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Well, hello again, this is a long overdue update but much will have been forgotten as so much time has passed…
I have been to see the POTS specialist again who changed the dosage of both drugs I am on, but the second one did not seem to agree with me so I have reverted to the original dosage for now and might try again when I am not so busy and can tell perhaps more easily if it is really the drug or just that I am not doing so well for other reasons… I don’t want to dismiss it too readily as I know the options are limited and the lower dose has really helped. Maybe less is more, but my concern is that if this dose is the best for me with this drug, where do I go from here? Can a third drug be added to the mix (the more drugs, the more chance of interactions and negative effects) or do I have to forego the benefits of this one in order to see if something else suits me better? Tricky.
The weekend before last a friend came to visit, and I had a really lovely and relaxed weekend with her. I felt more able to chat and interact than I expected as had had a bad lead up, so it was good. We even did some creative stuff together! I have had over a week to recuperate and tomorrow another friend is coming for a week! Soon after that we are going away to Edinburgh for a week, so the rest of the month is very busy. All with fun things, so I hope I will be up to enjoying them.
I have been waking up really early recently, and sleeping less hours in total due to this. In general I am still functional as I was but am having a lot of symptoms/pain generally, which feels a bit strange. It may just be that I feel I am functional because I am not really trying to do anything big and my activity is limited to the mornings. By evening I feel pretty bad, despite my afternoon nap and I am going to bed earlier and earlier, though not getting to sleep any earlier in general. This early waking may just be the effect of summer or a new phase.
I do need to go to the GP and talk about my pain issues, but that won’t happen until September now. I had a bit of a scare when I forgot my Gabapentin one night, but did not realise I had missed the dose. My nerve pain was terrible and I barely slept. It seems to be in new places and felt worse than I remembered. There was no position to lie in without triggering it, whereas I used to be able to lie on my back with my legs up. I was so relieved when I discovered that I had forgotten to take my tablets and that I did not need to rush to the GP to find something new to help me. I am finding the drug less effective than it was and I wish there was something that would help with the nerve pain as well as the other types. I am not living in constantly bad pain, but certainly constant discomfort and there are periods of the day that are worse than others. It is good to know how much Gabapentin is working, even if it is not perfect.
I have not felt able to write blog posts, nor read many blogs by other people either, which I do miss. I like to keep up with how people are and what is going on but it just feels like there is not enough time/energy available for it all. My best hours in the morning can disappear very quickly doing essentials. I am going to have an internet break during this coming visit and also when away. I am spending a lot of time on facebook (as I can access it on my phone) which I get a lot from as it is my social life, and I don’t want to lose touch with everyone but I feel I need a bit of a break, especially from the more political stuff and news of Wessley that seems unavoidable recently. I would like to see what space a break will open up in my life, and seeing as I will be doing fun/sociable things in real life it seems a good time to try.
Speaking of Wessley, I wrote to The Times newspaper in response to an article they wrote about him and the death threats he has been getting. This is one of several media articles covering this story over the past week and I finally had enough and felt I had to do something in response. I won’t dignify them with a link, suffice to say they are very one-sided and another story about ME that does not address any of the really important issues, instead just focussing on the actions of a very small number of people with ME in order to undermine us and the validity of our voices. The reasons for these threats were not represented and the article itself admitted they were very few in number. I don’t know if my letter will be published, but I hope they do publish some decent responses as I know of other people who have written in.
Oh, I nearly forgot! I must mention the new International Consensus Criteria, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine. It gives a very clear definition of ME, as opposed to CFS. I really hope it will be adopted and used by doctors around the world and in research to move things along more swiftly.
I have just read The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. I really enjoyed it and recommend it to people with ME who sometimes find reading difficult – it is short, simply written and in small chapters. It is really lovely and has nice illustrations too, even in the Kindle version.
I have had a few nice trips to the beach over the last few months. It has been really nice to get out a bit this summer. I saw some great waves!
