The Mighty Logo

Avril Lavigne's New Album Includes Songs About Her Battle With Lyme Disease

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Sometimes the news isn’t as straightforward as it’s made to seem. Cassidy Colbert, The Mighty’s chronic illness intern, explains what to keep in mind if you see this topic or similar stories in your newsfeed. This is The Mighty Takeaway.

Pop-rock singer Avril Lavigne released her first album in five years on Feb. 15 — but this one has a slightly different vibe than her previous records.

“Head Above Water” touches on a number of themes, such as relationships, self-confidence and spirituality, but it also contains songs chronicling some of Lavigne’s battle with Lyme disease. She was diagnosed in December 2014 and spent the next few years going through treatments.

Having spent the better part of two years in bed, Lavigne had a lot of time to write and prepare this album.

“I really took my time to dig deep. Lyrically I pushed myself to be the best I possibly could and pulled from my experiences,” she explained on her website. “Because I had so much quiet downtime, I was able to stay in the zone and get in touch with myself. Titles came from phrases I was saying that rang true to my experiences. Subjects were things that weighed heavy on my mind and heart. I sat at the piano and wrote my life.”

Daily life can be a true hassle for those living with Lyme, and Lavigne’s songs capture the reality of what that’s like. These songs are raising awareness of Lyme disease, all while helping others understand what those living with this disease go through. From lying on the bathroom floor praying for some sort of relief to realizing how strong you truly are, Lavigne has captured all of that in her songs.

The song “Head Above Water,” first released as a single in September 2018, is perhaps Lavigne’s most open and raw song to date. In a recent interview with People, Lavigne said, “One night, I thought I was dying, and I had accepted that I was going to die. … I felt like I was drowning.” And she illustrated that in her music.

In the moving lyrics to “Head Above Water,” Lavigne begs, “God, keep my head above water. Don’t let me drown.” She delves deeper, expressing how at times it can be hard to see through the “stormy weather” that is Lyme disease. It is a vulnerable cry for help that many living with chronic Lyme may relate to.

Lavigne also sings about her battle with Lyme disease in “Warrior.” She took to Instagram to tell fans, “I hope my songs can help you find strength if you need it,” and that’s exactly what she does with “Warrior.”

This song is the perfect reminder of how strong one can truly be. What many might not realize is that those with Lyme, and other chronic illnesses, are often in a war every day simply to stay alive — and Lavigne illustrates that in this anthem.

Lavigne sings:

And I won’t bow, I won’t break
No, I’m not afraid to do whatever it takes
I’ll never bow, I’ll never break

‘Cause I’m a warrior, I fight for my life
Like a soldier all through the night
And I won’t give up, I will survive, I’m a warrior
And I’m stronger, that’s why I’m alive
I will conquer, time after time
I’ll never falter, I will survive, I’m a warrior

The bodies of those living with these illnesses are often under attack, yet they show immense strength and do anything it takes to keep going. They are truly what it means to be a warrior.

When I first heard “Head Above Water,” I couldn’t help but cry. As someone who has been living with chronic Lyme disease for the past seven years, I completely understood what Lavigne was saying — and that is why these new songs are so important.

Having Lavigne truly understand what those of us with Lyme disease are going through and putting it out there for the world to see is a huge milestone. It’s a big deal for an award-winning performer to represent the Lyme community, as Lyme is not talked about often enough and is still a very controversial disease.

Lyme disease is a largely invisible illness that affects approximately 300,000 people in the U.S. each year. If Lyme disease is caught early, perhaps by spotting a tick bite or “bulls-eye” rash, it can be treated with antibiotics. You may experience fatigue, achiness and other flu-like symptoms, but usually you’ll experience a quick recovery.

However, those with chronic Lyme disease, like Lavigne, or tick-related co-infections may not have been able to catch and treat the disease early; thus, the infection spread and caused more serious complications. Those with chronic Lyme may experience severe pain, chronic fatigue and even loss of cognitive function. Other symptoms can include neuropathy, sleep problems and heart issues.

Currently there are varying beliefs about whether or not “chronic” Lyme disease even exists — much less how to define, diagnose or treat it. This can make it difficult for Lyme patients to get the recognition, understanding and medical care they deserve.

For many of us living with chronic illnesses, getting through the day can be hard. So when we have a powerful song that not only motivates us, but provides us with support as well, it can become the force we need to survive. While there are many encouraging songs out there that could be considered “illness anthems,” not many have been written by someone who actually has a chronic illness.

Lavigne is showing the world what living with Lyme disease is really like, and the response has been overwhelming:

Since speaking out about her journey with Lyme, Lavigne has helped the Lyme community tremendously. She joined the Global Lyme Alliance (GLA) — which has also worked with celebrities such as Yolanda Hadid and Ally Hilfiger — as one of their board members. The Avril Lavigne Foundation has also teamed up with GLA and the LymeLight Foundation to raise awareness and aid prevention of the Lyme epidemic and other diseases.

By shedding light on Lyme disease in her new album, Lavigne is giving a powerful (and much-needed) voice to the hundreds of thousands of people living with the condition, and her support is changing the Lyme world for the better.

Whenever I am having a bad Lyme day, I know I will put on “Head Above Water” or “Warrior” and scream Lavigne’s lyrics, “I won’t give up, I will survive, I am a warrior” — a mantra for all those with chronic illness to live by.

Avril Lavigne’s “Head Above Water” album is now available for streaming or purchasing.

Image via Creative Commons/karina3094

Originally published: February 15, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home