Recovery is dragging

I wrote last week about the consequences of going out and I clearly didn’t have a clue how bad things would be as I am still suffering after my day trip. I think maybe it is just rotten timing that ever since I have been feeling very tired and run down. This last Monday I ended up with a hideous migraine that knocked me flat on my back for over 12 hours and had Mr Myasthenia Kid have to come home from work to look after me. I am glad I am out the other side of that but it has shocked me how battered and bruised I am still feeling for having a few hours out of the house.

I am guessing having a solid six hour block of socialising, driving a scooter and having to use a lot of brain / muscle power probably wasn’t the best idea. The longest I am normally out for is probably 90 minutes at an absolute push and that will leave me more exhausted for normal for up to two days after. My days when I don’t leave the house are in cycles of rest and activity. I have to pace myself or I end up paying for it. It hasn’t helped that there have been appointments that I have been unable to not attend – ringing up and explaining to the receptionist that you need to re-book because you are shattered never goes down well. There isn’t really a word in the English language that accurately conveys the level of exhaustion because we overuse words like fatigue, shattered, tired etc. For me it gets to the point where I can feel like I am having an out if body experience or that I am dreadfully hungover combined with feeling so utterly exhausted it can be really hard to motivate myself to move. 

I have been on my embroidery machine and sewing machine a lot as I am making Christmas gifts for friends and family. I know it is only October but I get panicky if things aren’t made and then I start to feel stressed which means I no longer enjoy making the items. At the moment I have been limited to an hour or two a day, which doesn’t help me get loads done but it is the longest I can sit without the pain becoming so intense that I have to lie down the rest of the day or concentrate for. Obviously on the embroidery machine when it is stitching out I don’t have to concentrate on anything but I do need to be switched on enough to know what step comes next as for the first time I have been using the embroidery machine to do applique and I am really enjoying it.

I know I should have taken it easier last week but even after 12 years I think I can push it and there will be no consequences. I never ever learn. Maybe I simply refuse to.

This week my body has just thrown a hissy fit and ensured that I can’t carry on ignoring it when it sends out distress signals. Every bloody condition I have is flaring out of nowhere – Hidradenitis Suppurativa two abscesses after at least a month to 6 weeks without anything, Arthritis hands as stiff as can be, Nerve Pain left leg is burning which it hasn’t done in years, Tinnitus (so loud I am struggling to hear anything else) Migraine and now a headache every day since, nausea, IBS, adhesion pain, Muscle Spasms in my back and feet you can always guarantee will make me swear like a sailor literally everything is kicking off at the moment. I always find pain adds considerably to the fatigue. 

This isn’t a woe is me post or an attempt for sympathy, I am just explaining how things are at the moment and why at the moment I am struggling to come up with dynamic or scintillating posts. I am finding it hard enough to follow a conversation let alone put an intelligent blog post into words.

I do count my blessings though, Dembe is my hero. On Monday when I was so sick with my migraine he wouldn’t leave my side at all. I thank my lucky stars I have him as even on the days when I am really suffering and thank goodness they are few and far between he is stuck to me like glue and always makes me smile.

So I promise to attempt to be kinder to myself over the next week and get back on an even keel.

Am I moaning?

I think I am going through what a lot of people with chronic illness / chronic pain go through where they wonder if they have turned into a bit of a moaner. Obviously a lot of us have pretty reasonable things to moan about but I am started to get paranoid that maybe I have crossed an invisible line from previously what was an acceptable level of moaning to an unacceptable level of moaning, for those whose lives aren’t blighted by chronic illness.

 

I usually say very little about my health on social media, its like my own dirty little secret that most days I am wracked with pain or have ptosis or feeling anxious or whatever the hell is going on that day. When I do post it’s usually because things are much worse than normal. I have posted a lot this summer about my health because things have been the worst they have been for a long time. The heat wave although helping my joint pain no end made my PoTs symptoms absolutely horrific. Every movement kicked off palpitations, my blood pressure was horrendously low in the 80/70 range most days. Leaving me feeling faint and exhausted. I could barely manage to walk some days. Many, many days were spent in bed feeling very sorry for myself. And do you know what? I get very angry  when I feel sorry for myself because I feel weak and vulnerable.

 

Regular readers will also know that my CSF Leak has come back, although it’s not at the level it was in 2016 I have had several days over the last few weeks where I have been unable to leave my bed because the pain is so intense. It makes me want to vomit. I described the pain to someone as feeling like both my eyeballs had been removed and dipped in acid then rammed back in the sockets. Whilst the back of my head feels like I am being beaten to death with a shovel. Now if you were experiencing those levels of pain do you not think, honestly that you may mention it once or twice? Or however many times that you want to. Because believe me when you are dealing with that kind of pain you just don’t care what people think.

