End of my tether

It seems to be one thing after another at the moment and if you are bored reading it you can imagine how tedious I am finding living with it? The week after my unhappy hump day went reasonably well. I only needed two days on the diazepam and then it was taken as and when needed. I was bobbing along quite nicely until 4.20am Tuesday morning when I woke up with that familiar sinus pain like I had been smacked with a shovel and a distinct lack of balance that let me know Tuesday was just going to be awful. I had a migraine and this one was going to be an utter bastard.


I fished out my neck collar, took what pain medications I could and propped myself up on my pillows hoping that I had done enough to limit the attack to a few hours. However it wouldn’t have mattered what I had done yesterday this migraine was going to rate number 2 on the worst migraines ever – number one having taken place in either February or March and left me with amnesia. I didn’t drink or eat for well over 16 hours because even the thought of drinking made me want to puke and although my stomach was burning, I just couldn’t eat as I again felt so nauseous at the prospect of eating that I just had to ignore the rumbling stomach and hope that I wasn’t sick from being hungry.


I don’t remember a lot of yesterday, I remember at around 9am shouting help because Jay hadn’t twigged that anything was wrong and hadn’t bothered to check on me . He thought I was having a long over due lie on. I couldn’t roll over to grab my phone and I couldn’t think what to shout to get his attention. I was also having diarrhoea at this point (not in bed thank goodness but had resulted in 6 trips to the bathroom where I had stumbled clinging onto the safety rail) which was really fun when any smell good or bad was making me wretch and of course my shit smelt of roses and rainbows LOL! My head also felt like an axe was attempting to cleave it in half every time my head left the pillow. Help indeed was needed, but what could be provided was limited. Hot water bottles and a basin were brought to me. Thankfully I wasn’t sick but Oh how I wanted to be. 


Without being melodramatic the pain was so bad yesterday there were points I wanted to go to sleep and just not wake up. I have been through the agony of a CSF leak and although that was awful there was always some relief at some point. There was nothing yesterday the pain was just unrelenting, the light was too bright but my face was too sore to wear sunglasses. I was sweating and then I was freezing cold. I wondered if I had contracted meningitis. I did actually consider calling 999 for an ambulance but I couldn’t bear the prospect of being poked and prodded, expected to answer questions and be in a noisy environment. You know you are poorly when you don’t want to move and you don’t care that you should be calling for help.


At some point during the morning I heard them talking about oxygen on the radio ( I’m very lucky that I don’t need complete silence during an attack just a darkened room) and I remembered oxygen always helps me when I have a migraine. Another plaintive Help was shouted and Jay sprang into action set up my oxygen machine and got me hooked up to it. He also got me a bottle of water because the orange squash he had given me was turning my stomach and after each mouthful I wanted to bring it back up and more. The oxygen did help it lowered the pain level to an 8/10 instead of the 10/10 it had been since 4.20am


I spent the majority of the day in bed. At 1pm I got up because my back was killing me. That was a dreadful mistake after an hour I went back to bed and straight to sleep despite the pain. I got up again at 4pm and managed to have a drink, then I was so thirsty I couldn’t stop drinking and then I was ravenous with the post migraine munchies. I could have eaten my body weight in whatever food you brought me. I was despite sleeping all day fucking shattered. I went back to bed again at 6pm tried watching some tv but having jolted awake three times in 30 minutes gave up and slept solidly until 1am…..and was then awake for the rest of the night. I managed to get an hour of sleep between 7-8am this morning.


Today is brought to you by the letter C – for Coffee. I feel like I am floating I am so tired. I have managed to sort myself out and have a shower with Jays help. Honestly I was honking after sweating so much yesterday. My autonomic nervous system was going mental. I feel like I have taken too many pain killers as my head is floating and my face feels like it is sticking out 3 inches further than it is. I am going to put a letter together for my gp telling them I can’t go on like this. Just thinking about the fact I will have yet another migraine next month is making me cry. I have been tracking them on my phone and they happen at least once a month and always between the 18th -22nd of the month. It isn’t fair on me for these to continue to happen and it isn’t fair on Jay as he can’t take one day off a month to look after me as I am so ill I can’t do anything for myself. 

People also seem to be under the impression that you have the migraine and then like magic you are back to normal again, in reality it can take me several days after a severe attack to feel like I am functioning anywhere near normal, so it’s not just one day a month I am losing but 3 or 4 depending on the severity.


From what I have briefly read up during the early hours of this morning around 40% of women find their migraines worsen during peri-menopause and menopause. Even in the absence of menses there is still a very slight hormone fluctuation which can be enough to trigger a migraine. Which would be my case. I stopped my contraceptive pill in December as I wanted to see if the menopause fairy had joined me and it has now been over 5 months and there has been no period. Yet my migraines will always occur since stopping the pill between the 18th – 22nd of the month without fail. Occasionally like this month I will get two migraines, I had one last Tuesday, so exactly a week apart. I am at the end of my tether with it. All I want to do is cry but whats the point? It won’t change anything. I need specialist input now so I am going to write to my gp as due to Covid-19 I don’t want to go to the surgery unless I have to and ask if they ever did contact neurology like the doctor said she would and if they had suggested some medication as continuing on like this isn’t an option. I’m at the end of my tether with it.

Face masks

A few weeks ago I helped the local NHS hospital by altering some surgical masks for them that had come in but the elastic ear loops were too big. This led to a few of my friends asking if I would be making face masks or would I make them some face masks for them or their friends and family. I know the jury is out on the use of face masks. This post isn’t about that, there are research papers that are for and against the use of face masks by the general population. I think we can all agree that “home made” face masks when worn provide protection to other people more than the wearer – which is why many countries have adopted  the wearing of face masks so that they can all protect each other from Covid-19 and other nasties.

