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An Urgent Call: Lyme Literate Therapists Are Needed

Lori Dennis earned a Master of Arts degree in counselling psychology from Adler University in 2005 and thereafter, embarked on private practice work in Toronto. She is a registered psychotherapist, speaker, activist and author of Lyme Madness, which was recently named by Amazon as the No. 1 new release in Immune System Health. As we embark upon what scientists predict could be one of the worst tick seasons on record, her knowledge is particularly pertinent.

Since my first day of practice, I knew that psychotherapy was my calling. Then, several years later, a second mission took over my life without warning: the need to become Lyme literate.

In October 2012, my adult son fell acutely ill with an onslaught of mysterious symptoms including dizziness, brain fog, migraines, neck stiffness, nausea and others. His symptoms came and went by the day, with new ones intermittently cropping up. We consulted 20 doctors in New York City. Not a single one came close to an accurate diagnosis.

My son tried everything from beta blockers and supplements, to chiropractic adjustments and medical injections, to abate his debilitating symptoms. It wasn’t until he had exhausted all potential treatments that chronic Lyme came to mind. Thank goodness it did.

We immediately found a Lyme literate doctor to diagnose and treat him. It has since been a five-year medical odyssey to recover his health. Along the way, we’ve learned that navigating chronic Lyme disease is sheer madness. Madness because it’s easy catch, difficult to diagnose and even more challenging to treat. Madness because it’s nearly impossible to find a suitable physician. Madness because the disease manifests in a myriad of physical, psychological, and neuropsychiatric ailments including depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, dissociation, depersonalization, psychotic episodes, memory loss, and other cognitive impairments.

For 40 years, the medical politics driving Lyme disease awareness have spawned propaganda including the notion that there’s “no such thing” as chronic Lyme disease; that the condition is nothing more than a nuisance remedied through a simple course of antibiotics.

Nothing could be further than the truth.

First, let’s make clear the distinction between Lyme disease and chronic Lyme disease. The small percentage of people lucky enough to notice a tick so they can then seek medical assistance, have it removed, and pursue a month’s course of antibiotics generally fare just fine. But what about those who don’t see the tick or the bite? They may unwittingly find themselves in a medical rabbit hole. The infectious disease wreaks havoc on the immune system for days, months and even decades, causing a chronic condition that medical professionals should fight to have recognized and treated.

Every day, chronic Lyme disease sufferers throughout the U.S., Canada and more than 80 other countries are told their debilitating, destructive, multi-systemic, immunosuppressive conditions are nothing more than a nuisance; possibly even, “all in their heads.”

Meanwhile, the illness is reaching epic proportions. More than 300,000 cases are unreported in the U.S., alone. Millions more suffer worldwide.

Together, let’s create a system of care for those who are sick and dying, who are left to struggle on their own. We must go to bat for the millions who are chronically ill, infirm and medically abandoned. We must educate ourselves about this infectious disease. We must consider it as a differential diagnosis.

Above all, Lyme sufferers need caring, empathetic therapists to mitigate the murky waters of the medical system. Let’s all commit to supporting them in their grief, losses, disabilities, isolation and ill health.