My last post was published on the 10th of January when I felt like my whole world had caved in. The last few weeks have been very hard, I miss Frankie and Mollie so much that my heart aches. There has not been a day that has gone by where I haven’t wept with the pain of losing them as suddenly as we did. To lose two dogs in 7 days is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I wouldn’t have got through it without hubby by my side. In fact I would have probably given up completely had he not been here.
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
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
Over the last week I have been quite unwell, culminating in an emergency appointment at the doctors surgery yesterday. As is usual for me it wasn’t clear what exactly was wrong. I had severe abdominal pain in the lower right quadrant – I’m no stranger to abdominal pain, I have suffered with it for as long as I can remember. I can remember countless home visits by the gp where I was yet again diagnosed with a grumbling appendix.
I don’t think what I had yesterday was my appendix – its still sore today ( just not as bad). I think it is actually a cyst on my ovary, the doctors found one in 2015 but as it was only 2cm in size the protocol was not to monitor it. For years every few months I would get a pain in my lower right side. Loads of times I was convinced it was my appendix but after they found the cyst I realised that this made more sense. I started to track when I had the pain, it was always between the 20th to the 28th of each month and would last a few days. However over the last six months every two or so months the pain ramps up. I have a reasonably high pain threshold and it takes a lot to make me go to see the dr, let alone ring them up and demand an appointment. Normally I’m the patient running in the opposite direction.
Yesterday I couldn’t stand up straight when it was at its worst and when I was on the phone to the duty doctor I was curled up in a ball on the bed. I didn’t just have pain on the right side but the whole of my insides felt sore and were burning. Thankfully the duty doctor agreed that I did need to be seen and set an appointment for an hour later. Thankfully Mr Myasthenia Kid was day off so he could drop me down there. I also had a pot to piss in ( ha ha ha ha!) my old gp used to give me a sample pot to use when I suspected I had a UTI. I forgot yesterday to ask for another one to replace it.
By the time I got to the doctors appointment the pain was already decreasing. I felt a bit of a fraud to be honest. Whilst I am typing the pain is ramping up again, I’ve taken pain killers so hopefully it will settle it again. I haven’t got a temperature and today I am not feeling unwell. I don’t feel right – I think all of us with a chronic illness or condition know when our bodies aren’t feeling right. Mine hasn’t felt right for a few weeks, initially I put it down to anxiety, stress, then the heat. But I know in my heart of hearts it’s more than that. It’s like the time I kept telling my old hospital consultant that I felt terribly unwell, I didn’t know what it was but he needed to listen to me. The arrogant twat didn’t, he sent me reluctantly for blood tests. Five days later I got a snotty letter telling me all my bloods were normal. Three days after that letter he had to backtrack because my prolactin levels were stupidly high. See I knew that something was wrong, never ignore your instinct about your health.
My urine was dipped and nothing was showing. I then had to get up on the couch and be examined. I knew it was coming, I made sure that front and back bottoms were scrupulously clean as I feared gloved fingers could be inserted into either orifice. Luckily I avoided that one! My stomach was palpated, as is usual the doctors always ask about the scar on my stomach. I’ve had a scar on my stomach since I was 3 and a bit. It’s been there so long that unless someone draws my attention to it I don’t remember it’s there. Now that will probably seem strange as it’s a horrific looking thing all thanks to EDS.
If I wasn’t such a lard-arse at the moment I may have taken a photo to show you. The scar runs from around an inch above my belly button to the top my pubic bone. It has healed very wide around an inch or more at the worst places and the skin is paper thin. I also have no sensation / feeling at all in my stomach about 2 inches either side of the scar as the nerves were cut ( I have had multiple surgeries). It’s caused me problems in the past due to burns. A few times I have ended up seeking hospital treatment as I have given myself a serious burn injury and not noticed until the skin has gone black. Like I said I have no feeling there.
The scar has also tethered at the end near my pubic bone. This means the scar tissue has adhered to the muscle underneath. It causes me no pain but means my stomach is divided into two parts due to the tethering.
