Lyme Disease

Isolation Versus Dissociative Disorders: How to tell the difference

A recent survey of 20,000 U.S. adults found that nearly half of people suffer from feelings of loneliness and isolation. This is a normal part of life and can often be related to very common transitions such as moving away from home or the in ability to have time for friends and family due to work obligations. Other factors can also contribute to feeling lonely such as low self esteem or ending a romantic relationship. Lack of sleep (which impacts over 60 million Americans) can make feelings of loneliness and isolation more intense.

But how do we know when it’s something more than isolation?

One experience that feels similar to isolation but clearly isn’t is that of a dissociative disorder.

What are Dissociative Disorders?

According to the National Association of Mental Health (NAMI):

Dissociative disorders are characterized by an involuntary escape from reality characterized by a disconnection between thoughts, identity, consciousness and memory. People from all age groups and racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds can experience a dissociative disorder.

Its estimated that 2% of people experience dissociative disorders, with women being more likely than men to be diagnosed. Almost half of adults in the United States experience at least one depersonalization/derealization episode in their lives, with only 2% meeting the full criteria for chronic episodes.

Dissociative disorders differ from generalized anxiety, depression and loneliness due to their intense physical experience of being separate or “not real”. Dissociative disorders can increase and cause feelings of intense loneliness.

Do any of these symptoms seem familiar to you?

  • Significant memory loss of specific times, people and events

  • Out-of-body experiences, such as feeling as though you are watching a movie of yourself

  • Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide

  • A sense of detachment from your emotions, or emotional numbness

  • A lack of a sense of self-identity

-        From NAMI website

If you have any of the above symptoms you may be experiencing something more than isolation, anxiety/panic or depression.

Dissociative disorders (DIDs) include depersonalization (not feeling yourself or like a human), derealization (not feeling real or feeling like you are viewing life as a movie) and dissociative amnesia (inability to remember chunks of time).

The causes of DIDs can range from unknown to severe anxiety to a trauma response as well as physical health issues like Lyme disease & other chronic infections. Dissociative disorders can be treated. Often practitioners will use a combination of psychotherapy like Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or Cognitive Therapy in conjunction with medications.

You can feel better despite having a dissociative experience. Call us today to learn more.

Lyme Disease, Kundalini and the Near Death Experience

Categories: Chronic Illness, Depression, Lyme Disease

Many people who have Lyme disease have experienced a condition that is part seizure, part convulsions.  Some describe a feeling of electrical shock and flashing lights or the sensation of a gunshot going off inside the skull. When taken to the emergency room, there is often "nothing" found wrong.  While this experience might seem completely dreadful (and it is), I can't think of anything more powerful than the sensation of electrocution to bring us closer to God.  That is why I love to tell people Lyme disease was the best thing that ever happened to me. The severe pain that accompanied Lyme disease completely and totally woke me up to my life.  I have never been the same. 

In my work with Lyme disease clients, this particular symptom seems to bring about an experience similar to a near death experience (NDE).   Let's take a look at some of the common language and experiences of those with (NDE): 

According to the International Association of Near Death Studies (IANDS) these are the common and reoccurring psychological changes of those post NDE:

  • Loss of the fear of death
  • Describe themselves as more spiritual and not religious
  • Increased abstract thinking
  • Tend to bouts of depression
  • Increased generosity
  • Unresolved childhood trauma resurfaces
  • Convinced of life purpose
  • Heightened sense of taste, touch, smell
  • Less detached
  • Reported increased intuition and psychic abilities

For all practical purposes I can stop the article here and just state that NDEs sound word for word like what has been experienced by those who have had a spiritual awakening due to Lyme. This was also very much my experience. 

Now, let's take a look at another shared experience from a different population - Yogis and the Kundalini Awakening. Here is what a Kundalini awakening looks like when it's happening: 

  • Involuntary jerks and tremors
  • Energy rushes and feelings of electrical shock
  • Surfacing of repressed emotions
  • Headache, migraine and pressure in the skull
  • Emotional numbness and depression
  • Pain in back and neck
  • Sensitivity to light, sound and touch
  • Feelings of blissful love and connection to all things

Any of these sound familiar?

