Today’s post was going to be a general overview of the different subtypes of Dystonia. However as I’m more spasmy than usual this one will just be a quick look at how each day presents differently.
One of the complications of Dystonia is that even within the same type of Dystonia symptoms can dramatically differ from patient to patient, hour to hour. This results in making treatment of the condition especially complicated as there is no one hard and fast rule of treatment that works for everyone. What one person responds to may worsen another patient.
My body at the moment is a perfect example of this. When I was admitted to hospital on Sunday it was mainly my jaw spasming; which whilst not ideal is manageable. However for the last 24 hours my eyes, neck and back have all joined in, resulting in an increase in painful spasms leaving me struggling to independently remain upright and experiencing frequent dislocations.
Today’s most frequent spasms
This is when awareness of the condition becomes key. In hospitals it’s not unusual to see a different doctor each day, but this isn’t always a good thing. Yesterday’s doctor was extremely understanding of my situation and left me feeling upbeat, todays doctor left me gobsmacked after informing me that he just couldn’t understand why experiencing extreme spasms and dislocations is painful. It’s frustrating having to battle daily for appropiate pain relief and treatment but sadly this is the reality for many sufferers of the condition.
So, this is happening…Due May 2017.
As some of you may remember, a couple of months ago I blogged that I was off all my medications and was learning to cope without them. Many of you noticed that I was very vague with my answers as to why myself and my neurologist had made the decision to do such a thing. After all, I’m normally complaining about my treatment being administered late. At the end of the summer I had the biggest surprise when we found out that we are expecting our little boy! Whilst very exciting, this meant a frank discussion with my neurologist about the available treatment options now open to pregnant me. There have been very limited studies done on the medications that I take for my varying conditions in relation to the safety of them in pregnancy, so a decision was made for me to come off of all my treatments and we would judge where to go from there.
I am extremely lucky to have a wonderful neuro who doesn’t mind me/my local hospital inundating him with emails and phone calls as my body plays its usual tricks. Although my body has been misbehaving with varying spasms and dislocations, the pregnancy itself has been progressing well. Due to having a whole host of conditions that are on the rare side of things, I have been under the care of a specialist maternity unit. It’s been fascinating seeing how they respond and their treatment suggestions; and very positive, as for a change they understand one or two of my medical conditions.
Despite weeks of horrendous 24/7 sickness, a spell in the hospital due to my Dystonia going on the rampage and a whirlwind of further hospital appointments as my body learns new tricks, I have continued with my university studies and plan on continuing into my 3rd and final year after the baby makes his appearance.(Thank Goodness for a uni with a fabulous disability team and amazingly supportive lecturers).
I’m looking forward to blogging about Dystonia and Me’s, and bumps adventures.
Can you believe that today is the fourth birthday of Dystonia and Me? It is astounding just how much difference another year makes. My battle with Dystonia and my other conditions is one that for a long time I have felt I was drowning in. It has seemed like a constant tug of war, desperately trying to stay on top of my symptoms. For many years it seemed to me as if my little alien was always ten points ahead of me, and I was treading water trying to regain my lost control and catch up. Today I can quiet firmly say I am miles ahead of my alien, I am now basking in the peace of coping.
I’m not saying that I don’t have my down days, there are plenty of days when my spasms, seizures and dislocations just seem too much. However, what I am achieving makes those days worth while. In the last year I’ve completed my first year of uni, managed to live a life so full that it’s been beyond my wildest expectations for myself, I have been nominated for an award, interviewed several times by the BBC Three Counties, and I have had a blog post censored (which is why if you’ve been looking for the last one you have been unable to find it). I’ll let you guess as to which one of those I am most proud of.
When I started blogging it was to raise awareness of Dystonia, in a short period of time it has grown to encompass a whole host of conditions that I live with. In 2012 when I created Dystonia and Me, I had hoped a handful of people may read this site and learn something new that could have the potential to help others. I never expected this blog to become the lifeline that it is for myself. Blogging my experiences, good and bad, has enabled me to accept my complications and learn to love myself again. Through this blog I have come into contact with incredible people who I admire greatly.
If you had told me a year ago I would be writing this, I would have laughed. I was so caught up in my worries and excitement about starting uni that I never thought to think what could possibly lie ahead. Who knows what will happen in the next year!
This took place about a month ago. I normally don’t get too nervous on dates; I don’t see the point in getting worked up over them. This was the exception to the rule. My nerves however were not because of the guy I was meeting, but due to the fact he did not know that I was ill. It was the first time I had agreed to a date without informing the guy beforehand that I am a walking talking accident waiting to happen.
Ready for my date
We got off to a great start, sipping cocktails in my favourite bar. The conversation was flowing with ease, we laughed a lot and the odd pause was comfortable. Two hours in I found myself still unable to switch off to the fact he was unaware of my bodies failings. Several drinks later I finally worked up the courage to bring the topic to the table. My words were rushed as I stumbled over a brief synopsis of my conditions, my nerves reaching their peak.
