You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Blogging for ME Awareness’ category.

Just a quick and fun blog post (to distract me from other posts i could write which are less fun, say about ITCHING!Arghhh!).

I discovered the other week that if you type “ME symptoms” into Google Images, my Symptoms Picture from ME Awareness Day last year is the top hit! I just did it again and it is still in the prime location. Also the two other images i created for the occasion are on the first page of results. I wonder how long they have held that position?

This really cheered me up when I saw it. I know it is silly on the one hand, but on the other hand it does suggest that many people are seeing them. Some of them may not have ME/CFS and may be learning more about it, which was the point of putting so much work into the images in the first place. It was hard work and it is nice to see it has possibly  been worth it.

I have been wondering what to do next year as I was concerned that recent efforts were not having much effect. Maybe they are having more effect than i thought! It is the International Top Hit!!

Also, don’t companies pay lots of money/make lots of effort to get the top slot on Google and other search engines? Granted the other images there are a bit rubbish so my competition was weak, but ha ha anyway.

Advertisements

 Or should I say ME/CFS/FM Awareness Day, as this year I want to talk about Fibromyalgia… even though I do not have this condition.

I suspect that those of us who do not have Fibromyalgia, even if we do have ME/CFS/CFIDS do not really know what exactly it is. I know a couple of people (not that well, admittedly) who have Fibromyalgia, and still had only a vague idea of what it involved.  My basic understanding went as far as “ME with more pain” and “warmer climates help”… Recently i have been having more intense and different (for me) pain and have suspected that i may be developing some Fibro-like symptoms, so decided to look into it further.

*Please note* I have not been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, nor am i any kind of expert on the subject, but i will try to link to information that will help to explain it better than i can. I have conducted two interviews with people who have Fibromyalgia, I will link to them at the end of the post.

What is Fibromyalgia (FM)?

 (this text taken from here (as are the “differences” and “similarities” sections below))

FM is a malfunction of the central nervous system that causes disordered pain processing, and results in pain amplification. The main symptoms of FM include:

  • Widespread Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep Disorders

Other symptoms that may occur include:

  • Chest Pain
  • Persistent Headaches, Migraines
  • T.M.J. (temporomandibular joint syndrome)
  • Mitral Valve Prolapse
  • I.B.S. (irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Vision Problems
  • Urinary Problems
  • Acid Reflux
  • Allergies
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness and Tingling
  • Sensitivity to cold or heat
  • Depression
  • R.L.S. (restless legs syndrome)
  • Chemical or Environmental Sensitivities
  • Impaired Balance or Coordination
  • Problems with Memory, Concentration and Cognitive Functioning

Are ME/CFS and FM basically the same illness?

After some internet research, the consensus seems to be that NO they are not the same illness, but that there are people who exhibit both sets of symptoms.  And there may be many connections between them. The similarities are:

  • Reduced Cerebral Blood Flow to the Cortex and Midbrain
  • HPA (hypothalamic pituitary axis) Suppression
  • Reduced Levels of Serotonin
  • Non-restorative Sleep
  • Reduced Levels of Growth Hormone
  • Evidence of a Genetic Component

I recently read online about research/theories of Central Sensitivity Syndromes (CSS). These are a collection of conditions which are linked by problems with the Central Nervous System and this leads to what they call “central sensitization”. The conditions which are considered under this umbrella are Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, among many others which we will recognise and often suffer from in tandem, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Temporomandibular Disorders, Tension Headaches, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, and several others. I find this interesting and heartening that people are looking not only at biological/neurological factors for these illnesses but also the links between them. What continually frustrates me is when i get something new and it is treated in complete isolation to my existing conditions, when, to me it seems obvious there are connections to be made, not only in understanding them, but also potential in treating them. Click here to read the articles I refer to, start on page 12).

Talking about CSS may see a bit of an aside, but i think it is a new way to look at our illnesses and the links between them. It may lead to more effective pain management and treatment for people who have several of these painful conditions, rather than treating each one as a separate entity, with a drug/treatment for each. I have read concerns from people with ME/CFS that the pain then becomes the focus and the one thing treated and the rest of the illness will be ignored. I understand this, but I have found my symptoms of pain and discomfort to be ignored and they have gone unmanaged for so long, whilst getting steadily worse. I have found that sometimes for long periods my pain has taken over my life and prevented management of other problems, such as sleep, pacing, relaxation and so on. It needs to be looked at for those of us who have pain. I don’t think it is an either/or. I also read (somewhere) that the immune system has a role in Central Sensitization, so it may not be as unrelated to other non-pain symptoms as it first appears…

So, what are the differences between them?

