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

Posts tagged ‘chronic illness’

Mental Health & Chronic Illness

Mental Health awareness day was last week and I wanted to write this blog post then but honestly it was too hard. My mental health right now is not great. I’m by no means awful but it’s not where I’d like it to be. It’s been an accumulation of being chronically ill for numerous years and stressful life events adding on top of that.

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A major part of the problem right now is my medication. One of the many side effects that many of my medications can cause is anxiety and depression. Whilst I wouldn’t class myself as depressed, I am aware that my anxiety and amount of pain attacks have increased recently and I’m defiantly on the weepy side. However life events haven’t helped either, Just last week I went to collect my little boys prescription from the chemist and found myself being motioned to sit silently on the floor with him due to a lady with a knife ransacking the place; this understandably has made me anxious about leaving the flat on my own, even though I know that I am being irrational as I know that the chances of being in that situation again are very small.

Yesterday I attended the emergency eye clinic at my local hospital and was informed that I have my fourth bout of optic neuritis is a year and a half. Due to this and some more symptoms they have made the decision to refer me to a specialist neuro and carry out testing again for multiple sclerosis; another spanner in the works.

Between my physical & mental health plus the stress of uni work, I feel like I need to let myself have a good cry, pick myself up and carry on except there isn’t time to cry. Don’t get me wrong I love my life but I’m finding it hard to know what to do to help myself. I force myself to do what scares me like leave the flat but it’s draining working up the courage to do so. I would talk to the doctor about it but I daren’t risk it as I know they will stop my painkillers if they start worrying about depression which I need for my seizures. I have ordered myself a mindful mediation manual and CD and hoping that a holistic attitude will help.

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Fiery Fury of Flare UPs

Being chronically means I live with the knowledge that at some point, someday I will have a flare of one or more of my conditions. I could go months without one and then have several back to back, or they could be fairly regular. Flare ups are unpredictable, sometimes it’s obvious as to what caused them, and other times there seems to be no rhyme or reason to them. Managing them is a joke. Other than knocking back the muscle relaxants and painkillers the only thing to do is try and ride it out.

I’m currently in the middle of an Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Type 3 and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome flare up. Agony is not a strong enough word to describe the sheer amount of pain that I am in. I knew my EDS flare up was coming, my pain had been getting dramatically worse over 72 hours and it felt like I had battered every inch of my body. What I wasn’t prepared for however was my CRPS to act up.

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It’s hard to communicate to people who don’t have CRPS exactly what type of hellish pain it is. The only way I can think to describe is this. Imagine you have several vegetable peelers the width of your leg, someone is dragging all of them down every millimetre of your leg with excruciating slowness. Digging the blade in to the point it reaches your bones. This evil being has a partner in crime, who is simultaneously pouring vinegar into your open wounds whilst dropping lit matches on to you. On top of all of this is Benedict the Dystonia Alien who is rejoicing in contorting your leg in every position imaginable heightening the pain further.

This pain is constant. Its at the point were it feels like a miracle if I manage 5 minutes without crying. My oramorph only makes a slightly dent in the pain. Sleep is a distant memory as my leg is ravaged with mind boggling pain.  All I can do is hope and pray that this flare up ends soon and does not once again become a fixture in my day to day life.

New Adventure

As many of you may remember in the summer of 2016 I attempted having a little part time job, this backfired on me when my employer refused to make reasonable adjustments and my body went into an extreme flair up.  At the time this wasn’t too bad, but it did leave me pondering as to what I realistically could do.  In February this year I moved in with my wonderful partner, now as you may or may not know such a milestone negatively affects benefits.  I’d been on ESA for quite a while, but moving in with Dame left me £400 worse off each month. The government’s current system presumes that your partner can A) earn enough to be able to afford to be the sole provider B) Is happy to financially support you.

A £400 drop in my income was quite significant as you can imagine.  So I’ve been wracking my brains as to what work I could do that wouldn’t leave me spasming and seizing in a hospital bed. I’d heard about Younique, a high quality skin care and makeup company that would allow me to set my own hours and work from home. In all honesty I thought it was to good to be true, but this week I took the plunge and messaged a fellow spoonie to get her take on the business. She spoke extremely highly of it, and knowing that someone in a similar health situation to me could make it work gave me home.

So here I am now. Today is the start of my 10 day online launch party, and I’m feeling incredibly excited by this opportunity. If you’d like to see what I’m doing then click on over to https://www.facebook.com/smilesparkleglow/. Fingers crossed that this adventure will be just what I need.

