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

Posts tagged ‘pain’

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

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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.

So This Is Happening…

So, this is happening…Due May 2017.

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As some of you may remember, a couple of months ago I blogged that I was off all my medications and was learning to cope without them. Many of you noticed that I was very vague with my answers as to why myself and my neurologist had made the decision to do such a thing. After all, I’m normally complaining about my treatment being administered late. At the end of the summer I had the biggest surprise when we found out that we are expecting our little boy! Whilst very exciting, this meant a frank discussion with my neurologist about the available treatment options now open to pregnant me. There have been very limited studies done on the medications that I take for my varying conditions in relation to the safety of them in pregnancy, so a decision was made for me to come off of all my treatments and we would judge where to go from there.

I am extremely lucky to have a wonderful neuro who doesn’t mind me/my local hospital inundating him with emails and phone calls as my body plays its usual tricks. Although my body has been misbehaving with varying spasms and dislocations, the pregnancy itself has been progressing well. Due to having a whole host of conditions that are on the rare side of things, I have been under the care of a specialist maternity unit. It’s been fascinating seeing how they respond and their treatment suggestions; and very positive, as for a change they understand one or two of my medical conditions.

Despite weeks of horrendous 24/7 sickness, a spell in the hospital due to my Dystonia going on the rampage and a whirlwind of further hospital appointments as my body learns new tricks, I have continued with my university studies and plan on continuing into my 3rd and final year after the baby makes his appearance.(Thank Goodness for a uni with a fabulous disability team and amazingly supportive lecturers).

I’m looking forward to blogging about Dystonia and Me’s, and bumps adventures.

Celebrating The Fabulous in Spoonie Life

I cannot believe how quickly this year has flown by, it feels like just the other month I was curled up writing my usual Happy Christmas blog post. Looking back at my blog posts from the last year it has been a rather hectic emotional roller-coaster. My blog was set up to raise awareness in 2012, but rather accidentally for me it developed into a rather useful therapeutic outlet. For you guys that means whilst I do post the happy stuff, the negative is slightly more frequent. This is simply because life is unpredictable and the good, bad and the ugly don’t come in equal measures.

So to help end the year on a positive spin here are just a handful of things that have kept me smiling this year that wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t chronically ill.

  1. January 2016 – After BBC 3 Counties found my Cosmo Articles and my blog I took part in a quick phone interview to discuss disabled dating and ‘The Undateables’. Having been approached by ‘The Undateables’ before I took advantage of this opportunity to express how labels such as the shows title really are not helpful when tackling social stigmas.12583607_824636114328836_1166901021_n
  2. February 2016 – I was invited down to the BBC 3 Counties studio to participate in a valentine’s day segment on dating and disability. I was extremely nervous but the humour I manage to find in my conditions meant that I had several great stories to tell. It was a surreal experience that received great feedback and really boosted my confidence.12695785_835851056540675_1209977806_n
  3. March 2016 – Finally I realised the importance of not apologising for being the way I am. My genetic makeup makes me who I am. So what if I am a bit of an oddball with misbehaving limbs? If you feel uncomfortable around me then take a look at yourself and your views first, because my genetic make-up isn’t something that can be fixed and I no longer feel like I have to apologise for it.
  4. April 2016 – After waiting just over a year I finally was admitted to The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital Stanmore for a 3 week inpatient pain management program. I’d been extremely nervous about this, and if I’m being honest didn’t see how they could help me short of waving a magic wand. 8 months later and I’m still putting my pacing lessons into practice (I slip up now and then but on the hole I manage much better), and I have a flare up plan that works!
  5. May 2016 – this had been a hard month, between being assaulted and the Drs telling me they were pretty certain I had MS (turns out I don’t but that was a scary few weeks). I was pretty much at my lowest point here. Then at the end of May I was offered a preliminary contract with Britain’s Next Bestseller. Now sure I may not have reached publication due to not hitting the pre-order requirements but hell that was a confidence boost and a half. I had a publisher believing in my work and that’s good enough for me.thumbnail_Regan Final Cover (2)
  6. June 2016 – I was still being investigated for MS, but with a wonderful man by my side I was managing to take it all in my stride. I was starting to see the funny moments in being ill again rather than allowing myself to be swamped in fear.
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  8. July 2016 – This marked 4 years since I had had to leave my midwifery training. Usually  I would mope about and be quite tearful. This year whilst the sadness is still there I can smile when reflecting on it. For if I had never become ill all the wonderful opportunities I’ve had over the last 4 years would never have happened.
  9. August 2016 – my partner gave me a key. I think I just grinned for the rest of this month.
  10. September 2016 – I started my 2nd year at university. I’d survived my first year and am fortunate to be studying at a university that goes above and beyond to help meet my needs!
  11. October 2016 – I was pretty ill and hibernated for most of this month. The fact that I recognised this and took care of myself was a huge leap forwards for me.deacf0c45b71fe38bc45675bced94b07
  12. November 2016- I ended up back in the hospital for awhile. Nothing out of the ordinary in that respect other than the fact I have a huge fear of this particular hospitals neurology team. After being misdiagnosed by them before it was no surprise when I found them to be as pigheaded and ignorant as previous. The difference this time around was that I had the confidence in myself, and enough knowledge of my conditions to advocate for myself rather than allowing them to treat me incorrectly.15128841_1048302218628890_7420253256398203646_o

Everything that’s happened throughout the year whether big or small has been impacted by my health. Previously I would have told you that was awful, I wish I could be ‘normal’; whilst yes I’d love to be healthy, I cannot deny I have an exciting fun filled life that if I wasn’t a spoonie would have been drastically different.

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.

Duvet Days

Today is the last day of Invisible illness week 2016. I had had good intentions all week to blog daily, however readjusting to uni life meant that I was coming home from lectures and going straight to sleep. For this week I had planned to blog about achieving despite illness, and general spoonie hacks for coping with day to day life. Instead I’ve decided to leave these topics for another day and address the reality of what happens to someone with chronic illness when they catch an ‘ordinary’ bug.

I have spent the majority of today curled up under my duvet feeling frankly rather pathetic. Having caught a sicky bug and then developing a kidney infection I’m not feeling overly fantastic. Instead all my joints have been in a constant state of flare up pain, I have struggled to remain sitting upright for any length of time because my back feels like I have Snow White’s 7 dwarfs performing an irish jig on it; to walk the measly few steps from my bed to the bathroom has involved me gripping on to my walking sticks as I don’t trust my dodgy joints not to slip out of place and add to my already elevated pain levels. This is my reality every single time I catch some sort of acute bug. It sucks. Whenever my partner or my housemate has asked me what they can do to help, I’ve asked for a new body. It’s a silly retort and a bittersweet one at that. For a brief moment I’ll smile, as I know how unattainable that is, and then comes the downwards spiral because there are nowhere near enough words in existence for me to express how much I wish I could just have a new glitch free body.

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credit: Pinterest  – Spoonie Awareness

My mental well-being always takes a blow when I feel ‘iller’ than normal. So finding positives in each moment helps. Today I’m celebrating the fact that I recognized I needed a time out from life, I’m thrilled that I actually managed to change into a fresh set of pyjamas, that hell yeah I managed to walk through the pain with my stick, and sure I only managed a wee while but I still managed to accomplish some revision.

Sure I may be moaning and feeling rather sorry for myself, but I’m over the moon that I still managed all these positive moments. Tomorrow I’ll wake up to a new sunrise, and hopefully experience far less pain.

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