Ally Hilfiger at day three of the 2007 Mercedes-Benz Fashion WeeWhen most of us think of reasons why a young woman might be committed to a mental institution, we rarely consider Lyme disease. Yet, that’s exactly what happened to Ally Hilfiger, the daughter of fashion mogul, Tommy Hilfiger.

After years of suffering, Ally was just 18 years old when she woke up in a psychiatric facility. Exhibiting manic behavior, struggling to speak in complete sentences, and showing signs of paranoia, she seemed to be spiraling out of control and her father made a last-ditch effort to save her life.

While she was growing up, Ally had been plagued by a number of unexplainable illnesses that worsened as she got older. Who would have guessed that her erratic behavior, nausea, and fatigue were caused by a tick bite she had suffered when she was just 7 years old? Unfortunately, she was not treated properly at the time and, ultimately, deteriorated over a 12-year span before finally being correctly diagnosed.

Today, in her early 30s, Ally has decided to share her story in hopes of raising awareness about the issue. She was inspired by becoming a mother, an experience that, she feels, has given her some valuable perspective. It’s been more than a decade since the fateful day when she woke up in the psychiatric ward of a hospital and, looking back, she is able to reflect on how her “worst nightmare” ended up being the best thing that has ever happened to her, despite the fact that she, initially, hated her father for having her committed.

Now, Ally hopes to help others recognize the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease which, in her case, included joint pain, headaches, severe nausea, disjointed speech, and, eventually, mania. She learned that, a person can seem perfectly healthy from the outside while suffering a slow and painful death on the inside.

When she thinks about how many years she suffered needlessly, Ally doesn’t feel sorry for herself. Instead, she says that she focuses on gratitude and the reality that things could have been worse for her in the end. Ultimately, she was diagnosed, successfully treated, and has started a family of her own. Fortunately, her father’s extreme-seeming actions paid off and have given her a future.

Ally Hilfiger’s book, Bite Me: How Lyme Disease Stole My Childhood, Made Me Crazy, and Almost Killed Me is now available at retailers across the country.

Get familiar with the signs, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of Lyme disease on the Centers for Disease Control website. If you, or someone you know, may be suffering from the effects of Lyme disease, seek help immediately. The earlier it is detected and treated the better.