By Jenny Menzel, H.C.
To say my healing journey involved traveling a tangled road would be a gross understatement. In a time when high school graduates spring to college, enjoy frivolous fun, and begin building their identities, careers, and relationships, I embarked on an 18-year battle with the medical community, seeking the cause and cure for my unrelenting body pain and fatigue.
After turning 26, I was oddly elated when I tested CDC-positive for a condition that made the eight-year mystery make sense — Lyme disease. But even after two years of allopathic treatment and slow wins with seven more years of self-led natural therapies, the effort to win the war took its toll. Initiated by a Lyme relapse in 2017, I accrued a coexisting diagnosis — complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD).
Because Lyme went undiagnosed and untreated for so long, I was left with what modern medicine calls irreparable damage, or diagnoses unrelated to Lyme: arthritis, adrenal fatigue, digestive dysfunction, depression, and anxiety. As the opioid epidemic restrictions ensued, the opiates enabling me to be a productive worker became another source of pain, rather than the relief they were originally prescribed for. My ability to manage pain and fatigue symptoms dwindled along with my hope that I’d ever be healthy enough to excel in my chosen career, fall in love, or start a family — all the milestones of adulthood.
Upon writing a few ProHealth articles about Lyme disease and my own success with naturopathic therapies, I ventured into writing about longevity, nootropics, and, eventually, CBD. Like most people, I knew little about cannabidiol (CBD), and I didn’t like “getting high.” Eventually, I learned that not only is CBD incapable of causing a psychoactive response, but it actually inhibits it.
The more I learned, the more I was excited to include CBD in my daily routine. While it may not be a silver bullet for Lyme or the type of trauma that comes from dealing with a chronic illness, CBD is proving to be a comforting companion as I seek and create brighter roads on my healing path. Here’s how:
How CBD Helps Me Manage My Lyme Disease Symptoms
1. CBD Helps Me Relax.
Jaded by spending thousands of dollars on failed therapies, CBD was just another remedy I assumed would fail as well. But my mind changed after a friend offered me CBD gummies she claimed helped her. Who doesn't like gummy bears? Not me. So, I snacked on a small handful, giving it no further thought — until I noticed an unexpected calming effect. I felt more than just my mood relax; my muscles relaxed, too. Muscle tension is a common symptom for those with late-stage Lyme disease. CBD works on receptors in the limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for regulating our stress response and emotions. Studies show CBD works bidirectionally — reducing fearful memories when strong fear conditioning is present and supporting memory recall when fear conditioning is weak.
2. CBD Eases Inflammatory Pain.
Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections create an inflammatory immune response that, for some, never completely turns off, even after the invader is eliminated. Whether it’s due to a cytokine storm, bio-toxins, or persistent infection, inflammation causes a slew of symptoms, including brain fog, body pain, and digestive unrest. I find that pairing CBD with other anti-inflammatory supplements like omega-3’s, turmeric, and ginger balances my gut and quells the fiery body pain that comes and goes as life fluctuates. With less inflammation, I’ve been able to slowly introduce exercise back into my routine — a common challenge for those struggling with adrenal fatigue due to chronic stress.
3. CBD Helps Me Focus.
Once I ditched opioid medication for pain relief, I noticed my ability to focus was flimsy. According to the Brain Injury Association of America, long-term opioid use for chronic pain can lead to brain impairment in the frontal brain regions that impede memory, attention span, planning ability, learning new skills, and decision making. The chronic disruption to my dopamine levels left me depleted, depressed, and unmotivated for months following the discontinuation of pain medications. After incorporating brain-boosting CBD alongside supportive nootropic vitamins, I felt a subtle synergy, allowing me to better retain information and process emotions more calmly.
4. CBD Helps Me Sleep Better.
I've rarely struggled with an inability to sleep. However, in times of uncertainty, I found I'd more easily wake panicked from nightmares sparked by traumatic memories. While I notice more sleep benefits from CBD when taken consistently before bed in moderate doses, sometimes I can get short-term relief from acute feelings of anxiousness by using high-dose CBD to fall asleep. Research tends to agree: A 2016 study showed evidence that CBD acts as an effective therapeutic remedy for sleep disturbances triggered by traumatic events. I find the most relief when I combine CBD with other grounding practices like deep breathing, yoga, and even brain exercises like Elevate or reading fictional content for distraction.
You don’t need to have suffered from long-standing complex trauma or a complicated multi-systemic illness to find relief with CBD. If you feel stressed by life, CBD may offer relief by balancing your system. If you’re hesitant to try CBD or feel overwhelmed on where to begin, start by learning the CBD lingo. Gummies were my “doorway” into the CBD world, but now I incorporate both CBD oil and gummies. You may find a better delivery option for yourself. Keep an open mind, and be willing to experiment with different delivery options and doses. You may be just as surprised as I was to experience relief where none was expected.
- Nicholson AN, Turner C, Stone BM, Robson PJ. Effect of Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol on nocturnal sleep and early-morning behavior in young adults. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2004;24(3):305-313. doi:10.1097/01.jcp.0000125688.05091.8f
- Opioid use and brain injury: What happens when you don't die from an overdose? (n.d.). Retrieved March 12, 2021, from https://www.biausa.org/public-affairs/media/persistent-and-abusive-use-of-opioids
- Shannon S, Opila-Lehman J. Effectiveness of Cannabidiol Oil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Case Report. Perm J. 2016;20(4):16-005. doi:10.7812/TPP/16-005
- Song C, Stevenson CW, Guimaraes FS, Lee JL. Bidirectional Effects of Cannabidiol on Contextual Fear Memory Extinction. Front Pharmacol. 2016;7:493. Published 2016 Dec 16. doi:10.3389/fphar.2016.00493
Jenny Menzel, H.C., is a Certified Health Coach and branding specialist for various alternative healthcare practices, and volunteers her design skills to the annual grassroots campaign, the Lyme Disease Challenge. Jenny was diagnosed with Lyme in 2010 after 8 years of undiagnosed chronic pain and fatigue, and continues to improve by employing multiple alternative therapies, including Āyurveda, Chinese Medicine and Bee Venom Therapy.