Friday, February 17, 2012

Supporting People Who Are Ill And Surviving It Intact

As a lyme literate practitioner and as a mother of someone with Chronic Lyme Disease, I want to share some insights I have gained in the last two years. Amanda has had active disease since she was 15. She is now 37. We have been treating her for almost two years. Before I became lyme literate I was like any other family member frustrated by the incredible variety of symptoms Amanda complained about. I kept telling her to get help for her emotional issues and to get on with her life. As a 'knowledgeable' health care provider I just couldn't put the array of problems together into a diagnosis that made sense. Amanda would sometimes rage, literally, with anger that was scary. She would get panic attacks and these increased in intensity and frequency as the bugs became further entrenched in her body. Antidepressants were ineffective. Amanda would complain of severe pain, total body pain, joint pain that would migrate, hip pain that made her feel like her bones were breaking, muscle pain, stomach pain, abdominal cramping, and headaches. Wow! It was overwhelming to hear about this and feel helpless to help. She has had horrific stomach issues and would throw up often and feel nauseous constantly. I attributed these symptoms to her inability to resolve her emotional feelings. Yet I believed she needed psych help to get over the pain, that these symptoms were related to the trauma of the rape she experienced at a young age. For many of her family members it was Amanda crying wolf over and over again. Her emotional lability pushed people away as did her rage. I was the person the rage was directed at mostly and eventually I just wanted to disengage from it all. I did not make the connection of Lyme until I became Lyme literate and then everything she had been saying for years made sense.

Initially, I felt guilt for not believing her and helping her to find help. Fortunately we have so much guidance now. But when we had to interact with the current health care system, I thought that because I was 'one of them' they would believe what she was experiencing, listen, and help. I was foolish to believe this. The disconnect between IDSA guidelines and ILADS guidelines rang loud and clear. I became the drug seeking, interfering mother and my gravely ill daughter became a psych case. 

Amanda lived about a mile from us at the beginning of treatment. As I have written before we had a hellish year of 17 ER visits and 7 inpatient hospitalizations before I took her home and started treating her. My husband and I give her medicine every four hours around the clock and have for over 6 months now. She gets IV hydration, nutritional support and antibiotics. We prepare her food, do her laundry, help her with personal care, and are helping to raise her 12 year old daughter. In-between all this we work and make time for our relationship. Hundreds of thousands, probably millions, are doing this across the globe. Imagine the impact this is having on the global economy, as well as the emotional costs for those involved. 

The financial costs of treating CLD physically run into thousands of dollars a year and can go on for several years. People lose their homes, their jobs, their relationships. Insurance companies refuse to pay for something that 'doesn't exist.' The burden of this is great and those that have no resources suffer for years. Many simply give up. 

For those with the disease, healing on all levels is necessary. This encompasses not only the physical but the emotional and spiritual. The disease is a message to change the way they have been living their life. As Katina states so eloquently in her book, Out of the Woods, " The more debilitated and stricken people are, the more time has been created in their lives for reflection and realignment with their life dreams and purpose. It's not random that those who have the most to offer the world-those who are working hardest and have the most altruistic attitudes- can get hit the hardest by this illness as they push themselves so hard, with little self-recognition. We must learn how to love our very selves with true compassion, through the tender and tragic mercies of this insidious and erratic illness". This aspect of CLD is as critical to address as the physical. The infections will not resolve without doing this work. 

I believe this applies to those of us that care for their loved one as well. It is a consuming experience that requires surrender to each moment to avoid burnout that can come with care-giving. The rhythm of each day is dictated by the needs of one person and it can be overwhelming. Some family members walk away when they decide they have done enough. Many choose to believe the mainstream hype that CLD doesn't exist. But for those of us that are able to remain steadfast, hold love in their heart, the reward of watching health restored is amazing. It is worth every moment of exhaustion and frustration. I get to assist someone I adore in her transformation; and, like a butterfly coming out of her cocoon, I am witnessing my child coming back to life. The process is slow, agonizingly slow, but each small step is a gift. One of my mantras is 'God gives nothing but good, either gifts or lessons, and really, they are the same.' Another is 'everything is perfectly manifesting.' This reminds me to embrace the moment and learn so that I can shift my consciousness ever higher, and return to a place of peace and acceptance. Those who are desperately ill with CLD need their loved ones to be present and whole. Like the birthing of a child, a woman is alone with her experience of labor, yet she needs support while going through it. So does someone who is chronically ill, frail, weak, exhausted, and in severe pain. My daughter, who is so ill, is the same being she was before she became sick, working to heal from an all consuming disease, and she needs all the assistance we can give. I will be here until her healing happens and she can move forward in her life once again.

Blessings to you all...Mara

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"We all strive for balance in our lives. If you find yourself striving for inner peace and a sense of harmony, it takes more than a good attitude. Our sense of self is regulated by neurotransmitters, hormones, and many other cellular functions within our bodies that influence our stamina, immune function, sexual drive, and nervous systems."

Nurse Practitioner and Energetic Healer, Mara Williams has been a health care provider for over 30 years. For 15 years, Mara worked in Hospice, helping people at the end of their life. For most of her life she has been devoted to a spiritual practice and developing her gift of working with energy. Eventually she returned to school at UCSF to earn a Masters and become a Nationally Board Certified Adult Nurse Practitioner so she could have a greater impact in helping people heal. Currently, she specializes in treating people with Tick Borne Diseases (TBDs), using an integrative approach to help them attain greater health and well-being. The secret to healing is discovering the root cause of the problem, and this is what Mara does best.

Besides being a provider, Mara has personal experience as a mother of a child with Chronic Lyme Disease. It has given her a greater understanding of what patients with TBDs experience in the Medical World of Western Medicine and how difficult it is to find a Lyme-literate provider who recognizes and understands the complexity of these chronic diseases.

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