 

Along with the pain the CSF leak brings I have also had some additional symptoms like vertigo that only goes away with lying flat. Losing my balance very easily and being unable to bend down / lean forward repeatedly as this is triggering the leak headache. As I say I am lucky it’s not as bad as it was in 2016 but it’s bad enough.

 

In the last few months I have also had my migraines return, I have ended up having to take amitriptyline every night as a migraine preventer. It’s kind of working since taking them at the start of July I have had one migraine. However my migraines have come back as if they are amped up on steroids, I have to lie in a darkened room, vomiting into my bedroom bin because I can’t get up.

 

Bizarrely I have also had my left big toe, nail fall off, out of nowhere. I had an intense amount of pain in my toe. It actually hurt to touch the nail. I lifted up the side of the nail ( I had both sides removed over ten years ago due to repeated ingrowing toenails) and the nail came off in my hand. It hurt but it didn’t hurt anywhere near as badly as it had done just before the nail came off.

 

Have I bored you yet? Because believe me I am bored with it. I feel like I am in a never-ending soap opera where shit keeps happening and I have no control over it. So yes I may have mentioned on social media a few times over the summer how fucking awful I am feeling and to be fair I haven’t even touched on about 50% of the health stuff that’s been going on of late. This is just the stuff I can think of off the top of my head.

 

Admitting you are sick on social media is a dangerous game, post happy cheerful stuff and you are judged to be not as sick as you make out. Post stuff about how fucking awful you feel and you’re moaning. You can’t win. I don’t want my life to revolve around my health conditions but there will be periods of time when it does because all I can do is just keep my head above water.  To feel that I can’t express what is going on in my life, when I can go weeks where the only person I see or talk to in the flesh is my husband, just seems cruel. It’s not that I want someone to talk to – and thank you to all those who have offered me a safe place to vent. It’s just sometimes even I don’t believe what is going on health wise. I don’t think I have ever been completely honest with anyone because there is always more than one thing going on with me. I always just give those closest to me the headline news not the full story.

 

Any way that’s me, I am bored with this subject already and if I am bored with it I have probably sent the rest of you to sleep also. Mr Myasthenia Kid has been on holiday the last two weeks ( well just over ). It’s the longest holiday he has taken in years. We’ve really enjoyed the time we have spent together. We’ve managed to work on a few projects together, which I first touched on in my blog post upcycling.

We had so much paint left that we decided to upcycle our lounge coffee table  taking it from this – those dots on it are from dog drool

To this

 

Jay did the lions share of work because I am just not physically able to. I did a small amount of painting, basically just catching the bits that he missed. We have painted the stripped pine with hard wax oil which means the wood is now water-resistant and has a lovely finish. It took several days to dry and for a while we were concerned that the top of the table felt very rough. However as the hard wax oil has dried its left a silky smooth surface.

 

Jamie’s work also got the thumbs up from John Scott and Jo Carter on the Sewing Quarter. I don’t think I have ever seen Jay so proud as when they both said how lovely the table looked. I am very proud of him as it was no mean feat sanding the table top down.

 

 

 

Not happy with doing  just the bedside cabinets, the lounge coffee table on bank holiday Monday 27th August 2018 he also painted our kitchen chairs. They look fabulous and make such a difference. And we still have paint left from the 750ml of Scotch Mist Frenchic Furniture paint.

 

I also got a shout out on the Sewing Quarter Saturday 25th August – cheers John xx

 

 

Down the rabbit hole

What I have been holding my breath waiting for since the start of the year and all the bereavements we went through has finally happened. I knew at some point my health would be impacted and over the last 7 days it’s happened.

 

I’ve spent a few days in bed this week, purely because the chest pain on moving and the level of exhaustion was becoming unbearable. I really hate it when my health takes a nosedive as it can be months before I get back to where I was before. The same thing happened last year when we went through two bereavements in the space of 6 months. It took me from the May until the October to get anywhere near where I had been before.

 

I hate the feeling of helplessness and vulnerability this creates within me. I lose all motivation to do anything and just want to hide away from the world in the hope it will leave me alone. But it wont and I have to be a grown up and deal with the things that make me feel uncomfortable.

 

I am fed up with the professionals in my life telling me that my body’s  and minds response to this is normal, personally I’d prefer that they waved a magic wand and made it all go away. However I know it’s not going to happen so I just need to put my big girls pants on and get through this.

