Posted in April 2022, Archive, September

Friendship with Chronic illnesses

Living with any chronic illness brings with it by nature a certain amount of unpredictability. For me that has meant no hour is the same from one to the next, let alone one day to the next day so forward planning always has to come with the understanding that extreme last minute cancellations are not just possible but likely especially when going through a rocky patch with symptom management. Part of pacing is actively choosing where to rest and cut back and sometimes that means staying home. A fact many healthy people forget. It results in people viewing me as unreliable/flakey/lazy and as a result many friendships have been lost over the last decade.

When I first became ill the isolation was deafening. It’s quite astounding how loud the silence is when people who you thought were your friends disappear when life gets hard. At the time I was confused and angry. Now I’m grateful, it showed me who my true friends were and ten years on I’m still very close to them and look forward to our reunions.

Recently I’ve gone through another bad spell. I’ve been able to do less than previously, I’ve cancelled multiple plans last minute despite my best efforts. But between my general chronic illness and complications caused by new issues my daily activity tolerance /spoons has been appalling. Basic activity wipes me out. Now this would have been devastating to me previously but now I’m just proud I’m listening to my body and learning where to cut back. I’m not going to lie it’s still upsetting losing friends but it’s not having the impact that it once would have had. I’m grateful to the community of online friends with chronic illnesses I’ve built rapport with whose understanding is everything.

Posted in Archive, January 2022, September

Day to Day Management

No day is ever the same when living with chronic illness. The routine may be vaguely the same but each day revolves around adapting to what symptoms are presenting that day and the severity of them in the moment. What may be rather bad in the morning may be insignificant in comparison to another symptom by midday

A good example of this is today. Sundays are always our family rest days. We go to church, sometimes have family to us but generally speaking we are at home together. Now I was already shattered after a bad night sleep with nerve pain in lower right leg and lower back pain. However upon getting up my neck spasm started pulling my head down towards my shoulder. It’s a particularly nasty spasm that’s hard to break. I have a percriped Aspen collar for when my neck does which I alternate with wearing a TENS unit and a heat pack.

Picture of me ready for church wearing my Aspen collar to been help support and straighten my neck

I’ve not had to wear this collar in a while. The overly nervous me did my best to disguise it with a scarf as we sent out for church. It deffinently took some getting used to wearing it out and about and learning to ignore the second glances once again. But it’s worth to help ease off the painful spasms somewhat.

Off to church. Scarf ‘hiding’ my neck support

My Botox appointment is extremely late this time round having being schedule for almost six months instead of three. Whilst I’m hoping for a cancilation to come up, I am in the mean time going to ask my general practitioner to allow me to my Trihexyphenidyl untill I’ve had my injections

Posted in September

What Can I Do For YouToday?

What can I do for you today? It’s the standard greeting I find I’m met with at every doctors appointment, no matter the speciality. Perfectly poliet, open ended so therefore inviting me to dive in to the promblem that has brought me to their office. Expcept lately that is not how that questions makes me feel, it leaves me biting my sarcastic answer off of my tongue. Fix me, take my pain away, how about just stop my constant deterioation please and i’ll make do as I am but please press pause in the meantime. Let me correct myself, it’s not sarcasm, it’s truth, it’s honest words from a scared vulnerable person who wont utter them because I know the reality is the Drs are trying but their isn’t much they can do.

I was diagnosed yesterday with Trigeminal Neuragia, along with being informed they no longer expect the sight I’ve lost (the majority of it) in my left eye to return; I can see blurry outlines but I cannot work out shapes or distance. It was a bit of a hit emotionally as whenever I have had Optic neuritis before my sight has recovered fairly well, however this has been going on for a while now and if anything the pain has gotten worse behind my eye, it is incredibly intense. I’m trying not to dwell on this too much while we await my Evoked Potential results and wait for a date for my lumbar puncture test. Hopefully these tests will shed some light as to what is going on currently.

In the mean time I feel much like this blog; I am all over the place, one minute quite happy dealing with things as they come, the next frustrated that despite almost a decade of chronic illness a level of normality is yet to be reached. I’m still fighting against the current of deteriation. It may be as useless as trying to swim the wrong way around wild rapids but it helps to know that I am trying to do something to counter the every growing pill box.

Stock photo of pillbox

Posted in Archive, march 2020, September

Isolation Week 2

Although I only received my instructions to isolate myself for the next 12 weeks from the government on Monday, we had infact already been in isolation for a week as both myself and my partner Damon bad been symptomatic. Whilst I’m pretty much symptom free now, Dame is still locked away upstairs as he remains unwell. Whilst he would only be considered a mild case, it’s worrying none the less.