  • FM is identified by 18 distinct tender points (designated points on the body that are painful when pressure is applied), while CFS/ME is distinguished by post-exertional malaise (deep fatigue and exhaustion following physical exertion, which lasts more than 24 hours).
  • Substance P (a neurotransmitter that sends pain signals) is elevated in FM but not in CFS/ME
  • RNaseL (a cellular antiviral enzyme) is frequently elevated in CFS/ME but not in FM
  • CFS/ME is often triggered by an infectious or flu-like illness, while FM is usually triggered by a severe physical or emotional trauma (for example, injury, illness, surgery, prolonged stress)

Exercise: One major difference (from ME/CFS) I have found when reading about FM is that exercise is recommended and is helpful in pain management and taking in some control over pain symptoms. I have recently read “Fibromyalgia: Simple Relief  Through Movement” by Stacie L. Bigelow (2000, John Wiley & Sons, Inc) as I was looking to find some simple stretches that are designed in a way that I could do them, and which might help me to manage some of my pain and muscular tension. She explains the thing I had heard about FM before; that it is a sleep disorder. In my recent internet searches I have not found it referred to in that way so much, and I wonder if it is an outdated view to characterise sleep problems as the root cause of the condition, rather than the Central Nervous System (I don’t know, I am speculating). However, from what she says, it does seem that much of the pain is caused by the lack of restorative sleep; that people with FM do not get into a certain phase of sleep which is when the body heals itself and repairs damage to tissue. She explains that when we use our muscles, they are damaged and this is the normal process which leads to strengthening: We use a muscle and when it repairs itself it prepares itself for being used again by repairing itself stronger than it was before, which is how we build muscle mass and strength. In FM the sleep is disturbed, and is not sufficient to repair the muscles as quickly as someone without FM, leading to greater pain after activity and often an avoidance of further activity, leading the muscles to seize up. A cycle of pain develops.

Even though i do not have an FM diagnosis, I think that some of these processes are going on for me. I got very motivated to do movement and activity when I read the book, and even started to entertain the idea of actual exercise! Then I remembered which body I was in and that I have ME and POTS, not FM, and it was just not going to be possible to take it that far. But I do think moving as much as we can within our limits has to be good. I sometimes think my weak bladder and the fact that I live in a house with stairs (though we do have a downstairs toilet, thankfully!) must be keeping me in a better state than if I was just sitting/lying completely still all day, rather than getting up fairly often to go to the toilet. It is not much, but it is something. I wonder how people who have both FM and ME/CFS manage to balance the pain and the pacing, it must be harder to decide when to move and when to rest when you have both.

Interestingly I have recently been taking a new night-time medication and the result is much better sleep and my muscular pain is much, much better. I really did not think my sleep was that bad (I was certainly getting enough hours) but it seems it was not good quality, despite all my efforts of sleep hygiene etc. I will certainly be paying much more attention to this link in future and talking to doctors if this medication ceases to work for sleep in future.

Two people I know with Fibromyalgia have kindly answered my interview questions, click here to see their answers.

Here are some websites to find out more about Fibromyalgia: (please feel free to add any others you know about/like in the comments section, thanks!)

http://fmcfsme.com/index.php

http://www.fmaware.org/site/PageServer?pagename=fibromyalgia 

http://cfidsselfhelp.org/library/about-fibromyalgia

http://www.ukfibromyalgia.com/

http://www.emotionalprocessing.org.uk/ (not specific to FM but may be of interest)

GIVEAWAY!!

If you would like my copy of Fibromyalgia: Simple Relief Through Movement, as mentioned above please leave a comment below and I will pick the winner at random (i may even use a hat!) at the end of May and contact you to arrange to post it to you. Please check back here at start of June to see who is the winner, just in case i cannot get your email from your comment!

I have found that the book is not really suitable for me as someone with the severity of ME that i have, but i will be copying the gentle stretches before i pass it on, as they do look possible. If you have FM and can manage your sleep to enable you to gradually tolerate more activity in your life, it is a motivating and sensible book written by someone with FM.

To read what other’s are blogging about for International ME/CFS/FM Awareness DAy 2010 click here!

These are interviews I did (by email) with two friends with FM as part of my blog for ME/CFS/FM Awareness Day 2010. They are in their own words. To read the main post, click here.

Interview One – Maggie:

I’m a 54 year old woman, divorced with two grown up sons.

How long have you had FM? How does it affect you now, what are your main symptoms and has it changed over time?

I’ve had fibromyalgia for almost 12 years. Since coming to live in Spain 5 years ago my condition has been a lot less of a burden. Largely as a result of the climate –sun and warmth make an enormous difference, which in turn means I am able to walk and move about more easily on a regular consistent basis and am therefore less stiff. In addition the pace of my life here is much slower, the general rhythm of the day is more relaxed. I also live on the coast which means I don’t have to deal on a day to day basis with hilly terrain, and living in a small flat cuts out the need for using stairs many times in a day, and is also a more manageable space re housework, cleaning etc.

The symptoms are many and variable – ongoing pain in some part of my body – somedays, knees, and hands other times neck and shoulders, sometimes one side of the body another day the other. The worst is the sense of fatigue that comes on very suddenly, and unexpectedly, often a result of overdoing things or as a direct result of stress and anxiety – even re minor things eg if washing machine breaks my stress levels are completely out of proportion with the incident  and any anxiety affects my body and its capability profoundly. I am certainly not as ill as I was 5 years ago but that is because I have drastically changed my lifestyle – when I return to cold weather or stressful situations my symptoms are exacerbated. It’s also hard to know how much the symptoms have changed because over time living with pain – I have learned to shut out sensations of pain, if I didn’t do that my life would be miserable.