 

I am trying desperately hard not to fall down the rabbit hole and get seriously depressed. I won’t lie I am dealing with depression and anxiety at the moment. I have lost my sewjo, I have just been too exhausted and when I have tried to sew I’ve ended up with horrendous double vision. Sewing to me since October has been like breathing so to not be able to currently do it is frustrating. Hopefully it ( my sewjo ) will return soon and I will physically be able to do it.

Migraine

I am in the throes of yet another migraine, I knew it was coming as my Todd Syndrome / Alice in Wonderland syndrome stuff has been going nuts. Walls moving, feeling like I am falling when stood up and feeling like I am sinking into the floor. The symptoms ramp up and become more and more bizarre the closer I get to the migraine. Yesterday they were particularly bad. So it was no surprise to me when I woke up in the midst of another attack. Why they are more frequent at the moment I don’t know but they are very sinus based which maybe because the cold I was suffering with has now turned to hayfever. It really has been a box of delights the last few months my health.

If you would like to read more about Todds Syndrome / Alice in Wonderland Syndrome please click here

 

So I will just share with you some photos of my latest makes, another piggy and three tops. I am part way through making myself a kimono, it needs hemmed and the sleeves taken up but I am happy with it. As its only part completed there is no photo.

I was really proud of this one as it’s a much better looking pig and finish than the first two. I was immensely proud when the lady who designed the pigs for Simply Sewing Magazine and Sewing Quarter commented on my post on Instagram.

 

I also made myself three tops over the last week, following the same pattern that I devised myself. I am really pleased as I made a major mistake when I ordered all this material. I believed I was ordering by the metre when in fact it was by the half metre. I thought I had ordered 2 metres of each fabric only to find out on arrival it was just a metre of each. By moving the fabric around and being creative I managed to get a top out of each metre, I am not small so this was a big achievement.

 

I managed to take this photo of Frankie yesterday so thought I would throw it in for good luck.

“But You Don’t Look Sick”

I’ll be honest no one has ever told me that I don’t look sick. I am normally told “you’re looking well”. I did get quite close to being told “but you don’t look sick” one day last week and it really irritated me. I wonder how someone can judge from a couple of photo’s if I look sick or not?

The problem is most people don’t know me well enough to be able to know when I am looking sick with or without makeup. They only “know” me through the internet, they only see the photographs that I am happy to post on my social media feeds. I’m hardly going to post hideous photographs of myself that will be out there for all eternity. Although to be fair over the years I have posted some shockers!  My family can spot when I am really sick a mile off and so can I but when you are naturally very pale the difference between normal and feeling terrible can be very subtle. When I am very sick the colour drains from my face or I can look quite yellowy. Unless you have seen this on a regular basis in person, it can be very difficult to spot. So it does get frustrating when people see me or photographs of me and say “you’re looking well”, when inside I feel truly dreadful.

I have decided over the last few days to start wearing makeup again in an effort to feel more human. I am fed up with the sick pasty white face staring back at me when I look in the mirror. I also posted the photo’s on my The Myasthenia Kid facebook page and my Instagram account unfortunately by doing so I have inadvertently fallen foul of those who claim you can’t look good whilst feeling like your head is going to explode.

 

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For two days last week I had back to back migraines. Both occurred on days that I had put on makeup. Clearly my applying makeup had nothing to do with the migraines, it was just really shitty timing. By posting these photos I fell foul of the chronic illness police (CIP) as when you are sick you must never ever smile, pose for photos or look like you are enjoying yourself. It’s just not on and you’re letting the side down when you do. There is a really judgemental side to some of the people within the Chronic illness community however it isn’t solely confined to this community. It seems many online groups seem to hold their members to standards higher than are humanly possible. This is the picture which exposed me to the wrath of the CIP.

 

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Apparently you are only allowed to look like this (photographs below) when you are chronically sick

 

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The thing is I don’t want to look like that all the time to fulfil society’s expectations of long term chronic illness. Sometimes I like to remind myself of the old me. The person who wouldn’t step outside the house without makeup on. Who dressed nicely instead of wearing what is comfortable, the majority of my days are spent in lounge pants. Just occasionally I like to remind myself that I can still be the old me just a massively revised version. I won’t apologise for wanting to look nice or for getting dressed. Its up to the individual how they live their lives and present themselves to the outside world. If you want to or have to wear pj’s for the rest of your life I will defend your right to do so. However I expect you to have my back also and not judge me because you don’t think I look sick enough.

