Genevieve Gorder Opens Up About Living with Lyme Disease: 'It's Important to Have Community'
The interior designer and TV personality explains that when she contracted the tick-borne disease, she was convinced that her life was over because she had been sorting through horror stories on the internet.
“When I first got Lyme, there weren’t a lot of people to talk to,” she says. “You’re just looking through the web and everything says you’re doing to die. Like I have a cold and I’m going to die on the web.”
But since going public with her health struggle, she’s found the best way to conquer it is to share her experience.
“Auto immune diseases are something that millions and millions and millions of people have that don’t really talk about it,” Gorder says. “But it’s important to have community for anything that feels difficult or hard to solve, whether it’s design or an autoimmune disease.”
“When we have a community is when we fix things,” she continues. “That’s when things start to get easier.”
She recently decided she wanted to be an advocate for those living with the disease, and event partnered with pest control company Terminix on a new Tick Defend System to help guard homes against seven common tick species in America. During the month of May, which is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, Terminix will donate 10 percent of proceeds from the service to the Global Lyme Alliance.
Lyme disease is a potentially debilitating infection caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, and is transmitted through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick.
“For some people, Lyme is easily treated but for others this disease is devastating,” says Linda Giampa, executive director of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation. The CDC has also documented cases in which Lyme has been fatal. (Find more information on diagnosing lyme disease and its symptoms here.)
Gorder, who says her Lyme has thankfully been dormant for years, has also dedicated herself to being open about her own symptoms and diagnosis with her fans.
“I want to be a resource that feels like, ‘Hey, I’ll get honest information,'” she says. “It’s what I’m doing and how I’m dealing with it. It’s not necessarily what works for everyone else because we’re all a different bevy of ingredients.”
For Gorder, part of raising awareness is for people to understand how Lyme is contracted and how to protect yourself from getting it. She explained that one of the most common misconceptions about the disease is that it’s only contracted by walking through the woods, when in reality, 75 percent of cases are contracted in people’s yards.
“I live in Manhattan and I have Lyme,” she explains.
Gorder is currently gearing up for the premiere of her show, Best Room Wins, which she previously compared to Project Runway, but instead of a fashionable outfit, the competitors will be designing an entire room on a budget.
WATCH THIS: Genevieve Gorder Hosts Best Room Wins on Bravo, Premiering May 1
Each episode of Best Room Wins, which premieres Wednesday night, will challenge two top interior designers to create “luxury looks for less” in a real couple’s home, according to a release from Bravo. Gorder will judge the designers in alongside Elle Decor Editor-in-Chief Whitney Robinson and a rotating guest judge.
Much like Project Runway, Gorder’s new show will involve an impressive lineup of rotating guest judges, including Jonathan Adler, Million Dollar Decorators alum Kathryn M. Ireland, Kardashian design guru Martyn Lawrence Bullard, original Queer Eye cast member Thom Filicia, Kaley Cuoco’s decorator Jeff Andrews, Jamie Bush, Molly Sims, Jason Wu and India Hicks.
The competing designers will have $25,000 to transform one room — a huge sum compared to Trading Spaces’ current $2,000 budget. (During the original run of the TLC show, designers only had $1,000.)
Gorder, who married boyfriend Christian Dunbar, 46, in Morocco in August, previously told PEOPLE that her participation in the Bravo series is the reason she would not be returning to Trading Spaces for season 16, which premiered on HGTV and TLC March 16.
“It was not my decision at all,” Gorder told PEOPLE exclusively in February. “I had a previous series already scheduled for the same time that we were going to shoot Trading Spaces. So the only thing that happened was just a schedule conflict.”
Gorder also said at some point she hopes to return to the show, telling PEOPLE: “I always want to do Trading Spaces until the day I die.”
Best Room Wins premieres Wednesday, May 1 at 10PM ET/PT on Bravo.