By Carla Zarse
In 2003 I contracted Lyme disease while working on a horse farm in North Stonington, Connecticut. I thought I had properly treated it but it my body fooled me into thinking that a basic ten-day protocol of antibiotics would kill this evil bacterium. Five years later while living in North Carolina, a nymph tick bite me and I contracted Southern Tick Fever. I went from healthy and active to bedridden and burdened with fevers and joint aches. The Lyme came out of its hidden remission and it came back with a vengeance. It took its toll on my body, causing even the slightest noise to make me cringe in pain, and the lightest touch to cause an unbearable hurt. I went from an active and healthy woman to someone who remains bedridden and alone. I lost my career, my friends, and with each passing day, I lose a little bit more of my life due to this horrible disease.
Lyme disease has slowly turned my body into a crippled mess. My hands can no longer hold reins. Swollen joints and nerve pain that is indescribable are the center of my life. Daily activities such as making a cup of coffee can become a challenge. My body rejects all attempts to ride. The pain riding causes is not worth the short moments in the saddle any more. I am left at the sideline of life, looking out at the fields, watching my horses graze is as close as I can get now to my past love of riding. My mind has also started to fail. Words escape me, my short-term memory is almost gone and conversations with people end up as broken sentences and ‘brain fogs’. My dresser is full of pill bottles that are supposed to fight this disease but in reality, it has pillaged my body of any stamina and strength. I can no longer stack hay or do any manual labor. It is slowly destroying me from the inside out but thankfully this disease has not taken the many memories of my past.
No one sends you an email reading, “today will be the happiest day of your life… cherish every moment”. I wish someone tapped me on the shoulder when I was in the middle of the best times of my life. I never thought the cherished moments would end up as memories to hold onto when the rest of my life fell apart.
To pinpoint the best moment, the best day, the best of everything would be a true miracle. I would grab them and put them in a snow globe. I would shake them when times were bad, to watch the snowflakes glitter as they settled on the days I cherished.
Moments pass. Days drift into months and years. Our grip on the best times of our lives loosens as memories fade like an old photograph burned by the sun. I find myself looking back instead of forward. The “remember when’s” outnumber the “let’s do it”. Age and health issues creep without warning. In a way to save my sanity, I turn to my memories, the happy days, the healthy days, and I try so hard to lose myself in these memories because my reality is so hard to accept.
The day that I hang onto when the pain attacks my body and forces my mind to find solitude in a reality that no longer exist is just a few moments of a time long since passed. It was only 10 years ago. I was healthy and strong and my mind was sharp. I was riding Finn, my OTTB I had rescued from the track and rehabbed back to health. A big red chestnut that had become my everything, my soul mate, my savior of my sanity and depression; and my dog Montauk, my best friend and constant companion.
I cannot remember the date, or even the month. It was a typical summer’s day as I saddled Finn and prepared for a quiet ride through the many trails on the farm I was living at. At the time, if you had asked me, I would have said my life was miserable. I was broke, estranged from my family, and lost emotionally. My current family consisted of my horse Finn and my yellow lab Montauk. They were the ones that I could rely upon.