 

Taking a few minutes to put some makeup on lifts my mood, low moods are something I suffer with on a regular basis especially when I have been enduring periods of social isolation. Its very easy to sit in judgement of someone when you haven’t walked a mile in their shoes. For days on end the only person I see is my husband or the postman. The social isolation can really play havoc with your mental state, so anything that lifts my mood in my book is a bonus. I have spent much of the last 9 years not caring about my appearance and I know now that has spoken volumes about my low mood.

 

There are days when I don’t have the energy to have a shower or get dressed but on the days I can I want to feel good. I shouldn’t have to justify that to anyone, let alone others within the chronic illness community. To have someone doubt the validity of my illness due to the fact that they perceived I looked well and had makeup on was a massive slap in the face. Anyone who actually really knows me, you know in the real world would tell you how deathly pale I was looking, how much my eyelids were drooping etc. Things that you wouldn’t notice because you don’t know me.

 

I suppose I only have myself to blame for posting photographs online for my followers to see. I have been posting many more of them this year as I have such a distorted view of myself that I need a kind of over exposure therapy to stop me focusing on all my perceived faults. It hasn’t been vanity or fishing for people to pay me compliments. I don’t believe a word anyone says when they compliment me anyway online or in the real world. My body issues have been around for many years so a few words on a screen aren’t going to change my mind. Sometimes I do dare to think I look pretty but those thoughts are fleeting because as I scrutinise the photograph I find fault with something. The faults I find have nothing to do with looking sick enough and more to do with the ridiculously high standards I hold myself to.

 

It’s a double edged sword having an online presence, when I post pictures of myself or my dogs I get higher viewing figures across all the platforms I use. If I didn’t “market” my blog I wouldn’t get any followers or regular readers. I am not prepared to hide away just because one person doesn’t think I look sick enough. I won’t lie it hurt to be judged in this way, this person has made an assumption based on one photo. If they’d bothered to read my blog they may have more of an understanding of what life is like for me, well the bits I am prepared to share anyway. I never thought I would hear the words or close to them “But You Don’t Look Sick” uttered by a member of the chronic illness gang and I hope I never do again.

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Bouncing Back……I wish!

Well it seems 2016 wants to emulate the crapfest that was 2015, only with its own individual twist on things. In the last week I have managed to have three different courses of antibiotics, a nasty allergic reaction to one of the antibiotics, an abscess the size of a quails egg and a uti (urinary tract infection for the uninitiated). Not bad going really seeing though it is only just February.

I have spoken in the past about how I suffer from the chronic skin condition Hidradenitis Suppurativa Link. It’s a condition that produces painful abscesses on the body mainly under the breasts, on the buttocks and groin. Yeah I know it’s a laugh a minute. No one knows what causes it and it is very common amongst type 1 diabetics of which I am not. So my case is even more peculiar. Thankfully I know I am not alone dealing with this and have actually found out that I have a few friends who suffer with this. We tend to suffer in silence because who wants to admit that they have an abscess in their groin or under their bust ? It’s not a great conversation starter. The word abscess alone either conjures up images of IV drug users or bad personal hygiene. Personal hygiene has absolutely nothing to do with it, I have washed in hibiscrub and still developed enormous abscesses.

A week ago last Monday I woke up with an abscess in the crease of my thigh, the top of my leg, how can I describe this? Between your thigh and your lady or boy bits. A medical term no man’s land. It was huge and had come out of nowhere. On a scale of abscesses I have had before this was f**king huge, the pain actually woke me up. The pain wasn’t contained to the site of the abscess it also was creeping down my thigh. No position was comfortable and as the morning went on the bigger it grew. By the time it had reached 10am the abscess had hit the size of a quails egg hanging down from my thigh. If you are curious to see the size of a Quails egg click this Link.. Now obviously a Quails egg isn’t that big but it feels bloody ginormous when it is hanging from the top of your leg. I was so uncomfortable that I had to borrow a pair of my husbands trunk style boxer shorts as my own knickers were lying right across the abscess.

By 10:30am I was lying on my bed crying, I was going to have to ring the doctor’s surgery. Due to having chronic health conditions I hate running the gauntlet of the doctors receptionists. A number of them know me now and when I ask to speak to my own gp have no problem with asking him to ring me. However there are a number of newer staff who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting me and stick with the line Dr XXX isn’t the duty doctor today, which is exactly what I got. Thankfully my doctor must have been having a look at the list of calls needing to be made and he rang me back in 30 minutes.

