Jakobstad, August 5, 2015

Nine weeks have passed since I started my treatment at the clinic in Helsinki, Finland. The fight goes on.

It is immensely frustrating when worse days – one, or several in a row – occur. Like slipping, falling, trying to get a new grip during a climb in which you thought that you’ve already conquered that certain stretch. Like if the previous effort was in vain.

Then you need to try to look objectively at the broader picture – even though its hard when you’re in the midst of it all. You need to dare to believe that there’s progress, that it’s all just two steps up, one step back.

If the battle could be fought against a single enemy, the insidious and sly borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, it all would be so much easier. But it’s often misleading to talk only about lyme disease and its different phases, as the reality in most cases tend to be much more complex.

What I myself – together with many others – struggle with are the syndrome of something that could be defined as multi-systemic infectious disease (Dr. Horowitz), or simply “a mess of things” (Dr.Brooke/Dr.Ross).

I find the allegory given by Brooke/Ross in the internet article I linked to above to be most describing. The body is compared to a rain barrel, and the ability of the body to protect and heal itself is compared to the rain barrel spigot. An overflowing rain barrel represents disease.

There are two factors that determine if the barrel overflows:

  • How hard the rain falls
  • How open the rain barrel spigot is

When diseases are transmitted through a tick bite, the rain falls quite heavily. I write diseases, since it seems to be more of a rule than an exception that several other infections are transmitted through the same tick bite that gives us lyme disease.

We find ourselves in a tragicomic situation where vets would probably be able to help us in a better way than most doctors we turn to with tick bites or suspected lyme disease. Vets seem to have a broader experience of the multitude of diseases that can be transmitted through tick bites.

Most MD’s are still looking upon one (if even that!) possible tick-borne disease at a time, seemingly uninterested in the overall picture. Babesia, bartonella, ehrlicia/anaplasma, rickettsia are examples of co-infections that often occur – infections which conventional medicine often fails to detect, or just flatly neglects.

Mycoplasma and clamydia pneumoniae (TWAR) are also often parts of the pathology, as are several viruses – herpes, CMV, Epstein-Barr, Coxsackie, etc. These bacterias/viruses can remain dormant in the body, not causing any symptoms. Drops in a barrel at risk of overflowing.

Even though rain falls hard – as during tick-borne infection – an effective, open rain barrel spigot can help the body to deal quite successfully with pre-existing viruses and newly entered bacteria, including borrelia burgdorferi: keep them at bay, dormant, letting us live on without symptoms for many years, even for life.

But during torrential rainfall, and/or if the spigot is clogged – if the total load becomes to much to handle – disease can break out violently, suddenly, seemingly out of the blue. The barrel overflows, and we are flooded by the multi-systemic infectious diseases syndrome, often somewhat narrowly defined as lyme disease.

Aware of the complex, comprehensive picture, we have to aim broadly, and also far. We have to fight bacteria and parasites, the immune system needs to be strengthened, crippled organs need to be set free in order for them to work as intended, our physical stamina has to be restored.

The longer the barrel has overflowed, the longer the way back. Baby steps are encouraged, as is keeping one’s head up – relentlessly fixed on the long-term goal – even during the bad days. All this remembering that two steps up, one step back still lead us home.

Jakobstad, July 23, 2015

I’m now in the eight and last week of my first treatment. I felt quite well at the end of last week, so I decided to go jogging this Monday.

It was one of the few days this summer that being outdoors actually felt like summer, and everything started well. After about 2 miles I hit the all too familiar lyme wall – that is, my upper body got stuck like in a vise, pain set in, I got dizzy… practically everything (except breathing) malfunctioned.

Faltering back home the remaining mile and a half, I recovered somewhat later during the day. Then, in the evening, sure as fate, the expected symptoms hit me – neurological problems, muscle and joint pain, chills, a feeling of inflammation all through my body. I got through it all with a lot of lemon juice and painkillers. The symptoms did ease off, but I was so exhausted that I fell asleep early – at least by my standards.

I slept for 14 hours in a row, totally knocked out, and woke at 5 pm. The day was cumbersome, the brain working at half speed, and then in the evening the chills returned. It is quite a special experience to dress up in fleece pants, wool sweater and socks, finding yourself shivering under a blanket during the warmest days of summer.

