Posted in Archive, January 2021

Disabled Parenting: A Learning Curve

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Being a disabled parent is something that three years in I still have not got my head around how to nail. Though does anyone ever nail the toddler years? My children are, at the time of writing, three and 19 months old. Both children are owners of strong, hilarious personalities. Both currently are sound asleep, I know my daughter will wake up in the morning with a rendition of either Baby Shark or Let it go, and my son will wake up just before 6am, delighted that it’s early. I’ll wake up and relocate my knees.

Each day for us is always an unknown to some extent. We try to pace our days by following an activity timetable, which gets switched about at the start of each week. The timetable was introduced not only to help manage with being housebound more due to shielding, but also to encourage subtly paced activities without making it too obvious. The children, know that mummy is disabled and needs to do things differently to daddy, but I do try minimise to some extent how much of that they see.

It is a fine and difficult line to tread. On one hand it is important to me that they understand that everyone is different, some people are disabled and that’s perfectly fine; however my son has a very caring nature, and does worry, so I do try to shield from him some elements that at three he doesn’t need to worry about. For example, right now due to hormones all my joints are loose, this has resulted in multiple subluxes, dislocations, general spasms and fatigue over the day. He’s aware I’m tired today, and slightly sore, but he’s also ‘tickled wrestled’ me, so I know he hasn’t picked up on much.

We made the decision quite a while ago that I would no longer cook with the oven for the family. This was due to a range of issues such as seizure, spasming with a hot pan, or dislocating. My partner does the majority of cooking, and on weeks when he is on late shifts we have carers come in to cook the tea. However I still ‘cook’ I use the phrase very loosely, things using the microwave.Today, was just one of those days that was a dropsy day. Everything I touched seemed to be destined for the floor, which is exactly where the kids porridge ended up after I picked it up to heat it up. My hand spasms were so ridiculous the food had ended up on the floor before I had processed quite what had happened. It reaffirmed to me, that whilst I order the food my place is no longer in the kitchen, and provided the kids with a good few minutes of giggling.

Learning my own hacks to make disabled parenting work for me is something that is a slow learning curve that I am just getting to grips with. For example buying a second seat belt for my wheelchair so I can strap my daughter to me when we go out for a walk. Each day is never the same as we adapt to the needs of my disobedient body and the cheeky duo. The kids never fail to amaze me with how well they cope though. I used to get in a state over the possibility of the fact they had to ‘deal’ with a disabled mum. Whereas now I am so proud of the caring nature the two of them have, along with their inquisitive minds.

Posted in Archive, covid-19, January 2021

Disability & Discrimination During Covid-19

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As the world adjust to Covid-19, those of us shielding in the UK (and the thousands of other impacted disabled folk) have read multiple news report to see how it will impact us next. Reading through each new regulation brought in to ‘flatten the curve’ screamed ableism. Whilst I agree the new rules were needed there was no consideration for the disabled people in society. Even under tier three regulations when we were allowed to reemerge from our homes after months of shielding, the regulations had no adaptions for us. They were discriminatory at best; put yourself in our shoes and suddenly being faced with having no access to a public disabled bathroom, having to que to shop with no where to sit when your physically need to, a lack of parking because many disabled spaces are now being taken up by outdoor seating for pubs and restaurants. Many disabled people who were being interviewed for research by Inclusion London reported that they felt excluded and marginalised.

There was a fantastic article in The Guardian today, with an interview by paralympian Sophie Carrigill addressing inequality, specifically around how the needs of disabled people have been ignored throughout our multiple lockdowns; you can read the article here. I completely agree with her, my social media is full of adverts every couple of scrolls trying to encourage me to sign up to one fitness program or another. Even my gym is going live and notifying me, along with influencers left, right and centre. Yet I am aware of only two people currently who cater with workouts for the disabled. What really shocked me though was when I went to comment under the article on facebook. It was disability discrimination and frankly simply disability hate comment after comment. The completely ignorance of people was astounding.

Adaptive Workouts – Disability FriEndly

A fellow Dystonia warrior Gina, runs Adaptive Martial Arts (I’m meant to be trying this when I’m having a healthy run myself!), which you can do via Zoom currently. The second, is a woman I recently found on instagram who teaches dance via her wheelchair her handle is @katestanforth .