I explained to him it was the worst one I had ever experienced. I forgot to mention that over the Christmas period I had been dealing with so many small abscesses I actually lost count. This is what is known as a HS flare, it is one of the most painful things I have ever had to endure. I am no baby when it comes to pain having endured a lumbar puncture and the removal of the side of big toe nail with a local anaesthetic that was no longer working. The only time I am a wimp is at the dentist. So I was prescribed the antibiotic Flucloxacillin which I have taken for years and had no problems with…..

I was lucky that my abscess burst the very next day, it was utterly disgusting, enough said. With the pressure gone the pain went. I was still feeling pretty rotten so I continued to take the seven-day course of antibiotics to avoid a secondary infection and the need for this abscess to be drained at the hospital.

Wednesday I woke up at 1am and took my antibiotic. About an hour later my face felt very itchy. I thought nothing of it, sometimes I get very itchy skin. With it being my face I tried not to scratch but as the morning went on it was becoming more and more uncomfortable. At 7:30am (having not been back to sleep) I took my next antibiotic within 30 minutes my face had erupted in small bumps and was bright red looking like I had been sun burnt. As I waited for the doctor’s surgery to open I could see that the redness was no longer confined to my face, it was now spreading down my neck and onto my chest. I knew having had these kinds of reactions before it was imperative that I took some antihistamine to slow the reaction down. I also very naughtily applied a weak steroid cream to my neck, face and chest. The itching was hitting an unbearable level and when it didn’t itch it was very sore.

 

 

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It’s not a great photo but you can see how nice and blotchy I am.

 

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In this picture it has calmed down a little but you can see how bumpy the skin on my face has become.

 

I was gutted by this allergic reaction as it means there is now another antibiotic I can’t take. Flucloxacillin has been my go to for years as I have had so many reactions in the past.
The pool of antibiotics that I can take safely is now little more than a puddle. It is starting to get quite dangerous. As I still needed to be on antibiotics to ensure the abscess was no more I was placed on Clindamycin. I had no allergic reaction with Clindamycin but the side effects of this medication were just too much. I lasted three days, I hate throwing in the towel with antibiotics but there are only so many bouts of explosive diarrhoea a girl can take and I can’t run that fast or at all really.

My face was slowly starting to subside and was no longer itchy, just very, very dry where the skin was starting to come off. I have had this reaction before with CT contrast dye so I knew what I was in for. At least this time I knew to moisturise like crazy, Vaseline has become a good friend as I plaster my face in it before I go to bed. I had a couple of reasonable days at the end of last week other than a disturbing symptom, I kept losing my central vision for a few seconds at a time. A black / grey dot kept appearing and then would disappear. I wont lie I was slightly concerned with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome there is a remote possibility that my retinas could detach. I decided that come Monday I would have to see my gp and discuss this with him.

On Sunday morning the dot kept appearing then disappearing. It was annoying me so much I mentioned it to my husband in a totally casual manner so as not to alarm him. Only an hour later I was struck down with a classic migraine, I had just been experiencing the longest prodrome I had ever experienced. For more information on the four stages of migraine click this Link. This was a classic migraine with aura, nausea and a lot of pain. The rest of Sunday was a right off and Monday wasn’t much better as I dealt with the after effects of the migraine. I hadn’t actually had a “proper” full on classic migraine since 1st November 2013 (my 40th birthday), thankfully that day the headache part of the migraine wasn’t too bad either that or it was masked by the copious amounts of alcohol I consumed. Having a migraine out of the blue like this was a shock, I normally only get them when I am stressed or over excited. I am hoping that this was a one off and that they won’t be coming back on a more regular basis.

By Tuesday I was still feeling rotten but I quickly realised that I had developed a UTI, cue more antibiotics. I also woke up that morning with a cracking bout of ptosis. Thankfully this went away within 35 minutes of taking mestinon. However it shows you how low everything has taken me. Its going to take me a while to bounce back.

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It has taken me years to feel brave enough to post pictures of myself with ptosis. If you look very carefully you can see that my right pupil has also drifted and is no longer in alignment with the left pupil.

So it’s now Wednesday (3rd Feb) the day before my blog is published, by the seat of my pants I am getting the piece together. Today has been the first day I have felt well enough or had the concentration span long enough to write anything. I am hoping that this isn’t the start of another year of continued shitty health. As I said at the beginning of this post 2015 was a crapfest from the 26th February onwards I was constantly fighting to stay healthy. I lost, badly, I ended up being diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease in September and my prolactin levels decided to rise on their own accord making me hungry, fat and tired. I was so glad to see the back of 2015, I honestly thought this year I would be on top of the things that made 2015 so bloody awful. There was nothing now that I couldn’t handle.