As humans we really have a need to find patterns in things. I am also a therapist and have an even greater need to find patterns in words and gestures.  Lots of things can cause trembling and seizures, but from the stories of my clients and my personal experience, the seizures that came from Lyme were more than a physical jolt.  They were a shift in consciousness.  

Another writer who shares her experience with Lyme as a spiritual awakening is Lyme coach Jenny Rush.  Her book, Chronic Illness as an Access to Quantum Healing describes her own process of awakening. Through personal narrative, Jenny describes the spontaneous changes that come from having Lyme disease and chronic illness as well as those that came gradually as she continued to heal. Jenny eloquently reiterates the theme of turning toward pain, sitting with our own experience and gently letting go of all the things that continue to hold us back from a peaceful life. 

Not everyone has to experience a medical trauma to feel more connected to others or feel a deep sense of life purpose.  If we are open, our lives can be full of both spontaneous growth and the change that comes from being persistent.  When have you experienced moments of spontaneous growth in your life?  

References - 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kundalini

Artwork - 

Indigo Dreams (c) by Jo Jayson www.jojayson.com

 

 

Lessons from Lyme: Getting Back to Work After Chronic Illness

Categories: Lyme Disease, Chronic Illness

Going back to work after chronic illness or during the treatment process can be an emotionally overwhelming experience. 

I remember walking home from the grocery store in the Spring of 2015. At that time my day was filled with daily tasks most people take for granted: groceries, laundry, mail...etc. In the  midst of Lyme disease, I was focused on detoxification, supplement protocols, food elimination diets and combating insomnia.  While I was unable to work a full time job, but certainly had plenty to do.  Days seemed a blur going from one treatment regimen to the next. This particular cold spring day, my body was completely wracked with pain. I was in such a painful depression that I couldn't help but weep the entire walk home.  

My neighbor saw me coming in the building. The look on her face signaled she had seen a ghost.  Her reaction set me off into an uncontrollable, ugly cry that was thoroughly embarrassing.  And the cascade of critical self talk began: I can't even carry groceries to the elevator.  How am I ever going to get back into my life?...Yeah that's probably not going to happen. In that moment I viewed myself as completely and totally pathetic.  

Looking back on that version of me, I have a tremendous amount of empathy.  I can empathize with her pain and suffering.  I can empathize with her feelings of defeat.  I can even empathize with her near daily feeling of just wanting to turn in my batch and check out of life. 

The process of coming out of that level of pain is just that - a process.  Many of us are left with deep feelings of trauma associated with isolation and loneliness, excessive medical procedures, and neurological damage associated with our illness.  Physically recovering is only half the battle when it comes to re joining the workforce.

Have you processed your physical crisis? 

Anyone who has been through a severe medical trauma owes it to themselves to take time to debrief and process their experience.  This is a courtesy we extend to anyone who has been through a physical disaster. Lyme and other chronic conditions can be a physical disaster.  They demand the same level of recovery and care. 

When I looked and felt well enough to return to work I still had unfinished emotional business. This led to falling back into some of the same behaviors and relationships that contributed to me getting sick in the first place such as setting clearer boundaries and limits to prevent burnout.

How has your medical experience impacted your personality?

What new things do you believe you need to feel supported at work? 

Have you developed a plan for managing panic or overwhelm that might arise during the transition back to work? 

Are you feeling comfortable stepping into the same role you had before you were ill?

 The thing that Lyme and other disabling chronic illnesses take away is our ability to have perspective. The more planning we can put into place for our emotional health, the easier the transition.  Having a plan for emotional crisis is as important as a plan for any other type of emergency.  With some attention and support, you can have a successful transition back into the workplace.  

I would love to hear your feedback on this article! Plus if you want a brief intro into feeling more confident at work, sign up for my FREE 10 Day Confidence in the Workplace Mini Course

 

 

Let's Talk About Visual Snow

Categories: Lyme Disease, Anxiety

In today's blog I want to highlight another strange and disorienting symptom that Lymies (as well as migraine sufferers) can experience - Visual Snow. Visual Snow (VS) is characterized by seeing tiny black and white dots in one's field of vision much like a television set with bad reception.  For some this is clearly brought on by an illness or trauma.  For others, the cause is unknown.  Researchers have yet to fully understand the actual workings of visual snow and as of yet there is technically no "cure," However some people do report the experience going away. 

What Is Visual Snow? 

