A Sh*tty Week

 You know when you have one of those weeks when it feels like your body is going through a checklist of every condition you have and providing you with all those symptoms? No – lucky you! Yes- you have my sympathy. I have just been through one of the toughest weeks I have had in a long time, it has been relentless the onslaught of health issues. It feels never ending and I have no idea why this week has been like this.

I don’t like to make a big thing of it on social media. Most of my friends also have chronic illnesses and are dealing with their own shit. They don’t need to hear me moaning about mine. There are two people are am truthful about how I am actually feeling on a day to day level, Mr Myasthenia Kid and my best Cyber mate Beverley B. Beverley and I speak daily via WhatsApp we have been really good friends for about 18 months and “friends” for nearly 3 years. Beverley started following me on Instagram just after I lost Mollie and Frankie. We would chat every few days and we just hit it off. She left Instagram so we started chatting on WhatsApp. She is hilarious and always makes me shriek with laughter. Mr Myasthenia Kid and Beverley B are what get me through weeks like this.

I first thought something was amiss last Sunday, we went to visit a friend only to discover we had a puncture in our rear tyre. Mr Myasthenia Kid and our friend attempted to change the tyre but the wheel nuts were too tight to get off. I suddenly remembered we have cover with Green Flag and called them out. By the time we got home, an hour later than planned, it was like someone had taken my batteries out. I was so tired I couldn’t think straight let alone string a coherent sentence together. If I call it fatigue that really doesn’t do it justice. I took my blood pressure boosting medications just in case I had low blood pressure as that make me tired but they didn’t halt the fatigue. By 1700 I was in bed, I really couldn’t handle attempting to sit upright etc. 

Monday

I had my hairdresser come and sort my hair out. I took a photo of myself the other week cuddling Dembe and all I could see were the grey hairs framing my face. I then realised I was long overdue my hair being done as it was last cut and highlighted on 26th July! Whoops. I knew I would be tired after having that done so deliberately ensured that I had no plans at all for the remainder of the day. It was a netflix and crochet afternoon. By 1900 I was shattered again but not as bad as Sunday. The main symptom today was period pains with no period accompanied with terrible hot flushes. The hot flushes were the kind where your bra and knickers are soaked and you feel so manky you need to go and have a shower and change. Which when you have a limited amount of energy to start with is no fun.

Tuesday

 Knackered again. Today it was back spasms. Every time I lifted my arms I would get an electric shock which would cause me to take a sharp intake of breath. My coccyx was also sore all day and I have absolutely no clue why. I just couldn’t get comfortable lying or sitting.I stayed up until 7.30pm as Mr Myasthenia Kid was working the night shift and I knew it would be hours before he would leave for work. However by 19.30 I was so uncomfortable I couldn’t stay up any longer.

Wednesday 

The first day of the week where I have felt relatively ok. I slept with Jay out of the house but I did keep waking with any sort of noise . It wasn’t my usual level of sleep. As I was feeling ok I decided I would work on my wall hanging that I have been making for the last month or so. During the afternoon I noticed every time I stood up my head hurt. Which when this happens I always freak out as it can be the sign of a CSF ( cerebral spinal fluid leak ) leak. I have had two previous spontaneous leaks and I really don’t want to have it happen again. I decide not to dwell on it and use the fact both Dembe and Jay are in bed asleep to crack on with something I enjoy. By the time I finish my neck and back are screaming. I end up getting two hot water bottles one for my lower back and one for my neck. This helps it ease a bit. What I can’t get over is how utterly exhausted I am…..again. The fatigue this week has been utterly overwhelming. I am in the position where stringing a sentence together or holding onto my train of thought is difficult. Jay is knackered too after the nightshift, we end up going up to bed at 18.45. Jay is asleep soon after, I am awake until around 10pm.

