Posted in may 2021

An Open Letter to Stagecoach & Arriva Bus

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Dear Stagecoach & Arriva Bus,

I’m writing you an open letter as one of your disabled service users, and a frequent customer. I’ve had a few issue traveling before but today took the biscuit. Myself and my two young children were using your service to travel home from a hospital appointment. We flagged a Stagecoach bus down first. The driver pulled over, explained that he had already allowed two prams on, one was in the allocated buggy area and the other in the wheelchair space; neither parent wished to fold their pram down or move and off he went. I was more than slightly shocked as this is against your covid-19 policy which is listed on your site. I’ve screenshot it below, along with a picture taken from another of your buses which points out that it is law for a buggy to be moved from the wheelchair space should one need to board. Yet we were left in the rain.*

Stagecoach Accessibility FAQS
Sign stating the law that wheelchairs have priority

Arriva Bus, it was one of yours that we flagged down next. This time, there was only one pram on board. Inexplicably the parent and pram had placed themselves in the wheelchair area despite the buggy section being free. When your driver asked them to move so we could board, they refused to move and the driver simply shook his head at me said “Sorry, love.” And drove off. This caused quite the stir at the bus stop, with others asking if this was something that happened often. It is quite disappointing to say that this is not the first time that has. Here is a screenshot from your own website Arriva of your policy for wheelchairs and prams.

https://www.arrivabus.co.uk/help/conditions-of-carriageArriva Bus Carriage of Wheelchairs and pushchairs

Considering how much time has passed since Doug Paulley first brought his discrimination case to the supreme court back in 2012 over this matter I really expected this issue to be non-existent/on its way out. However experiencing it twice today within a matter of minutes is beyond a joke. How do you explain it to a four year old that two bus drivers didn’t want to follow the law? “Sorry we are not getting that bus either because the driver didn’t want to point out that it’s actually law for her to move over into the pram space. Despite it being his job.” Its disheartening, upsetting, discriminatory and lazy.

I would ask that both companies refresh your drivers memories on your own policies, and on the law. You may have stuck signs inside the buses but that is pointless if you are not going to act on them!

R. McDowall

*I want to acknowledge the kind stagecoach driver who was coming towards the end of a break and witnessed all of this. After waiting a few minutes and realising it was a while before anymore buses going in our direction would be there, cut his break short and drove over to us to let us on. I couldn’t have been more thankful.

Posted in may 2021

Looking forward

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Recently I’ve been on a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions. Hence why I didn’t automatically return to blogging following my son’s operation in March. I wasn’t sure where my head was at and needed to work through it. A handful of events had triggered it and I was up and down more than the seesaw at the park.

I’d had an assessment where I need to provide extreme detail of all my conditions right from the start to now. You can imagine how emotionally exhausting that can be, explaining to someone why you had to give up your dream midwifery degree, relieving the rapid decline in health over the years and what I do to cope. I hadn’t anticipated it to affect me so strongly but it did.

It’s taken awhile but my head’s back where it’s stronger. I think during these covid times where we don’t have our usual coping mechanisms it’s quite easy to feel sucked under. Previously I could have rung up my friends and been at the soft play laughing over a fruit shoot, while the kids ran themselves to sleep. Spirits lifted, dark cloud averted.

Im looking forward now, and focusing on the future. On the post lockdown adventures with my family, with having friends in for a brew and a natter. But also accepting that lockdown has taught me that I don’t need to be on the go and out every day. If my body’s saying no then PJ’s, Disney and baking is it. That’s perfect too.

What are you looking forward to?

Posted in March 2021

Medication Success

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As I have mentioned previously following a discussion with my neurologist I tried a couple of different medications to see if we could get a better handle on my spasms. In particular the spasms around my jaw as these cause me significant issues with pain, dislocations, and make it next to impossible some days to relocate my jaw; I’ve had the joy previously of coming round from an operation to have my jaw relocated under GA, only to dislocate when I wake up due to spasms, and have my surgeon coming running over to put it back in and bandage my jaw up. Not a pleasant experience.

Trihexyphenidyl is the medication we have added into my daily regime and it has made a huge difference. Little things like I can brush my teeth now with an adult sized toothbrush rather than a children’s one are possible, and instead of dislocating my jaw by brushing my teeth, my jaw is just in a small spasm and achy. My son commented the other day on the fact that my face isn’t wonky all the time and asked if my Jaw Dr had fixed my jaw. We had a quick chat about mummy’s silly brain and moved on, but for me that showed just how amazing this medicine has been.

I saw my neurologist the other week and he has suggested increasing the dosage further as I am currently not experiencing any side effects. I’m waiting to receive a copy of his letter to my gp explaining that I have the go ahead to do this at my own pace, so we can see just what improvements we can get.

