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

Posts tagged ‘Neurological disorder’

Dystonia Awareness Week 2017

It’s currently the 2017 Dystonia Awareness Week in the United Kingdom. Usually I would have kicked off awareness week on time (yesterday) with a blog post, and as has become tradition, would have been sporting some lovely green streaks in my hair.  Instead I’m currently in the hospital due to a flare up of my Dystonia; at least the timing is appropriate and they’ve given me some sexy green slipper socks (so I’m squeezing the go green awareness campaign in).

Currently The Dystonia Society UK estimates that around 70,000 people are affected by the condition, making it the third most common movement disorder in the UK, however it’s thought that the affected number of people affected may be far higher due to a lack of knowledge within the profession affecting levels of correct diagnosis. Dystonia presents in a vast amount of varying ways across all age groups which adds to the complications when it comes to diagnosing patients.

Only a few decades ago it was thought that Dystonia was caused by psychogenic roots, thankfully through giant leaps forwards in research we now know that this isn’t the case; many people will never know what triggered their condition, whilst others now know that their Dystonia is caused by either a genetic mutation or brain trauma. Sadly despite the leaps in understanding of the condition many medical professionals still mistake this as psychogenic condition and therefore do not treat the patient appropriately. 

This is one of the reasons that awareness week is so vital,  without awareness and fund rasing events research into causes and treatment options comes to a halt. At this moment in time there is no known cure for Dystonia,  but treatment can have a significant impact in a sufferers quality of life. 

Though out awareness week I’m aiming to blog daily, however this may alter depending on how well I am.

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Happy 4th Birthday Blog

Can you believe that today is the fourth birthday of Dystonia and Me? It is astounding just how much difference another year makes. My battle with Dystonia and my other conditions is one that for a long time I have felt I was drowning in. It has seemed like a constant tug of war, desperately trying to stay on top of my symptoms. For many years it seemed to me as if my little alien was always ten points ahead of me, and I was treading water trying to regain my lost control and catch up. Today I can quiet firmly say I am miles ahead of my alien, I am now basking in the peace of coping.

I’m not saying that I don’t have my down days, there are plenty of days when my spasms, seizures and dislocations just seem too much. However, what I am achieving makes those days worth while. In the last year I’ve completed my first year of uni, managed to live a life so full that it’s been beyond my wildest expectations for myself, I have been nominated for an award, interviewed several times by the BBC Three Counties, and I have had a blog post censored (which is why if you’ve been looking for the last one you have been unable to find it). I’ll let you guess as to which one of those I am most proud of.

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When I started blogging it was to raise awareness of Dystonia, in a short period of time it has grown to encompass a whole host of conditions that I live with. In 2012 when I created Dystonia and Me, I had hoped a handful of people may read this site and learn something new that could have the potential to help others. I never expected this blog to become the lifeline that it is for myself. Blogging my experiences, good and bad, has enabled me to accept my complications and learn to love myself again. Through this blog I have come into contact with incredible people who I admire greatly.

If you had told me a year ago I would be writing this, I would have laughed. I was so caught up in my worries and excitement about starting uni that I never thought to think what could possibly lie ahead. Who knows what will happen in the next year!

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Would You Apologize For Shivering? Didn’t think so!

Every now and then I receive wonderful comments/emails/tweets from people expressing how reassuring it is to see me post pictures of my spasms. These messages often include phrasing such as “I don’t know how you do it, it’s very brave” and “I wish I had your confidence”. I don’t talk about this much, but when it comes to my spasms my normal confident self generally disappears. The stares in the streets, the whispers of “look at her face!” and people’s general ignorant remarks “Could you please stop or do it elsewhere” (usually in reference to my arm spasms) have caused me countless hours of upset. I don’t believe in wasting hours on being tearful over something I have no control over though, I hope the pictures below show that while hard, life as a spoonie can be fun.

               Does this splint blend in?  Laughter; the key to making the most of the spasm free moments!

In many ways I’m your stereotypical 23 year old, I take way to many selfies, own far too many shoes and grew up head over heels in love with books; a passion that has resulted in me wondering where to put them all now I’ve run out of shelves! I have all the insecurities that is normal of somebody my age: I am overweight, I do not care enough about fashion as I’d rather be comfy, and don’t even get me started on my complexion. It’s tiny insecurities that are perfectly normal but when combined with my spasms often results in self-deprecation. There are days when I can walk about not particularly worried about some of the smaller spasms I experience, and then there are days when I’m hyper aware and embarrassed when in public, not just because I need an aid such as my wheelchair or stick, but because my eyes are spasming causing functional blindness, and my jaw is contorting to the point of dislocation; this is all whilst my left arm is casually attacking anything in range.

