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Mono Lake

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mono Lake is in California, on route I395, just outside the eastern entrance of Yosemite National Park. When my husband and I go camping in or near Yosemite, we usually make a short, extra journey to see the lake. Mono Lake has some pretty special features. It is filled with water from snow that has fallen on the surrounding Sierra Mountains, and it has no outlet. Year after year, the way the water depletes is through evaporation, making the water progressively saltier and more alkaline.

As a result of the saltiness, tiny shrimp grow in the water, feeding on salt water algae. Alkali flies breed on the lake, eating the shrimp. And most of the seagulls in California breed on or near Mono Lake, allowing their chicks to feed on the fly larvae. This is an incredible ecosystem.

Mono Lake in June

Mono Lake in June

Year by year, for millennia, Mono Lake got incrementally saltier. Maybe not noticeably over a two or five or ten year period, but definitely over time. Then the great water wars of California happened, and many of the tributary streams got diverted to provide water to Los Angeles. This unique ecosystem took a huge hit. With less water coming in, but essentially the same amount being evaporated, the water level in the lake fell, and the water got saltier and more alkaline very rapidly. The algae partially died off, the shrimp and flies diminished in population. The seagulls had less to eat. Things were bad and getting worse for decades.

Human activists fought to have at least some of the tributaries restored. This helped. Some things got better. People observed that letting the annual water runoff back in would go a long way into healing the ecosystem. There is still more to do to get more of the water back into Lake Mono, but that’s beside the point I’m trying to make.

Ecosystems, like human bodies (and other living bodies), age. Illness and other traumas takes their toll on everything from lakes to people. A chronic illness, like Lyme Disease, which requires years to recover from, takes it’s toll on the human body. I can see the ways it has happened to me. I’m doing my best to reverse the damaged caused by the tick-borne infections. But like Mono Lake, even if everything goes as well as possible, I won’t be restored to my pre-infection condition, because I’ve aged. Mono Lake would have continued getting saltier. And now, even if it gets diluted by annual runoff, it still has years of salt build-up that won’t ever go away.

I’m now in my late 30s, over a decade after I contracted Lyme and almost seven years after I was disabled by it. Ten years is a significant period of time in a human life. My body is changing. I’m getting older. And even as I rebuild and get stronger, even as I try to make my body work just right, it is a body that has sustained some damage and will not return to the state it was in back in 2001.

My metabolism has changed. After spending 5 years looking malnourished and unable to absorb nutrients or gain weight, I’ve now hit a BMI of 25, which is the upper end of normal. Plus, the pounds seem to continue to pile on. I don’t look bad, but when I weigh myself or when I try to put on the pants I bought 30 pounds ago, I wonder what the heck happened. I know that my intestines are in much better shape. I can eat a greater variety of food, though I don’t think I’m eating that much more food per day. My energy is better, but I’m not quite as active as I was before I got sick. Those two things may need to balance out as I try again to begin forming a habit of exercising regularly.

My mind is different. I still have a million ideas and a million things I want to try or do or accomplish. But I’ve slowed down a lot. I have a harder time seeing things through to completion. I have a harder time staying focused. I have a harder time finishing projects, big or small. I’m more reluctant to make commitments. I do better with down time. Maybe it’s because I haven’t finished healing yet and I still have these horrible infections in my brain. Maybe I’ll find the inner something that seems to have been lost along the way, the thing that helps me move towards my goals. But I doubt that I’ll be as focused on building a career as I was before.

My values have changed. After spending over seven years as an activist, I still appreciate what my former colleagues are doing, but I no longer want to give my life to a movement. Partly, I feel like I’ve lost close to seven years of my life to this illness and I want to have plenty of years for me to pursue things outside of work. I really believed in what I was doing, but believing in my work made me forget to take time for anything else. I want to spend time with my family. I want to be outdoors. I want to do things that are fun. I want to contribute to the world, but maybe I want something left over for myself.

There is more to it, but these are a few of the clear changes that I don’t think will be undone by healing from the tick-borne infections. I don’t think I was wrong in the way I lived before the infections took over my life. I think I’ve changed and grown, significantly in response to the impact of living with and trying to heal from a chronic illness. I think I would have changed and grown in other ways if I had not gotten sick and instead pursued my career.

Lyme and Bartonella Update

I’ve continued to eat a wide variety of previously forbidden foods. The Lyme is definitely flaring. The most obvious things is that I get rib pain any time I eat food containing wheat. The rib pain goes away after I coil for Lyme, which I’m doing every 4 days or so. In the in-between days, floaters return to my eyes. My joints get a little more sore. I get moderate headaches. I have moderate muscle aches. Mostly, I don’t feel well…again. It’s hard to go through this again. I feel less focused than I was in September when I was surprised that the Lyme herxes had disappeared. Now I’m wishing I felt that well again. However, even with the increased symptoms, the herxes are getting milder again.

I’ve continued to coil for Bartonella every day. The herxes have been reduced to moderate kidney pain, constipation, and butt acne. I still have a fair amount of tingling sensations and other neuropathic sensations in my limbs. I assume that the Bartonella is also enjoying the new diet. I hope this means that it, too, is coming out of hiding and getting killed by coiling.

Miscellaneous

I had a burst of energy on Sunday and used it to go for a run and walk. I ran about half a mile, walked a quarter of a mile, ran a quarter of a mile, and walked half a mile. Then I was home. Surprisingly, I didn’t have the neurological foot pain I usually get after running or taking a long walk. I didn’t notice it was missing at first, not until the muscle pain in my calves began. The junctures of my calf muscles with my bones near the knee and ankle joints have been torturing me for two days now. Anyway, I was pleased to be able to run. I’m hoping to do it again within a week.

My menstrual cycle started yesterday. I have to say I’m pleased with how the DIM plus Vitex combination is working out. I only had very mild PMS on Sunday (mild cramps and breast tenderness) and none before that. In fact, I was wondering if my period was going to be late because I didn’t feel any PMS. It came on day 32, which is on the longer side of my normal. So far, it doesn’t seem quite as effective as metformin did, which after several years got my cycle down to 29 days. Anyway, the day it started, I had bad cramps, loose stools, and the kind of fatigue that kept me in bed most of the day, but none of the other ruckus that has often accompanied the start of my cycle. I plan to continue the combination for the next few months.

I drinking another half-gallon of raw milk. I want to be able to consume cow dairy on a regular basis, so this seems to be the way to go. It is starting to taste familiar. I’m not sure what else it might help with, but I assume it is depositing probiotic bacteria to colonize my intestines as it moves through my digestive tract.

Last, but not least, I have a very strong feeling that another infection is residing in my body. I’m not sure how or when I’ll try to figure out what it is, but the thought keeps occurring to me, as though some part of my body is trying to tell me something. It seems I may soon be starting new experiments with the coil machine.

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