 
Initially I was very much in the camp of home made masks are bad. That they provided a false sense of security and that by having poor mask etiquette that they could cause more harm than good – if someone continually touches the front of the mask when wearing it and doesn’t wash their hands after they are capable of spreading their germs far and wide on every surface they touch. Since then there have been articles in The Guardian,  The New York Times that have shown even home made masks when constructed from the right materials can offer a level of protection that hadn’t been anticipated. Add in a filter to those masks – made of an unwoven material or a special mask filter ( you can buy at various oulets) they can provide as much protection as the surgical masks I was altering the other day. A link to the New York Times article can be found here.  The Daily Mail did an article –here The Guardians Article can be found here. So I am now very much of the opinion that yes we should all be wearing face masks of some description when out in public to help protect each other.
So for the last 20 days when physically able I have been making masks for friends and family to wear. All I have asked for is the cost of materials, being on a tight budget I can’t afford to be giving away material, elastic and pipe cleaners etc as much as I may wish too. With Mr Myasthenia kid at home, he has been able to keep Dembe entertained and do the chores I would normally push myself to do that would wipe out my energy reserves. Even with him doing that I have had a couple of days in that 3 week period where I have crashed hard just due to pushing myself too hard for too long in an effort to keep people supplied with masks and not letting anyone down. I am on an enforced break now as I have run out of elastic – I thought I had ordered enough but apparently not! I am awaiting fresh supplies. 
 
To be honest I am quite glad for the break, I am so tired mentally and physically it hasn’t been until I have stopped that I have realised how far past my reserves I have got. I always find it amazing how knackered I can be doing nothing ( but obviously I am not doing nothing as I am taking care of myself. I just judge myself way too harshly and think I should be as active as the next person even when in reality I know that is an impossibility ). There have been evenings when I have been so tired that I am unable to form a coherent sentence or stand up straight. The rest was long over due.
 
For my mask pattern I used this Youtube tutorial
 
 
Mr Myasthenia Kid has been helping me with cutting, pressing , folding pipe cleaners for the nose bands, going to the post office etc All the things that can take me more time than an able bodied person and things that I can’t do such as a post office run. Without his help and support I would never have been able to make the number of masks I have. 
 

 

 
 

 
I have been running on adrenaline for days, I knew I had. Last weekend I was supposed to be taking some time off for sewing but instead I started several other projects. Today (Tuesday  21st April ) is the first time I have sat and just done nothing. Everything is hurting and I feel zombie tired. Which is why I tend to keep pushing and pushing because I know how incapacitating the crash will be. I have always been a boom and bust merchant. Plus keeping busy stops me worrying about Covid-19 and what would happen if either of us got it. 
 
So due to my lack of elastic I have had to have a day off and it feels strange. I’m so tired though it was very clear that I needed it. I did manage to get Jay to help me highlight my hair as I am having real problems lifting my arms above my head. Within seconds of doing it I am getting awful pain in my shoulder joints. Normally I would battle on through but it is just too sore for that and I am having to put my arms down. He has done a good job and now my roots look far less obvious than they did previously.
 

 
I did have a lovely surprise this morning finding out that Natasha McCarty from Natasha Makes was sending me a gift after hearing about my run in with a pin cushion on Saturday!
 
 
 
On Saturday when I was busy making a baby bib for a friends new baby, I didn’t notice that I had knocked my pin cushion onto the floor. It had gone pin head side down leaving the sharp ends pointing up but hidden by the pin cushion. I use this particular pin cushion as it has sentimental value to me. It was my late paternal grandmothers and I use a lot of her old sewing stuff on a daily basis. It was only when I got up from my sewing machine and I removed my foot from the pedal, that I placed my foot on top of the pin cushion ( I was wearing socks only) and put all my weight through that foot to stand up. To say the air was blue would be an understatement! It took me ages to get all the pins out of my foot as there were around 20 or so on the cushion. I yelped and cried, there was blood and tears. Later when I looked at my sock I realised that the blood had come right through . 3 days on and the sole of my foot is still a little sore, not something I ever want to repeat, especially as a long time ago I stood on a darning needle and had to go to the local minor injuries unit to get it removed whilst using gas and air! I will be making the pin cushion as soon as it arrives and I can’t thank Natasha enough for that. 
 

 

 

 
 
Dembe modelling my creations from last weekend!
 
So for now I am putting my feet up and allowing myself to chill out for a few days!

To feel human again

It has been a manic few days and it has left me utterly exhausted. I have seen that many people I could almost be accused of being a social butterfly. All I know is today I feel like the batteries have been taken out and I am working with my emergency power supplies only.

We have started back at dog training and we are going twice a week. On Sundays Dembe has his agility training which he loves and is doing so well at. On Tuesdays he has his obedience training which he loves in a different way. Both tire him out mentally as well as physically. The problem with the dog training is that there is just one day in between which doesn’t quite give me enough time to bounce back if I am then adding in medical appointments or getting my hair done or seeing people. 

Tuesday was my final medical appointment out of a string of 4 over the last 3 weeks. One medical appointment in a week is enough to knock me for 6. 4 in the space of three weeks has sent me crashing. It’s hard to describe what you mean to people that aren’t sick. For me it means I wake up feeling more tired than when I went to bed. It is an effort at times to even take a breathe in. As the day wears on I feel like I have been at the gin, without the fun part, so my eyes are bouncing around all over the place and I feel disconnected from my body. I look very pale and run down but inside I feel like death warmed up. I can struggle to maintain my body temperature so that I am freezing cold ( even in the height of summer). I can get emotional over the slightest thing, lose my temper usually with inanimate objects that aren’t doing as they are told because my hands won’t work ( so I am continually dropping them ) . It makes it hard for me to complete anything that requires attention to detail.

