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.
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.
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
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 you published the article ‘Matt Dawson: I had to have heart surgery after a tick bite’. At first I was thrilled, it is always uplifting to see articles highlighting this condition being shared by the mainstream media. However as I eagerly absorbed each sentence , I could feel my heart sinking further in my chest. In fact I’m pretty sure it dropped straight out of me and into the flat below under the weight of my disappointment! You could have taken this opportunity to really highlight the world wide issue when it comes to diagnosing and treating Lyme and Chronic Lyme Disease. The fact that you didn’t leap at this opportunity is beyond me. What happened to the BBC being at the forefront of reporting, challenging the establishment, pushing boundaries?
You even went as far as mentioning that if Lyme goes untreated it can go on to attack and cause ‘debilitating neurological problems’. This was your perfect opening to delve into the devastating condition that is Chronic Lyme; you could have examined how the tests for Lyme disease are extremely inaccurate and false negatives are a frequent occurrence; you could have investigated how NICE guidelines have left the few doctors who are up to date enough with the research in the area to believe in Chronic Lyme, unable to treat their patients without risking their medical licence. You could have mentioned how, if you are in the unfortunate situation of having to fundraise money to pay for your treatment, you are looking at a minimum of £10,000 for private medical bills and that there is no guarantee that you will be cured. You could have investigated how many people that are given the early treatment are actually, years later, successfully cured.
I was bitten by a tick at the age of 6, at the age of 22 I was diagnosed with Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease. Almost 3 years on and I am still fighting. Last year I was informed by neurologists that they were 99% certain I had MS, but then my MRI came back clean, when I brought up Lyme my case was swept under the carpet. Sufferers are abandoned, left to battle their own way through the system, made to feel like a fraud whilst their lives and their health fall apart. Unlike your report suggests, it’s not as easy as walking into a hospital and stating you have Lyme and hoping for treatment. It feels like a life sentence.
I’m currently on week seven of my Botox cycle. My injections are not being administered for another week due to a mistake (lets presume it’s a mistake and not my new neurologist being devious, because being frank I would not put it past him). I should be in bed asleep right now. Normally I would currently either be asleep or out with friends. Instead I am medicated to the extreme, I have lavender wheat bags heated up wrapped round my neck, and resting along my jaw and heat packs stuck along my back. To say I’m in agony would be an understatement.
I have resorted to taking Oramorph, a medication I try my best to avoid, however I would much rather give in and take it than have a seizure (click here to read what a seizure is like), and right now I’m concerned that with the amount of pain I am in that I will have one. My brain is not staying connected to my mouth tonight, functional paralysis is something I have suffered from for a few years now, but it has never ceased to terrify me. I understand that it is simply my brain being unable to cope with the amount of pain I am in, so it disconnects from the affected part but it is an unnatural experience that no matter how much I attempt to laugh off unnerves me.
Tonight my jaw is particularly bad, and is frequently being functionally paralysed leaving me unable to verbally communicate. It may seem like a small thing to some, but when you are trying to desperately to get any part of your mouth; whether that be your lips, tongue, just anything, to move and they won’t, apart from when they spasm, its horrendous. I cannot yell for help if I need it, I cannot cry in frustration or call someone to talk too to distract myself. I am stuck with my jaw spasming, distorting itself in ways that should not be possible, threatening to dislocate, and all I can do is cry silent tears, pray that I do not have a seizure and use this blog as an outlet for my pent-up frustration with this crushing condition.
I have a 9am lecture tomorrow morning. Which I am determined to attend, most likely in a wheelchair for my own safety, one of my close friends has agreed to take me there which has helped put my mind at rest. For now it is back to attempt sleep and hope that my little Dystonia Alien allows me some rest
Today was the first time I have had to give in and use my wheelchair at uni. I had anticipated that today would be harder than usual as I had traveled to London yesterday for my routine injections. My body always reacts badly to them for the first 24 to 48 hours, normally this leaves me in a lot of a pain and with an increase in spasms, which with a mix of painkillers and muscle relaxants I can manage. I therefore had not expected to fall over when getting out of bed this morning. My back and neck had gone into a hideous spasm and my brain had functionally paralysed both legs and my left arm. I spent half an hour lying on the floor like this, debating what to do. I gave myself an hour in which if I managed to get dressed I would venture to uni in my wheelchair and braces, and if I was still on the floor I would ring the Wardens.
I felt extremely proud of myself that it only took half an hour to get dressed this morning despite my brain fighting me, this must be a new personal best. I admit that as I braced the majority of my body I was extremely nervous. My peers are aware that I am ill, but they have never seen me like this, I had no idea how they or my lecturers would react. Within minutes of being in uni my nerves were swept away. Not only did no-one bat an eyelid, but people helped me when I needed it without me even asking.
Part of me had strongly wanted to not go in to uni today. I was worried of what others would think, and how I would physically cope, I had already had several draining days and was concerned that this on top would be too much. I am extremely glad that I took the leap, and forced myself to go. It will help keep my mind at rest the next time my brain decides that a day of alternating between spasms and paralysis would be fun.
Today I moved into my halls of residence at Oxford Brookes University. Saying goodbye to my family was incredibly hard. On countless occasions they have helped me through painful spasms and watched over me during my seizures. However sitting here in my new bedroom now after promising my mum that I would be careful and look after myself, I feel immensely happy. I have been battling for three long years, but now that I have finally reached a place where I can cope with my symptoms myself most of the time, I have won.
I cannot wait for Wednesday when our introductory lectures start, but in the meantime I look forward to having some time to go out and explore Oxford.
