General, Our Family's Lyme Disease Story

Misdiagnosed and Feeling Like a Hypochondriac

Winston Churchill said, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”

As I mentioned in my last post, at the urging of friends, I made a doctor’s appointment. I thought I might have hypothyroidism, like my dad, or Lyme disease, which is prevalent in our area. 

Christy Brunke with Library Journal Reviewer Christine Sharbrough
September 2017: Meeting the woman who gave my novel a starred review in the Library Journal.

The day of my appointment, September 12, 2017, I shared my symptoms with the doctor I’d just met. He asked if I had joint pain, a common Lyme disease symptom, especially in the late stage. Though I would get that Lyme disease symptom—and many others!—at the time, I didn’t have it. I told him no. 

I estimated I’d been battling fatigue, insomnia, and muscle pain for five months. Unfortunately, I hadn’t donned my sleuthing hat yet. If I had, maybe I would’ve shared details that would’ve led the doctor to a different conclusion. 

“I don’t think your current symptoms add up to one specific, overriding medical condition (such as Lyme).” Instead, he said, “If you have a chronic sleep problem and a demanding life, it is difficult to feel well.”

He also pointed out that I was forty now. I shouldn’t expect to have the same energy I’d had in my twenties and thirties.

40-year-old with fatigue, a Lyme disease symptom

He went on to diagnose me with seven different things:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Myalgia (muscle pain)
  • Hoarseness
  • Allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
  • Allergic conjunctivitis of both eyes and rhinitis (not one form of rhinitis, but two!)
  • Telogen effluvium (“I am pretty sure you have a benign, temporary hair loss syndrome.”)

I later learned Lyme disease can cause all the symptoms I’d been having. Even insomnia is a common late-stage Lyme disease symptom.

Lyme disease is also linked to mast cell activation syndrome“This is a disorder where the immune system overreacts to various stimuli, causing them to appear to be allergic to many things in the world around them.” 

The doctor ordered blood work to test my thyroid, but later declared the results normal. 

He never tested me for Lyme.

Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson Lyme Disease Symptom

I left his office relieved but feeling like a hypochondriac. I didn’t have Lyme disease or even hypothyroidism. A combination of aging, sleep problems, and a demanding schedule caused my exhaustion. After all, that’s what the doctor said. Aren’t doctors supposed to know?

I had stumbled over the truth, but—deflected by a doctor—picked myself up and hurried off as if nothing had happened.

Another year passed before I reconsidered Lyme disease. In the meantime, I tried to overcome my health issues with the help of a book called Sleep Smarter. Click here to read “My Insomnia Solution: Becoming a Sleep Geek.”

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