Saturday, November 11, 2017

Lyme Brain

This blog is an update to my previous blog Levaquin with a Twist of Lyme. You can read that blog HERE if you haven't already.


Six Weeks Later (November 2017):


I finished the Doxycycline towards the end of September, started a regimen of vitamins (as "prescribed" by my doctor) and started improving for a period of a few weeks. Feeling better, I started doing some video work in Boston, which apparently put too much stress on my body and my health started going downhill again. 


This downward spiral started on one particular night where I suddenly felt as though I was losing my mind. It's very difficult to explain the sensation but it felt like something was literally trying to suck my brain out of my head. I also had this weird feeling of dreaming while in an awake state. Every action in my waking life vaguely reminded me of a dream that I felt like I'd just had but I didn't really just have because I had been awake for more than 12 hours. To put it another way, I would say that I had a constant feeling of deja vu and the natural response to a deja vu is for your mind to retrieve the "memory" that you're vaguely remembering. My problem was that I could never retrieve this memory, mainly because it never existed in the first place.


Along with the deja vu's, my short term memory seemed impaired and I had the worst case of brain fog I think I had ever experienced. I could hardly concentrate on anything. Simple tasks like reading a news article, watching TV or even cooking fried eggs became very difficult for me. Again, it literally felt like I was losing my mind or at least becoming mentally handicapped. I think it was a taste of what dementia felt like. And I did not like this taste. It was terrifying.


I survived through that night and, although the deja vu sensation grew less intense, it still lingered throughout the next couple of weeks along with the short term memory problems and especially the brain fog. I managed to do some research on the Internet and stumbled upon a phenomenon known as "Lyme brain", which is essentially stage 2 of Lyme disease, the stage immediately following the fever/flu-like/joint pain stage. Stage 2 is a neurological stage. Your brain and nervous system are affected. Every symptom I was experiencing sounded like this Lyme: Stage 2. What did this mean, then? Did I still have Lyme? 


Or was the Levaquin still a factor? Upon doing more research, I learned that every symptom I experienced also resembled symptoms relating to fluoroquinolone toxicity. 


But, no maybe it wasn't the Levaquin, either! Upon doing even more research, I realized my symptoms also could have been Candida die-off. What's Candida? It's a fungal problem that results from taking too many antibiotics that kill off your body's good bacteria. Brain fog and mental confusion were two big Candida symptoms. I, of course, took a shit-load of antibiotics -- Levaquin, Doxycycline, even the steroids I took are known to exacerbate fungal problems. Maybe I had Candida!


Aside from all the mental symptoms, my physical body started feeling more and more 'off' again, mainly fatigued and toxic-feeling, kind of like there was poison in my blood. Again, these feelings could have been attributed to Candida die-off...OR fluoroquinolone toxicity...OR Stage 2 of Lyme. It was impossible to pinpoint the root-cause of my problems.


My physical unraveling of health lasted about two weeks and, finally, on a Friday afternoon, I got to the point where I could barely even walk, and I'm not talking exercise-walk; I mean I couldn't walk, period. I was so off balance, uncoordinated, dizzy and my muscles felt so weak. I also had the worst case of anxiety I'd ever felt, kind of like there was something pushing an anxiety button inside of me. No matter what I did, I could not calm down. I had no control over it. All this anxiety completely killed my appetite. I could hardly get any food down.


Since walking was such a chore, I basically stayed put on the couch all day and I was so depressed because it seemed like any progress I'd made had, for whatever reason, been reversed. Not only was I back to square one but I was worse than I had ever been throughout the whole 3-4 month Lyme experience. 


At this point, I was literally coming to terms with the fact that there was an extremely good possibility that I was going to die. In fact, I was literally getting myself death-ready, tying up little loose ends in my life as best I could. It was the most -- pardon my Spanish -- fucked-up feeling in the world, thinking that you're living out the last few days of your life. What saddens me is that many people out there must experience this feeling all the time, whether they've been diagnosed with cancer or some other disease, or maybe they're being held hostage or they're a prisoner of war etc. You can't fully understand how fucked-up a feeling it is until you experience it first-hand. Staring right into the eyes of death, seeing the Reaper drooling over your soul, eagerly anticipating the act of taking you out of this earthly dimension...okay, maybe I'm being a little dramatic but, yeah, it's so messed up.


