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

Posts tagged ‘dystonia alien’

Dystonia Alien Rears Its Fearsome Head

Recently after seeing my neurologist a decision was made for me come off of the majority of my medications. It is not a decision that either of us made lightly but there was little choice in the matter. For the last four years, I have been completely reliant on a cocktail of medications and injections to simply make my day to day life manageable. It has taken years to find the right combination of medication and injection frequency, so taking a step away from all of this had been extremely frightening; I had no idea how my body would react or how I would cope. Whilst there was every possibility that in actual fact I would manage perfectly well, I was also painful aware of my medical history, of the years spent with weekly ambulance trips to the resus department. This is not something I ever want to repeat.

At first I was managing fine, the emotional ups and down that come with weaning yourself off of medication was nowhere near as bad as I had expected, and I had managed longer than 6 weeks without botox; which is frankly a miracle. However, over the last two weeks or so I started to worry, I put my symptoms down to an ongoing cold I’ve had for the last month. There was a familiar tugging sensation in my jaw, my eyes were slightly more aggravated than usual, and I was experiencing ‘violent shivers’. Before I was diagnosed in 2012, I always called my arm twitches ‘violent shivers’, it was my way of convincing myself there was nothing wrong. It’s funny how easy it is to fall back into bad habits.

This weekend my jaw has been particularly bad; it was deviating dramatically and starting to tremor. My only medication option was codeine, which left me feeling slightly spaced out but did nothing for the pain I was in. Since then my body has gone dramatically downhill. Last night my jaw spasmed, violent tremors followed, dislocations occurred and then my arm spasms joined in. I had forgotten how much pain all of this can inflict.

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last nights dystonic antics

After very little sleep and being no better this morning I arrived at my emergency doctors in the hope they could suggest anything to help. I generally judge how bad I am by the Drs reaction; she was appalled I had ended up in the state I am in and was lost as what to do.  So now on her instructions I am curled up in bed encase I have a seizure, I have emailed my neurologist in the hope he may contact me sooner rather than later, and I’m waiting for her to phone me back with an action plan. She had been debating trying to admit me in to hospital, and as much as I have my concerns with my local hospital due to previous experiences, I cannot help but feel that this is this best place for me as I can no longer eat and I haven’t successful managed a sip of water since early this morning.

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apparently I don’t need a working face

Fingers crossed things improve soon.

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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

Three Years of Benedict

Today marks three years since my life got a good shake up as my Dystonia alien made its presence known. So much has happened over the last few years that it’s hard to keep track, I’ve had a handful of operations, countless x-rays, far too many ambulance trips, and appointment after appointment with varying Consultants. I have also gone from being reliant on a wheelchair fulltime, to being able to walk with the aids of splints!

It has been an incredibly emotional journey, and I think that’s a naturel response to everything that’s happened. I’m finally at a place in my life where I feel like I am climbing the mountain that is Dystonia, instead of tumbling down it. I still have days like today, where it’s more like I am stubbornly camped out on it, refusing to fall. This morning I woke with my jaw in spasm, and my neck spasming on and off. So naturally I have spent a section of this afternoon lying on my living room floor, as the support that position gave my neck and back was the only way I felt comfortable. A year ago doing this would probably have left me feeling annoyed that I had resorted to doing it, today I was simply laughing, though maybe I am simply losing the plot.

Battling this condition has become second nature, nowadays I always have medication on me, and sometimes there’s even a TENs machine in my handbag. It surprises me how quickly Benedict has become accepted into everyday life without a second thought. This is a bittersweet realisation. It’s fantastic because it shows we are managing, that we are not drowning under the pressure the condition puts upon us. However a part of me feels sad that it has become so second nature, simply because who wants it to be part of their routine to remember to take one of their many pills or injections?

I’ve always kept score against Benedict. I think this year I finally got even.

To University And Beyond!

I have some incredible news for you all! I think this tops all my positive news so far this year. I have been offered an unconditional place at Oxford Brookes University to study an undergraduate degree in Publishing Media this September. This wasn’t planned; more about that later. I applied just over two weeks ago and it was a shock to find myself typing out my personal statement, however I’m over the moon and counting down the days till the course begins.

I went to an open day last month with the idea in mind that I would apply to study in 2016. Whilst I was there I had a lovely chat with the course leaders who were impressed with my Cosmo articles, my work editing the church magazine and of course my blog. They encouraged me to speak to admissions and apply as a late applicant to study this September. In all honesty I didn’t expect to get a place. The deadline to apply was back in January so I was really pushing my luck. Yet can you believe it, for once luck is on my side?!

