Botox for me is life changing. Without it I would be hospitalised on an NG tube, unable to talk, swallow, eat, or drink. I’ve ended up in that exact situation previously. It’s unpleasant to say the least. I’m fortunate enough to receive Botox from my neurologist every twelve weeks and then a top up at the six week mark in the cycle from my maxofacial team to keep my jaw going.
I am extremely fortunate to experience very little in the way of side effects. Generally speaking I get ‘botox flu’ for a few days after and a flare in my complex regional pain Syndrome symptoms in my arm. This time though my mouth has been weakened slightly by the Botox. It’s not physically painful in anyway at all, it simply means the corners of my mouth are dropping.
At first I didn’t notice it to much, then I was hyper aware. I found myself wanting to be in pictures as little as possible as I knew I’d fixate on the turned down corners of my mouth despite the focused effort to smile. I was finding myself deleting photos of myself and the kids, myself on days out etc, over something as ridiculous as an altered smile.
It’s not as obvious in both photos above, but the fact I’ve kept these picture is a big step forward. I started to think about the example I was setting my children. It was not a healthy one. I do not want them to grow up thinking that we should scrutinize photos for imperfections. Photos have always been for us a treasure trove of memories, to help remind us of the many memories we have made together. Both my kids love getting our photo albums out to look at and this something I hope long continues.
My altered smile, is not permanent, however it is a reminder that I am one of the lucky ones who receives treatment and responds to it. That is something to celebrate not to fixate on. Whether it stays droopy or returns to normal I’ll keep snapping photos of our days out making memories. After all it wasn’t long ago I thought Dystonia meant the life I have now would be impossible. Forever thankful for Botox injections and medication.
Today was botox day up in London with my lovely neurologist. He’s happy that the medication we started on a few months back is keeping me far more stable, which is amazing, so we are keeping that in my treatment plan. I’m currently on a medium dose so we have room to play with should we need to come winter when I typically go down hill due to the cold.
I’ve finally gotten the date for my video fleursoscopy which is the middle of next week. I’m a little nervous but it will be good to shed some light on what’s been going on internally and if there is anything specific that we can do/change to tackle it. This is to tackle the chronic aspiration.
Then it’s on to blood tests. Whilst I don’t mind these particularly, my veins are world class players at hide and seek. No matter how much I drink before hand they like to hide or better yet collapse. I often leave blood tests looking somewhat like a pin cushion. These are being done just to double check there’s nothing being missed and causing any issues whilst we wait for Gyny to see me. They were meant to see me almost a year ago. However they keep rearranging and cancelling my appointments, which my lovely GP is chasing. In the meantime I’m left with regular pain flares that leave me doubled up in pain.
I’m hoping now that more people are vaccinated that appointments/refferals may start going back to normal. Specially orthotics is one appointment I’m looking forward to, my knees and wrists need new splints. It’s not an urgent appointment in anyway but it would make day to day life a bit easier and reduce pain a little more.
In the meantime I’m ticking along. I’m looking forward to the schools breaking up and making the most of the summer holidays before my eldest starts primary school full time.
After spending the last several months in and out of hospital, losing the sight in my eye for an extended period of time and only partially regaining it, losing all sensation in my right leg and experiencing sensory issues in my arms I was once again told it looked like I had MS. Yet the examinations didn’t agree. I was left battling for help as different hospitals and departments seemed to find it impossible to communicate with each other. Well the most recent test results are in! We finally have an answer.
If I am honest I had almost given up on a diagnosis other than unknown complex neurology condition with global sensory loss. None of my Drs were communicating with each other, no one could agree with each other and that was resulting in me receiving no treatment. It has been a period of high stress and extreme emotion.
Today I finally had my Emergency Video Consultation with the local specialist in Neurology; this was requested back in October. Firstly they are agreed it isn’t MS which is great confirmation. What they are sure of is that is another part of my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Apprerently when I’m dislocating my knees the nerves around it are being over stretched and damaged hence the loss in sensation/function. The same thing had happened to my elbows causing the sensation I was getting in my lower arms and hands. This surprised me greatly; mainly as I had in fact asked the doctors this very question when I was on the ward last year and they laughed at me for suggesting it. In regards to my eyes the nerves are not communicating with my brain effectively, but are not damaged like you get in MS.
He’s suggested we get me booked in with my EDS consultant for some advice in the meantime on how to cope with these symptoms as they can last a significant amount of time.
So whilst the EDS is generally on a slippery slope currently and it’s all about managing it, keeping on top of my pain and being proactive, I feel that overall it was a very positive chat.
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.
This morning I was on the phone to my mum when she brought up the fact I hadn’t blogged in a long time. I am rather good at finding excuses for why; too tired, too busy with the kids, don’t know what to say. But none of those are completely true. So bless her, I rambled for quite a while as to the reasons why.
Firstly Ableism. Honestly I’m mad for allowing myself to be beat down enough to feel I didn’t deserve a voice as an activist for people with Dystonia and other invisible illnesses anymore. Up until the last several months I had been having a relatively stable patch which I had been making the most of, and for that simple reason I felt I wasn’t ‘sick’ enough to do this anymore. Which is frankly ridiculous. I have several conditions all of which are chronic, a couple that will continue to deteriorate as I age. My good spells generally never last longer than a Botox cycle, yet because I don’t fit into a nice stereotypical tick box of what disability should look like I felt like I couldn’t blog. I expect myself to be able to do everything that a healthy person can do, because that it is what people, I feel, expect of me from many not so subtle comments for example lose weight your joints won’t hurt as much.
