Welcome to week seven of our 10-week journey together talking about 10 barriers to recovery from Lyme disease. Today’s barrier is negative thoughts and a negative mental state. I have found in my patients that those who kept a positive outlook and chose to be optimistic about their health and their future were more likely to recover and stay well.
Trust me, having witnessed hundreds of patients on their Lyme journey, I am fully aware of the severity and brutality of this illness. I am aware of the stigma, the lack of awareness and understanding, the challenges of looking fine but feeling like death warmed up, and the amount of real pain and anguish this illness can cause. I am also aware that the infections themselves influence brain function and emotions, giving rise to depression and anxiety, thus making this whole process that much harder.
I am not for a minute making light of that, or implying that a few warm, fuzzy thoughts are the answer to everything. However, having studied about neuropsychology and neuroplasticity, I can confidently say that there is a valid scientific reason why your thoughts are so crucial. This applies to anything in life, not just Lyme treatment and recovery, but it’s definitely relevant here.
The study of neuroplasticity shows us that our thoughts create neural pathways in our brains. And more importantly, those neural pathways can be weakened or strengthened depending on whether or not we use them. We can have healthy, positive thoughts, or we can have toxic, negative thoughts.
I liken this to a roadway system. We can have a small dirt road, barely wide enough for one car. But if it’s built up, and widened, and strengthened with concrete – it can become a superhighway. It takes time and work, but it can grow and become strong. We want our positive thought patterns to be eight-lane superhighways, not tiny little dirt roads. Conversely, we don’t want superhighways of negative thought patterns, just tiny little dirt roads, if anything at all (it’s unrealistic to think that we’ll never have any negative thoughts, we just don’t want them to be our dominant thoughts).
If you take an inventory and feel that you are spending more time on negative thoughts than positive, then remember the analogy of a dirt road. Spend some time every day deliberately strengthening your neural pathways til you have a two-lane road. Then lay some asphalt on your two-lane road, maybe widen it to a four-lane road. Keep building little by little until you have a superhighway. Believe me, with positive neural superhighways you’ll find the negative thought patterns just fall away naturally.
The field of psychoneuroimmunology also shows us that the thought patterns we have, the neural pathways created and the neurotransmitters produced in response to that, can have far-reaching influence in the body, particularly over our immune system. This is why we hear stories of someone having a major heartbreak and being diagnosed with cancer not long after, or indeed why some Lyme patients’ illness got significantly worse after a major stress in their lives such as a divorce, accident or death of a loved one.
There are a number of different ways to encourage our positive thoughts. It is a learned behavior, a trained response – don’t expect it to come naturally at first – it must be worked at at first to change and mould your thought patterns from negative to positive. But once those positive highways are built, they’re easy to maintain.
Some people find flashcards around the house helpful – 2-3 positive sayings on the bathroom mirror can remind you as you brush your teeth to say them in your head. Saying them out loud actually works even better as then your brain hears them, and they are processed in a different way (this works better when you’re not brushing your teeth!).
Some people find recording them as voice memos and playing them throughout the day is useful. Gratitude lists serve a similar purpose – they rewire your brain that instead of having things to feel sad or even resentful about, you have plenty of positive things to be grateful for.
In my own life I’ve utilized other tools to assist me in this process – neurofeedback has helped me to “untangle” a lot of neural pathways, allowing the positive ones to take hold more easily, doing courses with Landmark Education was a definite quick start and seemed to disable many of my negative thought patterns in a short space of time, and my faith in God and the power of prayer have also played a large role. I encourage you to find the things that work best for you, but please do not underestimate the importance of this to your recovery.
Remember, your subconscious believes what you tell it. Our thoughts create our emotions, and our emotions create our experiences. Your body will believe what you tell it – so if you repeatedly tell it your never going to get better, or that you’re going to die, then that’s what it will believe. It will be hard to get well with that kind of programming going on.
Next week we’re going to talk about my favorite topic – nutrition! But for now, please take what I’ve said today not as judgement, nor invalidating your feelings; but as another tool that is available to you based on clear science, to help you move in the right direction with your health.
What we’ve covered so far –
Week 1 – Untreated Co-infections
Week 2 – Biofilm
Week 3 – Heavy Metals
Week 4 – Methylation Defects
Week 5 – Adrenal Health
Week 6 – Thyroid Health