I showed the doctor on my abdomen where the pain was, she felt it and I had to be peeled off the ceiling. At this point she told me that she wanted to ring the surgical team at the local hospital for advice as she felt it could be my appendix or it could be an ovarian cyst torsion ( meaning the ovary was twisting because of the cyst). Personally I thought with both I’d be in more pain than I was. I declined the call to the surgical team basically because I hate the local hospital. If I had been in severe pain, vomiting etc obviously I would have gone, I’m not an idiot. But I knew what would happen, lots of tests, no sleep, idiot medical professionals and sent home after being made to feel like a time waster. At this point all I wanted was my bed.
I made the doctor a solemn promise that should the pain intensify overnight that I would ring 999 and if it was bad tomorrow (now today) I’d ring them. She wasn’t totally happy but she knew I wasn’t going to hospital. I have to add here that even in that severe amount of pain my blood pressure reached the dizzying heights of 115/80 with a pulse of 95, oxygen 98%. When my blood pressure is normal ( doesn’t happen very often these days) when in pain I am normally in the 130/90 territory. So that just goes to show you how low my blood pressure has been of late.
Its not desperately low but I am 5ft 8 tall and not petite. Most doctors take my blood pressure and you can see that they are looking forward to giving me a lecture about my weight and high blood pressure. You can see the disappointment in their eyes when it comes back low! If my blood pressure is below around 115/80 I can be hideously symptomatic, every time I stand up I feel faint. This week I have been drinking expresso’s as it’s the only thing that gives my blood pressure a boost, even if it is only temporarily.
Around 2.30pm the doctor I saw yesterday rang to check how I was. That was really kind of her but I feel guilty for making her worry. It wasn’t a quick call either, she had a huge list of questions to ask to ensure I wasn’t brushing her off and telling her what I thought she wanted to hear. This is why I love the small practice I use as they have the time to care about their patients, it doesn’t feel like a conveyor belt. If you need longer than your allotted time then you get it and none of the other patients mind as they also know they won’t be rushed out the door.
My plan is when feeling slightly better that I will make a doctors appointment and ask to have this pain investigated. Personally I wouldn’t be surprised if my ovary is stuck to my appendix due to all the adhesions I have.
I’ve been so rough over the last week or so I haven’t done very much in the way of sewing. I tried some hand sewing yesterday but couldn’t concentrate so gave up. Today I finished a Travis bag for one of my Instagram friends. Thankfully that was a quick bit of sewing as I had started it well over a week ago. I can’t put a photo up as she hasn’t received it yet. Jamie will be sending it tomorrow for me. The lovely lady and I have chatted a few times on IG and she asked me if she could send me one of her bags and give her an honest critique of her work, which is a bloody brave thing to do. The bag would be mine to keep. I couldn’t let her just send me a bag, as I knew she had a dog I thought I would send her a Travis bag.
This is the bag she sent me,
I absolutely love this bag. The quilting is amazing, she’s also used variegated thread so it goes dark and light which emphasises the quilting beautifully. I only wish that I could quilt as accurately as this!
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.
Mr Myasthenia Kid has managed to pass on his sickness bug to me. He ended up coming home from work on Monday after vomiting twice. He spent the rest of Monday sleeping. I spent last night going from freezing cold to boiling hot, my hair is crazy this morning. I am also horrendously nauseous. So today’s offering will be short and sweet.
On 6th August I packed in smoking tobacco, over the previous couple of months I had slowly been falling out of love with it. It no longer tasted the same, smelt the same, I was smoking more but enjoying less and less. Because I rolled my own cigarettes I was also getting stained fingers which meant several times a week I was having to bleach them to get rid of the tar stains. I knew the time was approaching where I was going to give up. I just didn’t know if I would be able to do it.
At the same time as I was falling out of love with cigarettes, a friend of mine had given up smoking. Something I never thought in a million years would happen. She had bought a vape and literally swapped over from smoking 20 plus a day to none and solely using the vape in a few days. She brought the vape over to show me and a week later I bought myself one. With the intention of slowly reducing the amount of cigarettes I was smoking and using the vape.
