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

Posts tagged ‘pain’

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.

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.

Spoonie Issues; Postnatal Complications

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing this post for a few weeks. It’s a tad on the personal side, but as I find blogging so therapeutic I figured it may help to write it all down. As you know almost four months ago I gave birth to my handsome smiley boy. It’s  been a whirlwind few months since and I love being a mum. However I’ve been experiencing complications ever since and after my last doctor’s appointment I feel a bit shaken up.

With the exception of 5 days (spaced out) I haven’t stopped bleeding since I gave birth. At first I put this down to the fact I obtained a second degree tear during my labour that took a long time to heal.  I frequently wonder if its related to my EDS but Mr Google hasn’t shed much light on that. I’ve tried hormone medication designed to prevent the bleeding but other than causing further hellish stomach pains it didn’t make a difference. I’ve now been prescribed a new medication to make me clot more whilst I wait for an urgent appointment with the gyny team.

It’s been decided that I need a procedure to look around and see if there is any obvious issue that hasn’t already been picked up on my scans that have been carried out over the last couple of weeks. My Dr’s advice has been that if the scan doesn’t show anything obvious that can be treated, then she recommends that I have a serious chat with the gyny team on having a hysterectomy. I find it hard to believe that at 24 years of age that a hysterectomy is my only option. In my mind that just isn’t an option and there has to be others.

I struggle with my conditions day to day as it is, throw in recovering from major surgery and the complications that come with that procedure and it doesn’t seem worth it. As you can imagine I’ve been quite wound up about it; I would love to hear from anyone who has had similar postnatal complications, and if you don’t mind sharing I would be curious to hear what treatments you tried.

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

Welcome To The World

It’s been over a month since I last posted here, thank you for all the lovely comments and emails checking that I am okay. I’m absolutely great, on the 14th May at 22.15pm I gave birth to our little boy Stefan Elijah. I have spent the time since adjusting to life as a new parent and learning how to respond to my conditions postnatally.

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I was extremely lucky during labour as my body behaved far better than I expected it to and my seizures never reared their ugly head. Despite my original concerns about an epidural I requested one, my labour was induced via a hormone drip which meant my contractions were rather literally constant which I didn’t cope well with. Whilst the epidural didn’t work fully (I could still move my legs and feel a lot of pain despite several top ups) it took the edge off and between it and gas and air I was able to cope far better. I went from saying I couldn’t cope anymore to having my inner geek come out and compare labour to an Orc trying to get through a hobbit hole! I have no idea how long my labour lasted, at 6.30ish pm I was only 3cm, so I was not classed as being in established labour, yet less than 4 hours later our little boy was here.

Since the birth my pain levels have dropped dramatically, I think mainly due the fact that he is no longer able to dislocate my ribs! Whilst I’m counting down to my botox injections, I’m thrilled knowing the appointment is in the post, I’m managing my jaw and other spasms rather well. I no longer push myself to get through any plans I had for the day if my spasms are on the more painful side, as it’s not worth risking having a seizure. Doing this has meant that I’m not wearing my body out and am needing less medication.

My Ehlers Danlos is causing a few issues at the moment. During birth I obtained a 2nd degree tear. Despite being stitched up at the time my body isn’t healing, so almost a month on I still have an open wound. Whilst I wait for a plan of action to resolve this I’m resting and on regular antibiotics to help.

All in all I am extremely thankful that the birth was so straightforward and I am loving life as a new mum. My partner is a fantastic dad and is great at helping me out and letting me grab some more sleep. I’m aiming to get back to blogging more frequently over the next few weeks, so check back for updates.

 

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Diagnosing Dystonia

Reaching a point of diagnosis in too many cases is a long and hard road to travel down. Despite being the third most common movement disorder there is an astounding lack of knowledge in the medical community. The lucky minority may get a diagnosis in months, but for most it takes years, sometimes decades.

