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

Posts tagged ‘health blog’

New Beginnings

At the start of May my degree came to its close. After three years living in Oxfordshire it was time to start making new plans for the future; which is why on the 11th of May we packed up and moved to St. Helens, Merseyside. It’s a long way from my family which is hard but we are surrounded by my in-laws who I love dearly.

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Happy in our new home

Getting to know a new area and work out the most disability friendly routes to places is tiring but so far I am feeling very settled and happy in my new environment. I’m now several hours away from my neurologist which is less than ideal but he has agreed that I can remain on his treatment lists. Whilst moving to a new neuro more local would be easier I don’t feel comfortable leaving his care as he has been my rock for the last six years.

I’m having a couple issues with my jaw spasms and the osteoarthritis at the minute but overall I’m coping well. I’ve introduced a new herbal supplement to see if it helps with pain relief and will be reviewing this soon.

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February Update

I’m truly ashamed of how long it’s been since I last posted on here, that one blog post a week goal went out the window! But I’m still here ticking along desperately trying to find a moment in the day to sit down and share with you all where I’m at. The joy of being in my final 9 weeks of university, along with having a 9 month old baby & another book to write however means I really don’t seem to have enough hours in the day anymore and unfortunately regular updates have had to be postponed. I do intended to get back to a weekly format asap.

So what’s going on with me?

My Dystonia alien is being regularly forced into submission thanks to good old Dysport injections. I’m currently exploring how different exercises can be used to help in the management of the condition so please feel free to contact me with any articles you recommend or if you want to share what’s worked for you.

My optic neuritis has finally improved and I am waiting to see my lovely neurologist in April to discuss the results of a new MRI and Evoked Visual Potential tests. I’m hoping for the usual “nothing obvious to see, but we expect that with Dystonia” response.

My Tourette’s like symptoms have been slightly more prominent lately and I would love to hear from any spoonies with this/symptoms similar to this. The word ‘lemons’ escapes me far more often than I care for in a day and whilst this is manageable I’d still like to hear from others about any ways of calming it. Naturally this will be another little chat with the neurologist in april.

I’d like to take a quick moment to thank the many people who emailed me their thoughts/prayers etc after I shared my diagnosis of postnatal depression the other month. My PND I feel was the result of extremely poor and traumatic antenatal care*, after several hard months I feel like I am turning a corner. I cannot express enough how much hearing from so many of you who wished to share with me how you navigated PND helped me to feel less alone during a time where my emotions and anxiety where crippling me. Thank-you.

*Some elements of my antenatal care were perfectly fine however overall without going into detail it was a traumatic experience which need not of been so. Complaints were logged with the trust at the time.

Body Meet Osteoarthritis

This week I found myself sitting in the preop clinic of a knee replacement clinic. On my arrival it didn’t take long to piece together where I was, and even less time to start panicking as to why I was there considering I was expecting to see the Orthotic department not the surgical team.

The Dr I’d been assigned was lovely and surprisingly familiar with the majority of my conditions. I was pleasantly taken aback to discover that they had scheduled all the xrays and scans into the appointment time slot, so I was carted off down to X Ray where my knees, hips and ankles were x-rayed from multiple angles (so far I’ve just had the results for my knees). Having these pictures taken took quite awhile as trying to get my knees and and toes all pointing in the right direction is a rather impossible task. I got the impression the radiographers were not used to my host of conditions as my uncompromising feet proved quite the problem, and by manipulating them into a forewards position my knees subluxed!

So far the x-rays have revealed that I have Osteoarthritis in my knees and that really I need new knees, however due to my EDS that surgery is extremely unlikely to provide any long term relief so my surgeon wants to delay it for as long as possible. So for now the plan is to try to shift as much weight as I can to ease the pressure on my joints and delay the surgery. Whilst the diagnosis is disappointing it explains the pain I’ve been in for the last few years. I’m just keeping my finger crossed the x-rays won’t show it in my hips and ankles too.

Before I sign off, Spoonies it’s cold outside! Please if you find you are affected by the cold spend that extra spoon wrapping up warm or having a longer bath. Practice self care. This time of year can be hard, I know I’m suffering, so be kind to yourselves.

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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.

5th Blog Birthday

Happy Birthday Dystonia and Me!

