When I saw my personal trainer Beckie the other day she pointed out to me that she had trained with me for a year now. Reflecting together on the progress I’ve made in the last year was a real eye opener. I think sometimes I forget just how much I have improved, I allow myself to become absorbed in the pain and the spasms. I focus on fighting constantly against the Dystonia. When I met Beckie I could barely stand for even twenty seconds without my legs spasming, my whole body out of control, I was completely reliant on a wheelchair. Lyme disease was eating away at my life and I was fighting what felt like a losing battle.
I remember the first time Beckie came round; it was a meeting between herself, my mother and I, to discuss what exercises I could do without setting a seizure off. Although our aim has always been to not trigger a spasm, I’ve always made it clear that if I spasm, I don’t mind. Let’s pause, wait for it to pass and then carry on. I’ve carried on with my mind-set that my brain will learn (I understand that this is unlikely but a girl can hope)! When we began it was completely baby steps, learning what my body would cope with and what would cause it to throw a complete fit.
Now, after being on Lyme treatment for a year, and finding a regular Botox regime that works for my Dystonia, I am capable of so much more in our sessions. Some exercises still cause my body to go into spasm, but I apply the same method as I did a year ago, pause, wait and then continue. It works every time. Beckie has helped me strengthen my joints after my body successfully caused a lot of damage to them. I will never forget the look on my physiotherapist face when she first assessed my legs and realized the damage the spasms had done to the ligaments. I’ve gone from not being able to stand for more than twenty seconds to being able to walk. I admit I need knee and ankle splints to be able to do so, and sometimes I need walking sticks, and if I’m having an awful day I rely on my wheelchair. BUT I have made so much progress. I don’t reflect often enough. Looking back on this time last year I cannot believe how far I’ve come. I look forward to the progress I can make in the months to come. Learning to manage these conditions one step at a time.
Yesterday I attended the Hertfordshire Dystonia Group meeting. I cannot even begin to describe the joy it brought me. Finally meeting other sufferers face to face and hearing individuals describe their journeys to me and the different ways they manage their conditions was a very comforting and freeing experience.
A speaker, who has Generalised Dystonia, had been arranged and I must say Suzie was absolutely inspirational to listen to. At 16 she had won a scholarship to train as a ballet dancer at the London Studio Centre, unfortunately three terms in she started suffering with Dystonia, that has gradually progressed. However she is such a positive, determined, talented woman and has not let Dystonia stop her in the slightest. She now created ActOne ArtsBase which is a platform for young people and adults with and without disabilities to explore dance. The work she is doing really is amazing. For anyone wanting to check her work out – http://artsbase.org.uk/dancebase.php
Within the talk that Suzie was giving she mentioned how felt that exercising helped her manage her spasms. This is a theory that my personal trainer has touched on several times with me. Whilst certain exercises may trigger a spasm most tend not to. This is something that I have noticed, and it amazes me, for example I can ride a horse but I am unable to walk. One of my spasms involves a rather violent arm spasm/twitch, out of the many people I have spoken to online not one of them has had this particular symptom, which has gotten me into a few awkward but amusing situations. So I was delighted when it transpired yesterday that Suzie also has this spasm, having someone else say yes I do that too, made me want to laugh out loud and breathe a sigh a relief!
Meeting everybody yesterday has given me such a big positivity boost and in a way normalised Dystonia for me. Everybody was so lovely, if it had not been for the fact my body had been deteriorating I would happily have spent several hours more sitting there getting to know everyone. It was perfect.
I am not the type of person who likes to sit around all day doing nothing, I like to challenge and push myself. Sometimes I do not recognise my limits and I push myself to far but I would rather try than give up. Yesterday I had a session with my personal trainer. Despite feeling ill and having awful spasm for several days I decided to go ahead with the session as I felt slightly better. I am so glad I went ahead with the session as it was incredible.
At the start of the session I was a bit worried as we were going to try to do boxing. I was concerned that my arms would act up and that I would have a lot of spasms, however I will never let my Dystonia stop me from at least trying to do something, because if you never try then you will never know what you are capable of. It was the most fantastic session as my hands did not spasm once! I had a teeny tiny arm spasm that wore off very quickly, but I don’t really count that.
I still feel like I am still on high from the session, it was extremely therapeutic as well as a good work out. I am completely astounded at how well my limbs behaved, it has filled me with joy as it was a fantastic achievement. My arms were not to great later in the day but I did not care as I felt like I was sitting on top of the world.
