This blog is a partner page to "The Brighter Side: Living With Lyme". Please visit the main site for resources and inspiration. Read DISCLAIMER.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Meet David Skidmore, Lyme Patient and Cartoonist. Part 2 - Driving the Lyme Road

Part 2: Interview with Lyme Loonies creator, David Skidmore

Driving the Lyme Road

Last week David Skidmore shared his thoughts on cartooning and how Lyme Loonies evolved. I am so honored to share Part 2 with all of you; a glimpse into David’s Lyme Journey.

David, please tell us about your Lyme Journey. How long since your diagnosis? How long have you been in treatment? Did you have difficulty finding diagnosis and treatment? 

I found the tick in Nov. 2009 with a big bull’s eye (rash) after a jaunt with my family in the woods of Pennsylvania. I didn’t find the tick until my return back to Brooklyn. My initial thought was, let’s get the tweezers and remove this little hitch hiker. Well, that was a mess as I didn't know how to properly remove a tick. Once the surgery was over I called my doctor who said “I’ll call in some antibiotics just in case.”

I took 20 days of medication and didn't give it a second thought. Weeks later I came down with a flu. That flu lasted two years, several hospital visits, and upwards of thirty doctors or more. Although memory has been affected I will never forget the day when, after relentless searching, one doctor asked “to your knowledge, have you ever been bitten by a tick?”

Until that point it seemed as though there was nothing to treat…but there certainly was! As we in the Lyme community know, this is a huge part of the problem, and if more people don’t know about this, unfortunately many will find out the hard way.

Ah, now I understand the inspiration the Lyme Loonies cartoon that you shared last week! Let's look at that one again. 

How has your life changed since your diagnoses of Tick Borne Illnesses?

To say I am not the man I once was would be an understatement. Most people reading this are probably in the Lyme community. However, for anyone else that might stumble across this story that doesn't have Lyme, this disease can rip your life right out from underneath you and even begin to gnaw at your soul. If that sounds dramatic, that is exactly how I am trying to express this disease for anyone that doesn't know. If you think you've had a bad day at work, as we all have, you cannot imagine wishing that day back and relishing in that moment as opposed to dealing with everything Lyme has to offer.

What has surprised you most about people’s reactions to Lyme Loonies?

That anyone with Lyme can and does continue to laugh has surprised me. It’s not just about the disease, although that would certainly be enough, but the fact that we still have to fight to be recognized. With that comes a host of issues, like how to pay or even get treatment for a disease that often doesn't exist in the eyes and minds of the medical community. Humor has always been my defense mechanism and I amazed, given the suffering, by how many maintain and share that thought.

Any favorite stories about your experiences?

I have always been an open book regarding my experiences and travels with Lyme, so why stop now? In dealing with all I have talked about I want to also tell you that once this disease hit the central nervous system it affected my outlook on life. Depression and anxiety often plague those afflicted with Lyme. I have tried many an anti-depressant to no avail. I was told by a doctor and his staff that if I could manage to get these meds down and tolerate them there was a favorable chance that an anti-depressant would help with the depression that comes with Lyme.

I was asked if I would consider a stay in the hospital to try a couple of these meds under supervision as they can have some side effects. I told them I would sleep on it. I called them next day and told them that if this might be of some help to me and my family I would give it a go.

Two days later I got a call from a doctor who said “So do you know where you’re going and will be staying?”

I thought it was an odd question. Certainly I knew where I was going. The hospital.

She went on to say, “Well, you’re right to some extent, but did you know that the part of the hospital you’ll be going to will have a set of double doors that close behind you with guards…and you won’t get out?”

I wasn't yet connecting the dots, but with further explanation I realized that these drugs could only be administered and supervised in a psychiatric ward…or, the big house! I had to pick myself up off the floor. I would be the first to admit my depression over losing my health was not too good at all, but I was not insane!

There are many like me, going through a productive and happy life when the rug is suddenly pulled out from under them and they’re now faced with daily pain, cognitive issues, loss of jobs, and they can’t pay their bills. How would anyone react? The ripple effects would undo most. As I said, many in the Lyme community face depression, some to a great degree.

If this worked it would benefit my everyday life and dealing with this stuff. The hospital would be the safest place to try so I agreed to spend some time there.  

I kept looking out the window and longing to breathe in fresh air...hug a tree...something! There were some moments when, through meditation classes there, I gained some important insights, but throughout I was very aware why I was there and what was causing my depression. It was because of the Lyme and what it had physically done to my mind. I think most would be on the same page. In addition to the physical reasons for my depression and anxiety, I had been having difficulty thinking clearly and dealing with physical pain, on a daily basis, for years.

The confinement gave me a new perspective and better appreciation for out there!  I reacted badly to all the anti-depressants I tried, but I have never done too well with medications in general. Still, I had to try, but I didn't find the hospital and medications were very helpful. Everyone is different and needs different approaches. I would never want to discourage anyone from trying what I did, just because it didn't work for me. I've heard and am told that it does help some. This should be a decision between each patient and their doctor.

Although I did not meet Nurse Ratchet (a la One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), this chapter in my life inspired many a cartoon. Again, good or bad, I find humor in the smallest of corners.