What was happening at the time you became ill? Do you have a theory about what caused it/triggered it for you?

The onset of illness was very sudden and acute. However I was overworking and caught a virus which caused inflammatory arthritis in all joints of my body – I was confined to bed for many months unable to walk, move etc the doctors told me that the fibromyalgia was a direct result of the continued acute pain suffered during the course of this illness . So in my opinion the overworking/ stressed lifestyle lowered my bodily resistance making me victim to a nasty virus – I agree with the doctors that the virus caused arthritis and fibromyalgia set in as my body was unable to deal with the ongoing pain.

What changes have you made to your life to accommodate it?

I have completely revolutionized all aspects of my life. I have had to change not only the things I do and the manner in which I do them but also my attitude to life. I have had to become much more selfish in relation to my life, and much more discerning re what  I do and when I do it – I live alone now as it is easier for me not having to cope with the practical and emotional demands of other people —-I now please myself and am answerable to no-one. I have to work hard at always retaining a positive attitude. I have had to recognize, come to terms with and accept the severe limitations that the condition brings but to be happy within those limitations.

Is there anything that has helped you to cope with it? (Either prescribed medication or something else).

Acupuncture, hydrotherapy, gentle regular non aerobic exercise eg walking cycling swimming. And plenty of rest. Counselling helped me enormously to come to terms with what I couldn’t change and the strength to change what I could. As for prescribed medication eg ant inflammatories, analgesics, sleeping medication – I personally now only resort to taking medication if it is an emergency as the long term toxic effects of ongoing analgesia are in my opinion counterproductive. When in pain I try everything from application of heat or cold, yoga, just lying and resting and waiting….

How do you understand it and how do you describe/explain it to others?

It’s a complex syndrome which affects the nervous system and pain control mechanism of the body, its also a metabolic disorder in that the muscles burn up ATP very fast hence creating the symptom of fatigue.

How closely do you think it is related to ME/CFS, if you are familiar with what that condition involves? What do you see as distinct/different?

I think there is a definite relation between these types of disorder not so much in the symptomology as in the cause.

What other diagnosis/conditions do you have alongside FM? Do you think they are related to each other?

I think I answered this re having low resistance  virus arthritis = ongoing pain = fibromyalgia develops as a result.

When and how were you diagnosed? Did you know what FM was before that? Did you have to fight to be diagnosed or was it straightforward? Did you match all the tender points? Do you think these are a good indicator of having FM?

 I was diagnosed more than a year after I became ill. I had never heard of the condition before. I think I was lucky that one day I had the fortune to be seen by a hospital doctor who knew about the condition – once the diagnosis was made – I could then understand what my body was going through. Yes I do match all the tender points – and yes I think they are evidently a good indicator of FM

Are there any good web sites/other resources that you would recommend to people wanting to know more about FM?

In the early stages of the illness I found the British Fibromyalgia web site very helpful and their printed information and leaflets were invaluable in helping family and friends  understand what you were going through. I would say find as much info as you can – learn to undersatand the mechanics of the illness and accept that life cannot continue being the same you have to change irrevocably and only you can determine whether that change is a positive one or a negative one.

Is there anything else you would like to say about life with FM?

You have it. There’s no cure. Learn to live with it. Do everything you can to be as comfortable and happy as you can whenever and as often as you can. Don’t let it defeat you psychologically and spiritually.

Interview Two – Jo:

How long have you had FM? How does it affect you now, what are your main symptoms and has it changed over time?

I think I’ve had FM for a very long time. Sometime in my twenties I realised that everywhere on my body hurt if I pressed it. In my late twenties I started to get muscular pain after small exertion. I was always at the doctor’s or the osteopath. But even earlier, in my teens I can remember being in agony after exercise and wondered why everyone else didn’t seem to be as affected. I put it down to not being very fit.

Now, my main symptoms are fatigue, muscular stiffness, joint stiffness and pain in the most used areas – across my shoulders and lower back. If I get into a good place with my energy levels and do too much I can be in a great deal of pain with my whole skeleton feeling like it is lit up. Thankfully that doesn’t happen too often.

What was happening at the time you became ill? Do you have a theory about what caused it/triggered it for you?

For me, stress seems to be the trigger. I have always been very stressed and have had emotional difficulties all my life. I store tension in my body and have problems releasing emotion.  If I have massage or other body therapies it can be upsetting for me as memories and emotion can be released that way.

What changes have you made to your life to accommodate it?

Well, the fibro on its own wasn’t too bad for functioning. I had to be careful about sitting at a computer for long periods of time, spent a lot of money on osteopaths and massage, tried to make sure I kept supple through swimming and pilates and so on. It was when the fatigue really kicked in that the problems started. I had to give up work. Everything changed.

Is there anything that has helped you to cope with it? (Either prescribed medication or something else).