As an able-bodied person I never tried boxing, I brushed away from the idea of it, declaring that my lack of coördination and my ‘girlie’ attempts would be embarrassing. So I am actually rather thankful that because of my Dystonia alien I got to try boxing out. It was an amazing experience, and I don’t think my punches were ‘girlie’ at all. Over the last few sessions I have realised that I am stronger than I thought.
I feel extremely lucky to have found a personal trainer who is not scared of my condition and who comes up with inventive ways to get me working out e.g using a crutch with him putting resistance through it to do a chest press. Without his fantastic help I am sure that my spasms and my body would me in a far worse state than what they are at the moment. His work outs keep my body moving, which helps give me that extra bit of mobility. His help has given me such confidence in myself and my ability to deal with my spasms. I never thought I would enjoy working out, unless it was on a horse, and now I love it. I love my daily work outs and I am always looking forward to my weekly session.
I know each Dystonia patient is different but I would defiantly recommend looking into a personal trainer to see if they can help you. You may or may not benefit from it, but if you never try you will never know.
Today has been such a fantastic and empowering day! I had been looking forward to today all week as I had planned to go out and see a few friends and then have a personal training session. Normally my friends would come to see me, and I would sit in the middle of my bed so that if I do have a Non Epileptic Seizure I am safe. Instead I went out to my friend’s house, and my mum left me there on my own. This was the first time I had been left in someone else’s house on my own since July 2012. This excited and scared me. It turned out that I had no reason to be scared as it went perfectly. I spent the time sitting down, laughing with them and for a few hours felt like a normal 20-year-old. This has given me confidence to venture out more, I know that eventually my little Dystonia alien will act up but I cannot let the fear of that keep me from trying to establish a normal social life.
I had not been able to see my Personal Trainer for a few weeks as my spasms had been so bad and more of my body had been affected (only my left leg is unaffected now). As usual I was really looking forward to today’s session. I love our sessions as I am doing something proactive that not only challenges my little Dystonia alien but makes me feel positive about myself.
In today’s session my dystonia attempted to act up, and we worked around it. I paused when the spasms made it to hard to do that particular exercise but carried on as soon as it released. It was an extremely good session and I only had one tiny Non Epileptic Attack and a handful of spasms in it, which I thought was fab considering it had been a few weeks and my body’s not been great recently.
My Personal Trainer and I had previously discussed trying out a TENS machine to try to counteract the spasms. Whilst my hand was in spasm, he put the TENS machine up to full power and within a few seconds the spasm in my hand had released. The theory behind this is that to use a set of muscles another set has to relax, so by stimulating the relaxed muscles the spasming ones had no choice but to relax. The positive outcome it seemed to be having amazed me, it was like having a remote control for my Dystonia alien. I have no idea if this will happen on other parts of the body or if stronger/different spasms will react so positively, however this is an exciting experiment that I am going to enjoy greatly. I am planning on videoing my hand in spasm and how the TENS relaxes it, so that I can show my consultant.
If anyone has tried using a TENS before for Dystonia please let me know, I would be extremely interested to hear how you got on with it. You can get in touch with me by either commenting on this post or by going to this page https://www.facebook.com/dystoniajourney where you can inbox me privately or comment publicly.
The last few days have been rather interesting and positive. We have upped my Gabapentin even more, so that I am now taking 900mg three times a day. The reason for upping was a) to try to counter-act the tremors that had started in my leg, arm and head, b) I was intrigued to see if an increase dose would help enable my attempts to get back the ability of walking I had before the unfortunate incident on New Years day. I find that when it comes to increasing my does of Gabapentin, it is necessary to do this in baby steps. I am lucky that the only side effects this particular medication causes me, is when we increase the does, and even then these effects only last 24-48 hours.I find that an increase in the does, no matter how small, turns me into an irrational weeping wreck! I feel extremely sorry for people who encounter me during this. I am not going to up it any more for a while, as I do not want to get to the highest dosage and then find that it is not giving me any more benefits than the original dosage had. I do think that whilst the increased dose has not stopped these tremors, it has decreased them significantly, which is a huge relief! I have also received a letter from Surgical Orthotic’s with a date to seem them! I am hoping they will make me a brace to help me deal with the Dystonia that is affecting my leg! I am really looking forward to this appointment!
