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Canaries in the coal mine

Written by Huib, published Friday June 23rd, 2017

In recent years, there has been an increasing attention in the media for Lyme disease, which makes more people aware of the fact that there is something very strange and scary going on. Would it be possible however that this disease also has something beautiful to offer, besides all the misery it causes?

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” Gandalf in The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

When I discovered ten years ago that Lyme was the probable explanation for a life of strange health problems, I had never heard of the disease. Looking back on my life, I began to understand the strange reactions of the professionals, who were supposed to give me a diagnosis and make me better. If doctors don’t know the answer to a medical problem, they apparently think it’s helpful to say or do very strange things. “I don’t know”, appears to be a difficult phrase in the medical jargon.

When a pattern of complaints varies in intensity and when they do not fit in an existing box, many doctors obviously no longer know how to respond. When I was young, I played soccer at a reasonably high level. Until I suddenly ended up in a wheelchair, after the muscles of my calves exploded. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong and they competed for the dumbest statement. The winner was the one who proposed to amputate my leg so that the pain would be over. Sure…

I can grin about this memory now, but back then I certainly could not. Because Lyme complaints almost always vary in nature and intensity, most of these specialists seem to think it’s “all made up”. Laymen tend to believe these experts. As did my history teacher, who tried to stop an ambulance that was supposed to drive me to a hospital because my leg had turned black. He loudly called out I was faking everything. If something doesn’t have a name, one’s imagination clearly runs rampant. I also realized my true friends kept thinking for themselves. Thus I experienced first-hand what I have turned into my current profession: creating understanding.


Misconceptions and insecurity lead to disregard and isolation of the sick. This creates a deep desire for understanding by their social environment. Understanding of an experience that can barely be expressed in descriptive language. Therefore, I put a ot of effort into influencing the relationship between the sick and their environment. I mainly do this through my book ‘Shifting the Lyme Paradigm’, which aims to provide insight and understanding, and on the other hand by mobilizing relevant knowledge on the website of the On Lyme Foundation and by undertaking political actions.

Why is the kind of language so important? Einstein stated that “imagination is more important than knowledge. Because knowledge is limited to what we already know and understand, while imagination includes the whole universe”. In case of Lyme, imagination can be of vital importance. I can therefore call my job in ‘Lyme-land’ my passion. Passion is, by the way, one of the least understood words in our modern language. Its origin is ‘survived suffering’ and not the modern ‘I feel great’ variation.

Metaphors trigger our empathy and compassion rather than our mind. Without them, you remain within the domain of what people already know. As an example, the same history teacher, who ran into me at a school reunion 25 years later. From a distance, I noticed how he was suddenly shocked by an insight he obviously gained. He approached me somewhat timidly and said: “But you didn’t fake it at all, did you?”

This incident touched me deeply for various reasons. It was as if he suddenly ‘saw’ me anew, and realized that I had not been faking anything, just to have an excuse to skip classes. But what struck me the most was that it affected him more than me. After 25 years he apparently still remembered and I saw how upset he was by his own discovery. I had always actually liked this teacher.

In the book, I mostly use the metaphor of travel companions on the Heroes’ Journey to help readers understand something that their hardly can contain. These include characters like Frodo in The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, with a touch of The Art of War. Just as Frodo would have never arrived at Mount Doom without his loyal friend Sam, and thus could have never started the illuminated Third Age for Middle Earth, Lyme’s Ring Carriers also need companions.

I’ve used this approach for the book, because I believe it’s more important for friends and family to first have an outlook on the grim landscape of ‘Lyme Land’ than to get 10 tips for powders or pills. Yes, the landscape is certainly grim, but there are also bright spots to be found and sometimes the absurdity of current ‘healthcare’ will even make you laugh.

The catalyst

What strikes me every day in ‘Lyme Land’ is the potential and beauty of a large part of this group of people. This beauty inspires a view I would like to further highlight in this article: the possible role of this group in the spiritual evolution of humanity today. Including the question whether Lyme, which is plagued by misunderstandings and controversies, could be considered as a training camp for this role.

