Empathy

When I wrote last week’s blog post Rainbow Bridge  I never expected in a million years the response that it received. It wasn’t just me hubby had people coming up to him in work, telling him that they couldn’t read it without shedding a tear or that it said what they felt but had never been able to express it. I had followers on Instagram contacting me about their recent losses and long ago losses too. On Facebook it was the same, with many people contacting me or leaving a comment. . It was emotionally hard as I am very empathetic, so when people start to get tearful when they are talking to me, it makes me cry too. But when I wrote the post I was half expecting it to stir up a lot of emotions because I had been in such a mess as I wrote it. I have to be honest I never did a final check on the post to look for errors, mainly because I found it so upsetting to read, it was real and raw. I haven’t even gone back to look at it now to refresh my memory before writing this one. I just can’t do it, I have already been in tears today twice over the dogs. It is always just bubbling away under the surface for me at the moment, although to look at me or to see any of my social media posts you would never know.

I am so touched that something I have written has moved so many people. I thank each and everyone of you who commented or messaged me. It was very hard last Thursday as I had no idea how it would be received. I had no clue if people would think I was wallowing, being self indulgent or a drama queen. That people would think that I should pull myself together and get on with the rest of my life. I promise you I am not self indulgent, wallowing or being a drama queen. I just write about life and my experiences. I try to give a voice to those feelings that we push down and don’t let anyone else see. I take a chance that people won’t reject me or ridicule me because I try to talk about things that many would rather brush under the carpet. Although there have been several articles regarding the death of a pet in National newspapers it is still treated with some degree of disbelief by those who have never had an animal / pet in their lives. 

The whole point of my post was for you – whoever you are, know that it is ok to feel whatever you are feeling, to express your grief ( and it is your’s and no one else’s) anyway that you like. That these feelings are totally normal. You are not weird, you aren’t wallowing in your grief, you aren’t an attention seeker and you are certainly not being a drama queen. You are hurting and it will take time to process all that emotion. Hell I am only 8 months on and there are days where I can barely keep it together. Days where all I do is cry. Days when I feel guilty when I know rationally I have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. I just wanted you to know you aren’t going mad, I honestly thought at times I was losing it. All of those feelings, even the uncontrollable rage that even surprises you when you roar, is totally normal. It is the beast called grief and it doesn’t have to be something that you go through alone.

As I touched on in my blog post even when you have suffered from a significant bereavement such as a partner / child / sibling / parent / friend, people who haven’t been through that kind of grief can’t begin to imagine the enormity of the feelings of loss and pain. They may see you red faced, tear stained and see your grief but that is soon forgotten because it has no direct impact on their lives. The next time they see you, taking the kids to school, going to work, getting the shopping – all things you have to do despite the pain and grief they assume you are “better”. They don’t understand that grief goes on forever. They seem to think that grief has a timeline and by a certain amount of time say 6-12 months maybe sooner if they are real dicks, you “should” be “over” it. How do you explain that there is no getting over it? You are just getting through each day the best you can. There will be good days, bad days and the worst kind of days.  Life will probably never be the same again. But there will never be or has there ever been for anyone who is grieving a time when they are over it. Getting Over It has to be the most grotesque phrase ever. Followed by Time is a great healer. There is no healing from grief, you carry that pain forever.

I had people contacting me about dogs they had lost thirty years ago during their childhood that they still mourned for.  Others told me about their recent losses that they just couldn’t process or that in the proceeding days before my blog post it had hit them, after thinking that they could keep going and carry on as normal. I was quite honest when I spoke to them and told them Jay and I have very little memory of January and February this year.

 We know we got Dembe, we know he was tiny but ask us to recall anything significant like where we took him on his first walk. What the date of his first walk was, his first bark, his first growl all the stuff we would normally remember and we draw a blank. It’s not because we didn’t care about it, purely our brains were overloaded processing what had happened when we lost Frankie and Mollie within 7 days of each other. I am so glad that I started the Dembe Diaries blog and his diary that I base the blog on, so that in years to come I can look back and see all those things in black and white that my brain was unable to absorb at the time.

 I do remember Jay barely spoke in the first 4-5 days after it happened. It was quite stressful as I went into list mode, trying to control everything because my anxiety spiked. His anxiety spiked because I was making so many demands on him all the time and obviously he needed to have some control in his life too. It was very difficult trying to get him motivated to help me sort the house out ready for Dembe’s arrival. Especially as we couldn’t stand being in the house as it was just full of reminders of how empty it was. We did cry together and we did talk about our babies, all of our babies. But the pain and grief was hard because although it has happened to both of you (or all of you) it is also an individual thing that no one can make better or take away from you. People grieve in different ways. Just because Jay wasn’t breaking down in tears every 5 minutes like I was didn’t mean he wasn’t hurting or struggling to cope. You only had to take a look at him, ashen faced, tired and so very quiet, grief and pain was written all over him. For a few days I was worried that he was going to drop down dead from a heart attack or stroke he looked so ill.  