When confronted by people asking me to refrain from spasms, I try to politely explain that it’s nothing I can control and apologize. But why should I. Should you apologize for shivering when cold? It’s a natural reaction that you would never dream of uttering apologies for. So why then should I issue out apologies for something that is just as natural. Sure, everybody and their friend may not experience it, but it’s my brain firing off incorrect signals that are just as natural as your shiver or yawn.

I live in pain every day and never know what to expect from my body. Yet people judge me for this. If all I manage to accomplish that day is a shower and pulling on a clean pair of pyjamas then who cares, all that matters is that I achieved it, other days I am capable of so much more. But just because I have had the energy and ability to carry out a task at that point in time, does not mean I will be capable of performing the same task five minutes later, let alone the next day.

I try to live every day ignoring the sideways glances and stage whispers, enjoying everything I am fortunate enough to experience. These days I try to capture my spasms on camera, as after all they are just as much a part of me as the functioning parts of my body. So when you are say I’m brave and ask how I cope the answer is quite simple. I’m not brave, I am stubborn, Dystonia and my host of other conditions will not stop me from living life. Coping is a different matter altogether. Some days it’s as easy as breathing, and laughing feels like the answer to everything. Other days curling up in my bed escaping into books where the words provide comfort and distraction is all I can do.

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Rocking my wheelchair!

When I Was bitten By A Dragon…

Yes that’s right Dr, at the tender age of six I was bitten by a mythological creature. Within six months of this terrifying beast having a chew on my thigh you diagnosed me with M.E. You had exhausted all other diagnostic criteria. Not once did you consider that something so dramatic as a dragon bite may have occurred. Had you have taken a thorough medical history maybe right from the start you would have suspected Lyme Disease, perhaps you would have treated me and cured me of this hideous illness straight away. But how silly of me. You are a Dr, you do not deal in the likes of maybes, possibilities and mythological creatures; only cold hard facts, ones that fit nicely into your tick boxes.

Over the last 17 years do you know how many times your kind have uttered the words “It would appear you have X, but I am unsure because you just don’t fit into any of these boxes exactly!” Since when did the boxes become so rigid and unadaptable, are we not all unique individuals with our own mix of conditions that affects us all in varying ways? If as people we are so unpredictable in the way a condition may manifest, why then are your boxes so unforgiving. Only Monday of this week the Dr sat there trying to decide whether to diagnose me with inflammation of the optic nerve in both eyes or inflamed retinas in both eyes. Frankly the lovely woman was lost, I had her quiet confounded. She could see plainly that I was rather ill, her barrage of tests confirmed that, but not one of them could put their finger on as to why. I sat there quietly next to my mother, both of us whispering “The dragon bit me 17 years ago, but you don’t believe in Chronic Lyme Disease.”

Now replace the word dragon with a tick. This small seemingly insignificant creature is known to carry, in many cases, Lyme Disease. A disease that more often than not will report a false negative during testing due to the lack of accurate testing methods available. Oh but a lumbar puncture would pick it up you say? Yes, it sometimes does, but my neurologist swears me away from it for fear of making my Dystonia worse. One hospital says we will give you IV antibiotics that you need to cure you but we will only do this if you have an L.P, another admits they are 100% certain I have chronic Lyme but their hands are tied due to regulations that are out of date and blinded with inaccuracies.

Chronic Lyme is often hailed as the Great Pretender. You only have to look at me to see why. Here I am in another flare up of symptoms, attempting to treat each one as it appears. Its distressing really, knowing that IV antibiotics would cure but regulations prevent this as I’ve had both positive and negative results. So in the meantime it’s a guessing game of what will subdue the next round of symptoms for now.

If only Drs believed in mythological beasts like Dragons and Lyme Disease.