Right now, thanks to lovely female hormones, I’m sitting here feeling quite sore all over as my body goes downhill each month due to the fluctuating hormonal changes. I’ve had several subluxes today in shoulder which have in turn aggravated neck spasms. Normally I’d be quite grumpy about all of this, and yes I’m not exactly thrilled, but having the Dystonia side of things more controlled doesn’t half make coping with the EDS etc, easier. Everything just feels that little bit more manageable right now, and that’s fantastic.

Posted in Archive, february 2021

Cancard UK; Fantastic leap for Chronic Conditions in 2021

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What is Cancard UK?

The Cancard UK is a fantastic leap forwards for pain patients and people with qualifying* chronic conditions in the UK. Essentially it is a card issued by Cancard LTD to its membership that provides evidence to the Police that the holder has a qualifying medical condition for which medical cannabis may be prescribed. This card indicates to the the police that the holder is therefore in possession of cannabis for medical reasons and that that they should confident in using discretion when they encounter a Cancard holder providing they are in possession of small quantities.

*You can find a list of qualifying conditions of their site, upon application you be asked to either provide a summary of care or have your GP sign to prove that you meet application criteria.

Why is the Cancard necessary?

Currently there is a short list of qualifying conditions for that entitle you to a private prescription of cannabis in the UK. However these are extremely expensive; An initial appointment* costs around £150, a follow up appointment which is required every couple of month £65, each prescription at least £30 per month. *Pricing examples taken from The Medical Cannabis Clinics.

For most people these prices are just not affordable, especially not long term. However it is known, and more evidence is coming out in support of this, that for certain conditions cannabis can provide significant relief, reduce pain, and help manage symptoms.

Does this make it legal?

No the law has not changed, however all police forces in the UK have been briefed on the the card. It has been co-designed and is backed by senior members of the police force, and guidance has been issued by them stressing that officers should feel confident in using their discretion in cases of possession when the holder is also in possession of a Cancard. It does, however, prove that you are legally entitled to a cannabis prescription which is a huge step forwards.

Cancard UK

If you are interested and want to know more I would highly recommend spending some time on their website and also on their social media. Not only can you apply for the card through the site which is an easy process, but it is also full of great resources such guides to self medication, how to handle being stopped by the police, the different components in cannabis and how each one affects different conditions such as epilepsy, spasms, pain etc. The Cancard UK is a great tool to utilise as well, one of the most recent videos was a tutorial demonstrating how to make it into a oil, which for those who prefer not to smoke is a very handy guide.

Next Steps

Currently the card does not cover growing your own plant at home, and pharmacies are still not selling to card holders. However, they are working on expanding so that growing is covered and therefore reduces the risks taken by the user.

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

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, January 2021

Lockdown, Homeschooling and Work

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With the introduction of the new lockdown I had had been planning on getting crafty with the kids again. That idea was snuffed out after an email landed in my email box confirming that nursery would be doing live home lessons followed by tasks to be completed, photographed and emailed to his teachers. All well and good except my partner works shifts and I have an 18 month old whose favourite word is no, also takes no as a yes and will most deffinently try to touch every key on my laptop.

So today was the first home school lesson. After half an hour of technical wrestleling we finally got on to Teams and were met by a chorus of STEFAN. The children were happily mucking around with each other, my daughter was desperately trying to join in and the teacher? Her laptop had the same issues mine had to start with and never made it to the lesson. Round two tomorrow!

Dystonia and Me Holistic Health Coaching is officially up and running which has added a lovely touch to my evenings. I have been thoroughly enjoying chatting with different people with a range of issues and starting them on their journeys with me.

Colourful heart enlarging in further colours being touched by a human figure in blues and purples

I would love to hear if any has had the vaccine yet? From the calculator I predict mine to be late Feb to March at the current injection rates and would be interested to hear your experience in the comments. I personally will be accepting the offer of the jab, I just would like to go in to it eyes open to side effects.

Posted in Archive, January 2021

Return To The Gym

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After a lot of discussions with my family and my medical team we decided that it was finally time for my return to the gym. I have not been since my battle with sepsis in January 2020. However if we are being honest there was no way I could have have returned in 2020; I spent a long period bed ridden, my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome progressively worsened and that’s before we factor in Covid. My 2020 health spiral ended with unexpected weight gain of almost two stone in a month. Considering I live on 1, 200kcl a day that comes from perscriped ensure juices, the sudden and extreme gain is disconcerting.

Now while my GP is investigating causes into the gain, I’m also taking a practical approach. I used to have a fair level of fitness and enjoyed going to the gym. Whilst it left me shattered afterwards and with sore joints, I also found I benefited with less extreme spasms after. Today’s reintroduction was a gentle session for the most part, testing what my bodies current capabilities are; I chose a recumbent bike session followed by different weight lifting machines.

First time back in the gym

I certainly don’t feel as energetic as I did this morning; far from it. I’m completely out of spoons and sore. However I am chuffed with how well the session went and am looking forward to the next one.

No spoons

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/