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.