Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Another Battered Soldier--Holly Heisey

I’m twenty-four and I’ve been sick since I was ten. I got sick on the first day of fifth grade, and nobody believed it wasn’t because I didn’t want to go to school. A month later my parents pulled me out and I was homeschooled. I went through countless doctors, and that’s terrifying when you’re an adult, let alone ten. I found a nutritionist who helped me get well enough to go back to sixth grade, but by then I had many allergies and physical weaknesses that kept me from really fitting back in.

I stayed mostly healthy until eighth grade, when I got sick all over again. I had to leave school in the middle of the year. I was having panic attacks (of course it was all in my head!), short breath, vertigo, and I always felt like I was going to be sick or pass out. Another round of doctors ensued, one of whom wanted to admit me to a mental facility because he was convinced I was suicidal. Tell that to a fourteen-year-old.

I finished eighth grade at home and continued to homeschool, but I also continued to get worse. Finally, my family found out our home was infested with stachybotris, a deadly toxic mold. We moved, and we have nothing today that we owned before fall of 2001. It was a miracle that we got out relatively unscathed. We thought all our health problems were over.

We joined a church, and I joined the worship team. I loved it. Then I started getting sick again. I was too nauseous to go anywhere, too dizzy to sleep in any position but sitting up. It got so bad I spent nearly a year just sitting by the toilet. I’d often sleep in the bathroom. I’d just turned sixteen. I couldn’t go out and learn how to drive. I couldn't even think straight.

Finally, a doctor tested me and diagnosed me with Lyme. It was anticlimactic but the freshest air I’d breathed. I wasn’t crazy! I wasn’t making it up for attention. And there was a way to treat it. I was fortunate that the doctor who diagnosed me knew what Lyme really was. He put me on oral doxy and I stayed on it for two years, but didn’t get better. He put me on Mepron and I knew another kind of hell, hallucinating that I was awake when I was asleep and vice versa. I didn’t really have friends during this time. Everyone I thought was a friend didn’t know how to deal with my pain and so they stayed away. I didn’t leave the house except to go to the doctor.

I didn’t start getting better until I stopped taking antibiotics and started taking mega doses of probiotics. I got a lot better within three weeks, and stayed on the probiotics for several years. I’d lost too much school and by that time I was nineteen, so I dropped out and got a GED. I’d been in the gifted class when I was younger. To have to drop out and have a GED on my record was hard. Not to be able to think as sharply as I could at the age of nine was even harder.

When I was twenty-one I got my first job as a webdesigner, and the stress of it triggered the Lyme again. I went downhill until I got three months of IV Zithromax, which helped some symptoms, but created many others. I didn’t have medical insurance because I had no job. That was a year ago.

Now, I’m barely maintaining. I can’t drive because of the vertigo. I’m a novelist, but I can only write for short periods of time. I’m an illustrator, but I only have a small amount of energy to complete each project. I have so many food allergies that my daily meals consist of maybe ten foods and combinations thereof. I get a five-day migraine every time a storm comes in--and storms come in often where I live. I have TMJ so bad my teeth don’t even touch anymore. I’m looking at another round of treatment, but am sick with anxiety over the stress involved with it.

I used to dream of being an actress, but now I’m allergic to makeup. I dream of being a published novelist, but I have to tread carefully to avoid stress. I was a pastel artist for ten years, but now I’m allergic to the chalk. I used to play the hammered dulcimer well enough to perform, but now it hurts too much to play.

I can’t support myself, and I look healthy. I look good, don’t I? Everyone I don’t know thinks I am fine. But the Lyme under my skin tells a different story. The Lyme Wars have another battered soldier.

Of course, I’ll never surrender.

Holly Heisey, Pennsylvania


  1. This is heartbreaking. I'm not sure why God allows things like this; quite frankly it makes me angry. But I have to believe in something. I have to believe he knows the whys and why nots in ways I can barely understand. I have to let some things go even though I don't want to. I have to rest.

    ~a friend of Holly's

  2. Holly, I hear you! My daughter has had similar challenges since her multiple head trauma 9 years ago. Most people who haven't been there have a hard time believing that it isn't always fixed by prayer and/or will power/determination. Because of her sensitivity to smells, I cook meals outdoors in all kinds of weather and conditions. (Try assembling lasagna in 10-degree cold or continue stirring while a snake approaches.)

    God knows who you are, Holly, even when others don't understand. Try to hang on to that. And God continues to use you, in spite of your not attaining the goals you have for yourself.

    A sister in Christ,

  3. Holly, I've never heard your full story, but now that I have, I have an overflow of empathy for you! My heart and my prayers go out to you.

  4. Holly, I knew you had Lymes Disease, but never fully realized what that meant. What an inspiration you are! You have such an incredible personality and a wonderful talent. To know this of you, then to read your story of suffering, is an amazing testimony of strength and courage. I admire you and praise God for you--and will pray for you always.

  5. Holly, what a story. I'm in awe of you. To have been through so much, so young, and yet still keep on going. Inspirational!

  6. Oh Holly. I'm so sorry for all you've been through. Like Linda said, I had no idea all that Lyme Disease entailed. Praying for your strength, courage and healing. Big hugs!

  7. Holly - I never knew you had Lymes. I have several close friends with the same disease and similar symptoms and I know how hard it is for them... I am so sorry you have this. Yet I am so impressed by the way you've kept fighting! I'll be praying every day for strength and that you get better!

  8. Holly
    I am so sorry you have gone through so much with Lyme Disease and your attempts to get treated for it. It is a long and hard journey, and we could not do it without God by our side. I pray that you will find the right treatment for you...that you will be able to manage it and healing will take place. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  9. You are a testament to your strength my dear!! Look at all you have continued to do, at what to you feels like a snails pace. Your words resonate with me, very much. I have been sick with lyme and coinfections for years, probably 32, diagnosed for two... a lot of what you describe sounds so much like my experience. I want to tell you that I am about to begin using guided imagery, from Health Journeys, to maybe help with my allergies and reactivity... for me it is medicines. I am afraid that before long I won't be able to take anything at all. So, there is something you might try. You, as an actress, artist, and writer might really be able to tap into the power of guided imagery to help your body heal, and loads of emotional benefits to boot!

    Good luck to you, and hang on!!! Thank you for sharing.

  10. ANYone can tap the wonderful benefits of guided imagery... but it doesn't appeal to everyone I guess... but with your background and talent in visual arts, well.... just seems like it might appeal to you! Lots of imagination... lots of visual and other sensory expression!

  11. Thanks all for the support and prayers, I wasn't expecting so much! Wow, I really appreciate that, and many hugs back! :)

  12. My prayers are with you Holly! You are loved.


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