When Doctors Don’t Listen

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An anthropologist with chronic Lyme disease has seen firsthand the perils of the Western world’s dysfunctional approach to treating misunderstood diseases.

As a doctoral student living in the leafy suburb of Brookline, Massachusetts, in 2015, I chanced upon a tick—a tiny vampire the size of a poppy seed—that changed my life forever and nearly brought it to an end.

After being bitten by the tick, I was plagued with full-body joint pain, muscle twitching, night-time seizures, cardiac abnormalities, depression, fatigue, and other neurological disturbances. Early on, this confluence of symptoms confounded doctors. Upon hearing my account, one neurologist shook his head. “That doesn’t make any sense,” he said, before suggesting that my caffeine intake might be responsible. I was told repeatedly by various doctors that the mysterious ailment darkening my existence was psychological in nature, most likely due to stress.

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