To clarify this, I would like to quote an article by Laura Bruno, an American writer who I’ve discussed more extensively in ‘Shifting the Lyme Paradigm’. Laura had her first experience with Lyme when her then husband almost died of it. Thereafter, she assisted hundreds of Lyme patients and their immediate environment to find the way back to health, as an intuitive medical consultant.

She wrote in her article that she believes that the chronic form of Lyme’s disease tends to affect the people who have “big things” to offer to the world. These people often already seem to be on their path and often they excell in multiple areas at once, including the art of healing. The disease seems to appear in people who could even go deeper with their healing and artistic talents, but who for some reason feel trapped in their current living situation.

So to her, Lyme’s disease appears to be a “catalyst”, which forces people to dig deeper and to remove all blocks to creativity and healing powers. To the outside world, these people usually seem to have no blocks at all, because they are going through life so effectively. Until the bacteria invade and terrorize their immune and nervous system.

Three similarities

Laura tried to discover similarities between Lyme’s victims. She found three. Firstly, these people are brighter than average in both intelligence and spirit, they have healing gifts that need even more expression than currently allowed, they are highly creative, and were usually highly energetic prior to the Lyme fatigue.

Secondly, Lyme seems to appear when a certain anger is not expressed. The causes their self-love to not match the degree of love and blessings these folks spread into the world. The cause of anger may differ, but the anger seems to be a consistent factor in the many, many people with Lyme she has seen.

The third similarity is the disparity between all the love going out from these folks and the degree to which they allow themselves truly to receive nurturing and love without a sense of earning it or paying it back. Lyme folks tend to be major givers with high vibes before they catch the spirochetes. Lyme arrives as a chance — albeit a difficult one — to become one with all that love flowing through their words and deeds. It becomes a chance to experience their own love the way others experience it … to realize that the universe supports and loves them and wants them to shine even brighter than they allowed themselves to imagine before.

It is also important to mention is that Laura found no correlation with nutrition, education and the level of spiritual awareness. Both someone who has been doing yoga for twenty years as someone who has just got introduced to spirituality gets Lyme.

So there you are: “Great, I have a catalyst that is very good for my spiritual development!”

Canaries in the coal mine

Where Laura looked at individual aspects, I’d rather look at the group as a whole and its possible function for humanity. I have become very catious with telling someone else why something would happen to her or him. It’s up to people themselves to discover or decide if there is a higher purpose to their plight.

What fascinates me is whether these often beautiful, bright and yet very sick people as a group can have the function of ‘canaries in the coal mine’. In the past, these birds were sent into mine shafts to check if there was poisonous gas in it. When they returned, the coast was clear. And if not, well, you knew there was poisonous gas in the tunnel.

I see this happening to an (unimaginably large) group of gentle and gifted people who had no choice but to get well trained in giving up the collective blind belief that doctors are “our rescuers” in the field of health. People who had learned that most of their former friends, relatives and colleagues alienated from them or even blamed them for being ill. They had to deal with the fact that their government not only dropped them like bricks, but also label them as mentally ill or criminals.

I admire how they are looking to find their own paths towards healing and how they are experimenting on themselves to get better. How they cultivated acceptance, compassion, patience and perseverance. How they learned to deal with uncertainty and fear. In short: how they learned to let go of everything. For these types of lessons, many healthy people are willing to spend large amounts of money on self-development workshops and sabbaticals.

Increasingly, I feel that the fate of humanity may well depend on this group, if we really want the evolve to a next step in spiritual evolution. We can help by being better traveling companions for this group.

Understanding or tips 

What I especially do not hope is that because of this article Lyme patients will now be considered a new potential target audience of all kind of healers, coaches and therapists. To my mind, they often claim too quickly to be able to cure Lyme easily or come up with a variety of tips.

This often happens on Facebook, which is the only stage for many of the ill people to communicate with their social environment. Without deepening your understanding about Lyme, tips are not just nonsensical, but they often contribute to the feeling of isolation that is already present.

People who have been sick for twenty years on average are not so keen on suggestions for different pain relief medication, a next doctor or a cheaper fitness center when they are sharing their experience publicly. They are also not very keen on spiritual statements. I’m often embarrassed to see what people claim about others, without the willingness to understand the matter at hand.