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Hospital Investigations

Since I last blogged things have been hectic. I have spent the majority of my days either at the hospital having various investigations carried out, or on the phone to them chasing down followup appointments. This week I have had more bloods taken and an MRI of my brain, eyes and spine with contrast performed. Tuesdays MRI experience seemed a bit surreal. It took 35 minutes, three medical personnel and 7 attempts before I was successfully cannulated as my veins were up to their usual disappearing act. This time allowed for me to internally become quiet anxious at the thought of being in the MRI machine for a minimum  of an hour – in the end it was about one hour twenty. I am generally not a claustrophobic person, but this machine brings that fear out in me, this is most likely exacerbated by the fact that I have to be strapped to the table to ensure my spasms cannot move me around to much and distort the images.

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Taken just after escaping the MRI machine

My stress levels have been through the roof this last week. I have fought so hard over the last four years to be put on a medication regime that allows me to have more control over my body again, and live a relatively normal life. The mere thought that my body may become more of an issue again is distressing. However I am lucky that I have a good support system in place, my family help keep me distracted, my boyfriend is great at talking through my concerns with me, and my councilor has been a fantastic space for me to vent and explore my frustrations at my faulty body.

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Relaxing in Costa after a long day of tests at the hospital

I get the results of my MRI on Monday. So I shall know then whether more investigations need to be carried out or if it is MS.

When The Drs Terminology Gets Terrifying

This week I have had three GP appointments, and visited three different hospitals. It’s been busy to say the least. For the majority of it I have managed to stay relatively calm and think in clear cut clinical terms. Today that went out the window. My GP this morning, unhappy at the treatment I was receiving at another hospital sent me with an urgent referral to my nearest emergency eye unit.  It has been an extremely long day of explaining symptoms, examinations and watching the same concerned expression on the nurses and Drs faces, when they realize that yes I really cannot see out of my eye.

Optic Neuritis for the second time in just under six months had the Drs in charge of my care today fairly concerned. Today they presented the fact to me that they had to consider that Multiple Sclerosis was the reason behind my Optic Neuritis. So tomorrow I’m heading back to the hospital for blood tests as there are a few other conditions than cause vision problems that they want to rule out, and at some point in the next two weeks I’ll be having a contrast MRI of my head and spine to give them more of an idea of what is going on.  Now I’m doing my best to remain optimistic, my way of thinking so far is that I already have a fair few neurological issues, so surely it’s another part of the bodies turn to be the problem. Not the most logical attitude I know, but it’s working for me.

In the meantime, Disney soundtracks are my distraction.

Importance of Utilizing a Support Network

Whether you are ill or not having a support system in place is something everybody needs. Everyone deals with varying difficulties in life, and whilst experiencing these a support network helps keep life ticking over and enabling you to feel like you can cope. Often during difficult times, it becomes very tempting, and easy, to simply shut yourself away from family and friends. I know personally that I would much rather deal with a problem by myself, this is simply because by talking to others the issue feels more real and daunting. However, acknowledging it and making plans to resolve it with people you trust is a key to moving forwards.

When I was first diagnosed with Generalised Dystonia in 2012 I shut myself away from most of my friends; even a trip to Tesco was difficult as I did not want others to see what had become of me and judge me. Reflecting back on this now, I know that this was more a fear of seeing others react to my spasms and having to admit that I really was having to deal with this. A huge chunk of me wanted to pretend it was simply an unpleasant dream. Despite knowing that talking amongst trusted individuals is helpful, I still fall back into bad habits whenever life goes slightly askew.

This past week I have been coming to terms and dealing with some difficult situations outside of Dystonia. Admitting that they happened and needed dealt with was a hugely difficult step, but a necessary one. My botox is a week late this time round, I am receiving it this coming Wednesday, so dealing with a combination of life being more flawed than usual and my spasms progressively increasing in severity, has been more than I felt I could cope with. This is where a support network is vital. Family and friends can help give an outside perspective on how to manage life events, and advise what steps to take. This is an invaluable tool! Sometimes though, you need more than just the loving circle of individuals. Realising this is key. I have just started talking to a councillor. This is something I had hoped I would never have to do again, but it’s been necessary and I know is helpful.

Living life with Dystonia is never going to be easy. I greatly admire every individual who does so. Realising when you need support is not a sign of weakness but of great strength. So please remember to talk to those around you. This condition drives us all barmy, sometimes we need grounding.

What Causes Dystonia?

Currently the exact cause of Dystonia is not known; though a number of problem areas have been linked to the condition. Research has shown that there is a fault with a section of the brain called the basal ganglia. It is only in a small minority of sufferers that the condition has a clear cut cause.