Before I became ill I frequently had periods away from home. Whether that was holidays with friends, slumber nights with mates or living in halls at university during term time. Having independence rudely snatched away by Dystonia has been something I have had difficulty adjusting to. To a degree you could say I have refused to adjust to it and have enjoyed pushing my boundaries even if they landed me in hospital.
At times rolling over, bowing down to my alien and declaring its victory, has been tempting. However I’m a stubborn person, a trait that I am rather sure is one of the reasons I have come as far as I have in my battle against my many illnesses. Up until this weekend I had not spent a night away from my family (my mum has always slept at the hospital with me) due to the severity, complexity, and erratic nature of my health. Over the last year we have finally found a combination of medication and regular injections that has helped to manage my symptoms enough to give me a better quality of life. So I decided to embrace this new found stability (though I shall admit I still have some unexpected moments, and have almost hit my boyfriend on a few occasions), and spent the weekend in Manchester visiting two of my old flatmates.
My flatmates Emily and Rachel are very close to my heart. I see Rachel several times a month as we live seconds away from each other still, but Emily I haven’t seen since 2012 though we have kept in touch. They were both there for me in uni when my body started going downhill, and have spent numerous occasions in hospital with me at silly o’clock in the morning. To have my first time spent away from my family be with these two girls meant a lot to me. It was also quite reassuring as they have both done their nursing training, so I was in safe hands!
Today I am shattered, after a full on weekend with the girls, a subtle reminder that although it feels like no time has passed since we last were all together I’m slightly more fragile than I was back then.
When diagnosed with Dystonia there is a minefield of medication surrounding you. One wrong move and your limbs are distorting and spasming at a rate that threatens to hospitalise you. A medication that works rather well for one person may have dire side effects on another. Keeping a diary of what medications you have tried and your reactions can come in handy.
Botox injections is a widely used treatment for Dystonia, and in many offers a degree of relief from their symptoms. In the majority of sufferers the injections are administered every 3 months. Personally for me, I find that the injections only last around 5 to 6 weeks so my neurologist administers my injections every 6 weeks.
Medication can be very hit and miss, so finding a dosage that works for you is important. For example, Diazepam is a commonly used muscle relaxant to treat Dystonia. For me if you give a very small dose as a one off I will be fine, in fact I will sleep fantastically well. However if you give me a second dose that same day, or the next day I will have a psychotic break. The last time this happened I seriously thought that if I had my leg amputated I would be cured of Dystonia. It makes no sense, but at that time I was convinced.
One of the issues I have discovered since becoming ill is persuading Drs to play around with medication. Often this can unsettle them, especially when treating a condition such as Dystonia that many have not come across before. Due to this I have found many Drs unwilling to change medication or try different combinations, it has often resulted in me battling before they agree to try. It is sad that this is the case. I have said it many times before and I will say it again, the more awareness there is the better treatment we Dystonia sufferers will receive.
I love this quote, and for me it rings true, I may only be at the beginning of my storm but I am already a stronger person for it. It can be applied to anyone and everyone as we each go through our own ‘storms’ at different times in our lives. The struggles we experience, no matter how big or small they are, change us. They allow us to develop and change so that we are stronger, so that we can carry on with our heads held high, it gives us the knowledge that no matter what life throws at us we can and we will beat it every time.
In life people always ask themselves ‘why me?’ or ‘why now?’, next time you feel like asking those questions stop and breath, understand that those questions will not solve anything. You just need to battle your way through to the other side of the storm. It will be hard, but if you give up, you won’t see the wonders that are waiting for you on the other side.
Life is truly a lottery, some of us soar through life with ease and others battle endlessly. However at the end of the day, what will be will be. All you can do is battle on with the knowledge that you are fighting for a reason, that things will get better, and you will conquer every storm life throws at you.
At 20 years old I didn’t expect to feel like my world was crumbling around me. I thought that I would be out clubbing with my friends, or trying to stay awake during a night shift on placement. I expected to be having the time of my life. The reality is extremely different to the expectations I had.
Today I felt like life was trying to show me just how difficult it could make my life. I knew this weekend would be a hard one anyone due to personal things, however it has so far been hell. Yesterday afternoon until I went to bed, my hand did an extremely painful spasm, that resulted in me having hours of Non Epileptic Seizures, with only a few seconds of consciousness in between. Then today I have spent the majority of the day unconscious having seizures. Again these were caused by a bad hand spasm.
I feel like every bit of normality I had (e.g uni, relationship, walking, freedom) has been cruelly snatched away from me. I have to fight constantly with different government departments, with the NHS, and with my own brain. I won’t ever give up, but at the same time I am already very emotionally and physically tired.
Today due to spasms and seizures I have not been able to get out of my bed. I have felt so many emotions, such as anger and sadness, in some ways I feel as if today has defeated me. Now I know I will get up tomorrow and continue to fight, but I should not have to fight! Days like today I dread because of the way I feel physically and emotionally. I am lucky that bad days are few and far between. I have not felt this bad since January 1st. I will never stop fighting Dystonia, just like I will always campaign to raise awareness of it.
I keep thinking how silly it is of me to get so upset over everything that has happened to me. I could be so much worse off. I guess in a way I am grieving for the life I had, whilst carefully trying to create some degree of normality for myself. Life challenges us all in different ways. Whether we run screaming away from them at the top of our lungs or battle it with all we have, is up to the individual. For me I shall battle on, whilst knowing that on some days Benedict is going to have won and I am going to be unable to cope, but that is just at that moment in time. Who knows how I will feel the next day or the next month or even the next year! I need to learn when to accept defeat for that day and start preparing myself to battle on the next.