The last post of 2018

As we are now rapidly approaching Christmas, just a week away as of writing this post, I have decided that this will be the last post of 2018. A year that I will be particularly happy to get rid of for reasons too numerous to mention. I will be giving myself a little break from blogging and will be back on 10th January 2019 which seems a date massively in the distance but in reality is a mere three weeks from the date this blog post is published.

 I haven’t taken this long of a break for many years but some times we all just need to be in the moment and self-care. I always get incredibly stressed around Christmas, it’s not something I massively enjoy as it’s built up to be this wonderful, magical thing but I actually find it quite a lonely time. Hubby gets very limited time off work and he’s back in the blink of an eye. This may sound a bit baa humbug to some but I am guessing I am not alone in feeling this way about Christmas, as in it promises much and delivers little.

I always get incredibly wound up in the run up to Christmas, I worry things won’t be perfect, all the glossy magazines and TV programmes sell the belief that if you aren’t making absolutely everything from scratch, food, decorations, wreaths etc then you are an abject failure. In the early years of being sick I would work incredibly hard trying to ensure Christmas was picture perfect. I would make the whole Christmas dinner from scratch, I would be utterly miserable and stressed out by the sheer enormity of the task and most of the time I was only cooking for two. When I am stressed I get snappy so the knock on effect was that hubby and I would spend the whole of the Christmas dinner cooking time sniping at each other and taking offence at every word uttered. It was no fun at all. The food was absolutely delicious but was it worth the sleepless nights ( I kid you not ) and the marital discord, no way.

When in 2016 Christmas was approaching and I was suffering from a CSF leak, the stress was even worse. There was no way I could spend 2 to 3 hours upright in the heat of the kitchen without it destroying the rest of the day. The CSf leak meant being upright induced the most horrific head pain that no pain relief would touch. I came to the conclusion that for once Christmas dinner cooked from scratch could take a running jump. There was no way I was destroying my health for the rest of the day for a meal that would take 20 – 30 minutes to consume. It didn’t make any sense to me at all. So hubby bought as much as he could pre-prepared  / frozen and we had just the gravy to make along with the carrots and sprouts. Ok it was never going to win a Michelin star but it was passable and when you are chronically sick or in chronic pain that is all you should be aiming for.

Perfection is a word that is bandied around by all of us but in reality perfection doesn’t exist and we shouldn’t all be wearing ourselves out trying to achieve a marketing concept. If your roast potatoes aren’t cooked in duck / goose fat who gives a shit? If your Yorkshire puddings are Aunt Bessie’s who cares? Who knows unless you tell them and my neighbours certainly won’t be rooting around in my bin trying to discover if I was the perfect hostess or not. The pressure we put upon ourselves to have the perfect Instagrammable Christmas is just silly!

Now the above probably makes me sound like I have my shit together and that I don’t get stressed about Christmas. Nothing could be further from the truth. This year I have just found something else to worry about. Believe me if there is something I can find to wind myself up over I will and do. I just don’t get stressed about Christmas Dinner – well I might a little bit as I have to work out the timings for everything and supervise Mr Myasthenia Kid in the kitchen whilst falling over two dogs who think any food in the kitchen is fair game and only being cooked for their enjoyment.

This year I have gone down a wildly different route for Christmas presents, as in due to my new-found skills I have made the majority of them for family and friends. Initially I felt very smug about the fact that I could utilise my skills this way and wrote out lists of gift ideas and set about working my way through making them. It has proved stressful and quite difficult at times as I have battled this trapped nerve in my neck. The issue this year has been that due to the fact I have made all the gifts or the majority of them, I have panicked that people will think I am cheap.

I have found since I started that people fall into two categories, category one – handmaid equals cheap, therefore you shouldn’t charge a lot of money for any item you make. Basically they want an artisan look for pence rather than the actual cost of producing an item or category two – a basic understanding or full understanding of the price of materials, skills involved and appreciation at the fact you have spent your spare time making them a unique and individual item. It surprises me how many people fall into the first category, when you buy cheap you are exploiting another human being. Maybe that human being lives on the other-side of the world and works for peanuts so that you can have your item at a rock bottom price? If you can live with that, that’s fine.

Because this is the first time for me making gifts I don’t know what category a lot of my friends and family fall into. I don’t know if they will be making snide comments about me being a cheap-skate or if they will like the items I have made. Due to this I have probably over gifted as I don’t want them feeling short-changed. In effect instead of spending an online choosing gifts that they may not want or need or maybe thrown away, I have managed to create days of work for myself ensuring everyone feels special due to the gifts I have made them.

So yet again as you see I have managed to find something to worry about. Thankfully it is just worry and not full-blown anxiety. My anxiety levels have dropped considerably from where they have been the rest of the year, this is my normal level of worry. And to be honest if I had bought gifts I would still be worried about what people thought of them and me . So nothing has changed really.