Anyway, I was just about ready to let it happen, to let death take me away. But I wanted to have one last conversation with God. And this is what I said to Him:


I said, "God, if this is the end, then I accept it. I just want you to know that I really want to live. I realize I've been a schmuck and I've taken both my health and my life in general for granted. I've never been happy in the present moment. I've always been dwelling on the past, or thinking about the future, but I've never been in the present moment. There were countless moments where I would be walking outside or running in the woods with an energized, healthy body, and I've never knelt down to the dirt, felt that dirt in my hands and said, 'This right here, this dirt I'm feeling and this air I'm breathing...this is good enough. This is good enough right now.' I never did that and I'm so stupid for never doing that. Health, life, the present moment...it was all overlooked, all taken for granted. Please, God, please give me a second chapter to appreciate the present moment. I may not deserve it and I understand if that's the case, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask."


I sat still for a moment and let the prayer sink into the cosmos. I started thinking that, if I DID, indeed, end up living (which I genuinely thought was unlikely), this was maybe all a blessing in disguise. Maybe I couldn't appreciate the present moment until I saw what it was like to have that present moment taken away from me. I felt ashamed that I needed to have my present "destroyed" in order for me to appreciate it. But maybe that was the only way. It's our human nature to take things for granted. We don't know what's right under our nose until it's removed from us.


Honestly, I didn't think my prayer to God was going to make a difference, not because I thought God would ignore me, but because I thought my fate was already sealed. Maybe I wasn't thinking very clearly and, trust me, I WASN'T, but I thought it was more than likely "my time" and I unfortunately wouldn't have a second chance to live more in the present and appreciate the oxygen under my nose and the dirt that's beneath my feet.


But, miraculously, I started to improve. The anxiety lessened and I actually felt hungry, specifically for spaghetti, but at least I was hungry for something.


With spaghetti in my belly, I felt even better. Was this all a trick? More torture? Get my hopes up and then crush them all over again? No, I really seemed to be improving. Maybe I wasn't going to 'snuff it' after all.

Part of my improvement was triggered by a shift in my attitude. And this shift in attitude came from an unlikely place. While I was feeling oh-so-sick, I watched an episode of Stranger Things (season 2), which had just been released on Netflix for Halloween weekend, everybody was buzzing about the show, it was all the rage etc. I think it was in episode two or three (again, season 2) where Sean Astin's character, Bob Newby, describes a recurring nightmare he had as a child. A creepy man named Mr. Baldo haunted him in his dreams and Bob was always afraid of this man, ran away from him etc. But then he eventually realized that this Mr. Baldo in his nightmares fed off of his fear. So, in the next nightmare, he decided to stand his ground and tell Mr. Baldo that he's not afraid. Mr. Baldo backed down, boom, just like that. Bob never had another nightmare with Baldo again.


While watching this scene, I heard a voice in my head say that the Lyme disease fed off my fear and I needed to stand my ground, tell that shit to fuck off, and then I would start feeling better.


Well, that's exactly what I did. I said (somewhat aloud), "Fuck off, Lyme disease! I'm not letting you kill me! I'm in control here, ya limey bastard, and I'm going to live!"


It sounds melodramatic but I felt much better when I said that aloud to myself. If you really think about it, Lyme disease (like any disease) is just a bundle of negative energy, like...like the Mind Flayer entity in Stranger Things (wow, the parallels keep presenting themselves). This negative energy wants to destroy you, that is its mission, and the best way to battle this negative energy is with positive energy. If you show fear, that fear only feeds the negative Mind Flayer that is Lyme and only makes it more powerful.


