seemed to return. 

At first, I blew it off thinking it was becuase I had a cold. But I can say for sure now that the headaches are back. I’m also feeling a little less energetic. Again, I doubt myself and make excuses – I’m back at work, I’m not sleeping as much, I’m…..but I know deep down that it is Lyme related. 

I’m giving it this week, and then I will contact my OT doc. She said to let her know if I start having symptoms again as I come off the antibiotics. Of course, I am having all kinds of thoughts, worries, emotions about this but that is for another post. 🙂 

I just keep telling myself not the dismiss ANYTHING nor any SYMPTOMS. I have to trust my gut on everything and that is OK. Lyme became CHRONIC in my system because it was left to go bonkers for years in my body.

That ain’t happening again. Not on my watch.

Pumpkins

 

Peace to you, friends. Until next time xxoo – Belle

 

 

Heading Back to Work Very Cautiously

Honestly, I’m not sure I wrote about trying to make the decision about whether to continue working or not this past spring.  I am a high school teacher in my 17th year now. This past March, my health and mental health were at the breaking point, and I had to go on a medical leave. That alone was tough. I was out lof work 3 weeks (one week was Spring Break). It was much needed time off to rest and get physically to a less fatigued state, and I was able to make it through the rest of the school year when I returned from leave. 

But taking a medical leave definitely made my husband and I have some serious and challenging conversations about whether I should continue to work or not. We’ve actually been talking about it for a couple of years now. But finances weren’t where we wanted them, savings wasn’t enough, we have a daughter in college….blah, blah. You know it all. Yet, in March, I was so bad, everything was so bad, that those things just weren’t that important anymore. If I had to stop working, we would deal with it. 

And yet. After some discussions with my husband, my family, and co-workers, I have decided to return for this school year. I’m worried though. And I may be putting myself into an awkward position if I have to leave in the middle of the semester or at semester time. I agonize over leaving my students like that, over possibly leaving my colleagues like that – basically in a lurch. But, work told me that I need to do what I can and what I want and if it comes down to a decision such as leaving then I will have to do it, and it will work out.  Bottomline is they would rather have me there for as long as possible then have me resign prematurely. This in itself is a relief of sorts. I know I’m replaceable; it isn’t that. I just don’t want to cause issues for others. Teaching is hard enough when everything is going smoothly!

Once I made the decision to go back, I was excited. Then, I transitioned to feeling freaked out. This summer, my health has improved. I don’t know if it is the new antibiotics I am on or my additional thyroid meds or a combo but it has been a real JOY! Yes, of course, I am off for the summer and so I can rest, etc. when I want, but I’ve been doing this for the past 4 summers and I can tell you for certain, this summer has been different. I’ve had days and weeks of energy levels I haven’t experienced in YEARS. YEARS. 

With this new found improvement in health, I am even more anxious now to return to work. Weird, right? I’m afraid I will lose this feeling, this energy. I’m fearful I will end up feeling so overwhelmed and fatigued that I can’t do anything outside of working (and even that became impossible in March). I don’t want this little victory for my quality of life to go away or be whittled away somehow.

I don’t know how I am going to handle the 8-9 hour days. Many of my physical symptoms have improved but what if I go into a flare? WHAT IF? I know I am making myself silly by worrying about thinsg I have absolutely no control over. I logically know this. I keep telling myself that I just have to take it literally day by day. Step by step. We’ll have to see how it goes. We have a Plan B…kinda.

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Source: pixabay.com

Teachers start back tomorrow. We’ll have a few weeks of professional development and then students are back August 28th. I’ve only ben anxious since Wednesday. Off and On….all of today. The alarm is set, I have my bag packed, there’s not much else I can do, right?

I want to be excited, and I am. I’m beginning my 17th year of teaching, my Awesome department chair gave me the classes I want, the schedule that best suits my health needs, the team I want to work with. There is absolutely nothing to not be grateful afor and about! My biggest WISH is that I am able to complete this school year in a healthy state.

Thanks for reading and for listening, dear peoples. Peace – Belle

“If I Only Had a Brain”…..

So, The Wizard of Oz and Lyme…….

Say what?  Ok, just work with me here…..

Lyme bacteria can enter every single system in the body. Every. Single. System. 

This summer, I’ve been experiencing some really great days, in a row!!!, and then I’ve also experiencing symptoms that come and go, day to day, and sometimes, hour to hour. I think I’m noticing it more because I am off of work right now. I’m not sure. 

