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

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 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

Treatment Day

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Currently I’m sat in the rush hour traffic on my way home from seeing my neurologist in London. It’s been a long day which upon arrival I soon expected to end in despair. Despite email confirmation of my appointment, my slot had not been added on the system. I’m a big believer in to be early is to be on time, and this slightly over anxious side of me always shows itself before appointments; being extra early was something I was extremely relieved about this time as it meant that they had time to order up the injections.

Watching the lights go past.

Thankfully I was seen and as usual I left feeling ever grateful that I’m under my neurologists care. He’s been a rock for me these last 8 years and continues to be. He’s agreed with maxfax recommendations to start me on Sinemet and recommended an alternative to try if this one doesn’t have the hoped for impact. Maxfaxs theory is that there are a small number of EDS (I’m CEDS) who also have dopa responsive dystonia and that I may fall into this category. I’ve not tried any of these medications before so I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for some sort of dent in symptoms.

I’m planning on resting most the journey home as the injection site in shoulder always aggreviates my complex regional pain syndrome. More on this tomorrow.

Posted in Archive, December 2020

Disability Representation

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Representative. That word means so many things these days. We are always on the look out for something or someone that represent us in someway that we identify with. It’s been a long time since I stopped feeling that word was applicable to me anymore simply because as much as the world has made so much progress accepting disabled people there’s some pretty ridiculous hold ups too.

In politics there’s lots of loud, worringly not always up to date privalged folk making decisions that impact the likes of you and me. I always dread when they discuss the NHS or disability benefits and wonder how much time they’ve spent speaking and really listening to its core users. I’ve written many times and often been disgusted by the response back which has so inadequate they’ve not even referred to my letter remotely accurately.

In fashion I struggle to find clothes that don’t physically injure me when putting them on. I’d love to see more disabled friendly clothes hitting the stores at reasonable prices. For those of you thinking just avoid the clothes that cause injury I do for the most part, but I haven’t found a bra yet that I can take on and off without dislocating.

Councils; I am honestly curious when you design pavements, who decides on drop curb placements? As a wheelchair user, with brain fog more days than not, I have to try to remember the best wheelchair friendly routes. These often involve laughable detours. I’ve been debating starting a ‘The disappearing Dropcurb album’.

Film/TV. All I’m going to say on the subject is start hiring the talented disabled actors that are out there for roles, rather than able bodied household names. You have no excuse, make the adaptations needed to facilitate.

Finally I don’t expect to see representation of myself everywhere, that’s not exactly what I’m getting at. After all one of the beautiful things about human life is our differences, our uniques, our quirks. However that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t address the issues I’ve raised above and as we’re heading into 2021 these really should be non issues by now.

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, October 2020

Dystonia & Me; Spoonie Talks

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Some of you who have popped on to here over recent days will have noticed small changes popping up around the site. It’s an exciting time for the blog. In the eight years its been running for it has had the same look, so it was about time it had a make over along with a brand spanking new feature. Hopefully this means you’ll find it easier to navigate, but as always I’m only a message away and you can always drop me a line over on the Dystonia and me Facebook page if you’re having any difficulties.

Dystonia & Me; Spoonie Talks Logo

Spoonie Talks is the blogs latest new feature, this will be a weekly podcast posted up every Friday evening. I am overly excited about this. It’s an idea I have had bubbling away in the pipeline for awhile but it was never quite the right time. However sometimes you’ve just got to grab the pandemic by the horns and give things a go, so I’m launching Dystonia & Me: Spoonie Talks podcast and hope to have the first episode up and running by the end of the month.

How can you be involved?

While some of the the episodes will just myself talking, I’m aiming to make this an interactive series bringing light to issues that my readers, and the Dystonia and me community feel strongly on. This really could be anything! It could be on a specific condition that you would like to spread awareness about, you could be a carer and wish to discuss what that’s like, maybe you want to share your journey to diagnosis, tips on balancing illness and home life, pacing, perhaps you are a charity and want a platform to speak on. The possibilities are really endless.

If you think this is something you may be interested in, drop me a message through the facebook page and we can have a chat. The more the merrier!

The Return of Facebook Lives

During National lockdown I was on the Dystonia and Me facebook page twice a day doing facebook lives to check on how everybody was doing both physically and mentally. This meant I could provide links to resources for those who were struggling, and hopefully for those who were feeling isolated it meant that they had something to look forward to.

Now with my health not being at its most stable at the moment twice a day is not something I can commit to, however I feel (and some of you have messaged) that the lives returning would be helpful with so many local lockdowns in place again. With this in mind I’m going to be coming Live on the Facebook page 7.30pm every Monday and Wednesday night. It wont always be awareness spreading, it might just be a friendly chat to see how you are all doing, so join in in the comments. I will schedule these on the page, you’ll be able to set reminders for those who want to join.

I’ll see you all tomorrow night.

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, February 2017

Ignorant Drs

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When you’re chronically ill you rather quickly get a feeling for the attitudes/how well informed the Drs in charge of you are on your conditions. IF you’re lucky you get a wonderful open minded Dr who takes the time to listen to you, my neurologist is a perfect example of this and has always fought for me. However, and sadly it seems more frequently, you come across Drs who are either simply not up to date (with everything they have to know this is understandable), or they just seem to enjoy being ignorant on the matter.

