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 Archive, November 2021

Prolapse, Painsomnia & Filters

It’s hard to know to where to start. I’m so tired from the painsomnia and I know that is partially responsible for my level of frustration, emotional upheaval and general anger towards this current situation. Focusing on one hour at a time seems to help.

Being very much limited in my capacity to move much is hitting me hard. Having finally found a medication that helped my Dystonia, then developing this prolapse and adapting to its limits feels like a slap in the face. I cannot empty my bladder fully due to it, which is resulting in bouts of incontinence with no warning, I haven’t been able to go the loo properly since Thursday last week and that’s causing its own pain. I move around with my thighs clamped together terrified of making it worse. There are 36weeks to go before the first consultant appointment.

Acknowledging that this hit my mental health is important. I was already in a bad patch due to ongoing hair loss causing anxiety. This new complication on top knocked me down, hard. I know I’m a fighter and will adjust with time. However it’s important to recognise that what I’m feeling is valid.

Before I sign off I want to touch on one thing; look beyond the filter. In the first photo above the filters has smoothed out most signs of exhaustion, my eyes almost look sparkling and awake. It’s a nice image with little hint of what’s going on. This is an image I would post on my personal profile or my author page; it doesn’t reflect my current issues. The second photo is filter free, the bags under my eye are clear to see and the dark rings obvious. The puffiness in my face from my meds hasn’t been smoothed out. This I would post on my Dystonia and Me page. It is a truthful image.

I never posted either photo (until now). It got me thinking about the need to act ok when I’m not. It’s quite a damaging reality. We see it everyday. Just some food for thought. Personally I’m going to stop using filters, see the reaction to truthful imperfections and struggles. Live my truth. (unless me and my daughter are using it to be bunny’s)

Posted in Archive, August 2021

Adapt, Rethink, Go

We recently had to return the power wheelchair we had on hire. It had been with us for the best part of a year and had quickly become a very integral part of daily life. It reduced my pain, dislocation frequency and enabled me to get out and about everyday. It was freeing. We’d hoped by the time it had to be returned that I’d have been seen by the local wheelchair service for an assessment as currently I dislocate my fingers while trying to push my manuel chair. However it’s a long waiting list and an appointment date is still a while a way.

In the meantime I’m reassessing how much activity I can do and what I do each day. My head deffinently believes I’m more capable than what my body thinks I am able to do. A lot of this week has been spent resting and trying to find a happy medium. However I’m also currently on week three of my period and I know that when I have extended bleeds I generally feel rubbish and my joints and muscles seem to be worse in general.

I’ve started introducing sleep hygiene into my night routine to help improve the quality of my sleep and to see if it improves how rested I feel. I’m trying to have no screens for an hour or two before bed. Instead I’m reading and crocheting. This has also given my mental health a little boost as well which is positive.

I’ve had a gyny appointment come through for the end of September, so not long to go now. Hopefully this one won’t get cancelled.

Posted in Archive, January 2021

Lockdown, Homeschooling and Work

With the introduction of the new lockdown I had had been planning on getting crafty with the kids again. That idea was snuffed out after an email landed in my email box confirming that nursery would be doing live home lessons followed by tasks to be completed, photographed and emailed to his teachers. All well and good except my partner works shifts and I have an 18 month old whose favourite word is no, also takes no as a yes and will most deffinently try to touch every key on my laptop.

So today was the first home school lesson. After half an hour of technical wrestleling we finally got on to Teams and were met by a chorus of STEFAN. The children were happily mucking around with each other, my daughter was desperately trying to join in and the teacher? Her laptop had the same issues mine had to start with and never made it to the lesson. Round two tomorrow!

Dystonia and Me Holistic Health Coaching is officially up and running which has added a lovely touch to my evenings. I have been thoroughly enjoying chatting with different people with a range of issues and starting them on their journeys with me.

Colourful heart enlarging in further colours being touched by a human figure in blues and purples

I would love to hear if any has had the vaccine yet? From the calculator I predict mine to be late Feb to March at the current injection rates and would be interested to hear your experience in the comments. I personally will be accepting the offer of the jab, I just would like to go in to it eyes open to side effects.

Posted in Archive, February 2020

Rare Disease Day 2020

When I met my partner Damon back in 2016 I was upfront about the fact that I had a whole host of chronic conditions some of which would deteriorate as I aged. It was a subject that I broached on our first date, romantic I know, but it was important to me that he knew life with me would not be an easy one; our first date lasted five hours. What was meant to be coffee, turned into a museum trip, and hours spent talking on a bench overlooking the River Cherwell. At the time my Dystonia was my most limiting condition. The EDS was annoying and had its fair share of debilitating moments but in comparison was easy enough to deal with.

However over the years with a good combination of medication and very regular Botox injections my Dystonia is often far more controlled, yet my EDS has spiralled dramatically so. My jaw which takes the brunt of both conditions is in need of replacement yet both conditions make replacement not necessarily the easiest call for my surgical team; it’s an ongoing argument. My knees are in a similar state. They too need replaced. They currently sublex at 0 and 30 degrees constantly yet bracing doesn’t seem to work due to the change in position with each time the knees come out of place. I frequently joke that I’m falling apart and honestly it feels that way.