The clinical term for VS is aeropsia which translates loosely to "seeing the air" in Greek.  There are two types of visual snow: Pulse Type (resembling rain drops on a car window) and Broadband (fuzzy like an old broken television).  It appears that visual snow is also related to some other health condition like migraines and Multiple Sclerosis.  While researchers are unaware of the exact cause, they believe it has to do with a communication error between two parts of the brain - The Thalamus and the Cortex.  

 
thalamus.jpg

http://stellarlearning.co.uk/12-neuroscience-nuggets-for-ld-9-your-well-connected-thalamus/

Common comorbid conditions to VS include:

  • PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Lyme disease
  • Auto Immune disease

Because doctors aren't exactly sure what causes visual snow,  it is both difficult to get a diagnosis and find any sort of relief. Often, the management of our reactions to experiences are far worse than the actual symptoms themselves. Much like chronic pain, chronic VS is a symptom most of us would rather not have.  And while there are those that profess to love and embrace their visual snow, that's not always so easy (or something we want).

When the experience of VS gets so overwhelming that it is impacting other areas of our lives, we might need to step back and find support.  Like chronic pain, there is so much that can be done in a therapy setting to relive frustration, anxiety and overwhelm that comes with managing multiple symptoms of chronic disease.

Some ways we begin to address overwhelm and frustration associated with visual snow include reframing, narrative therapy, relationship work and mindfulness practices.

Reframing is the backbone of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT teaches us to slow our thoughts and begin to sort the rational from the irrational.  It allows us to identify patterns of thinking and feeling that no longer serve us.  Once we have found them, we can work to change the thoughts.  Reframing is simply the practice of thinking different thoughts.

Narrative Therapy takes a look at the stories we tell ourselves.  It examines the stories that shape our personalities and experiences.  Sometimes, through life experience we relive stories we would rather not have.  Narrative helps us write a different story for our lives.  What type of story are you telling yourself about your Visual Snow?

Relationship Focused Therapies When we think of relationship we often think of our interactions with others.  But there is another way of using relationships in the therapy office.  In this context, we can take a look at our relationships with everything from physical objects to our bodies to symptoms and disease.  A large part of my healing process was healing my relationship with Lyme disease, not to view it as an enemy, but rather something that was there to teach me something about myself.  What is your relationship to your VS? 

Mindfulness Practices Mindfulness Based CBT can be of benefit when we find ourselves feeling intense anxiety and overwhelm in our current situation. By practicing breathing, stillness and focus, symptoms of anxiety diminish over time.  

These are just a few of the things you can do to relieve the stress of uncomfortable symptoms. 

Resources -

Most people with visual snow have limited impairment due to the condition and have found ways of adapting. If you are seeking resources to help cope with or manage VS, please see the resources below. 

Online Forums are great for hearing the experiences of others.  Here is one for VS. 

The AxonOptics website I used to research this article with a ton of cool tips. (I am not affiliated with them in any way)

In need of emotional support?

 

Improving Creativity and Concentration

As I sit writing this, I am in a funk.  I have literally stared at the screen for an hour, bouncing around from idea to idea, finding it difficult to concentrate on any one thing.  Generally I choose blog post themes from a spark of inspiration felt earlier in my week.  This week has been a combination of an abundance of sparks matched with several stressful interactions. In the ebb and flow of focus and distraction, this week has definitely ended with a bit more of the later. 

Rather then spending any more time looking for ways to tie together my jumbled thoughts, I just took a moment, paused, took a breath and asked myself, "What would you do with a client who was experiencing a creative block?"

My answer in session almost always goes something like this:

"Start where you are right now, in this moment. Start with how you are feeling. Begin to take in some of the present moment and I promise the answer will come."

Without fail, bringing ourselves into the present moment makes it more likely to take a deep, breath, settle in and relax a bit.  This magical thing starts to happen when we relax.  Play becomes more possible. Flow happens.  Ideas come. 

Let's break down why this seems to work so well. 

#1 Take A Big Breath - As babies, we breathe so well.  With age, stress and life experiences, our bodies learn and practice breathing patterns more associated with stress. This type of breathing is more shallow and less nourishing for our bodies.  As adults, most of us have to re learn and practice healthy breathing. One version of this is diaphragmatic breathing. This breathe practice provides our brain with a big, nourishing burst of oxygen, increasing it's ability to function and stay focused.