I used to drink alcohol which is a great muscle relaxant, but that has its own problems. At one point I used to get strong, codeine based painkillers from the doctor, and developed a bit of a habit. Not a good way to carry on.  Once I had a diagnosis it became easier and I stopped self-medicating. Now I take low-dose amitriptyline and low dose SSRI antidepressant. The two together really help pain and sleep. Paracetamol is good for bad days and can help stop me building up into a pain crisis. Prevention is much better than cure and I’m much better when I do my Pilates stretches in the morning.  I also regularly do a body scan meditation for relaxation, and I rest three times a day for at least half an hour.

How do you understand it and how do you describe/explain it to others?

I don’t generally explain the pain. I’m more usually trying to explain my fatigue and walking difficulties as they are much more visible. Sometimes my partner asks me if I’m ok and I just mutter ‘in pain’. It’s so familiar to me that I accept it like breathing. It’s just part of me. I understand it as a holding on of tension, my body’s complaint against having to do the work of my faulty emotional processing.

How closely do you think it is related to ME/CFS, if you are familiar with what that condition involves? What do you see as distinct/different?

I think they are one and the same; all part of the same continuum. The FM is, for me, at the sharp end of the wedge. It belongs more to the earlier onset of my ME/CFS. The fatigue, or thick end of the wedge is where my body has been holding this tension for so long it is having to stop. I know when I’m improving because I get less fatigue and more pain.

What other diagnosis/conditions do you have alongside FM? Do you think they are related to each other?

Hmm, let’s see. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Osteoarthritis, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, Generalised Anxiety Disorder.  I feel they all stem from the same cause which is extreme and repeated stress.

When and how were you diagnosed? Did you know what FM was before that? Did you have to fight to be diagnosed or was it straightforward? Did you match all the tender points? Do you think these are a good indicator of having FM?

I was just on the cusp of moving into the fatigue stage of my illness. I met someone who had just received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia and whose symptoms exactly matched my own. It was a further four years before I could get a GP to even entertain the idea I had FMS. A rheumatologist I saw did not ‘recognise the diagnosis’. After I moved to a new area I asked to be referred to a rheumy I knew was sympathetic. He wouldn’t see me because I had fibromyalgia and they could do nothing for me! I burst into tears in front of my new GP and tried to explain I had diagnosed myself and it was an official diagnosis I wanted. To cut the wait and frustration I paid to go and see the same guy who had refused to see me. Through that meeting I got my diagnosis of FMS/CFS and a referral to an ME clinic. He quickly checked my tender points and said I wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t till I left his office the pain kicked in from just having them pressed. I don’t know if they are a good indicator or not. Probably a better indicator is widespread, long-term pain with a normal rheumatology blood test.

Are there any good web sites/other resources that you would recommend to people wanting to know more about FM?

Actually, there is so much out there, so many different theories and protocols, forums and blogs, for anyone new to this I’d tell them to go with what suits them. This website on emotional processing produced by a team of researchers in Dorset, UK, is my touchstone although it’s not specifically about FMS. http://www.emotionalprocessing.org.uk/index.htm

A useful book is “Fibromyalgia and Muscle Pain” by Leon Chaitow

My feeling is that sustained emotional stress, especially in childhood, results in real physical symptoms and the breakdown of metabolic systems in the body. My experience of it is that some recovery, even total recovery, is possible.

Is there anything else you would like to say about life with FM?

It’s real, it hurts, it can be very disabling, not to mention frightening at times.

Where did the year go (I have no idea!) and what has happened?

Well, last year I started to raise money as part of the Just Four Quid campaign. I set up two JustGiving pages (see them here and here) and over the year i have raised £864.00 shared between ME Research UK and The Ramsay Research Fund. With the gift aid added this comes to a massive £1003.62!!  Not bad for a year’s work (with no marathons/bungee jumps undertaken, for obvious reasons) and double what i was aiming for (and I never thought i would even reach those targets). I am so grateful to everyone who has donated to my pages and I am sure that that substantial amount will really help the charities with their work.

The Just Four Quid campaign itself has raised £12,685 at the time of writing, which is way short of the target of a £million in the year, but certainly better than nothing. I wonder how many people it took to reach this target, seeing as if everyone of the estimated 250,000 people in the UK with ME/CFS gave £4 we would have reached the target. I assume it is a very small number who have raised a LOT more than £4, like me. Not that i often did it in the suggested way of saving stuff then donating part of the saving – i simply am too ill to do it that way. I have barely been into a shop, never mind been well enough to shop around, even online. The recent theme of staying in cheap hotels/hostels also is completely unrealistic when you are so ill and there are certain comforts required (not just desired) to make the stay even remotely possible! I wonder if that is why the campaign has not been more of a success; the ones who want to raise money the most are like me, struggling to cope with everyday life rather than having time/energy for extra stuff like the things suggested by Just Four Quid. That said, you have to have a target and the money raised will make a real difference, even if not quite what was hoped for! I really admire “Zonko” for keeping up the momentum and enthusiasm for the project and for raising what has been raised. I certainly would not have considered doing it without her.

