I’m currently on week seven of my Botox cycle. My injections are not being administered for another week due to a mistake (lets presume it’s a mistake and not my new neurologist being devious, because being frank I would not put it past him). I should be in bed asleep right now. Normally I would currently either be asleep or out with friends. Instead I am medicated to the extreme, I have lavender wheat bags heated up wrapped round my neck, and resting along my jaw and heat packs stuck along my back. To say I’m in agony would be an understatement.
I have resorted to taking Oramorph, a medication I try my best to avoid, however I would much rather give in and take it than have a seizure (click here to read what a seizure is like), and right now I’m concerned that with the amount of pain I am in that I will have one. My brain is not staying connected to my mouth tonight, functional paralysis is something I have suffered from for a few years now, but it has never ceased to terrify me. I understand that it is simply my brain being unable to cope with the amount of pain I am in, so it disconnects from the affected part but it is an unnatural experience that no matter how much I attempt to laugh off unnerves me.
Tonight my jaw is particularly bad, and is frequently being functionally paralysed leaving me unable to verbally communicate. It may seem like a small thing to some, but when you are trying to desperately to get any part of your mouth; whether that be your lips, tongue, just anything, to move and they won’t, apart from when they spasm, its horrendous. I cannot yell for help if I need it, I cannot cry in frustration or call someone to talk too to distract myself. I am stuck with my jaw spasming, distorting itself in ways that should not be possible, threatening to dislocate, and all I can do is cry silent tears, pray that I do not have a seizure and use this blog as an outlet for my pent-up frustration with this crushing condition.
I have a 9am lecture tomorrow morning. Which I am determined to attend, most likely in a wheelchair for my own safety, one of my close friends has agreed to take me there which has helped put my mind at rest. For now it is back to attempt sleep and hope that my little Dystonia Alien allows me some rest
Today was the first time I have had to give in and use my wheelchair at uni. I had anticipated that today would be harder than usual as I had traveled to London yesterday for my routine injections. My body always reacts badly to them for the first 24 to 48 hours, normally this leaves me in a lot of a pain and with an increase in spasms, which with a mix of painkillers and muscle relaxants I can manage. I therefore had not expected to fall over when getting out of bed this morning. My back and neck had gone into a hideous spasm and my brain had functionally paralysed both legs and my left arm. I spent half an hour lying on the floor like this, debating what to do. I gave myself an hour in which if I managed to get dressed I would venture to uni in my wheelchair and braces, and if I was still on the floor I would ring the Wardens.
I felt extremely proud of myself that it only took half an hour to get dressed this morning despite my brain fighting me, this must be a new personal best. I admit that as I braced the majority of my body I was extremely nervous. My peers are aware that I am ill, but they have never seen me like this, I had no idea how they or my lecturers would react. Within minutes of being in uni my nerves were swept away. Not only did no-one bat an eyelid, but people helped me when I needed it without me even asking.
Part of me had strongly wanted to not go in to uni today. I was worried of what others would think, and how I would physically cope, I had already had several draining days and was concerned that this on top would be too much. I am extremely glad that I took the leap, and forced myself to go. It will help keep my mind at rest the next time my brain decides that a day of alternating between spasms and paralysis would be fun.
When you become ill with Dystonia there are a lot of changes you have to make to your life. Mentally you often feel like you can still go out for that morning run, or dance the night away with your mates. The reality is extremely different. No two days are the same and spasms can cause simple daily tasks such as getting dressed to take hours upon hours.
Whenever I visit my Neurologist or my GP they both tell me to slow my life down and take things easy so as to give my body a bit of a break. They have been giving me this same piece of advice for over two years now. I know I should take their advice on board. After all they would not repeatedly tell me it if it was not necessary, however I find that I feel so determined/ stubborn to live as normal a life as possible that taking it easy just doesn’t seem to feel right.
