How I'm Managing My Fear of Ticks After Getting Lyme Disease
Besides all the normal potential fears associated with a serious chronic illness – pain, loss of mobility, vision, life – Lyme disease comes with special ones: tick fears. What I mean by that is the way Lyme and coinfections like babesia and erlichia are transmitted create some
unique fears and challenges for me. Fear of ticks and by extension fear of the outdoors are high on my list. I thought of ticks as a relatively harmless part of nature and a great food source for frogs, birds and bats. I am a hiker and gardener, so I spent a lot of time in nature and saw ticks as part of the landscape. After years of declining health, I was diagnosed with Lyme. Now I see things differently.
The Reality of My Tick Fears
After my diagnosis, tick fears were keeping me indoors. I live in a Lyme-endemic area, so the risk of reinfection is real. Oh yeah, Lyme is one of those things you can get over and over again. After four years of hard work to heal from Lyme disease and coinfections, my fear is legit. I don’t want to get sick again. I mean, jeez, some bug bites infected me and reset my priorities and remade my life.
Borellia and other coinfections take a lot from those they choose to inhabit. They are greedy and steal nutrients and health. They break up friendships and relationships. Many people who have tick-borne illnesses get infected out in nature doing things they love. I know people who moved to get away from the threat of ticks. But I don’t want Lyme to take my freedom to enjoy the outdoors. I get to choose how to respond to fear. Lyme disease is a change agent, no doubt.
What do you do with a fear that keeps you from what you love? For me, I could shrink and lose my connection with the outdoors, or I could figure out how to deal with my fear. I chose to deal. I still love being out in nature, so I put a plan in place to move forward.
A Plan to Allay My Tick Fears
I take good care to protect myself from reinfection. Everyone who lives in high Lyme areas should pay attention and take the level of precautions right for them. My immune system is not yet fully healthy and I have to be mindful of the risk. So here is what I do.
Put a plan in place that works for you.
Don’t wade through tall grass or sit on rock walls or wood piles where the animals that carry ticks abound.
Don’t sit or lie on the grass (even in the city).
Stay on road-like trails.
Build my health to be less susceptible to illness.
Dress in layers and light colors to make finding ticks easier. Tuck shirt into pants and pants into socks to minimize access. Wear a hat and a face net.
Check for ticks while outside and when I come in. Change and throw the outdoor clothes in the dryer on high for 30 minutes. Shower and re-inspect and dress.
I have found ticks, but before they bite me. I destroy them, and move on.
When it comes down to it, we evolved as part of nature and do better with natural sunlight, dirt and clean air. I make an effort to get outside when I can. I crave natural contact. We come from nature and belong to her. There is a growing bunch of data on how nature and trees support our well-being. Forest bathing is a recognized health practice in Europe and Japan. I want the benefit and connection being in nature provides.
Initially it took time to venture out into the great outdoors because of my tick fears. I was afraid to even go to backyard picnics. I had to build up my strength and courage. Instead I looked out the windows at trees and sky whenever I could. Even looking at nature helped me feel better. Bring the sky and the trees into view when you can. Then put a plan in place, take good care and venture out in ways that feel good.
With Lyme disease, information is power. We need to shine a light on our fears and share to help each other recover and rebuild. Scroll down and post your best protection strategies when dealing with tick fears.
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Thinkstock photo via CherriesJD.