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.
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.
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.
What is perfection? It’s a word that we toss around like it weighs not a thing, when the reality is that’s a ball and chain dragging our mental health through the mud chasing after. I’m sure my own view of perfection is mighty different to yours! If it wasn’t then it would be a case of bottling up a potion or creating a word doc telling you what steps to follow to achieve perfection and selling it for a killing; I’d be able to have my own purpose built bungalow. No it’s different to all of us yet we all seek it.
It’s the little negative moments experienced that make us seek it. It’s the old man tutting and shaking his head repededly at me because he couldn’t push past my wheelchair easily. It’s the side eye and the sarcastic comments that are made by people who don’t understand ambulatory wheelchair users exist. It’s dislocating 15 times in one day and just having enough. It’s all these things and so much more that make us want to chase perfection.
The fog of insecurity in our brains full of thoughts like if I just weighed less, if I wasn’t chronically ill, if I wasn’t in my chair, if I was more like them; it’s all based on the negative moments and turned into insecurity and self doubt. It’s a weight that no one needs.
But chasing perfection is futile. It’s an unachievable concept. It’s time we move away from it. On that note can we bin chasing normal as well? Learn to love ourselves the way we are. Life would be boring if we were all the same. I know I would rather be my unique self than identical to every other person.
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.
I live with an elephant in the room; it comes with me wherever I go. Some people don’t mind the elephant, some have one of their own, others have a dislike for these elephants. It’s not always clear as to why. Maybe it’s worry, perhaps lack of understanding, and sometimes it’s ignorance.
Learning to accept my elephant of many names was a task that took great strength and many many years of learning to love myself all over again. I’m a sensitive soul; when my elephant upsets others it’s hard not to be offended. But I cannot change what I am, nor the diagnoses attached to me, or the symptoms that are ever present. Therefore the elephant is always in the corner. Sometimes small, sometimes big, sometimes putting on quite the performance.
However, I am who I am because of the path my life has taken. Disability has taught me a lot about myself, and it has opened my eyes to the need for self advocacy in a world that is a far cry from being disability friendly. The next time you are in a room with an elephant, address it, embrace it. Disability elephants are not scary things.
After a week long stay I was finally discharged from one of our local hospitals yesterday evening. I was admitted due to pain in my left eye which has optic neuritis, it had become overwhelming, to the point I felt I had to apply pressure on my eye to relieve it. I had also lost the sensation in the bottom half of my right leg.
During my time in the hospital they decided to carry out a Lumbar Puncture and MRI knowing that my neuro team wanted to do these anyway. The LP side effects I’m still dealing with, I am still having issues with my bladder, my whole leg now has no sensation, and I have a permanent horrondous headache. Both tests came back clear which left the dr’s there confused. On discharge I was diagnosed with Complex neurological disorders and global sensory loss in the right leg, and told my neuro team would take over figuring out the cause.
Today I had an Opthalmology appointment at another hospital. The opthamologist in charge of my care is wonderful. I sat down, he faced me and said “So you have MS ” he was quiet matter of fact about it. I corrected him and pointed out that my tests had come back clear. He muttered that they were wrong and went on to examine my eyes. After several tests he sat back looked me in the eyes and again said “Rebecca you have M.S”. He was quite insisted that my doctor’s must have missed something on my scans due to the state my eyes were in.
So where do I go from here? Such wildly different view points, everyone agreeing that my local neurology team needs to see me again and review what the different teams have found. However getting hold of them is darn impossible. Both myself and my gp surgery contacted them a few days before I was admitted informing them I was going downhill, and needed input desperately. Neither myself or my gp’s surgery has had a response yet.
Right now I’m very emotional and very stressed. I’m taking things moment by moment and trying to just accept things as they are and get on with it. But I work best with action plans and right now I don’t even know who’s responsible for my care. I feel very lost in the system.
Being chronically means I live with the knowledge that at some point, someday I will have a flare of one or more of my conditions. I could go months without one and then have several back to back, or they could be fairly regular. Flare ups are unpredictable, sometimes it’s obvious as to what caused them, and other times there seems to be no rhyme or reason to them. Managing them is a joke. Other than knocking back the muscle relaxants and painkillers the only thing to do is try and ride it out.