I really struggled to get on with the vape, for some reason every time I inhaled I coughed my lungs up. I don’t know what was causing the problem but it was infuriating, why could I inhale cigarette smoke and not inhale from a vape. It took a few days of persevering but I got the hang of it. I was coming to the end of my tobacco and after the first cigarette of the morning on Sunday 6th August I decided that was it. I had enough tobacco for one cigarette but I just put it away in the cupboard. I haven’t smoked since.
A few days after stopping smoking I threw my tobacco tin away, bagged up the papers and filter tips which I bought in bulk and removed the ash trays from the house. We only ever smoked in the kitchen, but the difference in the surfaces keeping clean without me facing a losing battle daily against bits of ash and tobacco was enough to convince me, it was over. Jay took my papers and filter tips into work and gave them to my friends that smoke.
Giving up and switching to the vape has been easy, far easier than I thought it would be. I much prefer it to smoking. Over the last few days I have found that I am using it a lot less than I was initially. I did experience some problems with my blood pressure being quite low for a few days whilst my body sorted itself out. I gave myself a week for it to settle and if it hadn’t I would add a nicotine liquid to my vape to boost my blood pressure. Thankfully the giddiness and feelings of pre-syncope reduced and I managed to not use nicotine liquid.The other issue I have had is really painful sinuses.
I’ve had sinus problems for years. I regularly use a nasal spray as the inside of my nose gets inflamed and causes problems with my eustachian tubes swelling shut. Since stopping smoking I have been in a lot of pain with my sinuses, at some points it has been going into my teeth. I have no idea why giving up smoking would make it worse when I have always been told that it would make it better. It’s still hurting today but it is getting less as the days go on. I am hoping that this will eventually settle down.
I know that I will never be able to take for granted that I no longer smoke. I have stopped for years in the past only to start again. I will need to be constantly vigilant and be honest with myself that whenever I want a cigarette it is the addiction talking. So far it has been much easier than I ever anticipated it would be, I hope it stays that way.
On Thursday 1st December I had my 6th Caffeine infusion. To say it was eventful would be an understatement. What has previously gone ahead pretty smoothly other than being unable to cannulate me without multiple attempts was littered with potentially dangerous errors. I am still in shock to be honest.
Over the few days leading up to the infusion my head was letting me know it was long overdue. By the time Thursday came around my head pain (from a csf leak) was reaching a 7 out of 10 on the pain scale within seconds of getting upright. By the time I reached the ward I was dry heaving, which happens when the pain gets to a certain level. I had felt sick before leaving the house and had taken my anti-sickness medication hours earlier but they had done nothing. All I was relying on to prevent me from blowing chunks were deep breaths and they were becoming ineffective.
On arriving at the unit I advised them of the fact I wanted to be sick, several times. My request for anti sickness medications went unanswered so I demanded a bowl as I didn’t want to puke all over myself when I didn’t have a change of clothes with me. In every other hospital situation I have been in when I have told staff I needed to be sick they have sprung into action. Here I was asked by one member of staff if I had a hangover, I don’t drink, well it’s easier to say I rarely drink. I had drunk two bottles of Budweiser the night before as my head was bad and it was a last resort but it wasn’t enough to give me a hangover. I calmly explained to the member of staff, the same member of staff I have been seeing since June (every month) that when my head is bad I will be sick. He knows who I am as he then asked me how my birthday had gone and laughed about the fact Mr Morris had booked me a dentist appointment on my birthday. So he could remember that but not the issue that I come in and see them for every month.
This time it was on my notes that I had to have an ECG, whilst wiring me up I was given a sick bowl. The battery was out on the machine so the nurse had to get a new one. Whilst she was gone I dry heaved into the bowl, bringing up no more than a couple of teaspoons worth of saliva. The dry heaving was automatic, I had no control over it, yet when the nurse came back she demanded I lie still so that she could do the ECG. Believe me it gets worse. Anyone with a modicum of common sense would have sorted out anti-sickness medication so that I didn’t want to dry heave during the ECG but no she was getting the ECG done and I wasn’t to interrupt with anything so petty as throwing up.