Chronic Lyme Disease – An Open Letter to the BBC

Dear BBC

Today you published the article ‘Matt Dawson: I had to have heart surgery after a tick bite’. At first I was thrilled, it is always uplifting to see articles highlighting this condition being shared by the mainstream media. However as I eagerly absorbed each sentence , I could feel my heart sinking further in my chest. In fact I’m pretty sure it dropped straight out of me and into the flat below under the weight of my disappointment! You could have taken this opportunity to really highlight the world wide issue when it comes to diagnosing and treating Lyme and Chronic Lyme Disease. The fact that you didn’t leap at this opportunity is beyond me. What happened to the BBC being at the forefront of reporting, challenging the establishment, pushing boundaries?

You even went as far as mentioning that if Lyme goes untreated it can go on to attack and cause ‘debilitating neurological problems’. This was your perfect opening to delve into the devastating condition that is Chronic Lyme; you could have examined how the tests for Lyme disease are extremely inaccurate and false negatives are a frequent occurrence; you could have investigated how NICE guidelines have left the few doctors who are up to date enough with the research in the area to believe in Chronic Lyme, unable to treat their patients without risking their medical licence. You could have mentioned how, if you are in the unfortunate situation of having to fundraise money to pay for your treatment, you are looking at a minimum of £10,000 for private medical bills and that there is no guarantee that you will be cured. You could have investigated how many people that are given the early treatment are actually, years later, successfully cured.

I was bitten by a tick at the age of 6, at the age of 22 I was diagnosed with Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease. Almost 3 years on and I am still fighting. Last year I was informed by neurologists that they were 99% certain I had MS, but then my MRI came back clean, when I brought up Lyme my case was swept under the carpet. Sufferers are abandoned, left to battle their own way through the system, made to feel like a fraud whilst their lives and their health fall apart. Unlike your report suggests, it’s not as easy as walking into a hospital and stating you have Lyme and hoping for treatment. It feels like a life sentence.

I am living that life sentence.

 

Oromandibular Dystonia & Communication

 

In 2012 one of the first symptoms I developed was severe Oromandibular Dystonia. This meant that my jaw, mouth and tongue go into painful, and often extreme spasms. On these occasions I struggle to speak; this can be due to several factors such as: my tongue spasming and making it impossible to talk, the jaw spasm itself, especially when dislocated, making it impossible; or it is simply too painful to do so. I often attempt to try and talk through the spasm but this can aggravate it.

Trying to communicate during these episodes is difficult, even if I manage to successfully make a noise, what I am attempting to say may not be clear. In recent weeks, since the birth of my baby, I had been trying to think of ways around this. Writing it down is one option, however, I find physically writing very painful and often dislocate when doing so. Instead my partner and I have decided to learn British Sign Language; we’re incorporating baby sign language into this too so that Stefan, when old enough, will understand as well.

We’re off to a great start and enjoying this venture. I’m finding that I feel far more settled knowing that I’ll be able to communicate clearly, even on bad days. As someone who is quite the chatterbox, this is important to me.Image result for BSL

Accepting Limitations

Yesterday was a hard day physically & emotionally. I was struggling to sit up without my heart rate shooting through the roof, experiencing extreme dizziness, fatigue and high pain levels. This is my new normal though, and it’s exhausting. Late morning I had a phone meeting with my university disability advisor. She enquired about my symptoms and their impact on day to day life, along with what advice I had been given from the Drs; this was so that a plan could be put in place for me to safely complete the next semester of my degree. Admitting that I was fainting 20-30 times a day on average, had been advised to be on bed rest and use my wheelchair if I had to go out (which results in dislocations if I self-propel) was not something I found easy to vocalise. The little stubborn voice in the back of my head was protesting that I was perfectly well enough to physically attend my lectures. However not being able to guarantee I’ll remain conscious, being unable to eat without fainting, and with tachycardia developing just by sitting up a decision was made that I could not safely attend uni without putting myself at risk. Normally I’d argue against this, and I wanted to, but I have to remember that it’s not just myself I would be putting at risk. Now this doesn’t mean I’ll be putting off the semester till next year, it just means I’ll have to complete it from home which is perfectly doable.

Despite the fact that I know this plan of action is reasonable and realistic I couldn’t help but feel defeated. I know I’m not well enough to attend class, but to me that’s not acceptable I feel as if I should be trying harder; it’s a ridiculous attitude to have, but it’s there nonetheless.