Grief is weird one minute you can feel like you are doing ok and the next minute it feels like the world is imploding. There is no rhyme or reason to it, you are carried on its current and it takes you wherever it pleases. There is no control of it, it controls you initially, even denying you sleep when it wants to. Both Jay and I suffered from terrible insomnia in the 7 days after Mollie and Frankies passing. We would find ourselves downstairs in the middle of the night watching crap on the TV whilst eating chocolate biscuits and drinking sugary tea in the hope we would just pass out from a sugar overdose. I remember one day within about 20 minutes of each other we both left the electric shower on, when we left the bathroom, returning to it a few minutes later, neither of us could work out why we had left it running. We had no recollection of leaving the bathroom.  Life really was being lived on autopilot, all we could do was keep putting one foot in front of the other and get through another day.

I want to tell you that things do get better, the grief becomes less overwhelming.  I feel like I am finally starting to live life again instead of just simply going through the motions. I am not saying that in 8 months you will also be feeling better, it could be less time it could be substantially more time. But there will come a time when you let a breathe out and know that you are starting to be you again.

Up until about a week ago the last time I listened to music and enjoyed it was 29th December 2018. That was the day that Frankie passed away and I had been listening to my Sinead O’connor LP. I didn’t play any music for a couple of weeks. After that time had passed, I tried but I found the noise too much and overwhelming. I had no emotional connection to the music. I would rather be in silence or have the TV on low in the background.  For the last two weeks I have played music non-stop. I have sung at the top of my voice and quite possibly scared the neighbours. I have found the joy in music again. I haven’t played my Sinead O’Connor LP, I think that one will take some time. I may not play it again for several years, I’m not setting myself a target, I will let it happen, I won’t force it. One day I will sing something from the album and it will be like an ear worm that won’t die until I play it. At the moment anything from that LP makes me sad.

We have also started planning things for the future. We have booked  a short break in the UK next year and we will be taking Dembe with us. It is very exciting. This will be the first time since 2006 that Jay and I have had any sort of holiday. It is only 3 nights away but it will do us all some good just to get out of the house and away from the day to day. I am nervous as hell as I have become a real homebody since becoming ill. Other than stays in hospital I haven’t been away from the house in 13 years. It is hilarious to me that I am getting a bit anxious thinking about it when Jay and I have travelled to Sri Lanka, USA (Florida), Antigua, Paris, Menorca and various places all over the UK for weddings / christenings. I know that we can do it, it is just my world has been so very small over the last 13 odd years.

So please be kind to yourself, wherever you are in your journey with grief. Everyone does grief differently, there is no one size fits all. What works for you may not work for anyone else.  Remember living life does not mean that you have forgotten those who are no longer with us. At some point things will get easier, you will reach a new normal. It is not a journey you have to do alone. If more of us start talking about grief and how it affects us we will educate those who have never experienced it and maybe create a little more empathy. The world could really do with more empathy at the moment.

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Dangerous Medicine

We all know that all medications and that  medical procedures come with a certain amount of risk – the biggest  being death. However in this day and age you would think it would be virtually impossible for a patient to die of neglect. I know mistakes can happen, they shouldn’t but they do. Someone I knew of, was acquainted with has died this week due to being falsely diagnosed with FI – Fabricated Illness. You can read about Shawn here  (and yes the newspaper has managed to spell his name incorrectly.) 

We were ( the CSF Leak group ) so happy when he made his way to Germany where he believed he would finally get the medical treatment he deserved and which the NHS had denied him for so long labelling him as having a mental health issue and fabricating his symptoms to get attention. Because Shawn dared to question the expertise of those he sought help from and because his condition was outside the scope of their knowledge, that label was applied and prevented all other medics within the NHS to seemingly be able to view his case with fresh eyes and objectivity. They all seemed to just cop-out and follow the notes of his previous doctors. If enough doctors write on your notes that you have fabricated your illness, it basically means all help is withdrawn and Shawn had to die to prove to them how sick he was. When all he wanted to do was live. 

