Fighting Dystonia, Chronic Lyme Disease & EDS Type 3… any questions?

Posts tagged ‘Blindness’

Week 7 – Agony

imagesI’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

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Another Referrel

Eye-chartSitting back in the upright, green leather chair, I stare straight ahead at the wall with my left eye covered up, where supposedly I should be able to see two rows of letters. I can’t see a thing. Not even there outline. I can see a white blurry box on the wall but that’s about it. The optician is quite frankly horrified at the deterioration of sight in my right eye. It has only been eight months since my last appointment, this dramatic result shocks us both. I thought my glasses prescription just needed a slight tweak. As it turns out new glasses cannot fix this issue. By the end of the examination she murmurs a simple sentence that chills me. “I need to refer you to the hospital, the muscles in your eye are not working properly”. What?! This was meant to be a routine appointment.

I questioned whether it could be my Dystonia, and while it was a possibility, she was not convinced it was. She explained the three different medical specialists I would most likely see at the hospital, the last being a neurologist. It always seems to end up there.Can I just have a new brain? As it always goes with these things it shall most likely be a wait before I am seen. In the meantime the possibility of another intruder controlling my body, my sight, hangs in the air. If it turns out to be Dystonia then other than piling me with more medication there is very little they can do, as they are unable to inject these particular muscles.

Over the years I have always been told that my left eye has compensated for my right. Its doing this now more than ever. With both uncovered I can see, things get blurry now and then but generally I’m okay. Cover up my left eye and the words in front of me are blurry, I cannot even focus on my own hands! It’s times like these that I want to take the faulty parts of my body out, line them up and just yell at them. Realistically I know it’s not going to get me anywhere, I’ve also banned myself from googling my symptoms, I know it will just tell me I’m  going to die, it’s one of the things google does best! I’d rather wait for hopefully a much more optimistic diagnosis from a Doctor.

So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it’s not the Dystonia, and that it is a condition that they can easily treat! It would make a nice change.

Aside

Spasm Induced Blindness

I want to bring some awareness to one of my rarer Dystonia symptoms. My eyes do a few different spasm, sometimes they blink rapidly, other times they clamp shut, but more often they roll back into my head and stay there for long periods of time. Luckily Botox injections helps my first two spasms a lot so they do not really bother me anymore. However I go blind on almost a daily basis now.

When the blindness first happened last August it was only for a few minutes, it was scary but I could deal with it. A few days later I went blind for 15 hours, which resulted in 8 days in hospital whilst they checked for things like epilepsy and tumors. Needless to say those 15 hours of blindness were terrifying and I began to worry that my eyes would never roll back down to where they should be. Thankfully I have never had one as long as that since, but they do often last for hours at a time.

This particular eye spasm is not common in Dystonia sufferers. There is not much that can be done to help it as there is no way to Botox the muscles behind the eyes that cause it. Taking muscle relaxants makes a small difference, which is better than nothing. I try to be careful and stay away from anything that I know will trigger it  e.g flashing lights or bright lights.

Not a lot is known about this particular symptom so it is hard to know what to do to help myself. Even Dystonia websites brought next to nothing up. Last night, on one of the Dystonia Facebook groups, I managed to get in touch with several other women, some from different countries, who experienced the same thing. I cannot put into words the joy this brought me, how soothing it is to know you are not the only person out there who cannot keep their eyes in place. It is rather calming.

The photo below is from this weekend, the flash on the phone (that we thought we had turned off) caused my eyes to spasm and go blind. These spasms are very painful, and unnerving, but are something I am learning to live with as part of daily life. I am so thankful that I know that no matter how many hours my eyes are gone for they will eventually always come back,

Me with my eyes spasming causing blindness

Benedict Blindness

I had been worried about how my body was going to cope with college and the added stimulation. Thursday and Friday at college went perfectly with only minor hiccups,  which led me into a false sense of security. In typical Benedict style I was shown reality yesterday. As I was feeling pretty good and only a bit tired – I should have seen this as a warning sign – I decided to go with some of my family to a friend’s house warming party. It started off fine, I was enjoying myself, and even indulged in a cheeky Gin and Tonic. However soon the tiredness really hit, again this should have set of the warning lights but I ignored it and carried on chatting.