I will stop here, though I am sure there is much more I could say. Will be back in the Autumn, no doubt. All the best til then to my friends.
Well, it is the end of February. One sixth of the year has disappeared and it has happened pretty fast. I do know where it has gone, I have been working on my Disability Living Allowance form for most of this time, when I have been up to it.
This form has taken over my life, along with appointments with all the medical professionals involved in my care to ask them to write supportive evidence for me in support of my application and also to talk to them about what is needed (as usually knowing about my medical conditions does not mean a doctor knows about how it affects me personally, which is what the benefits people need to know).
Last time I got help from a charity as it was the first time I had applied and had little idea what was required. This did help a lot in terms of energy for filling in the form, though not the outcome. This time I have largely filled it out myself, which with my physical and mental stamina has meant it has taken me a very long time. My partner has helped me type some parts and has physically written up the form, as well as checking what I have written and suggesting things I have forgotten, and that help has been really helpful but she is so busy that I could not ask for more and frankly, I am the one who knows the most about it and how it needs to be done. She could have gained that knowledge but it just seemed above and beyond to ask her to do that on top of everything else she has on her plate.
I know that my facebook friends and others are probably sick of hearing me talk about it as I have vented a little during the process and all will be relieved to hear that it will be sent off this week! Hurray! I cannot wait to see the back of it though I know that next time I hear anything it will be a request for a medical, which last time I found VERY traumatic and lead to the denial of my claim and I had to go to appeal. The whole process took a year. It was successful in the end, but I am really not looking forward to that all over again. It really takes over your life and energies and it was a hard year for me. I have filled this form in so thoroughly and carefully in the hope that it will go through and I can avoid that year of hell this time. I am crossing everything but I know that just about everyone with ME goes to appeal. Even my CFS specialist said so, so I should not get my hopes up. I know that so many people are going through benefits processes and appeals at the moment, the whole UK system is in a mess and people are being treated so unfairly. It is really inhumane.
Anyway, two months of my available energies have been used up already and I really want to use what I have now for better and more creative things. I have several new arty books from Xmas that I want to look at for inspiration as well as projects I have been planning for months (actually years) that I want to get on with. I also have a lot of fiction/non-art books that I want to read – I love having a pile of books waiting but at the moment it seems a little too high and I keep dipping into new ones before finishing the ones I am on! I need to focus on the ones in hand and ignore the temptations of the bookshelf or I will not fully enjoy each one as I go as I will have half an eye on the next one – no way to be!
One of the best things to happen so far this year was a couple of weeks ago I went to see The Imagined Village. I have seen them before and knew it would be good, but it exceeded my expectations (except it seemed to be over far too quickly) and it was a night to remember! I always love to see Eliza Carthy live, and they are all such talented and enthusiastic performers that it is a real joy to see people doing what they evidently love. There are more concerts planned by them and other related artists to raise money for Norma Waterson (Carthy) and family who is Eliza Carthy’s Mum and who is very ill in hospital. Details here.
Other news, my sister is coming to visit me this week! I have not seen her for nearly two years and I am looking forward to some fun! Also my garden is coming back to life after all that snow in December and I am feeling a little hint of spring in the air… I hope to be able to get outside a bit more soon.
Also interesting to note that though I don’t feel dramatically better, I feel that my condition is more stable in terms of energy at the moment. I do not seem to have much variation even after I have been to an appointment (or been to a concert!). I do still get post-exertional malaise, but it is not as severe as in the past (relative to my overall function levels) and I am finding I am getting more pain instead, if anything. This change is actually welcome. (I think one of the worst things whatever level of function is the unpredictable and ever-changing nature of this illness and not knowing what is ok to do and what the day will bring). I do rest more before and after an event and I am careful in what I choose to do and cannot go out often, but I feel it is not such a big risk to go out occasionally. I don’t mind taking more painkillers occasionally for a good reason. I think my wheelchair is helping me not have such a dramatic reaction to being out, and also perhaps my Alpha Stim and Acupuncture are helping me. I am sleeping better in general and I think this has a lot to do with it. My nerve pains are also more under control with the Gabapentin dose I am on and this of course helps a lot. Anyway, it is nice to have some calm and I hope it continues like this a while, especially if it means I can do some nice things at home and pop out a bit more. I could do with some fun, and I am sure I am not the only one!