Basically to me there is no difference between a doctor who claims to know what’s wrong with another (“it’s all in your head”, because I don’t understand it, but I call it a “Medically Unexplained Symptom”, because that sounds better) and a guru who argues that the other is still ill, because she or he is “not spiritual enough” and is offering to fix the soul connection.

The butterfly or the caterpillar 

I believe that ‘light working’ needs to be done in dark places, without claiming that you know it all or can even solve the problem. Perhaps, indeed, all that is given attention is growing. But by not giving enough attention, something may grow as weeds. What I find a useful metaphor for what is called the biggest hidden epidemic in the world is the metaphor used in the movie Thrive.

You can look at a transformation process from two sides: that of the hardening caterpillar or that of the emerging butterfly. The caterpillar is eating its fill; up to a hundred times its own weight. A caterpillar cannot be or do differently, because that’s his job in the process. A nice symbol for the sick or sickening systems, which can be seen by looking through Lyme from a social perspective? Systems like governments, insurances, sciences, the media and even Youth Care, but also often the social environment around the sick. Vulnerability exposes strange traits in many people with power.

The butterfly needs this hardening of the caterpillar to get strong enough to transform and fly. The pain of this transformation process remains the same, but traveling companions make these Hero Journeys a lot less lonely and deadly than they are now.

Huib Kraaijeveld

Author of Shifting the Lyme Paradigm and chairman of the On Lyme Foundation


“Shifting the Lyme Paradigm is a brilliant book that recognizes, explains and celebrates the power of imagination and friendship on the journey back to health. Having been married to someone who suffered from Chronic Lyme Disease, I can honestly say how much I would have appreciated this book to make sense of that time.

Having spoken and corresponded with hundreds of Lyme survivors and their loved ones through my intuitive healing work, I can also vouch for how beautifully Huib Kraaijeveld describes the often inexpressible suffering of those affected by Lyme. Despite its heavy (and important) topic, this book is a delight to read. The quotes, metaphors and love offer soft candlelight and warm campfire camaraderie on an often dark and lonely journey. I will definitely suggest Shifting the Lyme Paradigm to clients and friends!”

Laura Bruno, M.A.
 Medical Intuitive consultant, USA

This article was published in Dutch in the spiritual magazine Paravision and is published with permission on this blog in English, so more people can read it. 

drs. Huib Kraaijeveld

In: Blog Philosophy Inspiration Lyme Media Social

"This book perfectly describes the plight of millions of patients, who suffer from chronic Lyme Disease in many countries all over the world."
Prof. Christian Perronne, France

"This book is a gift of truth and passion to humanity."
Mia Morales, Lyme patient, USA

"I received the book exactly on the day that I had decided to end my life. Huh?! Yep. I am 35 years old years and have been ill for 19 years. Now I know why: Lyme. Everyone should read this book!"
Miranda, the Netherlands

"This book offers a new practical, human centered way of dealing with health information. It is also ringing a bell for the new time how to work together towards health and thriving."
Kim Schimmler, MD, Germany

"This pioneer's work made it perfectly clear that, when "i" becomes "we", even illness becomes wellness."
Frans Vermeulen, journalist, the Netherlands

"In his crucial work on Lyme disease, dedicated social researcher Huib Kraaijeveld does not pretend to have all the answers, but guides us towards asking the upsetting and essential questions."
Prof. Cees Hamelink, professor Communication Sciences & Human Rights, the Netherlands

"This book reads like a thriller! It touched me deeply and I am sure it will change the course of history."
Linda Graanoogst, journalist, the Netherlands

"Well, I am wiping my eyes and blowing my nose, while tears stream down my face. I guess that is a good sign. You hit the nail on the head claiming that Lyme survivors need 'understanding'. I would like my own partner to read this book."
Anodea Judith, PhD & author, USA

"What an awakening perspective! Huib has successfully set a quantum leap for understanding and managing Lyme disease by common people."
John Wong, bestselling author, Singapore

"A true and unpretentious caretakers' guide to understand Lyme. This book will help you to completely understand what your friend is going through; regardless of the symptoms they have. I wish it had been written ten years ago, because it can actually save lives!"
Cheryl Versalle, Lyme patient, USA

