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Mary Sopelak

Mary Sopelak
For 25 years I have lived with Lyme Disease. Being that I am only 28, I cannot say I remember a life without it. Chronic pain has always been my “normal”. My name is Mary and I have Chronic Lyme Disease.

I was diagnosed at three years old and again at the age of six with Lyme Disease. Only in one bite did the classic Bullseye Rash appear. Little was known of proper treatment in the 90s and still so much is yet to be learned even today. I was on antibiotics per the doctor's orders until the symptoms cleared which took less than two weeks and it was assumed that I was “better”.

For the early and middle years with Lyme I struggled with what otherwise would seem to be random issues that could be explained away in some cases: lack of coordination and balance, frequent illnesses and upper respiratory infections, new and unusual food allergies, hip and back pain beginning at the age of 7, aching joints, fatigue, brain fog, migraines, idiopathic pressure on the optic nerve thought initially to be a brain tumor (clear scan), night terrors, Ankylosing Spondylitis (discovered due to early Degenerative Disk Disease), Raynaud's Disease, and more. Each symptom would occur in a different context from another and so these pieces never seemed to be part of the same puzzle.

In my late teens and early twenties, the disease not only affected my body physically but also psychiatrically. I began to develop debilitating anxiety, depression, irrational behavior, and suicidality and eventually was hospitalized multiple times. My personality and behavior shifted far beyond normal teenage angst and stress but it was written off as just that.

I was continually taxed with new and conflicting diagnoses including but not limited to ADD, ADHD, OCD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Mixed Mood Disorder, Bipolar I, Insomnia, and more. My mind had become a worse prison than my body and it didn't make sense how I had gotten to this point. Eventually I dropped out of college and music school because I no longer could mentally nor psychically withstand the demands of the program.

About four years ago, my father began his own journey being treated for Lyme after an onslaught of symptoms. Thanks to his dedication in his search for both knowledge and healing, he strongly encouraged me to also get tested. I was incredibly resistant initially but eventually gave in, much to his loving persistence.

With the help of an incredible Lyme Literate doctor, I began my own path towards healing through the use of antibiotics, supplements, changes in diet and activity, and more. It has been a long road and often a difficult one. Chronic Lyme is an uphill battle but one worth fighting. I am very excited to say that I am living a new “normal” and one far better than the one I knew prior. I suffer from far fewer migraines, more mental clarity and mood stability, less physical pain, and have shaved off a multitude of wrong diagnoses from my medical record. Lyme Disease is called the “mirror disease” with good reason.

Though I am not 100% out of the struggle, I am in a far better place now than ever before. I am proud to say that as of this past December, I am finally a college graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Music. I could not have done this alone and am so grateful to my family, friends, and especially to VALD for all of the support, love, and community to fight this disease.

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