I’ve been wracking my brain to think of a way to explain the comings and goings of the myriad of symptoms. There really isn’t a good analogy. Not one that is really accurate nor one that people can relate to, at least not one I’ve thought of!

But I woke up the other morning so freaking stiff I could barely get out of bed. For reals. And I thought, man, I need some of that oil the Tin Man uses in The Wizard of Oz. If only!

Thus, my very weird and strange comparison began to manifest. Just to start, so I don’t scare (haha Scarecrow!) any of you off, I’ll only talk about The Scarecrow today.

Here goes nothing!

Lyme Disease and The Scarecrow

The Scarecrow longs for a brain! He’s searching for a way to get a brain as do I much of the time! While my memory has improved to some degree, I am still having word loss such as trying to find the word “dishwasher” in my vocabulary. Seriously. Easy and well-used words are out of reach at any given moment.

I have now resorted to saying “you know, that THING” or “the dohicky.” It isn’t pretty.  I also periodically (and more than I would like to) have issues with just plain old logic. I try to follow a thought in conversation or in a written piece, I’m doing well, and then POOF. All is gone and I either have to start over, asking random and ridiculous questions of the speaker, or I have to continue rereading the same section of text over and over. Honestly, many times when this happens, I just give up otherwise I will work myself into a stupid anxiety seesh.

So, indeed, like the Scarecrow, I need a brain!  Now, in our beloved story, the Scarecorw has a brain all along; he just needs to realize it and access his brain. In time, I hope to do the same!

I’m off to get the thing-a-ma-jig! Have a great weekend! -belle

 

Celebrating 3 Years Here at Read Between the Lyme!

Howdy! I just realized that this month completes 3 years of blogging here at RBTL! How awesome is that? I appreciate everyone who subscribes, reads, shares, comments and all the other cool things you people do! THANK YOU!

While I realize that I haven’t been posting as much, especially this summer, I am going to keep blogging. It has given me an outlet for writing and for connecting with others that I hadn’t imagined. So upward and onward, right?

Looking back at the past 3 years of posts, my focus has been on my personal journey involving the attempt to deal with a chronic illness. I promise to try to be better about working in some other things that maybe are not Lyme related. I can imagine just reading about How I Am Sick gets pretty boring.

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So on that note, here’s a little tidbit about me you may not know. My profession is education. I will begin my 17th year (how is this possible?!?) of teaching this August. Too soon might I add. While in college, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I flip flopped between Journalism and Psychology as majors. And I went on to get a Master’s in Composition and Rhetoric.

After working a few years at Starbucks as a store manager, I went through and Alternative Certification Program to acquire my Texas Teaching Certification. I started my career teaching 7th grade Language Arts. At this point, I am working with dual credit students who are earning both high school and college credit simultaneously in high school. Oh, and I teach English (or Freshman Composition as dual credit). It really is a great position!

Originally, I was interested in teaching community college, but those full-time-with-benefits- positions are all but over. I did adjunct for awhile when I taught middle school, but then I opened a new school in 2008 as the English Department Chair, and I just couldn’t manage it all.

I am no longer the department chair as Lyme has interrupted me in so many ways. However, it was a good ride, and I learned so much. And since I work at literally the Best Campus Ever with the Best People Ever, I have been able to adapt to a new norm as it applies to “work.” At this point, I’ve been at the same campus for 9 years. We are celebrating our first decade this year.

Teaching definitely ain’t easy. But I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’m grateful that I have been able to continue working these past 4 years after entering treatment (finally!).

Well, so there you have it! A little reveal from me that maybe you figured out before (because I do have the smartest followers!) or maybe you didn’t know at all.

Again, THANK YOU for supporting me as a blogger these past few years. I am very grateful.

Peace –  Belle

 

Summer 2017

Howdy ya’ll! I hope your summer is sailing along smoothly. I always feel extra lucky because as a teacher, I have summers off (kinda). The first 6 years I taught, I worked in the summer. I spent 3-4 summers as a shift manager at Starbucks (I had been a manager for them before teaching) and then I spent about 3 summers teaching as an adjunct.

After that, sometimes, I would teach a summer high school course. This wouldn’t be all summer, just 3 weeks. And some summers, I attended conferences and or week-long workshops. However, these past 4 years, I haven’t done anything of the sort. I struggle to keep my summers work-free so I can rest and try to get my health on track.

I now marvel at the things I used to do before getting severely ill. I also used to adjunct during the school year, usually teaching one evening college class each semester. No can do now. And so, because of illness, I have definitely modified my activities.