My eyes spasms, the ones that cause me to go blind due to the eyeballs being pulled up and back, started. At first they were not too long, but they kept happening and started causing seizures. Leaving at this point was not an option as my brain had disconnected from my legs, leaving me functionally paralysed.

Then it all calmed down. I thought my little alien had gone back to sleep. It turned out to be the calm before the storm. I went blind again, and this time my eyes didn’t seem to be coming back, I tried sensory tricks which failed, I even started hoping I would have a seizure as that would normally bring them back yet I was staying unusually conscious. This began to make me nervous, I was in a new environment, surrounded by lots of people who I didn’t know (they were however all very lovely and helpful), and this spasm was becoming unusually long.

The longest this particular spasm has ever lasted is 15 hours, and after an hour of being blind I began to panic that the same thing was going to happen. When I get nervous I talk…a lot, which my poor mother had to put up with. After taking some Diazepam my legs came back however I still remained blind. In the end we decided that the best thing to do was to try to get me out the house and to the car whilst I was blind and then judge what to do when we got home. Getting out of the house however was the tricky part. I had to, using my crutches and splints, walk out and down two small steps, then up two steps and then transfer back to my wheelchair. Doing this whilst I am able to see is hard enough, so doing it blind was going to be difficult. With the help of my parents and some lovely people I got down the first two steps and up one, it was at this point – just one step away from my wheelchair that I had a seizure.

I am so thankful for all the people that were around me, caught me, and helped me. If they all had not caught me I would have without a doubt woken up in A&E hooked up to IV pain relief. Between them all they managed to get me into my wheelchair, and then waited around until the space between my seizures was long enough to transfer me into the car. Thankfully, once we managed to get me home and got some Oramorph into me, my seizures calmed down and my eyes started to stay in place!

After a chat with my mum, we have agreed I am not allowed to go out/do much at the weekends for the first half term of college, so that my brain can adapt to the added stimulation and learn to cope with it. This way I can stay safe and realistically it will eventually enable me to do more.

I have to learn to take baby steps before trying to run. I’ll remember this one day. On the positive side at least I could see for some of the house-warming and had a good time!

 

Summer Achievements

I spend 99% of my time shut up in my room due to Dystonia. Throughout the months leading up to this summer I was concerned as to how my body was going to react as bright light triggers my eye spasms (I am unable to currently wear my sunglasses or glasses as it causes a facial spasm) and I have to be careful in the sunlight as my antibiotics for suspected Lyme Disease causes light sensitivity. I had been thinking for a while now that I was just going to have accept that I would be having to spend the whole of the summer indoors.

It turns out I need not have been so pessimistic. This week I have been out in the garden several times with my family, family friends and had two BBQ’s. I was overjoyed to be out socializing with our family friends. We made sure I was in the shade so that both my body and eyes were protected. It was perfect and I had such a great time.

This achievement has left me thrilled as it has reassured me that I can enjoy this summer and the summers to come without worry. I only have to be a bit careful and that’s not much of an issue. Being out in the warmth and socializing has really lifted my spirits and left me feeling overjoyed and calm.

I look forward to seeing what the rest of the summer has in store.

 

Simple Lessons

Every day I have plenty of spasms. Some are short and not to bad, others last hours and cause agony, and some simply make me laugh due to the positions I find myself in, for example I once ended up doing the splits! Thankfully the muscle relaxant that my GP put me on has helped and has slightly reduced the frequency and intensity of these spasms.

Earlier this afternoon my whole body decided to spasm, it was slightly painful and was not the most comfortable position to be in, but despite that I managed to laugh through it with my mum. Knowing that the spasm would eventually release was a big comfort and made it more bearable. I have included some pictures of the spasm below, in them you can see that my eyes, neck, arms, stomach and leg are all in spasm.

In today’s culture people often seem to want to focus on what we cannot do rather than celebrate what we are able to do. Even the term Disabled focuses on it. I don’t like being labelled  but if I have to be then I would rather be termed as Differently Able, as I am capable of doing the same things as any body else, it might just take me longer, I may even do it slightly differently but at the end of the day I can still do it!