Finally after what seemed like an eternity I was presented with two tablets in a paper cup. I looked at them and I don’t know what happened but I asked the nurse what it was. A lot of the time I wouldn’t do this, many patients don’t and just assume what they are being given is correct. So let this be a lesson to you, accept no medication without asking what it is. Nurses / doctors are only human and make mistakes. The nurse told me it was ondansetron, a medication that I have suffered a hideous allergic reaction to when given via IV in 2014. Now this nurse (same one as the ECG nurse) had just put my red wrist band on, the one that alerts staff to the fact the patient has allergies so they must check their notes before issuing medication.
I carry with me at all times a mini medical file which contains the latest letters from my consultants, my prescription list (I can print off from the doctor’s surgery) and a list of my drug allergies as I have quite a few. Every time I arrive at this unit they ask if I have allergies, I give them the list, they scan it and the same receptionist tells me every time that I won’t need to bring it with me next time. On Thursday she just asked if I had allergies and printed off a red wrist band. I assumed that the allergy list was in my notes. After I pointed out I couldn’t be given ondansetron she checked my notes and surprise, surprise my allergy list wasn’t contained within the file. So my hospital buddy Sharon found it in my bag and gave it to her. Sharon was sat in shock that potentially this nurse had nearly just killed me. Sharon is a veteran of hospitals and said “I never ask what they are giving me, I just assume it’s right”. I told her over the months of me coming to the unit I had heard them give patients ondansetron as the anti-sickness medication of choice. It is probably the cheapest and I don’t blame them for that but not everyone can take them and before issuing a patient wearing a red wristband it might be an idea to check their allergies. If they don’t ask you demand to know what medication they are trying to give you. I don’t want to sound melodramatic but I might not be alive today if I hadn’t have asked the question on Thursday.
As I couldn’t take ondansetron, I was given cyclizine a medication I have taken numerous times before with no issue. In their wisdom they gave it to me in tablet form despite me telling them I wouldn’t keep it down. I had stopped drinking at this point despite my tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth as I was so dry. When I tell you that I am not going to be able to keep a medication down I am not pissing about or trying to be difficult. They ignored me, so I took the tablet and promptly threw it up much to the nursing staffs surprise.
I won’t lie I had come into hospital on Thursday fully expecting a fight with a nurse I shall refer to as Dick. Dick seems to have a problem with my wheelchair and will move it away from my bed and put it in the next room claiming it’s in the way. As my chair will cost £2,500 to replace I have an issue with it being left unattended. He even has a problem with my old wheelchair insisting it is folded up and moved away from the bed. He also won’t provide my hospital buddy with a chair let alone my husband so they always use my wheelchair.
Sharon had witnessed this nurse’s behaviour during my last caffeine infusion. She knew from our conversations over the last month that I wasn’t going to accept this from him this time. To me it seemed to be disability discrimination, he also has a problem with the walking stick I bring to help me transfer from my wheelchair to the bed. I was fully ready to get PALs involved if he kicked off this time. Much to our disappointment Dick wasn’t on the ward when Sharon moved me through into the unit so by the time he came back from his break, she was fully ensconced in it, at the foot of my bed using it as a chair. We were pissing ourselves as we could see he was seething that we had got it past him. This entertained us greatly whilst we were there and the junior doctor we spoke to who managed to cannulate me first time whilst I was waiting for the cyclizine to come. Although he didn’t say it in so many words he also thought Dick was being a dick about the wheelchair.
