What is perfection? It’s a word that we toss around like it weighs not a thing, when the reality is that’s a ball and chain dragging our mental health through the mud chasing after. I’m sure my own view of perfection is mighty different to yours! If it wasn’t then it would be a case of bottling up a potion or creating a word doc telling you what steps to follow to achieve perfection and selling it for a killing; I’d be able to have my own purpose built bungalow. No it’s different to all of us yet we all seek it.
It’s the little negative moments experienced that make us seek it. It’s the old man tutting and shaking his head repededly at me because he couldn’t push past my wheelchair easily. It’s the side eye and the sarcastic comments that are made by people who don’t understand ambulatory wheelchair users exist. It’s dislocating 15 times in one day and just having enough. It’s all these things and so much more that make us want to chase perfection.
The fog of insecurity in our brains full of thoughts like if I just weighed less, if I wasn’t chronically ill, if I wasn’t in my chair, if I was more like them; it’s all based on the negative moments and turned into insecurity and self doubt. It’s a weight that no one needs.
But chasing perfection is futile. It’s an unachievable concept. It’s time we move away from it. On that note can we bin chasing normal as well? Learn to love ourselves the way we are. Life would be boring if we were all the same. I know I would rather be my unique self than identical to every other person.
Following on from yesterday’s Facebook live where we touched briefly on genetic causes of Dystonia, I wanted to delve into this a little more. DYT1 gene is the cause of some cases of early onset Dystonia and seems to be the one people are aware of. However there is a number of other genes that can cause Dystonia. Knowing whether it is a genetic cause is worth investigating as treatment can differ. For example I have the GCH1 gene which is the cause of Dopa Responsive Dystonia. I’ve lived with my symptoms for eight years and only recently found this out. I’m now awaiting to start on the appropriate medication for this particular type of Dystonia.
Being diagnosed with Dystonia for the majority of people is a long road, and more complicated still if you don’t know the medical history of your parents, grandparents etc. I haven’t had contact with my father for years but I know from my mum that he had hand tremors and was often called shakey. Now this could be caused by anything and that’s important to remember but based on the fact that my hands also spasm and tremor it’s a significant point.
When I was on the initial road chasing for a diagnosis only one doctor recommended genetic testing and this was never followed up on. I then spent years fighting against the label of functional Dystonia, which seemed to being applied purely based on my previous traumas. It became a frequent sticking point, one in which I often pointed out that fighting for treatment and belief was by far more traumatic at the time than issues I’d already worked through with therapists.
It was only after resorting to private genetic testing that we discovered that I had a genetic cause; I’d been blaming it on a horse riding accident for years purely because my neck spasms started shortly afterwards.
So does having a genetic cause change anything? Yes! Some types of Dystonia are far more likely to respond to Deep Brain stimulation, while others respond to specific medications better.
It is important to remember however that not all Dystonia causing genes are known yet. This is one of the reasons family history is so important. I only went digging into my genes after my maxfax surgon mentioned that their appears to be a link between Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Dopa Responsive Dystonia.
Other causes can be medication induced (tardive dyskinesia), brain injury, as a symptom of another condition etc. If you have concerns over the root cause of your condition please speak to your neurology team.
Today I had a meeting with speech and language to assess my ongoing difficulties with swallowing. Some days the issues fade into the background and are not to much of a problem, other times I struggle to swallow anything which has previously resulted in over a week in the hospital on IV fluids and having a temporary NG tube placed. I had no idea what to expect from the appointment as I’ve not met with speech and language before.
She came to my house, and was immediately met with Stefan and Evie talking a thousand miles a minute, both very curious over her PPE. We discussed my symptoms and long medication list and then she got down to examining me. She had a feel of my throat whilst I drank an ensure and picked up my usual spasms. While we were talking I was doing my usual post meal coughing, something that’s mild enough that I don’t really notice it, nor was I aware that my voice then became hoarse something my partner brought up.