I am so angry and just so fed up with the medical profession’s arrogance and their inability to admit when they just don’t know. Too many people are being labelled as having a mental illness and when they eventually do get the correct diagnosis – the doctors are reluctant to remove the mental health diagnosis. I’ve had it happen myself, I ended up in hospital as my stomach had swollen ( I looked like I was pregnant with twins) and had reduced bowel sounds, I’ve had an intusscesception before as a child and I have had complications from bowel adhesion’s resulting in an open surgery to remove them. (info on intusscusception ) . As I was being examined a student doctor asked me how long I had been on seroxat ( an antidepressant) the year was 2010 and I had last taken seroxat in 1999. The suggestion being that the student doctor was already looking for a mental health diagnosis for my swollen stomach and reduced bowel sounds.  She seemed surprised when I suggested she had a look at my more up to date medical notes and that I hadn’t been on seroxat since 1999. She was forming an opinion on notes from 10 years ago. It must make life so easy if you can blame the patient for being sick.

On another occasion I was in accident and emergency due to the indwelling catheter that I was having to use blocking. My bladder and bowel had ceased working the day before so the district nurse had been called in and a catheter inserted to relieve the pressure on my bladder and allow the contents of my bladder to be emptied. Having had a glance at my notes before treating me the doctor asked me how long I had been suffering with somatiform disorder. An unusual question to be asked when a catheter is being removed from your urethra. Again the diagnosis was 5 years out of date but had failed to be removed. A tilt table test ( well two) had proved I had PoTs and Orthostatic intolerance and a private rhuematologist had confirmed my diagnosis of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. My Beighton scale was off the charts as I was bendy in joints that were not included on the scale, along with my slow healing, wide paper-thin scars, stretch marks as a child etc etc.

It doesn’t seem to matter if you have a “proper” diagnosis ( not dissing mental health here I suffer with depression and anxiety) if you have a whiff of a mental health diagnosis in your medical records all problems from then on will be attributed to your mental health issues. Just take the trapped nerve in my neck and the numbness in my arm last summer being put down to stress. It was only when I was losing my ability to grip with my hand and had a proper examination was I informed that I had an impinged nerve and if Physiotherapy didn’t help me I would be looking at spinal surgery.

I know so many people who are struggling with depression and anxiety who refuse to reveal this to their doctors and get help because they know once the diagnosis is on their records ( and especially if they female ). Many of them in the PoTs group I am (one of) the admin for I reckon 99% of the 4k membership were told that they were suffering from anxiety when they first went to their gp about their palpitations / near syncope. It’s a nice diagnosis for busy gp’s who only have 10 minutes per patient. The problem is so many people with chronic conditions are hiding depression and anxiety because they know they will no longer be taken seriously that we are now sitting on a ticking time bomb and there will just not be the resources to deal with it when it finally goes off.

Medicine is getting dangerous, it is ignoring those that don’t fit the text-book definition of the condition they have been diagnosed with and doctors are handing out mental health diagnosis without a patient being assessed properly by a psychologist or even a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with somatiform disorder by a neurologist. It’s like having a podiatrist conduct your open heart surgery. It’s not a situation that would be allowed but many doctors who have no formal training in psychiatry or psychology are diagnosing conditions that will have detrimental ramifications on their patients treatment forever. 

You can complain, you can ask for a letter to be put in your notes, explaining that you don’t have conversion disorder, Munchausen by proxy, Fabricated Illness Syndrome, Somatiform disorder but doctors can and do choose to ignore it. Keep shouting loud enough that you don’t have the condition and it just acts as more proof that you are mentally unstable. Cry in a medical appointment discussing these falsehoods contained within your medical notes and you will be diagnosed with depression. You can’t win, the doctors hold all the cards and something has to change because too many people are dying due to neglect. When I mean neglect I mean wilfully denying treatment due to arrogance or ignorance. It makes me sick to my stomach and I am so very fucking fed up with it.

The other one they like to use against you is medical knowledge, even if you come from a medical background like nursing and would know about the condition or symptoms you are talking about. I don’t have a medical background so have had to research things because I can not trust the doctors to do it. The last time I trusted a doctor I ended up almost needing spinal surgery, as they told me my neck pain and numb arm was stress.

 Know too much about the condition and you are spending too much time on the internet looking up syndromes to have – real words spoken to me by an NHS consultant when I told him I was feeling the sickest I had ever felt. A few weeks later I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease and a few weeks after that I found that my prolactin was raised and it was possible that I had a pituitary tumour ( thankfully I didn’t but we never found out why I was lactating or why the prolactin had been raised).

I have used the countless examples of where mental health diagnosis has been used as a cop-out by doctors to excuse their laziness / unwillingness to pursue the answer / outside their skill set on me to illustrate the point of how easy it is to suddenly find yourself fighting to be heard when you know you are sick. It is not in any way to take away from Shawn’s tragic story.