One of my symptoms causes me to go blind. My eyes go into spasm and my eyeballs roll upwards in their sockets. Being blind on and off has taught me to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me in daily life. I previously took my sight for granted, the day I went blind for the first time terrified me, I was having a big panic that I would not be able to read again. Now when I am able to read I appreciate the ability more than ever before. Control of our bodies and good health is such a precious but fragile gift that people tend to abuse. We need to open our eyes to the world and learn to appreciate what we have. Society needs to understand the gifts that senses such as sight brings us and learn to focus on the positive side of things.

I could easily allow myself to drown in a pool of negativity but by focusing on the little things in life like being able to see, and by pushing myself to achieve what ever I set my mind to, I am able lead a positive life. I have my moments of being down, just like everyone does but I wont ever let having Dystonia beat me.

 

A glimpse into the consequence of pain

Normally if you are in pain or need help for some reason, you are able to call out or make a noise/movement to indicate that you need someone to assist you. I cannot always do this and to be honest it terrifies me. It is one of my bodies latest tricks. I class it as one of my Non Epileptic Attacks, even though it does not look like a seizure.

It will start with a spasm somewhere in my body, as usual I will try to ignore it and try not to get wound up. Then, if it is a bad spasm/spasms comes the agony.

Picture this, you are lying on your bed reading, ignoring the searing pain that is consuming your right leg. Suddenly the book falls from in-between your fingers. You frown, there is no spasm in your hands, so why did it fall. You have not realised that your eyebrows never moved when you frowned. You go to reach down to pick up your book, but your arms don’t move. You try to wiggle your fingers, but again they do not move.

Your getting a bit concerned now. Taking a deep calming breath, you order yourself to stay relaxed, there’s no point getting worked up as you know it will do you no good. You decided to lie on your back with your eyes closed, so that you can day-dream peacefully until your body responds better. That’s when you realise that you no longer have control of any part your body. You are stuck on your side, your arms frozen in the position they were holding the book. You cannot move. Your eyes are stinging because they are no longer blinking. Your eyes can only take so much before they spasm upwards due to the pain.

Now you are blind, unable to move and in agony. You try to yell for help, but your lips do not move and no sound comes from your throat. You are locked in your body. Unmoving, making no sound. You can feel the panic levels rising, you try to control your breathing and keep calm, but its hard. The pain from the spasms in your leg and eyes are only getting worse. You want to scream but only silent tears run down your cheeks. You can hear people in the house, they think your fine. No one will know what’s happening unless they come to check on you.

The minutes are slipping past so slowly. You have only your mental voice for company. The panic is getting worse, as is the pain. By now you know that unless someone comes to help you soon, the unconsciousness of a Non Epileptic Seizure will soon engulf you, silencing the one part of you that is still free, your mental voice.

You can feel the unconsciousness creeping up on you as the pain gets worse, its like a slow fog creeping across your brain. You can feel that your state of awareness is slipping away bit by bit. It won’t be long now. You know that there is nothing anybody can do to help you. A small part of you is welcoming the creeping fog, in a sick way it will help.

Its getting hard to think now.

The fog finally consumes you.

That is a glimpse into the latest torture that I put up with. Sometimes the unconsciousness helps, and when I regain consciousness I’m ok, other times this goes on for hours and hours, and it is truly terrifying. It takes severe pain to cause it all, and part of me is now extremely frightened of feeling pain as I know what may come with it. All I can do is hope that each spasm will not be too bad, and if it is bad, try to relax.

The sun is shinning today, and I’m taking that as a good omen for a hopefully pain-free day.

 

Late Night Antics

Yesterday my body was seemingly well-behaved. The only time it got irritated was when I went out for an hour or so, and my foot really did not want to be put in my shoe, and my eyes went blind a few times due to the lighting. However all in all, I found this to be an extremely positive and promising day.