Now, I know what you're saying: oh boy, here's another dude saying "positive thoughts" can make everything swell. That's not completely what I'm saying. I still think you need the right medicine and vitamins etc. But all I'm saying is that positive energy can help change the momentum of a disease and, with the help of more practical things like the right doctors/medicine/vitamins etc., it can get a pesky disease like Lyme to fuck off, go back to its negative dimension in the "upside down" and, yes, I'm still using Stranger Things analogies here if you're not familiar.


Anyway, long story short, I've been doing better. I'm still nowhere close to being 100% better but I'm at least going uphill once again as opposed to downhill. My shift in attitude helped but I also revisited my doctor, altered my vitamin regimen and specifically focused on supplements that would help boost my liver function (more molybdenum but also alpha-lipoic acid and Tocotrieonols). Again, positive thoughts are helpful, but you still need to be practical as well; you know, you can't just sit in a room and think positive. You need to take practical steps to make yourself better but the positive thought helps steer you in the proper direction so you can better see those steps that need to be taken. Am I making sense here? I think I probably am.


As far as what my core problem is, the medical consensus (according to both my conventional doctor and alternative doctor) is that I do not have Candida and I do not have Lyme and, though the Levaquin still might be a problem, it's more likely that I'm simply being affected by -- not the Lyme itself -- but the damage Lyme left behind, hence the neurological, Lyme: Stage 2 symptoms.


But maybe the "damage" isn't the only factor at play. Like I said before, maybe the Lyme is not just a physical pathogen but a negative energy and that energy can destroy your body and mind just as severely as the pathogen itself. What I'm getting at here is that this is a spiritual battle between good and evil, positive energy and negative energy. I'm sure you think I'm nuts and I am probably being a tad dramatic here but I do feel there is some truth to what I say. The Lyme disease is the shadow monster in Stranger Things lurking in the "upside down" dimension using the Lyme as a gateway to invade my body, take it over and destroy it. That's what it feels like anyway, and, to some extent, I think I'm onto something here.


Either way, it's good to stay positive, folks. And don't take your health for granted! Don't take life for granted! Don't take the present moment for granted! When you're outside in nature, take a moment to smell the oxygen beneath your nose and also take a moment to crouch down and feel the dirt with your hands. Appreciate what's right beneath you.


Of course, showing appreciation for the present moment is easier said than done, no doubt about that. In fact, it's only been a week or so since I've been feeling better and already I've caught myself thinking too much about the past and/or the future. It's hard to stay present but I think it will be a little easier now since I've seen what it's like to have that present be on the brink of obliteration. Lacking the present (i.e. being dead) scares the crap out of me. I'm all set with death. For now, at least. Screw death, man. F that noise.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

GARAGE MOVIE - NOW ON AMAZON!

My new memoir GARAGE MOVIE: MY ADVENTURES MAKING WEIRD FILMS is now available for purchase on Amazon. Check out the latest episode of THE BURNZO VIDEOS (below) in which I discuss everything and anything GARAGE MOVIE. I also take phone calls from some very special fans!

Download a free sample of GARAGE MOVIE on Amazon today and read yet another free excerpt below!






