I got curious about this and so I went looking to find some resources that could help me better understand the role of stress in illness.
One article I found talked about HIV positive patients and how stress can increase the likelihood (by a significant amount) that they will progress to full blown AIDS. I find this interesting, because in both cases (HIV and Lyme/Cos) there is a pathogenic cause of the actual illness, and they aren't simple. Could stress also play a role in the progression of our illness? Hmmm...
And here's another interesting one. Stress contributes to illness by causing the body to be less effective at quelling inflammation... a major source of our pain. So if we could find ways to reduce stress, would we be helping our bodies be in less pain?
Clearly lyme comes with a motherlode of stresses. One of the ways that we may have a good deal of say in our daily experiences is in how well we can manage our stress. We can't necessarily control how quickly the bugs die or how fast (or even how much) our body recovers from the damage that has been done. But maybe there are things we have more control over.
What if stress reduction could make a big difference in our daily experience of our illness? What if reducing stress also meant reducing inflammation and all the associated suffering that comes with it? What if minimizing stress could be a factor in our illness staying manageable and not progressing to be completely debilitating (or fatal)?
Here's a fairly solid list of suggestions of non-pill things to try, most of which seem very doable, even for us. (Though I will note that while planting a garden can be a lovely bit of stress relief, needing to weed it on demand come July might not be. Maybe get a garden partner before trying that one.)
Finally, the standard wisdom is that high stress puts you at a definite risk for illness. Here's a handy system for evaluating where you might be in the stress realm. Please note that they say that if you experience repeats of an incident (including illness) you should count it multiple times... and surely a chronic situation qualifies to get counted repeatedly.
So stress from a chronic illness might very well be a circular thing: the stress reinforces the illness, which contributes more stress, and so on.
OK, so back to the survey.
I've been digging a little deeper, trying to find the correlations between different areas in our survey, and there's some fascinating little bits, some of which I don't really understand, but want to share anyway.
First off, answers varied a fair bit when I cross-tabbed them with what people considered to the their core protocols. I found myself wondering if people choose their cores for psychological reasons that might also affect their stress levels... or if one gets to the point of being really stressed out and then starts exploring "alternatives"... or does one of these factors in particular loom larger, and that helps determine protocol choices?
And I'm just not sure, but here's what I was looking at. I've highlighted the stress factors where there were the largest differences between answers form the different core treatment groups, and also did an average stress level for each core group.
So I'm left with a question. Why should THIS matter, and not all the other things I looked at in the last blog? I can speculate. Let's take folks for whm homeopathy is a core.
Maybe people who have leaned into homeopathics have done so in part because of money stresses.... because homeopathy is general less expensive than any of the others, it makes some sense that they'd end up going that route. And maybe they are isolated more because there aren't as many support groups around homeopathy: at least if you are doing antibiotics or rifing, you have a lot of companions to talk about with onine.
And maybe their families and friends believe them less because they are non-mainstream in other ways in their lives... the same ways that have gotten them to relying on homeopathics? (But you'd think the same thing would be true of rifers, and they seem to enjoy the highest level of family and friend's buying into lyme.)
And why would rifers be significantly more stressed about the politics? Is it because they have an extra layer to battle, this one within the lyme community itself? Rife machines are not nearly as broadly supported as the (hard won) use of long term antibiotics are among patients. Maybe politics in this case is double layered?
Or maybe people with more of an edgy political analysis are more likely to end up doing a more radical, non-mainstream treatment option, and it is just the general life philosophy that leads to both?
And are patients using homeopathy just more stressed in general because they have to deal with societal doubts on top of everything else? And if that's the case, why aren't rifers in a similar boat?
All of this is wild speculation on my part, but I must say this cross-tabbing of results is opening up a lot more questions for me about the social support and philosophies that different people have within the wider lyme community, as well as questions for me about how stress operates and intersects with all of this.
I'm left both fascinated and baffled.
OK, one more piece, and then we'll let stress alone. Another thing I noticed is that women report a higher level of stress across the board than men do. See:
But if stereotypes were to hold true, wouldn't the men be more stressed about not being able to work and money? But they aren't. I don't think we can just write this off based on stereotypes.
So... maybe you have some thoughts? Why do you think stress levels vary between these different groups? I'm curious about what my readers would have to say about these.