Yesterday we went out to The National Glass Centre. I have been really struggling mood-wise (and physically as usual) since Xmas/New Year. Mostly I think I have just been in recovery from the festive period but I have been surprised by my little depressive bout, as I have been fairly stable lately on that score.
Anyway, I have been resting up and struggling on in equal measure and just feeling more and more trapped in the house so I decided the time had come to prioritise mental health over physical (a.k.a “to hell with the consequences!”) and do something fun. My partner reminded me that apart from going away over Xmas (involving travelling by car, being in a different house for a few days, then coming home – so not really giving the feeling of getting out and about, strangely) I had not been anywhere except the odd health related appointment since November when we went into town. That explained a lot.
It was great, a bit of detail can be found here.
I feel so much better today (granted physical payback has not really hit yet). I am buzzing with enthusiasm for creative things, and feel much happier. Just managing to go gives me a renewed sense that fun things are possible every now and again, and need not be stressful if they are the right size of outing in the first place.
I am hoping that the flurry of snow that fell this afternoon does not mean we are going to have a repeat of December’s weather, as I would like to leave the house again sooner rather than later!
I am not sure what to write about today, or how much to say. I am bored of writing how I am, which symptoms are bad and so on, though I know it serves a purpose for me in terms of tracking my symptoms and health, which is one of the reasons I do blog. I am bored with it though, and so it seems is my partner, understandably. We want to escape the never-ending discussions of how I am, which parts hurt and so on. But how? I honestly do not think it is possible.
I do not need to tell you readers who are also ill and living with other people the difficulties of being in any relationship when there is an unwanted entity (the illness) hovering around affecting everything we do, or more usually cannot do. Things are ok, and we are coping but I am just feeling a bit emotional at the start of this year.
As well as wanting me and more especially my partner to have a break from it all, I am deeply worried about a friend of mine who is in hospital. I have heard from her dad that she has had an emergency operation and is very unwell, but nothing for a few days and I cannot help but think about her and her start to 2011. She has not even been able to open her Christmas presents yet. She is on my mind a lot.
I think I am also just in recovery from going away at Christmas. I feel a sense of achievement and adventure at having gone away – I spent a few days with my partner’s family. It was good and I am very glad I went in many ways. I was made to feel really welcome and they tried really hard to accommodate my needs and it was nice to feel part of something but it was also pretty hard for me at times.
The main issues were the travel (which took 4 hours on the way there and 3 on the way back; even as a passenger that is really a lot for my poor brain to cope with. I find it very challenging neurologically to be in motion and to have such a lot of visual stimuli rushing past at the same time); the heating, which despite other people saying they felt cold was on really high and it was the hottest house I have been in for a long time (which obviously is really bad for me in terms of POTS as it means my blood pools more easily and less gets to my brain which makes me feel worse and have lower stamina and more neurological symptoms, like tolerance of noise…); and also the noise!
When there is noise my stamina is very limited and the combination of Xmas music on a loop and/or a tv turned up loud for some of the family who can no longer hear very well (and refuse a hearing aid) as well as the conversation of up to twelve people on top was at times hard to bear. Added to this was the noise of a house full of people when I was trying to rest, especially when a few drinks had been had, despite my ear plugs! People really did try so I am not blaming them, it’s just that normal festive behaviour and this illness do not mix. It is not like everyone should sit and shiver in several jumpers in silence just so that I can “do” Xmas!! It would not be fun for me or anyone else that way.
Overall it was a successful visit and I would take on the journey again when things would be quieter and hope that perhaps I could be able to leave the house when there next time to explore the city a little. It did feel strange to just be in the house all the time and not be able to situate it or explore; which seems ridiculous as I rarely go out to explore my own city, but when you go somewhere new I suppose you feel it more keenly that it is the normal thing to do. I know there were art galleries within a ten minute radius, and that hurt!