Add in me making the stupid decision to make all the Christmas gifts for family & friends but not starting the majority of them until a few weeks ago and I feel like I am on a hamster wheel that I just cant get off. There is no down time as not doing something for a day puts me further behind but this week I have had to take a step back because I am so tired I can’t work without making mistakes. Doing nothing makes me feel like a failure and that I don’t contribute anything to the world…which is why I have been teaching myself how to crochet so that on the days I can’t sit at the sewing machine / embroidery machine I can do something else curled up on the sofa or in bed.

The stupid thing is I keep adding to this list of things to make which is then piling on the stress. I will get there but I keep having panic attacks when I see someone helpfully posting on Facebook that there are X amount of days / weeks until Christmas. I really need to learn to be kinder to myself as even on the days when I have felt drained I have still pushed myself to do just a little something. I like to break tasks down so that I when I come to make an item it is all ready to go and the amount of time it will take to get it all together will be massively reduced. 

So like yesterday I decided to have a go at making the Doggie Christmas Stocking from Sweetpea Embroidery. Because I know I need to make at least two of these for gifts, as I prepped the fabric pieces for the first stocking I did the second. It took me longer, obviously but Jay was home and was doing all the running around for me so all I had to do was sew. When or if I manage to get to the embroidery machine today all I will need to do is stitch it out as everything is ready and cut to size. This is how I have to do all my projects, I do all the prepping one day or over a couple of days and then when I make the item I can concentrate solely on that rather than expend energy I don’t have. It is very rare for me to be able to start and finish a project no matter how small in a day. As my actual time I am able to work is so severely limited. I can’t sit at the embroidery machine or sewing machine all day, I am deeply envious of those who can. I am in pain within 20 minutes, so have to take regular breaks. I have an alarm on my phone that goes off every 20 minutes to ensure that I get up and move / change positions. Otherwise it will cost me £45 at the physiotherapist whilst she tortures me ( in the nicest possible way ) to correct the damage I have done to myself. 

It’s the same for material prepping. Everything is done in stages. Many times I make cardboard templates to help me with ensuring I cut out the right size fabric pieces. This helps with cutting down waste and ensures that even if I am not thinking straight as long as I have the right template ( sometimes that isn’t as easy as it sounds) I can be trusted to cut my fabric out. Obviously making templates adds more time to a project, it tends to only happen if I know I will be making more than one of an item. Basically the majority of my life is spent breaking down tasks into smaller manageable chunks so that I have the energy to be creative and give my life some meaning.

Currently there are boxes everywhere with bits of fabric / templates / batting all cut to the correct sizes waiting to be embroidered and sewn together. It will all get done but it will be done slowly and in the best way that I can pace myself.

I am so exhausted today as Sunday I had two visits from friends who had come to collect their table runners that I had made them, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. It was great to see them but we also had dog training in the middle of the day.

The table runners had taken a lot out of me getting made and I had been stressed out about getting them straight and sewn together nicely. I took a lot of time over it. The top stitching alone left me needing a nap afterwards last Friday. I sewed the rest of it together on Saturday afternoon.

Monday I had my hair done for the first time since August, it needed done desperately as I had already used my dressmaking shears to hack a sizeable amount off the fringe ( bangs ). After my attempt at hairdressing it was even more important that it was sorted out. I am lucky that I have a wonderful friend who does my hair for me and knows I find the whole process exhausting. Doing it at home means it takes 2.5 hours instead of 4 hours being overstimulated by lights and sound in a hair salon. 4 hours in a salon would probably lead me to be bed bound for around a day.

Tuesday – the last medical appointment was for my filling. I did it without diazepam the first appointment in ages where I have managed that. My dentist and I have now got a process that works and reduces my anxiety. I had to ask him just to not tell me any detail about the procedure. I only need to know that I require a filling not what he will be doing. It worked brilliantly as he didnt tell me on the 4th of November what the process would be and yesterday as he did it he kept quiet . It worked like a charm. I was just left with TMJ pain in the afternoon and evening, which triggered a migraine. I spent a lot of the dog training session last night losing the vision in my right eye and the feeling that my scalp was shrinking.

Today ( Wednesday ) I have woken up with the remains of a migraine, waves of nausea and just generally feeling washed out and knackered. I will push myself later to get something on the Christmas present to do list made or completed but for the minute I am drinking bucket loads of coffee in the hope it will make me feel more human again.

Truth v Gossip

There is one thing that I have found since having several chronic health conditions that people simply do not understand and that is the fatigue levels that come with them. I know some people have created this fairy tale in their heads that either have withdrawn from society or that Mr Myasthenia Kid doesn’t let me out in the world. People stupidly believe this gossip rather than actually ask me. They are simply untrue, the reason I don’t go out very much is because I get so exhausted by doing very little outside the home.

At home I have an environment I can control. I have regular household sounds, lighting etc. All of which my body is used to. The minute any of that becomes too much I can go to bed, lie down, limit the light and sound. Out of the home I have zero control over the additional stimuli my body is bombarded with. Also these days I am using a scooter a lot of the time, the concentration levels involved in driving this even for a short period of 20 minutes, drains me. It makes it hard for me to manage a conversation and drive. The minute I don’t concentrate like when driving a car accidents can happen. I have almost gone off the sea wall down at the seafront because I was trying to talk and drive. It takes a lot out of me and unless you have to balance your activity and rest periods people just don’t understand it.