Personally it has helped raised awareness and caught the attention of people (friends and family) who had not really engaged with my illness or been able to understand it previously, which is a huge step forward. I feel more comfortable with them now. I also have a sense that i have DONE SOMETHING this year, more than just writing about my experiences and talking to others with these conditions; which is important in mutual support and information sharing, but perhaps not raising much awareness outside the group. Supporting actual research is certainly a step forward, and one so valuable when so little funding is available. The pages are still live and will be for a few weeks, so please feel free to make any last-minute donations if you get the urge!

I did a lot of hard work blogging for ME Awareness Day 2009 – this year I am keeping it fairly simple with a post or two about Fibromyalgia. Looking at last year’s posts, I think they are saying much of what I would want to say again, so feel free to revisit, or read for the first time if you did not see them last year. I was most interested to look at my symptoms picture and to note that I may even have developed a few more this year! That is no small feat (I like to focus on my achievements!) but also I notice that some things have become less of an issue for me (barely any tinnitus this year! yeah!). So, swings and roundabouts…

Kerry, from Lemon-Aide has given me a strangely titled Sugar Doll Award! Thanks Kerry, i think your blog is great and i am pleased to have “met” you 🙂

The deal with the award is to tell my readers ten things they may not know about me… hmm let me see!

  1. I grew up in Wales, but am not Welsh – i learnt Welsh at school but have forgotten most of it, particularly the how to make sentences part.
  2. I have two tattoos – both in places i can’t often see!
  3. I love Lapsang Suchong tea and hate milk (not just in tea, in anything).
  4. I love films that deal with social issues, like Gentleman’s Agreement, Milk, Far From Heaven, Magnolia…
  5. I would hate to live somewhere without seasons; in fact unlike many people i know, i actually love living in the UK! I would like to see more if it than I am currently able to though. I would like to wander about in all the many beautiful and varied landscapes.
  6. I once flashed my boobs at Sam Fox in a nightclub (she was a topless model and briefly a pop star, for those who don’t know her). I was standing up high above the crowd on a stage-like area so all could see me. I didn’t choose to flash her, a friend lifted my top up thinking i was wearing a bra… or so he said. I don’t think she (or anyone else) noticed though.
  7. I really want to go to Iceland, Norway and the very top of Scotland – if i saw the Northern Lights, Whales and Fjords that would all be very nice, thank you. PS seeing some of that from a hot air balloon would be even better.
  8. I used to go out and dance a lot and I loved it – i miss the euphoric feeling of getting lost in the music and my body working.
  9. In the past i have entertained ideas of becoming a dry stone waller, a silversmith, a countryside ranger, environmental artist… would still like to be involved in art or craft.
  10. I had my head shaved for years and loved it, but did get sick of being called GI Jane…

Now, the other thing i have to do is nominate other blogs for the award… i think it is meant to be new bloggers (not that i am very new) but most of my favourites are well established.

hmm, well an important one is: Blogging for ME/CFS Awareness so now you can all get involved! I am sure Rachel, who runs that blog will do better nominations than me (passing the buck anyone?)…

ME/CFS Awareness
Well, It is International ME Awareness Day 2009 on May 12th,

AND also the first anniversary of my blog!

It has been quite a year for me, health-wise, but you can read about that in previous posts…

ME/CFS Awareness

Many people are making it into ME Awareness Week and even ME Awareness MONTH, so i thought, why not do a few blog posts throughout the month on various aspects of this illness, to do my bit to spread some very important information and awareness about ME.

ME/CFS Awareness

I know, i know, there are hundreds of illness out there and no-one can know all about them all, so what is the point? Well, if you read the blue ribbon badges running through this post, you may get a few reasons. ME has been getting a raw deal: it is misrepresented by the media, and (deliberately in some cases it seems) misunderstood by the medical profession, and given next to no funding by the government into its cause or into treatments – despite the large number of people it affects and how severely. We are offered nothing except coping and “management” techniques – most of them really make little difference to our experience at all.

Just by reading this and understanding that it is not “all in the head” and not just about “liking to lie in bed all day” and that so much more could be done and needs to be done to give people with ME (pwME) an equivalent level of care and credibility to other equivalently serious diseases; you are helping to change general opinion about ME.

The more people that know what it is like, and can challenge people who laugh about pwME in the pub (they do – i have heard them) and who call it “Yuppie Flu” (as if we would get up and work if we needed money badly enough); the less the powers that be will be able to plead ignorance and ignore the facts – we need to turn the tide… AND, next time you meet someone with ME, or someone you know becomes ill with it, you will know enough to make them feel less isolated and that there is no support or understanding out there for them.

ME/CFS Awareness

I will post links to my individual posts here so they are kind of organised ( i will update this as i add new posts)…

  1. The first one is my exploration of all my Symptoms, to try to show that ME is not just about feeling tired, there is a LOT more to it than that.
  2. I then did a second post to follow this up, about the Impact of those symptoms. on my ability to function/live life, and also the Things that people say to me about my illness
  3. Then there is: You look well!
  4. (maybe more to come!)

If you want to read what other pwME are writing about, and to find lots of information about ME, go to http://meaware.wordpress.com where RachelCreative has been working hard, creating these badges and the site as a hub for all of us who are “Blogging for ME Awareness!”

