Imagine suffering from range of ailments that totally controlled your childhood and thenhaving a psychotic breakdown at 18 that led to institutionalization. For Ally Hilfiger, now 32, that was the reality of the bulk of her childhood. When she was 7, Hilfiger was bitten by a tick, but not diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease until 19. For all those years in between, she had to deal with lyme disease symptoms such as severe fatigue, joint pain, difficulty retaining information, fainting spells, shooting pains, migraines, and serious anxiety attacks. No one could figure out what was causing her physical and neurological complications.
When she was filming for her MTV reality show, “Rich Girls,” Hilfiger’s decreasing ability to process information and retrieve words increased her anxiety and led to a two-month psychotic episode. Desperate, her dad, fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, had her taken to a mental institution. Hilfiger talked to WellBe about waking up in a psychiatric ward and the psychiatrist who saw through her symptoms and pointed her toward her eventual chronic Lyme diagnosis.
What Is Lyme Disease?
When Ally was first diagnosed, this is the questions she had to ask herself, and it’s not a very easy one to answer. Lyme disease is one of the most understood widespread diseases of the modern age. What we do know is that it’s transmitted by ticks, and lyme disease symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and skin rashes.
If it’s not diagnosed or treated early — as was the case with Ally — much more serious problems can occur (often referred to as chronic lyme disease). Undiagnosed and untreated lyme can manifest in a number of different ways, including joint pain, issues with the brain and nervous system, digestive problems, reproductive issues, and, you guessed it, disrupted function of the nervous system and brain. Yikes.
The Journey of Lyme Disease Treatment
After being diagnosed, Hilfiger was on and off of antibiotics for seven years—“It really did a number on my body and my gut and no one told me,” she told WellBe. Her life turned into a vicious cycle of feeling better on powerful drugs, but then having symptoms flare up intensely. Hilfiger tried a number of different styles of medicine and therapies but ended up in the hospital with a 48-hour migraine, where doctors discovered she had a brain aneurysm. That was a defining moment for Hilfiger’s path to recovering from chronic Lyme— “I knew I had to make some major, major changes,” she told WellBe. She and her now-husband moved to the Caribbean for three months, with the focus on keeping her toxicity levels low by removing stress, eating clean, and focusing on positive energy. This turned out to be the best lyme disease treatment she could’ve asked for.
In 2016, Hilfiger released her memoir, “Bite Me: How Lyme Disease Stole My Childhood, Made Me Crazy, and Almost Killed Me” and is now dedicated to educating the public on chronic Lyme disease.