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

Posts tagged ‘spasm’

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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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!

Four Years On

Five years ago I was ordering every midwifery textbook and journal listed on my degree reading list; excitedly absorbing every word each page had to offer. Through that next year I lived and breathed for the job. I am immensely proud and blessed to have had that opportunity and experience.

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That year, however was blighted by ill health. I had operation  after operation and frequent trips to the local A&E. Reflecting back on that time I can track the dramatic decline in my health before my Dystonia took root at the end of July 2012 and Benedict my Dystonia Alien became part of daily life.

For the first year I honestly did not cope. People would tell me how well I was doing and silently I would disagree. I was spending the majority of my time holed up in my room desperately searching for any other answer, any other curable illness that could explain my symptoms. I had no idea how to be me anymore. I had built my whole identity around midwifery, the reality that I was, and still am, to ill to practice had me in denial for many years.

Since 2013 I’ve rediscovered how to live and enjoy life no matter the severity of my symptoms. It does not matter if I am reliant on a wheelchair/stick/splint or if my body is spasming to the point of distortion and dislocation, there is always something positive to latch on to.

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Now that’s not to say down days don’t occur,  they do but on a far less frequent basis than previously. Generally these are only after baffling drs or a new diagnosis being added to the growing list.

Living life with a goal oriented focus has been a huge help for me. It doesn’t matter how big or small the aim in mind, the motivation it provides is key. This mindset has enabled me to qualify as a Reflexologist, complete an AS in creative writing, start a new degree that I adore and now focus on getting my novel to publication.

Aiming and achieving my goals enables me to feel as if I am defeating Benedict. I know he’s never going away but it makes living with him easier. When I first got diagnosed I could barely imagine the next week let alone year. The idea of living with my conditions for any length of time was to painful and deeply upsetting. Four years on I can look to the future with the knowledge that my body will never function as it should but excited as to what new milestones I can achieve next.

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Finding Benedict

I was up in London today for an appointment with my fantastic neurologist. Whilst I always stress over the little things like timings, how the injections will go and medications, I never stress over seeing him. His manner is so calming that during the appointment I feel as if it doesn’t matter what he says, it’ll be okay as we will always put a plan of action in place to try and make the future as pain free and positive as possible! The hospital I attend has some fabulous Toy Story themed stickers on the wall in the waiting room which I love. As I’ve mentioned before I always picture my Dystonia to be a Toy Story style alien named Benedict. Which is why this picture naturally had to happen today 🙂

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Finding Benedict!

I’m currently coping with Optic Neuritis on top of everything else. The hospital which I’m under for this had decided to leave it up to my neurologists as to whether or not I was treated with steroids. He has decided that he wants me started on steroids and wants an MRI with contrast carried out, as this is my second flare up in six months. I shall be spending Thursday at the eye hospital so hopefully I can talk to them about getting all of this put in to place and moving forwards.

Overall today went extremely well.

Progress; Laughing Through The Pain

As Dystonia Awareness Week draws to a close it is hard not to draw comparisons to previous years. Today is my beautiful sisters 21st birthday; Happy Birthday Eloise! To celebrate we drove down to Portsmouth, where she is studying, to visit her for the day. This is something we do each year for her birthday, and it’s always a fantastic laughter filled day.

The first year we did this was 2013, my Dystonia was still very much new to me and we had not found a treatment regime that worked yet. Due to this I had sunglasses on and off all day as the sunlight was aggravating my blepharospasm, I was wearing several layers and huddled in blankets as the bite of the wind was increasing the severity of my spasms. At this time, I was completely reliant on a wheelchair. I had major trust issues when it came to people pushing me around, I was terrified they would tip me out, so you can imagine how I felt about this.

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2013

Whereas today I got out the car and strolled to my sister’s house; if I had still been in my wheelchair I would not have been able to get through the front door! I was able to enjoy the sunshine without worrying about my eyes, and it was hot enough to not need to layer up. Even though my Botox is a week late I only had a handful of spasms over lunch, and I simply laughed through the pain. I think my mother may have doubted my sanity at this point as she asked me to recite the alphabet backwards to prove I was completely conscious.

Today has been extremely upbeat, it has shown just how far I have progressed thanks to ongoing treatment.

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2016

 

Dystonia: Who am I now?

There are many aspects to life with Dystonia; to address them all would take hours. So I’m going to focus on just a few this evening. As with any condition, once you are diagnosed, many sufferers go through a soul searching period. This is simply trying to work out who you are now. Inevitably we all change, for better or worse, once a chronic condition develops. You’re still the same person, just with a few modifications.

At eighteen I was a Student Midwife. There was not a lot else that made me who I was. I was a daughter, girlfriend, and student. I felt fulfilled. If you had told me then that in less than a year I would be unable to practice midwifery I would laughed. Midwifery was my passion, to even entertain the thought of another career seemed ludicrous. I could talk about the subject until I had grossed people out enough that they were begging me to stop! Now at 23 I am a daughter, student, freelance writer, blogger, reflexologist, advocate and Spoonie. Midwifery is but a happy memory that still brings a tear to my eye. I put up with less drama, I have no patience for anyone who only wants to be around during the more upbeat moments of my condition, and I am a hell of a lot stronger than I used to be.