I have been feeling a bit stir-crazy actually and the trip away almost added to it for the reason given above. It gave me a sense of adventure if anything! I have not left the house much for a long time, other than for appointments, and the weather has been a big part of this. It has been just freezing with snow and ice everywhere – hardly wheelchair-friendly. I did go over to see a friend before Xmas and that was really nice, though it felt so surreal and I realised it was nearly a year since I had visited her home. She has had to visit me most of the time in the last year. Another reason is that my partner is just so busy and there is no-one else to take me out. I really find it hard to go anywhere without my wheelchair and that means being accompanied. I need to perhaps just take a taxi sometimes and sit somewhere interesting and comfortable for a while, but finding somewhere comfortable (in terms of chair, but also noise etc) is quite tricky.
Good things already planned for this year are a lecture about printmaking at a local university at the end of March. It is just an hour so I am going to give that a try if I can. Also we have booked tickets to see Iron and Wine in concert, which is also not for a while, but something to look forward to. Some of the most memorable and best things I did in 2011 were going to concerts, which has become easier now that I can sit in my wheelchair, so I hope to keep finding good people to see this year. It is great to go out with my partner and share such experiences with her. We don’t do enough fun things together.
It is my birthday this month and some time has been kept clear to do “something”. It is not yet clear what I will be up to doing, or what the options are but I am looking into it!
I hope to continue with my art immersion at home (see blog post on my creative blog) and finish the painting I am working on and move on to the other many creative things I want to work on. So many ideas, so little energy and ability! Never mind, art is a good distraction from illness. I also want to read more. I have got a Kindle for Xmas, though I had it early, and I am really loving it and how much easier it is for me to read with than a real book.
Well it’s been a rollercoaster of a week, but I have emerged fairly unscathed. I have surprised myself actually!
On Sunday, we went out to a concert (yes, again! Second of the year – get me! I know!). It was Frazey Ford and her band. The venue was wheelchair accessible, although it was not that easy as space was tight to get around as it was an old building. The good thing was how small the venue was in terms of audience, it was nice and cozy. I was really unsure if I would make it and the run-up was not good. I did make it, though I was in quite a lot of pain during the concert despite the painkillers and was constantly writhing about. I am sure the percussive sounds my joints were making added something to the music. I really enjoyed it and I actually love her album “Obadiah” even more than I already did as I heard lyrics I had not previously noticed (she does not always sing so clearly, not a criticism, just a fact) and also I am remembering her singing it in person now when I listen to the CD. Her voice is just amazing and we were front row (wheelchair is good for that).
I am left in particular with some lyrics from Gospel Song going through my mind, which I find very calming and take me out of my body quite nicely: “Oh, beautiful clouds, I’ve been sailing through. Oh golden clouds, I’ve been sailing through you.” Check it out for yourself!
On a musical note, I just got Antony and the Johnsons new album “Swanlights” and I love that too though I have not listened to it many times yet. I am enjoying music more these days, though I can only tolerate certain things. It is so good, as for a while I really could not bear music at all due to my neurological problems. I am even listening to it really quietly now as I type. This is a big deal for me as I find it hard to think straight when there is music on, or tv, or any noise. It is nice to challenge myself occasionally!
Another good thing that has happened this week is that despite the difficult appointment on Monday (the day after the concert) and the fairly drastic emotional response I had to it (plus the usual payback from doing two things in a row) I managed to go for a walk with my partner in the woods along the road from our house on Wednesday. I was in the wheelchair and it felt good and did not make me feel any worse. In fact it was a great stress-buster and we were both smiling despite the greyness of the day. Well, my partner says she was smiling, but I cannot see her when we are walking. I took a few pictures along the way. They are taken with my phone, so not brilliant pictures and it was a cloudy day but I just wanted to remember it and maybe you will enjoy getting a flavour of it.
