How I Built My Mental Resilience - A Story with A Twist of Lyme
Updated: May 11, 2021
Endurance exists in every state of our being: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and psychological. If you were going to pick one or two areas of your strongest endurance, which ones would you pick?
Personally, I am very much lacking in physical endurance. You see, I was born with a hole in my heart. Actually, it isn’t all that uncommon, but back in the day, my parents did not want to test the boundary of endurance with me. I was never allowed to participate in soccer or the swim team. However, they did allow me to participate in cheerleading. The irony is that there is crazy cardio for an hour and a half at every game as we all jump up and down. But they didn’t know that.
Fortunately, my mental endurance has been tested and strengthened beyond testing any physical properties for the strongest materials on earth. It was already one of my strengths, and I built my mental endurance through a journey with my daughter and her hallucinations. And then, on top of that, as if it weren’t enough to go through, we explored the potential that my daughter had Lyme disease on top of her depression, anxiety, fatigue, OCD, and hallucinations.
Normally, a parent may say, “I don’t have a clue how we got through that time period.” I still, to this day, have issues thinking that I don’t really have physical endurance, but what I lack in physical endurance, I sure do make up in mental endurance.
I DO know how any parent can get through something like their child’s diagnosis of Lyme Disease, mental health challenges, learning difficulties and any other unexpected challenge. You name it, mental endurance is the key, and I’m going to share with you how I built up my mental endurance even more. I hope by sharing this, you will find some insights, and maybe some skills that will help you through a really difficult time that might be taking a really long time to get through.
In the summer of 2018, I picked up my daughter from summer camp, and I realized she was extremely ill. She had lost a ton of weight on her already small frame, and she was mentally declining, unable to speak rationally. She was also exhibiting extreme paranoia. Long story short, she had a full-fledged eating disorder, and it was tied to OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).
After many days of searching, we found a program that was two to three months long. It was a unique program as it required so much family and parental involvement. It wasn’t one of the programs where you drop off your kid. I was in the program with her for five days a week, about three hours a day. In addition to working as a commercial real estate broker and caring for my son, there was also the house and staying connected with my husband through all of this. It was difficult, to say the least. How I got through it was I knew it was only for a short period of time. Similarly, to how a lot of us handle the pandemic, we know it won’t last forever. And I did a lot of self-care, too.
We made it through the program in one piece. Little did I know that when she was discharged that is really where the work began. I was already energetically spent and tapped out when we finished the program. I didn’t realize that I would really need to build up my endurance for the longer haul.
Our NIGHTMARE began, literally, a few months after she was discharged from her OCD and eating disorder program. My daughter started having vivid, horrific nightmares—For months. This really impacted her sleep because she was having PTSD every single morning. She definitely did not want to go to sleep at night. Who can blame her?
Do you know what happens when you have really high anxiety, you’re traumatized from your nightmares and then you lack sleep on top of it? Hallucinations. Both auditory and visual hallucinations haunted her every day, and the frequency and severity increased every day. She saw entities that would control her, attack her, and judge her. It was horrific. She was calling them panic attacks, which they weren’t, so they were mislabeled for a long time.
We tried to change her medication. That was a NIGHTMARE! I searched for the best doctors to see her, setting up evaluations, procedures, brain scans; some of which took more than a day. I had my daughter evaluated at one of the top universities in the nation. You know what they told me? “It’s just really high anxiety.”
I wanted a diagnosis so badly. Bipolar? Schizophrenia? It didn’t matter to me, I just wanted to know, so I could get her the best treatment available. One practitioner said that her brain scan showed trauma from a concussion that she never had. A therapist told me that this was all for attention and she was making this up!
Her conditioned only worsened over the next six to seven months. How was I surviving? How was I standing? Mental endurance.
My daughter, my son, my husband, my house, doctors, therapists, tests – the list goes on. Oh, and I was still working as a commercial real estate broker, and by the grace of God, I actually closed one of my largest deals during this exact time period.
How did I do this? How was I living this high intensity life and surviving?
I took BREAKS.
Yes, breaks. I had been taking a high intensity interval training class known as HIIT. My physical endurance was terrible at the time, but I learned so much about mental endurance. The trainer coached us that you work really hard through a circuit, and you don’t stop. But then, you break. You catch your breath. That is how I made it through this year and a half.
I routinely tapped out. Then, I would go full steam ahead with an evaluation or trying to find a physician. Tap out for a good four to seven days. I would dedicate a portion of my week to not doing anything related to medical care or mental health. I bounced back and forth between my job and managing my daughter’s situation.
I still had to attend to my clients, too. I was running a deal that was so intense and had so much riding on it. I tapped out of that, too.