"This book actually speaks to people beyond its target audience (caretakers of people with Lyme Disease): people like me who are not travel companions, but to whom it is not hard at all to have or develop understanding and compassion. This makes the reach of this book bigger, much bigger if you’d ask me. I am amazed a book can do all of this!"
Saskia Steur, business blogger, the Netherlands

"This book reads like an exciting novel, were it not that it concerns a deadly serious issue. It calls to contribute and take care of each other and our world. Read, weep, feel and act!"
Manfred van Doorn, leadership expert, the Netherlands

"A creative and very intelligent vision to dive even deeper into the world of Lyme, to look at yourself, other people, but also the entire world around you."
Friend of someone with Lyme

"The book indicates that Lyme disease can be a sexually transmitted disease. This will cause a tidal wave of awareness all over the world. Like the child in the old fairy tale The Emperor’s New Clothes, who exclaimed: 'But the emperor is wearing no clothes!'"
Ola Aniel Petterson, STD campaign leader, Sweden

"What a brilliant sociological work! I am sure it will have much impact."
Professor Neuropathy, Germany

"This book is a big eye opener. Both for friends of people with Lyme disease as well as for people with Lyme. Or for any other health issues, for that matter."
Martin Möhrke, medical research leader, Europe

"I cannot read any other book for more than two minutes now, in this hell called Lyme. Yet yours I cannot stop reading! I should have put it away hours ago to clean the house. But I simply cannot stop."
Ineke, wife of a husband with Lyme, the Netherlands

"This book is a delight to read. It offers soft candlelight and warm campfire camaraderie on an often dark and lonely journey."
Laura Bruno, medical intuitive Lyme expert, USA

"A very honest and yet witty way of helping those with Lyme disease. This book is full of ideas on how to help your friend with Lyme, as a travel companion on this crazy journey called 'Lyme'."
Lisa Hilton, Lyme advocate, USA

"Both the personal experiences as well as the author’s sharp mind turn this into an incredibly inspiring book that raises the consciousness of its readers."
Kara, ex Crohn disease patient, the Netherlands

"Tempting, informative and eminently readable! Shifting the Lyme Paradigm is an absolute eye-opener for those who are not aware of what the journey of Lyme disease entails."
Terri Mackinnon-Cross, CEO WorldLymeDay.com, Canada

"This book gave us the recognition and acknowledgment, which were like a band-aid on an open wound."
Sara, Lyme patient, Belgium

"Very insistently written based on intensive, almost existential, personal experiences, this book also gives a clear overview of all relevant information for both patients and caretakers."
Jan Eendebak, former chairman Lyme Foundation STZ, the Netherlands

"A relief to read, written by an expert who shares his dedication to his own path with us, and brilliantly written."
Muna, mother of a daughter with chronic Lyme, the Netherlands

"Playful, frightening, informative and encouraging."
Merel, kinesiologist, the Netherlands

"This book made me realize that there is too little known behind the phenomenon Lyme. In a challenging manner the author provides understanding of Lyme disease and suggestions for tackling this disease. I have 'prescribed' this book to many of my patients and mostly astonishment was soon followed by recognition. An absolute must for anyone with (still) unexplained symptoms or the people close around them."
Duco Kanij, osteopath, the Netherlands

"This book guides you through the labyrinth of Lyme swiftly, while it took us YEARS to even get this far."
Eugenie van der Linden, ex-Lyme patient and therapist, the Netherlands

"This book is an absolute 'must read' for everyone! For patients, for family and friends, and for doctors who can finally learn that Lyme is more than what is written in their textbooks and that they should not be able to dismiss "unexplained" complaints as psychological too quickly!"
Anne Fierlafijn, MD, Belgium

"Shifting the Paradigm of Lyme is not like any other book on Lyme that I have read. It appeals to a higher consciousness, and is analytical in an introspective way that is pleasant to read. This book is a friendly and warm reminder that no Lyme patient is ever alone."
Thomas Grier, biologist, USA

"This book show how caring friends can intervene to provide succor and alliance ‘against the odds’ of a potentially serious and very complex illness that is still poorly understood by mankind."
Kenneth Liegner, MD, USA

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