Since Sunday I have had an extraordinarily busy week, for me. For normal people this will probably sound like a leisurely few days. On Sunday we went to Pets at Home the big one so around 20 minutes in the car to get there. Then we went to Tesco to upgrade our phones which took about an hour. We had Dembe with us who behaved beautifully. There were lots of people in Tesco that I knew that haven’t seen me since I have lost 49lbs in weight and who also wanted to meet Dembe. So it was very busy. After the morning we had around 90 minutes sit down and then we went to visit friends with Dembe. It was lovely to see them both and Dembe really enjoyed his visit too. However by 6pm I was completely drained and was up in bed resting, before dropping off just after 8pm.

Many of you will be thinking how can that low level of activity wear you out? I wish I knew, my only explanation is the assault on all my senses just physically and mentally wears me out. The extra noise, people, lights, smells, physical activity of driving a mobility scooter. Being upright with my legs down and blood pooling, changes in temperature, all those things combined just zap any charge that was left in my batteries. On Monday it took me hours to get moving. I was fit for nothing until about 2pm, which is crazy. My body just felt like there were 15lb weights attached to each limb and my head, well I just couldn’t really focus on anything that demanded more than a limited amount of mental acuity. 

On Tuesday I felt a lot better as I had spend Monday recuperating, which again if you have never suffered from bone crushing levels of fatigue you would struggle to understand. We needed to take Dembe to the vets to be weighed and to get his worming tablets / flea / tick treatment. We were there around 20 minutes as we like to have a catch up with the staff as Dembe is very popular there. We then popped up to Tesco for a few items, we took Dembe with us to give him some more environmentalization training. We only needed three things but Dembe has such a huge fan club amongst the staff and customers that it took 40 minutes. I then spent as much of the afternoon as I could resting with my feet up as in the evening we had our first night back at our weekly dog training class.

Evenings are the absolute worst time for me to be out of the house. Purely because I go to bed every evening between 7pm – 8pm or earlier if it is a rubbish day. By then I struggle to hold myself upright, co-ordinate my movements and as I discovered last night I can also end up struggling to talk because my brain can’t channel the words to my mouth. Ending up with me looking like a fish out of water. I thought I would be ok, after all I did the dog training in the summer. But I don’t think I had been out as much during the day. The dog training lessons are intense. Even though I just sit there and let Jay do all the training. I can’t do the walking around or being up on my feet that much. 

I coped ok in June and July so it was really surprising ( and frustrating ) to me last night to get half an hour in and to start feeling really, really unwell. I don’t know about anyone else but I hate having to ask for help or potentially making a scene due to being ill. I have in the past been known to wait for everyone to leave the room before I have allowed myself to projectile vomit. Thankfully there was nothing for anyone to see, although I may have gone more pale than normal. I just suddenly had the internal organ sinking feeling, then felt I experienced some feelings of dissociation. I knew I was in the room but I didn’t feel I was part of it. Unless you have felt this it is a difficult feeling to explain. I can feel like this just before I faint and I knew that is what my body was preparing to do. As I was sat down I rapidly starting clenching my bum cheek and tensing my calves in an attempt to get the blood moving. The whole time I was absolutely terrified I was going to wake up surrounded by people having taken a nosedive from the chair.

The weird thing was I could see poor Dembe trying to alert Jay to what was happening as hit lay down on the floor and had his head turned to me. He was watching ensuring I was ok. When I spoke to Jay afterwards to let him know what had happened he said “why didn’t you get up and go to the car so you could lie down?” which is a reasonable enough question as normally I do have quite a bit of warning so I can avert a faint. I just said to him that I felt so bad I was terrified if I stood up that I would go down with a bang. He then said “well why didn’t you shout me?” the simple fact of the matter was I just didn’t want to do anything that would draw attention to me.

 I really HATE the spotlight being on me, I hate it even more if it is because I am having a funny turn or have fainted. It is stupid I know but I just can’t, it makes me feel so very uncomfortable. Like I am causing a nuisance or being melodramatic. This probably goes back to various incidents at school and at work where I have been seriously unwell and been called a drama queen or that I was causing a scene. When I was younger I was never believed when I was sick, even when I have had major surgery, I had work colleagues say I was doing it for attention. How on earth you get a team of NHS surgeons to open you up from pubic bone to sternum just for fun I have no idea but apparently I can.

Thankfully my funny turn went after 10 minutes but it left me feeling seriously drained. I spent the entire journey home yawning non stop which is always a sign that my blood pressure has dropped. I was in bed by 8pm and asleep by 9pm.

Today ( Wednesday ) I am seriously pooped but like I always say I’d rather be knackered due to going out and having fun or just living a normal life than being this wiped out from doing nothing. Again it has taken me all morning to get going. I have been up since 7am and it is only now at 13.30 that I am starting to feel human and that I can do anything that needs any mental clarity. On days like this I have to take advantage of any window of opportunity when I feel well enough physically and mentally to be able to get up and crack on with something I want to do.

Obviously having the Weimaraners did curtail my activities outside the house. It was too expensive to get dog sitters in all the time and there are only so many times you can ask friends to do it for you. They were too destructive to leave by themselves, so in the end it just became easier to not go out or just one of us go, than stress out about finding someone to stay with them. Our friends have been fabulous, Imogen looked after them so much in 2015 when I had my CSF leak. If it hadn’t been for her I wouldn’t have been able to attend half the appointments I did. She also looked after them when we went to the Emma Bridgewater factory for the day which was a 14 hour (plus) stint . My friend Sharon also did us a massive favour when she stayed with them so that Jay could appear on Sewing Quarter TV. Both Ellie and Heather have stepped up too and looked after them, along with Tracey, Sarah and so many others over the years. But even with that massive pool of helpers it wasn’t fair to continually ask them to look after them. So our outside activities took a back seat, plus a lot of the time I just wasn’t well enough.

