Last Tuesday marked the 6 year anniversary since Dystonia made a joint shattering (literally) entrance into my life. Previously I’ve marked this day by reflecting on where my life is in comparison to where I had planned it to be; not a great way to spend it and usually resulted in a lot of tears. This year was remarkably different, for the first time in six years I didn’t spend the day in tears and focused on how truly blessed I am.
The reality of my conditions means that as I age my body gets deteriorates a lot faster than a healthy person would. I already need a double knee replacement but have agreed with the surgeons to delay this until my son is in school full time. I’m told its inevitable that I will end up reliant on power chair in the future. The time frame for this is unknown, so I’m focusing on doing what I can to strengthen my body against the battering it takes from the too frequent dislocations and spasms. I’m starting by shifting the weight, it’s slow progress but I am making progress. I’ve found some local HIIT classes for mums and babies that are happy for me to do what I can whilst my son plays beside me. A month ago I signed up to the body coaches 90 day plan, which unfortunately I’m only just starting as I dislocated both my knee and shoulder and needed to let my body recover. His workouts are harder than my body can cope with right now but I’m adapting them and feeling great.
6 years ago if you had told me that I would be OK with living with a mile long list of debilitating conditions I would most likely have bit your ear off. Now I can see how my experiences are shaping me, I’ve learnt to grasp every opportunity with open hands and jump feet first. Whilst the idea of a further 6 years living in this pain is not one that I can even start to wrap my head around. I know that I have the strength to battle it and succeed.
Today I had my first one to one session with a local Yoga teacher. I had been inspired to give this a go after hearing a number of other Dystonia sufferers saying they managed to do it and enjoyed it. The teacher was lovely, she believed in completely looking at my body as a whole and worked out what I could do, not what I couldn’t! This to me was important as it took away the feeling of being disabled. For me interestingly enough I found that my hypermobility was my main issue more than my Dystonia during the session, as I had to work on controlling my flexibility so that I did not over flex the pose.
Research has shown that the benefits of yoga for movement disorders include improved strength, flexibility, balance etc. This is something that I am working towards (minus the flexibility) as due to my muscle spasms I am aware that the strength in places like my legs will not be as good as they were before I was ill. I never had a sense of balance, so if I can gain that then I’m not going to complain!
I found the whole experience to be actually quite relaxing. The fact that my Dystonia only played up a handful of times meant that I could really enjoy the session and appreciate what I was doing. My teacher was surprised at how much she could get me to do, this pleased me as I felt like I was achieving something. She explained as we went along what each pose would help with and what muscle it would stretch. By the end of the session we had a whole routine put together that I will do for half an hour every morning. I am hoping that by doing regular Yoga my muscles will get used to being stretched often, that way when it next does one of its extremes spasms – like the one that damaged my knee ligament – I won’t do as much damage to my body and I won’t be in as much pain. As much as I hope I never have to deal with that sort of extreme spasm again I know there is a good chance I will have to. I am extremely interested to see if this will help.
Yesterday I attended the Hertfordshire Dystonia Group meeting. I cannot even begin to describe the joy it brought me. Finally meeting other sufferers face to face and hearing individuals describe their journeys to me and the different ways they manage their conditions was a very comforting and freeing experience.
A speaker, who has Generalised Dystonia, had been arranged and I must say Suzie was absolutely inspirational to listen to. At 16 she had won a scholarship to train as a ballet dancer at the London Studio Centre, unfortunately three terms in she started suffering with Dystonia, that has gradually progressed. However she is such a positive, determined, talented woman and has not let Dystonia stop her in the slightest. She now created ActOne ArtsBase which is a platform for young people and adults with and without disabilities to explore dance. The work she is doing really is amazing. For anyone wanting to check her work out – http://artsbase.org.uk/dancebase.php
Within the talk that Suzie was giving she mentioned how felt that exercising helped her manage her spasms. This is a theory that my personal trainer has touched on several times with me. Whilst certain exercises may trigger a spasm most tend not to. This is something that I have noticed, and it amazes me, for example I can ride a horse but I am unable to walk. One of my spasms involves a rather violent arm spasm/twitch, out of the many people I have spoken to online not one of them has had this particular symptom, which has gotten me into a few awkward but amusing situations. So I was delighted when it transpired yesterday that Suzie also has this spasm, having someone else say yes I do that too, made me want to laugh out loud and breathe a sigh a relief!