The speech and language therapist explained what was happening was due to my spasms that I was aspirating during my meals. She’s arranging a barium swallow so they can get a look at the extent that this is happening. It also explains why I keep getting such bad chest infections; the last one left me needing two rounds of antibiotics and a course of steroids.
She mentioned the possibility of a PEG tube again, something that’s been circled around for a while, as well as refferal back to the dietitian. This will hopefully be after the barium swallow has been conducted as this should show what consistency of liquid will be best for me.
I’m feeling quite positive about it all after today’s meeting and will be hearing from her again in four week for an update.
Launching a new chapter of Dystonia and Me whilst in the middle of a pandemic may seem like madness or at the very least questionable. Yet here I am registered and my social media page set up. It’s a move I’ve been toying with for a while but never seemed quiet the right time. However the multiple lockdowns have provided me with the perfect chance to finally spend some time getting my diploma. I spend a lot of each day already giving advice and talking to readers on an individual basis that it made sense to ensure that I’m as qualified as I can be to do so.
How does Dystonia and Me Coaching differ from others around?
I’ll be taking on only those with physical and/or mental health issues. The reason for this decision is that I’m in a unique position with my own health issues to understand how the applications of my methods can make a positive impact to individuals with health conditions. Having seen how many scammers prey on people in this area its vital to me that individuals know where to turn if this is a route they want to pursue and can trust in my brand.
Are you working during the pandemic?
Yes! Starting January I am officially open (currently taking bookings), I’ll be working through the use of zoom, phone calls and regular emails.
Is this a one size fits all approach?
Absolutely not! Each session is mapped around the individual. No two people are the same, so it wouldn’t be inappropriate to treat everyone so. Everything is tailor made to you and this is a process that occurs through conversation between myself and client.
I have a question you’ve not answered yet?
Fantastic, please head on over to Dystonia and Me Coaching where you can send me a message. All questions will be answered.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (crps) first appeared in my life back in February 2006. I was 16, in my GCSE year and had just had my appendix removed after a gruelling week on the adult inpatient ward being poked and prodded by consultants. Whilst they ummed and erred over whether or not to operate I would be given morphine injections into my thighs. A seemingly normal procedure which resulted in any semblance of normal vanishing in to the fire of nerve pain.
Around a week after discharge I was back in A&E having my leg x-rayed. Despite mine and my mother’s instance that it couldn’t be broken as I had barely walked due to the pain in it; so there’s been no fall, twist or bang to break a bone. Instead I was living in shorts unable to bare touch upon my skin, I was walking on my tip toes and every movement was agaonizing. This time I was admitted to the children’s ward after they’d established no break and the whispers of crps emerged.
My leg deteriorated rapidly to the point it was in a fixed dystonic position (not that anyone explained that at the time) I could not bare any sort of touch and felt like I was being burned constantly. I can vividly remember one day where the pain was so bad I was screaming for them to put my leg out; my brain so convinced that it must be on fire, despite my eyes seeing otherwise. They ended up sedating me with diazepam to help.
My stay on the children’s ward was not a short one. I was there for a total of six months, studying and completing my GCSEs and undergoing intensive physio therapy. I couldn’t be more greatful to the physio team. They impressed on me the importance of desensitisation of the leg. This essentially meant running different textures up and down my leg multiple times a day to reprogram the nerves to recognise that it wasnt a painful stimuli, we used things like make up brushes, sponges etc. The turning point though was when they introduced hydrotherapy into my treatment. I would be hoisted into the pool and spend the session pretty much holding the side for dear life trying not to scream to loudly. It was traumatic and still makes me want to cry thinking back on it but I am so glad that they kept me going with it. There is no doubt in my mind that it was the best desensitisation treatment.
My leg now can bare clothing and shoes, I don’t scream out when we go over bumps in the car or if there’s a windy day blowing my clothes. For the most parts the symptoms are there but quiet, only roaring their disabiling heads when I do something foolish like walk into a table edge, or spend to long on that side at night. The Dr’s told us they were fairly certain the morphine injections were to blame and I’ve refused all leg injections since.
