It started in Lyme, CT. (You know where this is leading, yeah?)

Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses have posed a pandemic here on the Vineyard, but it’s a little like the subject of vampires in Colonial days: Everyone believed in them, but they feared to discuss the subject. It was strangely taboo. So instead they took action, and disinterred suspected blood-suckers, but let’s not get into that . . .

The fact is, properly diagnosed or not — tests for Lyme are notoriously inaccurate — many of us on the Island believe we’ve either had Lyme multiple times, or we suffer from “Chronic Lyme” (I’m putting that in quotation marks because a lot of docs don’t believe in the validity of this diagnosis) that comes and goes. Some of my friends on Facebook have weighed in with their experiences in the past few days:

Tara Larsen: “I was diagnosed with Lyme in October for the fifth time!”

Island poet Lee H. McCormack wrote: “I have been dealing with Lyme since the end of the ‘70s, and I have had it again and again.”

Abigail McGrath: “I have Babesiosis now.”

Barbara Beichek: “I’ve had Lyme twice, plus Babesiosis! And I have been lethargic lately.” Barbara is also taking naps, which is uncharacteristic for her. “Wondering if I have it again?”

To Barbara I wrote back that I too had suffered Lyme twice, Babesiosis once (discovered six days before my wedding in October 2009. Dr. Larsen at the hospital asked me if there were anything stressing me at that particular juncture. When I volunteered I was getting married on Saturday, he could not stop laughing, and anyone who knows Dr. Larsen also knows that this is uncharacteristic for him.)

In any event, I told Barbara that I, too, was now experiencing a flare-up of Chronic Lyme or a new Lyme infection (no one — not any doctor or scientist or weed-whacking gardener in West Tisbury, is certain how this works), and that maybe she, Barbara, and I, should visit the doc together in a two-for-one deal? She replied, unable to resist the pun, “It’s worth a shot!”

David Whitmon chimed in: “I had Tularemia in 1999, and spent a week in ICU.” He reminded me that a year later, in Chilmark, a man 10 years younger than David died of the same disease because he failed to seek medical help in time. David went on to explain that his Tularemia had invited interest from Homeland Security, or whatever we called it in those pre-9/11 days. “The U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. were looking into Tularemia as a biological weapon.”

Oh goody! Our government is constantly concerned for our welfare . . .

My Facebook friends provided all sorts of input on treatment:

Paulette Hayes, long-time Lyme sufferer, and originally a nurse in Australia wrote: “People have paid $1,000 up front for Lyme-literate docs; the Dr. Zhang herbal method ($380 a month for a minimum of 6 months); the Bruhner protocol (herbs only); Dr. Donta’s antibiotic RX ; combinations of the above; had all their metal fillings removed, saunas, massages, and [a number of these patients] are still not better.”

Indeed, a number of Islanders that I know personally have endured two or more years of continuous antibiotic usage.

Barbara B: “Doxy [doxycycline] is a killer! I developed HUGE blisters on my toes.” She added that she sat in a beach chair for hours, bathing her feet in saltwater.

Paulette H: “I tried the Toblerone treatment, but it didn’t work.”

There was some back-and-forth about us being alert for the tell-tale red bullseye rash that means, legendarily, that the tick has bitten and imparted Lyme.

Peggy Pinney: “I get a really good red blotch reaction to a Lyme tick bite, so I seek medication immediately. This is the one upside of having sensitive skin.”

Carolyn Thomas O’Daly: “I was told by a doctor that the immediate red blotch is an allergy to the tick’s saliva, not Lyme.”

Barbara B: “I’ve never had the bullseye!”

Carol Lashnitz: “I was told by Dr. Donta that a red blotch is not Lyme, but the body fighting it. It means that your immune system IS working.”

Is there anything we can learn from those hearty Islanders who’ve never known the fatigue, the [possible] Bell’s palsy, aching joints, and brain fog of fresh Lyme, and/or the above symptoms plus the potential for arthritis and fibromyalgia of the hypothetical Chronic Lyme?

No, those lucky devils replied, including these two with conflicting assessments.

Ginger Martin-Duarte: “I’ve never had Lyme, but then I’m not big on working in the yard.”

Colette Jensen (name changed to protect privacy): “No tick-borne illnesses in our family [a husband and two kids]. I’ve lived here for 45 years all the time. Dog sleeps on bed. No deer ticks I can’t see, or I notice the itchy spot. Mow 10-acre field regularly. Tons of deer in my area, see ‘em every day.”

It’s a relief to know that we can sleep with our pets or not sleep with our pets, and work in our gardens or not work in our gardens, and if we have an Appointment in Samara, well, we understand how that works . . .

And, in fact, my Facebook correspondents were, by turns, cheerful and philosophical about living with Lyme.

Tara L: “I’ve come to terms with the fact that the spirochetes [Lyme beasties] and I have to share the same body.”

Paulette H: “Lymies” (as we started to call ourselves on my Facebook wall) become “Oblivious to backing our cars into police vehicles, conducting the same conversations wandering around Cronig’s looking for the raw aisle, and wondering where we left the car? Or did we walk? And are we dressing like clowns because we really don’t notice?”

Carol L: “Maybe it’s not a blessing, but we don’t have to see it as a curse. Something will eventually disable us, kill us. . . So don’t stress. Do other things.”

And, finally the big question — with all these ticks waiting to bite us without any concern for their bad buggy karma — Is it worth living here?

Carol L: “So I’ve become reclusive. So so I have no energy. It could be worse, right? I could live off-Island!”

Seasonal visitor Chip Coblyn from Bethesda, Md.: “To paraphrase from W.C. Fields, I’d rather be on Martha’s Vineyard.”

And one final lovely, optimistic message from our correspondent, Collette J. who, you’ll recall, has never had Lyme, and was informed by a physician in Chicago: “Eat whatever you like, and a lot of, because if you get bitten in a fatty area, it’s very unlikely you will get Lyme, even if the tick is a carrier. Getting bitten on the tush is good.”

Ben & Bill’s is open!