I spent an hour in bed yesterday throwing a pity party for one wondering why the hell this was happening to me again? The answer always came back why the hell not? I climbed out of my bed after my mini tantrum and watched a film with hubby. Nothing was to be gained by lying in bed all day other than a really sore back. I refuse to give in and will push for as long and as hard as I can to ensure I control as much of my life as possible and not the motley crew of chronic health conditions I now have.

So to cheer everyone up here are some pictures of my hounds. They love me whatever is going on with my body!

 

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Mollie

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Frankie

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Willow

Finally how I look makeup free without an allergic reaction going on.

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Could it be Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome – PoTS?

 

I had one of those moments this week when searching through the archives of my blog I realised that I had never done a straight forward, honest to goodness post about PoTS. I may have mentioned it in passing but there is no one post based solely on it. I know that many people use my blog to try to explain their medical conditions to friends and family, so I am sorry its not happened until now.

My own diagnosis has moved away from “just” PoTs (although that is still part of it) and is now called Severe Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction, which as far as I can tell is just a long winded way to say Dysautonomia. Which isn’t a medical term that seems to have caught on in the UK. All it means is instead of just the basic PoTs stuff going on I have developed O.I (orthostatic intolerance – my blood pressure drops in to the toilet on standing), breathing difficulties which have been with me since the MG/ not MG diagnosis, bladder problems ( I get acute urinary retention on a regular basis), unable to maintain my body temperature just to name a few. This is a new and emerging area of medicine and many medics are yet to catch up on PoTS let alone Dysautonomia. Straight away please let me direct you to this website pots.uk.org so if you are currently battling to get a diagnosis you can print this guide for gp’s and take this with you at your next appointment.

The first symptom I developed was sweating heavily when sleeping, be it a nap or a proper night’s sleep. That was back in 2006 and which I now know is reactive hypoglycemia (Blog Post) from monitoring my blood glucose levels. Throughout my life I had been told I had low blood pressure (not a prerequisite for PoTS as people with all levels of blood pressure can have it), I had a lot of dizzy spells, odd cravings for salt, palpitations. I put my palpitations down to anxiety, as I had always been quite an anxious person. However once my anxiety issues had been dealt with and I learned how to combat them I continued to be left with a feeling of my heart wanting to beat out of my throat on random occasions.I would also on a regular basis get very lightheaded when changing from a sitting to standing position.

So many patients with PoTS are misdiagnosed as having anxiety, health anxiety or depression or other mental health labels before they eventually get diagnosed correctly that it is criminal. Unfortunately once you have had the mental health label attached by the medics it is a hard one to shake off. Even now when going into hospital as an emergency, I still get somatiform disorder brought up when it has been completely and utterly disproven. The problem is that to an uninformed doctor PoTS can sound very like anxiety, racing heart rate, tremors the feeling of adrenaline coursing through your body and an exaggerated flight or fight response. With the majority of PoTS patients also being women it can be even harder to be taken seriously. It seems the modern medical profession still believe in the condition hysteria.

By the time I discovered the little known condition of PoTS, like many I had been written off by the medical profession as overly anxious, internet searching for syndromes with probable somatiform disorder. It took me over a year of battling to finally get the test that would prove beyond all reasonable doubt I had PoTS. A medical condition at the time my old gp had told me didn’t exist. For more info on my experience of the Tilt Table Test please click Here as I don’t want to bore you by repeating myself.

My main symptoms at the time of diagnosis were as follows

  1. palpitations
  2. feeling faint or fainting (aka pre-syncope and syncope. Please remember only about 30% of PoTS patients faint but many feel faint)
  3. feeling like an elephant was sat on my chest and not being able to breathe properly
  4. racing heart rate every time I changed position, even rolling over in bed.
  5. greying out, especially after eating.  (My peripheral vision greys out)
  6. Insomnia (BIG TIME)
  7. Dizziness
  8. Migraines and shockingly bad almost migraines
  9. Cognitive deficit (aka brain fog /aphasia/ short term/long term memory problems)
  10. Chest pain (too many times to mention I thought I was going to have a heart attack)
  11. Reduced sweating (some people start getting excessive sweating, I only get excessive sweating at night)
  12. Fatigue
This list probably doesn’t cover all my symptoms and unfortunately many PoTS symptoms also merge into EDS symptoms as in the gut problems and bladder problems that many of us with both conditions have. It can get very difficult to differentiate the two. For a full list of symptoms please click here.
 
So what can you do if you suspect you have PoTS?
 
