Author Porochista Khakpour on New Age Treatments for Lyme Disease, and ‘Mind Over Matter’

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As someone who’s twice been diagnosed with Lyme Disease, I’ve read an awful lot about it. The more I read, the more confused I am; for every long, boring article about antibiotic treatments, there are two or three about widely varying alternative cures.

The Last Illusion author Porochista Khakpour has been living with Lyme for years. In the summer edition of Virginia Quarterly Review, she catalogs her quest for relief, from one holistic healer and quack to another, while shunning Western medical approaches most of the way.

(When you’re done reading, go check yourself for ticks.)

…It began with my mother’s friend, who had just started an acupuncture business in Los Angeles. She tested my pulses and heard me and laid me out and, as usual, the needles felt good to me. One day I burst into tears, frustrated at my slow progress. “My darling,” she said, “the progress is all in your mind—you know you don’t have an illness, right?” She told me to focus on breath and prayer daily and sent me a few dried exotic Asian fruits that would calm the psyche…

…Then I called a company that got people off Western meds—a front for Scientology, I later discovered—which convinced me during a phone consult that I was a benzodiazepine addict who had ruined my own life but said, “Don’t worry we deal with many VIPs like yourself who have taken a bad turn.” They sold me very expensive bottles of sour-cherry juice (insomnia treatment) and whey powder (glutathione nutrient builder) to start taking as I reduced my Western meds…

…I talked to a psychic who said there were dead people around me jealous of me and I had to burn sage and say a mantra and eat only red things if I could from now on.

I talked to a hypnotist who said my father was the problem and who did exercises to erase him from my consciousness. “But I live with him,” I argued, “I’ve moved back home.” He’d shut his eyes and say, “He is gone he is gone he is gone.”

…I went with a few friends, a young aspiring writer and her cancer-survivor mom, to their beachside “church”—“a spiritual center and community” that had been established in the 1980s—a group I’d heard of but never knew anything about, and watched their handsome charismatic dreadlocked leader sermon about “New Thought” spirituality as his wife played on the piano, and how over and over they’d healed the ill through prayer—reversed cancers even—and how the duty of each person was to be as wealthy as they could. They did many songs and everyone swayed and sang and clapped, and at one point they made first-timers stand and they all welcomed me with glazed eyes. It bothered me that even though I always sought multiracial atmospheres, here all I could think of was footage of Jonestown as I struggled to sing along. I never went back, of course.

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