Now we have Dembe and we are training him to be my assistance dog it means the whole world has opened up to me again. It is really weird after having 12 years of not really going anywhere but the hospital, the doctors surgery or the dentist. Those visits also wiped me out. We are so used to being home we are having to force ourselves to go out. Which is another reason why we are doing all the training with Dembe as it means at least once a week I will leave the house and also that he will be a well behaved assistance dog whom we can take everywhere with us. But I will always have to pace my activities. I will never be well enough to go out all day, every day of the week. I just don’t have the stamina or physical reserves to be able to cope with that. And that is fine with me. I do quite like my own company and being able to do the things I want to do. I guess I am saying I like a balance.

So when someone tells you that someone is a recluse or that they aren’t allowed to go out. Have a good long think about that person’s circumstances. Think about if they have a chronic health condition, suffered a bereavement all manner of things that could be the cause of them not being outside in the world as much as you think they should. Don’t take the easy option and accept the gossip no matter how credible the source because it is just that their take on what they “think” is happening. Which doesn’t make it the truth.

Warning shot

This last week has been a tad crazy. By “normal” people’s standards it’s a very light week, especially when you consider there was no full-time or even part-time work involved. My body is still playing catch up and my mind despite it being ten years on (since becoming sick) is struggling to come to terms with the fact that I can’t just do stuff like a normal non chronically sick person would.

 

There have been various things that have needed doing around the house for an absolute age, actually just months rather than years but the week before I had got to the point of no longer being able to put up with these jobs not being completed. Our tumble dryer (condenser) had developed a leak and now was having the habit of tripping out the electrics after it had been used. It had been unplugged and unused for the summer however we hit September and all it seemed to do was rain. I don’t mind drying the day-to-day washing on an airer in the house if it’s not possible to dry it outside but towels and sheets are another story. I bite the bullet and arranged for an engineer to visit. He would be coming on Tuesday which was also hubbys day off.

 

Two weeks prior I had arranged with my hairdresser to come over on Wednesday 6th to sort my hair out. It needed a full head of highlights as my greys were starting to show or fairy glitter strands as I like to call them. Plus I couldn’t do a thing with it, so it needed a good cut as well.

 

In January this year we had a leak behind a plasterboard, it was all sorted and settled. We decided that we would sort out getting the repairs done ourselves and then redecorate at our own pace. Hubby had been given the job of sorting out the plasterer. I had simply refused to be the responsible adult all the time just because I was at home and don’t work. It’s not just that, hubby also has a bit of a phobia about contacting people he doesn’t know (in his home world, in the world of work it’s not a problem), so he avoids it at all costs rather than confronting his fear. I was practicing some tough love but after 8 months I had to admit defeat. If I didn’t want to put tinsel around the holes in the plasterboard at Christmas I was going to have to sort it out myself. Luckily on a local community group on social media someone asked for a recommendation for a plasterer. Two names were mentioned I contacted both, arranged for them to come over and have a look at the job / give me a quote. The one I chose was available the following Thursday (7th).

 

I knew as I looked at the week ahead it was going to be tiring but I just assumed that I would bounce back after a good night’s sleep and be fine for the following day’s  activity. What an idiot I was. I am still trying to recover from last week. I have suffered with fatigue before but the levels of fatigue I am suffering with at the moment make me feel on a pretty regular basis that I am having an out-of-body experience.

 

Tuesday wasn’t too bad other than it was embarrassing. The cause of the leak in the tumble dryer was that the water collection point at the very back of the machine not accessible to mere mortals like you or I was completely choked up with dog hair. When an engineer tells you that’s the worst they’ve ever seen one blocked up, you want the ground to swallow you whole. The tumble dryer is cleaned regularly, the filter is cleaned after every load that is dried. The condenser unit is washed through once a week and it is hoovered inside at least once a month but even doing all that wasn’t enough to stop it getting overrun with dog hair! Remember we have three so maybe that is why? That cost us £50 for about 5 minutes work but it needed to be done.

 

That night I used the tumble dryer on one load. I really wished I hadn’t as once I had gone to bed as I spent the night panicking that it would have knocked the electric out in that part of the kitchen which unfortunately the fridge freezer is in. A few times before the tumble dryer had been fixed I had come down in the middle of the night to find that the fridge freezer had no power being supplied to it. What had been happening was the automatic safety cut off for the tumble dryer had been triggered which was then knocking out the fuse but not in the main fuse box. Wednesday morning I was absolutely exhausted from having very little sleep. And of course the Fridge-Freezer was absolutely fine.

 

My hair took three hours and by the time it was finished all I wanted to do was go to bed and rest, which is exactly what I did. I could barely sit or stand as my back was so painful from sitting upright for so long. My hairdresser did a fantastic job and she said my hair has come back lovely and thick after it thinning due to my hormones being out of whack. I am much happier with how it looks and I am so glad I can get it done at home without the added stimulation of the lights / noise / people at a salon. I thought going to bed for the rest of the day would be enough for me to bounce back for Thursday and the plasterer being here. No it wasn’t.

