New York Times columnist talks about his successful 5-year battle against chronic Lyme

There are various “vectors” such as ticks and mosquitoes which can give you disease when they bite you. Chronic Lyme is one such vector-borne illnesses. While many people are able to fight it off, Lyme is able to take a foothold in some people and cause chronic illness. This NYT columnist wrote about his experience in his book The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery.


Some symptoms

And when the waves of pain came over me I told myself that I was being stabbed by a dagger of the mind.

My memories of that August are scant. I was sleeping an hour a night at most: I would drift off and suddenly be pulled awake, usually by a feeling like an alarm clock going off in my chest, or sometimes by the feeling that my throat was closing up.


Difficulty getting access to healthcare

There is a longstanding pattern where chronic illnesses are initially regarded as forms of hysteria and hypochondria. Only over a long period of time do they get recognized as having pathogenic and physical concepts. In the early days of studying multiple sclerosis, lots of people assumed that it was some hysterical or psychosomatic illness. Similarly, with chronic fatigue syndrome, there’s been a long struggle to get doctors in the medical system to take it seriously. What we’re seeing with long-term COVID is a sort of accelerated version of that. But even there, there is a lot of skepticism and uncertainty about the reality of long-haul symptoms. That is part of the nature of chronic illness. With Lyme disease, though, it’s a little bit distinctive, because with a lot of other diseases, there’s a real struggle to figure out what could cause them. With Lyme, there’s no question. Lyme is a tick-borne illness. A lot of chronic sufferers feel like it should be easier to break through and get care, but for some reason that hasn’t changed this fundamental and recurring pattern where chronic illness is just met with skepticism and disbelief, no matter what form it takes.


The treatment that ultimately worked

He went through a lot of trial and error to find a combination of antibiotics that worked for him. The antibiotics were pulsed or delivered in an on-off regimen, which can work better for chronic Lyme than constant antibiotic treatment.

Douthat tried a lot of stuff like the Rife machine.

I did use it. And I do think it helped me. But when you use it, you feel like you’re participating in a bizarre science fiction movie. You’re very far beyond the realm of normalcy when you’re doing this, but your perspective on what is worth doing and worth trying changes in ways that you would not imagine before you get sick.

The bottom line

Douthat seems to be one of the many chronic Lyme patients who were able to get a lot of their life back. He’s working again as a writer.