Thursday 

I wake up and from that minute on-wards for the next few hours I have diarrhoea. I ended up taking 6 Imodium to stop it as it is exhausting constantly having to get to the bathroom in a hurry. My stomach is cramping really badly. I have a conference video call with Facebook this afternoon and I am wondering if I will be able to a) cancel without too much fuss or b) attempt to get through it. I am a coward and seeing that two other people have pulled out already I decide to put on a brave face and attend the call.  I have so much makeup on trying to look like I am not a corpse it is crazy. I have drunk 4 cups of peppermint tea in an attempt to soothe my angry bowels. Thank god the imodium has worked. However the last 30 minutes of the video conference are sheer agony. Out of nowhere my bowel adhesion pain starts to kick off. It was so bad I was envisioning that I would faint during the video call. I keep praying that whoever is running the meeting will call time before I collapse. I can barely breathe the pain is so intense. It is like a hot knife has been plunged into my abdomen and is being dragged through my entrails. The call ends and I get upstairs as quickly as I can to take every single pain killer available. If I can’t get on top of the pain I am going to have to call an ambulance. I am not being melodramatic, I am on an 8.5 out of 10 on my pain scale. 10 for me is passing out with pain and this is getting close. I message Mr Myasthenia Kid, telling him I am in a bad way. I don’t want to stress him out but I also don’t want it to be a surprise if I tell him I need him home now. Then as quickly as it came on, the pain lessens and disappears over the space of an hour. I am yet again left exhausted, too fucked to do anything. I’m in bed by 1800.

Friday I thought after the week I had the universe may take it easy on me. Who am I kidding? The universe hasn’t finished with me yet. I wake up with a migraine, I take sumatriptan and 3 alka seltzer. I am really out of it and spend the morning lying on the sofa. Doing little bits and pieces on Facebook to put a Guide together for new members on the group I help admin. I am getting fed up with constant exhaustion not just fatigue . The migraine goes, well it recedes enough for me to be able to spend an hour or so on my embroidery machine faffing around. However I have now been left with vertigo. I have to be really careful not to turn my head too quickly or I fall over. Not just stagger but fall over end, up on your arse, fall over catch my drift? Half way through doing the piece that I am working on I am wondering if this was such a good idea. The problem is now I have started I can’t stop. If I do it will cause issues with the design and it may not line up properly again when I start again. Which means 30 minutes worth of work will be for nothing. I have never been able to accept that there will be days even weeks sometimes when I can’t do the things I want to. So I push myself well beyond what I should. I end the day with a resurgence of my migraine, more sumatriptan and alka seltzer. I do go to sleep early.

Saturday

I wake up at 4am, I try really hard for almost two hours to get back to sleep but I can’t. I am still fucking exhausted but no amount of sleep relieves the fatigue. Within minutes of being upright it is obvious that yesterday’s migraine is back for an encore. Why it won’t just fuck off and leave me alone I have no idea. At least the vertigo has gone. At 06.30 I go back to bed, I take my usual cocktail sumatriptan and 3 alka seltzer – I feel like I should have shares in both. I still don’t get back to sleep. I lie listening to a podcast about the Salem Witch Trials, it is interesting but I would much rather be asleep. At 08.30 I give up and get up. I feel drunk due to the tiredness. My head is hurting but it is at bad headache level rather than migraine ferocity. I have got to the point where I really want this week to fuck off and do one. Is it too much to ask for a break? I can guarantee that most social media acquaintances think I have had a good health week because I have produced a few bits of sewing this week. What they don’t see is the other 99% of the time when I am having my arse kicked by multiple conditions . Being able to produce those few pieces of creativity is what keeps me going when a week is as shit as this one has been. Today will be mainly spent lying on the sofa wishing I was able to actually do the things I want to today.

So fingers crossed for a better week eh?

PS I forgot to mention the numerous episodes of pre-syncope throughout the week!

Weathering the storm – keeping a relationship strong

 It has been a busy week here and I simply haven’t left myself enough time to write a blog piece this week and rather than give you nothing here’s one I made earlier. I thought I would re-blog this post from May 2014, I know I have re-blogged this post before but I do think this one is important and we can all forget that relationships suffer due to a loved one becoming sick.
Chronic illness / disability can and does destroy relationships. Suddenly the husband / wife / partner moves from the role they assumed when you got together to one of carer and in my case he also became the bread winner. That kind of stress can blow apart even the strongest of unions. With so little support available to those that take on the role of carer its no wonder so many of them end up with mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.