Thank you to everyone that has read my blog posts over the last ten years, can you believe this little blog has been going on and off for all that time? Thank you to my new readers who joined this year and have provided lovely feed back either as comments on my blog or on various social media platforms.

I’d like to wish those of you who celebrate Christmas a Merry Christmas and to everyone else  happy holidays, happy Yule etc. Just enjoy the time you get to spend with loved ones be they friends or family.

See you in 2019.

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First Physio

Today, Tuesday 11th December was my first physio session, in 4 years. I had no idea so much time had passed since I had been to physio. I really wish that I had kept up with it, even if I just went twice a year as perhaps I wouldn’t be in the mess I am now but life just gets in the way sometimes. Things take priority and then your routine falls by the wayside. Looking at it now I realised that I kept those exercises up for two years until I suffered my spontaneous CSF leak and then it was just too painful to do them.

I back to square minus 100, not one. I have zero core muscle strength. My shoulders are rolling forward and are permanently hunched. I am in pain from the base of my skull to my coccyx. When the doctor suggested physio I knew there was only one I was prepared to see and I was so lucky she was still working there. I use a private physio as she is prepared to listen to me and work with me. Don’t get me wrong I love the NHS, I owe my life to the NHS as without their intervention as a child I would have died from an intussusception. However the NHS isn’t great at treating the growing number of people with chronic illnesses, they want to fix you and then move onto the next patient. With chronic conditions like EDS, PoTs etc there is no fixing, so allotting us a certain amount of physio sessions at 15 minutes a go doesn’t really provide us with much help. Especially if you are working with medical professionals that do not understand your medical condition.

The physio I worked with went away and learnt as much as she could about EDS, then we worked on a plan together. It soon became clear that I wouldn’t be able to do the exercises 4 times a day, I would only be able to do them once a day and that was fine with her, Where as if I had tried to have that conversation with an NHS physio ( and believe me I have) you get made to feel lazy or guilt tripped that you are wasting their time. Seeing her again today, she had already pulled my notes and immediately recognised me in the waiting room. She greeted me like an old friend.

My back is in a mess, I know that and she knows that. We both believe that I suffered a whiplash injury when I fell on the snow and ice back in March and that has probably caused the majority of the problems I have now. Basically my muscles are very tight and tense both sides of my spine with the right side being the worst. My muscles are now guarding me against further injury by being tense and barely allowing me to move. She described it as walking around with a clenched fist permanently. After 30 minutes your hand is going to start aching after a few hours it’s going to be very uncomfortable. After months…well you get to the state I am in where everything hurts constantly.

Today’s session was very gentle before we can even start physiotherapy properly we have to get my inflammation levels down and the muscles to relax a little.I had to lie face down on a couch. My face had to go through this little hole so I could only see the floor although I think I kept my eyes closed for most of it. Now I said the session was gentle but in no way was it pain-free. My nerves are misfiring and have become so sensitized that even the lightest touch is causing me pain. So imagine having someone examining every joint in your back. Some joints were ok, they were sore but it was bearable, others had me levitating off the bed as I yelped and tried to squirm away from the light pressure being applied. 

My physio tried to massage some of the muscle knots out but it was so painful she decided to use the ultrasound machine first. It’s so weird you just feel this probe going over your neck, sides and back of your neck and then when she massages them the muscles are much looser and nowhere near as painful. I know that the muscle knots need to be removed but it is a painful process, the feeling after they have gone is sublime as you feel freer and can move more easily. 

By the end of the session I could feel the muscles were a lot looser and more relaxed than when I had started the session. However in the hours since the pain has started. It’s not horrific but I do feel battered and bruised. The weirdest thing is I have a lot of rib pain this evening. I am not sure if that’s because I spent a lot of the session lying on my front or if my back muscles are going spasm ( but a much milder version than normal).

I turned up to today’s appointment with my left arm burning with pins and needles in my hands. I left the session with both of those gone and they haven’t returned in the 4 hours since I have been home. To me that is a massive improvement as since July I haven’t had a day without constant pins and needles. 

My physio says it’s going to be a few sessions of ultrasound and massage before I can start having more traditional physio. My next session is the 19th December. 

I am absolutely shattered after today’s session, I had a busy day yesterday with getting my hair done and seeing a friend. If I could I would have stayed in bed all day. I am just hoping I can sleep tonight rather than what usually happens where the adrenaline starts to flow and I am tired but wired all night!

Women Glow…..again

Back in July 2015 I wrote the blog post Women Glow – https://wp.me/p4zBAs-c5 in which I talked about the night sweats I was having. I eventually worked out that the blood sugar was dropping whilst I slept and this was causing me to sweat profusely overnight. It wasn’t uncommon for me to have to get changed 4 times, which lead to very interrupted sleep and a feeling of constantly being dirty and smelly. Neither of which I was.

