Debbie Gibson reveals how Lyme disease horror turned her life upside down
The eighties ‘Only in my Dreams’ singer, 48, was diagnosed after developing food intolerances and becoming confused with everyday tasks
Pop star Debbie Gibson had been feeling unwell for months,
but it wasn’t until she became confused while driving to the shops that
she knew she needed to get to the bottom of her health issues.
was at a stop sign in my home town and literally didn’t know if I was
turning right or left, but I was aware enough to know I didn’t know,
which was really scary,” says Debbie, 48.
1980s teen pop star got her start in the entertainment industry at the
tender age of five, and had hits like “Only in my Dreams,” “Shake Your
Love” and “Foolish Beat” before even graduating from high school.
But it was in 2013 and Debbie had been experiencing unpleasant health problems for around nine months, developing intolerances to foods including sugar, starch and caffeine, as well as nerve and muscle issues, chronic fatigue, stress and anxiety.
“I couldn’t focus, read or watch TV. I was in this state of
confusion. Whatever was wrong, it had really started to take a toll on
my brain,” says the Only In My Dreams singer.
She saw doctor after doctor before Lyme disease, a debilitating tick-borne infection, was eventually diagnosed.
had been tested for everything under the sun, though it had not
occurred to me, or my West Coast doctors, to test for Lyme, which is
typically an East Coast thing,” says Debbie, who lives near Las Vegas.
“It is an elusive disease that disguises itself as many other things, and creates a lot of pain and discomfort.”
For Debbie, who never developed the telltale ‘bull’s-eye’ rash that
often presents at the time of the bite, Lyme has manifested itself in
numerous ways, including migraines, night terrors, numbness, tingling in
her extremities, as well as having a debilitating effect on her spine
the body, the spine really breaks down, so I was dealing with
vertebrae going out and it wasn’t from injuries, it was all from my
“My ankle will become painful and I think, ‘I didn’t do
anything to it’ but you just find with Lyme that a lot of things get
“I’ve had to deal with digestive issues too,” says the
singer, who is finally well enough to get back on the road and will be
touring the US with fellow 80s acts Tiffany, Salt-N-Pepa and New Kids On
The Block this year.
“My adrenal glands [which produce hormones
such as cortisol which regulates metabolism and helps you cope with
stress] start misfiring and speed things up too much.
literally ate a hamburger before bed last night and I woke up lighter,”
says Debbie, who came in for a lot of criticism on social media for her
rapid weight loss before revealing her health battle.
diagnosis, Debbie’s doctors were never able to say whether her issues
were a result of a recent bite, or whether she was experiencing a
flare-up of a much older infection.
“Lyme can lay dormant and the
minute your life gets too stressful or your adrenals say ‘I’ve had
enough and need a break’ it can take over,” she explains.
having taken a course of antibiotics to deal with the infection, Debbie
is one of the unlucky sufferers who continues to have problems years
She is far from alone.
Former England rugby captain Matt Dawson last year revealed he had
undergone multiple heart operations after he was bitten by an infected
tick in a London park in 2016, while fellow singer Avril Lavigne
admitted being bedridden by the disease and Shania Twain claims it
almost ended her career.
Kelly Osbourne and Ben Stiller have also spoken about their experiences following tick bites.
Debbie, who is now over the worst, has to accept she can’t work at the same rate as she used to.
“Lyme has given me a wake-up call,” she says.
“For me, the days of being a teenage pop star running a race are over and it’s such a feeling of freedom.
“Now I am only going to do what pushes my boundaries within a healthy limit.
“I also don’t want to prop myself up on medication because eventually that backfires.”