(CENSORED, PG-FRIENDLY) EXCERPT FROM GARAGE MOVIE: MY ADVENTURES MAKING WEIRD FILMS

Gas was shot during the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college. After an entire year of not making a film, I had the itch again and, boy, I had the itch bad. I bet you’re asking why the itch was so bad. Or, ok, maybe you’re not asking, but what I’m saying is please ask, “Why?” 
What’s that? Why? Well, let me tell you:
See, that summer, I had landed an internship at Warner Brothers’ (aka WB) Boston news affiliate WLVI Channel 56, which, incidentally, no longer exists. On paper, I thought this prestigious internship would provide good video production experience for me and look great on a resume. In reality, the internship was boring as all hell! I’ve never confessed this before, but I did NOT like that internship, not one single bit. It was so dumb and half the time I was just killing time, trying to find something to keep myself busy around the newsroom. One of my dumb*** duties was to call a list of police stations in various Massachusetts towns and ask them if anything juicy was going down in their town—you know, something that I could maybe get a scoop on. Nothing was ever happening and that one time when something WAS going on? They weren’t at liberty to discuss it anyway. 
When I did actually have something important to do, I somehow managed to always f*** it up. I can’t tell you how many phone calls I transferred improperly. My very first day on the job I accidentally hung up on a lawyer my boss (the news director) was waiting hours to schedule an interview with. My boss was not happy with me, nor was the lead news anchor Karen Marinella who gave me a scowl so hairy that my self-esteem has never been the same since. 
Looking back on my time at Channel 56, I can only say two good things about it. The first thing is I sometimes took phone calls from celebrities, though, when I say “celebrities”, I should probably say “celebrity”. Yes, the one and only phone call from a celebrity I took was from the actor David Boreanaz who was the star of the WB channel’s show Angel at the time but now you may know him as the star of the hit TV show Bones. Truthfully, I had no idea who David was when I spoke to him on the phone and it wasn’t until after the call that I realized whom I had just spoken with. But I must say…he was super-nice, you guys. So, if there’s nothing else you get out of this book, please know that David Boreanaz is a super-nice guy!
The second good thing about my internship was when they did live shots in the newsroom. Trust me, you know what I’m talking about here. Live shots are when you see the reporter doing a report from the super-busy newsroom with super-busy reporters working super-hard in the background. Now, I realize what I’m about to reveal is tantamount to telling a child the Easter Bunny isn’t real, but all the busy-bee newsroom action you see in the background? It’s all bull****, kiddos. They’re putting on an act for you like background extras in a movie. I know this because I was once one of those busy-bee extras. I can’t tell you how much fun I had creating the illusion that I was a super-busy reporter in the background of live newsroom shots. I would alter my performance—just a liiiiiitle bit—every time and do something a liiiiitle bit different. Sometimes I would run from my computer over to my boss with papers containing “breaking news” when, in reality, the papers were blank, or, at best, one of the hundreds of press releases that got faxed into the station every day (yeah, sorry Bill of Bill’s Barbecue in East Mendonwick, MA., Channel 56 News wasn’t interested in your fundraiser for the local Boy Scout troupe, no matter how many times you faxed in your press release). Or sometimes I would just stay at my computer, scratch my head, look intense and then answer a pretend phone call. One time my boss and I even coordinated a football-esque handoff of a news tape that was totally blank. In other words, it was all razzle dazzle, man. One big show.
Anyway, my point here is that—live shot background action notwithstanding—my internship at Channel 56 was a boring waste of my time. To offset this non-creative, soul-draining internship, I felt compelled to do something extremely super-creative. What I’m getting at here is I wanted to make a new film. 
CUT TO: around the middle part of the summer. I believe I had just watched Steve McQueen’s movie Bullitt and I thought to myself, gee, I wonder if I could make some sort of a car chase movie with no budget and no professional stunt coordinator. I thought that, through careful editing, I could maybe, just maybe create the illusion of an exciting car chase. What did I have to lose? Nothing. So, I decided I’d give it a try. And, thus, Gas was born.
In terms of plot, Gas was about two teens named Fritz and Theo who are playing Mario Kart (Nintendo 64 version—the best version), Theo gets pissed that Fritz beat him, Theo says, "Wanna take this outside?" and then a real-life car chase ensues—not between Fritz and Theo, mind you—but between Fritz and Theo’s bodyguard played by my friend Jeremy. Reality mirrors fantasy and all that deep stuff that makes the blood flow into a film critic’s [censored version; purchase book on Amazon for uncensored version]. So, the car chase ensues, which eventually ends up in a foot chase; then, Theo’s bodyguard beats up Fritz in a riveting fight sequence but, then, spoiler-alert, Fritz ends up killing the bodyguard in a surprise twist ending. Sounds pretty cool, right?