We have all put in a lot of effort and appreciate you coming to take a look 🙂

 

ME/CFS AwarenessME/CFS AwarenessME/CFS Awareness

So, feel free to have a read, and if you have learnt anything, or were surprised by anything i have written, let me know! I am really interested to know what people who do not have ME know about it, what messages about it they have picked up along the way, and if i, or any other blogger for ME Awareness has changed/challenged any of that, or if you already had a pretty good idea already…

Also see this great & imaginative campaign to raise One Million Pounds for ME research this year: http://justfourquid.com/ Let’s do it!


(This is one of several posts i have written for ME Awareness Day – click here to see my main page and link to the other things i have written, and click here to see what everyone else is blogging about!)

I have been mulling over what to write about for ME Awareness Day 2009 for the last few weeks… there are so many issues that i could talk about, personal, political, medical – but in the end i thought i would keep it simple (that was before i started to actually list my symptoms!) and share with people all the symptoms i have experienced in the last few years (I have been ill for over ten years but will focus on the last three years since i left my part-time job when things got worse again. Apart from the initial period of illness, the past three years have been the most consistently severe).

I want to convey the very important message that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (my official diagnosis) IS NOT JUST FATIGUE!!

(I should mention here that i also have another (additional) diagnosis of “POTS” (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) which is a collection of symptoms relating to my Autonomic Nervous System not working properly. Apart from the tachycardia and nearly passing out, I cannot really separate the two illnesses or sets of symptoms as they are interrelated and i have no idea which causes what much of the time, never mind if they are actually part of the same condition/illness. Quite a lot of people with CFS/ME also have POTS and most others will have symptoms of autonomic dysfunction to some extent; particularly those who are moderately to severely affected. These can include: Dizziness and lightheadedness, digestive problems, problems with standing and being upright (feeling much better lying down), lack of temperature control, circulation problems and blood pooling in lower limbs, and many more). 

I do not like the name Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS); i think it does minimise the complexity of the illness and lead to many people claiming to have it, or being diagnosed with CFS, who actually do not have it. People can be tired out and run down for many reasons and this can drag on and affect their lives very negatively, and i have every sympathy for them, but it does not mean they have the same illness that i have. Maybe we can all get appropriate treatment once this is sorted out. I won’t get into all the ins and outs of this issue here (the variety of diagnostic criteria used to diagnose and the implications this has on credible research into the condition/or conditions) but i feel it is really worth emphasising the full range of symptoms and bodily systems affected by CFS/ME, many of which perhaps do not get mentioned.

It particularly frustrates me when doctors and other medical professionals (who should know better) say to me, when i am feeling particularly bad at an appointment, and have lost the ability to speak clearly and express myself:

“Yes, I know, you are feeling very tired today”

I suppose they are attempting empathy and trying to make me feel understood, but i just scream inside that they know nothing if they still think of CFS/ME in this way. I do NOT feel tired: i feel physically and severely ILL. I feel that essential bodily functions/systems are shutting down one by one and it is truly frightening to experience my body in this state of crisis.

I often feel i am moaning on too long for people to tolerate if i talk about my symptoms in detail, in fact i often do not focus in on them myself unless they are severe as it is just easier to get through the day by distracting myself from them/ignoring them as much as possible… but here they are in all their glory…

me-symptoms-picture
 
(List of symptoms included at end of post in case you cannot read the image)(To see the image larger, click on it, which will link to Flickr)

 This is just a personal picture,of course, and other people will have a different set of symptoms and will experience my more minor symptoms as major and vice versa. I have found that the symptoms seem to evolve and change over time, some improve, but often others move in and take their place, so it feels that quality of life does not change much overall.

The implications of these symptoms obviously affect every single minute of my life, and everything i (attempt to) do. Everything i do manage to do comes at a high “price” in terms of having chosen it over other things (this often means choosing between things that others would deem as all “essential” tasks to do in a day) as well as in terms of what is officially called “post exertional malaise” or otherwise known as “payback” (if i do something that uses too much energy/exertion i will then have a period of hours/days/weeks where i am operating at a much lower level of functioning and experience many more symptoms, and more severely, than usual) so every little thing needs to be considered as to it’s importance in relation to how strong i am feeling at the time, a wearying decision-making process in itself, and always a gamble…

I have made two more pictures like this, about other aspects of ME: the impact of these symptoms on my ability to function, and the things that people (mostly medical professionals) have said to me about my illness. Click here to read that post too!