In a way I was lucky that I had heard the word Dystonia once before, though I had no appreciation of its signifinance. Looking back at my medical history I had symptoms long before I realised there was anything potentially wrong. In 2008/2009 I developed severe neck spasms, however this kicked off after a rather spectacular fall from a horse which resulted in me landing on my head, so it was easy to put the spasms down to this. Then in 2010 I experienced for the first time Oromandibular Dystonia. My jaw dramatically deviated for a painful 3 months before we found a maxiofacial consultant surgeon who knew what was wrong.  I was informed that a quick operation where my tempromandibular joint (TMJ) would be washed out and botox administered would solve the problem. I never questioned this and presumed that Dystonia must be some sort of infection. This belief was reaffirmed by the fact that the operation was a success. Shortly after this  I developed arm and back spasms, but for several years I shook these off as simply violent shivers.

In the summer of 2012 I was coming to an end of my first year of midwifery training. For a couple of days I’d had ear ache and swelling and had planned to visit the GP but was in no rush to do so. I now recognise this as a sign of whenever my jaw is going to play up. That weekend I’d popped home to visit my family,  whilst relaxing in the garden with them my jaw started to spasm and once again deviate. My mum offered to drive me to the local hospital which I declined, convinced it was just an infection.

My GP that Monday was horrified. After one look at me I was on the way to the hospital with her convinced I had had a stroke. Countless blood tests and xrays were taken, and eventually a consultant appeared. He was the top bod in his area and had an ego to match. Due to his station I didn’t question his plan to wire my jaw shut. Less than 24 hours after the operation my flatmates were rushing my back to hospital, the spasms had returned with vengeance, breaking every wire in my mouth and dislocating my jaw. From that moment onwards the consultant dodged me. Refusing to see me or remove the wires which were ripping my mouth apart.

It took a further 3 months to find a surgeon willing and able to help me. Sitting in front of the surgeon who had treated me back in 2010 he was apologetic for the state I was in. By this point we had started researching Dystonia as I was now wheelchair bound and unable to brush my hair or feed myself.  

I often wonder whether 5 years on I would have received my diagnosis if I had never met my neuro. The Dystonia Society UK have a wealth of information that has been invaluable. It’s enabled me to ask for treatment and referrals appropriate for my conditions and have informed conversations with doctors. 

I never expected to still be fighting for correct care. The current hospital I am in would far rather blame my symptoms on past traumas than acknowledge the existence of Dystona. It makes me thankful daily that I have a neurologist willing to my corner.

Practically Complicated In Every Way

Its been a few weeks since I last posted, and it’s mainly because I don’t have a clue where to begin. My body has been doing what it does best and excelling at being complicated resulting in very confused Doctors trying to figure out what to do with me; I’ll let you know if they ever figure that one out!

Functional is how I would describe myself at the moment. In that I can get up and dressed but it’s causing a lot of pain, and then that’s my spoons used up for the day.  I’m pretty sure sleep would make me feel a thousand times better, but between my iron tablets (I’m extremely anaemic) causing severe sickness morning and evening, spasms, palpations and generalised pain, I have found that I am lucky to get three hours of sleep a night. As most people with chronic illness know being fatigued makes everything harder and it all seems a lot worse than it probably is. This has resulted in tears quite regularly recently simply because I don’t quite know what to do to help myself.

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I’m currently 33 week pregnant, so there’s not long left to go. It reassures me to know that once baby is here I can go back on my Botox injections and safely take stronger painkillers and muscle relaxants again. Whilst I’m keeping my fingers crossed I’ll be able to avoid going back on high doses of these, it’s comforting to know that I will be able to manage my pain far better.

I’ve been in bed for three hours now, tossing and turning. My left shoulder is agony, and I have horrific nerve pain in that arm and over my right rib. I feel rather emotional, and wishing for the ever-elusive magic wand to be waved to take the pain away. I know that this flare up in the long run will be worth it, and once the baby is here I’ll forget about it. But right now, coping with a flare up of my current conditions and a flare up of my new symptoms is making things feel pretty tough.

I’m hoping that whacking my TENS unit on full and using my heat packs will help me get enough sleep tonight that tomorrow is better.

“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.

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