The latest part of me to be affected is my hearing. My hearing tests have showed that im hearing impaired and im awaiting further appointments on the next steps to see what aids will help me. Whilst my hearing being affected isn’t overly surprising, it wasn’t something at 27 I expected to be told. However after almost a year of struggling I knew it was time to give in and get some help.

If you look at me you could be forgiven for not realising anything was wrong. Which is one of the reasons Rare Disease Day is so important. Disabilities come in all variations and I for one never look the same one day to the next.

I always say no hospital untill I’m unconcious.
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 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, June 2018

What Next?

Three years ago I announced to you all that I was off to Oxford Brookes University to commence my studies in BA Publishing Media. It was an unexpected decision.  I had attended an open day as a prospective student with the mindset of applying for the 2016 intake; a chat with one of the lecturers about my writing and editing experience and I had a place for the 2015 intake. It was out of the blue, a whirlwind of excitement and fear, yet exactly what I needed.

The past three years have been full of highs and lows. I’ve had multiple conditions diagnosed and added to my ever growing list, I spent the better part of my second year studying from my hospital bed, my debut novel was published in the middle of my studies, and whilst in my third year my wonderful son accompanied me to the majority of my lectures. I had the support of the uni through every moment, they celebrated my successes and they raised me up in my lowest moments. I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that it has now come to a close.

Yesterday, 19th June 2018, I graduated with a 2:1 with honours in BA Publishing Media. Receiving my degree was a moment that at many points over the last three years I doubted very much that I would ever reach. Yet I did it. I conquered every challenge thrown my way.

So what’s next for me? Well my first children’s book, Cheeky Dragons, is currently in the editing process after being signed to Nightingale, I’m working on the prequel and Sequel to Regan Snatcher of Souls, and finally several months ago I opened my own publishing house Little Goblin’s Books focusing on children’s picture books and young adult titles. My company, and my writing projects are keeping me busy and I’m thoroughly enjoying  them. The idea of pursuing my Masters’ degree in Publishing is one that very much appeals to me, but for now a little break from essays is very much welcome.

 

Posted in Archive, february 2018

February Update

I’m truly ashamed of how long it’s been since I last posted on here, that one blog post a week goal went out the window! But I’m still here ticking along desperately trying to find a moment in the day to sit down and share with you all where I’m at. The joy of being in my final 9 weeks of university, along with having a 9 month old baby & another book to write however means I really don’t seem to have enough hours in the day anymore and unfortunately regular updates have had to be postponed. I do intended to get back to a weekly format asap.

So what’s going on with me?

My Dystonia alien is being regularly forced into submission thanks to good old Dysport injections. I’m currently exploring how different exercises can be used to help in the management of the condition so please feel free to contact me with any articles you recommend or if you want to share what’s worked for you.

My optic neuritis has finally improved and I am waiting to see my lovely neurologist in April to discuss the results of a new MRI and Evoked Visual Potential tests. I’m hoping for the usual “nothing obvious to see, but we expect that with Dystonia” response.

My Tourette’s like symptoms have been slightly more prominent lately and I would love to hear from any spoonies with this/symptoms similar to this. The word ‘lemons’ escapes me far more often than I care for in a day and whilst this is manageable I’d still like to hear from others about any ways of calming it. Naturally this will be another little chat with the neurologist in april.

I’d like to take a quick moment to thank the many people who emailed me their thoughts/prayers etc after I shared my diagnosis of postnatal depression the other month. My PND I feel was the result of extremely poor and traumatic antenatal care*, after several hard months I feel like I am turning a corner. I cannot express enough how much hearing from so many of you who wished to share with me how you navigated PND helped me to feel less alone during a time where my emotions and anxiety where crippling me. Thank-you.

*Some elements of my antenatal care were perfectly fine however overall without going into detail it was a traumatic experience which need not of been so. Complaints were logged with the trust at the time.

Posted in Archive, December 2017

Body Meet Osteoarthritis

This week I found myself sitting in the preop clinic of a knee replacement clinic. On my arrival it didn’t take long to piece together where I was, and even less time to start panicking as to why I was there considering I was expecting to see the Orthotic department not the surgical team.

The Dr I’d been assigned was lovely and surprisingly familiar with the majority of my conditions. I was pleasantly taken aback to discover that they had scheduled all the xrays and scans into the appointment time slot, so I was carted off down to X Ray where my knees, hips and ankles were x-rayed from multiple angles (so far I’ve just had the results for my knees). Having these pictures taken took quite awhile as trying to get my knees and and toes all pointing in the right direction is a rather impossible task. I got the impression the radiographers were not used to my host of conditions as my uncompromising feet proved quite the problem, and by manipulating them into a forewards position my knees subluxed!

So far the x-rays have revealed that I have Osteoarthritis in my knees and that really I need new knees, however due to my EDS that surgery is extremely unlikely to provide any long term relief so my surgeon wants to delay it for as long as possible. So for now the plan is to try to shift as much weight as I can to ease the pressure on my joints and delay the surgery. Whilst the diagnosis is disappointing it explains the pain I’ve been in for the last few years. I’m just keeping my finger crossed the x-rays won’t show it in my hips and ankles too.

Before I sign off, Spoonies it’s cold outside! Please if you find you are affected by the cold spend that extra spoon wrapping up warm or having a longer bath. Practice self care. This time of year can be hard, I know I’m suffering, so be kind to yourselves.

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