Fast forward 3 years and now I have the problem of glowing quite profusely in the day time. It started back in 2017, initially I put it down to having gained so much weight in the previous 12 months but now having lost 3 stone (42lbs / 19.051kg) and the sweat is still pouring from me – if not worse I have to admit it’s not the weight causing the issue. I personally believe that this is probably the start of the menopause, I’ll be 45 next week so I’m in the right ball park. I can’t tell you the state of my periods as having been on cerazette for many years they haven’t paid me a visit since Christmas Day 2015. I am loath to come off the pill to find out because a) I will be an emotional mess, b) I could start fainting multiple times a day risking injury and c) periods for me are horrifically painful. The last time I came off the pill back in 2011 I had a period every 20 days. Gee that was fun, so you can see why I am not keen to experiment. Although I know at some point I am going to have to, just to know what is going on.

There is nothing that I can put my finger on that makes these sweats / hot flushes worse. I literally sweat from my knees to the roots of my hair. My face at times will go bright red. The heat I generate is quite exceptional for someone who has spent their life complaining they are cold. I had my reading glasses on top of my head the other day whilst a flush was happening. I moved my glasses to use them and both lenses were steamed up with condensation. I can’t lie the flushes are making me miserable.

They seem to get worse when I am exposed to heat – which is massive pain in the arse especially when my go to pain relief is using a hot water bottle. I am using one at the moment and the sweat is pouring off me. I have lost count the number of times I have had a shower, got dressed dried my hair – the heat has triggered a hot flush and I have ended up having to change all my clothes because I am wringing wet, down to my knickers. I know it’s an attractive picture I paint. Some days after spending ages sorting out my hair I have sweat so much its become a curly mop so I just have to tie it up in  a hair band. I don’t have the energy to wash it and style it again. I really hate it as it leaves me feeling dirty and smelly. Jay assures me I am neither but I feel so unclean and when you don’t have the energy to wash again – and what’s the point the heat will just trigger another round of sweating? It can start to really get you down.

You may think I am being melodramatic but when the sweat is dripping off the hair on the back of your head  making it look like you’ve run a marathon or its dripping from your top lip, you’ll understand. This isn’t a pleasant glow on a warm day this is full on looking like I have taken a shower in my clothes. All my life I have barely sweat and now I am making up for 40 plus years of being bone dry. 

I have raised the subject of the menopause with my consultant and my gp. Both have laughed and tell me I am too young. I think this is due to EDS, unless people check my date of birth they forget that the person sat in front of them is not in their 30’s but is now rapidly approaching her 50’s – lets face it folks from next Thursday I am halfway there. Back in 2015 I had a blood test that showed I was producing luteinizing hormone. Unfortunately due to having a CSF leak it wasn’t investigated further. This showed that my ovaries were not working at all which is premature ovarian failure. At the time it was when all my bloods were strange raised prolactin, low cortisol etc etc. I have no idea if it has been tested since. 

I know the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for sweating but I doubt that this has just suddenly decided to go awry. It is more likely given my age that this is the perimenopause or the menopause. But as the NHS now no longer tests for this how the fXXk will I ever know?

As a precaution I have bought a load of supplements – sage leaf, red clover and black cohosh and if these help at all I will report back here. If they don’t I bought myself a pack of 12 flannels that I will make damp and put in the freezer – these will be my emergency cool down packs as keeping the fridge door open to cool down is a waste of electric and a risk of food poisoning! 

My other go to is to have a fan going whilst I  get my hair dried to try and relieve the sweating and dry it up before my hair gets frizzy. I hope to god the supplements help as I am on the verge of melting into a puddle.

It would be you

Yesterday was our 18th Wedding anniversary, we celebrated in style with a planned trip to hospital where I was booked in for a short Synacthen test ( as my cortisol levels were low or rather were in 2015 but my old consultant had never bothered to conduct this test and I had found this test result on going through some old letters) and a caffeine infusion. As this had all been booked in last Thursday by my hospital consultant we had presumed things would go smoothly. How silly we were, nothing ever goes smoothly for us.

The short Synacthen test is supposed to be conducted at around 9am in the morning when your baseline cortisol levels are at their highest. In 2015 I had been tested at 10.15 am just to check out the level. The cortisol level was found to be 107, I have written about this in a previous blog post. Basically my old consultant had said in a letter to my GP that he would run the short Synacthen test…..like a lot of things he said it never came to fruition. He promised to do a lot of things and never actually did, which amongst many things was the reason why I left his service. When I showed my new consultant ( new as in from December 2015) this letter the test was booked in for the following week.