His body language said it all, it was in complete contrast to his words. As I fumbled with my explanation he quickly went from leaning towards me holding my hand, to sitting bolt upright with his hands tightly folded in his lap. I pushed his posture from my mind, telling myself it was probably just due to the slightly uncomfortable nature of the wooden benches we were perched on. A ridiculous thought I know, but it was an easier one to deal with. He muttered a brief acceptance, waving his hands around, reassuring me that it didn’t matter what I had going wrong.
Minutes later, during the first awkward pause of the night, he downed the rest of his drink. Jumping up from the bench, offering to buy another round, he strode off before I could answer. I glanced down into my still half full cocktail, refusing to turn around and watch what I knew was taking place. I may be hopeless at dating but I’m not a fool. Knowing he was rushing out the door I didn’t want to humiliate myself by watching it slam behind him. This isn’t a common reaction, most pretend to be fine with it before cutting off contact, however this is not the first time its has happened. My options where quite obvious I could leave now and head home or I could finish my cocktail alone.
I love cocktails so naturally I stayed and finished it. It may have been an awful date, but hey, why waste a good drink.
This month is full of opportunities that I never expected to experience. Towards the end of the month I’m going to Amsterdam for a few days with the university, followed by three weeks as an inpatient in the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital Stanmore. It is an exciting time to say the least.
The publishing trip to Amsterdam shall not only be an insightful opportunity for my course, but shall also allow me to explore how my body will react to travelling. Visiting other countries was a luxury, that when I first became ill in 2012, I thought would have to be swept under the carpet and not thought about again. However, in comparison to four years ago my bundle of conditions are extremely well controlled, instilling me with the confidence to explore this opportunity further. To help ensure that I am as safe as can be my neurologist agreed to administer my Botox a week early to knock unwanted spasms on the head.
Back in 2013 this was me; reliant on a wheelchair with monthly ambulance trips to A&E.
Three years on I’m incredibly lucky to have a regime of medication and injections that enables me to live life to the full. I still need my wheelchair every now and then, but it is no longer a necessity for daily life.
Less than a week after I return from the trip it is off to RNOH I go for three weeks of intensive rehabilitation for my EDS Type Three. I have been on the waiting list for this stint for almost a year and a half, so I’m a bag of excitement and nerves in anticipation for my admission. My time there should enable me to carry on life with better habits when it comes to using my joints, hopefully that will mean less over extending, and help strengthen the weaker muscles and ligaments.
During my interview for the treatment we discussed what I would like to focus on strengthening, my first answer out of the several I was allowed to give, was my jaw. The combination of EDS and Dystonia means that my jaw comes out of place extremely easily, which inflicts a severe amount of pain. Knowing that jaw physiotherapy will be possible is huge news for me, as this issue is the main factor behind my seizures. Anything that will decrease the amount of subluxations and dislocations for my jaw has the potential to make an incredible difference to my life.
Needless to say I’m counting down the days to go!
Everyone says things without thinking sometimes. Often its harmless, and its only afterwards when you are reviewing a conversation that you kick yourself in the teeth and hope it was not taken offensively. More often than not these things can be laughed off. This date happened the other week, and as I sat there attempting to get to know the man across from me, I found myself biting my lip more and more. Now I don’t mean this as a tongue in cheek Fifty Shades reference. It was a preventive measure to stop myself from reacting to several comments that were without thought.
For the first hour and a bit, I gave him numerous passes figuring that these careless remarks were down to nerves. I know from experience that I waffle nonsense when nervous so was prepared to ignore the niggling voice inside me telling me to leave. Eventually I decided to address one sentence that shocked me. ‘Looking at you no-one would know you’re ill, which is great. Don’t worry I would never tell anyone’. I’m sure many of you can imagine the numerous retorts that I had to bite back before answering. A large mouthful of G&T later I addressed this.
I started slowly pointing out that I don’t hide the fact I’m ill. I’ve never hidden this fact, I am not ashamed of the person I am, so I’m not going to start hiding parts of me now. This got me nowhere. So I attempted a different tactic, explaining that when my injections wear off my Dystonia is very much noticeable. Whilst in-between injection dates it is well-controlled, once the Botox loses it effect I have no control over the affected muscles. My explanation fell on deaf ears, all that he picked up on was that I had Botox on a regular basis, which left me defending this choice as he viewed it as a medicine for cosmetic purposes only.
It goes without saying that there will not be not a second date here. While it would have been nice not to have to justify my treatment, I view it as good practice for the next person who chooses not to listen to my explanations.
As anyone who checked out my latest VLOG will know, after a highly entertaining bus ride the other week with a fellow spoonie I have decided to blog more openly about the dates I have been on. Up until now I have kept them to myself purely because they didn’t go anywhere, however as this lovely girl pointed out to me, it’s the sort of the thing she would like to read. So I’ve decided to do a couple of blogs retelling these dates – the guy’s names and locations have been changed!
Just before Christmas a guy I’d met a handful of times in the local clubs and around uni asked me for a drink. Thomas knew I was ill, so in my eyes we had already passed the first hurdle. There was going to be no need for an awkward ‘so by the way I have a severely dysfunctional body, you cool with that?’, conversation followed by spluttering and murmured excuses into half-drunk cocktails. I was feeling far more relaxed than I usually would do, simply because I didn’t feel like I had the ‘disability burden’ to get out there.