This was no coincidence. Week 8 bears a daunting resemblance to week 4, when I went through a similar experience. This brings up the discussion about lyme cycles.

It is well known through different patient reports that symptoms during persistent, long-lasting lyme disease reoccurs by regular intervals. There are different opinions on as to what might be the actual cause of these cycles.

Some says it’s due to the hard-to-catch bacteria regularly re-entering the blood stream in order to reproduce, and that during treatment with antibiotics and/or herbal protocols the spirochetes – the corkscrew-shaped, classic form of the bacteria – are effectively lysed (destroyed) in the blood stream.

When spirochetes die, endotoxins are released, and our body reacts by producing cytokines. As the lyme patient has a taxed immune to begin with, the arising inflammation is simply too much for the body to handle – the immune system is overloaded, which induces a herxheimer reaction.

Another theory – one which I’m personally inclined to embrace – is that the reason for these lyme cycles is to be found in the truly fascinating ability of the bacteria to trick our immune system by performing epitopic changes – that is, make variations in the part of the antigen that antibodies against borrelia binds to. If variations like these occur every 3rd to 6th week, our body interprets these changes as if it’s dealing with a new, acute inflammation, and reacts accordingly.

Epitopic variation sounds logical to me. I know that I’ve for many years, on a more or less regular basis, have had really horrible days with chills and sweating, being sure that a heavy flue was about to hit in – only to only a few days later find myself in much better shape.

Being unaware of the fact that I’ve been carrying lyme bacteria in my body, I haven’t given it much thought, just accepted it for whatever it is. Without ever knowing why, and subconsciously suppressing a growing apprehension that something is seriously wrong.

We are inclined to always hope for the best, and are thus easily fooled – even by ourselves. Cyclic, regularly reoccurring inflammatory symptoms are rather common in lyme disease. If you have these kinds of symptoms without a plausible explanation or diagnosis, it might be better to think twice. Lyme disease might be the underlying reason.

Jakobstad, July 16, 2015

It’s has been some time since I’ve posted here, but I haven’t been idle. Besides continuing my treatment plan, I’ve done quite a bit of research in order to increase my understanding of Lyme disease. Self-education is almost mandatory, as most of the knowledge blazed by the conventional medicine is so amazingly biased and, in my opinion, largely consists of pure propaganda. More on this in a dedicated blog post later.

I’ve now entered week seven of eight in my initial treatment of lyme disease. I write initial, as I’ve prepared for a lengthy fight.

I chose an intense treatment – a counter-attack, if you might – the so called augsburg protocol. In short, the protocol is about the favorable interplay of several different antibiotics, nutritional supplements, a change of diet, physical exercise, and detox. The main idea is to attack the bacteria, to flush waste products out of the body, and to re-bild the degraded immune system.

And it works. I’m still far from the shape I was in before I caught lyme, but the tendency is right. It will take time, it is allowed to take time. I’m in no rush, and I won’t give in.

It’s quite possible that my lyme disease, wreaking havoc untreated for approx. fifteen years, might have caused irreversible damage to joints, ligaments and the nervous system – that parts of my body might no longer be mended. Well, then that’s how it is. As long as I know that I do everything in my power to stop the disease from impairing my cognitive functions and my fine motor skills, all treatment is invaluable.

And who knows? Everything I do right now is restoring the balance in my body, and a balanced body holds an amazing ability to heal. Maybe I’ll be good as new, or even better. Time will tell.

Among all the things I’ve learned during this process, one of the most fascinating sounds like cut out of one of the numerous health leaflets I’ve read with eyes half opened all my life: The importance of exercise and sleep.

I’ve always been aware of the benefits of exercise and sleep in maintaining health (even though I’ve sometimes neglected to put it all into practice.) What I now realized, however, is how important getting a good amount of sleep, and – even though often reluctantly – exercising one’s body is for the purpose of speeding up recovery from illnesses such as this.

Exercise raises the oxygen level in the blood, heats up the body, and thus creates an unfavorable environment for the bacteria. Exercise also increases circulation and flushes out waste products. Sleep gives the body time to work, and build – excused from meeting the bigger need for energy during hours awake. Simple things, important matters, in a desire to regain quality of life.

“Liikunta voinnin mukaan” (Finnish, freely translated “Exercise listening to your body”) is emphasized at the clinic where I’m undergoing treatment. It’s all about stressing the body just enough that the positive outcomes outweigh the negative – often temporary – ones. Finding that balance isn’t always quite easy, but one learns through trial and error.