Taking breaks allows you to catch your breath, reclaim your power, recharge, and gain clarity. That’s how I ran a high intensity home and career for over a year and a half.
My daughter’s situation called me to build upon my mental endurance to the maximum strength possible. Those breaks cleared my mind, so I could gain clarity, reset, and recharge. When you do this, you actually get to where you need to be faster. When I have clarity, I also have an open mind which gave me the insight to test my daughter for Lyme disease.
Lyme Disease is so big. You need courage and endurance to be able to jump down that rabbit hole. She tested positive through a comprehensive test known as Igenex, and we started treatment with a Lyme Literate MD (LLMD).
Once she started treatment, I received comments and questions from people that have no idea how Lyme Disease works. “She must be doing so much better.” “I hope she’s better.” Well, no, because treating for Lyme is sometimes harder than having the illness. Unfortunately, during treatment you can feel worse. You experience this die-off period knows as the Herxheimer Reaction. You experience a worsening condition during this detoxification reaction in the body, also known as “herxing” in the Lyme world. Moreover, most people with Lyme also have one or several co-infections which are microbes or other bacterial infections.
Symptoms for Lyme Disease include joint pain, fatigue, mental illness, air hunger and it gets worse from there. My daughter experienced severe brain inflammation which was the brain trauma shown on the scan! Yes, and the bacteria and parasites were in her brain, worsening her hallucinations.
I needed to get through this difficult time of what was probably three months at the beginning, until she passed this hump. I had to tap into more mental endurance to help her at this particular time. It’s especially important to stay positive during Lyme treatment and stay the course because you are going to want to quit since the herxing is so bad. So how did I do it?
Well, I tapped into one of my superpowers. One of my superpowers is that I have the ability to be ridiculously positive. You know where I learned that from? Being a cheerleader! I know what it’s like, as a cheerleader, to be unreasonably positive when your team is 30 points down and losing.
As cheerleaders, on the field or court, we are conditioned to think, “We’ve got this! We still have a shot to win this game!” You smile, and you pull yourself together, and you keep clapping. And when it’s not looking good, that’s when you throw in a high kick and shout, “Go, Offense! Let’s go!” And you just keep cheering.
That’s what I did for my daughter. It didn’t matter how big or small the WIN was, I found a way to celebrate it. If she didn’t have nightmares the night before, we celebrated. “That is so amazing, Honey! I’m so grateful for no nightmares last night!”
It was kind of ridiculous, but I owned it, and I learned how to lean into my superpower. My kids make fun of me for this all the time. I just don’t care. I keep cheering them on, and I know my superpower comes in the form of pom poms and an energetic spirit stick.
Today, I’m happy to pass that spirit stick on to you.
What is your superpower? Everyone has one. Before you can use it and tap into it, you have to acknowledge it and find it. Explore your superpower right here and right now. Maybe your superpower is that you are exceptionally patient. You are going to need it. Maximize that patience. Or maybe you're a network machine, and you are really good at putting people together to find the right practitioners by making those connections. One of my husband’s superpowers is that he is very strategic and looks at every situation from a higher level. He is never in the nitty gritty or in the weeds with me. I get very bitter about that, but it enables him to see things from a higher perspective that I can’t. When he comes to me with advice, it’s incredibly good and exactly what I need.
From this whole experience, I am most grateful for my positive spirit and mental resilience because it’s what helped my daughter make it through to the other side because she did have her win! And she needed that win to sustain her through this process of recovering because we are still in it. We now know that my daughter also has an underling condition known as autoimmune encephalitis (a type of brain inflammation where the body's immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues in the brain or spinal cord). She's also impacted by mold exposure.
Yes, the iceberg keeps growing. But she is more empowered, and we are no longer in the dark. Plus, this girl’s got grit. She has so much resilience, more than most kids her age and most adults my age. Isn’t that what we all want for our kids: resilience, grit, strength, endurance?
I would have preferred, like anyone, that the universe hadn’t dropped Lyme disease into our journey. The silver lining is the lessons we have learned, and the fact that I will never have to worry about my daughter running into something she can’t handle. From these experiences, I know she’ll handle whatever life throws her way like a champion. I focus on the gratitude.
So, when you are going through an extra-challenging time that is lasting an extra-long time, remember:
1. Take a break.
2. Tap out.
4. Catch your breath.
5. Get back in.
That break will bring you clarity, and you will get to where you need to be faster! Also, find your superpower, add it to your endurance toolkit, and I will be cheering you on from the sidelines. I’ll even throw in a high kick for you! Why? Because I want you to feel deep down that you can endure these really hard times. You’ve got this!