Families can be supportive or can completely distance themselves and provide no support at all for the couple whose lives have been so dramatically changed. Families can be a destructive force, doubting that the person is even sick or minimising the extent to which the disability affects them. They can also be instrumental in the break up of a relationship, by telling the carer to leave / divorce the person who has become sick, so that they can resume a “normal life”. Whilst some partners may jump at that perceived lifeline, those that don’t find their relationship with those who offered it fractured beyond repair. The anger caused by this “helpful” offer bubbles away under the surface and only serves to increase the burden already placed upon them in their new role. When your family withdraws support from you due to a spouses / partners sickness it just adds to the isolation that is already acutely felt by the carer. Once things like that have been said they can never be taken back.

So how do couple remain together when faced with the situation where one becomes the carer for the other? I don’t have any magic solutions, its a situation my husband and I have had to deal with for the last 7 years and we are still becoming accustomed to it whilst my illness decides to fluctuate in the extreme.

Its easy when you are the one that is chronically sick to become so wrapped up in what is happening to you that you forget the needs of your partner. You forget the stress you are inadvertently causing them, especially if they have to leave you everyday to go to work and they don’t know what state they will find you in when they return home. I want to tell you this is totally normal, you have embarked on the strangest journey in your life, with weird and wacky symptoms cropping up daily and you will for a time become totally self absorbed. However the time does come where you become accustomed to what’s happening and you will once again be able to look at the bigger picture – life as a couple facing this situation head on together. Weathering the storm.

Facing things together is one of the most important things you need to do to weather the storm. For the carer this means attending hospital/ doctor appointments whenever you can (its not easy if you’re working, employers can be inflexible and unsupportive when you ask for time off). For the partner /carer it means believing in your spouse and not the doctors. What do I mean by this?  Well there came a time when my old gp and hospital consultant were convinced that I was suffering from somatoform disorder / conversion disorder. My husband knew this wasn’t the case, he had seen me faint, my lips turn blue from lack of oxygen and had read the pulse ox reading of 84% oxygen saturation. He had also witnessed my blood pressure readings of 80/54 and although he is not at all medically minded he knew that I couldn’t “fake” these symptoms. He also knew the last thing in the world I wanted to do was be sick and end up having to give up a job I loved. He supported my quest for answers, listened to me as I ranted and raved about the idiot doctors who didn’t seem to understand the basics of the human body. He may not have understood the things I was talking about but he listened and that was incredibly important. He held me when I sobbed for hours and he tried to make things better.

I feel a tremendous amount of guilt for being sick, I know that there is nothing I have done that has made me sick but I still feel guilty for changing both our lives beyond recognition. I feel guilty that some days within minutes of my husband getting home from work I have to go to bed. I feel guilty about the stress I cause him when I am sicker than normal and he has to leave the house for 9 hours whilst he goes to work. I feel guilty that by default that my sickness has fractured his relationship with his family. I feel guilty that I (and external factors outside of our relationship) have triggered such anxiety in him that he now has to take medication. The things that make me feel guilty are endless. He takes everything in his stride. It would be so easy for my guilt to turn to anger and then because he is the one I see everyday, for my anger to be taken out of him.

It’s incredibly important as the one who is sick to try and recognise where your anger is coming from. Your partner is not your whipping boy to have all your frustrations taken out on. Its hard sometimes not to snap or berate him for perceived faults but its not him I am angry with, its this condition and it is not and nor has never been his fault. Its important that you recognise that, no one not even a healthy couple, would put up with a raging partner for very long. That kind of anger can be destructive to a relationship so its important it is directed elsewhere. Speak to someone, a counsellor, a friend, vent on a facebook group but do not direct your anger towards those who love you and whom themselves have endured an incredible upheaval in their lives also due to the illness that has struck you down.

