Posted in Archive, covid-19, february 2021

The Positive To Lockdown With Chronic Illness

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Chronic Illness in Lockdown memes

Whilst the multiple national lockdowns have come with there fair share of complications, for example cancelled treatments, the stay at home message has been a blessing in disguise for me. My body has been going through a decline/more frequent dislocations lately, which is less than an ideal. Now prepandemic I would have ignored my bodies pain signals, and ploughed through the day. A bad cycle, and habit that I had formed. Only collapsing in the evening, spoonless, in pain and annoyed at myself. Lockdown has relieved the social pressure to attended multiple groups a week, and be on the go all the time. For my particular lot of chronic illnesses it’s meant I have rested when I have needed to. I’ve had the opportunity to relearn my bodies distress signals.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not literally doing the above meme, though it has its appeals. But it has removed the guilt I felt on slow mornings when we watched a Disney film and had a slow start to the day, rather than rushing about. I still finish the day with no spoons. That is just life with chronic illnesses. However I rarely exhaust myself to the point that I have impacted the next day, which prelockdown was a frequent occurance.

Post-lockdown this is something I need to remember; that it is perfectly fine to acknowledge if my body is saying no not today. We can watch films, craft and bake in the house instead and have a lovely day. Just being kind to my body more often will allow more days out and in the long run that’s what works.

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

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/

Posted in Archive, December 2020

Let’s Bin Perfection.

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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.

Posted in Archive, December 2020

Life alongside Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

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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.

Crps info

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.

Posted in Archive, Novemeber 2020

Who to Turn To?

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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.

Posted in Archive, Novemeber 2020

Brain Fog

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I’ve sat here and typed out three different blog posts on three entirely different topics. None of them really made much sense. I should have expected as much. Damon has already expressed concern this evening for how much I’m repeating myself, a sign that it’s a bad brain fog evening and most likely a bad brain fog day tomorrow.

Brain Fog

The pain behind my left eye has become rather extreme again so I’m hoping the doctors will have space tomorrow for a chat. I’ve finished my course of steroids now for my optics neuritis, but the pressure pain in this eye has just become increasingly worse and is really getting hard to cope with. I’m lucky that although it’s a small doctors surgery the team there are fabulous, so I have my fingers crossed they will have some ideas.

Hopefully I’ll have a less foggy weekend and I’ll be able to get the posts I was trying to write up for you all.

  • side note this was originally published with no title…thank you brain fog
Posted in Archive, February 2020

An Anxious But Honest Return

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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.


So here’s a very late Happy New Year.

Posted in Archive, March 2019

The trauma of Anesthetic Free Surgery

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At the start of January, I underwent a small surgery.  I’d known for several weeks that I had needed it but due to being pregnant my surgeon wanted to wait until I was safely into the second trimester before we risked putting my body through the stress of it. I am by no means a stranger to surgery; due to my varying conditions I’ve had more surgeries than I care to think about. Whilst I was naturally nervous with all of them, this one was by far the worst. With my previous surgeries, it had always been carried out under a general anesthetic, this time, however, as much as I would have far preferred to be knocked out, I was wide awake and able to feel everything.

My surgeon had made it clear to me from the start that if he could have put me to sleep he would have done, but as it was a quick surgery he didn’t want to do so due to the pregnancy. A decision that I fully agreed with. The complication we faced was that I experience no response to the local anesthetic. It doesn’t matter the type or amount you inject me with, it does nothing. This is down to my Classical Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. My surgical team and I have a very good relationship, and we talked at length about the possible sedative medications we could use to help me through the procedure; ultimately it transpired that the few medications that were appropriate to use I am severely allergic too. With no other options, I consented to undergo the surgery with no anesthesia or pain relief.

Clambering onto the operating table, staring up at the bright lights above and conversing with the operating surgeon went against everything that felt natural to me. My surgeon cracked joke after joke, trying to keep me focused on anything but the pain that his scalpel inflicted. Having to force yourself to lie steady, and not scream for help whilst someone is cutting into you, to try not to curl up in a ball and cry hysterically is hell. If I hadn’t needed the operation I would not have put myself through it.

I had wrongly presumed that because I can handle dislocations like a pro that this surgery would not be that much harder. Instead, I find myself waking up at night in a cold sweat, gripping my duvet, absolutely consumed with fear. Night after night I go to sleep and dream I am back on the operating table except for this time the pain never stops, the surgeon just keeps cutting bits of me away until there is nothing left.

I am fairly certain that the nightmares are getting worse due to the possibility of needing a c-section in the not so distant future due to a low-lying placenta. Whilst I know if this is the case my team will put me under for the operation, the irrational part of me has still built up a fear of once again being on the table able to feel everything. A position I hope never to be in again.