Dystonia can appear on its own, secondary to another medical issue or as a result of medication – this is known as Tardive Dyskinesia. At the current time 80% of children diagnosed with Dystonia have it alongside a primary condition for example Cerebral Palsy. In adults the condition can be caused by a stroke and other neurological issues.

As research is progressing more genes are being found to be related to different forms of the condition. Studies have found that some cases of Generalised Dystonia are hereditary. However even if there is a genetic issue it does not guarantee that you will pass on the condition. It is thought that there is between a thirty to fifty percent chance of a child inheriting Dystonia depending on the mutated gene and type of Dystonia. So far over 20 genes have been identified in relation to Dystonia, with more being found all the time.

For more information on the genetic links to Dystonia I recommend http://www.dystonia.org.uk/index.php/about-dystonia/causes/is-dystonia-inherited

Vulnerability and Dystonia

Living with a chronic condition can have a detrimental effect on the sufferers attitudes or mental health. Many people experience disbelief from both the public and medical professionals during their fight to achieve an accurate diagnosis. Due to this many choose to refrain from openly talking about mental health conditions and passed traumas with doctors and those close to them. Often this becomes an early defensive behavior that is learned in on order to prevent pre-emptive judgement.

In 2012 during my fight for a diagnosis I found myself in the John Radcliffe for 8 days as I had developed Pain Triggered Non Epileptic Seizures, and my Dystonia had spread from my jaw to my eyes. I was very honest about my past with the consultants in charge of my care. I expressed that I had suffered physical abuse during my teenage years, that I had sought help and that I was now in a much happier place. I still view being honest with the doctor in charge of my care as a mistake however, due to the fact I had had this unfortunate experience I was informed all my symptoms were psychosomatic, and that I need neuro-psychiatric contact. As I’m sure you can imagine I did not take this well. I remember clearly stating that I would go talk to their psychiatrist, purely so I could jump through their hoops and prove them wrong.

Mere months later I had my diagnosis of Dystonia and a letter from my neurologist stating that my past experiences had no impact on my current state of health. That letter has not stopped doctors and acquaintances questioning me over the years though. On numerous occasions I have been asked if I am depressed. I am generally an optimistic person who loves nothing more than to laugh. Yet being repeatedly questioned has its impact. I am defensive of my health, I feel like I have to justify myself and that leaves me feeling vulnerable. For if people struggle to believe me when they can see the physical symptoms in front of them, what else will they close their mind too? Vulnerability is an emotion that too many sufferers of chronic illness experience. It comes in both physical and emotional forms. One of the best things a person can hear is ‘I believe you’. It is an empowering statement that allows us to relax and breath. Acceptance free of doubt opens up a line of honest communication. Something that we all need.

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Dystonia Awareness Week 2016

Dystonia Awareness Week has arrived! This naturally got me reflecting on my journey with my alien so far. It has been a long four years to say the least, but the experiences I have had on my journey so far has been worth it. I don’t think I will ever be 100% adjusted to the lack of control I have over my body, but I’ve accepted, adapted and molded who I am around my quirks.

At 17 when I was diagnosed with Oromandibular Dystonia I didn’t understand what was wrong with me. I thought it was some sort of infection causing the issue and that once dealt with it would just be an unpleasant memory. When I was diagnosed with Generalised Dystonia at 19 it felt like the end of the world. Emotionally I was a mess. I couldn’t wrap my head around how I had gone from training as a midwife to being unable to brush my own hair, let alone stand up. Now at 23 I have hope.

If you spoke to me about the condition even two years ago I would have told you that I could not imagine living the rest of my life with it. The idea alone used to reduce me to a quivering sobbing heap. Despite the pain and the spasms, I can now picture the long term. I understand that my Dystonia isn’t going anywhere but I’m okay with that. It’s part of my life now and although it can be pretty dire, it has at the same time filled my life with so much laughter.

As is now my annual tradition I shall be blogging daily through-out Awareness week, and going green for Dystonia. So hop on over here daily for more information on the condition.

For more on Oromandibular and Generalised Dystonia head on over to http://www.dystonia.org.uk/index.php/about-dystonia/types-of-dystonia/mouth-or-tongue-dystonia

http://www.dystonia.org.uk/index.php/about-dystonia/types-of-dystonia/generalised-dystonia

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