Starting my treatment in the beginning of June, I could jog a little short of 2.5 miles, at a snail’s pace, and a few hours later I already had aching muscles and joints, and nerve buzzing. Entered tinnitus and lightheadedness, lasting for about 36 hours. Two days ago, I jogged (still at a somewhat humble pace) about 4.3 miles, without any other after-effects than a slightly stiff back the following day.

Yes, it gets better. I’m heading in the right direction, and I look positively upon the future. Soon I will try doing some light lifting to see how the body responds – yet another step in my highly personal research.

Helsinki, July 6, 2015

One of the many difficult things regarding lyme is that so little of the disease is revealed to the outside world. Of course, there are also clear physical symptoms – from the classic “bulls-eye rash” (erythema migrans) to Bell’s palsy, swollen joints, wheelchair-boundedness. Still, most of the problems caused by lyme are hidden to everybody except the carrier.

The exterior of the body might be mainly intact even though the inside is in a state of total chaos. That is also confirmed by the many friends and acquaintances contacting me since I started to blog about my fight against the disease, expressing astonishment and dismay over how bad a shape I’m in.

Very few want to be sick. Very few tell even themselves how bad it really is. It must be due to some kind of survival instinct. Although you know something is terribly wrong, that there’s no way it can only be about psychosomatic symptoms, still you hesitate to lay the cards on the table.

Partly, this might be out of fear for the definitive. Still, I’m pretty sure that the biggest reason why you sit in the front row, watching your own body decline, is due to resigning to the fact that nobody seems to understand you.

When one has met enough people in healthcare examining you through a downpipe (thanks Mats Lindström for that apt description), you arrive at a point where it all becomes too much. Then you stop expressing what’s happening inside – to others, as well as to yourself. You join the descent, paralyzed.

Instead, you bite the bullet, and do your best. Writing it off as age-related problems, as lack of motivation, becoming an expert in tackling the problems of everyday life in innovative ways. Leaving the bicycle for the car, sleeping a lot, letting meetings away from home become a three-day project of which two days are all about traveling in a way that your body can handle.

So little is seen on the surface, but still there are clear signs for people close to you. The walking strides getting shorter, slowing down, you becoming silent when the pain hits. Detaching, keeping to yourself, when all your focus is on not fainting, or riding out chills that suddenly have appeared out of nowhere.

I have become really good at masking my physical problems – as good, in fact, that I now need people around me in order to notice the positive trend. I do become better, you see, but have a hard time grasping it after all these years of dodging.

My wife is amazed by me walking brisker and for a longer time that she has seen me do in years. My hairdresser made a surprised remark that she didn’t have to straighten me up once a minute – a result of me not leaning to the right anymore in an attempt to relieve my body, in order to avoid cramping.

Something is happening. Right now I have five of eight treatment weeks behind me, and the counter-attack – antibiotics, a change of diet, strengthening my immune system – starts to have an impact. When in doubt, I can simply check my painkiller pillboxes – the pills do not vanish quite as quickly as before.

The bearing is right. It’s still mostly baby steps, and set-back days occur without any logical explanation, but still.

I barely dare to write this, as the disease so many times before in such a profoundly cynical manner has crushed the few moments of joy along the way. But now I have faith – I believe that a change for the better is happening. Indeed, I don’t even have to move mountains, fighting off a particularly nasty bug is well enough.

Jakobstad, June 27, 2015

To continue the football (= soccer) analogy I started at the end of my former post, now there is something of a midfield battle going on, with neither me nor my opponent finding any opening passes. 0-0, thus, but I feel like time is on my side here.

If I ever had the slightest doubt that what I feel in my body during the treatment really could be due to a herxheimer reaction, that doubt is gone now. My up-to-then worst day (two days ago) was followed by an even worse day (yesterday). My whole body was in an inflammatory state, and suddenly I had huge neurological problems in the right part of my body – wandering pain, sudden numbness and “electric shocks” down through my leg as well as up behind my ear. It was simply fascinating – even if that word usually is used in more positive contexts.

A rational explanation to what I experienced could surely be hurriedly suggested. The reason would then be that I had subconsciously compensated for my left-side problems the day before yesterday – strained my right side in order “to help” – resulting in yesterday’s problems.

