Okay, okay... so in my last post, I may have been just a little bit harsh towards the doctors who prescribe synthetically made anti-inflammatory steroids to Lyme patients (and for good reason!)... BUT, in order to level out the playing field a bit, let's take a look at how your own body's natural hormonal steroid may be contributing to the exacerbation of your infection...
Cortisol is a hormonal steroid produced by your adrenal glands (Note: this is not its only function.) Although this hormone, produced at normal levels, is essential to the body to maintain homeostasis, if it starts to go into "over-drive" and secrete abnormally high amounts over lengthy periods of time, it will suppress the immune-system and thus allow your Lyme infection to spread.
When do these levels go into over-drive? - Well, in a person who has no other health maladies regarding adrenal function...it happens when you are experiencing high amounts of stress or anxiety.
Now, everybody knows of the infamous "fight-or flight" response. It is literally a life-saving mechanism that been hard-wired into the brain, and managed by the hypothalamus since the very evolution of man. Let's take a look at what is actually happening to your body when this response triggers, so that we can understand its purpose, and also understand why this is a BAD thing for Lyme patients.
If you go back to prehistoric times, humans often found themselves in situations where their survival was, quite often, in serious peril (aka: Holy Shit - I'm being chased by a HUGE, carnivorous, MONSTER of an animal, who would absolutely like nothing more than to DEVOUR and have me for dinner!!!).
Back then, when those situations occurred, your body was VERY good to you. It noticed your distress and immediately started initiating a sequence of nerve-cell firings that directly sent signals to the adrenal glands, shouting at them to secrete large amounts of chemical agents such as cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine directly into the bloodstream.
Lol - the minute those chemicals reach your blood...BAM!! - You now can congratulate yourself on suddenly having "Super-Human" qualities...How?? - here's the list:
- Your heart starts pounding to allow circulation to increase and get more energy to your muscles, enabling you to run or fight faster and harder than ever before.
- An anatomical part of your eyes will literally contract and suddenly you become far-sighted, allowing you to visually see further away so that you can plan your route of escape more efficiently.
- Endorphins are released and your perception of pain diminishes, so that if you ARE attacked, you will not be phased by it and will be able to continue fighting.
- Your impulses and decision making skills become lightning quick.
- ALL of your five senses become heightened and amplified to help you become acutely aware of your surroundings.
- And finally, the "adrenaline rush" will make you stronger than ever before, so that if you do intend on "fighting" instead of "flighting"... at least your body gave you one HELL of shot!
So...in other words, having this amazing response embedded into our system was rather awesome back then. But even though times have changed drastically since those days, the hard-wiring in our brains for this response have not, and because of this, we often experience what we now refer to as "anxiety" and "panic attacks".
Often, and quite logically, Lyme patients have SEVERE anxiety and/or panic attack issues. My god, why wouldn't they?? - their central nervous system is literally being attacked by foreign invaders!! It's really not that big of a stretch to imagine that the body would consider that to be a rather HUGE threat...and what do we already know about what happens to the body when it feels "threatened"?? You guessed it! It tries to protect you by getting that damn flight or fight response going. So we have ourselves being tag-teamed in way...our anxiety stems from both our inner panic and alarm caused by the Lyme itself, AND the outer stress of what it "means" to HAVE Lyme in such a controversial and obscenely expensive climate...(Lucky Us!).
Now, from where I'm standing...I can't help but find this to be both entirely ironic and VERY amusing...
In our case, the very thing that was originally hard-wired into our systems to help SAVE us, has now become (Gasp!) our worst enemy. Why? - because those natural steroids and other "superhuman" chemicals that are constantly being released into our bodies as our infection progresses, weakens our immune system, and is now actually causing the disease to PROGRESS more...which, in turn, causes MORE chemicals, and MORE immune suppression, and on, and on, and on...Sigh...and THIS is why I liken the whole thing to "watching a damn dog chase its own tail"...It gets nowhere, never accomplishes what it meant to do, and in the process - exhausts itself.
However, before you start getting all upset about this (Sob - HOW could my body betray me like that!!!), please, be happy in knowing that this is ONE aspect of Lyme you CAN do something about! Talk to your doctor and figure out what will work best for YOU on controlling your anxiety while you are sick. Lol - please, just DO it!!
Additional Note: Here's something you might not know about anxiety that may be of interest:
While the mind is capable of acknowledging time in a linear fashion - as either the past, present or future, the body is NOT. It ONLY knows and comprehends the present. This is so important to understand, because if you're worrying about something that may happen in the future, or stressing over something that happened in the past, your body will take that thought, and literally interpret it as something that is happening RIGHT NOW; thus you unknowing just triggered your flight-or-flight response (to varying degrees), and now are wondering why on earth you feel anxious...
If you don't have Lyme and are experiencing anxiety or panic attacks, but are a little leery about taking SSRI's for it, or anti-anxiety drugs, I would highly recommend (only because it helped me so much at one time in my life) purchasing the "anxiety and depression" program from The Midwest Center For Attacking Anxiety. If you're interested in checking it out, go to: www.midwestcenter.com and see for yourself. Hint: Buy the program on e-bay if you can...so much cheaper! All my best : )