What has helped you the most with that depression?

In regards to my depression, it’s still there, but it is what it is. Frankly, I know that I have Lyme and have to find my way through this. I think of it as part of the journey. Not a particularly nice part, but an experience that I must get through for myself and for my family.

It is important to have a purpose, aside from family. One must keep themselves involved. I choose the cartoons and making people happy, if only for a minute.

Are your pieces for sale to the general public?

For the last two years all of my work has been given away to raise funds and awareness. I have been asked to do signed prints for a Governor and Congressman and to help spread the word in the medical field and others about Lyme disease. Like so many of us, this has affected my job and income situation…which is to say that I have none at this point. My wife has been carrying the load for my family for some time now.

I have, with help of a co-founder from Inanna House, just finished a manuscript and we are seeking a publisher for my first book of Lyme Loonies cartoons.

I've often thought about where we are in history with Lyme disease right now versus twenty, thirty years ago--how many are falling ill, the science, the politics and what it will be like ten years down the road from now regarding Lyme. There is more to be learned and written about to add to the plethora of books out there. However, the last time I checked, this would be the first and probably the last cartoon book on Lyme disease unless someone else steps up to the plate.

At this point proceeds from the book will go to Inanna House with another possible contribution in mind. In the meantime, I will do what I can to keep up the laughs!

I can’t thank David enough for his time, his humor, and his sharing. 

Learn more about David Skidmore in Inanna House’s Lyme Artist of the Month series. Find David on Twitter @LymeLoonies, and Facebook.

We excitedly await David's first book!

Read PART 1 The Evolution of
Lyme Loonies

Access both pieces plus ALL
Voices of Lyme on the Main Site.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I had a Fibro Garbage Can. How about you?

Before I knew I had Chronic Lyme Disease I was, like many of us, diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and I thought that was my primary problem. I tell you that so that I can tell you this:

One Saturday, somewhere between the Fibro diagnosis and the Lyme diagnosis, I spent a full day with excruciating pain on the right side of my abdomen; pulsing pain emanating from what I was sure must have been my gallbladder. I was used to being told by doctors that my gallbladder was causing my recurrent pain only for them to recant (and drop it) when no ultrasound could find a reason.

I spent the day trying to get comfortable, trying to convince myself it was gas, taking over the counter pain medicine, and refusing to complain one more time about this same, stupid, un-diagnosable pain. This was getting embarrassing. I kept telling myself it would pass.

By the time my husband got home from a weekend event at school I was exhausted from hurting, and I was scared. “Please take me to the ER," I asked. "I think something is really wrong and my gallbladder might burst.”  We spent the next several hours in the local ER, waiting for a doctor. Nurses took my blood and asked about my health history, which at that point was rather boring – well, except for the unexplained deafness in one ear, and the intermittent crippling joint pain, and the constant sinus infections, and the Fibromyalgia. My companion for the day, gallbladder pain, had been with me for hours and was finally beginning to ease. About three hours after checking into the ER a doctor walked into my room with a clipboard, asked me a few questions, and poked around on my belly which was, by now, feeling much better. I was mortified by my lack of pain and felt pretty sure they’d make me stop for a complimentary hypochondriac tattoo on my way out of the building.

“Your blood-work is great. It’s not your gallbladder. You can go home now,” and as he walked away he said something like “Maybe it has to do with that Fibromyalgia thing.”

Clunk. He threw my full day of agony onto the pile in the Fibro Garbage Can, topping the heap of so many other problems I’d been having over the last year or so that no one could figure out. I got dressed and my husband brought the car around. I cried all the way home wondering how this pain was not my gallbladder. It was in the right place for gallbladder, on the right side where all the ultrasounds had been taken. I wondered how this could have anything to do with Fibromyalgia, and I kept thinking about the Dr. who told me I had Fibro.

“It’s not progressive,” he said. “You won’t get any worse,” he assured me. 

This couldn't be that, then – it would mean he was wrong and I needed him to be right. I needed something that made sense, but the Fibro can was filling fast. Every time something new happened the doctors would say the same thing. “Maybe it’s the Fibromyalgia” and they never looked any further. They just threw it in the Fibro can. I wondered how they could be so UN-curious.

After we were home for a while the pain returned, only this time less severe, and on the left. I rolled my eyes in disgust as my humiliation for having wasted everyone’s time churned in my gut and came out in hot redness on my cheeks.

“Sorry Honey,” I said to my husband. “I guess the ER guy was right. It must be the Fibro because it can’t be my gallbladder. I hurt on the left side now.” I conceded to Fibro. Why fight it? This obviously wasn't my gallbladder. Maybe the doctor called it right.

“I’m just glad you’re okay and don’t need surgery.” He gave me a hug and suggested I crawl into bed and get some rest. That was the best idea I’d heard all day.

Do YOU have a "Garbage Can" where doctors toss in the things they don't understand? Talk to me. Do other patients with invisible illnesses struggle in disbelief over what I call the Garbage Can?

Photo from Microsoft clipart.
To learn more about Lyme Disease and other Tick Borne Diseases please visit