When we arrived at the hospital yesterday immediately we asked about getting the short synathen test started and no one knew anything about it. I had to keep asking for anyone to take any notice. In the end they had to ring my hospital consultant to confirm he wanted this test to be completed. This was not my consultants fault whomever was supposed to have booked this onto the system hadn’t. The caffeine infusion was showing but not the shirt synacthen test. There were also issues with the caffeine infusion as the drugs had not been brought up from the pharmacy. So before we even got started the phrase piss up and brewery were already rattling around my head.

you can find info on the test here https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/medicines/liver-kidney-urinary-system/a7597/synacthen-tetracosactide/

A set of obs were done and then they said that they would put a cannula in and send me off for a coffee whilst we waited for the caffeine to arrive and my consultant to confirm he wanted the Synacthen test performed. I had to shoot down the idea of putting a cannula in early, its been done many times before and all that happens is it either blows or the vein collapses and the site can’t be used. We then have to go back through the fun of finding a vein that will co-operate. Thankfully after the staff talked  with the duty doctor, I was believed and the attempt at getting a cannula in early was dismissed. 

The time was now 9.50am, we had left the house at 7.20am, our dog sitter had to arrive at our house at 7am. The promise that we would be home by 1pm was starting to fade. The short Synacthen test takes an hour, the caffeine infusion takes two hours. We’d been at the hospital for an hour and were no further on than when we first arrived. Jay wheeled me down to the cafe where the queue was out the doors and there was no spare tables. Jay got us a drink from the newsagents and he got himself some breakfast in the form of a pasty. We got back to the waiting room at 10.30am. At 10.45am I told Jay that if we weren’t in the treatment room by 11.30am I was leaving. My head was having a bad CSF leak headache day. Being in a wheelchair means I can’t lie down and the chairs in the waiting room all had arm rests so it meant I couldn’t lie on those either. I tried to distract myself by doing some embroidery but the pain was making it harder and harder to concentrate. At 11am I asked Jay to ask the nurses if I could have some pain relief, just some paracetamol and oramorph. Normally I would bring my meds with me but for some reason I had forgotten.

At 11.20am I sent Jay into the treatment room to ask the nurses if there had been any progress on the caffeine infusion, I had given up on the synacthen test taking place. We were told it was all ready for me and to come on in. The nurse in charge brought me over some pain relief two paracetamol and codeine. It really pisses me off when hospital staff who despite seeing your prescription list decide that your pain doesn’t warrant what you would take at home. I hate the fact that hospital removes all autonomy, I manage my conditions better than any doctor or nurse ever has, yet when I go there they assume they are the experts. I pointed out that should I take the codeine I wouldn’t shit for a week and yes I used that language – because I had been sat in my wheelchair for 2 1/2 hours at this point and was in a serious amount of pain not just from my CSF leak but also my hips and spine. The codeine was binned and I got the oramorph I had requested.

I was then informed that they were going to now do the short synacthen test. Looking back now I believe they still didn’t have the caffeine from the pharmacy at this point and were doing this test to pacify me after basically doing nothing for the last two hours. You can imagine the shit they would have given me if I had rolled in 2.5 hours late for my appointment yet the same courtesy wasn’t extended to me. I am a massive supporter of the NHS, I am terrified at the Tory dream of turning it into an insurance based system but when there are 8 staff stood around chatting – and no it wasn’t about patients then you see that something really needs to change. I don’t want patients to become consumers or clients but I want them to be treated with the same respect that the doctors / nurses all seem to demand. They don’t seem to realise that there is a life for the rest of us outside of the hospital.

The first attempt at a cannula site was a bust, the vein blew . This was the state of it last night, the bruising is much worse this morning but thankfully it doesn’t hurt

The second attempt was fine but as soon as the Synacthen was injected I didn’t feel right . Sometimes I can feel a bit weird / light headed when blood is being drawn or I am getting an injection. Within a few minutes it usually passes. This however didn’t pass, I started to feel sick and dizzy. Then out of nowhere my face started to burn, it felt like it was bright red and was stinging. I said to Jay “is my face red?” he replied ” yes it is but it’s very hot in here”, I tried to let the growing sense of unease go but at the 15 minute mark when I was feeling more and more out of it I asked Jay to get a nurse and let them know I wasn’t well. All the sounds in the room had become too loud and I could smell a very strange smell, like cooked liver and over boiled veg. I kept complaining to Jay about it but he couldn’t smell it.

After seeing them stood around quite a bit all morning suddenly all hell broke loose. My bed was surrounded by 6 staff including the treatment room sister. My Obs were being done and piriton (IV) was drawn up. My normally low blood pressure that sits at 100/70 -90/60 was now 147/98 unheard of for me. My body temperature was now 37.9 having been recorded at 36.6 at 9.30am. My pulse was irregular at racing at 91bpm. I told the Sister that my blood pressure is never high and was told I was anxious due to having an allergic reaction. I couldn’t be bothered to argue as I was very frightened because I just felt so very unwell. Initially the IV piriton helped but after 10 minutes I could feel the reaction starting to come back as my face started burning and I started to feel very ill again.