I can immediately calm down possible know-it-alls by reporting that I’ve overcompensated in the suggested way many times in life, but never ever have I experienced something similar to what I did yesterday. It was simply a neurological chaos taking place particularly in one side of the body, in a way that just can’t be explained as a result of strain. Believe me – I conduct an empirical research in my own body.

Counter-attacking, I drew upon every form of detox and medication I could possibly think of, and by evening it all started to ease out. I still feel a bit sick, but it’s getting better all the time.

Since I couldn’t do much more than ride it all out, I took the opportunity to follow up on the SSRI phenomenon I wrote about earlier. I had grown successively more curious, since so many struck by lyme disease had contacted me reporting similar experiences – in short 1) acute illness, 2) the diagnosis depression, 3) prescribed SSRIs, 4) a severe worsening of the illness during the so called break-in period.

A day of couch-conducted research, it was, and I found something highly interesting.

It has earlier been assumed that depression is due to an insufficient amount of signal substance in the brain, and that SSRIs – limiting the reabsorption of serotonine into the presynaptic cells – show good results since the use of these medicines results in an increased amount of signal substance.

More and more, researchers have started questioning whether this is the whole truth. The hypothesis that depression could be caused by inflammation of the brain has been brought forward, and that SSRIs might have effect due to anti-inflammatory properties.

The first research paper regarding this idea was presented a little over three years ago. The results suggest that the hypotesis might be true – results in test tubes (in vitro, lat., literally “in glass”) show that SSRIs at a dosage equivalent to the dosage usually prescribed by doctors seem to have a significant anti-inflammatory effect.
(The abstract at the link above shows a rough brush picture, the full report I read lies behind login and needs to be access either by user account credits or by payment.)

What I – as well as the research team – found even more fascinating was that lower doses had a contrary effect – that is, they promoted inflammation. It doesn’t stop here: the lower doses triggered the microglial cells – the most important part of the immune defense regarding the central nervous system – into starting producing… that’s right, cytokines.

A person struck by lyme disease has far to much cytokines to start with – the body is kind of in a constant inflammatory state. SSRIs have a break-in period, it can take up to many weeks before the accumulation of the active ingredient is large enough in the body to be able to produce the desired anti-inflammatory effect. Up until then, the SSRIs – according to the research in question – just makes the lyme disease symptoms worse.

Not only, then, is lyme disease so often misdiagnosed, but the medication commonly prescribed makes it all even worse. This is another strong reason as to why the lyme disease awareness amongst doctors has to be increased.

Jakobstad, June 21, 2015

It has now been three weeks since I started my treatment for lyme disease at the clinic in Helsinki. I traveled home to Jakobstad to celebrate Midsummer, and will return to the clinic at least for next week.

The frequent IV-treatments with the antibiotic Azithromycin are now completed. Starting now (week 4), I could have chosen to transfer to taking that medication orally. I still decided to get it IV-distributed at least once more, hoping to make the transition as smooth as possible.

The other antibiotic I’m on is Doxycycline, a common broad-spectrum antibiotic. I started on Doxy in the 2nd week of treatment, and will continue throughout these two initial months of treatment.

Thus, I am 3/8 into my first treatment plan. So.. am I feeling better? Yes, I am. There is no dramatic improvement, but still a definitive one.

Those with a skeptical approach towards long-term antibiotic treatment will now be fast to refer to the lack of scientific evidence proving that these treatments would produce good results in treating lyme disease, and that, on the contrary, there are several randomized controlled studies in which the benefits of long-term antibiotic treatment doesn’t differ noticeably – if at all – from placebo.

I myself do not question the results of these studies, the numbers speak for themselves. But what you reap is what you sow.

These kind of studies tend to isolate one of many cornerstones – the medication – from everything else. What the studies doesn’t care for – and of which most doctors actually don’t seem to have a clue – is that lyme disease isn’t fought using antibiotics only.

Antibiotics can be – and often are – an important part of the treatment, but there’s so much else that has to co-operate favorably in the fight against the bacteria. The body has to retrieve its balance, inflammations have to be tamed, the immune system has to be strengthened, toxins have to be efficiently removed from the body.

Nutrition supplements, change of diet, detox – all are needed. Practicers of conventional medicine seems to know alarmingly little about this crucial fact, at least according to my personal experiences. Especially specialists – and maybe particularly neurologists – seem to be unable to see the forest for the single tree they water, nourish and care for.