The room in which I receive the infusions is pretty small, it has six beds and then a desk by the door where the nurses and doctors do their admin work. I don’t know which doctor it was that had to do the prescription for IV cyclizine but he was kicking off that they hadn’t done it IV to begin with when I was telling them I wouldn’t keep the tablet form down. So someone in there does have some common sense. I also heard the same doctor getting excited about my ECG asking the nurses who was in with sinus tachycardia, the nurse dealing with me told him “she’s always like that and we aren’t treating her for that”. Poor lamb had only wanted to help and was asking the question as to why my heart was racing whilst I was lying down still during an ECG, now we will never know as PoTs is only supposed to occur with changes of posture, I hadn’t moved for ages at the time the ECG was done.
Finally after what seemed like forever I was given IV Cyclizine. Within a few seconds of the injection being finished I really didn’t feel very well. I must’ve turned a funny colour too as Sharon told me I wasn’t looking very well. I suddenly felt very panicky and was worried that the nurse had just given me Iv Ondansetron. I just about managed to tell Sharon that my chest was tight and I felt woozy. Within seconds I was battling to remain conscious, my eyes were rolling in their sockets, unfortunately no one could see this as I had my large very dark glasses on as I become very light-sensitive when my head pain is bad. I felt myself falling as I slumped to the right hand side of the chair. For the briefest of moments I blacked out only coming around as Sharon was screaming my name and shaking my leg trying to rouse me. I couldn’t respond as I was still fighting to stay awake, I couldn’t focus on anything as my eyes just kept wanting to disappear into the back of my head.
Eventually the nurse realised something was wrong and whacked the bed back so that I was flat and then took my blood pressure. By the time she got her reading 109/73 I was feeling more or less with it again. She was trying to excuse herself for not noticing the fact I had passed out by telling Sharon and I it was because I was wearing makeup and sunglasses. I think the biggest clue was I wasn’t responding to Sharon and had slumped to one side. She did tell us that Cyclizine can crash your blood pressure which was obviously what it had just done. What she failed to tell me was that it would repeatedly crash my blood pressure for the remainder of my time in the unit. You’d think that she would have monitored me regularly after that episode but she only took my vitals once more and that was just before I left, nearly three hours after the faint.
I have faced some scary times when in hospital but that has to be one of the most frightening because I was shit scared the nurse had killed me by giving me IV Ondansetron and who can blame me with her laissez-faire attitude towards protocol.
I spent the rest of the infusion time trying very hard not to faint. Throughout the infusion despite the extra fluids going in, I kept feeling like I was going to pass out. I kept feeling like I was having an out-of-body experience. I knew if I fainted again there was a high probability of me not being allowed home, so I drank loads and kept being completely upright to an absolute minimum.
I only let Sharon know how bad I was feeling so that she could place herself in front of me should I try to face plant.
Despite how awful I felt I did have a good time during the infusion, it’s always great to catch up with Sharon, we always have something to say. Plus I got to catch up with a doctor who I thought I had lost forever to the acute stroke ward. He knew I had been to Bath the week before (it wasn’t a great appointment and all they will do for me is write a strongly worded letter to tell the hospital to get on with the blood patch as there is no increased medical risk) and we talked about the clinical trial that he wants me to be a part of. Its called a Sphenopalatine ganglion Block, it’s basically a small catheter type device placed up your nose, which they then use to squirt a dose of local anesthetic up. It works on a group of nerves at the back of the nose and has good results in conditions like chronic migraines, trigeminal neuralgia and facial pain. This doctor and my neurologist want to trial it to see if it is effective for pain caused by a CSF Leak and I am more than happy to give it a go if it has a chance of stopping my pain completely.
I let this doctor know that last month’s occipital neuralgia nerve block injections had been ineffective. I told him although the nurse that does them maybe highly qualified she doesn’t do it the same way he does, which is multiple small injections along the occipital nerve. He agreed due to the fact the last lot hadn’t worked he would repeat them for me, if he came back from his meeting before I left the unit. Thankfully I was still there on his return and the injections he gave me have worked beautifully.
I have very little memory of the rest of Thursday, Friday and most of Saturday as my blood pressure wouldn’t settle and kept crashing after the cyclizine injection. I have had to piece the events together from Sharon and my husband. I don’t think I have ever been made so sick from a trip to hospital.