I can only base this on how I went about getting my diagnosis but it is the same advice I give everyone who asks my advice. 
 
Firstly get hold of a decent blood pressure monitor especially one that can also take your pulse at the same time. Here is a list of blood pressure monitors that have been validated by the British Heart Foundation as accurate enough to monitor your blood pressure at home. If you can afford it get one with a memory so it records your readings so that you can’t be accused of making the numbers up. It is important to understand that blood pressure does not play an important part in getting a diagnosis. Some people with PoTS have normal blood pressure, some have low and others have high. Why you need the BP monitor is so that you can start tracking your pulse and your blood pressure. If you can’t afford a blood pressure monitor for whatever reason, a pulse oximeter ( a little device than can read your pulse by clipping onto your finger) is the next best thing and you can pick them up online from as little as £10. 
 
Please remember people with PoTS tend to have very cold fingers (and toes) so before using a pulse oximeter ensure your fingers are warm enough to provide an accurate reading. Before my second tilt table test (yes I was stupid enough to do it twice) I had to sit with my fingers in a bowl of warm water as the pulse ox couldn’t get a reading.
 
Secondly understand what PoTS is!
 
PoTs is a rise in your pulse / heart rate of at least 30 beats per min (bpm) or hitting 120bpm or over, within the first ten minutes of standing. In children (up to the age of 19) the rise needs to be over 40bpm. If your heart rate doesn’t increase by 30bpm or over 120bpm within the first ten minutes of standing it is unlikely to be PoTS. 
 
When a normal person goes from sitting to standing their pulse / heart rate will increase on average by 15-20bpm. Within a minute or so their heart rate will go back to normal. A person with PoTS could start with a baseline heart rate of 80bpm and on standing increase to at least 110bpm. Then as they continue to stand their pulse could increase further. I know on my own tilt table test my own heart rate increased to 150bpm, unfortunately I don’t know what my baseline measurement was. Usually my pulse is in the 80’s and if that was the case I certainly managed the increase of 30bpm and smashed the 120bpm threshold.
 
Because many people (but not all) with PoTS also seem to have low blood pressure that is why I recommend getting a monitor. It helps to see what your blood pressure and pulse are doing after specific triggers such as climbing the stairs, raising your hand above your head, eating – particularly carb loaded meals. Many people with PoTS find their symptoms are much worse after eating heavy carb meals, so it is recommended to eat high protein low carbohydrate meals which don’t cause postprandial symptoms.
 
Thirdly conduct your own poor man’s tilt table test.
 
You maybe wondering what on earth is a poor man’s tilt table test, that is ok I was left scratching my head after first hearing this term on a forum called DINET. Because none of us own our very own tilt table designed for testing people for PoTS amongst other things, we can replicate how we will respond to the actual test by completing the poor man’s tilt table test and some gp’s who are PoTS savvy will do this in their consulting room or at the very least conduct a standing test.
 
To conduct a poor man’s tilt table test, you need somewhere comfortable and relaxing to lie down, without interruptions and preferably away from harsh or natural light. A wall to stand against which is adjacent to the relaxing lie down area however if you don’t have this don’t worry you can still conduct the test. You also need your bp monitor / pulse ox and a handy sidekick to record your test results. Also your sidekick can rescue you should you faint whilst completing this test so please be careful and do not attempt to complete it without having someone with you. Please also ensure that the area is safe should you decide to face plant, so free from things you could hurt yourself on. Cushions or pillows on the floor can help prevent injury!
 
To start the test you need to lie down and relax, no talking, no interruptions for 20 minutes. If you can darken the room in anyway before starting the test do. At the end of the 20 minutes with as little movement as possible take your blood pressure and pulse readings. These are your base line readings and what you will use to compare against the reading you get during the test.
 
Once you have your baseline readings stand as quickly as you can placing your back against the wall. The wall just helps prevent you from moving, people with PoTS tend to be natural fidgets because we either faint or feel like we are going to faint. Moving keeps the blood flowing, we don’t want you to do that whilst you are standing up as it may mess up the results. If you don’t have a wall to prop yourself up against try and keep your legs as still as possible.
 
Then at 1 minute, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes and 10 minutes take readings of your blood pressure and pulse or get your trusty assistant to do it. After the ten minute reading has been taken, sit down get your legs elevated and have a drink of water. You may notice that your feet / legs have gone a nice shade of red or purple. Don’t be alarmed this is called blood pooling and is very common with PoTs.
 