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Late last night I found myself feeling deflated and quite sorry for myself. I know this is pain related, I haven’t had so many bad pain days in a row for some time, so when periods of pain flare ups occur it impacts my view of things. Normally I’d just increase my meds, count down till my botox injections, knowing that in a matter of days I’ll be enjoying a good spell again. The fact that (unless an emergency spasm occurs ) there is no botox, no muscle relaxants, and limited pain relief options available until after the baby is here is hard. This is mainly due to having to accept my limitations once again.

Talking through how your feeling is something that I feel is undeniably important in enabling a person to help themselves. It’s the main reason I’m composing this post, so that I’ve expressed myself and can start focusing on being proactive rather than moping about.  I spent a good chunk of time talking to my mum about this turn of events yesterday afternoon. Looking back now I can already laugh at the number of times I uttered the phrase “I don’t understand” or “I don’t know what to do”. The reality is I understand perfectly well why I’m not able to go to class, I have a crystal-clear understanding of the fact all of my chronic illnesses can get worse during pregnancy (and the majority of them have) however this is a temporary change, I also understand it’s okay to feel this way.

There’s really not a whole lot I can do to change the situation, unless anyone can point me in the direction of a fairy godmother? I can manage my pain the best I can but other than that focusing on the positives that surround me is the best way to keep smiling; when I look at what’s already happening this year (moving to a new flat, expecting our son, still being able to complete the academic year, and a publisher agreeing to take on my novel) I have to admit I have more than enough to be smiling about.

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“Just Stay Positive”

I have spent the majority of this week at varying hospital appointments, today is my rest day before heading back to the hospital for more testing tomorrow. Frustration and disappointment has been my main response so far to these visits. Part of this is most likely because I am under the care of several different specialists who are experts in their respective fields and generally wonderful. I’m quite lucky to have them as my doctors. However, every now and then I meet a new Dr and have to fight the same misconceptions and preconceived ideas from scratch; it’s exhausting, emotionally draining and depressing.

I’m quite good at finding the positives in being chronically ill,  I’ve been known to be in agony, hospitalised with spasms and dislocations and still be giggling away at whatever ridiculous manifestation my symptoms have appeared in this time. That being said I’m aware of how important it is to be completely honest with my care providers about how I’m managing and asking for help when I need it.

I had been counting down to yesterday’s appointment to see the local obstetric consultant as I am really at a loss with what to do to help myself. The advice so far has been plenty of bed rest and to use my wheelchair if I have to go out. This makes sense and I’ll admit I was unreasonable hoping the Dr yesterday would wave a magic wand, but university restarts at the end of the month, my fingers dislocate when I push myself and I’m pretty sure turning up to uni doesn’t count as bed rest. So I sat in front of the consultant asking if there was anything, even the smallest suggestion, that he could think of to help me help myself. “Just stay positive” was his advice. It was also the last thing I wanted to hear. 5 minutes later he admitted he didn’t have a clue about any of my conditions, so I walked him through them briefly. His advice changed to just come to hospital every time you have a fainting episode so we’re aware of you; my episodes are at the moment generally occurring over 10-20 times a day, so I’ll just move in shall I?587860e5ecea791e83ab995d35b2d52a

This whole appointment got me thinking about my array of conditions, which are confusing and do overlap, so for those of you who are curious here’s a brief introduction.

  1. Generalised Dystonia – this trickly little brain alien causes painful and often debilitating spasms in my eyes, jaw, neck, left arm and torso. It’s not curable, and every patient presents slightly differently. It’s currently playing up as I’m off treatment for the rest of my pregnancy.

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2) Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Type 3 – Unlike my Dystonia, unless I have dislocated or subluxed you cannot tell I have this condition. It causes fatigue, brain fog, pain, dislocations, allergies amongst many other symptoms.

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3) Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and Dysautonomia- This is a relatively new diagnosis for me. Currently this means I can’t even sit up without my heart rate shooting through the roof and my blood pressure plummeting. It’s pretty bad at the moment, due to blood pooling when I eat I pass out during meals. I also pass out if I get too hot, move too quickly etc. My autonomic nervous system is basically a bit temperamental and therefore many different automatic functions can malfunction.

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4) Non Epileptic Seizures – Previously my care providers thought these were pain related but now they think my PoTS may have something to do with it. Often Drs misunderstand these seizures and presume they are either psychogenic or part of drug seeking behaviour.nes.jpg 5) Endometriosis – I fought for years to have this investigated, constantly being told that it was simply bad period pains.  Many drs ignored the fact that they were every 2 weeks, extremely painful, and very heavy. By the time a diagnostic laparoscopy and treatment was carried out extensive damage had been done and I was told that my chances of unassisted conception were very low. This make me all the more grateful for our little miracle.

