Lyme Disease has truly been a blessing in disguise. It has allowed me to connect with the most extraordinary individuals and to share their stories. Ally has a powerful story to inspire those suffering from Lyme Disease as well as those in the role of caretaker. Lyme tends to be an internal experience which differs from one person to the next. It’s an unusual illness that is not well understood today. Ally and I are joining forces to bring hope to the many Lyme warriors out there and raising awareness. Ally is actively involved in the Global Lyme Alliance and is a powerful advocate in the Lyme Community.
CGO: Ally, I first met you at the book signing you did in Los Angeles with your recent release of “Bite Me,” your harrowing journey through Lyme Disease. Your story made a huge impact on my personally as I resonated with much of your story. You have become quite a light in the Lyme Community. I’m honored to speak with you today and hear more about your journey.
CGO: You talk about your journey beginning when you were only seven years old. In your book, you describe how your Mom removed a tick from your body but didn’t know that it was quite serious. Like so many others, there weren’t any signs that anything was wrong until much later. Tell me when you first knew that where something terribly wrong?
AH: I knew pretty soon. I knew when I was 7 years old after I had been bitten. Things got worse when I was a teen. When I was put into a psychiatric ward at 17, I knew things had gone horribly wrong.
CGO: From what I read, we have a lot in common. I experienced many of the same symptoms as you, including a breakdown long before being diagnosed with Lyme Disease. I work with a lot of Lyme patients and the mental and emotional parts of the illness are often the most devastating. Can you share more about your personal experience from a mental and emotional standpoint?
AH: Lyme disease can cause a deep loneliness and isolation which can lead to depression and anxiety. Once Lyme spreads through to the blood/brain barrier, it can lead to severe emotional and psychotic breakouts.
CGO: I was watching your video in one of your interviews where you talk about the frustrations of not being heard or understood. You brought up how challenging it is for most Lyme sufferers as they often don’t look sick. Like you, I also went over a decade looking for help while not being believed because of the way that I looked. How did it make you feel to be desperate for help but not be believed?
AH: It was very difficult to suffer in silence and fear that you’re exaggerating or making things up in our head, because that’s what you’re accused of all your life. It made me feel like I was constantly not being validated. Once I was diagnosed, I was much stronger than I thought. It felt like winning the lottery.
CGO: I admire your courage in opening up about being placed in a psychiatric hospital by your Father when you finally hit rock bottom. I can only imagine how devastating this must have been at time. You have a very different perspective now as it sounds like your Father was desperate to help save your life. What was that like for you?
AH: It was a frustrating, confusing time for me. I never thought I would end up in a hospital. It was a complete nightmare. Looking back, I’m so grateful for what he did. I reached a turning point, left with a diagnosis, and was able to start my road to recovery.
CGO: Having personally connected with your doctor, Dr. Ellyn Shander, I’m aware of the invaluable work she is doing in the Lyme world by helping people to heal their inner worlds. To me, I experienced Lyme disease as the Universe putting the lights out internally. I was thrust into the darkest despair that I could ever imagine and I had to find a way to turn the light back on in order to heal. I was grateful for the decades I spent studying along the spiritual path as those tools and skills were vital to my recovery. Can you share more about Dr. Shander, her process and how her “Magnificence Training” helped you in your recovery?
AH: When I started working with Dr. Shander, there was no vessel to contain myself, my emotions, or my spirit, and Dr. Shander helped me rebuild myself and my vessel to make myself feel powerful, worthy, and strong. It took many years and many sessions, but her process works more thoroughly than any other process I’ve experienced. A lot of written and spoken affirmations helped tremendously, as well as being open to different types of treatments.
CGO: I have experienced many relapses along the way. It seems so common for most Lyme patients. They feel as though they have made it through and then, there’s a setback. What has your experience been?
AH: I have experienced the same exact thing, relapse after relapse. Every time I thought I was better, I would have a setback. It was extremely frustrating. What I’ve learned now is to recognize the signs before a relapse happens, not be afraid when I start to not feel well, and do everything I can to prevent a relapse. This started when I began to be more honest with myself and others.
CGO: That’s great advice. I definitely have some major warning signs as well prior to relapse. Is there any particular tool that Dr. Shander taught you that has helped you the most?
AH: At that time, I felt like I was wasting my life away. The only real job I had was healing. This was vital to my well being. Healing on every level would strengthen me and allow me to move on to bigger and better things. It would help me to do more than average people in the world.
CGO: Your book “Bite Me” is one of the most frank and courageous accounts to date of Lyme Disease. It is raw, authentic and vulnerable. I have no doubt that you have touched the lives of my Lyme sufferers. This was quite an undertaking. What would you most like to share about your book?
AH: I think Bite Me encourages everyone to be raw, authentic, and vulnerable. There is no shame in people’s experiences. The point is to offer a lot of hope and education and awareness.
CGO: Ally, I found that to be true in your story. You have inspired hope in so many, including myself. Thank you for your bravery and vulnerability. We definitely need more courageous souls like you! Thank you, Ally and I wish you continued success in your recovery.
Ally Hilfiger can be found at www.AllyHilfiger.com. She can also be found on Instagram @allyhilfiger. Her book, “Bite Me” was released earlier this year and can be found online at Amazon.com and in all major bookstores.
Catherine Grace O’Connell is a Fashion/Lifestyle Blogger recovering from Lyme Disease. She works as an Empowerment Mentor for men and women and is an active advocate in the Lyme Community. She can be found at CatherineGraceO.com and on Instagram @catherinegraceo. Her facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/catherinegraceo/
Originally published at medium.com