“There was a lot of internal learning to do about myself,” she says of her struggle with the tick-borne illness

By Emily Strohm
September 15, 2017 08:25 PM

After an excruciating five-year battle with Lyme disease, Yolanda Hadid is finally in what “feels like recovery.” While she’s regained her life, the former Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star is more dedicated than ever to helping others by sharing her story.

“There was a lot of internal learning to do about myself,” she tells PEOPLE of her struggle with the tick-borne illness. “I’m such a fighter that I used to keep getting up and doing my thing. I had to surrender to what was going on in that moment, which was I needed rest.”

In 2012, Hadid, 53, was first diagnosed with severe, chronic neurological Lyme disease after a Belgium doctor discovered an active infection in her brain. Despite antibiotics, her condition drastically got worse and symptoms like joint pain, exhaustion, insomnia and anxiety plagued her daily life. Simple things like answering an email became difficult and her fatigue was so severe walking from the bedroom to the bathroom was nearly impossible.

“Once you get an answer it’s like the light went on and I said, ‘See!’ I told everybody I have an infection in my brain and they were looking at me like I was crazy,” she says. “But I knew. Once you hear a diagnosis that explains what’s wrong with you, you have clarity.”

For some people, Lyme disease is easily treated — but for others, the disease can be devastating.

“As difficult as these past five years have been, I am so grateful that this journey has led me to living in the light,” she says. “I have had it all and lost it all, only to realize that less is more, money can’t buy you health or happiness, and one day at a time is good enough.”

For more on Hadid’s struggle with Lyme, check out her new memoirBelieve Me: My Battle with the Invisibility of Lyme Disease – out now.