So how come I feel an improvement? I take antibiotics. I battle inflammations by eating curcumin. I take serrapeptase to dissolve the biofilm where certain bacteria reside. I eat grapefruit seed extract to bust the cysts that the bacteria is able to transform into. I take highly potent multi vitamins, beta glucan and vitamin B (intravenously) to strengthen my immune system. I have done a screening for food intolerances (gluten, egg and dairy products amongst others) and avoid these. I take acetylcysteine and CoQ10 to protect mitochondrias. I detox by taking glutathione, drinking lemon juice, using an infrared sauna, and jogging runs.

No, antibiotics can’t single-handedly destroy an insidious infection which have been allowed to riot freely for fifteen years – especially not when it as in my case fights side-by-side with mycoplasma and TWAR. But all this has to change now. Counterattack on all flanks simultaneously.

Helsinki, June 16, 2015

How is lyme disease diagnosed? By a positive blood test performed 6-8 weeks after being bitten by a tick and developing an erythema migrans rash, according to Finnish doctors. By a clinical diagnosis, the LLMDs (Lyme Literal Medical Doctors) say.

The clinical diagnosis given by an LLMD is based on the following factors:

  • risk of infection – living in an area with a high occurrence of ticks, the patient being engaged in outdoor activities, aso.
  • possible tick bite, possible erythema migrans – 50% of people with lyme don’t recall being bitten by a tick. 50% of people with lyme never develop erythema migrans.
  • Symptoms – the physical and mental hardship and problems described by the patient
  • physical exam findings
  • supportive testing

Why isn’t a positive test result the decisive factor when it comes to LLMDs? Because the tests aren’t reliable.

There still doesn’t exist a test that can give an assertive answer regarding lyme disease. The standard test performed in Finland is a test called ELISA, which looks for lyme antibodies. ELISA misses 50% of the infections. The LLMDs avoid this test, because it’s simply not accurate enough.

A lumbar puncture (spinal tap), testing the cerebrospinal fluid, is tool nr 2 in Finnish diagnosis. That procedure gives a positive result in under 20% of people with lyme. The only advantage to that test is that it’s very predictive – if it is positive, the patient has lyme with a certainty of 100%.

After these two tests, the Finnish medical care makes a halt, points at the test results and say “you don’t have lyme. It’s something else.” And often it doesn’t take long until the patient trots away to the pharmacy with a prescription for antidepressants.

The LLMDs don’t care for the ELISA-test, but start by examining the patient throughly – physically, but more important: by letting the patient describe his/her symptoms.

Blood tests are often taken, in order to check for deficiency diseases, and to rule other things out.

The most common way to continue testing is to run a Western Blot test. This test searches for antibodies attached to proteins that are very specific for the lyme bug. The proteins are classified by weight and are called bands. The test examines these specific bands.

Some say that positive results on any two bands are needed, others claim that a positive result on a single band is enough. Using the later criteria, the test catches 80% of those with lyme.

So if you test positive in a Western Blot, are you then officially recognized as having lyme disease? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that is the case.

What if you belong to the 20% that slip by undetected through the Western Blot test? Then you find yourself in my category. Together with us, there are many that have carried this disease for a long time – people with chronic lyme disease, something that does not exist in our country.

Then you might want to measure cellular activity against lyme, and against the many co-infections that are so commonly associated with lyme – other diseases, hanging on, acting together, helping to break down the body. Examples are mycoplasma and TWAR (Chlamydophila pneumoniae). There are many more. And all of them can be transmitted by a tiny, seemingly harmless tick.

Helsinki, June 15, 2015

When I little by little crawled up out of the pitch-black darkness I found myself in during the first two months on SSRI medication (sertraline), fall was already changing into winter. Then, ironically enough (seen in hindsight), I entered a period of tough physical exercising.

Together with a friend of mine, I had spontaneously shaken hands agreeing upon participating in Vasaloppet in March, 2001. (‘Vasaloppet’ is a 55-mile cross-country ski marathon taking place on the first Sunday of March each year, with up to 15.000 participants.) Stubborn by nature I gave it all i had, despite the fact that my cross-country skiing experience the year before had been my first in 15 years.