We decided early on that we would follow all instructions to the letter as we know how risky a simple cold to me can be. The symptoms I had last week had me reaching for my inhalers constantly. What hit home in particular for me was our two year old son is also on the shielding list due to his medical issues. Luckiky, as much as he desperately wants to go to the park, he’s quiet happy accepting, that there’s a nasty bug outside, so for now he can’t.

It’s hard however to follow the governments instructions when my partners in isolation. For example I’m not really supposed to be particularly near our children and supposed to be three steps away from everyone. Well with Damon isolated I’m the sole parent, and they are now both sleeping in our room. There’s no alternative. But we’ve got to make the best out of a bad situation.

I’m starting to experience more spasms and pain as my Botox wears off. My next lot is supposedly in London at the end of next Month which I’m expecting to be canacled. I’m hoping an alternative can be arranged at a local hospital in the meantime.

I would love to hear how everyone’s isolation is going. So please in the comments on my Facebook page do let me know. I’m aiming to keep this isolation diary updated daily either with blogs here or VLOGS on the Dystonia and Me page.

Stay inside. Stay Safe. Support our NHS.

Posted in July 2019, September

New Prime Minister New Fears

With every general election, and with every leadership contest, we get new a new prime minister. A new figure, each with their own agenda and view. When it comes to politics, my number one concern has always been for the potential impact that the candidate and party will have on the NHS. Many laughed when America elected Trump to the presidency and in my eyes I worry that the conservative party may have just followed suit.

During President Trump’s recent visit to the UK he stated that everything was on the table for a deal – including our NHS! Whilst Theresa May later retracted his statement, it is clear where Trumps eyes are focused for trade and both he and Boris Johnson made it publicly known that they are on good terms. Is Boris as brazen as to go as far as ignoring May’s stance and instead pursuing a US/UK trade deal which involves the NHS to a degree? Who knows but I for one wouldn’t be surprised.

So why such concern? As with any service, the NHS has its issues which is to be expected when it is incredibly underfunded and overstretched, however the NHS is a complete blessing. Without our NHS I could not afford my treatment: regular injections and medications allow me to eat, drink, swallow, see and communicate with others verbally. It is literally life changing. For many, such as myself, the possibility that the NHS could be impacted is a terrifying prospect.

Posted in Archive, November 2018, September

Zebra or a Horse?

When you hear hoofbeats its’ time to take pause,
Remember your training it’s not a Zebra but a Horse,
Go on throw diagnostic criteria’s out the door,
Something much simpler is bound to be the cause.

Patient not quite fitting those tick boxes on the chart?
Have you ensured you’ve torn their mental health apart?
Depression, trauma, maybe be a life stressor or two,
Cancel their painkillers and make sure to push through,
A psychiatrist referral to review them a new.

Yet your patient sits there and loudly declares,
“I’m a Zebra, I’m striped and Lord knows I’m rare,
I’m dislocated, spasming, and bruised black and blue,
Please don’t be yet another Dr that lets me fall through”.

You can stop my medication and hang me out to dry,
Or perhaps just this once you could choose not to turn a blind eye,
My connective tissue is failing and my body’s been wrung through,
My brain sends faulty signals, and I don’t know what to do,

Dystonia, EDS, CRPS, I all but shout,
Should your really ignore the fact my joints are hanging out?
Or what about the psych assessment that states beyond a doubt,
‘Her issues are organic you should promptly check them out’.

It’s become clear that your training needs a change of course
Try “When you hear hoofbeats it could be a Zebra or a Horse”.

Authored by R. McDowall, 2018.

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Posted in September

Mind, Heart, Body…

Midwifery. One word that for me will always be bitter sweet. My dreams and aspirations 6 years on are still pinned tightly to it. It’s one of the reasons I struggle with having good spells with my conditions, which I know sounds ridiculous. Whenever I’m going through a particularly well controlled phase there’s a voice in the back of my mind that starts questioning whether now’s the time to start an HE access to Midwifery course so that once my son is in school I can apply to return. It’s a cruel mindset that I seem unable to shift.

I know my reality. I know that my good spells don’t last. That eventually as my injections wear off I will be wracked with spasms once again. I am accuately aware that due to my EDS my joints will continue to deteriorate; I’m 25 and already have been told I need a double knee replacement. If I examine what a good period means to me, you would probably laugh; a good spell still involves dislocating at least one or more body parts a day, it still involves high levels of pain, it still involves spasms to varying degrees. I know this. Yet as I lie in bed trying to catch up on some rest whilst my son naps I find myself reading the latest Royal College of Midwives articles because I daren’t risk falling behind on the latest developments in Midwifery just incase in time I go back.