In 2012 I was admitted with worsening Dystonia to a nearby hospital, during my inpatient stay I developed pain triggered non-epileptic seizures. They completely dismissed my Dystonia and told me that it and my seizures were completely psychogenic and that the only treatment I would benefit from would be psychotherapy and that the seizures could not cause me any harm. This diagnosis was based on the fact that in my early teens I’d been physically abused, it didn’t matter in their eyes that I had sought years of counselling, and had put that section of my life far behind me. Months later I met my wonderful neurologist who confirmed my original diagnosis of Dystonia and informed me that my seizures had absolutely nothing to do with my past, but were caused by my body’s inability to cope with the significant levels of pain that I experience.

I have over the last few years been told repeatedly that my seizures cannot cause me any harm. It’s always fun to point out to the Dr at this point that this isn’t true when it happens on the stairs, or from standing, or crossing a road…the list is endless. In recent months, my POTS & EDS consultant has queried whether my seizures are in fact related to my POTS and autonomic dysfunction, but again this falls on deaf ears amongst my current local Drs.

It’s coming up to 5 years since my first run in with this particular hospital and their attitudes have not changed in the slightest. Last night I was taken by ambulance to hospital after having a seizure, I collapsed from standing and gave my head a rather good whack on the loo as I fell. Normally I wouldn’t go to hospital straight away for this, but due to hitting my head and being pregnant the hospital advised me to call an ambulance. This turned out to be a good call as halfway there I had another seizure which negatively impacted my breathing.

I’ve spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital recently due to my faulty body, so have got to know the staff in the wards relevant to me quite well. This also means I now dread every single visit. When the Dr came this morning for the ward round I felt like holding a hand up and saying chill I’ll leave now. He leaves me doubting my own sanity each time. However, I held my tongue and heard him out, just in case he’d actually done some research over night; he had not. Instead he gave me the usual lecture and then threw in that after discussing my case with a consultant, that has never met me before, they were going to refer me for psychotherapy for my seizures.

I’m beyond angry. At the back of my notes, and I inform the staff of this every time I am admitted, there is a letter from my neurologist explaining my seizures, explaining that it’s not just in my head and as clear as day states I need IV muscle relaxants and painkillers during one, and that there is no psychological deeper issue that needs dealing with. However, it’s become apparent that turning to the back of my notes and reading this letter is a far too complicated process.

Having to go through the same frustrating and time wasting process every single time I visit this hospital is exhausting and frankly disheartening.  I know that I did need to go yesterday and get checked over, but coming up against the same walls over and over again leaves me feeling like I would be better off avoiding this hospital at all costs and I can at least self-treat at home to a degree. It’s sad that 5 years on from my first encounter at this hospital, the same issue has yet to be dealt with.

Posted in Archive, February 2017

Functional Paralysis = Quality Floor Time

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Pain at the moment is my constant companion. After weeks of agonising, seizure inducing pain, and more hospital visits than I care for, I was informed I’d dislocated two ribs. I normally handle dislocation rather well; if my thumbs have popped out, it’s no big deal, I can pop them back in with ease, my jaw causes a fair bit of pain and in some cases I need help relocating it, but the majority of the time I can manipulate it back into place myself. My ribs however are a completely different story, there’s not a lot that can be done about it. I’ve had several medical professionals try and get them as close to where they should be as possible, a tear-jerking process might I add, and every time within hours they are back out of place. Sometime it’s simply because I twisted too fast or I sneezed or, if I’m a real dare devil, I tried to get out of bed. Everyday basic activities cause enough pain for me to be on regular codeine four times a day, and tramadol if I start seizing. The hospital doesn’t know what to do with me at first, they admitted me to: rule out anything more serious such as gallbladder problems; keep a close eye on the baby (who’s coping miraculously well with my faulty body) and keep me on regular doses of paracetamol, codeine and oramorph. Whilst they thankfully didn’t find anything on the scans that needed surgery, they did notice that both my kidneys are distended which won’t be helping my pain.

Most days I’m a 6. Currently I’m a 9.

Now I’m back at home and it’s hard to know what to do with myself. There are some brief moments in the day when my pain feels manageable, like earlier today. Foolishly this afternoon, I decided to take advantage of feeling okay and fold some baby whilst clothes sitting on the floor. You would think that this is a job that shouldn’t take too long and isn’t exactly taxing, right? Wrong. The pain quickly got extreme enough, despite codeine, for me to realise if I didn’t lie down flat on the floor asap I was going to risk hurting myself as I knew my ability to stay conscious was fading. Whilst being on the floor was enough to keep me conscious for the majority of the time (I’m pretty sure I had 2 or 3 seizures), it wasn’t enough to stop my brain from going into functional paralysis mode. I spent just over an hour unable to move any part of my body, struggling to get my eyelids to flicker and completely unable to make a sound. I knew I needed help and that my partner was in the next room, but I had zero ways of indicating to him that I was in trouble.

It’s like having your mouth gagged, your eyes taped shut, and your entire body rolled up and bound tightly in a weighted blanket; the entire time even your thought processes become sluggish and it takes effort just to think. There’s so much temptation to just give in to unconsciousness, I can feel it on the horizon, creeping closer and there’s not a lot I can do to keep it at bay. Some days I admit I welcome it; being functionally paralysed terrifies me, I can’t bare being aware of how helpless I am at the moment in time. Other days simply managing to remain conscious feels like the biggest victory I could ever ask for and achieving it is my way of fighting back.

After about an hour on the floor I had regained enough control of my body to make small noises and through the blessing that is voice technology instruct my phone to call my partner. Eventually we got tramadol into me and managed to move me to our bed. I’m exhausted, it sounds bizarre but having your brain cut off from the rest of your body is shattering. I’m now curled up, wrapped in a fluffy blanket, relishing in the slightly duller pain. I’m admittedly scared to even consider moving but the pain killers have enabled me to feel my body and I’m in a safe place which is all I can ask for.