I was astounded at the open day by how disabled friendly the university is. The ensuites in the disabled accommodation are comparable to modern hospital disabled facilities. Ironically it will be easier to keep myself clean at uni than at home! The disability service team talked through with me the support that will be on offer for me, which really helped put my mind at ease. There will be a pull cord in my room and bathroom for if I need emergency help when I’m in the flat. On days when I am suffering from a flare up of symptoms l I can ask for a ‘buddy’ to be with me all day in case I need help. There is a fantastic range of support available for both my physical difficulties and my Dyslexia. I have been beyond impressed by the speed of contact from the disability team. I only received my offer yesterday from the university but this team have already been in contact to arrange support for the upcoming year.

It’s all happened so fast and I’m sure the next two months will fly by. Returning to university study is a huge step. Moving to university is an enormous step. I have relied on my family to care for me, when Benedict the Dystonia Alien decides to come out and play, for so long. I have never had to deal with my condition on my own, so this will be a big learning curve, but it is one that I am extremely excited to experience. The next three years I’m sure will have bumps in the road but I plan on enjoying the journey!

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Judging When To Get Checked Out

Saturday evening, after a drizzly but fantastic day spent at Ascot racecourse, I found myself lying on my side in the living room in a fair degree of pain after my hip gave way. After a quick feel I was certain that it hadn’t dislocated and the fact I had remained conscious and had not slipped straight into one of my seizures reassured me that nothing too untoward was at play. However my hip, when not spasming, has never been the reason for me falling before, so the fact I was not seizing I felt could not be 100% relied upon. Perhaps my brain had functionally paralyzed that part of my body? Even momentarily, would have been enough, after all my hip had caused me increasing amounts of pain all day.

I still don’t know why this happened. After spending a couple of hours on the floor we eventually got me to my room, and I spent the following day, on bed rest, taking plenty of regular painkillers and ant-inflammatory’s. It is only now on Tuesday that I am walking around without as much discomfort, though I’m still taking regular anti-inflammatory’s. One of the issues I often find with my myriad of medical conditions is judging when to get arising issues checked out. With my bones I usually go by whether the complaint is swollen or not, this is on the advice of a plastic consultant, due to my EDS. However when it comes to the rest of my conditions it can be pretty hit or miss.

When I end up in Accident & Emergency, or when I’m at my GP’s, I often feel like I’m wasting their time because of how often I’m there. The best they can do is patch up the new issue; like sticking a fabric plaster on a cut before getting in a bath. It’s almost pointless because you’re just going to have to stick another one on when you get out, but for the mean time it’ll do. The reasonable part of me knows this isn’t the case, that I need their help and I’m extremely thankful for it. But whilst I’m there I can’t deny that’s how I’m feeling, especially when a lot of appointments involve me battling to receive treatment I need.

Judging when to get checked out is a minefield. So often I leave things until they have reached a point where I probably have made it worse for myself. This seems to be a common issue among people with chronic health conditions. Many of us have accepted that we are chronically ill and that we will have falls or spasms etc., we just don’t want to make a nuisance of ourselves or accept another symptom or injury.

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Exploring Boundaries

Before I became ill I frequently had periods away from home. Whether that was holidays with friends, slumber nights with mates or living in halls at university during term time. Having independence rudely snatched away by Dystonia has been something I have had difficulty adjusting to. To a degree you could say I have refused to adjust to it and have enjoyed pushing my boundaries even if they landed me in hospital.

At times rolling over, bowing down to my alien and declaring its victory, has been tempting. However I’m a stubborn person, a trait that I am rather sure is one of the reasons I have come as far as I have in my battle against my many illnesses. Up until this weekend I had not spent a night away from my family (my mum has always slept at the hospital with me) due to the severity, complexity, and erratic nature of my health. Over the last year we have finally found a combination of medication and regular injections that has helped to manage my symptoms enough to give me a better quality of life. So I decided to embrace this new found stability (though I shall admit I still have some unexpected moments, and have almost hit my boyfriend on a few occasions), and spent the weekend in Manchester visiting two of my old flatmates.

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My flatmates Emily and Rachel are very close to my heart. I see Rachel several times a month as we live seconds away from each other still, but Emily I haven’t seen since 2012 though we have kept in touch. They were both there for me in uni when my body started going downhill, and have spent numerous occasions in hospital with me at silly o’clock in the morning. To have my first time spent away from my family be with these two girls meant a lot to me. It was also quite reassuring as they have both done their nursing training, so I was in safe hands!

Today I am shattered, after a full on weekend with the girls, a subtle reminder that although it feels like no time has passed since we last were all together I’m slightly more fragile than I was back then.

Mind and Body: Opposite Ends Of The Spectrum

The difference between my mental and physical capabilities is vast. Dystonia has meant that my health has changed frequently and I have to constantly remind myself that just because I think I can do something doesn’t necessarily mean I can. Those who know me well, know that I tend to think well I’ll give it a go and if I spasm, then I’ll learn from it. Trouble is, my thought pattern then alters to well body, you may have spasmed last time, but if I do it again perhaps you will learn. It is not a smart way to deal with the condition; my neurologist really is a saint for putting up with me.

