Right now the entire world is dealing with a major health pandemic as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads throughout the world. I’ve been thinking about the similarities and differences between this pandemic and living with Chronic Lyme Disease. It made me realize that this health pandemic could possibly help others understand those with chronic illness but I want to specifically discuss teens with chronic Lyme disease.
A Pandemic’s Effect on Teens
Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched teens and young college-aged students face the reality that they may never return to classes with their friends. College kids have emptied out dorm rooms and apartments and returned home. Students all over the country have had all their classes go virtual, High School proms have been canceled and now these kids are facing graduation cancellations.
Devastating Life Changes
This has been devastating for our country’s teens and young adults. Their future has been placed on hold and their world has been turned upside down. Those college kids who experienced great freedom while away are now back home with their families.
High School seniors who were excited about finishing High School and focused on preparing to leave for college in the fall are not even sure that will happen. For now, they have to stay home, they cannot be with their friends or attend school. They aren’t working unless they work for a business that is still allowed to be open. Their whole world has come to a halt.
I know that all of this is crushing! I raised and graduated three girls so I know the fears and dreams our young people have. I have walked them through some of the most difficult years facing difficulties and experiences that no teen should ever have to face.
Love & Support America’s Teens
America’s teens are really struggling right now and if there was ever a time they need the love and compassion of their parents, family members, and community, it’s now!
The entire country is suffering a devastating blow. It’s even harder if the Coronavirus has infected anyone you know personally. It’s a scary time! It’s a confusing time! It’s a time where we’re all having to learn how to live a new normal, at home with our own family members.
Homeschoolers are probably most used to being altogether so it’s not as much of a difference except that homeschoolers don’t generally stay home every day. We’re busy too and we spend a great deal of time with other homeschoolers.
Life With Lyme
As I raised my three girls our entire family became very sick with chronic Lyme disease, Bartonella, and Babesia. One of my daughters had PANS which is caused by these tick-borne infections and makes the child have very severe motor tics, anxiety, OCD, and rage.
A Lyme Teen’s Day
Our days were lived out in severe pain, taking harsh medications, handfuls of supplements, having doctors appointments every eight weeks along with frequent blood draws. We spent a lot of time sleeping, taking detox baths, and trying to eliminate the scary symptoms we had. Frequent and daily heart palpitations, muscle spasms, air hunger, weakness, joint pain, headaches, nausea, and diarrhea were just a few. Most of the time we were too sick to go out.
My kids were often so weak they couldn’t even lift their heads or walk to the bathroom alone. They couldn’t participate in sports, missed many get-togethers and field trips with their friends. They struggled most days just to get out of bed and on to the couch. Many other children, teens, and young adults need ports put into their chests for medication and some need surgeries.
Loss & Reality
Teens with chronic Lyme disease often lose most if not all of their friends. Most people don’t understand why they can’t just get up and get on with life. As if willpower could beat the demon bacteria living inside of them.
Well-meaning people would ask, “Are they depressed?” To which I would reply, “Of course they’re depressed! They’ve lost their friends, can’t do school, are afraid of the future, are suffering severe pain and symptoms that make them feel like they’re dying every single day. They have to get blood draws every eight weeks, the medications make them sicker, none of their regular doctors believe they have anything wrong and they feel like their whole world has fallen apart. They don’t know if they’ll ever graduate, drive a car, go to college, get a job, travel, get married or have children! Yes, they’re depressed!”
A Bit About Lyme Disease
The CDC stated that there “may” be 300,000 cases of Lyme disease each and every year. Their tests are grossly inaccurate and cannot be trusted. Newer estimates record more like 427,000. This does not take into account false negatives or those who were misdiagnosed with other illnesses like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, MS, Rheumatoid Arthritis and other illnesses.
Scientists believe that two million people could suffer from Lyme symptoms even after treatment. 1
Perspective For Your Teens
So, while your teens and college students may feel devastated about their uncertain future, remind them that this is just a short blip in their lives. Remind them that they’re healthy and can still pursue their future. Since the entire world is making the same sacrifices right now there will most likely be opportunities for them to celebrate and have a graduation day even if it looks a little different than what they expected.
Consider Their Peers
Unlike their chronically ill peers, when this is all over, they’ll get to leave their homes and resume their lives. They will get to pursue their dreams. They will be able to jump back into the activities they love. Their chronically ill peers won’t! They will still be at home, in bed, suffering, missing out, not moving forward.
Please encourage your teens to reach out to the teens their age who don’t have that privilege because they’re lying in bed sick. Encourage them to set aside time to talk to their peers who may have lost all their friends.
What You Can Do
Here are some things that can really mean a lot to the teens and young adults who are living with chronic Lyme and other chronic illnesses.
Phone calls & video chats.
Hang out and watch a movie.
Bring them a special treat.
Offer to take them somewhere that doesn’t involve using up a lot of their energy.
Bring over a pet as long as they’re not allergic.
Never underestimate the power of an ask. Ask them what you can do to encourage them and then be willing to do it. For more ideas read my post 10 Ways to Encourage Your Chronically Ill Teen.
So much good can come from this pandemic. We can strengthen our family relationships, we can learn new skills and catch up on things we haven’t had time do to. We can all slow down and think about what’s really important in life.
Parents can spend time with their kids and teens and build-up those relationships. We can strengthen our families, and love and encourage one another.
Most importantly, we can allow this time of hardship to teach us compassion towards others who are suffering more than we are, especially teens and young adults who are living with Lyme disease or other chronic illnesses.
Hug your kids, younger and older, and tell them that everything is going to be ok. Remind them that God has a purpose and a plan for them and that nothing, not even the Coronavirus can stop that!