Please do not use my image/artwork without asking!
Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

******

Symptoms: Vertigo, noise sensitivity, tightness of scalp, sensitivity to light, lack of stamina, nosebleeds, dizziness when standing, sitting, moving, speaking or concentrating, tinnitus, TMJ (Jaw joint) dysfunction, breathlessness, light-headedness, eye muscles slow to react to light/focus, tension headaches, clicking of back, neck and other joints, facial paralysis, dry eyes, constant thirst, aching eyes, blurred vision, mental fatigue, tri-geminal neuralgia, neck, shoulder and upper back pain and tension, painful points on scalp and upper back, hormonal issues, reactive depression, swollen and painful lymph nodes, shivering/goose bumps/spasms when not cold, sensitivity to movement in visual field, tachycardia (POTS), memory and concentration problems, difficulty speaking, pallor, weak bladder, almost fainting, pins and needles/severe itching of legs, shaking, muscular weakness and fatigue, ticks/twitches in muscles, lacking in energy, paralysis on waling, defecation syncopy, IBS, freezing cold feet when body hot, lack of stress tolerance, movements slowed, need to be horizontal and have bed-rest in day, weight gain/loss, post-exertional malaise/payback, disturbed/prolonged sleep, generalised weakness, lack of body temperature regulation, excessive sweating, hot flushes, trembling leg muscles, walking difficulties, sensitive skin – easily irritated and painful to touch, heavy aching thighs.

(This is one of my “Blogging for ME Awareness Day” posts – see the rest of my posts for this event here, and what others are writing/doing here!)

Here are some additional pictures, following on from my previous post and the image of my Symptoms.

One is showing the impact of my symptoms (see the connected post first) on my life and ability to function, and the other is  some of the things that people say to me about my illness.

Impact:

impact-picture(click on the image to link to Flickr, where you can view “all sizes” and see the image much larger, to make it easier to read. The text in the image is reproduced at the end of this post for those using a screen reader).

There is much more i could have included in this image, had i the space, and the impact of the “things people say” image (below) would be another picture in itself!

Things People Say:

 things-they-say-to-me-picture

 (click on the image to link to Flickr, where you can view “all sizes” and see the image much larger, to make it easier to read. The text in the image is reproduced at the end of this post for those using a screen reader).

The bold quotes are what medical professionals have said to me, the unbolded are the general public. Of course these are just a selection, some i have heard many times. I have focussed on medical ones as it hurts the most coming from them…

*******

The effect of all of this is, of course; social isolation, depression, frustration, difficulty maintaining relationships with friends and family and meeting new people, difficulty pursuing interests, difficulty being a member of any community (except the online ME community – thank goodness for internet) and much more… 

…and we are largely left to get on with it, or to fight: for credibility, benefits, medical attention or other support, and for research into treatments and causes which is only just beginning, and not government backed.

I feel there could be many more pictures to make in this vein, but perhaps these three give some idea and increased awareness of the lot of people with ME…

One other idea was to label the body with the findings of abnormalities from medical research to date, to show how much has been discovered already about the physical basis of this condition, but it has taken me weeks to do what i have done already for this year’s ME Awareness Day and the thought of searching through medical info and jargon was a bit overwhelming! Maybe another time…

Please do not use my image/artwork without asking!
Creative Commons License
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

******

text from pictures is below:

 Impact:
Travelling anywhere very challenging due to sensory overload of visual stimuli (light/movement), noise, speaking to people, strong smells; plus the effort of getting ready, stress of remembering what I need, pain from bad seating, having to walk/stand on demand, and more, mean the I often feel terrible after only short journeys, meaning I am not well enough to do whatever I went out for and need to get home to bed asap to recover. If this is not possible I can become very ill and be barely able to speak of walk.
Being in bright, noisy, hot, busy environments like restaurants, cinemas, shops or other social settings is very draining.
Sitting on any chair/sofa that is not fully supportive of spine and head soon causes pain and takes more effort/energy to hold myself up. It is hard to know in advance if there will be anywhere suitable to sit when I go out. If there isn’t, I have to leave much sooner.
Payback after anything more than a small amount of activity (how small is variable, as are recovery times)
Moving around the house, climbing stairs, rising from chair can be hard.
Walking any distance challenging/very draining or simply impossible.
Need for regular bedrest during the day, often after only an hour since getting up the last time.
Cognitive problems cause difficulty with memory, understanding what people are saying to me, being able to respond quickly enough, reading and taking in information, and concentrating on these things makes reading, having a conversation (phone or in person) organising myself and so on, very exhausting. A five minute conversation can put me in bed for an hour or more.
Standing very difficult: to cook, clean teeth, dress, shower, walk, queue, do housework, talk at the front door, stand to chat, and much more are affected.
Muscular weakness makes reading, being on the computer or doing creative things hard because my eyes get tired, painful and blurred quickly; as well as obvious things like walking, carrying even a light bag for a short time, housework… repetitive things like chopping things, stirring, rubbing (eg to wash hair) are particularly hard as muscles can seem ok initially then lose power fast.

Things they say to me:

(The medical professionals)

I have met lots of people like you, I can fill out these medical questions for you…

 I feel you have helped me more than I have helped you

You don’t look ill

You just want to be cared for – you can’t face adult life and responsibility

Do you do pacing? So how do you know your limits if you never reach them?

You will never get well if you are depressed

What are your hopes and goals for 2008?

Your illness is certainly mostly psychological

If you look hard enough into yourself you will find the reason you continue to feel ill

It could be the position of your bed… in relation to ley lines

Everyone has baggage and issues – what we need to work out is why people with ME don’t deal with them in the normal way and become ill

You are depressed. You don’t feel depressed but it is manifesting itself physically

Just try turning the tap on a little bit at a time rather than having one big cry

Who do you blame for your parents’ divorce?