 

Thursday was an early start, I’d had to set my alarm as I knew with being so exhausted I would want to sleep on. That luxury wasn’t available to me when the plasterer had said he would be here for 9am. I had assumed that the job which was to skim a wall and fix two holes in the plasterboard would take a couple of hours, after all it wasn’t a whole room. Jay would be at work so I would have to ensure the dogs behaved and were out of the guys way. We installed a free-standing baby gate at the bottom of the stairs so that the dogs wouldn’t bother him whilst he worked. Normally the dogs are pretty good when there is someone working in the house, after the initial excitement they tend to just settle down and go to sleep. Not last Thursday they decided that they would bark and generally make a nuisance of themselves. I did managed to keep them occupied by stuffing Kongs with peanut butter and bread. Eventually they did just flake out and go to sleep but not until after a stressful first few hours.

 

The plastering took over 5 hours and by the time he left I was on my knees with exhaustion. I could barely function at all I was so tired. Again I thought with a good night’s sleep and I would be ok. I would have a lazy day Friday and everything would be fine. In the old days when I first got sick and possibly up until last year that would have been the case. However for some reason this year it has all changed and it’s taking me much longer to recover and smaller things are causing major recuperations. It is very frustrating as my brain is refusing to acknowledge this. Friday I just felt drunk or extremely hung over all day. I couldn’t watch TV or listen to the radio as I just couldn’t follow what was going on.  I did as little as possible Friday and Saturday I just slept on and off all afternoon. I had hoped by Sunday that I would have turned the corner but after a short visit from my parents in the early afternoon I just crashed and ended up in bed for a few hours.

 

This week is a quiet week, I had a friend visit Monday which was good as it forced me to behave and do nothing. Tuesday hubby was day off so he did the cleaning and any household chores that needed doing. My head is still giving me lists of things it insists I must do but my body is saying no. I had hoped I would be ok this week so I could potter around and get a few jobs done before Mr Myasthenia Kids holiday next week but it’s just not going to happen. Mestinon / Pyridostigmine Bromide is only lasting 3-3.5 hours instead of the 4-6 it had been lasting previously, this is a warning shot to let me know I can’t keep pushing myself and expect no consequences. Hopefully the next 6 and a bit weeks are going to be very quiet before we go on an adventure to the Emma Bridgewater Pottery factory as a birthday treat.

 

 

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

Last week was a bit of a nightmare. I was so fatigued it was ridiculous. I was sleeping hours but still felt like a zombie when I awoke. My legs felt like they were made of lead. My brain was sending the messages to them to move but they would refuse, causing me to fall over. When I could move them they felt as if they were made of lead. Climbing the stairs (which I limit anyway) felt like I was scaling mount Everest. Then on Tuesday afternoon, I recognised a feeling that I haven’t had in a long time. My face, eyelid and eyebrow were beginning to drop. I ended up going to bed for a lie down and slept for three hours. When I awoke the feeling was gone and I was relieved to have dodged a bullet. But I hadn’t, when I woke up on Wednesday morning this had happened.

 

 

Now I have a level of Ptosis everyday, normally unless you were specifically looking for it you wouldn’t know it was there. My eyelid droops to where the pupil starts to become obscured. That level of Ptosis I can cope with, it doesn’t affect my vision and it doesn’t tend to make me feel unwell.

Wednesday morning I woke up feeling horrendous, arms and legs both felt like they were made of lead. I was dizzy and due to my eye being nearly completely closed I couldn’t see very well. My forehead felt as if it was being ripped in two, with my left eyebrow arching in an attempt to keep the right eye open, only it was failing miserably. After a couple of hours I decided this really wasn’t worth the hassle of trying to stay out of bed. At 8am (I had risen at 6am) I gave up, took some HuzerpineA (like a herbal Mestinon as I can’t tolerate the real stuff) and set my alarm for 9am hoping when I woke up the Ptosis would be gone.

 

I gave myself an hour as like Mestinon this stuff takes about 20-30 minutes to get working. Plus I was also having a friend over, so needed to be washed and dressed before she arrived. I naively thought an hour in bed would be the magic cure. What an idiot! When it’s bad like this even proper Mestinon can fail to work. I should have realised when my alarm went off, that this was not a good day. I never fall straight back to sleep after being up for a few hours. I messaged the friend to advise them I would have to cancel, something I hate doing as it means I have knackered their plans for the day. She was absolutely fine about it but it doesn’t stop the guilt over cancelling. I text my husband to let him know I would be staying in bed for the day and that I might need him home if things got worse. I then went straight back to sleep.

 

Most of Wednesday was spent asleep if I am honest, I have a few brief periods awake mainly to get something to eat and have a cigarette. The fact that I was so utterly incapacitated scared me. This reminded me of the bad old days when I first got sick in 2007. How I had gone from working full-time to a year later being ill-health retired. I hadn’t been this sick what I call MG sick in years. Probably close to nine years, so you can imagine my shock, when this came totally out of the blue.

 

Thursday I woke up feeling an awful lot better but then by the afternoon was back in bed on home oxygen. I couldn’t take a deep breath in, as my chest just felt like it couldn’t expand. This really scared me as I have been blue lighted to hospital barely conscious due to breathing difficulties. This was exactly how it had started in 2008, I tried to walk across the lounge floor but stumbled as my legs wouldn’t work properly. The following day whilst hubby was out getting some shopping (helpfully forgetting to take his mobile phone) I had collapsed unable to take a proper breath in. I’d had to call 999 myself, trying to stay calm whilst the supply of oxygen in the house felt like it was running out.

There have only been a few times in my life I have been utterly terrified by my symptoms and that was one of them. I ended up being wheeled straight into resus, placed on oxygen running at 15 litres a minute and I still had very poor oxygen saturation. They  discussed with me about putting me into a medically induced coma and putting me on a ventilator. They wanted Jay to be at the hospital, I now realise it may have been to say goodbye, at the time I was oblivious and said he had to look after the dogs. I look back now and it moves me to tears. I wasn’t frightened at the time I was just exhausted from not being able to breathe.