Disability Discrimination – The evidence

There has been a significant rise in negative attitudes towards people with disabilities since the start of the pandemic, or to be more specific since the start of the shielding and need to wear a mask. Its not hard to find evidence of this, its all over social media but also sadly there multiple news and police reports on the subject.

A report by the neighbourhood watch found that a recent survey carried out found 62% of deaf and disabled people organisations reported an increase in disability hate crime referrals on the previous weeks – this was just after it was announced face masks were to become mandatory. I myself have twice been yelled at for not having mask on, once whilst relocating my jaw and once yesterday whilst having a sip of a drink.

The findings from Inclusion London Briefing are really quiet troubling about the rise in Disability Hate Crime during the course of this pandemic, you can read it here. To name a few examples 1) A rise in hate crime by neighbours including a rise in hate crime against disabled children whilst they are at home by neighbours. 2) A rise in verbal abuse against disabled peoples and instances of being spat at whilst out of the home due to inaccurate perception the disabled person being a ‘virus spreader’. 3) An in increase in online hate crime, often on social media platforms, in which disabled have been that their lives are inferior and that they are taking up resources from non disabled people.

Disability Inclusion Post Lockdown

Where do we go from here? It’s going to take a lot of work and advocacy to get us to some level of equality – which the Inclusion London Briefing article briefly does touch on. I don’t know when that will happen and how we go about getting the public to flip their perception again. Part of the way that perhaps that can happen is that when we come out lockdown the regulations allows for disabled people to use our bathrooms when necessary, and doesn’t turn our much coveted gold dust parking spots into garden seating for pubs. But that would only be the start, we need a whole lot more to turn peoples attitudes around.

Posted in Archive, January 2021

Mental Health: It’s About Surviving Not Thriving

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Mental Health Custom Poster

The current times we are living in are unique. Nothing we have ever lived through before could have prepared us for a pandemic requiring multiple lockdowns and restricted social interactions. Reports on rising rates of depression, anxiety and mental health issues are really not surprising. There is no normal currently. Life has become about surviving not thriving through each moment, and focusing on the little wins as they come. If you wore actual clothes instead of fresh PJS today then in my eyes you are smashing Lockdown Three.

If you are struggling right now and feel like you need a bit of help please do explore the options below. I myself have tried several of them and am more than happy to discuss this if needs be. Simply send me a message via the Dystonia and Me facebook page and I will get back to you as soon as I see it.

NHS resources for Mental Health Help

  1. https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/?WT.tsrc=Search&WT.mc_id=Brand&gclid=CjwKCAiAr6-ABhAfEiwADO4sfRJl_Cdhon5SUEsyIIISYLnZpfvy7_X_HoT1E-XINaDydvctSQR3xRoCA9YQAvD_BwE

This link will take you to the NHS Every Mind Matters page. Take the time to really explore this site as it is full of information. If you are finding it hard to absorb maybe bookmark the page or print off some bits and come back to it. One of the great aspects of this site is that it has a feature called Your Mind Plan Quiz; you answer 5 questions and it creates a plan designed to improve and maintain your Mental Health.

2) https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/moodzone-mental-wellbeing-audio-guides/

If audio guides are more your cup of tea then these free NHS audio guides may do the trick, there are multiple ones to choose from depending on what aspect on your mental health you are struggling with.

A-Z Mental Health Charities Link

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/

Whether you need help yourself, or you concerned about a loved one, these charities and support groups will be able to help or point you in the right direction.

Urgent NHS Mental Health Helpline (England Only)

https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/mental-health/find-an-urgent-mental-health-helpline

This 24 hour helpline is available for people of all ages. The link will take you straight to the assessment which will get you started.

Posted in Archive, January 2021

The Test Results Are In

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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

Improving Routine To Improve Pain Levels

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Health conditions can have both a physical and emotional toll, for example chronic pain; this can impact your sleep, cause more fatigue and leaves you starting the day just as drained as when you went to bed. A routine can change all that.

Now I’m not suggesting you plan out every moment of your day!

However a well thought through routine can empower your day, lowering your pain levels over all as you’ve optimised the way you have used your body.

It’s worth asking yourself when is your pain worse in the day? What activities does that impact? Make a list. From here you can proactively look at your routine and adjust how you manage your day which in turn should lower your pain levels. An example of this is if you struggle more in the mornings, then lay out what you need (or ask someone to help you) in an accessible place. This will save you time and energy in the morning.