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Can you believe it’s been 5 years of blogging already? I can’t quite wrap my head around how quickly this has come around. It feels like just last week, I searched for a webhost desperate to spread awareness of Dystonia after feeling like I was floundering in a sea of uncertainty with little resources to pursue in my quest for answers. Now I confidently tackle my condition head on and happily refer people to resources  I have come  to know and trust.

When I started blogging it was completely in the mindset that it would be purely to raise awareness. Over the last 5 years this has evolved to be a space where I can openly and honestly express myself without fear, safe in the knowledge that someone out in the vast vacuum of the web will be able to relate to what I am going through. My blog has become a site for awareness, expression and connection; I cannot get over how many online friends  I have made. Whilst I am sad that so many of you have to live with this life altering condition, I am thankful for each one of you that has become a vital part of my day to day support network.

Over the last few years this blog has been nominated on several occasions for awards, won one, and even become a resource that several neurologists hand out when diagnosing new patients (this still flatters, astounds and thrills me). I’ve had other sufferers pounce on me with hugs and their stories at hospitals; I love this, it shows me that I am doing something right.

Just a few years ago, reaching this milestone seemed ridiculous. I didn’t know how to live each day let alone 5 years with this hideous condition. Now, several diagnoses later, I have learned to find joy and laughter in my spasms, to treasure every moment that puts a smile on my face and be thankful that drs like my neurologist exist, for without my neuro my world would be darker (literally). So instead of being disheartened that 5 years on I’m still battling, I’m lifting my chin, defying my alien and celebrating each little success.

Here’s to another 5 years.

Redefining Pacing Parameters

Since my latest flare up began I’ve been taking extra care to make sure I acknowledge my accomplishments no matter how small each day and attempting to redefine my pacing parameters.  This is a key tool for me to keep in mind at all time. Mainly as it enures I acknowledge my further limitations during a flare up and act accordingly, but also as it keeps me focused on the positives and prevents me getting tuck in a emotional rut which often occurs in flare ups.

I had a wonderful opportunity as part of my publishing internship yesterday to direct and film an interview with an author signed to the publishing house. It was a fantastic experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.  However like all things it required spoons, and far more than I had anticipated. Despite my lack of spoon saving preparation I got through the day relatively intact and the repercussions didn’t kick in until today.

This is where I feel like I’ve made leaps and bounds in handling life with chronic illnesses. I didn’t attempt to struggle through the pain today, or go to the other extreme and do nothing (although sometimes this is needed); instead I decided we would go about our day as planned but I would use my wheelchair the whole time, with baby snug in his sling against me, and Dame pushing me rather than me risking dislocating a joint or three by self propelling.

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We only nipped out for a short while as avoiding over stimulation is key on days when I feel my health is on a downward kilter. So a relaxing jaunt to the local coffee house and then onto Waitrose was our plan. I was quite overjoyed to find a wheelchair friendly trolley. A rare treat, that has quiet made my day.

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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

Summer, Spasms & Studies

Summer has arrived without a doubt, beautiful cloudless sky, sweltering heat and wonderful days out whilst I’m on my uni holidays. However, the arrival of summer also means that my body is working extra hard to compensate which has resulted in periods of tachycardia, eye and other spasms and an increase in pain. Sunglasses are now a permanent feature to try and relieve a bit of pressure on my eyes, but short of sitting in the freezer there’s not too much that can be done.

When I first became ill I found my focus was entirely on all the things I thought I wouldn’t be able to do anymore. Over the years I have conquered all the hurdles I was facing or found ways around them. Going to university was a huge deal and quiet the achievement for me. I’d been so reliant on others for years that living on my own and only having care for a little while a day was a nerve wracking decision to make. As you can imagine the idea of juggling a baby and uni has been a bit daunting.

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Stefan’s first trip to Oxford Brookes University

At first, I didn’t know how I would manage both, but last week we ventured up to my university so I could sit my last exam of my second year. I was extremely lucky that my lecturer was willing to look after Stefan whilst I sat the exam. This has given me the confidence that I can do both, and that I’ll find ways to cope, for example little things like strapping the pram to my wrist so that if I have a seizure or have an extreme spasm he’s perfectly safe and can’t go anywhere. Small things like this put my mind at ease and reassure me that despite my conditions I can manage life as a student and mum.

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Keeping the pram attached

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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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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