Due to the incident with the nurse ignoring my red wrist band and attempting to give me a medication I am allergic to, I have had to report the incident to the hospital. I have wrestled my conscience and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if another patient ended up being given the wrong medication due to protocols not being adhered to. It could make things very difficult for me in the unit but I couldn’t live with the thought that by not making a complaint it contributed to someone else coming to harm.
So last week’s Caffeine infusion was eventful to say the least.
I’m fine seems to be the mantra I have adopted since becoming chronically sick with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS HT), Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTs) and a Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak (CSF leak) which has occurred this year, to name just a few. It has become such an ingrained phrase in my vocabulary that I have uttered the words without thinking to a doctor after being blue lighted to hospital. I think it is some kind of self preservation mechanism as when you are chronically sick you soon realise that people really aren’t that interested in your latest symptoms. When asked you reply without thinking because you will do anything to move the conversation forward. In a complete contradiction to what many people seem to believe about those who are chronically sick, we don’t like the attention that our conditions bring, so by saying I’m fine we can stop the conversation in its tracks.
Being sick can turn you into a bit of a fib teller, who really wants to know that you have pissed yourself because your bladder decided to empty itself when you answered the front door? Maybe they’d like to know how my bowel stopped working for 48 hours and when I eventually went I blocked the toilet? R.I.P toilet brush, you put up a valiant fight, your efforts were not in vain. Being ill is not Hollywood glamorous, our bodies can quite frankly be disgusting in the symptoms they throw up (pun intended) so why would I want anyone but the closest people around me to know how I really am?
Many people I know with chronic conditions really downplay their symptoms even to other chronically sick friends. We are constantly aware that over sharing can cause not only disgust but the accusation of attention seeking. I am also aware that there are so many other people who are much sicker than I am, so I feel that I can’t speak up because it would make me look weak in front of my peers. So you end up in the ridiculous situation where no one is telling the truth about how bad things are until you hit rock bottom. And even then when destination rock bottom is reached, you fear the condemnation of others who don’t believe you or who simply disappear on you when you need them most.
In the last couple of years I have had to endure the experience of disappearing friends when things have got tough. Being investigated for a possible tumour in your pituitary gland? Eat my dust. Got a confirmed CSF leak? I’m too busy to see you. Why would you put your head above the parapet and actually tell people that you aren’t fine when you are treated like that? So many of us have learnt the mantra of “I’m fine” that when things are truly awful, we can’t face telling people things are far from fine.
It has turned me into a bit of a liar where my health is concerned, there are very few people who know how I am on any given day and even then they will only get the edited highlights. However that can backfire as we are so focused on being fine that when we need to ask for help we can’t. I have a feeling of shame when I have to admit to myself or others that I can’t manage. A few months ago I asked my gp for a referral for an updated care plan in case of emergencies, if something happened to hubby as I couldn’t manage alone. His response was to give me a website to contact, when he had already been told that I couldn’t sit up and he was the one who diagnosed me with low pressure headaches aka a CSF Leak. My years of telling him that I’m fine spectacularly came back to haunt me.
This piece was inspired by a conversation with my good friend Sharon, who herself faces many health battles. I consider her condition to be worse than mine and she considers mine worse than hers. We are reasonably honest with each other but I also have a tendency to minimise my symptoms and I am sure she probably does the same with me. She is the person I am most honest with but I sometimes feel guilty for moaning to her when she has things so rough herself. She also freely admits how hard she finds it to ask for help, she like me is determined to be as independent as possible and not a burden to those around her. We laugh at how we both frequently say “I’m fine”.
Hubby usually gets an edited version of how I am if he is working as I don’t want him to have the stress of worrying about me whilst he is trying to earn a living. I have been known to put on a brave face until the minute he leaves the house and then crawl to bed, just because I know it will make him really anxious if I tell him the truth. When he is home from work I will also fight my symptoms for as long as possible down playing them so I don’t have to go to bed. A lot of times this year it’s not been possible as the head pain caused by the CSF leak only lessens when I lie completely flat.