My head knows that I should accept all this, my heart longs for my return to working on the wards, and my body is like an ice sculpture that has been left in the sun and is starting to melt and crack.

Posted in Archive, September, September 2018

“Pull Yourself Together!”

This week on my personal social media profile I posted a status sharing a positive experience with my new GP. In typical EDS fashion, my belly button had split open along an old surgical scar, whilst my Dr tended to me he not only put me at ease but he made sure to impress on me that not only did he understand how real my symptoms were but also how debilitating they can be. He took the time to discuss my range of conditions and ask what more he could do to help. It was uplifting; naturally, I wanted to share this, as this is not how my appointments usually go.

Now I’m quite used to getting snide remarks off of able-bodied/healthy people and misinformed Doctors who don’t know any better. Over the last 6 years, I’ve learned to let their ignorance bounce off me and to use it as an opportunity to educate. However this week when I posted about my positive trip to the doctors, a fellow member of the spoonie community made a comment which blew me away “pull yourself together, you have got a family to take care of“. Wow.  There were a few choice words I still wish I had responded with, but instead that ‘friend’ was removed. Whilst I know that I don’t need to address what was said, here are just a few toned down thoughts.

Image result for chronically ill memes

I live with spasms, agonizing subluxations, and dislocations 24/7, and it’s now suspected that I have gastroparesis.  My list of diagnosis builds each year. To me none of that matters; I am a great mum despite my health. I take care of my family and they take care of me. Go eat some chocolate, it will release a bunch of endorphins, and think about why you felt the need to try and shame me for being ill whilst having a family.

Posted in Archive, August 2018, September

How Many Dislocations Is Too Many?

It has been a little over two weeks since my trip to the hospital where I was subsequently put on a strict liquid-only diet whilst I wait for a referral to see the oral surgeons. The liquid diet has to a degree reduced the overall number of dislocations I’m experiencing on a daily basis which is positive, however, my jaw dislocations are still very frequent. Days such as today I find quite frustrating, I don’t know how best to help myself.

The Dr. I saw who did not believe in Dystonia or have any understanding of EDS was extremely disapproving of the fact that my local hospital had given me a small dose of morphine after the third attempt to relocate my jaw failed. I’d spent over 24 hours dislocated and only had paracetamol throughout, I had not once asked for painkillers until this point. His attitude had left me worried about how to manage my pain at home. I am on my 12th jaw dislocation today. I have broken down in pain multiple times, yet all I have taken to manage it is ibuprofen and paracetamol, alongside applying lavender wheat bags to ease the surrounding muscle spasms that are aggravating it. Normally I would have taken something stronger such as Codeine or Tramadol by now,  which is a treatment plan agreed by both my GP and Neurologist, however I am so aware if on the off chance I have to return to the hospital for help with relocation I will need to inform them of what medications I have taken. I am fed of misinformed and ignorant professionals treating me like a drug seeker. I should not have to deprive myself of the painkillers I need because of one arrogant man.

I feel extremely frustrated. I know that referrals such as these take their time; however, I am concerned that this will just be the start of a very long process. Whatever ‘fix’ they come up with for my jaw, will have to take into account my Dystonia, and that seems like an impossible ask.

Posted in Archive, July 2018, September

6 Years Neurologically Challenged

Last Tuesday marked the 6 year anniversary since Dystonia made a joint shattering (literally) entrance into my life. Previously I’ve marked this day by reflecting on where my life is in comparison to where I had planned it to be; not a great way to spend it and usually resulted in a lot of tears. This year was remarkably different, for the first time in six years I didn’t spend the day in tears and focused on how truly blessed I am.

The reality of my conditions means that as I age my body gets deteriorates a lot faster than a healthy person would. I already need a double knee replacement but have agreed with the surgeons to delay this until my son is in school full time. I’m told its inevitable that I will end up reliant on power chair in the future. The time frame for this is unknown, so I’m focusing on doing what I can to strengthen my body against the battering it takes from the too frequent dislocations and spasms. I’m starting by shifting the weight, it’s slow progress but I am making progress. I’ve found some local HIIT classes for mums and babies that are happy for me to do what I can whilst my son plays beside me. A month ago I signed up to the body coaches 90 day plan, which unfortunately I’m only just starting as I dislocated both my knee and shoulder and needed to let my body recover. His workouts are harder than my body can cope with right now but I’m adapting them and feeling great.

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6 years ago if you had told me that I would be OK with living with a mile long list of debilitating conditions I would most likely have bit your ear off. Now I can see how my experiences are shaping me, I’ve learnt to grasp every opportunity with open hands and jump feet first. Whilst the idea of a further 6 years living in this pain is not one that I can even start to wrap my head around. I know that I have the strength to battle it and succeed.