This one is of me with the apples we scrumped!
Another good thing, somehow among all the stuff I have been doing, my more erratic than usual sleep pattern and feeling quite bad at times I have managed to read How To Be Sick by Toni Bernhard. I have really enjoyed it. It is the first book I have read on my Kindle, which I think made it easier. I might write a bit more of a review soon.
Well, it is that time of year, after all.
It will be my second holiday as i went to Holy Island (with my partner and dog) in February, which was a great week and did me so much good. See my post about that here. I was only saying recently that a) the year is flying by and i don’t feel like i have done much apart from our holiday and b) if it wasn’t for that holiday i would not have taken many good pictures this year as yet, which was my main resolution for the year: to get out more to photogenic places!
So this time i am off to Scarborough again for 4 nights. I am going to the same place i have been twice before, once with my sister and once alone. This time i will also be alone. My partner is going to Spain for work reasons and i really struggled last time she was away, and had quite a lot of “payback” in recovery from being alone, so i thought i would go away too. At least this way i can have my meals made for me, have no washing up to do and hopefully have some fun as well along the way. If i am going to overdo it, i may as well have some fun!
It was/is a bit of a gamble. I had the idea a couple of months ago and was operating at such a low level health-wise then that i thought there was no point in going, as i would find the journey too hard and not be able to leave the hotel at all. The last few weeks though, apart from the odd blip and a series of very bad headaches, I have been feeling stronger and i think now there is a good chance i will deal with the journey ok. That is, as long as the disabled assistance turns up WITH the wheelchair I have booked to help me change trains, unlike they did at one point in my journey last time i went – “they are all being used” was the excuse… hmm i only booked 2 months ago!!
I also think because it is summer this time i will be able to sit outside more easily. Last time i only left the hotel once and went for drink in a pub as it was December and there were not many warm options. This time i can sit on the beach, in the park, or just in the garden at the hotel and that will be much better. I am taking a couple of cameras and a notebook and hope to be creative too (maybe a haiku or two!?). (i know i am repeating myself from a previous post here, but never mind, it is worth repeating myself when i am excited!).
I have been able to read more lately as well, as my eye muscles seem stronger and my blurred vision is less regular and my powers of concentration are a bit better too; so i am taking a (hopefully) good book of short stories to read as well: The Winter Book by Tove Janssen (of Moomin fame)… she wrote one called The Summer Book too, but why be seasonally correct?! I have read the intro by Ali Smith (who i admire greatly) and she makes it sound so amazing that i hope the book is not a let down after such high praise!
I can have a massage or two while i am there and hope to meet and chat to some interesting people like i did last time. The hotel owner has promised to help me wash my hair mid-visit and to cater for my odd dietary needs, so off i go!
Wish me luck! I shall catch up with you all next week…
Well, i have been really enjoying the sunshine recently! I am currently sitting on the doorstep with my jeans rolled up, my forearms out and my face and neck exposed also. I have decided to make sure that if it is a sunny day i will make sure that i sit outside in it for ten-fifteen minutes at least, in order to get my vitamin D for the day. I had a quick surf on the net and it seems this is all that is required.
I have not read into it fully but i am aware that there is research on ME and Vitamin D deficiency going on, so i think i may as well do what i can, just in case it helps! Also there is osteoporosis in my family, and i am a vegetarian so i may not get as much in my diet as other people, although i read that it is hard to get enough just through diet alone anyway.
Of course, i hope to sit out in the sun for longer than this over the summer but i may well cover up and wear suncream for any length of time much over this amount, especially in the height of summer, as i don’t think getting sunburn is fun or a good idea! It is good to know that something so simple can allow me to get enough vitamin D (assuming people with ME can make it the same as others do…). Knowing the climate i may have to seize the moment some days as you never know when the sun will go in in this country!!