6) Chronic Lyme Disease – Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection that if caught early can be treated easily. When it becomes chronic, like in my case, it is extremely hard to cure. It affects multiple systems and therefore is frequently misdiagnosed.

Young, Single & Disabled. . . So What?!

I’m extremely open about my disabilities, which is why I agreed to take part in an interview last Sunday with BBC Three Counties Shrink Wrapped. I had a great experience down at BBC Three Counties and you can check out the interview here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03gt2ql#play. Whilst I was more than happy to participate as they provided me with a fantastic outlet in which to advocate, I cannot help but feel that if I was not labelled by society then I would not be finding myself in a position where I need to explain myself and my relationship status.

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The first interview I participated in, several weeks ago, did not focus solely on my romantic encounters, they wished for my views on topics such as The Undateables, accessibility and more. This weekend’s interview however was entirely spotlighted on my romantic life. Whilst I was at the time more than happy to answer these questions and discuss the matter, I did not expect to find myself afterwards analyzing my position.

The more I contemplate over why I am still single, the more I came back to the same answer; who really knows why they are single? It is highly unlikely that a person is single for one specific reason whether disabled or not. I firmly believe that there is a reason for singledom other than ‘there is something fundamentally wrong with you’. Perhaps you’ve not met that right next significant other or a hundred other potential reasons. It is true that genetically I am a mixed bag and my brain is at best dysfunctional but despite all this I do not believe this to be the only clear cut reason that I remain single.

The labels of single and disabled along with my age thrown in for good measure seem to inflict panic in society. It would appear incomprehensible to some that I would remain single and not just settle for anyone accepting of my conditions. Whilst others view my marital status as a sad but unavoidable fact because let’s face it I’m not a genetic jackpot. Now I’m not denying that I would like to find that significant other, but at twenty-three I’m in no rush. So if I’m not panicking about it why must everyone else feel the need to do so? I ask you though would any of you be at all interested in this if I was able-bodied, would you simply tell me that I am young and not to worry?

We apply these labels and these associations to people without stopping to consider the implications they may have. There should not be an expectation upon them to simply accept them. Whilst I may have embraced mine to a degree, I took it apart, examined it and used it as a way to advocate for myself and others with the same chronic conditions. The people applying these labels are not taking every aspect of the person’s life into consideration. They simply see a problem and apply an appropriate term, a way of enabling them to cope is the only way I can explain this. What they fail to see is the normal factors that contribute to that labelled personality. If they looked closer at me for example, they would see the mirid of dates I have been on in the last few months, or my interactions on a night out. I am in that respect in the same league as all of my able-bodied friends.

So if you don’t mind I’ll take your labels and carry on ignoring them. For now, I’m going to enjoy singledom. After all something great is worth waiting for.

The Ballet of I’m Fine

I’m very aware that today’s blog post may come across as me being grumpy, I assure you I’m not! I’m quiet cheery really. However I want to discuss a certain topic that is often glossed over when it comes to chronic illness. I like to refer to it as the Ballet of I’m Fine. We sufferers are experts in the dance, but it is one that we resent pirouetting to with a passion. Too often I see across the social media platforms people airing their feelings at having being cast in this ballet once again. But what else are they to do? Far too often we are acutely aware of people not wanting to know if we are anything but fine. It does not matter to them if our limbs are hideously distorted due to spasms, if our speech is slurred and our sight impaired. They are willing to blindly over look what they can see in front of them, as long as we dance the same old dance.

Well, why should we?! Let’s be honest here people, my ballet shoes are hardly ever worn, I air my illness through my blog. Yes I wish I didn’t have my conditions, but I do and I’m doing my best to raise awareness and carry on with life. So please excuse me if I retire from the Ballet of I’m Fine all together. I have been guilty of smoothing over my illness before to people I know would rather not hear about it. But enough is enough, the dancing shoes are going in the bin.

Chronic illness is not something to be ashamed off. We should not be living in the shadows with life passing by. So we are slightly different, we are unique. That simply makes us interesting. Instead of staring at me in the street, I would much rather you politely inquired as to what was wrong. I would love the chance to educate more people on the condition.

To you folk who care enough to truly listen to how we are holding up, you don’t know how amazing you are!

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Support System

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.

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