 

I had all this running through my head again on Thursday, thankfully within two hours I was feeling much better but I had to spend the rest of the day in bed.

Gradually I have improved and back to my normal (but limited) levels of activity. However I am still having days where my arms and legs are refusing to work the way that they should. Today I was trying to do stuff around the house and I kept falling over my own feet as they felt as if they were stuck to the floor every time I went to move. I have started choking again (frequently) on fluids, something which hasn’t happened in a really long time.

It’s frustrating that despite in many aspects of my health improving a great deal, no more headaches, much less joint pain since giving up dairy, that this has started up again after leaving me alone for such a long time. Thankfully I have a hospital consultants appointment coming up at the end of next month and I will be able to discuss it with him then. I think it maybe time to bring up the possibility of Myasthenia Gravis again as seronegative MG seems to be much more accepted than it was ten years ago.

 

This song was going through my mind the whole of Wednesday and Thursday

 

 

Could it be Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome – PoTS?

I posted this in August last year. Due to having a crazy week (Insomnia/painsomnia)  and a dentist’s appointment today I find myself too exhausted to write a new blog post.

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

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

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

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

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

My main symptoms at the time of diagnosis were as follows

  1. palpitations
  2. feeling faint or fainting (aka pre-syncope and syncope. Please remember only about 30% of PoTS patients faint but many feel faint)
  3. feeling like an elephant was sat on my chest and not being able to breathe properly
  4. racing heart rate every time I changed position, even rolling over in bed.
  5. greying out, especially after eating.  (My peripheral vision greys out)
  6. Insomnia (BIG TIME)
  7. Dizziness
  8. Migraines and shockingly bad almost migraines
  9. Cognitive deficit (aka brain fog /aphasia/ short term/long term memory problems)
  10. Chest pain (too many times to mention I thought I was going to have a heart attack)
  11. Reduced sweating (some people start getting excessive sweating, I only get excessive sweating at night)
  12. Fatigue

This list probably doesn’t cover all my symptoms and unfortunately many PoTS symptoms also merge into EDS symptoms as in the gut problems and bladder problems that many of us with both conditions have. It can get very difficult to differentiate the two. For a full list of symptoms please click here.

So what can you do if you suspect you have PoTS?

I can only base this on how I went about getting my diagnosis but it is the same advice I give everyone who asks my advice. 

Firstly get hold of a decent blood pressure monitor especially one that can also take your pulse at the same time. Here is a list of blood pressure monitors that have been validated by the British Heart Foundation as accurate enough to monitor your blood pressure at home. If you can afford it get one with a memory so it records your readings so that you can’t be accused of making the numbers up. It is important to understand that blood pressure does not play an important part in getting a diagnosis. Some people with PoTS have normal blood pressure, some have low and others have high. Why you need the BP monitor is so that you can start tracking your pulse and your blood pressure. If you can’t afford a blood pressure monitor for whatever reason, a pulse oximeter ( a little device than can read your pulse by clipping onto your finger) is the next best thing and you can pick them up online from as little as £10. 

Please remember people with PoTS tend to have very cold fingers (and toes) so before using a pulse oximeter ensure your fingers are warm enough to provide an accurate reading. Before my second tilt table test (yes I was stupid enough to do it twice) I had to sit with my fingers in a bowl of warm water as the pulse ox couldn’t get a reading.

Secondly understand what PoTS is!

PoTs is a rise in your pulse / heart rate of at least 30 beats per min (bpm) or hitting 120bpm or over, within the first ten minutes of standing. In children (up to the age of 19) the rise needs to be over 40bpm. If your heart rate doesn’t increase by 30bpm or over 120bpm within the first ten minutes of standing it is unlikely to be PoTS. 

When a normal person goes from sitting to standing their pulse / heart rate will increase on average by 15-20bpm. Within a minute or so their heart rate will go back to normal. A person with PoTS could start with a baseline heart rate of 80bpm and on standing increase to at least 110bpm. Then as they continue to stand their pulse could increase further. I know on my own tilt table test my own heart rate increased to 150bpm, unfortunately I don’t know what my baseline measurement was. Usually my pulse is in the 80’s and if that was the case I certainly managed the increase of 30bpm and smashed the 120bpm threshold.

Because many people (but not all) with PoTS also seem to have low blood pressure that is why I recommend getting a monitor. It helps to see what your blood pressure and pulse are doing after specific triggers such as climbing the stairs, raising your hand above your head, eating – particularly carb loaded meals. Many people with PoTS find their symptoms are much worse after eating heavy carb meals, so it is recommended to eat high protein low carbohydrate meals which don’t cause postprandial symptoms.

Thirdly conduct your own poor man’s tilt table test.

You maybe wondering what on earth is a poor man’s tilt table test, that is ok I was left scratching my head after first hearing this term on a forum called DINET. Because none of us own our very own tilt table designed for testing people for PoTS amongst other things, we can replicate how we will respond to the actual test by completing the poor man’s tilt table test and some gp’s who are PoTS savvy will do this in their consulting room or at the very least conduct a standing test.

To conduct a poor man’s tilt table test, you need somewhere comfortable and relaxing to lie down, without interruptions and preferably away from harsh or natural light. A wall to stand against which is adjacent to the relaxing lie down area however if you don’t have this don’t worry you can still conduct the test. You also need your bp monitor / pulse ox and a handy sidekick to record your test results. Also your sidekick can rescue you should you faint whilst completing this test so please be careful and do not attempt to complete it without having someone with you. Please also ensure that the area is safe should you decide to face plant, so free from things you could hurt yourself on. Cushions or pillows on the floor can help prevent injury!