Jay went and got the nurses attention again and I was given IV steroids. I have never had a reaction so severe that I needed steroids. This had been my worst reaction to date. Within 20 minutes of the IV steroids I was back to normal but then we had to wait around and be observed to ensure that the reaction didn’t start up again. I was fully checked over by a dr and at 1.50pm 5 hours after we arrived I left the hospital, with no caffeine infusion. I declined the infusion as I just wanted to go home and the staff were also concerned that although I have had the infusion before after reacting to the synacthen it was more likely I could have another bad reaction.

We finally made it through the front door at 3pm. A few hours after being home I emailed my hospital consultant who told me in all his years of being a doctor I was the first patient he has known to react to the synacthen test and then he said ” it would be you”. Basically if there is a weird reaction to have I’m your girl. He also backed the decision not to have the caffeine infusion.

I have been left with raised red bumps / rash on my face which always happens after I have an allergic reaction. That will fade over the next two weeks and I will get very dry skin which will peel off as the rash is fading. It’s a bit sore from being so dry but it’s still nowhere near what I went through yesterday.

This morning I feel like I have been run over by a bus. My HS has flared up on both sides of my groin and I have a serious amount of joint pain. For the next few days I am going to take it very easy.

Human Barometer

We often joke in the EDS community that we are the human equivalents of Barometers. Any sudden changes in air pressure and you’ll find us suffering with a myriad of problems such as migraines, excessive joint subluxations (partial dislocations), dislocations, joint and muscle pain. This week I feel like I have had them all.

 

Monday started with a bang, I felt like someone had smashed me in the face with a shovel. This lead to me spending most of the morning lying in a darkened room. Until I suddenly had a brain wave and decided to see if putting a soft neck collar on would help at all. I have always held a deep suspicion that my migraines are triggered by my neck being hypermobile, I get a lot of pain and stiffness in my neck overnight. I always wake up with a migraine, very rarely do they start when I am up and about during the day. Within minutes of putting the collar on my head pain had reduced by half. Within two hours I was pain free but exhausted and still feeling sick. However anything was better than having the head pain.

Tuesday started on waking with a gnawing pain in my coccyx – right between my bum cheeks to be honest, hence why there are no photos! I have had massive problems with my coccyx this year after slipping on the snow and ice back in March. At the time I was much more worried about my head as I managed to crack it on the back door step. The lasting injury has been to my coccyx, which has resulted in me having to buy special cushions to sit on and to lie down in the lounge whenever I can to take the pressure off. I’ve lost 2 ½ stone over the year and you’d think that my joint pain would be getting easier but it isn’t. The coccyx pain is very uncomfortable, Tuesday it joined in with severe lower back pain which lead to me giving up and going to bed a 4pm. Only after applying my Tens machine for 4 hours did I have any notion of relief. It really was exceptionally painful and made me feel sick. No matter what pain medications I took the pain remained causing my buttocks and the backs of my thighs to spasm. I will be honest I really didn’t know what on earth to do with myself. It wasn’t even particularly stormy here yesterday just a bit gusty but obviously the weather and the air pressure were drastically different to the stable weather – but way too hot in the summer.

 

Today (Wednesday) the UK is being battered by another storm and my body feels like it spent the night being battered by a shovel. Since waking various parts of my body have been covered with a hot water bottles, with very little effect other than to make me sweat a lot as despite the fact the weather is very windy outside the temperature is very warm.My body is overheating constantly at the moment which is leading to me dripping with sweat at the drop of a hat. Either that or I have hot the menopause! So what hurts today? Today as most days I have pain in my lower spine and coccyx, my fingers are swollen, stiff and sore. My ribs feel like someone decided to attack me with a baseball bat whilst I slept and the soles of my feet feel like I’ve been hit with a 

with a baseball bat whilst I slept and the soles of my feet feel like I’ve been hit with a piece of 2 by 4 ( wood ). Other than that, I am groggy as hell with the constant waking up last night to take more pain relief. This is not a good day but I have been expecting a run of bad days after having a reasonable week last week. It’s the way it goes plus add in a few storms and my body reacts badly to the change in air pressure.

 

 

I forgot to mention that my shoulders are slipping in and out of  their sockets, making a terrific crunching sound as they do. Today nothing other than just surviving will be done. When I say just surviving I mean lying on the sofa hoping at some point the pain relief I have taken kicks in. There will be no enjoying myself, doing things that I like to do. It will be a case of just riding it out. That’s the way this chronic illness lark works. I may have a run of a few good days but they will be followed by several if not more bad. Which is why when its good ( when I say good I mean better than a bad day) I tend to cram as much in as I can.