Yesterday i definately got my quota, as after over two weeks of living in a cold virus ridden household (first my partner, then me) we both felt better and went out for easter sunday! It was warm and there was not a cloud in the sky. First we went for some lunch in town, but it felt so wrong to be inside, so we relocated to park, then a nearby pub garden and sat in the sun playing cards for a couple of hours! My back got quite sore from strange and unsupportive seating (despite having my cushion with me!) and i was exhausted when we got home but seem to have come off relatively unscathed after sleeping almost continuously until 1.30pm today! It was so nice to spend time together relaxing and to be out of the house and feeling good after some very tough weeks (before we got ill was very busy and i was not feeling well at all).
Hurray for the sunshine! AND after my mum came to visit and did lots of work in my garden (thanks mum!), and i planted some seeds, some are coming up today! I think it is the miniature marigolds… ahhh! Let’s hope the slugs and snails don’t fancy a snack before they get a chance of life. Fingers crossed for the californian poppies as well, then my garden will be a sea of orange flowers this summer 🙂
Well, last weekend, despite a bad lead up (see last post), i went to Scarborough!
I had booked it well in advance and although i knew there was a possibility that i would be unable to go when the time came, or that i would get there and just lie in bed the whole weekend i was determined to give it a go. I booked it when in the process of applying for DLA (as felt so depressed i needed something to look forward to), in the hope that by the time the weekend came i would be in receipt of some extra cash, alas it was not so, but it turned out that thanks to the DWP sending me my incapacity benefit form (to reassess my ability to work) and having my DLA medical the week before, i needed it more than ever.
My sister also has ME and has been really struggling lately so i invited her along too and so we had some quality sister time! We do not see each other much as she lives near my mum, over 5 hours away by train for me, which is not something i can do without serious trauma & payback. She had to travel over four hours to Scarborough, whereas for me it was only two, but we travelled the last hour together as at York i got onto her train!
I chose last weekend as i tend to feel a bit more human the week before my period is due (contrary to the rest of the female population, but i like to be different!) so i booked it then and hoped for the best. I could never have believed that it was possible to go from how ill i felt a couple of days before i left to how i felt when i was away. I usually say how frustrating it is to have to take my illness on holiday with me, that there is no escape, which is usually true, but i really felt as if i had a holiday in every way! Of course i was not going out dancing and behaving as if i was not ill – i had a good sleep every day and paced myself as much as possible but i did not have a headache, my legs did not feel too painful until the last day, and my back coped with sitting on the train for two hours much better than i could have hoped for.
We stayed at the Fountain’s Court Holistic Hotel, which i chose because it is a calm & quiet place that offers all kinds of alternative therapies. We both had a Tibetan Acupressure Head Massage the afternoon we arrived and it helped me to relax and shake off the journey completely. I also had two sessions of Reflexology over the weekend and my sister had a Shiatsu Massage and a Hot Stones Massage. I had rung up in advance and had explained that we were both unwell and that we may need to sleep in the day and have peace and quiet and we were assured that we would be well looked after, and we were! We were really made to feel at home. A highlight for me was on the Saturday afternoon after a good sleep we had a hot tub in the rain! We also went to the Sea Life Centre. Sunday was really windy but bright sunshine so i took quite a few pictures as well.
After i got home i did feel less well, but nothing too bad and i feel i got away with the extra activity without serious payback… hurray!
A few days after getting home though, i found out that my DLA application has been turned down and i did feel really down about it that day, and as if all the benefits of the weekend had suddenly gone, but i have pulled myself together, looked at my sunny photos and won’t let the b*****ds get me down 😉
In general i have come away from the weekend feeling much more able to deal with all the things that need dealing with: benefits, insurance company, CBT, medical issues, etc. I know they are all tricky and i still don’t know what to do for the best in most cases, but i have certainly benefitted from having the boost of a change of scenery, meeting some lovely people, feeling really good for a couple of days, seeing my sister (and singing in the hot tub), having relaxing treatments, taking some good photos, feeling that i can cope with a short journey (sometimes), and knowing that there is somewhere reasonably nearby i can go when i need to do it again, which i am sure i will!