#2 Settle Into The Present Moment - If you've taken the time to take a big breath, you are already one step closer to being more present and in the moment. After the breath comes an opportunity to tune into your thoughts. As you inhale and exhale, you can start to ask yourself some questions in order to understand them better. 

How fast are my thoughts coming? Am I thinking one thing or many things? Are these thoughts helpful or stressful? 

After checking your thoughts, a second step to being in the moment is to look for better thoughts.  You might begin to ask yourself if there is something better you can be thinking or focusing on something that soothes stress or curb negative self talk. The combination of breathing and becoming aware of our thoughts is a practice in mindfulness. When we practice mindfulness, our brain can switch it's energy from the distraction of stress reduction to creative thinking. 

#3 Relax Your Body -  Improving creativity and concentration would not be complete if we left out the body and how it responds to stress. Intuitively, successful people such as Steve Jobs preferred walking to sitting in order to generate creative ideas.  One study from Stanford University noted that participants were more likely to experience divergent thinking (a primary quality in our ability to be creative), while walking, rather than sitting.  In whatever way you can, be it stretching, gentle movement or taking a walk, getting into your body is going to improve your ability to focus and create. 

One fun way to add movement into your daily life is to find movement patterns you enjoy.  With a background in dance therapy, I work with clients in the office to come up with a series of personalized movements that help relieve stress, induce happiness and increase the experience of flow.

If you continue to struggle with getting out of a funk for a month or more, it could be to more intense anxiety or depression. You might consider consulting with a therapist to help you get back into focus. 

 

How To Stay Sane With Lyme Disease - Lessons from Patrick Plum

In 2015, Patrick Plum uploaded a video to Youtube, the title “I’m sick with something the doctors can’t find”.  From there, he began connecting with so many people with a similar experience. This was after his Lyme disease diagnosis.  Through recording his experience, Patrick decided he wanted to be the change he wanted to see in the world.  Since then, he has touched thousands of lives through his witty, sarcastic, honest expression of his Lyme experience.

Earlier this month I had the pleasure to interview Patrick on my YouTube channel, Tapping Into Lyme. In this week’s blog I want to share a few tips from this hoot of an interview.

The interview begins with Patrick’s explanation of the isolation associated with Lyme and other chronic illness.  Patrick stated that “If 90% of my friends and family have left…I start to feel like I'm the problem. Modern medicine does not support Lyme disease sufferers at all.” Patrick explains that he had very little family support due to people just not understanding how to react. Patrick goes on to say that an important part of maintaining healthy relationships with loved ones that may not fully understand or know how to help, is to look for support for Lyme elsewhere. He states its important to reach out to people that are either going through it currently or have since recovered.

Tip #1 Look for support in the right places.  Do not expect family members and friends with limited understanding of this complex disease to be your primary support.  If you find they cannot, then seek support from those that have either experienced the disease or are Lyme Literate.

Next I ask Patrick what he would love to go back and tell or give his newly diagnosed self in order to make the process of healing a bit easier. We got 2 great tips out of this conversation!

Tip #2 Don’t’ Be So Hard On Yourself

Tip #3 Everyday, Try to Understand You Are Doing the Best You Can

Tip #4 Let Go Of Anger and Resentment. Patrick does clarify on this one that while there may be valid reasons why you are angry, it is important to resolve toxic emotions for the sake of your health.

Patrick really urges listeners to stop avoiding or ignoring their emotional health and to begin taking steps to address it, whether that’s with a professional or with understanding supports as well as using humor. I appreciate Patrick and his way to compartmentalize his Lyme experience.  He describes “keeping his Lyme experience” in his video recording studio. 

Tip # 5 Separate Your Lyme Recovery From the Rest of Your Life

Patrick then follows up with some of the best advice he ahs ever heard from a physician, which was “what we talk about, we become”.  He makes a point to speak often about health, wellness and recovery rather than being caught up in spending 24 hours talking about his illness. Patrick shares his thoughts on using language to heal.  He says that talking about Lyme should be a balance of sharing to a point where you feel supported, then moving on to talk about other things.

I appreciate Patrick so much! Don’t forget to take a look at the full interview on Tapping Into Lyme.