I know that realistically my body would most likely thank me if I started taking it easy more often. Pushing the boundaries over and over only results in pain, I know that. However there is some small part of me that each time hopes that this will be the time I will achieve just that bit more. Instead my body goes in to hideous spasms that I have too spend a few days recovering from each time.
I think adjusting your life after diagnosis is one of the hardest parts of the illness. It’s not just your work life, but also your family and social life that are impacted. Having to explain to people that you yet again cannot do something because of Dystonia is incredibly disheartening, it helps if you are surrounded by people who understand and support you. At times it is not the spasms that prevents you from taking part but the fatigue from the treatment. I find the medication leaves me half asleep, which in turn impacts every aspect of life.
I have been living and adapting to the condition for around two and a half years now. I’m not sure if you can ever really adjust to it. I don’t plan on ever slowing down. I enjoy my life too much. I believe the best way to cope with this hideous condition is to take each minute as it comes.
To find out more about how my Dystonia started check out my VLOG https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HV_L-9vCGPw&feature=autoshare
Living with chronic illness is never easy. It impacts the majority, if not all, areas of your life. One of these areas is relationships. Whether this is friendships, family, or romantic relationships, chronic illnesses such as Dystonia can have a big impact. It is hard enough for the sufferer to understand what they are dealing with and cope with it, but for people who are not experiencing it themselves it really sums up their characters by how they react.
Personally I think it takes a lot of guts for a sufferer to open to their friends and family and admit that they have been diagnosed with Dystonia. It is not the easiest condition to explain. There is no rash or broken bone that they can see, no medicine that is going to cure you. You are sitting them down and admitting that you are not going to get better, that you may in fact get worse, but that you are hoping that a handful of medication and injections will help control the condition. People will either stand by you or they will turn their back on you.
I can remember when I first announced to those closest to me that I had finally been diagnosed. I was naïve enough to trust that my support system would stay intact. I never expected it to crumble around me. My relationship of two years broke down instantly, and many friends vanished into thin air. At the time I was lost, unable to comprehend how those I had thought would stand with me through thick and thin could just disappear the minute the going got tough. With time though I grow thankful that they did leave, it meant that I was left with a support system I could count on whenever I needed it.
When you live with Dystonia I think having a support system in place is one of the most vital things in enabling you to get by. Emotionally it means I know that I have friends I can count on to listen whenever I am having a bad day and am not sure how to cope anymore. Physically, I can be reassured that whenever I am functionally paralysed for example I know there are people I can rely on to help me. I know of some sufferers whose own family turned their back on them because they simply do not comprehend the condition well enough, I am blessed to have family and friends who are here for me 24/7.
Dystonia can be alienating, in life you do not often meet people with the condition. Surrounding yourself with people who love you despite having a brain that likes to be dysfunctional is important.
Today I was up in London to see my neurologist to get my six weekly injections. I was looking forward to speaking with him as this time round my botox had been 7 weeks apart. Normally this would have resulted in severe facial, neck and arm spasms but for a change I have been okay. It is only over the last few days that I have felt the familiar tugging sensation around my eyes, jaw and neck. Whilst I have had spasms in these areas it has been easy to cope with. My arm has been spasming/twitching more but still at what I consider an acceptable rate, so I was eager to discuss with him aiming for 7 weeks again. Now as luck would have it he’s not working that day in 7 weeks time, so my appointment is as usual in 6 weeks, but this something I would like to aim for.
I am not fond of needles at all. In fact watching the doctor draw the botox up each time is enough to make me want to run screaming from the room. Every 6 weeks I turn up at the hospital racked full of nerves, if the injections did not make such a big difference on my quality of life then I don’t think I’d go. I trust my neurologist completely however, and after two and a bit years of having him administer my injections I feel confident in his skill. You can imagine how sky high my nerves rocketed today when upon arrival I was informed that my neurologist was absent. The doctor filling in for him was perfectly pleasant, however having never met him before, I found it hard to sit still in the chair whilst he injected me.