I am so angry because I have lost friends and relatives from medical cock ups. My dear friend who passed away last year was incorrectly diagnosed with COPD, only to be dead from lung cancer 7 months later. How they missed the tumours in her lungs and the one at the base of her spine I will never know. It wasn’t like she hadn’t had all the appropriate scans. The same mistakes keep being made and no one is learning the lessons the health authorities keep saying that they are.

I will defend the NHS and its principles with my dying breath but I can’t defend shoddy workmanship. The rotten apples need to be removed. The lessons do need to be learned because Sorry is no good when the patient has died.

 I feel quite strongly that we are living in a time of very dangerous medicine, where the cheapest disease is the one diagnosed, where tests are denied when there is already a mental health diagnosis present of which the patient is either aware of unaware of. The system is broken when patients can no longer trust their doctors to first do no harm.

For more information on how easily you can have an erroneous diagnosis applied to you please check out the links

It also usual plays straight into their hands if you are female.

Functional neurological disorder / conversion disorder

Medically unexplained symptoms

Conversion disorder / Somatisation disorder

Management of MUS

Factitcious Disorder

munchausens-syndrome

 

Anger – I have my ranty pants on again!

Warning this could get a bit ranty!


I am not an angry person. I am actually quite a forgiving person until you push me to the point of no return. It takes quite a lot for someone to push my buttons enough to get there but once they do they are left out in the cold forever.


What makes me so very angry at the moment is people who ask how I am or how my last doctors appointment went and either a) as you tell them their eyes glaze over and you can tell they can’t wait for the conversation to end, b) by the questions they ask or the facial expression they display shows their complete disbelief  in what you are telling them or c) ignore completely what you have just said and turn the conversation back on themselves – their favourite topic of conversation.


I wonder if its my fault that my answers are greeted with these responses. Like all people with a chronic illness or condition I am quite stoic. I try not to moan as I get bored with it also. 

Is it because I don’t grimace with every move?  Is it because I don’t make it the sole topic of every conversation I have? Or is it because when I am around others I will push myself beyond my limits only to collapse when they have gone? Is this why when I am having a rough time and can’t do the things I normally would that I am met with a complete lack of understanding?


I am in excruciating pain right now despite my arsenal of medications that are available to me. At present it is my back and left leg that is causing all this pain. My pain was under control until April this year and its slowly getting worse. You (the people I am talking about)  don’t see the nights I am kept awake by pain. The days I have lost due to being confined to the sofa or my bed swathed in hot water bottles desperate to ease the agony and mess my back is.


Why do you constantly expect when you to talk to me for me to answer that I am ok / fine? Why ask if you dont care/believe or are bored by it all? Believe me I got bored of this shit years ago but I can’t lie when yet another diagnosis has been thrown my way. Despite your disbelief, lack of care of empathy my condition still exists. I am so sorry I don’t fit in with your preconceived ideas of chronic illness. This is what makes me so very angry.


I am angry that despite me getting a diagnosis from a neurosurgeon that I have spinal arthritis and there is nothing they can do. The bones are crumbling away, I am 40 years old and I am screwed. I am sorry that you don’t get that the doctor also believes I have a nerve root compression that has left my leg numb in places and in excruciating pain in others. I am angry that despite me telling you this you don’t actually care and I am beginning to wonder what actual purpose you serve in my life other than being completely unsupportive.


I am angry that because you can’t “see” my disability and that it conveniently gets forgotten. I don’t fit what with what you believe is disabled because I have all my limbs and I am not sat dribbling in the corner. Am I disbelieved because I try so very hard to fit in and be accepted. Just because I use a wheelchair / walking stick / crutches / frame does not mean I changed as a person or that my mental capacity has become so reduced i don’t see you for the completely shallow self absorbed person(s) that you are.


I am angry that due to this condition I get to see people at their very worst. I am angry that I am only contacted by you so that you have the latest gossip on me. When you relay it to your audience you can feign compassion and empathy so well but the truth is I won’t hear from you for months again unless something happens to me and you can use my misfortune to captivate your fans again. That makes me very angry and can you blame me?

* * *

Sorry for the rant, this post was written on the day I had seen the neurosurgeon. Despite the fact it looks like I will have to have an operation for a nerve root decompression I am more distressed about the early onset arthritis in my facet joints. People were asking me how I was and this was the response I got from a small minority of people. It got me into rant mode, which I try not to do very often. As a result of a few peoples action I have decided to no longer post on my personal facebook account about my health and confine it to my The Myasthenia Kid page on facebook.

To soften the rant I have included the picture of Mollie below. Dogs dont judge they love you unconditionally.

Mollie showing me her tennis ball collection.