Meeting everybody yesterday has given me such a big positivity boost and in a way normalised Dystonia for me. Everybody was so lovely, if it had not been for the fact my body had been deteriorating I would happily have spent several hours more sitting there getting to know everyone. It was perfect.
I am not the type of person who likes to sit around all day doing nothing, I like to challenge and push myself. Sometimes I do not recognise my limits and I push myself to far but I would rather try than give up. Yesterday I had a session with my personal trainer. Despite feeling ill and having awful spasm for several days I decided to go ahead with the session as I felt slightly better. I am so glad I went ahead with the session as it was incredible.
At the start of the session I was a bit worried as we were going to try to do boxing. I was concerned that my arms would act up and that I would have a lot of spasms, however I will never let my Dystonia stop me from at least trying to do something, because if you never try then you will never know what you are capable of. It was the most fantastic session as my hands did not spasm once! I had a teeny tiny arm spasm that wore off very quickly, but I don’t really count that.
I still feel like I am still on high from the session, it was extremely therapeutic as well as a good work out. I am completely astounded at how well my limbs behaved, it has filled me with joy as it was a fantastic achievement. My arms were not to great later in the day but I did not care as I felt like I was sitting on top of the world.
As an able-bodied person I never tried boxing, I brushed away from the idea of it, declaring that my lack of coördination and my ‘girlie’ attempts would be embarrassing. So I am actually rather thankful that because of my Dystonia alien I got to try boxing out. It was an amazing experience, and I don’t think my punches were ‘girlie’ at all. Over the last few sessions I have realised that I am stronger than I thought.
I feel extremely lucky to have found a personal trainer who is not scared of my condition and who comes up with inventive ways to get me working out e.g using a crutch with him putting resistance through it to do a chest press. Without his fantastic help I am sure that my spasms and my body would me in a far worse state than what they are at the moment. His work outs keep my body moving, which helps give me that extra bit of mobility. His help has given me such confidence in myself and my ability to deal with my spasms. I never thought I would enjoy working out, unless it was on a horse, and now I love it. I love my daily work outs and I am always looking forward to my weekly session.
I know each Dystonia patient is different but I would defiantly recommend looking into a personal trainer to see if they can help you. You may or may not benefit from it, but if you never try you will never know.
Today has been such a fantastic and empowering day! I had been looking forward to today all week as I had planned to go out and see a few friends and then have a personal training session. Normally my friends would come to see me, and I would sit in the middle of my bed so that if I do have a Non Epileptic Seizure I am safe. Instead I went out to my friend’s house, and my mum left me there on my own. This was the first time I had been left in someone else’s house on my own since July 2012. This excited and scared me. It turned out that I had no reason to be scared as it went perfectly. I spent the time sitting down, laughing with them and for a few hours felt like a normal 20-year-old. This has given me confidence to venture out more, I know that eventually my little Dystonia alien will act up but I cannot let the fear of that keep me from trying to establish a normal social life.
I had not been able to see my Personal Trainer for a few weeks as my spasms had been so bad and more of my body had been affected (only my left leg is unaffected now). As usual I was really looking forward to today’s session. I love our sessions as I am doing something proactive that not only challenges my little Dystonia alien but makes me feel positive about myself.
In today’s session my dystonia attempted to act up, and we worked around it. I paused when the spasms made it to hard to do that particular exercise but carried on as soon as it released. It was an extremely good session and I only had one tiny Non Epileptic Attack and a handful of spasms in it, which I thought was fab considering it had been a few weeks and my body’s not been great recently.
My Personal Trainer and I had previously discussed trying out a TENS machine to try to counteract the spasms. Whilst my hand was in spasm, he put the TENS machine up to full power and within a few seconds the spasm in my hand had released. The theory behind this is that to use a set of muscles another set has to relax, so by stimulating the relaxed muscles the spasming ones had no choice but to relax. The positive outcome it seemed to be having amazed me, it was like having a remote control for my Dystonia alien. I have no idea if this will happen on other parts of the body or if stronger/different spasms will react so positively, however this is an exciting experiment that I am going to enjoy greatly. I am planning on videoing my hand in spasm and how the TENS relaxes it, so that I can show my consultant.
If anyone has tried using a TENS before for Dystonia please let me know, I would be extremely interested to hear how you got on with it. You can get in touch with me by either commenting on this post or by going to this page https://www.facebook.com/dystoniajourney where you can inbox me privately or comment publicly.