When illness takes away your ability to go out, socialise or attend family events as you both used to its important that you find things to do together as a couple that you both enjoy. Hubby and I have several programmes that we follow and when he is day off we catch up on those programmes together. It may not seem like much but its time where we can discuss things other than the mundane day to day stuff and talk about the TV programme / film. We love The Blacklist, 24, The Walking Dead, Falling Skies, The Great British Menu, One born Every Minute and 24 hours in A&E. We never watch these programmes alone they are our programmes which are to be watched together. By taking the time to “do” stuff together we keep our relationship strong.

I have encouraged hubby to take up activities that take him out of the house. I know that with a stressful job and looking after me he needs something where he is just him and his achievements are his alone. In the last few years hubby has taken up running – which he hates but does because it helps him manage his weight. In that time he has run two half marathons and several 10k runs. I am very proud of him, this year he is running 2 half marathons which is no mean feat. We have a medal and photograph board in our kitchen to show off his achievements. Although most of his training takes place on a treadmill at home, running helps him de-stress and takes him out of his carer role, as whilst running he can not be interrupted. It has done his anxiety / depression the world of good and helped with his weight loss.

He has also joined a slimming club (with some encouragement from me) so that every week he gets out of the house on his day off and meets other people. When you or your partner have a chronic illness / disability it can heavily impact both your social lives. Social interaction is incredibly important for mental health and again this has helped him enormously.

It is important that a carer can step away from that role and get some respite from the daily grind of work and caring. They need time to be themselves, to relax and to be able to forget for a small amount of time the pressures placed upon them. I am envious that he gets to do these things because I no longer can. I will admit here that I do get jealous and insecure when he is mixing with other women. I compare myself to them and the life that he could have. I think its only natural when you are suffering from a chronic illness / disability for your self esteem to take a bit of a bashing. Thankfully our relationship is solid enough for us to discuss my feelings of insecurity and jealousy. He understands why I feel like that and reassures me that he only wants to be with me and he respects our wedding vow of “in sickness and in health”.

I know that I am incredibly lucky to have my husbands support. I won’t lie and say that there aren’t days I could happily throttle him! No ones relationship is perfect and I am certainly not suggesting ours is. A good relationship is built on a friendship. We are each others best friends and both of us are the type of people that would never walk away from a friend because they got sick. Through my experience of chronic sickness over the last 7 years I know that many friends do walk away without a backwards glance.  

So to break it all down here’s what works for us in weathering the storm together;

  1. Support each other through the ups and downs.
  2. See the other person’s situation / point of view.
  3. Get as much family / friend support as you can to lessen the burden.
  4. Find out what the source of your anger is and don’t take it out on your partner 9 times out of 10 it won’t be them that you’re angry with.
  5. If you or your partner is suffering with stress / anxiety / depression speak up and get help. As you can’t change the situation you are in, you do need help either through counselling or through medication or both. Mental health issues do not just go away of their own accord and you need to get some help.
  6. Guilt – is a completely normal feeling for both of you to have. The sick person feels guilty that their illness has changed both your lives. The partner feels guilty that medically there is little they can do to help or change the situation. Talk about it, do not let it fester away.
  7. Find something you can do together rather than separately. Make it the thing that you always do together. For us its watching certain TV shows or films. Sometimes we also prepare meals together. Spending time with each other and not talking about the day to day mundane stuff is good for both of you.
  8. Encourage the carer to take some “me” time. Working and caring for someone is hard work and stressful. Its important that they get some respite from both. Encourage them to take up some exercise (its important they don’t neglect their own health through being so focused on yours) or something where they mix with other people like a club or educational classes. It is important for them to just be themselves.
  9. Talk to each other, even couples that have been together for a long time forget this one. When communication stops, cracks can appear. Take the time to hear what the other person is saying, listening and understanding are just so important.
  10. Physical contact, sex can fall by the wayside when you are chronically sick / disabled. You’re too sick, they are too tired. When sex goes physical contact can disappear as well. Its important that you show each other physically that you both still love each other.Tell them that you love them! Make sure you kiss and hug each other daily. Hold hands in the car, cuddle up on the sofa make physical contact. Sex will return however its not the thing that holds a relationship together. Love does that.

That’s how we are weathering the storm together.