I’m currently in the middle of an Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Type 3 and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome flare up. Agony is not a strong enough word to describe the sheer amount of pain that I am in. I knew my EDS flare up was coming, my pain had been getting dramatically worse over 72 hours and it felt like I had battered every inch of my body. What I wasn’t prepared for however was my CRPS to act up.
It’s hard to communicate to people who don’t have CRPS exactly what type of hellish pain it is. The only way I can think to describe is this. Imagine you have several vegetable peelers the width of your leg, someone is dragging all of them down every millimetre of your leg with excruciating slowness. Digging the blade in to the point it reaches your bones. This evil being has a partner in crime, who is simultaneously pouring vinegar into your open wounds whilst dropping lit matches on to you. On top of all of this is Benedict the Dystonia Alien who is rejoicing in contorting your leg in every position imaginable heightening the pain further.
This pain is constant. Its at the point were it feels like a miracle if I manage 5 minutes without crying. My oramorph only makes a slightly dent in the pain. Sleep is a distant memory as my leg is ravaged with mind boggling pain. All I can do is hope and pray that this flare up ends soon and does not once again become a fixture in my day to day life.
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.
My list of chronic conditions is an ever growing one; Dystonia, EDS Type 3, Non-Epileptic Seizures, Postural Hypotension and more! The list of hospital appointments is just as long. As I was diagnosed with each one I felt very much as if I were being forced to pause and take a step back in life. Almost as if I had no choice but to fail at achieving my goals. That may seem over dramatic, but it was a very real, very overwhelming emotion. Learning to accept life as spoonie was and still is a challenge. As I have mentioned before I have developed an attitude of watch me achieve everything you tell me that I won’t be able to. I shall achieve and aspire to all my dreams.
When I was exploring signing with my publisher I noticed that in their facts and questions page that they recommended if you were ill, waiting until you had recovered before going down this publishing path, because it is hard and a lot of work. Now obviously this is referring to recoverable conditions, hence why I skipped over it. For my novel to be published I have to achieve 250 preorders, otherwise it won’t be able to go ahead (https://www.britainsnextbestseller.com/beta//books/?id=55). So for the next six weeks I have to put a lot of work into advertising and self-promotion via social media. Self-promotion may sound like an easy task but when one eye isn’t working and your body is dodgy anyway you tire easily. I know many of you know the feeling. This is when I adore Facebooks scheduled post function, it’s fantastic for when I need a quick break.
The next six weeks are going to be manic, and nerve wracking. However, it’s also exciting. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can achieve, despite everything , and manage to hit the 250 requirement! If you are a love of fantasy then you can order my debut novel here https://www.britainsnextbestseller.com/beta//books/?id=55
It never fails to amaze me just how long my body takes to recover from illnesses and accidents these days. Pre-Dystonia I was one of the those people who always had some of thing going on be it sinusitis or a broken bone, but I always bounced back. I fell and ended up in the hospital a week and a bit ago, and yet I still don’t feel back to my usual dysfunctional self.
Many Dystonia sufferers have informed me if they get an infection or have an accident it takes them longer than most to get back to their selves again. So I know I’m not alone, but its irritating. I’m still sore, tired and my spasms and paralysis are being triggered more than usual. I know I sound grumpy! I do not mean to, but lack of sleep and some new sensations in my legs have set my teeth on edge. At least I know I shall sleep tonight after todays Reflexology session.
A couple of days ago this new sensation hit my legs (knee down). It’s extremely hard to put it into words exactly what it feels like. It sort of feels like sharp pins and needles mixed in with a numbing sensation. I try my best to distract myself but the sensation is rather uncomfortable. Part of me wishes that it would hurt enough that my brain would disconnect from my legs so I that I would not be able to feel it just for a little while.
On a far more positive note I would like to thank the lovely people who have nominated my blog and Facebook page for a WEGO health activist award. It is extremely touching and uplifting! I have had a number of people ask me how to go about nominating me, I put it on my twitter and Facebook page, but for those who have not seen it, here is the link http://awards.wegohealth.com/ .
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