Secondly, was my depression and anxiety. The anxiety and paranoia I experience partially stem from post natal depression but are largely side effects of my medication. I feared hugely that holding my hands up and saying ‘Hey, I’m trying my best but I’m struggling like crazy, I’m terrified by the deterioration I am currently experiencing in my body and I don’t know to do’ that my doctor’s would somehow read this and decide to withdraw the medication that is so vital to me and pack me off for yet more counciling. That may seem ridiculously paranoid to read but when you’ve lived years of doctors gaslighting you, undermining your very real physical symptoms, skirting around the subject of mental health is now habit (though I am on antidepressants now).
I hope that clears things up. I want to blog here more. It helps to write it down and connect with others in the same situation.
I had really debated whether or not I would post this blog. As you will know over the last 7 years I have strived to share the ups and downs of my journey with you all in a brutally honest fashion. However what I am experiencing right now is something I am finding to be increadibly difficult to deal with and awfully humiliating at times. However as I have found in the past that ripping the metaphorical band aid off and sharing bluntly with you all to be rather helpful I figured I may as well start at the beginning.
I shall try to keep it brief. About three weeks ago after several days struggling with a dislocated jaw and severe spasms to the point I couldnt eat or drink I collapsed in the kitchen. The resulting head injury leading to an ambulance needing to be phoned. Several seizures later I was whisked off to resus. I dont remember much of the first four or so days in the hospital. Luckily despite being severly ill I had the sense to keep notes of my concerns, for example being denied antisickness and painkillers following several hours of vomitting and seizures.
For some unknown reason that was never communicated to me all of my medications were stopped the whole time I was in the hospital which led to uncontrolled seizures, spasms and pain. My kidneys were found to be damaged, there are changes to my spine and in my brain matter, I have been diagnosed with epilepsy. Twice whilst I was in there I had an NG tube placed and failed. Unfortunately the second time round it took the drs 6 hours to view the xray showing it misplaced. In this time I was quite distressed due to the fact I was violently vomitting blood due to a tear from the ng in the lower eosphaoghes for the better part of the 6 hours all with a dislocated jaw. A rather agonizing experience.
Throughout my 6 days in hospital I was on IV fluids 24 7 due to the fact I currently am having extreme difficulty swallowing and can go days at a time unable to do so. At the point of discharge I had managed a few sips in a 3 hour period and was discharged with no plan of action. Its been a hurrondous time since then with me only getting worse. However I am now also completely bowl incontinent which has left me terrified to leave the house. But being the mum of a 2year old means fear cant win.
Hopefully I’ll have a more optimistic update soon.
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.
At the start of May my degree came to its close. After three years living in Oxfordshire it was time to start making new plans for the future; which is why on the 11th of May we packed up and moved to St. Helens, Merseyside. It’s a long way from my family which is hard but we are surrounded by my in-laws who I love dearly.
Getting to know a new area and work out the most disability friendly routes to places is tiring but so far I am feeling very settled and happy in my new environment. I’m now several hours away from my neurologist which is less than ideal but he has agreed that I can remain on his treatment lists. Whilst moving to a new neuro more local would be easier I don’t feel comfortable leaving his care as he has been my rock for the last six years.
I’m having a couple issues with my jaw spasms and the osteoarthritis at the minute but overall I’m coping well. I’ve introduced a new herbal supplement to see if it helps with pain relief and will be reviewing this soon.
I’ve been appalling at keeping up to date with my blog recently, a big apology to you all, posts will be back to normal soon. The last month or so has been crazy busy between flare ups, coursework and the launch of my debut novel. I feel like I haven’t stopped but I am enjoying the whirlwind.
I’ve been in and out of the hospital rather a lot over recent weeks to another bout of Optic Neuritis. As I have mentioned previously my local hospital is not ideal when it comes to dealing with complications. They have somehow managed to lose all my test results from last year, both paper and electronic copies, so I am waiting for my neuro to take over management of my investigations to see if anyone can shed some light on why I keep having repeated Optic Neuritis.
Coming up to 5 weeks ago now after watching a documentary called What The Health, my partner and I made the decision to switch to a vegan lifestyle. I was skeptial at first but am thrilled to find I am benefiting from it. I have more energy in the day, am taking almost half the amount of pain killers and overall feel more positive in my mental health. It’s been an amazing change and one we have decided to stick. I would love to hear from anyone else who has gone Vegan to improve their health!
Mental Health awareness day was last week and I wanted to write this blog post then but honestly it was too hard. My mental health right now is not great. I’m by no means awful but it’s not where I’d like it to be. It’s been an accumulation of being chronically ill for numerous years and stressful life events adding on top of that.
A major part of the problem right now is my medication. One of the many side effects that many of my medications can cause is anxiety and depression. Whilst I wouldn’t class myself as depressed, I am aware that my anxiety and amount of pain attacks have increased recently and I’m defiantly on the weepy side. However life events haven’t helped either, Just last week I went to collect my little boys prescription from the chemist and found myself being motioned to sit silently on the floor with him due to a lady with a knife ransacking the place; this understandably has made me anxious about leaving the flat on my own, even though I know that I am being irrational as I know that the chances of being in that situation again are very small.
Yesterday I attended the emergency eye clinic at my local hospital and was informed that I have my fourth bout of optic neuritis is a year and a half. Due to this and some more symptoms they have made the decision to refer me to a specialist neuro and carry out testing again for multiple sclerosis; another spanner in the works.
Between my physical & mental health plus the stress of uni work, I feel like I need to let myself have a good cry, pick myself up and carry on except there isn’t time to cry. Don’t get me wrong I love my life but I’m finding it hard to know what to do to help myself. I force myself to do what scares me like leave the flat but it’s draining working up the courage to do so. I would talk to the doctor about it but I daren’t risk it as I know they will stop my painkillers if they start worrying about depression which I need for my seizures. I have ordered myself a mindful mediation manual and CD and hoping that a holistic attitude will help.