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But back to this summer. So some things I’ve been able to do that I normally cannot manage while working:

1. Hangout with friends. Nothing fancy but stuff like dinner and lunches. Just visiting and spending time together.

2. Go grocery shopping! I’m so not lying. This chore can be so overwhelming and so full of anxiety for me I just cannot manage it. So I’ve actually sort of enjoyed (except the bill!) going grocery shopping for us this past month.

3. Spend time with family. With energy so limited while I am working full-time, it is rare to just get together with family and visit. It’s a total gift to get to do this unplanned.

4. Be upright and not in pain after 4 p.m. daily. Sure, I still have to rest. And yes, I do still have pain periodically any time of day, but it’s nice to know that some days, I can be up and active in the afternoon, on a weekday!!!

So as you can see, there’s nothing too crazy going on here this usmmer. But I’m glad I have the time to do a few cool things I can’t do normally.

I’m off to cook some dinner for my husband. I forgot to add that to my list! 🙂

Happy Summer, friends. Talk to you sooner than later. -b

P.S. I really feel like Bilbo below!!

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What’s Going On?!?

WOW! So my out of town doctor (OTD) at my last appointment in May looked over my labs (the ones where my ITDoc said my thyroid was “fine”) and said the numbers weren’t where we should have them. OTD then added more thyroid meds and told me to start tirtrating up from 5 mcg and to continue to add another 5 mcg weekly until I hit 20 mcg. OTD told me to stop at the dosage anytime I began to feel better and more energetic. Since the middle of May, I have added the thyroid meds and maxed at 20 mcg around May 28th. Again, this is medication in addition to the Synthroid I have been taking for years on a daily basis for Hypothyroidism.

With the first 5,10, 15 additional mcg I really didn’t notice much. Maybe a little more pep but nothing too noticable. Then, I hit the 20 mcg. Again, not much felt different the first week of this dose. But after about 2 weeks, BOY HOWDY! This past week has been seriously amazing.

Some things I’ve been able to do this past week that I haven’t done for months on end……and that I definitely haven’t done all in one week for YEARS are: Go out for dinner with friends, go to a movie (at night!), go grocery shopping (I am not kdding), go to lunch with a friend, mow the entire yard (like an acre), clean the house, do laundry, cook dinner, go do errands and actually enjoy said errands! Stay upright most of the day! I also have added small increments of excercise on my old elliptical machine.

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Source: Netflix GIF

I’ve had the best time! I know that most of the above a normal person can do without much thinking about it, but for me, it has been something else. Have I still had some joint pain? Yes. Have I still hit some energy walls? Yes. Am I not working right now? Yes. But still!!!

Now granted, I probably have absolutely no idea what “normal” is anymore. After 4 years of treatment and about 7 years of being ill what I can remember is most likely skewed. But I honestly haven’t felt this good and full of this much energy in….well, I have no idea how long. While I have had some hours and maybe a few days sporadically over the past year where I felt well enough or I had enough energy enough to do a few things, I have never had an extended period of time – a whole week! – where I felt like this.

I’m savoring every single minute, my people. Every. single.minute. My husband says we’ll take what we can get, and I say Amen to that. I know I’m not “cured.” I also know that my being off from work for the summer helps. I also realize that I’m starting a new treatment protocol of combination antibiotics and high doses of those antibiotics in just a few days. There will be fallout from this treatment. I will have to detox, to deal with new symptoms, to handle herxes. I know. I know. The thought  of lsoing this momentum makes me want to not go ahead with this protocol. But, I need to try it. I’ve never been treated with combination therapy and if I’m going to do it, the summer is the best time for sure.

But until I start the new meds, I’m going to kick it up as much as possible. I’m going to try to squeeze in everything I physically can while I feel good. So I’m off to do some projects. I hope your weekend is wonderful. And a Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. Take care of yourselves.

Peace and joy- Belle

 

 

What’s the Sitch?

What’s new in my world?  It’s been a tough spring, I won’t lie. In March, I had to take a medical leave from work. I was just dragging at everything, missing work days, spending every minute at home laying down. It truly was torturous. I couldn’t manage to gain any ground at all even after resting all weekend long.

It was depressing as hell. It was like watching a movie. You could see what was going wrong but no control in changing it. I was just a zombie. The chronic fatigue was impenetrable. I was out of work about 3 weeks. I tested positive for Lyme and EBV again (not new infections but chronic ones) and my doctor put me on antibiotics. I was a little better when I went back at the end of March. It was still a challenge daily to get through each day but it has progressively improved.