 

(Other people):

 

We all get tired

Your life sounds like everyone’s ideal life

There are much worse jobs than this, you don’t know how good you had it here

You should go to Pakistan and see a witch doctor, my uncle couldn’t walk at all, NHS couldn’t help him: now he is fine!

You’re too ill to work? (chuckles) what’s that like?

Do you believe in God? You should…

I was off work once when I hurt my back, but after a few weeks I had to go back: I had no choice

(This is one of my “Blogging for ME Awareness Day” posts – see the rest of my posts for this event here, and what others are writing/doing here!)

I was reading this great blog (as part of Blogging Against Disablism Day (BADD) click link to read more!) and saw an excellent paragraph in it, which was actually taken from here:

Please understand the difference between “happy” and “healthy”. When you’ve got the flu you probably feel miserable with it, but I’ve been sick for years. I can’t be miserable all the time, in fact I work hard at not being miserable. So if you’re talking to me and I sound happy, it means I’m happy. That’s all. I may be tired. I may be in pain. I may be sicker than ever. Please, don’t say, “Oh, you’re sounding better!”. I am not sounding better, I am sounding happy. If you want to comment on that, you’re welcome.

This really made me smile and pins down something i have been bothered about in the back of my mind for some time: Why does it annoy me so much when people say “You are looking well”, or “You sound good” or whatever. I always feel a bit guilty about feeling so prickled by it, when they simply want me to be feeling well and to be improving with all their hearts and are just expressing it… but it feels like it is just a conversation to make them feel better about it; to let them off the hook; to avoid facing the truths about my illness. When i try to explain that they have simply caught me at a good moment and that in general nothing has changed, i get this look, as if to say “Why are you denying improvement? Don’t you want to get well? Be grateful for what good times you have!”

(I must say i am more tolerant of this when it comes from people very close to me who do know largely what my life is like or who see/speak to me regularly, as maybe i do sound a bit better than the last time, but i am safe in the knowledge that they know this does not mean anything more than that, that right now i can speak, but afterwards i will be exhausted and i may not be able to…)

I may look well because i have spent all the day up to this point (and probably yesterday too) making an effort to be clean, have had my hair washed, to have sloughed all the unsightly dry flaky skin off my face and moisturised, to have got out my nice clothes, rested effectively and eaten sensibly and taken a sleeping tablet, a painkiller and all the other things that i need in order to ensure i can function for this occasion of seeing you. I may even feel quite good after all this planning and preparation and be enjoying myself in this rare foray into your world, but like Cinderella, the mirage will soon fade, and i will feel so ill and have so many extra symptoms over the next few days in “payback” that i really cannot just forget this and enjoy “looking so well”. It is not your fault, of course, but how i look at the moment is irrelevant to the bigger picture. “Looking well” can sometimes feel like a curse and a barrier to understanding.

The other common exclamation is “Isn’t it lovely weather, that must really help you!” It helps me in the same way it helps anyone else, and yes, it is nice now that spring has come that i can sit in the back yard and get some fresh air and sunshine (occasionally) and have a change of the usual four walls to some al fresco four walls with birdsong and the like, but it is said to me as if it will actually make me well… My illness is not caused by depression, i actually don’t think it is perpetuated by depression (it just makes it harder to live with). To suggest that all i need is some sunshine for my severe and chronic health condition to improve is really irritating, and again i feel so guilty for being grumpy about it and usually just say, “oh yes it is nice to have nice weather” (and think “but i feel as ill as ever)”.

So now you are reading this and thinking “well i didn’t mean anything by it, what the hell am i supposed to say then? Nothing?” No of course not, but please, just ASK how i am. If you must, you can ask if the sunshine helps me(but don’t expect a sunny answer to that one – my patience is wearing thinner and thinner on this issue).

When you do ask me how i am, of course, that opens up a whole new set of issues: Do you really what to know how i am? Do you want details? Do you want to understand what my life is actually like? Or do you want a “Fine thanks” or a “Not bad today” with no details? It is hard for me to know. Even if i know you really do care and want to engage with it, how can i explain how i am? How can i quantify my wellness or illness in a way you can understand? Sometimes i can say i am “better” but do you know what that means? Do you think i am on the way to getting properly better? Or do you know i mean a-tiny-bit-that-only-a-chronically-ill-person-would-notice-as-an-improvement-and-it-could-all-change-in-the-next-five-minutes-better?

I find when asked “how are you?” these days, i just say “i am ok right now thanks” or something along those lines, because, of course i have been better, and i have inevitably been a lot worse (well i am having a conversation, so evidently not SO bad) so everything else is just in between these two… how i am changes minute by minute, hour by hour and day by day but also not a lot really changes.

So i appreciate you asking, and that you do care, but know that these questions are so loaded for me, and there is a lot more going on behind my reply…

ME/CFS Awareness

ME/CFS Awareness

Pages

September 2017
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930