Mentally I feel no different to how I did before I became ill. If anything I am more determined to do things, to attempt to try to retrain my brain. It may sound slightly out there, but if you can desensitize nerves, then why not reteach the brain movements? I’m determined to get it through to my Dystonia alien, that twitching and throwing things just isn’t polite.

Over the last two weeks I have been far more active than usual. With my exams over and done with, and no revision needing to be done, I have filled my spare time with constant activities.  Part of me is aware of my neuros six weekly reminders to not overdo it. I know that eventually my body will crash and spasm far more than usual, putting me at risk of seizing. It would be far more sensible to pace myself, to do an allotted amount each day. To do this would make my Drs happy, but I doubt it would reassure anyone that I was any safer; friends and family would still be concerned about me. I would still be ‘ill’.

To live my life by allotted sensible slots wouldn’t make me happy. Burning out now and then hurts like mad and I always say that I’ll take more care next time…followed by a laugh because I know I don’t mean this. I love to be as busy as I can. I will never overload myself completely; don’t get me wrong I allow for plenty of down time, chilling with a good DVD, recuperating. But slowing down isn’t for me, I know I’m ill, my body gives me a daily reminder (when the Botox is wearing off) with all the walls I hit, the jaw spasms and mad blinking but I have a lot of living to catch up on. I plan to do just that.

Neurophysiotherapy

Today I had an appointment at Jacketts Field Neurological Centre for my neuro-physiotherapy assessment. I was slightly worried as I had heard very mixed reviews about the unit but was doing my best to go with an open mind. As it was an assessment I knew a lot of the time there would be spent answering questions verbally e.g how does your spasms affect your ability to swallow or do you have any walking ability? However some of it was going to be physical, this left me concerned as my body is currently in meltdown mode due to lack of Botox so moving about could be painful. Luckily my mother agreed to come with me which put my mind at rest, if the worst did happen and I had seizure after seizure and an ambulance needed to be called, I would be safe and my mother would be able to instruct them on what needed to be done – however all that worrying was for nothing as I didn’t have a seizure 🙂

After answering a lot of questions and having a good laugh with the physiotherapist, it was time to demonstrate just what my little Dystonia alien does to my legs. Figuring I would only have to take two or three steps with my walking sticks, plus the physio and my mum holding me up, I happily stripped off my splints and stood up. This promptly set off my spasms in my legs and the next things I knew I was on the floor! I had not even taken one step! Benedict obviously had been enjoying playing twister with my face and got his knickers in a right old twister when asked for my legs to join in…stroppy sod! As much as my body is now a little sore at least it gave the physio a good idea of what exactly I am contending with.

Due to how much my body does, the assessment did not get finished even though we majorly ran over time! So we have had to book another assessment in! I am really looking forward to this.

On a quick note this Saturday I am attending my local Dystonia Society Group meeting, this will be this first one I have been to and I am so excited to meet other people with my condition!

Peace of Mind

The last several days have been very busy and very positive.  I finally feel that I am getting things in place that I need and have an aspect of control. As I have little control over parts of my body, having control over some aspects of my life is very satisfying and makes up for my Dystonia alien crazy ways.

This coming Monday I am going to my local hospital for an appointment with the Orthotic department. My splints have served me well over the last few months, however as it has gotten  colder my spasms in my legs have gotten worse. My right leg spasms so strongly that it often manages to escape my splints. I am hoping Orthotics may have an idea of what they could do to help. If not I have some images of some splints that I think may be able to contain my legs. It would mean having a solid front section to the splint as well as a solid back, this I think would work well as it would be a lot harder for my leg to break through. I’m looking forward to hearing their ideas.

When the Dystonia hit my legs I was given your standard NHS wheelchair – lets describe it as sturdy. My poor mother struggles to lift it in and out the car, and watching my friends lift it makes me feel awful. Recently however the functional paralysis that I experience on and off has meant that my wheelchair needs some extras added to it but this is not something that is possible. This has meant that  when I have an episode of paralysis affecting my back I have ended up flopping half out the wheelchair and being stuck till it comes back.

So after a couple of weeks of pointing this out repeatedly to the NHS Wheelchair service I am now being reassessed to see if I qualify for a voucher that would enable a chair to be customized for me.  Even better news is that the even with all the extra things added to it the chair will still be much lighter than my current one.

Knowing that my splint and wheelchair issues are going to be dealt with has given me such peace of mind and enabled me to relax. They are such small issues but in the long run have a big impact so having the two solved will make a big difference.

Last Saturday I attended a bring and buy sale at my local Church. One of the stalls was raising money for The Dystonia Society. In the end just over a £100 was raised, which is incredible. I would just like to say a huge thank-you to everyone involved.

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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!

 

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