I’m sick of this pain, especially when it’s like this and no painkillers touch it. It’s not a pain where you scream and shout it’s a nonstop constant bone gnawing pain that escalates as the day progresses. Sometimes it takes my breath away, it makes me miserable and snappy. I hate the way it can completely change my personality from laid back and kind to nasty and angry at the world. Unfortunately those closest to me bear the brunt of it, with me losing my temper very easily. A technique I have learnt to avoid me lashing out is to just go quiet and not speak. That way I can be horrible to those I love the most.

 

Thursday brings more storms and a trip to see my hospital consultant which is more than an hour away by car. It’s a crack of dawn appointment as well so 90 minutes after this blog post is published I will be on the road. I will have had to get up at around 4am so that I can pace myself whilst getting washed and dressed. I am not looking forward to using my wheelchair as sitting upright at the moment is so painful, added in the 2 hour car journey (there and back) and I will be wracked with pain….again.

I do have a lot to discuss with my consultant, I haven’t seen him since March, it’s a necessary evil – he’s not evil he’s lovely, just the journey is torturous. I have developed numerous issues since I saw him last and I need to get to the bottom of them. One of them is the possibility that I have got Sjogren’s Syndrome ( I have had dry eyes for years but the eye drops are no longer working, my mouth is dry so I am getting numerous cavities and my tongue is sticking to the roof of my mouth when I talk). I need this to be looked at as my eyes are just so painful and with my pathological hatred of the Dentist I need the cavities to stop.More information on Sjogrens syndrome here.

This is such a down beat post and for that I am sorry. I had such a lovely week last week seeing friends and managing to make some bits and pieces.

 

The Christmas wreaths had been half made since August so I managed to finish those by adding hanging loops and bows.

 

I also made a number of Travis bags.

Solitary confinement

I’m used to my own company, I am in fact quite a solitary character. I don’t need to be surrounded by other people, as I can entertain myself. However sometimes the loneliness of chronic illness really gets to me. I am having a wobble.

 

Mr Myasthenia Kid had two weeks off work (as annual holiday) in August, it’s the longest he’s taken as holiday in years. Normally he takes a week here and there throughout the year. Always holding some back in reserve in case he needs to take time off to look after me or take me to medical appointments. Usually by the end of his weeks holiday I am happy to send him back to work, as I have my own routine and ways I like to get stuff done. This time however I am finding hard to adjust to not having him home with me. We had a lovely two weeks together, laughing, talking and generally just being together and now the house just seems so empty and quiet. It’s been quite hard to g back to it just being me for long stretches at a time.

 

It is really hard to explain how empty the house seems, it’s not like he takes up lots of room or that he makes loads of noise. It’s just I got very used to his presence and having someone to talk to. When you are chronically sick and virtually housebound your world gets very small. You only see the people who can be bothered to make the time to see you. Being below retirement age all of my friends are working and have families of their own, so I am very grateful for the time I do get to spend with them . With the pace of life these days, it’s very easy to be forgotten about, out of sight out of mind. I found that back in 2008 when I left work, that all these people who I had known for 12 years who I believed were my friends, just disappeared. They think a quick comment on your Facebook page is a get out of jail free card, it doesn’t replace seeing someone in the flesh and having a conversation.

 

Most of my friendships are now online and I have made some truly wonderful friends. Particularly on Instagram amongst the crafting / sewing / creative community. I am lucky to have got sick in an age where to talk to someone I just have to open up my computer but it doesn’t replace the physical presence of another human being. I am grateful for the online friends I have but I would imagine they would agree that proper physical contact with other human beings trumps any other contact with the outside world.

 

I have always been quite a solitary character, my own company isn’t something that has ever daunted me. In fact there are days where I cherish the time I spend alone. I like being able to step back from the outside world but I also like to spend time in it or as close as I can. I like a balance of both but due to my health being so utterly rotten this year, I have barely seen anyone since the end of June. I have literally gone weeks and the only person I have spoken to is Jamie. Can any of you who aren’t chronically sick imagine what that is like, that the only contact you have with the outside world is with one person? It’s no ones fault, this isn’t a dig at any of my friends as it has been me doing the cancelling due to not being well enough. Is it any wonder now that after having two weeks of company I am finding going back to being alone so very difficult? I am grateful that we have the dogs but their conversational skills are very limited.

 

It’s hard to explain but my heart hurts with the loneliness and the missing Jay. I know he’s only 7 minutes up the road but the house is so quiet it  is deafening.