It was an odd half year. My father became acutely ill with a life-threatening disease (from which, thank God, he recovered) in January, 2001, and I remember the car ride to Tampere University Hospital. In addition to all the thoughts circling around in my head, the surroundings were spinning, too. My positional vertigo was quite severe already at that time, even if it was nothing as troublesome as it would become through the years.

The training for Vasaloppet went surprisingly well, given that I had lyme spirochetes in my body. My guess is that the bacteria still hadn’t had the time to drill into ligaments, joints, organs and the bone structure, and that my exercising raised the oxygen level in the blood and raised my body temperature, resulting in the bacteria dying, reproducing, dying, reproducing – that there was a battle of dominion of my body, without me myself knowing it.

My heart rate went down to around 35 beats per minute during this period, and the skipped heartbeats were very mentally exhausting. Still, I could cope with them better than my next symptom – spasms and cramps during body rest.

Most of us have at some occasion felt a reflex, an uncontrolled body movement – a sudden leg kick is very common – falling asleep. The reason for this phenomenon is not fully understood, but is assumed to be a result of our brains not giving up complete control over the muscles at the moment when the muscles starts to become paralyzed (the state they should be in during sleep). The brain still kicks in – gives commands – a bit into the transition phase.

I’d had these so called hypnic jerks earlier in life, but now they became violent and different. It wasn’t just leg twitches anymore. Sometimes it felt like an electric shock throughout my body, other times like a hard blow to my head. In both cases, immediate tinnitus set in.

Worse than that was still when my whole body cramped slowly and persistently. It felt (and still feels) the way a cramp under the sole does, but in the whole body – with the torso being “the center of the sole”. A terrifying feeling, as if the torso was a vacuum pulling the rest of the body in.

“The solution” was to start taking sleeping pills; Imovane (with the active ingredient zopiclone) so that I could pass through the REM-phase quickly, entering deeper sleep. I have used sleeping pills practically every night since then. It’s also a waste of time and effort for me to try taking power naps during daytime, since that time consists almost entirely of cramps and results in me feeling more exhausted, not refreshed.

Later on, I started to get those cramps when I was awake as well, when I’d been sitting too long passively in a static position. I still have them as of today. Zopiclone hardly even make me yawn anymore, as a sleeping pill it’s quite useless for me – my tolerance is too high.

On the other hand, this medicine is actually the only one I’ve found that eases the cramps I experience when I’m awake, so I still use it almost daily. To my knowledge, there’s no research explaining why this particular medicine eases the cramps, but it probably has to do with its sedative effects upon the central nervous system.

Heavy cramps during rest is a common symptom of untreated Lyme disease, I just didn’t know that back then.

Helsinki, June 14, 2015

Even if I aim for the future, I’d still like to look back for a while. It helps me process everything that’s been happening in the past, and at the same time it paints a picture of how a single person’s life can be infected by lyme.

When my acute symptoms surfaced in Fall 2000 (of which I wrote earlier), I was prescribed antidepressants by my doctor. It was an SSRI-type medicine, with the active ingredient being sertraline. SSRIs are well known to have a break-in period during which the symptoms are not eased, but accentuated. It’s common to talk about 2-3 weeks being needed to turn the negative trend around.

My break-in period was nothing like 2-3 weeks, it was almost two months long. It was one of the worst experiences in my life. Harsh anxiety attacks that several times brought me to the emergency room at the local hospital. I thought my life was in danger. In the ER, EKG and enzyme tests were taken, to check heart rate irregularities and possible traces of a heart attack. Nothing was found.

In addition to the anxiety attacks I had severe arrhythmia, skipped beats. I’ve always had a slow heart rate (about 45 beats per minute, falling to under 40 bpm when my ability of absorbing oxygen increases through exercise). “Skipped heartbeats“, or ventricular extrasystoles, are somewhat simplified two heartbeats too close to each other, resulting in a prolonged time until the thereupon following heartbeat occurs.

At a heart rate of 45 bpm, the heart beats every 1 1/3 second. When two beats are triggered close to each other, there will be up to 2.5 seconds before the next heartbeat takes place. A lot goes through the mind in 2.5 seconds – it is an enormously long time to wait.

Furthermore, my head was completely loaded – that’s the best way I can come up with to describe it. As if the brain was a beehive, a head completely occupied with itself. All external impulses – somebody speaking, music playing, sudden sounds, bright sunlight – were too much. I couldn’t take in anything at all, as if the brain was a vessel filled to the rim with water and every drip that fell into the vessel just spilled over the sides.