Now take a look at your readings if it shows an increase of 30+ bpm / 120 bpm this is positive for PoTS. Do not despair if it doesn’t show PoTS one negative poor man’s tilt table test does not mean it’s not PoTS, it may just mean you weren’t particularly symptomatic that day. Try to complete the test on a day when your symptoms are more evident.
 
Other things that might show during a poor man’s tilt table test are things like orthostatic intolerance ( your blood pressure goes below 90/60 on standing), you may have also fainted, if so I am sorry. The blood pressure readings could also reveal if you suffer from hyper-PoTS, which is where you have high blood pressure and PoTS. This needs to be treated differently to “normal” PoTS as most doctors will avoid giving you medication that will increase your blood pressure.
 
If you can’t for whatever reason do the poor man’s tilt table test you could perhaps try what is known as the standing test. Instead of lying down you sit down for 5 to 10 minutes to get your baseline pulse and blood pressure readings and then stand for as long as you can. Taking your readings at the same intervals as the poor mans test. This can also show PoTS. Remember PoTS stands for postural (position) orthostatic, tachycardia (fast heart rate / pulse), Syndrome (collection of symptoms and no two patients are alike).
 
What to do next?
 
Print off the gp’s guide from http://www.potsuk.org/gp_guide and book an appointment with your gp or a doctor at the practice who has been the most supportive. Sometimes these aren’t necessarily the same. Whilst waiting for your appointment take a look (if you are in the UK) at the Doctors list on the same website. This will give you an idea of who you can ask to be referred to, not all cardiologists are knowledgeable in the area of PoTS so it makes sense to see an expert, rather than someone who will give you the run around. For international readers DINET also has a Physician’s list.
 
If you have a disappointing gp visit and they still will not listen to you even when provided with your own test results and the gp guide, do not give up. Try every doctor at the practice if you have to and if that doesn’t work contact the practice manager. If you get no joy after all of that try reaching out to one of the many UK facebook PoTS groups. They have members all over the country and they maybe able to help you find a new gp practice with more sympathetic gp’s who are aware of the condition. 
 
If you have a disappointing consultants visit because despite your request of being sent to a specific doctor who is knowledgeable about the condition and you didn’t get to see one, you have a right to ask for a second opinion and ask once again to see one of the doctors named on the potsuk.org website.
 
You will get there in the end!
 
Most doctors will not confirm a diagnosis of PoTS without conducting a Tilt Table Test, ECG and possibly 24 hour blood pressure / heart monitoring. I was diagnosed on my tilt table results alone possibly because from 2007-2011 I had so many other investigations conducted they decided nothing more was needed.
 
The good news is that many people recover from PoTS especially if they have primary PoTS. Primary PoTS is usually caused by pregnancy, a virus, trauma or prolonged bed rest. Astronauts suffer from PoTS when returning to the Earth’s atmosphere and when their bodies re-adjust to the Earth’s gravitational pull their symptoms disappear.
 
Teenagers who develop PoTS also have a high chance of growing out of it. Researchers believe that teenagers develop PoTS due to the hormonal changes and growth spurts they are subjected to. Patients like these tend to grow out of their symptoms by their mid- twenties.
 
Patients with secondary PoTS, so PoTS that has happened due to a primary condition such as cancer, autoimmune diseases (like M.S, Lupus, Sjogrens), Ehlers Danlos Syndrome can also look forward to on the whole having the condition managed through medication and lifestyle changes (exercise, increased fluids, salt, adequate rest).
 
However I would be remiss if I didn’t state that there are patients like me that have refractory PoTS (it doesn’t respond to medication) and go onto develop more issues relating to our autonomic nervous system. We are the minority though not the majority. I don’t want to scare anyone who has just started on this journey I just want to be truthful.
 
My symptoms now are pretty much the same as when I first started on this journey with PoTS / Dysautonomia. I still have Ptosis on and off which no one has ever been able to explain. I still have issues with my breathing, fatigue, syncope and pre-syncope. A good day means that my heart isn’t continually feeling like it is fighting out of my chest on every change in posture. A bad day means not being able to sit up in bed without feeling faint, my heart rate not dropping below 100bpm even at rest. 
 
With my combined conditions each day is very much different with a new set of symptoms to overcome. It is exhausting, it makes me angry, it makes me sad and quite a lot of the time it makes me laugh because my body is just so screwed up!
 
One last thing…..if you are diagnosed with any type of tachycardia, including PoTS and you hold a driving licence you must inform the DVLA. You can do that via this Link. You will also need to contact your car insurance providers.
Another great source of information is Stars another charity that helps people with a variety of conditions including PoTS.