If you asked me when I was 8 years old what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have enthusiastically replied, “Wonder Woman!” I used to watch Wonder Woman reruns and imagine that I, too, could have superhuman powers, extreme coordination, creative ability to solve immense problems under nearly impossible conditions, and be able to do it all in a cool outfit.
That was back then. I don’t remember much about her now. Instead, I remember looking in the mirror, wondering why my belly was big enough that I had to wear a “pretty plus” size from Sears. I wasn’t heavy, but my belly always seemed big back then. The image of my real self was jarringly different from the character Lynda Carter portrayed.
Almost 30 years later (my 38th birthday is on Friday), I have a different perspective. I think it was a Bartonella infection that I acquired pretty early in my life. In times of stress, it would flare up and give me problems. When my life was going well, the symptoms would disappear. I had enough bouts of problems and symptoms that my 7th grade social studies teacher told me she thought I had a bad case of hypochondria. (Not helpful, Ms. Ophals! She wrote in my yearbook the following year, “Best of health to a woman who can become anything or anyone she wants.”)
She was onto something. I’d had problems with constipation starting in second grade. After a stressful event in 4th grade, I developed headaches that kept me in bed, out of school and on codeine for months. In 5th grade, I started getting clumsy, having problems with balance, and ended up fracturing my elbow. In 6th grade, I got severe back pain and problems with my legs as a result, which was eventually diagnosed as vertebra so inflamed that it was displaced. That’s all just pre-adolescence.
The thing was, my mother often knew in her gut that there was something wrong for real, although she couldn’t put her finger on it. Neither could any doctor at that time, primarily because we as a society had no information about the existence of Bartonella (or whatever Bartonella-like-organism it is) as a chronic, recurring, multi-system, long-term infection.
Wonder Woman Today
This morning I woke up in pain after a night of not sleeping well. My first thought was to stop coiling for Bartonella until next week, after my birthday and whatever we do to celebrate it. I’ve enjoyed being able to move around and not be exhausted for the past few weeks. I want a little more of that.
Within an hour of waking, I was feeling okay. Last night’s headache was starting to return, but the pain in my back and knees was starting to diminish. I decided I would continue coiling daily. But I’m not increasing today, instead repeating yesterday’s session.
During that hour, I decided to take on Bartonella with the spirit of Wonder Woman. I want to face this courageously and fearlessly. I want to fight back and reclaim my body with enthusiasm and certitude.
Lyme and Babesia required a tremendous amount of rest to recuperate from the herxes. Bartonella may do that to me; I’m not sure quite what will happen. But my intention is to build up my body this spring so that I can be outside and be physically strong in the not-too-distant future. For now, I’m willing my strength into being, working with what I have, and enjoying every moment that I can.
In practical terms, I took myself for another nature walk today. It was a brisk walk, with a few stops to look at birds (including a low flying red shouldered hawk). I jogged for 4 minutes followed by more walking, then another 2 minute jog before walking the rest of the way home. It was lovely to be outside, to move and to feel my feet hit the ground.
Bartonella Symptoms List
When I started looking back to some of my early experiences with Bartonella and comparing them to what I’ve dealt with in the past 6 years, I came up with a list. Some of these symptoms overlap with Lyme Disease. What I’m learning by coiling, which allows me to separate the herxes and have periods of dormant Lyme (and Bartonella) is which symptom to ascribe to which illness. For now, I’ve got a list of Bartonella symptoms that I’ve experienced at some point in my life.
- Headaches, especially tension headaches with muscle tightness that leads down into the neck, the shoulders and the upper back
- Muscle tension, especially in the back, paraspinal muscles, and hips, in addition to the headache cascade
- Kidney and urinary tract irritation, sometimes it is difficulty urinating or urinary hesitation, sometimes it is kidney pain, sometimes it is frequent urination
- Bone pain, especially in the spine and the sacrum, sometimes accompanied by measurable inflammation
- Pain in the hands and feet, especially first thing in the morning
- Insomnia, sometimes alternating with bouts of somnolence
- Hormone disruption, leading to menstrual problems, weight gain/loss, excess hair growth, changes in energy level, disruption of the circadian cycle, poor ability to deal with stressors, possibly osteoporosis, etc.
- Knee pain, which seems to be associated with lack of sleep
- Anorexia, diminished interest in food, diminished appetite, food revulsions
- Food sensitivities and allergies
- Depression and anxiety, or more specifically, an amplified response to present day situations and prior memories
- Neurological pain that follows the nerve bundles down the limbs, especially on the outside of the legs
- Tingling and numbness in the limbs and extremities, as general as a whole leg or as specific as a single finger
- Vagus nerve irritation, which I saw mostly during my menstrual cycle, and included low blood pressure, diarrhea, vomiting, chills and sweats, weakness in my legs, heart palpitations/chest pain, and somnolence
- Constipation and other digestive tract malfunctions including stomach/esophageal ulcers, abdominal swelling, gas, abdominal pain in the absence of gas
- Neuro-cognitive problems, poor balance, poor coordination, poor short-term memory, inability to dial phone numbers, difficulty making decisions, etc.
As I look at this list, it is frightening to think that I’ve had to deal with all of these symptoms. Even more frightening, I think I’m missing a few.
Today, my inner Wonder Woman is ready to combat them all and save the Metropolis of Rose.