Health

To the Tick That Bit Me, Thank You – Whitney Easton

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Lyme Disease Birthed a More Loving Relationship With Myself

Whitney Easton
Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

Allow me to set the scene: it’s July of 2018. I wake up one morning and my reality starkly changed. It was the Fourth of July and my friends invited me to the beach. When I woke up that morning, something frightening happened: I couldn’t get out of bed. I nearly fainted en route to the bathroom and an ache in my bones sank in so deep I was certain I was dying. I laid back down and began to alternate between dripping sweat and shivering chills. My body was on fire.

Weeks earlier, I was hiking in the San Bernadino mountains outside of Los Angeles. I hiked ten miles in the heat of summer with ease, splashing in the river, sunbathing with my friends. Now I was lucky if I could make it to the other side of the room without toppling over. I crawled on hands and knees and collapsed on the bathroom floor.

I spent the next several months in and out of doctors offices, the Emergency Room, and Urgent Care. I was diagnosed with strep throat, Mononucleosis, and stress. My doctor told me to take it easy and I’d get better. I told him about my tick exposure before getting sick (my dog and I were crawling in ticks in Malibu in the Spring), but he shrugged it off and told me his intuition was that this wasn’t Lyme Disease. He said tick illness was rare in Southern California; never mind that ticks have tested positive for Lyme throughout California. My intuition screamed, as did my body, but I believed him. I really wanted to believe my doctor and so I did. I thought about getting a second opinion from a Lyme Disease specialist in Los Angeles, but scared of missing more time away from work, I cancelled it and told myself I was exaggerating symptoms.

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Months went by and my symptoms waxed and waned. I got better and then I got worse. Little did I know, this is quite common with Lyme Disease. For the most part, I was functional. I went skiing with my friends in the winter and suffered from occasional fatigue and migraine headaches. I wanted to believe it was the ‘kissing disease’ that I contracted from kissing a relative stranger on the dance floor of a discoteca in Colombia last year. I found that version of my mystery illness story amusing than a tick disease invading my body, mind, and soul.

Then came Spring of 2019. I woke up one morning with my then boyfriend. Something wasn’t right in my body and I ignored it. I didn’t want to ruin the morning. I was always so scared of things being less than perfect. I felt faint and dizzy but I feared telling him.

I pushed past the feeling and pretended I was just fine, when I was not (a favorite past time of mine). Suddenly, WHAM. The room went dark, my vision blurred. Suddenly I was in a heap as my boyfriend leapt across the room. As I fainted on the floor, I hit my head. I gashed it open and needed stitches in my forehead. With a low grade concussion, I climbed back into bed that day and it hit me: something was really wrong this time. Later I would learn dizziness and fainting spells can be a part of Lyme Disease.

I didn’t bounce back after that incident. The fatigue came rushing back and I was met with a host of neurological symptoms that are common to Lyme Disease if one doesn’t get treatment immediately after infection by a tick and the disease progresses throughout the body. Suddenly, I started slurring my speech, forgetting words, getting lost while driving, and having emotional breakdowns as I tried to keep doing my job in corporate social media. Once more, I couldn’t get out of bed. People asked me simple questions I couldn’t answer.

I waved my white flag: “I surrender. I can’t live like this.”

I took a medical leave of absence from my corporate job in social media. Little did I know: I would never go back. I eventually would leave my corporate gig in the interest of my health and well-being.

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