As you all probably know, I live with an anxiety disorder that yes, is being treated properly with medicine, although I still experience glimpses of it every single day. Not only was it hard to deal with anxiety before I got help, but even after I find myself struggling when it comes to getting people to understand what I have been through and what I still go through now. Anxiety is a silent, or hidden disease that is unlike a broken bone or eczema because you can’t physically see the evidence of it on the outside.
Even though it does not show itself, it is still terribly debilitating on the inside, bombarding your mind with every ounce of doubt, fear, and paranoia that it can give. Trust me when I tell you, it is a lot harder to live with anxiety than it looks. I am lucky that my family truly realizes the difficulties I face every day, but it is still challenging sometimes for even my best friends to understand my bad days and appreciate my good ones. Before you continue to read, please don’t get me wrong, I am not looking for you guys to feel bad for me, I am simply sharing what is on my heart and what is going on in my life right now. If you listen openly, I promise that you will get something good out of it.
Anyways, I recently (at the beginning of this school year) found out about a new silent disease that has been plaguing my body for over ten years: Lymes Disease. Ever since I can remember, I experienced severe joint pains in my knees especially, headaches, and fatigue. We never could figure out why I had these symptoms, even after going to various doctors multiple times such as a rheumatologist, a neurologist, and a pain management therapist. We suspected mono, lupus, arthritis, etc. but my physical scans showed nothing and nothing arose in my blood work. Despite the fact that every single doctor was telling me that nothing was wrong with me and that it was most likely my anxiety causing these aches and pains, I never gave up. I knew that there was something off with my body because I knew it was not normal to experience such pain for so long at such a young age with no explanation at all.
Finally, it was another normal day after getting my blood drawn a few days before due to my personal request for it, and the doctor called… something popped up in my blood work. They detected Lymes Disease in my blood. My first reaction was shock and then pure frustration. On the one hand, I was shocked because I knew I got a tick bite when I was under the age of eight but my mom took it out with her nail, brought it to the doctor, and we never thought anything of it. On the other hand, I was frustrated because I could not wrap my mind around how not one doctor could figure this out earlier. When I expressed my anger to the doctor, she explained how they were testing for the wrong tick strain every other time they tested my blood.
Luckily, I was told that it is treatable through antibiotics, so I began those right away. Throughout my time on the antibiotics, all my symptoms completely faded away; no more headaches or joint pains. After five weeks of the dose, I was excited to live my life symptom-free. Unfortunately, only a few days after I was off the medicine, everything came rushing back all at once. Over one weekend I got really sick, really fast. It was to the point where I could not even get out of bed, so I called my mom from college and she knew it was my Lymes but did not understand how it was happening after I was apparently treated. Yet again, we struggled with my doctor to get her to understand that the first treatment worked while I was on it but stopped working as soon as I went off of it. Instead, she told us that I have to visit an infectious disease doctor to figure out if I have something other than Lymes. Not accepting this, I begged my mom to put me back on the antibiotics so I could at least be relieved of any pain until I got home again to visit the doctors in person; our wish was granted. Now I am where I am today… on the same antibiotics and waiting to go home to figure this all out.
My point is, sometimes even doctors don’t hear you when you are suffering from a silent disease. Struggling to have my voice heard under the stigma of my anxiety disorder is really hard and I feel for any of you out there going through the same thing. My advice to you is to keep speaking up and follow your heart and body when it comes to not feeling right. If I didn’t insist on going to every doctor out there that I could and getting every test that I could, I would have never found out that I have Lymes Disease and I would still be suffering. Be brave for your own well-being because remember, it comes before anything.
Xo, Samantha Nicole