 

Every year around Christmas time there is always a campaign about loneliness and the elderly. Every year I want to scream at the TV it’s not just the elderly who are lonely in this country. There are hundreds of thousands if not millions of people whose lives are blighted by illness who see no one for weeks on end other than their caregivers or partners. It is assumed that if you are aged between 18-67 that you are in work but there are many of us who can’t work, who are housebound who are crying out for some company yet we are the forgotten ones. I don’t know if it is because people don’t understand chronic illness and can’t get their heads around the fact that there are working age people, who through no fault of their own do not have the social outlet of work and are just forgotten. It’s like we don’t exist.

 

I am extremely lucky I have friends who do come and visit me. I really appreciate those visits and I hate it when I have to cancel due to my health deciding to have a hissy fit. It takes a lot for me to cancel because I don’t know when they will be able to visit again. There are lots of people in my position who never see anyone. I know I am lucky, I am just sad this week as I am finding it so hard to adjust to Jamie being back at work.

 

I know given a few more days I will have got myself back into a routine and I will be used to being on my own again. I thank my lucky stars for my cyber friends who are so supportive and caring. Even though I am shit at messaging people because I am always in my own little bubble. I have an issue where I think of someone, say to myself “oh I must message them” and two weeks later I realise I haven’t. I’m currently struggling with what day of the week it is. Not because there has been a bank holiday it’s purely that I have no clue. To give you an example of how bad it is at the moment, I had no clue today was Thursday and was quite surprised when I started to get notifications on my blogs Facebook page. It was only when I looked I realised that my blog post for this week had been published. I tend to write them in advance and schedule them in to be published automatically. This morning I had no idea that it was Thursday. I do however know who the prime minister is and what year I was born! Just in case anyone is concerned about my mental status. It’s just the days are currently blurring into one.

I also know that the way I am feeling now is probably a reaction to all the stress I have been under lately. My mum has had some pretty major surgery that was needed out of the blue. Adrenaline has carried me through for weeks. Now things are starting to calm down, I have the time to spend analysing my feelings because during that time period it was just getting through that day that mattered. It was a frightening / stressful time. In a year of horribly stressful and sad events. I know I just need to get back into a routine and allow myself the period of adjustment instead of being so hard on myself that I am struggling to adapt.

 

This probably  seems quite a depressing read, I’m sorry. I have just really been surprised at the depth of feeling that Jays return to work has caused me. I don’t think in the nearly 22 years we have been together that I have ever missed him so much. Silly really as every night he is home, every morning he is here. Just at the moment being in the house alone seems a little like solitary confinement.

 

P.s Its over a week later and I am back into my old routine. I am enjoying the time I have to myself and have been really productive on the sewing front.  I have also had a visit from some friends which was really nice. Obviously I still miss Jay during the day but it’s not like the deep ache in my heart I had before. I  am much happier now that I have re-adjusted to the time spent alone.

 

My first gifted quilt

Many of you who follow me on various social media platforms will know that my mum has been quite poorly. It’s actually a massive understatement for what she has been through. She’s had a major operation that will take months to recover from. The stress of being so far away from my mum and too sick to travel impacted my health a lot over the summer. So as soon as I could take a breath and think straight I decided I was going to make her a very special gift for her birthday in September.

 

I was very lucky that a friend on Instagram gifted me a pattern for a quilt, which I had seen her make and loved. It was 4 pussy cats, spread over 4 separate panels, making it a lap quilt. The cats were made by using applique and then sewing over the raw edges. Initially when I decided to make the quilt I was going to use fabric from my stash but whilst I was mulling over the quilt in my mind I decided I wanted to buy some material for the cats. I knew I wanted muted colours rather than bright colours. I had also had the last of one of my subscription boxes, I was unimpressed with the project contained within so I decided I would use the floral fabric charm pack ( 5 inch squares ) in conjunction with the polka dot fabric I purchased. The white background fabric was bought earlier on in the year during the sales. I had no plans for it and decided this would be superb for what I wanted to do. The pattern was discreet enough that it wouldn’t fight with the fabric I wanted to use for the cats which I wanted to be centre stage.

 

I’ve not done much applique before so I was a bit stressed about it. To be honest everything was stressing me out when I started this quilt. My brain was just fixating on anything it could to worry about. I made the first two cats and immediately fell in love with them.

 

 

 

Both cats had been fiddly to do and although I loved them both, I decided to do what I always do which is make it up as I go along. When I had last seen my mum she had been in awe of the free motion embroidery I had done on a cushion.

 

 

I decided instead of having 4 cats on the lap quilt, I would have two cats and two mice, as I knew how much my mum had loved the mouse on the cushion. This also meant that the lap quilt would be completely unique with it being a mash-up of two different designs.