As I was still feeling shattered after the busy week I had had, I decided it would be best to go to bed early. Meaning that when I went to bed, I would actually go to sleep and not pick up Harry Potter (I am rereading the series for what must be the 40th time) and read for hours. My little Dystonia alien, Benedict, however had other plans for me. I was just beginning to drift off to sleep when I felt the familiar tightening sensation in my leg and foot. I decided to ignore this and carried on trying to get to sleep. Benedict, unhappy that he had not managed to grab my attention, then decided to bend my foot as far back as it could possibly go. This roused me, however I tried to stay calm, and implemented my breathing exercises from my meditation CD. My leg then started doing two rather painful movements. It seemed to be trying to rotate so it was completely back to front, whilst going slightly upwards and pulling outwards, as if trying to go in the air whilst attempting to dislocate itself. This completely woke me up, with all hope of sleep gone,  I flipped myself over, so that I was lying on my stomach, to try to counteract the spasm by forcing it into the mattress.  I then started doing distraction techniques, such as making my good leg do movements, reciting lyrics in my head etc. In the end I switched on my Ipod, and just focused on my breathing. I did this to not only to keep me calm, but also to try and lull my body into a state of relaxation.

It was 3 am by the time the spasms relaxed, it only took 5 long hours, and I was finally allowed to drift off to sleep. Whilst this was an irritating experience, as I like and need my sleep, it was also a positive one. I manage to cope with it all without panicking. I kept calm, and did all the distraction techniques I knew, and tried each one for a fair amount of time, before allowing myself to give in and just let the spasm run its course.

Today has been a fairly good day. My Dystonia had not been that bad, so I am rather happy. I did not have my usual soup for dinner today as I am trying to up my protein intake, so I had mashed up fish fingers, mashed potato and beans instead. Whilst this was nice and extremely filling, it sadly set my jaw off. Recently when my jaw spasms, it has just been my lips going – thanks to the Botox treatment. However this evening my jaw also deviated to the left when it went into spasm. Thankfully the deviation was nowhere near as extreme as it has been before. I am hoping that this deviation is a fluke, as my last lot of Botox treatment was only administered about 5 weeks ago, so I still have 7 more weeks to go before I can have any more.

I am hoping for a quiet and relaxed day tomorrow. Which will be full of positivity!

 

Musings on my Dystonia and the NHS

Today is one of those days where I find myself  thinking about everything. The other day I had to inform my university that I would not be able to return to my midwifery training because of my Dystonia. I still have to speak to them a bit more about it in the next few days. Yet sitting here right now, my body is completely behaving, I feel normal. I feel like I am able to just get up and walk about and do what ever I want. Part of me even dares to say you’re fine. However I know I am not fine, yesterday evening I went blind three times, my jaw was in spasm and my body was very jerky. I know that the reality is that I am not fine or ‘normal’, but my body at this very moment in time feels like I am.

A large part of me wants to just get up and walk about and see what happens, I know that there is a huge chance that my right leg shall immediately play up and I will end up on the floor, but then again if I don’t try these sort of things out, how will I ever know what I can and cannot do, or what progress I may have made.

My consultant, when I first met him, gave me the impression he was wonderful and would fix me. The reality of it has finally sunk in, unless you’re sitting in front of a consultant or doctor the chances are that unless you fight them they will do bugger all for you. The way I see it right now is that I have two choices, I could spend my days feeling sorry for myself and waiting until October/ November next year to get treatment or I could start pushing my body a little bit further everyday and start trying to retrain my brain myself.

Over the last few weeks I have tried to push myself, so far it has been successful 98% of the time. I can now use my right hand to hold a spoon, I can stand with my right foot flat for about a minute or two which is a huge step. I am making what I think are huge positive step forwards and that is without the help of doctors or consultants, the people who should be helping me! I have also noticed that I tend to go blind when I feel like my eyes are straining, the obvious solution to this in my mind, is to go to the options and get some new glasses, so my eyes don’t have to strain so much, after all there is no harm in trying and it may stop the blindness.

What irritates me the most is that I am having to struggle through this and try to figure out how to beat Dystonia with very little help from the medical profession. They are the people who should be giving me ideas of how to help myself, or new things to try etc, yet their not doing any of this, I am lucky if they even return my calls or emails. The care the NHS provides shocks me constantly, I feel completely abandoned by them. However I will  not settle for this level of care. I plan on doing my best to bringing attention to the failings of the NHS system.

 

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