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I’m still on antibiotics. I’ll have another follow-up on June 28th, so we’ll see. School is out for the summer and that helps too. I considered not working next year, but I’m hopeful I can gain ground this summer and honestly, I’m scared to not work. I know, it’s weird. It’s all very emotional and right now; I am planning on returning to work in August.

I’ll post an update about my doctor visit I had in May with my doctor out-of-town. She’s offering up some treatments being done overseas that sound both promising and expensive. I’m trying to do some more research. More to come and soon!

I hope your summer is off to a great start! I’ve missed blogging, and I look forward to reconnecting with you all!

Peace – b

I found this book to be the most helpful when I started my Lyme journey.

 

Dear Western Medicine: The Break-Up Letter

Dear Western Medicine,

While you and I have had a long, steady and committed relationship, it hasn’t always been a bed full of roses. However, I would like to begin by celebrating what has worked for us. First, thank you for delivering me into this world safe and sound, and making sure my mom had a speedy recovery. Also, thank you for doing this for my two younger brothers as well. You had a good heart at the beginning.

Your diligence and kindness did help me through my teenage years; I wasn’t sick very often so there wasn’t much of a strain on our relationship. Things were simple then, and we had a strong bond. I knew I could count on you if anything minor would happen like a broken arm or leg (don’t all kids long for a cast?) Check-ups went well with no major injuries or illnesses, well except for a severe case of mono and strep in my mid-20s.

We coasted along you and I, only periodically needing to reassess our relationship, always determining that we were continually committed to one another. But then things started to become tenuous. In 2009, I began suffering from fatigue and malaise. At first, you told me that I was having another episode of mono. I believed you. I rested, and I got better. Yet, this cyclical issue continued for 3 years. The answer for my sickness was always the same: mono – again. By 2011, you diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s. Ok, I thought. All relationships go through periods of growth and change. Compliantly, I added thyroid medication to my routine and assumed that I finally understood what was happening to me. But our relationship continued to be rocky.

Alas, Western Medicine, you deluded me.  By the fall of 2012, I had already experienced 4 relapses of mono or Epstein Barr Virus and the fatigue was getting worse and lasting longer. I began having daily headaches and joint pain. The lower back pain and the neck pain were the worst. I began having trouble getting through a day at work. I saw 7-8 doctors of yours who all professed a specialty. I put my faith in these doctors. Batteries of tests were run. And yet, every result came back negative. How could you fail me this way?

Letter writing
Breaking up is hard to do.

You took away years of my life! If only I were diagnosed in 2009 with Lyme disease (which I tested 100% CDC positive for in March 2013), maybe, just maybe, I would not now have chronic Lyme, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and chronic EBV along with a few other choice conditions. If only you would have seen me as a person, as a person dealing with REAL symptoms, as a whole person rather than just parts, maybe we could have stayed together and worked things out.

But you pushed me aside for bigger and better things, for easier diagnoses and for illnesses detected and treated in the 8-10 minutes you are able to give each of your patients. You told me that my symptoms weren’t real, that my daily headaches were caused by dehydration, that my neck pain was from carrying my purse on the same side all of the time. You told me that chronic EBV doesn’t exist. You did MRIs and told me that there was no reason for the neuropathy in my feet. I was sent on my way at every turn without answers and most of all, without any support.

It was because of my own perseverance and my own belief that indeed there was something wrong I was able to get a correct diagnosis finally. That all of the symptoms I was experiencing were in fact REAL. And just because you couldn’t figure out what was going on didn’t mean it wasn’t happening to me. But even after my Lyme diagnosis, I stuck with you, scared to go on without you and your “modern ways.” I subjected myself to the self-doubt, to the scrutiny of a multitude of Western Medicine doctors, including my Endocrinologist who, when I told her about the Lyme, repeated my Lyme diagnosis in disbelief and disdain.

Even after all of this time, you are able to deny me the care of another. For more holistic and natural approaches, I can’t use my health insurance. You dictate that Lyme disease be treated with only 3-4 weeks of antibiotics and that is only if one of your doctors knows even a smidge about Lyme (and most know nothing).

It is time to let me go. I need to move on, and I need the opportunity and the freedom to explore other relationships. I deserve the best possible care for the chronic conditions I am experiencing right now. I need to be believed and not neglected because I don’t fit into the role of the good patient you want me to be. So, from here on out, we part ways.

While I wish you the best, my main hope is that you can someday soon expand your horizons and build better and more positive relationships in the future.

Sincerely,

Your Ex-Patient