I learnt quite early on in my chronic ill-health journey that when people ask how you are, they really want you to reply “I’m fine and you?”. They don’t want to know what is really going on. Society seems to have a real issue with those who are ill, just look at the obituaries and you will see phrases like “bravely borne”, “brave battle” and “courageous struggle”. Even when dying those who are sick are supposed to paint a smile on their face and not “give in” to their illness. To admit that things aren’t fine and dandy is to show weakness, allowing your condition to have the upper hand. In the chronically sick community people describe themselves as warriors or zebra strong, I don’t have a problem with how people want to label themselves but I don’t feel very warrior like or zebra strong when my head has been down the toilet for a few hours due to my CSF Leak.
People who do not deal with illness on a daily basis can end up feeling lost or hopeless when confronted by those who have a chronic condition. I know looking back that before I got sick I had no understanding at all about the issues faced by those who were dealing with symptoms outside that of normal illness such as a cold or flu. We seem to struggle to fully understand unless we have walked a mile in someone’s shoes. Now I am part of the community I am embarrassed by my previous ineptitude. It doesn’t stop my anger towards though who profess to care but negate what I am going through. I also don’t want your response when faced by my reality to be to give me unsolicited medical advice.
It is a difficult tightrope act that each community performs, for the sick it is do we trust this person enough to go beyond the usual I’m fine and for the other it’s having the honesty to admit that sometimes you don’t want to know all the gory details, without making the other person feel guilty. It doesn’t help that during a consultation with a long gone doctor I was told I had provided him with too much information or that on another occasion I was told I spent too much time on the internet looking up syndromes to have. If those that are treating us can’t provide empathy and understanding, is it any wonder that we resort to lying, even to those who are supposed to be treating us? If they aren’t listening then what’s the point in saying anything other than I’m fine?
The other side of the coin is that there are so many things wrong, if someone were to ask me how I really am, how much do I tell them before their eyes glaze over? Let’s take today as an example, I have a rapidly amplifying headache from my CSF Leak which means if I don’t get more caffeine in me or have a lie down it will go from annoying to excruciating. I have TMJ (Temporomandibular joint pain) caused from my trip to the dentist on 16th November where I had to have my jaw open for 30 mins and was moved around (not roughly) by the dentist. This means that all my teeth hurt, my jaw hurts and closing my mouth hurts. So I am on a diet of soup and soft food to help it settle down quickly. I am unable to maintain my body temperature so I have an excessive amount of layers on in an attempt to keep warm. My fingers are swollen and stiff, so typing has been a joy. Various joints around my body are emitting low-level pain signals. By low-level I mean less than a 6 out of 10 on the pain scale. Are you bored yet?
When I say I am fine what I mean is I am my normal level of shitty health. If I admit to you that I am in pain, it’s probably creeping towards a 7 or 8 out 10. If I tell you that I am really bad / awful then I am probably deliberating about whether or not to get outside medical assistance or if I need to get hubby home from work. What I am fine doesn’t mean is I am ok, I am symptom free, it’s as if I have never been sick because those days just don’t happen.
I’m fine means I can cope with what is being thrown at me without resorting to extra pain meds or going to bed. However what may have been I’m fine an hour ago could be it’s not good an hour later. My body has a tendency to misbehave, move in the wrong way I could end up in severe pain from a trapped nerve in my back or muscle spasms that have me walking like a great ape. PoTs symptoms can strike at any moment with chest pain and palpitations. My blood pressure could plummet causing me to faint or feel the urge to sleep. I just don’t know what is going to happen when and everyday is spent like this.
Obviously for those of you who read my blog on a regular basis, you know that I am anything but fine. You know I should be winning awards for my ability not to look sick or portray how sick I really am whilst out in public. So I continue to play the “I’m fine” game and the only person I am hurting is myself.