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, December 2020

International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2020

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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.

Spot the faulty eye

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.

Posted in Archive, Novemeber 2020

Family Planning When Chronically Ill

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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.

Common symptoms of Endometriosis

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.

Stefan aged 3
Evie 18 months

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.

Posted in Archive, October 2020

New Found Independence

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After discovering recently the wait to be assessed in my area for an electric wheelchair was likely to be several months if not more, we decided to explore what other options were out there. My happy accident after days of searching and getting to the point of really feeling like I was just going to have to accept that I was essentially mainly house bound at the moment, I stumbled across National Mobility Hire, which I have until April 2021; hopefully by then I will have had my assessment but that’s about the current wait time. I only wish I had found them sooner. This morning they dropped my electric wheelchair off and it’s as if they gave me the key to life back.

As soon as Damon had got home from work we set off out with the kids to test drive the chair. It was a complete and utter dream, to be in control was empowering and so uplifting. It gave me such a boost. Since loosing the use of my leg I’ve been unable to take my son to school, such a basic task every parent does and it has devastated me. We weren’t entitled to help from the council as he’s not compulsory school age, my partners hours change every other week so he couldn’t take him, and Covid-19 has limited our options for help as we live in a Tier 3 area. Honestly with each week that was going past it was harder to figure out; this chair completely changes that, it enables me to get him there and back again. Knowing I can do this myself again brought me so much joy.

Posted in Archive, November 2018, September

Zebra or a Horse?

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When you hear hoofbeats its’ time to take pause,
Remember your training it’s not a Zebra but a Horse,
Go on throw diagnostic criteria’s out the door,
Something much simpler is bound to be the cause.

Patient not quite fitting those tick boxes on the chart?
Have you ensured you’ve torn their mental health apart?
Depression, trauma, maybe be a life stressor or two,
Cancel their painkillers and make sure to push through,
A psychiatrist referral to review them a new.

Yet your patient sits there and loudly declares,
“I’m a Zebra, I’m striped and Lord knows I’m rare,
I’m dislocated, spasming, and bruised black and blue,
Please don’t be yet another Dr that lets me fall through”.

You can stop my medication and hang me out to dry,
Or perhaps just this once you could choose not to turn a blind eye,
My connective tissue is failing and my body’s been wrung through,
My brain sends faulty signals, and I don’t know what to do,

Dystonia, EDS, CRPS, I all but shout,
Should your really ignore the fact my joints are hanging out?
Or what about the psych assessment that states beyond a doubt,
‘Her issues are organic you should promptly check them out’.

It’s become clear that your training needs a change of course
Try “When you hear hoofbeats it could be a Zebra or a Horse”.

Authored by R. McDowall, 2018.

Posted in Archive, October 2017, September

Mental Health & Chronic Illness

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Mental Health awareness day was last week and I wanted to write this blog post then but honestly it was too hard. My mental health right now is not great. I’m by no means awful but it’s not where I’d like it to be. It’s been an accumulation of being chronically ill for numerous years and stressful life events adding on top of that.

A major part of the problem right now is my medication. One of the many side effects that many of my medications can cause is anxiety and depression. Whilst I wouldn’t class myself as depressed, I am aware that my anxiety and amount of pain attacks have increased recently and I’m defiantly on the weepy side. However life events haven’t helped either, Just last week I went to collect my little boys prescription from the chemist and found myself being motioned to sit silently on the floor with him due to a lady with a knife ransacking the place; this understandably has made me anxious about leaving the flat on my own, even though I know that I am being irrational as I know that the chances of being in that situation again are very small.

Yesterday I attended the emergency eye clinic at my local hospital and was informed that I have my fourth bout of optic neuritis is a year and a half. Due to this and some more symptoms they have made the decision to refer me to a specialist neuro and carry out testing again for multiple sclerosis; another spanner in the works.

Between my physical & mental health plus the stress of uni work, I feel like I need to let myself have a good cry, pick myself up and carry on except there isn’t time to cry. Don’t get me wrong I love my life but I’m finding it hard to know what to do to help myself. I force myself to do what scares me like leave the flat but it’s draining working up the courage to do so. I would talk to the doctor about it but I daren’t risk it as I know they will stop my painkillers if they start worrying about depression which I need for my seizures. I have ordered myself a mindful mediation manual and CD and hoping that a holistic attitude will help.

Posted in Archive, September 2013

Positive Days!

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Last Thursday my riding lessons started up again. It was the first time I’d ridden since June, so I was extremely excited to be getting back on a horse. As usual I rode Nelly who is a complete delight to ride! I went all medicated up as I knew that after not riding for so long my body was going to feel it afterwards. As it was the first lesson back, we did lots of exercises to get everything working. Riding makes me forget I am disabled, which is an amazing feeling. Feeling like a ‘normal’ person and being able to do something I am passionate about at the same time is something I am incredibly thankful for. Riding keeps me sane, the boost it gives me mentally plus the physical activity does me the world of good. The next day I was really feeling it in my muscles so I took it easy, but it was worth every ache and I cannot wait for this Thursday.

I have been very lucky that my spasms this last week have not been too bad. I have had the usual leg spasms but nothing seizure inducing. I have started having to wear at least one pair of socks on my feet as the drop in temperature has been enough to set my spasms off. It was a bit of a shock that it was getting that cold already but at the same time a relief knowing that some socks were currently enough to ward off cold triggered spasms.

Tomorrow my carers starts! I shall be having care two hours a day, four days a week, which will be fab as not only will I have company but things like washing my hair etc will become so much easier to do. I shall have 3 carers who will come in on different days, that way if one is ill or on holiday one of the others will fill in, which is great as it will mean someone who has gotten familiar with my condition is there and who will know what to do if something goes wrong.

I received a letter from my neurologist last week, which basically summarized our last appointment. I have waited for this letter so that I can take it to my GP with me as ‘supporting evidence’. The letter states that he is happy for me to IV antibiotics for my Lyme Disease, which is fantastic and much needed, it also asks him to refer me for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for my seizures and neuro-physiotherapy for my Dystonia. I am hoping my GP will agree to arrange all three.

I am really happy at that moment  and I feel that I am beginning to get things in place. I have had reflexology today so I am looking forward to a fab nights sleep tonight.