Make sure to include time for you in your routine and space out energy consuming tasks over the day. If there is a task you are particular struggling with think about how it can be altered. For example, when chopping vegetables does sitting on a stool help? Would buying pre-chopped vegetables be a more realistic option? Is there someone else who could do this task for you?

Doing to much will result in a Boom and Bust cycle. Pacing is your friend.

I’ll be live tomorrow night with more on the Boom Bust Cycle.

Posted in Archive, January 2021

Adjusting to The Impact of Lockdown on Pacing

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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, January 2021

Lockdown, Homeschooling and Work

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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, January 2021

Return To The Gym

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After a lot of discussions with my family and my medical team we decided that it was finally time for my return to the gym. I have not been since my battle with sepsis in January 2020. However if we are being honest there was no way I could have have returned in 2020; I spent a long period bed ridden, my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome progressively worsened and that’s before we factor in Covid. My 2020 health spiral ended with unexpected weight gain of almost two stone in a month. Considering I live on 1, 200kcl a day that comes from perscriped ensure juices, the sudden and extreme gain is disconcerting.

Now while my GP is investigating causes into the gain, I’m also taking a practical approach. I used to have a fair level of fitness and enjoyed going to the gym. Whilst it left me shattered afterwards and with sore joints, I also found I benefited with less extreme spasms after. Today’s reintroduction was a gentle session for the most part, testing what my bodies current capabilities are; I chose a recumbent bike session followed by different weight lifting machines.

First time back in the gym

I certainly don’t feel as energetic as I did this morning; far from it. I’m completely out of spoons and sore. However I am chuffed with how well the session went and am looking forward to the next one.

No spoons

Posted in Archive, January 2021

Hormones and Chronic illness

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Hormones, they hit us out of the blue in puberty and never stop showing up no matter how much we hope they may just skip a month. Even before my diagnosis of Dystonia my monthly visits from the witch were awful.

During my teen years my periods were unpredictable; sometimes not showing up for months and sometime arriving every two weeks. They would leave me doubled over the toilet in the night throwing up from the cramps, and going through a pad in under an hour over and over again. I spent years visiting my then GP who told me all this was normal and that I needed to learn to deal with these symptoms. It was only then when I was studying for my midwifery course that I had the courage to go to a new gp who recognised my distress and referred me to gyny. One operation later and I was diagnosed with Endometriosis.

Quote from Camran Nrzhat, ND.

Now my periods are worse than before and on average last 72 days. Yes you read that right. They last 72 days. Now normally they’d treat with a hormonal contraception to stop the period. Here’s where my health comes into play. My spasms, now I don’t know whether this is my Dystonia or EDS, but I can’t use any intrauterine device as the spasms physically reject it from my body which is fairly uncomfortable. The pill*/patch/injection all work on giving you progesterone however I am unfortunately one of those rare Ehlers Danlos suffers who can not tolerate this. The increase causes a dramatic increase in dislocations body wide.

*I am aware there are pills that are not just progesterone based however due to the fact I get daily migranes with aura I cannot take these as it increases my stroke risk.

Between the prolonged bleeding which leaves me severely anaemic (currently 3.1), the increase in spasms, dislocations, fatigue, it’s fair to say hormones really screw me over. So gentle hugs to all who also experience this. Remember chocolate always helps!

Posted in January 2021, Archive

Welcome to 2021

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2021 has arrived! We rang the new year in a quiet manner, a nice drink, a dislocated thumb and an early night after realising we were out of bandages (and spasms were forcing my thumb to remain out). I hope all of you had a lovely NYE and are healthy and safe at the start of this new year.

So what does 2021 hold in store for me?

As you may know from my facebook page I have set up my own holistic health coaching business which is designed to help people who are disabled/dealing with invisible illnesses. Holistic Health coaching is a partnership that will empower them, pin point problematic areas and find realistic tools to help improve quality of life, improve pain management, mental health wellbeing, and more.

Dystonia & Me Holistic Health Coach

Enabling others to improve their quality of life is a passion of mine. My own struggles in that area, along with fighting for help with mental health, pacing advice and more stuck me as how much holistic health coaches are needed. I know that I could have benefited greatly from one in the beginning. I look forward now to helping others, for anyone interested you can contact me here https://www.facebook.com/DystoniaandMeCoaching/