• Annie V. Henry

Key Takeaways from Successful Lyme Disease Treatment: What I Wish I Knew When Starting Treatment

Whether you have acute Lyme disease or have been living with Lyme disease for years, you’ve probably caught on by now that treating tick-borne illnesses is complicated—and that’s an understatement.

In a black-and-white world, all problems have one straightforward solution. Every illness would have an effective cure and every health condition would entail a clear path to treatment. Unfortunately, the world of Lyme is very, very gray.

There is no playbook that presents a clear path to recovery from Lyme disease. There is no set timeline and it is very hard to measure progress. Simply put, the Lyme disease treatment requires a lot of faith, patience, and—most of all—trial and error. The big question is, how the hell does one navigate something so abstract and complex?

After three years (and counting) of continuous treatment for Lyme disease, I’ve yet to discover the foolproof secret to easy Lyme disease treatment. I’m forever searching, so I’ll let you know when I find it. Until then, you and I are left to navigate the world of Lyme as best we can. So, in the meantime, I’ll share with you some of the key lessons I’ve learned from my years of chronic Lyme disease treatment.

Another read you may like: My Journey to Finding Effective Lyme Disease Treatment | My Lyme Disease Story: Part Four

Lyme Disease Treatment is Not a ‘One Size Fits All’

A simplified approach to Lyme disease treatment entails pharmaceutical antibiotics—some official standards claim a two to four-week round of antibiotics is all the treatment needed. For a lucky group of acute cases, this approach is effective. Yet for many patients, this short antibiotic regimen barely makes a dent in their tick-borne infection.

In my years exploring the world of Lyme, I’ve observed that Lyme disease treatment is not a “one size fits all”. Although every human has the same general anatomical makeup, each individual is nuanced and unique. Each Lyme patient presents a unique case composed of factors that differentiate them from the “norm”. Whether it be a complex medical history, a longer-than-normal time being infected, or other secondary medical concerns—each distinct factor adds a layer of complexity to their case.

Each patient presents a unique medical circumstance and each instance of tick-borne illness manifests in a distinct way. As a result, each “Lymie” will inevitably respond differently to treatment. What works for one patient may fail when applied to another. It may take some exploration and trial and error to find an effective treatment plan.

In other words, doctors may have to deviate from the standard to find a Lyme disease treatment regimen that works. Whether it be experimenting with alternative and natural Lyme disease treatments, or extending the treatment timeline—each case will call for an adapted approach to Lyme disease treatment for the patient to see successful results.

This is medicine we’re talking about—of course there will be unique and baffling cases that challenge the medical standards and force doctors to “think outside of the box”.

Progress is Not Linear: Manage Your Expectations & Prepare for Setbacks

When we think of progress, we like to imagine a straight line of constant improvement and continued steps forward. We hope that each action we take towards achieving a goal is met with a measurable result that brings us one step closer to success. Envision this progress mapped out on a graph and it would be a straight, upward-trending line.

As ideal as this picture is, it could not be a more inaccurate depiction of what Lyme disease progress actually looks like. From my Lyme disease treatment experience, I can confidently say that progress towards recovering from tick-borne illnesses is messy. With every two steps forward, you may take a step backwards. There will be times when your progress feels plateaued. It may be hard to identify progress in the moment. You may even question the effectiveness of your treatment until, all of a sudden, you turn a corner after which progress is more evident.

To sum it up in a simple, quotable sentence: when it comes to treating Lyme disease, progress is not linear. This could be said for many things in life—overcoming adversity often involves setbacks and obstacles that derail progress. Yet it is especially characteristic of Lyme disease recovery. Although you will hopefully see your health gradually recover as treatment progresses, you are bound to also experience flare ups and failures along the way.

This concept is clearly demonstrated in herxing. Because of herxing, actual progress will feel like you are regressing. The irony of Lyme disease treatment is that to get better, you must first feel worse. As the infection is killed off, you experience a herx reaction and feel exponentially crappier—but hey, at least that means the treatment is working, right? Herxing is just one of the many obstacles that can make you question the progress and effectiveness of your treatment.

It is important to acknowledge that your progress in treating Lyme disease will likely be all over the place. Doing so will enable you to set realistic expectations and prepare for the inevitable bad days. It will also help you to better cope mentally and emotionally with ups and downs that go hand in hand with treating Lyme disease.

It’s More than Just a Single Treatment—It’s a Lifestyle

Although antibiotics are the backbone of Lyme disease treatment, overcoming tick-borne illnesses involves so much more than just medicine. Antibiotics may serve to kill off the infection, but much more action is required to achieve successful Lyme disease recovery. In addition to killing off the Lyme infection, you must also support your immune system and body as it endures the burden of the infection. On top of that, you must take steps to effectively cope with the side effects of treatment. This entails mitigating herx reactions and reducing the severity of symptoms. And—most importantly—don’t forget the importance of nurturing your mental health as you navigate the mental and emotional battle that accompanies living with Lyme disease.

It’s more complicated than a simple round of antibiotics, huh?

In order to achieve successful Lyme disease treatment, you must adapt your entire lifestyle. From the food you put into your body, to the attention you give your mental health, to the steps you take to support your immune system, to how you adapt your activities and aspirations to fit your limitations—Lyme disease treatment requires changes to many aspects of your life.

Changing so many parts of your lifestyle—oftentimes in very significant and inconvenient ways—can make the Lyme disease treatment process feel overwhelming. Treatment requires a level of dedication and sacrifice that is not easy to maintain. I learned to embrace this lifestyle overhaul. When something as precious as your health is at stake, you may come to find yourself willing to make those big changes. The way I see it, you will have to go all in if you want to see your treatment’s full potential fulfilled.

That’s All I’ve Got for Now

Whether you are months or years deep into Lyme disease treatment that seems to be plateaued or are newly diagnosed and overwhelmed by the treatment journey ahead of you—no matter what stage of your Lyme disease treatment process you may find yourself at—I hope these notes on my experience with Lyme disease offered some valuable insight and perspective.

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