It has taken four years to get to this stage. I have gone through denial: refusing to acknowledge that my illness won’t just disappear. I was so lost in this that I even reapplied and was interviewed to go back to study Midwifery. A small moment of madness in reality. I have grieved for the person I was, and that life that I lost. I have floundered in uncertainty, whilst those around me helped keep me from sinking into waves of despair. Now I finally have accepted who I have become. Despite everything I have been through, and am still going through, I am happy and thriving.

There are still days when I question why I have experienced the things I have. Only last night I was joking that I must have been a dementor in a previous life, for why else would I be sentenced to this path? Melodramatic I know, but it doesn’t make that feeling any less. Despite my illness I have no regrets. I am surrounded by people who love and support me every time I fall. Through my Dystonia I have had the opportunity to meet and talk with a number of individuals who I admire greatly. I have made many new friends. I have contacts around the globe! At the end of the day, I am happy. I cannot ask for anything else.

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

So What Is Dystonia?

In the United Kingdom it is estimated that at least 70,000 people suffer from Dystonia. Despite being the 3rd most common neurological movement disorder many people have never heard of it. The word Dystonia describes uncontrollable muscle spasms which are caused by the brain firing incorrect signals to the muscles. There are many types of Dystonia however, and no two types present exactly the same. The incorrect signals can cause the body to take on abnormal postures, tremor, contort and more. Many GPs will not see the condition during their practising career which can make knowing when to refer for a diagnosis difficult. Many sufferers go years before diagnosis occurs.

The condition is incurable and a tricky one to treat. Whilst many people manage to live full lives with appropriate treatment, this fact does not lessen the impact of the condition. A task you may be capable of preforming one day you may be unable to perform the next. If the condition appears in adulthood, in the majority of cases, it will remain contained to this area – this is known as focal Dystonia. However typically if the condition appears during childhood it generally will spread across numerous parts of the body -Generalized Dystonia.

Obtaining a diagnosis and receiving treatment can make a huge difference to a person’s quality of life. Without treatment I would be unable to see consistently, I would struggle to communicate due to jaw spasms, my head would be lopsided and my arm would be uncontrollable. Due to lack of awareness reaching the necessary professionals diagnose can be difficult, which is why awareness week is so important; increased awareness will not only help improve diagnosis times but can lead to more funding to find a cure.

Are you doing anything for Awareness Week? If so get in touch and let me know.

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Green for Awareness Week

3 Weeks Rehabilition Program

After a year and a half of waiting tomorrow I am being admitted into The Royal National  Orthopedic Hospital Stanmore for intensive rehabilitation for my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Type Three. I am a mix bag of nervous and excitement. From talking to previous inpatients  of the program it sounds extremely positive and successful. There are many different components to the rehab, such as hydrotherapy, physiotherapy, pain management and sessions with psychologists. On the most part I am very optimistic, my consultants all feel that the treatment should offer significant improvement.

The only part of the program I am wary about is the psychology sessions. If I could opt out of these I would.  Now I shall be sensible and fully cooperate with them but I can’t help my reluctance. I have had years of sessions with varying types of psychologists. Since I have been ill I have had specific sessions with cognitive behavioral therapists to attempt to control my seizures, however out of the three therapists I have seen only one has looked at me holistically. Due to this my file now contains a note from my neurologist instructing therapists not to focus on my past and informing them it has no impact on my medical situation. Click on  VLOG and blog for more info. However, many therapists choose to ignore this. Whilst I am sure the psychologists I am going to be seeing over the next few weeks will be lovely, I worry that they will be like the many I have seen before.

I get admitted at 8:30am tomorrow morning, so it’s not long to go now. My neurologist is convinced it will make a huge difference to my jaw and I’m keeping my fingers crossed he is right.

Winter Precautions

If you had sat opposite me and my friends on the bus yesterday chances are you would not have had a clue there was anything wrong with me. When I shuddered, and my friends asked in hushed tones if I was cold, you would not have paid a second thought to it. In reality that shudder was my body trying desperately to twitch but failing due to the injections, my friends whispered question was simply because they know that the cold aggravates my Dystonia. I currently walk around Oxford like a human marshmallow, swaddled in layers, with my gloves, hat and scarf on. My joints are already painful most days. I compensate for this though, my bedroom generally feels like a sauna.

Winter is coming. For many Dystonia, EDS and other spoonies winter impacts their chronic illness, causing spasms, pain flares etc. Managing your symptoms gets harder and if you’re anything like me and run head first at every challenge your condition presents, then you’ll find that with winter you’ll crash and flare more often. Symptom diaries are a fantastic tool to keep. Learning what you can do to keep on top of your health is the best approach you can take.

I know that in winter If I go out with no gloves and only one pair of socks, I am going to spend the day apologizing to all the people I pass in the street as I’ll accidentally hit  them when I twitch. It’s humiliating, and avoidable if I just remember to wrap up. If my room gets to cold I know I shall spend the night in agony with my body spasming. Again this is avoidable. I may not be able to prevent every single spasm, but I can definitely prevent the worst of them by taking sensible measures.

So please all you amazing spoonie warriors, wrap up this winter and don’t put yourself at risk!

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