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, 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

The Test Results Are In

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.

Posted in Archive, January 2021

Adjusting to The Impact of Lockdown on Pacing

I’m sat on my settee staring up at the stairs and I know there is no way I am making it up them tonight. Pacing. It wasn’t even a wild day in the McDowall Tunstall house, yet, here I am, fairly sure that I will not be trying to crawl, or bum bump my way up to bed; not when there’s a comfy alternative already made up here with a lot of blankets, courtesy of a kidney infection, why waste so much energy. Now I bet your thinking what crazy think has she done today to end up not knowing how to get to bed?!

Well for once I actually behaved! Instead I’m pinning the blame on good old lockdown number three. Previously when the UK went into National Lockdown’s Stefan hadn’t actually started school, so we weren’t affected by it, thankfully. This time however, he has to take part in Live Home Learning sessions, and most also get homework finished and emailed into school in between session one and two!

Now to make it an easier adjustment for the children (mainly Stefan) they’ve got a devised timetable for the week, all built around the school day, filled with Live learning, Joe Wicks, crafts, freeplay, our one hour allowed outside time, story time, music etc. This has gone down a hit with the kids, they are happier, calmer, listening better and over all it’s much a more positive day.

Here’s where I got it wrong.

You knew it was coming didn’t you?

I remembered to factor in breaks, such as snack time for them. What I didn’t think to was put blocks on their chart saying Mummy recovery time. Which I need. For example, after Joe Wicks, if they are spending 10 minutes watching AlphaBlocks or Magic hands while having a drink and cool down, I can sit with a heat pack behind my back, a pillow under my knees and just allow my body to breath, rest and recover enough for round two.

It is no surprise to me that readjustments needed to be made. Normality is a shadow of what it used to be, and providing a new normal whilst living within four walls is hard and exhausting. This is why we pace. Today I aimed for fun and hit the milky way galaxy, hence spasms, dislocations and extreme fatigue. Adjusting to pacing in lockdown is hard but it’s something that with time we will learn; hopefully sooner rather than later. I’ve learned a lot. I’ll tone it down tomorrow. This lockdown is a beast that throws unwelcome hurdles when we sort of expect it (thank-you newspaper leaks), and we just have to keep on adapting.

Posted in Archive, December 2020

So This Is Energy?

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.

Posted in Archive, October 2015

Saying Yes To Help

When I received my miracle unconditional offer from Oxford Brookes this year my mother and I ended up have numerous discussions on how I would manage on my own at uni. These talks mainly focused around the idea of having carers, 3 or 4 times a week, to help me with basic household tasks that some days are just too much for me to manage. At the time I was insistent on doings myself and put my foot down. I was determined to be an independent, strong, young woman who could manage all aspects of life without any help. Numerous other adults alongside my mother, pointed out that my mum would be right, university would be a reality shock, not only with an increase in work load but also with a huge increase in social life.

Needless to say I listened to what everyone had to say, I took it on board, and promptly carried on with my own plans. Not only did I want to be independent but I was also worried about the judgement I may face from my peers at needing care. My bedroom is rather large, which is great for days when I rely on my wheelchair, but I can easily overdo it by cleaning without realising it. I tried for two weeks before I resorted to carers. Giving in and saying “Yes, I need help!” was honestly the best decision I have made since being here. My fears of being judged and avoided like the plague where unfounded. There have been no drawbacks, just pure relief. I have more time and energy to put towards tasks that need doing for uni without having to worry about little things like hoovering.

My next task to tackle is pacing. For 3 years I have listened to my neurologist tell me to pace my life and stress the importance of it; and for three years I have simply nodded my head and carried on charging on. I have always been focused on the next achievement. It’s not taken me long to realise that tactic will not work for me here. Running on full steam will leave me having a flare-up frequently, which I simply cannot afford to be doing. It’s time to get my act together and learn the mysterious art of pacing…