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.
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!
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.
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/
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 I had a meeting with speech and language to assess my ongoing difficulties with swallowing. Some days the issues fade into the background and are not to much of a problem, other times I struggle to swallow anything which has previously resulted in over a week in the hospital on IV fluids and having a temporary NG tube placed. I had no idea what to expect from the appointment as I’ve not met with speech and language before.
She came to my house, and was immediately met with Stefan and Evie talking a thousand miles a minute, both very curious over her PPE. We discussed my symptoms and long medication list and then she got down to examining me. She had a feel of my throat whilst I drank an ensure and picked up my usual spasms. While we were talking I was doing my usual post meal coughing, something that’s mild enough that I don’t really notice it, nor was I aware that my voice then became hoarse something my partner brought up.
The speech and language therapist explained what was happening was due to my spasms that I was aspirating during my meals. She’s arranging a barium swallow so they can get a look at the extent that this is happening. It also explains why I keep getting such bad chest infections; the last one left me needing two rounds of antibiotics and a course of steroids.
She mentioned the possibility of a PEG tube again, something that’s been circled around for a while, as well as refferal back to the dietitian. This will hopefully be after the barium swallow has been conducted as this should show what consistency of liquid will be best for me.
I’m feeling quite positive about it all after today’s meeting and will be hearing from her again in four week for an update.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (crps) first appeared in my life back in February 2006. I was 16, in my GCSE year and had just had my appendix removed after a gruelling week on the adult inpatient ward being poked and prodded by consultants. Whilst they ummed and erred over whether or not to operate I would be given morphine injections into my thighs. A seemingly normal procedure which resulted in any semblance of normal vanishing in to the fire of nerve pain.
Around a week after discharge I was back in A&E having my leg x-rayed. Despite mine and my mother’s instance that it couldn’t be broken as I had barely walked due to the pain in it; so there’s been no fall, twist or bang to break a bone. Instead I was living in shorts unable to bare touch upon my skin, I was walking on my tip toes and every movement was agaonizing. This time I was admitted to the children’s ward after they’d established no break and the whispers of crps emerged.
My leg deteriorated rapidly to the point it was in a fixed dystonic position (not that anyone explained that at the time) I could not bare any sort of touch and felt like I was being burned constantly. I can vividly remember one day where the pain was so bad I was screaming for them to put my leg out; my brain so convinced that it must be on fire, despite my eyes seeing otherwise. They ended up sedating me with diazepam to help.
My stay on the children’s ward was not a short one. I was there for a total of six months, studying and completing my GCSEs and undergoing intensive physio therapy. I couldn’t be more greatful to the physio team. They impressed on me the importance of desensitisation of the leg. This essentially meant running different textures up and down my leg multiple times a day to reprogram the nerves to recognise that it wasnt a painful stimuli, we used things like make up brushes, sponges etc. The turning point though was when they introduced hydrotherapy into my treatment. I would be hoisted into the pool and spend the session pretty much holding the side for dear life trying not to scream to loudly. It was traumatic and still makes me want to cry thinking back on it but I am so glad that they kept me going with it. There is no doubt in my mind that it was the best desensitisation treatment.
My leg now can bare clothing and shoes, I don’t scream out when we go over bumps in the car or if there’s a windy day blowing my clothes. For the most parts the symptoms are there but quiet, only roaring their disabiling heads when I do something foolish like walk into a table edge, or spend to long on that side at night. The Dr’s told us they were fairly certain the morphine injections were to blame and I’ve refused all leg injections since.
Part of my Dystonia treatment involves three monthly injections. In 2015 following my usual jabs I found myself at the Dr’s being diagnosed with crps once again, this time in my right shoulder. I was struggling to wear clothes and move my arm. Thankfully we knew from last time how to act and I arranged hydrotherapy straight away and started my old desensitisation routine again. I still struggle to wear a bra, it causes immense burning but I force myself to for as much of the day as I can bare. Every 12 weeks the area is injected again and I have a flare up. It’s shattering but I take comfort in knowing that the desensitisation methods bring it back to a tolerable level
There’s a lot yet to be understood about this condition but to anyone who is suffering please remember you are not alone and my facebook page inbox is always open.
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.
The theme this year is ‘not all disabilities are visible’. This is stressing the fact that not every condition is immediately visible; according to the WHO report roughly two-thirds of people with a mental or neurological disorder will put off going to a doctor for help largely in part due to stigma, discrimination and neglect. As someone who has very much been on the receiving end of this trio when it comes to living with multiple neurological conditions, this comes as no surprise to me.
Looking at me as I am right now, curled up on the settee trying to not make to much noise so as to not wake the kids, you could be forgiven for not knowing I had a disability; even if your keen eyed and spotted my odd eyes you wouldn’t know that my sight was impacted and would be unlike to think too much about it. However even when you can spot my spasms or a dislocation, you cannot see my brain fog, my sensory loss, the neuropathic nerve pain, no one can see fatigue fight, the pain induced insomnia, the sixty odd dislocations a day and so much more.
I love talking with young children about my disabilities because they don’t hold back. “How does your chair work?” “Can you get upstairs?” “Do you have to put you your chair in the bath?” The look of fear on the parents faces as they worry that something not deemed politically correct may be asked is what I find disheartening. Without these beautiful minds being curious how can stigmas be fought against, broken down and normalised? This should be praised and encouraged. I appreciate that not everyone will want to be asked, but you’ll be surprised by how many people are more than happy to discuss these things.
Disabled people, whether the condition is visible or not, physical/mental/learning or otherwise are still people. Next time, pause, maybe ask a question, you could be amazed at how it opens your eyes.
