It was a Thursday in December 2014 and I had spent the day in a hotel room in an Embassy Suites in Irvine, California. I’d flown in from Virginia early that morning and spent the day and most of the evening preparing for a final interview for the CEO position at a national association, which would take place the following morning.
I put the last touches on a Powerpoint presentation that I would deliver to a search committee and executive recruiter. All that stood between me and my appointment as the next CEO of the National Investor Relations Institute was a good night’s sleep.
At 2:00am, I got a return visit from insomnia and, along with it, a healthy dose of anxiety. Doubt and fear crept into my mind. I would make a fool of myself. I would squander this opportunity simply because I could not get back to sleep. Something was wrong with me and I feared it was something bad.
At 5:00am, I finally gave up on the idea of sleep and rehearsed my presentation again, grabbed some breakfast, and got dressed. I arrived promptly at 8:30am for the interview and spent the next 90 minutes knocking the search committee’s socks off. Feeding off adrenaline I guess, I muscled through the anxiety and the sleep deprivation. I positively rocked the interview.
Because I was to stop in Las Vegas for a conference on the way home, I headed back to the hotel. Around noon, I got the call from the recruiter. The job was mine. She underscored the fact that there had been more than 150 candidates and that my performance that day was magnificent. She told me to celebrate and that I should be happy, excited, and proud.
But I wasn’t. Because I knew that something was wrong with me.
Despite what I’ve endured over the past three-plus years, I’m not, by my nature, a hypochondriac. I’d certainly begun to feel like one during the few months leading up to December 2014 as I’d headed to the doctor to recount a cascading sequence of symptoms that, in isolation, were diagnosed as acid reflux, gout, Vitamin B-12 deficiency, anxiety, arthritis of the neck, leaky gut, and gluten intolerance.
Three days later – at that conference in Las Vegas – the acute onset of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) would become my reality. So would memory issues, word recall, and what I could only describe as “brain fog.”
We lived in Herndon, Virginia, right on the border of Loudoun County, which is known now as Ground Zero for Lyme Disease. That one of the many doctors I saw over about a nine-month period didn’t even MENTION Lyme Disease is insane.
I could deal with the joint pain. I could deal with the constant cracking and popping in my neck. While insomnia and the resulting fatigue were not fun at all, that didn’t bother me that much.
The havoc that Lyme was wreaking on my brain, though, THAT was as uncomfortable and disconcerting of a feeling as anything I have ever dealt with.
As a person who effectively made a living with words, it felt like my world was crumbling beneath me. I had been funny. I had been witty. I prided myself on being the guy who could take a problem, create the ideas to solve it, and articulate my vision to persuade and lead people to execute on those ideas.
I had confidence. I had talent. And I had balance in my life with three great kids and a wonderful wife.All of that seemed to be in jeopardy. My brain was betraying me. And the more I searched for answers and got none, the more convinced I became that I would never get better.
Back to the doctor. How about para-thyroidism? Nope. Brain tumor? Nope. Diabetes. Nope. Early-onset Alzheimer’s? Nope.
“Hey, what about Lyme Disease,” I finally asked, this around April of 2015. Had I been bitten by a tick and seen a red ring around the bite? “Not that I remember.” Nope.
WRONG on so many levels, which includes that something like half of people who have Lyme Disease never remember a tick bite.
But it would take another 19 months before I would be diagnosed.