It was the usual routine, pull every outfit I deemed to be flattering enough to wear on a date from my wardrobe, and then force my friends to pick the winner. It’s a wonder they put up with me really. Whilst I was spending so much time on my appearance, I did not stop to think about strapping down my left arm. The spasms in this arm have been the death blow to so many dates but I still don’t learn. After all, it just isn’t the most attractive look. If I had thought about how twitchy I had been that day I would have seen the disaster in my plan.
The start of the date was fantastic; we were sat across from each other in an adorable cocktail bar with scented candles everywhere. The conversation was flowing with pauses only for laughter. We seemed to connect, and after several more drinks decided to go for a walk. Tom was a gentleman and held the door open for me, as I turned around to thank him and make a joke I twitched. I don’t mean a little twitch either, it was the sort that leaves you feeling bruised. In typical fashion I caught him in the neck. If anything is going to kill the mood on a date, it’s that.
At the time I felt awful. I spent a good ten minutes apologizing before we decided to call it a night. As you can imagine we’ve not spoken since, I wonder what put him off?! Luckily I can see the humor in these situations as they happen far too often.
Today has been an experience to say the least. Whilst rushing around this morning attempting to persuade my non-cooperative arm into a jumper, I noticed I had a tweet from my local BBC radio station. I stood, gaping, one behaving arm in its sleeve, the other flailing through the air with a mind of its own. I’m not sure what I felt more, excited or nervous that I would ramble on faster than listeners could keep up with. Noticing this tweet a whole 40 mins beforehand wasn’t much prep time, but it wasn’t an opportunity I was going to turn down. As I discovered after a quick pre-interview chat, the show had decided to get in touch after reading my Cosmo article. The topic Disabled Dating, is one that many of you may be aware from my previous blog posts that I feel passionately about.
It was fantastic to have the opportunity to discuss the stigma too often experienced because of disability. Whilst some people are absolutely fantastic, I’ve thrown my drink down my date before because I foolishly held it in my arm that spasmed; thankfully he laughed it off, others can be very closeminded and unwilling to consider the prospect of dating a disabled person. It was interesting to listen to George Dowell who was also on the segment and featured recently on The Undateables. Now don’t get me wrong, I haven’t changed my mind on the show. However it was thought-provoking listening to his experience.
If you fancy checking out the segment here is the link, the piece starts at 1h08, I come on at 1h16. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03dsjr5
Well first off thanks for the compliment! I work hard on making sure that I don’t look completely awful. The more my body is playing up the more care I take with my appearance; it cheers me up, and that’s one step towards having a good day. Mr judgemental Taxi man, I may not look as ill as you would like me to, but I was on the way to the Drs this morning because on top of all my chronic health conditions I had contracted yet another chest infection along with sinusitis. Yeah my immune system sucks. Infections on top of my pre-existing conditions are always detrimental and not something my body copes with well. I needed to get a prescription to nip it in the bud!
What do you deem as sick? Do I need to be wheelchair bound, using a walking stick or screaming in agony? Some days that is me. There are days when my meds are not strong enough to control my dysfunctional body, where my body contorts and contracts into positions that you could not imagine. Would you believe I was sick then? Not everyone does. There have been healthcare professionals who have stood by debating over which symptoms are real and which are fake in an attempt to get drugs. This is simply because they do not understand my conditions, I do not blame them, it’s not like my brain has developed the common ailments after all. However taking a moment to listen to someone before making a judgement is not hard.
Next time you see someone who isn’t stereotypically ‘sick’, pause and think.
What would life be without laughter? My life was full of it before chronic illnesses decided to move in, but over the last few years I can honestly say I have had many more laughs because of my disorder. Twitched and accidentally hit someone, tongue spasms, fallen over because I spasmed and lost my balance; all of these scenarios result in laughter, it has become my natural response. Yesterday an acquaintance was complementing my ability to cope, she mentioned how she didn’t know how I continued to deal with my mix of conditions day in and day out, and still be able to laugh. Now I acknowledge that not everyone would deal the same way as I do, but I cannot think of another way to cope.
Should I be angry, scared, terrified at the unknown implications of my disorders in the years to come? I’ll hold my hands up; I feel all of those emotions regularly. However, the sheer ridiculousness of the situations I have ended up in thanks to my dysfunctional body has ensured that these negative feelings are not consuming. Laughing, breaks down the emotional barriers that I put up whenever fear raises its grey head, and the barriers that others put up when they don’t know how to respond to what they have witnessed.
It is natural to see me spasm and hit something and for you to feel unsure how to react. We live in society where everyone is so easily offended, that people silently look the other way attempting to un-see the abnormal. If I am giggling at the hilarity of the situation, and let’s be frank it’s a painful but amusing moment, I would much rather you joined in. Laughter allows us to talk about what we are experiencing, it is a fantastic way to spread awareness. I’ve had friends who have mentioned they feel wrong for laughing. It would only be wrong if you were laughing at me, not if you are laughing with me. Don’t over-complicate a beautiful thing.