 

 

The above photo shows the 4 panels that have the applique designs on them. These were created using bondaweb, which is a fusible webbing. It’s very fine material that is a glue. On one side you have paper and on the other side is a rough surface which has glue on it. To begin you trace out your design onto the paper side of the bondaweb. Then using a dry iron you stick your traced shapes to the wrong side of your fabric. You then cut your fabric shapes out, then remove the paper ( I use a pin to score it as it makes it easier to remove). You then position the shapes how you want them to appear on your background fabric. Using a damp cloth and a steam iron you apply heat to the fabric to bond it to the background fabric. This is raw edge applique, as you haven’t turned the edges over, so the raw edges are exposed. To prevent fraying you then sew over the edges.

 

 

 

 

For the mice I used a different technique, which is called free motion embroidery. This is where you drop the feed dogs ( these are the things that pull the material under the presser foot as you sew), I also have a special bobbin case for my Janome Atelier 5 ( blue dot bobbin case) which has a lower tension on it. It makes the world of difference when doing free motion quilting or embroidery. I also attach the darning / embroidery foot which is a closed toe. I haven’t done much free motion quilting, I really need to make up some quilt sandwiches and just have a play but I’ve done a couple of pieces of free motion embroidery. The free motion embroidery gives the applique an outline and it also makes it look like you have drawn the edges on. I love the way it looks and the fact that it doesn’t have to be brilliantly accurate as its supposed to look a bit messy!

 

 

After I had completed the 4 panels, I made my patchwork backing for the quilt. I wanted the quilt to be as beautiful on the back as it was on the front and in effect be reversible. I used my charm squares for this and added in some squares of the background fabric so it tied it to the front of the quilt. Using precut fabrics speeds things up, as you can literally just sit and sew. Things come together very quickly. I was extremely lucky with the finished size of the back panel as it was a complete guess. As at the time of putting this together I hadn’t decided how big my borders were going to be that would join the 4 panels together.

 

 

I decided to use the backing fabric from the panels as part of the sashing joining the panels together. I also used some of the fabric that I had made the cats and mice out of to tie all the fabrics together. I settled on 1 ½ inch strips of fabric, sewn together with a ¼ inch seam allowance. Thankfully earlier on this year I bought a creative grids stripology ruler, which means cutting strips is an absolute doddle. Cutting that would normally have taken me hours and lots of ruined fabric – because I can’t cut straight or measure accurately for toffee, now takes a matter of minutes. I can’t tell you how much I love these rulers, they’ve made my life so much easier! I used a 3.5 strip to make the outside border.

 

 

I then freaked out for a few days over how I was going to quilt this. I couldn’t decide if I was going to leave the applique panels unquilted and only quilt the borders. Or if I was going to quilt the applique panels how would I do it without distracting from the applique. I won’t lie it gave me a sleepless night or two. This was an important present, that had significant meaning for me. It was important that I got this right because once I started there would be no going back. Thanks to Instagram and all the quilters I follow my deliberations over the applique patterns were brought to an end when I saw how someone else had quilted their work with just straight lines about an inch apart but not going through the applique. It would be tricky as each time I started a new section would mean bringing the bobbin thread up, something I hadn’t had to do for ages as my new machine means I don’t have to do this. By bringing the bobbin thread up it meant I would avoid a nesting of threads on the back of the quilt, when a locking stitch was used. Although it’s not perfect I used a few small stitches forward and back to secure my threads. I am not advanced enough at the moment for burying threads and due to when my mums birthday was I didn’t have lots of time to master a completely new technique.

 

Quilting took a few hours and a lot of back, arm and shoulder pain from terribly bad posture.

 

 

 

 

To finish off the quilt the raw edges of the material needed to be bound, if you didn’t do this the material would fray and the wadding / batting would be lost from the quilt. I made the binding using a fat quarter from the polka dot material I bought. I used my stripology ruler and cut 2.5 inch strips and then joined them together.

 

The raw edges of the binding and the raw edges of the quilt are lined up and then I used the sewing machine to sew the binding onto the front of the quilt. I had an absolute nightmare with the binding. After sewing it on I had to unpick it as I had sewn too far over and not left myself enough binding  to pull over to the reverse of the quilt. It took me over an hour to unpick. I was also having a disastrous time with mitred corners. So I have done the best I can. Once I was “happy” with how the binding was sewn onto the front I then settled down for a few hours of slow sewing whilst I ladder stitched the binding onto the back.

 

This process took ages as the polka dot material was quite thick. I have ended up with blister’s on my thumb, forefinger and middle finger. There is also a bit of my DNA in the quilt as I lost count how many times I stabbed myself! Finally the quilt was finished.

The very last job left to do was to sew the label onto the quilt. This was a personal message to my mum, so I won’t be sharing. However it also covers who it was quilted by, on what date and what the design is called. I have named it Cat & Mouse.

It’s quite exhilarating finishing a quilt but it can also leave you feeling a little flat. You are overjoyed at what you have accomplished but for me I have lost that drive of what I have to achieve for the day. I really hope my mum likes it.

update:

It was gifted to her on 1st September and she was thrilled to bits with it.