As many of you know, I had my last lot of Botox treatment for Ormandibular Dystonia back in January (on the 15th I think). Previously Botox has worked amazingly well for me, which led me to be rather naïve and presume that this would always be the case, or if did start to be less effective it would be later down the line after a few years of treatment. However my last treatment course only lasted 8 weeks, and this course seems to be heading the same way. I think it has been around 5 weeks since the injections and yet my little Dystonia alien is already trying its best to play with my jaw. Yesterday morning, just eating my breakfast set my jaw off into a spasm that caused the jaw to physically deviated (I am hoping this was just a one-off). Within seconds I went into one of my Non Epileptic Seizures, and then a few moments later I had one of my ‘silent’ Non Epileptic Seizures.
I have made a little of note of this, so that I can talk to my Consultant Neurologist about how quickly the Botox is wearing off. I know from his letters that he injects a lot less than my maxiofacial Consultant did, so I am going to ask if an increase in dosage could be considered, or if he can suggest anything else that we can do.
Last night I attended my pain support/research group, which as usual was a bundle of laughs! I entered feeling very stressed due to the fact that I had my emotional imbalance from the Gabapentin dosage increase going on and the cold had set a spasm and tremor off in my right arm/ hand and my head. However by the end of it I felt full of energy, was laughing hysterically and was so relaxed. I even lowered myself out of my wheelchair onto the floor and did all the stretching exercises and partner exercises with them. This support/research group really does do me the world of good!
A few weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to lose some weight, get fit and just generally try to keep myself healthy. A friend, who also has Dystonia, recommend finding myself a Personal Trainer, so I rung around all the gyms in my local area explaining what Dystonia was and that I also suffered from Non Epileptic Seizures. Many of them literally freaked when I started explaining it to them, which I can complete understand, however I eventually found someone who was prepared to take on my neurologically faulty body!
After meeting him on Monday we decided it would be best do sessions from my home, he then came round to assess my house and what I was able to do today. I must admit I was amazed at how well my body behaved!!! My arm had the odd moment, as did my eyes, but overall it was great. I was able to do so much more than I had originally expected to be possible.
Things are really looking up at the moment! I am adjusting to this ‘new life’ and learning new ways to approach things. I am slowly building confidence back up in myself, and don’t get out of bed everyday terrified of my body. Instead I get up with a can do attitude, accepting that my little Dystonia alien may make things difficult for me, but they are not impossible!!!
Lastly, a massive thank-you to everyone who voted for me in the WEGO Health awards. I was up for three awards, however I have not made it through to the finals, but there is always next year. It meant so much to me that so many of you nominated me!!! So Thank-you!!!
I have had a rather busy and sociable week. It has been completely brilliant and was a slight taste of ‘normality’ for me. Normality and independence are something that I desperately cling to, as I refuse to give in to Benedict’s attempts to seize control and conquer my body. However, when you have Dystonia a busy day is enough to exhaust you, so a busy week was perhaps a step to far. I still think this week was so worth the last few days of Dystonic antics though!
Benedict, my little unwelcome Dystonia alien, decided to start playing up on Friday night. My right hand/arm had gone into a spasm, and started to tremor, my head also had a tremor going on that looked like I was shaking my head to say no very fast, and my back decided to bend backwards, in an attempt to fold me in half. As you can imagine this was extremely painful and rather distressing.
Then last night my leg decided to spasm. Now normally I can just about control my emotions when my Dystonia plays up. Usually it is only a few choice colourful words that escape beyond my spasming lips. However this particular leg spasm was agony, and had me in floods of tears due to the pain. Then my arm decided to join in. By this point I was extremely upset, and rather angry at myself for giving in and letting out my emotional response to the spasm. Yet they do say that a cry now and then is healthy, so perhaps I actually did myself a favour.
Today was also eventful. Even though the day was relaxed, we just sat quietly at home, as my grandparents and my man were visiting, my body still deemed it necessary to act up. I can only presume that the many activities I have done this week had triggered the hideous spasms I have experienced over the last 48-72 hours. I woke up at 5:30 am this morning to my arm spasming and my head doing its no no tremor. Then my leg put up a big fuss when I attempted to get dressed. Through-out today my arm/hand has been having spasms and tremors often and violently. At one point I honestly though that if the spasm carried on for much longer then my shoulder would end up dislocated – thankfully it eventually ceased. At other moments in time the tremor in my arm was so violent that I ended up hitting me sister.
I have currently given in to the spasms and pain, and retreated to the quietness of my room. However I have not come here to dwell on the problematic issues that Dystonia causes. I have returned to my room, to relish in the memories of the week, to mentally high five myself for the accomplishments I have made and to look forward to the days ahead. I cannot wait for tomorrow afternoon to have a consultation with a personal trainer that I hope to work with. The beauty of having Dystonia is that you know that even on bad days that things can only get better! There is so much to look forward to!!!!
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