When I was 17 weeks pregnant with my daughter I underwent surgery to remove a mole on the underneath of my right breast that had early cell changes. Due to the fact I was pregnant and it was a relatively short surgery they didn’t want to give me a general anaesthetic, so decided a local would do. Unfortunately my Ehlers-Danlos means I have no response to local anaesthetic and felt every cut, and every stitch. The whole process was rather traumatic and I’ve worked hard at trying to forget it.
I was admitted to my local hospital a couple of days ago due to worsening symptoms in my eye and leg. Due to this it was decided last night to bring my lumbar puncture forward to that evening. I explained that local anaesthetic does not work in the slightest for me. They decided to give me a double dose in the hope it would work; it didn’t, which I expected, maxfax team has tried injecting several times this amount with no effect previously. Now lumbar punctures are known to be painful anyway, so to know I was having one without effective pain relief was nerve wracking to say the least.
It was one of the most agonising experiences I have ever had. It took multiple attempts to place the needle correctly as they found the spaces inbetween the spinal collum to be be extremely narrow. It’s been just over twenty four hours since and I’ve struggled to move. My whole back is in horrondous pain, taking a deep breath or swallowing liquids really seems to agreviate it. I’ve also lost sensation over my waterworks which is concerning. I’ve spoken to the consultant but everyone’s answer over this is that I need an MRI, which apparently is booked but no can tell me a day or time.
I’m missing my kids loads but I know that being here is where I need to be. If this helps put a piece of the medical jigsaw in place and leads to better management that can only be a good thing. Just got to take everything one moment at a time.
It’s a painsomnia night so I thought I would share with you all something that I’ve been coming back to frequently recently. Personally I’m a very sensitive, emotional person; now some may view that as a bad thing, others a good thing, some of you will be neutral. I can see the pros and cons, but it’s what makes me me, so yes I may cry buckets everytime we watch certain episodes of Vikings, or The Lion King but i’ll also laugh myself to stitches five minutes later. It’s a rollercoaster of life. It’s real, honest and truth.
So why do I, and I know many others with chronic illness will be able to identify with this, go on autopilot everytime a doctor, family member or friend asks after us? You know the drill, you walk into the drs room the doctor greets you and asks how you are before you get down to the nitty gritty. It’s a formality, so like a healthy person you respond with I’m good thanks, and you? It’s ridiculous! Why is it so hard to say you know what I’m actually not great at the moment and I need some help.
I forced myself to do this yesterday. I could hear the usual auto response slipping out my mouth, so I caught myself, took a breath, looked the doctor in the eye and said I’m pretty awful and I don’t know what to do. Now saying that wasn’t easy but boy did the relief for sharing the burden feel good. Making that choice to let the facade of I can cope with everything slip for a moment to ask for help took an incredible amount of inner strength and it’s something I’m going to practice doing more often. Vulnerability is not something to view in a negative light, in fact it allows others to reach out and see if they can improve your situation. Sometimes just talking things over can make a difference.
So just pause for a moment and think; are you like me and guilty of putting walls up? Is it worth flexing your inner strength and letting that vulnerability show? Let me know what you decide to do!
Damon and I had always said right from the start of our relationship that we envisaged having three children. We both came from fairly large families, with him being the eldest of three, and myself the eldest of four children, so it seemed natural for us to imagine plenty of tiny feet running around creating havoc in the way only kids can. As my conditions were fairly well controlled when we met, the only issue with our forward planning was the fact that I had been told many years before at the age of 19, that I had severe endometriosis; to the point that they suspect I would be unable to conceive naturally and would need medical assistance to do so.
We have been fortunate to have been able to have our son Stefan Elijah, now three, and our daughter Evie Maise, now 18 months, without any assistance. Their existence to me feels miraculous. When we fell pregnant with Evie we discussed frequently trying for our third child shortly after her first birthday. It was exciting, and something I was really quiet fixated on. Physically I had managed to get back to a good place after having Stefan, and it seemed wise to do it close together, before my health started to go downhill. My pregnancy with Evie was a rough one however, and I spent multiple periods as an inpatient in my local hospital. We had hoped that after Evie’s arrival that my body would improve again as it had following Stefan. However, this time round it took months to get back in to the Botox system and once again I ended up in the hospital for over a week needed an NJ, constant fluids, unable to swallow, or really communicate. With each day the idea of a third was slipping further away, I refused to talk about it for awhile. It really affected my mental health.
While I have had periods of better health over the last 18 months, it has generally been a downhill, to the point where I’m now essentially blind in one eye, reliant on an electric wheelchair outside of the house, and being assessed for demyelinating diseases on top of everything else I already had going on. My hands are full to say the least. So Damon and I sat down and agreed that it would be unfair to even consider bringing a third child into the family; he was also concerned if my heart could physically take a third pregnancy as it has struggled with the last two. It was an extremely hard conversation to had. Even though we both knew it be the right choice to make, it didn’t make the biological want for another child any less.
I often get asked a mix of questions in relation to children. Sometimes people will ask “So when do you think the next one will come along?” It’s a well meaning question, that I always answer with a light hearted “oh my hands are full enough with two”, but it stirs the emotions, the want for another that is so strong since our daughter started to so much more independent. Other times it’s the slightly harsher “How you can even consider having biological children when you know some of your conditions are genetic?” Generally I don’t answer this question in public, mainly because it catches me of my guard. However it is fair. My Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome has around a 50% inheritance rate, its slightly more prevelant in girls than boys. Yet there is every chance that both children have escaped without developing it, there is also a chance that if they do have the condition that it’s not as severe as mine. There is no way to know. It’s also worth bareing in mind that mine is made worse due to other conditions that impact each other. I would say that before you ask anyone about kids really think; if they have a medical condition perhaps stay away from the topic until they bring it up. In can be a sensitive one.
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