Part of my Dystonia treatment involves three monthly injections. In 2015 following my usual jabs I found myself at the Dr’s being diagnosed with crps once again, this time in my right shoulder. I was struggling to wear clothes and move my arm. Thankfully we knew from last time how to act and I arranged hydrotherapy straight away and started my old desensitisation routine again. I still struggle to wear a bra, it causes immense burning but I force myself to for as much of the day as I can bare. Every 12 weeks the area is injected again and I have a flare up. It’s shattering but I take comfort in knowing that the desensitisation methods bring it back to a tolerable level
There’s a lot yet to be understood about this condition but to anyone who is suffering please remember you are not alone and my facebook page inbox is always open.
Currently I’m sat in the rush hour traffic on my way home from seeing my neurologist in London. It’s been a long day which upon arrival I soon expected to end in despair. Despite email confirmation of my appointment, my slot had not been added on the system. I’m a big believer in to be early is to be on time, and this slightly over anxious side of me always shows itself before appointments; being extra early was something I was extremely relieved about this time as it meant that they had time to order up the injections.
Thankfully I was seen and as usual I left feeling ever grateful that I’m under my neurologists care. He’s been a rock for me these last 8 years and continues to be. He’s agreed with maxfax recommendations to start me on Sinemet and recommended an alternative to try if this one doesn’t have the hoped for impact. Maxfaxs theory is that there are a small number of EDS (I’m CEDS) who also have dopa responsive dystonia and that I may fall into this category. I’ve not tried any of these medications before so I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for some sort of dent in symptoms.
I’m planning on resting most the journey home as the injection site in shoulder always aggreviates my complex regional pain syndrome. More on this tomorrow.
The concept of a flare box is one that I didn’t properly venture into untill I attended the Stanmore Inpatient Pain Management course back in early 2016. It was really impressed on me that this was something that could impact my pain management. As soon as I got home I set about setting it up. Almost five years on and I still use these! In fact I have one in my bedroom and a second one by my desk downstairs so that they’ll always be accessible when needed.
A flare is generally considered to be a worsening of symptoms over a fair length of time e.g a week to a month or so. This is in comparison to just having a bad day or two of symptoms, then reducing to your normal levels.
My two boxes differ slightly and reflect the area of the house I’m in. My upstairs box contains several TENs units and chargers, multiple wheat heat packs, a symptom diary and pen so I can write down anything that I think may be important to remember to tell my drs, some volterol cream, neck brace and various other splints for dislocations, earphones, lavender pillow spray, and some books.
My downstairs box has all of the above but it also has some cue cards for if I’ve struggling to physically talk, so I can just flash these up instead; these have my most used phrases on e.g please can you fill up my flask? Please can you reheat my wheat pack? It also contains some electrolyte water soluble tablets for if it’s my POTS is also worsened.
Everyone’s flare kits differ depending on what they feel they need in the flare, and my deffinently have evolved over time. For example right now both have spare socks added to them as I know cold feet induces spasms for me. So in winter some extra warming bits are a must. Plus five years ago I wasnt a mum, so there also contained a notepad with a list of easy binging Netflix show, a stash of free from chocolate and anything else that cheered me up.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, or if you’ve been here since the beginning, you’ll know that pacing (for many years) was like a swear word to me. The doctors threw it around a lot, really pressed the importance of it, but no-one really explained how to implement it properly into my life. I felt like I was being told to sit down and accept my fate of not being able to do anything, anymore. As someone who likes to be busy, I didn’t accept this instruction.
Don’t misunderstand me, I tried. I’d manage a few days of what I viewed as pacing and then I’d slip back into my old habits, trying to live a normal life of activity with no adjustments. The consequences of doing this was that I hit that ’empty spoon’ wall hard and often. Each time regretting it as I then took days to recuperate.