To start the test you need to lie down and relax, no talking, no interruptions for 20 minutes. If you can darken the room in anyway before starting the test do. At the end of the 20 minutes with as little movement as possible take your blood pressure and pulse readings. These are your base line readings and what you will use to compare against the reading you get during the test.

Once you have your baseline readings stand as quickly as you can placing your back against the wall. The wall just helps prevent you from moving, people with PoTS tend to be natural fidgets because we either faint or feel like we are going to faint. Moving keeps the blood flowing, we don’t want you to do that whilst you are standing up as it may mess up the results. If you don’t have a wall to prop yourself up against try and keep your legs as still as possible.

Then at 1 minute, 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes and 10 minutes take readings of your blood pressure and pulse or get your trusty assistant to do it. After the ten minute reading has been taken, sit down get your legs elevated and have a drink of water. You may notice that your feet / legs have gone a nice shade of red or purple. Don’t be alarmed this is called blood pooling and is very common with PoTs.

Now take a look at your readings if it shows an increase of 30+ bpm / 120 bpm this is positive for PoTS. Do not despair if it doesn’t show PoTS one negative poor man’s tilt table test does not mean it’s not PoTS, it may just mean you weren’t particularly symptomatic that day. Try to complete the test on a day when your symptoms are more evident.

Other things that might show during a poor man’s tilt table test are things like orthostatic intolerance ( your blood pressure goes below 90/60 on standing), you may have also fainted, if so I am sorry. The blood pressure readings could also reveal if you suffer from hyper-PoTS, which is where you have high blood pressure and PoTS. This needs to be treated differently to “normal” PoTS as most doctors will avoid giving you medication that will increase your blood pressure.

If you can’t for whatever reason do the poor man’s tilt table test you could perhaps try what is known as the standing test. Instead of lying down you sit down for 5 to 10 minutes to get your baseline pulse and blood pressure readings and then stand for as long as you can. Taking your readings at the same intervals as the poor mans test. This can also show PoTS. Remember PoTS stands for postural (position) orthostatic, tachycardia (fast heart rate / pulse), Syndrome (collection of symptoms and no two patients are alike).

What to do next?

Print off the gp’s guide from http://www.potsuk.org/gp_guide and book an appointment with your gp or a doctor at the practice who has been the most supportive. Sometimes these aren’t necessarily the same. Whilst waiting for your appointment take a look (if you are in the UK) at the Doctors list on the same website. This will give you an idea of who you can ask to be referred to, not all cardiologists are knowledgeable in the area of PoTS so it makes sense to see an expert, rather than someone who will give you the run around. For international readers DINET also has a Physician’s list.

If you have a disappointing gp visit and they still will not listen to you even when provided with your own test results and the gp guide, do not give up. Try every doctor at the practice if you have to and if that doesn’t work contact the practice manager. If you get no joy after all of that try reaching out to one of the many UK facebook PoTS groups. They have members all over the country and they maybe able to help you find a new gp practice with more sympathetic gp’s who are aware of the condition. 

If you have a disappointing consultants visit because despite your request of being sent to a specific doctor who is knowledgeable about the condition and you didn’t get to see one, you have a right to ask for a second opinion and ask once again to see one of the doctors named on the potsuk.org website.

You will get there in the end!

Most doctors will not confirm a diagnosis of PoTS without conducting a Tilt Table Test, ECG and possibly 24 hour blood pressure / heart monitoring. I was diagnosed on my tilt table results alone possibly because from 2007-2011 I had so many other investigations conducted they decided nothing more was needed.

The good news is that many people recover from PoTS especially if they have primary PoTS. Primary PoTS is usually caused by pregnancy, a virus, trauma or prolonged bed rest. Astronauts suffer from PoTS when returning to the Earth’s atmosphere and when their bodies re-adjust to the Earth’s gravitational pull their symptoms disappear.

Teenagers who develop PoTS also have a high chance of growing out of it. Researchers believe that teenagers develop PoTS due to the hormonal changes and growth spurts they are subjected to. Patients like these tend to grow out of their symptoms by their mid- twenties.

Patients with secondary PoTS, so PoTS that has happened due to a primary condition such as cancer, autoimmune diseases (like M.S, Lupus, Sjogrens), Ehlers Danlos Syndrome can also look forward to on the whole having the condition managed through medication and lifestyle changes (exercise, increased fluids, salt, adequate rest).

However I would be remiss if I didn’t state that there are patients like me that have refractory PoTS (it doesn’t respond to medication) and go onto develop more issues relating to our autonomic nervous system. We are the minority though not the majority. I don’t want to scare anyone who has just started on this journey I just want to be truthful.

My symptoms now are pretty much the same as when I first started on this journey with PoTS / Dysautonomia. I still have Ptosis on and off which no one has ever been able to explain. I still have issues with my breathing, fatigue, syncope and pre-syncope. A good day means that my heart isn’t continually feeling like it is fighting out of my chest on every change in posture. A bad day means not being able to sit up in bed without feeling faint, my heart rate not dropping below 100bpm even at rest. 

With my combined conditions each day is very much different with a new set of symptoms to overcome. It is exhausting, it makes me angry, it makes me sad and quite a lot of the time it makes me laugh because my body is just so screwed up!

One last thing…..if you are diagnosed with any type of tachycardia, including PoTS and you hold a driving licence you must inform the DVLA. You can do that via this Link. You will also need to contact your car insurance providers.

Another great source of information is Stars another charity which helps people suffering with a variety of conditions including PoTS.