And tremors, dizziness, sweating, a neck that didn’t seem to have the strength to carry the head up. It was two very long months. The single thing pulling me through was my wife Ia never taking my condition lightly, and still managing to anchor me in a pitch-black, stormy everyday life.

One can probably have reactions against SSRIs like the ones I described here. Lately, I have nevertheless started to ponder what I went through. I know many who uses these medicines. Several have no break-in periods worth mentioning, others go down into a valley before the journey upwards starts. None of these friends and acquaintances seem to have been in quite the condition I experienced only due to SSRIs.

I have thought this medicine to be particularly taxing particularly for me, and that I have a thin wall between my body and my soul. At the same time, these symptoms match the physical and mental collapse that many struck by lyme experience at the outburst of the disease. Maybe it isn’t a question of one or the other, maybe it was both. Now, in retro-perspective, I believe that lyme was at least a part of the physical and mental chaos I went through.

Helsinki, June 11, 2015

Before I learned that I’ve been carrying the lyme bug for all these years, I didn’t have the slightest clue as to why I would be terribly ill one day, just to feel much better the day after.

Neither did I understand why I ran completely into the wall – like somebody had pressed “shutdown” – during heavy exercising. Nor why I felt so horrible the next day.

Two years ago, when I was still playing football (soccer) – or rather, excuse me, kicking football which would be the proper verb to use for harrowing around in the lowest soccer league – I could physically get through a whole game without any serious problems. The problems started a few hours after the game, and extended into the day after. Then I got sick, really sick.

Not at all like the delightful feeling that emerges when you know that you’ve been “benefitting from destruction” – when you push your body, breaking it down on purpose, in order to let it grow even stronger than before through recovery. The basic idea of constructive, long-term training, the reason for being awarded with satisfaction and well-being.

Not like that at all, but like sick when you’re starting to get the flu. The body works like crazy to survive, and leaves its host (in this particular case, me) to his/her own. That’s the way I felt – and still do feel – the day after a hard work-out. And I never understood why, not until I got diagnosed.

Chronic lyme disease causes a chronic inflammation in the body.

When we breath in oxygen at rest, the oxygen is absorbed by the hemoglobin in our lungs. But only 25% ever reach the cells – the rest is returned to the lungs, since the oxygen is so tightly bound to the hemoglobin.

During heavy exercise, our body temperature rises and the level of carbon dioxide in the muscles increases. As the carbon oxide level rises, the bind between oxygen and hemoglobin weakens. As a result, more oxygen is freed to reach the cells.

The Lyme bug can’t stand neither high temperature nor oxygen. Intense exercise indeed kills spirochetes, causing a release of endotoxins into the blood.

A lot of the toxics are pumped out of the body during the exercise, through sweating. But when the amount of endotoxins are larger than the body can get rid of in that natural way, the body shuts down and goes into its combat survival mode during the exercise.

And later – when the exercise is over – there’s still endotoxines to get rid of, but as we are no longer sweating them out, the body has to attack it like it attacks any hostile intruder – it starts to produce a large amount of cytokines, activating the white blood cells, preparing for a counter-attack.

That’s where all the energy goes, and since there’s already a chronic inflammation present in the body, there’s already too much of that kind of activity going on. Following upon heavy exercise, the body thus works much harder than what could be considered normal, all other body functions becoming second priority.

No wonder, then, that I’ve found myself completely wiped out the day after heavy exercising. The effort has triggered the same phenomena that occurs when medication and supplements hit the spirochete effectively – I’ve had a herxheimer reaction. I have certainly known that something is terribly wrong, but not the reason why.

So, can you get rid of lyme through exercise? Hardly. But it should logically be possible to actively diminish the amount of bacteria in the body through regular exercise. Such a pity then that heavy exercise makes you feel horrible for the next 24 hours or so.

But knowing this, I can start looking for the optimal balance – trash spirochetes to an amount tolerable to the body. A dead spirochete is a good spirochete. In that sense, my jogging session two days ago was close to perfect; I got away with only minor inconvenience, and managed to make life sour for my intruders.

This could also explain why my lyme disease got so much worse after I decided to stop exercising, although I did that only because all signs pointed in the direction of exercise worsening my problems. The little you know. You have to learn on-the-fly.