I’m currently coming towards the end of the 3 diplomas I’ve been studying, in Health, Wellness and Life Coaching – specialising in life management with chronic illnesses. I’ve loved the course itself but seeing the difference applying it to my daily life has had, has been amazing. It’s completely changed my understanding of pacing and therefore helped me to apply it to my life with ease.
Yesterday, for example, I was feeling much better than usual so I asked my son what activities he would like to do. I had already decided I would say yes to whatever he chose to do and would find a way to adapt it if needed. He asked to cook with me. So we got the soup maker out to eliminate the amount of cutting and hot heavy lifting of pans. He loved peeling the onion and garlic, cutting out the amount of herbs. It was a gentle session, sat down and full of laughter. I know energy filled days won’t always be here even when I’m 100% on track, but by pacing, asking for help more etc.it reduces how often flare ups will happen. It’s making a huge difference not just to how I’m coping physically but also to my mental health which has had a real boost.
The theme this year is ‘not all disabilities are visible’. This is stressing the fact that not every condition is immediately visible; according to the WHO report roughly two-thirds of people with a mental or neurological disorder will put off going to a doctor for help largely in part due to stigma, discrimination and neglect. As someone who has very much been on the receiving end of this trio when it comes to living with multiple neurological conditions, this comes as no surprise to me.
Looking at me as I am right now, curled up on the settee trying to not make to much noise so as to not wake the kids, you could be forgiven for not knowing I had a disability; even if your keen eyed and spotted my odd eyes you wouldn’t know that my sight was impacted and would be unlike to think too much about it. However even when you can spot my spasms or a dislocation, you cannot see my brain fog, my sensory loss, the neuropathic nerve pain, no one can see fatigue fight, the pain induced insomnia, the sixty odd dislocations a day and so much more.
I love talking with young children about my disabilities because they don’t hold back. “How does your chair work?” “Can you get upstairs?” “Do you have to put you your chair in the bath?” The look of fear on the parents faces as they worry that something not deemed politically correct may be asked is what I find disheartening. Without these beautiful minds being curious how can stigmas be fought against, broken down and normalised? This should be praised and encouraged. I appreciate that not everyone will want to be asked, but you’ll be surprised by how many people are more than happy to discuss these things.
Disabled people, whether the condition is visible or not, physical/mental/learning or otherwise are still people. Next time, pause, maybe ask a question, you could be amazed at how it opens your eyes.
Representative. That word means so many things these days. We are always on the look out for something or someone that represent us in someway that we identify with. It’s been a long time since I stopped feeling that word was applicable to me anymore simply because as much as the world has made so much progress accepting disabled people there’s some pretty ridiculous hold ups too.
In politics there’s lots of loud, worringly not always up to date privalged folk making decisions that impact the likes of you and me. I always dread when they discuss the NHS or disability benefits and wonder how much time they’ve spent speaking and really listening to its core users. I’ve written many times and often been disgusted by the response back which has so inadequate they’ve not even referred to my letter remotely accurately.
In fashion I struggle to find clothes that don’t physically injure me when putting them on. I’d love to see more disabled friendly clothes hitting the stores at reasonable prices. For those of you thinking just avoid the clothes that cause injury I do for the most part, but I haven’t found a bra yet that I can take on and off without dislocating.
Councils; I am honestly curious when you design pavements, who decides on drop curb placements? As a wheelchair user, with brain fog more days than not, I have to try to remember the best wheelchair friendly routes. These often involve laughable detours. I’ve been debating starting a ‘The disappearing Dropcurb album’.
Film/TV. All I’m going to say on the subject is start hiring the talented disabled actors that are out there for roles, rather than able bodied household names. You have no excuse, make the adaptations needed to facilitate.
Finally I don’t expect to see representation of myself everywhere, that’s not exactly what I’m getting at. After all one of the beautiful things about human life is our differences, our uniques, our quirks. However that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t address the issues I’ve raised above and as we’re heading into 2021 these really should be non issues by now.