Today was my first round of injections since developing Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. On my GP’s advice I tried covering the area that was going to be injected on my back with topical local anaesthetic. I find it hard just wearing clothing over my shoulder/arm at the moment so was dreading having a couple of needles being inserted. As I have mentioned before I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Type 3, this unfortunately means that local anaesthetic does not work for me. I had been hoping that as it was a topical one and not an injection that it would be slightly different and would work, however I discovered very quickly that this was not the case. I cannot describe what my arm has felt like over the last few hours, it has been a mix of a burning and pin and needles sensations. I am hoping that this will die down as the evening wears on.
Hopefully my neurologist will be at my next appointment and we can discuss our next steps.
Days like today I wish someone could just wave a magic wand and fix all this! After spending half the night awake due to bad spasms in my feet, now my jaw and neck spasms have decided to be extreme today. The pain my Oromandibular Dystonia causes is pretty much indescribable. It feels like my jaw is dislocating and that the spasms are trying to force my jaw off my face. The pain often causes me to grab my face, as I feel like I need to try to force it to stay in place. The pain then leads to seizures, I have had many seizures today, and all of this mixed together consequently leaves me exhausted.
I have had to resort to taking my Diazepam today which adds to the tiredness and is currently leaving me feeling spaced out, which I suppose is a nice distraction from the pain. I have always said to myself that this blog will be nothing but pure honesty, and to be honest right now I would just like to cry due to the pain.
Knowing that I can have my injections done tomorrow afternoon is a calming thought . They say that you are to try to live a stress free life when you have Dystonia as stress can worsen your symptoms. How are you meant to live a stress free life when you spend weeks in agony? When your Neurologist, the person who is meant to help you, has become someone you have to battle? How are you meant to be stress free when your life is upside down and the medical profession who are meant to help you are making things harder!
I don’t have down days very often but today is a very bad one. I know there so many positives around me but it is very hard to focus on them when the pain is this bad. I have no energy whatsoever today. I am still in bed and am trying to muster the energy to get up and changed but I would so much rather roll over and go back to sleep.
I have well and truly had enough, my Neurologist is going to have to do a hell of a lot tomorrow to convince me to stay with him. 7 weeks overdue for my injections is ridiculous and I am not prepared to go through this experience ever again, it is just too much!!
Despite it being the third most common movement disorder Dystonia goes almost unknown to the public. It lingers in the shadowy background letting its brothers, Essential Tremor and Parkinson, take the limelight. By slithering along in the back alleys it can prey on its victims with ease, bringing devastation to those it touches. The medical profession cowers in its presence, refusing to open their eyes and admit what they are seeing, they send you to a psychiatrist instead, not understanding that this just gives the Dystonia more time to make itself at home in your body and wreak havoc when it sees fit.
By the time the Consultant realises it is Dystonia, you have already been suffering for so long. The spasms leave you drained from the pain, and you are desperate for any sort of relief. Then it seems like a miracle has happened, the consultant whips out a tiny bottle that brings promises of relief from the spasms, the pain, the fight. A few injections of this will sort you out, he promises, he tells you it won’t cure you and you will need it again in three months. You are over the moon, such a long period of relief seems too good to be true. The consultant, who seems to hold all the answers you have searched for, does not warn you that one day you may be fighting him.
Five weeks into your pain-free period agony grips your jaw, the spasm pushing it across to the point you’re sure it will dislocate. Emotions run through you: anger, sadness, heartbreak, devastation. No one warned you how hurt you would feel when the Dystonia reared his ugly head agony. You count the weeks on your hands repeatedly, this should not have happened for weeks yet. As the reality sinks in that you still have to wait at least 6 more weeks for more of the injections numbness sweeps through you. You feel so tired. A small part of you wants to curl up in a ball on the floor and cry.
You try desperately to contact your consultant but he ignores your pleas for help. Who do you turn to now? There are many open doors you could run through, but which one holds the key to help? Who will help you now? How many more Consultants are going to abandon you after dangling hope in front of you?
Which open door shall I leap through?