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I see on reading my last post that well over a month has passed. I had a great time with my sister and hope she will come again soon as possible!
Since then I have had a nasty cold virus which knocked me back a bit. Very frustrating as although I am now recovered it took much longer than a cold should and I have not had the stamina I had previously. I still don’t actually. So much for the stability I was talking about in my last post! Things are stable, but only because I am doing very little most days.
I have been out in my wheelchair for a few walks, and that has been lovely. I hope to do that regularly now that the weather is warming up as even half an hour out of the house can really be beneficial. I like it when I see unexpected things. The first one I met two horses, one was very interested in my wheelchair and it only just missed being covered in horse drool (I had stood up to say hello to them, and was glad I did as horses are a bit intimidating close up, especially when curious!). The second time I saw a frog popping up to the surface of the water at the pond, presumably to breathe, then disappearing back into the murk. It did that several times. Then the last walk it was sunset (I got very cold!) and I saw fish noses or fins then a ring rippling out from where they surfaced to feed. There were lots of them, making circles all over the place. The water was very still so the ripples lasted for ages. It was very peaceful.
I have also been having some massages and they have been great. After the virus I just ached all over, right in between my ribs, front and back, from coughing and like I had strained myself from the neck down really. Also due to my blocked nose I was better sleeping on my back as it seemed to stay clearer but that made my lower back pain flare up quite badly. I cannot have massage on my legs due to my neuropathic pain and general tenderness, but have really felt the benefit on my upper body. It has taken about three sessions to feel better though, to convince my muscles to give in to it. Obviously I will always have pretty much constant muscle pain and tension but I think it does help to ease it off every now and again. I have not had acupuncture for a long time but I will go back in May and stop the massage again soon (maybe just one more?!). I am not supposed to be having them as my acupuncturist said he did not think deep massage was good for me – shhh! Well I am sure it’s only moderate massage (not deep) so it’s FINE! Also it feels so good, so tough bananas…
In my previous post I also talked about wanting to use my energy for more creative things, having put so much into my benefits application so far this year and having had little energy left for fun or creativity. Due to the virus I have not done a lot, but I have been making some postcards for my friend, and that has been fun though each time I do one it creates much neck and upper back pain for a couple of days – I need to find a way to sit that is better but there seems no magic answer. I need to try some office chairs in a shop and find one that is supportive in all the right places, but have yet to make that trip out. I think that drawing (and other creative activity) by nature is hard to manage as when you concentrate on something like that you cannot help but tense some of your muscles as you draw. When those muscles have the stamina of a gnat, that causes pain very quickly! I have been enjoying the challenge of the postcards though and the sharing of it with a friend (she sends me a card she has done and I respond in kind).
The other thing I am classifying as creative activity is gardening. The weather has been lovely and I have been getting that spring feeling and my partner has been helping me by weeding, chopping things back and preparing pots for me. I have sown some flower seeds for the garden and also some herbs indoors. My cold frame is up and things are coming along nicely. I hope we will tackle some veg seeds next weekend – carrots, beetroot and spring onions!
I have also started taking some digestive enzymes over the last couple of weeks. I will blog about that separately…
In the last few weeks I have noticed a gradual improvement in my stamina. I think there are a number of things that are potentially contributing to this improvement, which is great whatever the reason, though I would like to know what exactly is helping so that I can continue with it!
About six weeks ago I went to see the POTS specialist and had a list as long as my arm of current and pressing issues – she (rightly) could not deal with them all and it was not a successful appointment (for that and other reasons) and it upset me, but I could not pick and choose between all these issues as I was just overwhelmed by various issues which were all severe. These included: Sleep, Neuropathy and Trigeminal Neuralgia, Muscular Pain and Tension as well as other pain issues, POTS (this was low down the list so you can see how bad the other stuff was!), as well as medication issues.
She gave me a new medication to try for POTS (Diltiazem). I did not start it for the first few days as other outcomes from the appointment were that I should stop taking my sleeping tablet (eszopiclone) to see how I am without it, and also I had only just increased my dosage of Gabapentin (for Neuropathy) over the previous few days, so I did not want to confuse things by doing it all at once.
Also around this time I was having massages of my back, neck shoulders and head which were pretty intensive as the pain and tension there was really getting unbearable. My head felt so tight and painful and my scalp was really tender to touch in places (always is a bit, but was getting very bad and more widespread). My neck felt very painful and weak and was clicking in a very disturbing way low down my cervical spine. Shoulders and upper back, well, the usual. A couple of days after the third massage I felt the tension really lifted and I no longer was taking painkillers every single day. The clicking was also much less frequent – I think the muscles were not clamped so tight around the joints. This was also the time that I started taking the Diltiazem, but I did not think it would do anything and apart from the pain/tension improvement I did not feel any different. A few days later I had my first acupuncture appointment.
It was another couple of weeks before I had the second appointment and did the Tai Chi (and “broke” my back). Then another week until the third, when I started to use the Alpha Stim (see previous post).
During the last few weeks I have noticed a gradual increase in what I can do in the day. I am certainly more active, particularly mentally. I am also sleeping much better and dreaming vividly all the time! I have taken the sleeping tablet again briefly when my mum was here and it confirmed what I thought. It does help me get to sleep but once it wears off in the early hours I feel more awake than I would have done without it. Very odd. As it is I am sleeping much more deeply than I have for a long time with no drugs at all. I am still getting up several times for the toilet but am just getting back into bed and back to sleep easily. I am also sleeping deeply most days and later in the day than I was. It is working for me despite being bad in theory to sleep late in the day (sleep hygiene blah blah). I think the higher dose of Gabapentin is helping to control my nerve related pain and discomfort which used to flare up every time I got out of bed (or in!). It is still there but milder and as long as the bedding is smooth and flat underneath me (a constant battle) it is usually ok. I think with me Gabapentin takes a few weeks to reach it’s maximum efficacy. When I first took it, although there was some improvement it was not for a few weeks that it really felt more consistent, and the same has happened with the higher dosage.
I think perhaps the added activity is also helping the sleep. I am being careful not to overdo it, though some days it is hard to stop pottering about with little things, as they all add up. I have at times got that “wired” feeling of having over-stimulated myself, but I am also recovering more quickly. I have had the odd bad day but overall it’s a very positive trend.
I even went out into town (being pushed in wheelchair). We went to three shops one evening and I did practically all my Christmas shopping. Then we went for an Indian meal before returning home! It was really great to have a meal out and I felt pretty good throughout.
I hate department stores (it was only them that opened late) but I did not get over-hot and being in the wheelchair made it much better for obvious reasons (like being able to go fifty times further!) but also in terms of navigation, which I am rubbish at in shops. It is so nice to allow someone much better at it than me to push me around: she knows where the lifts are, where the exits are, how to best get from one shop to another etc. So much more relaxing!
I also find the decision-making hard but as the shop was not too busy or noisy and I had a list of people to buy for, I just stayed calm and focussed and got through it in no time. Such a relief and great to avoid lots of deliveries coming to the door at random times when I am in bed in the day.
The most amazing thing – yes I am getting there, waffle waffle – was the payback… or should I say LACK OF PAYBACK!!! I rested the following days, but was still pottering around more than I felt I should following such a big trip out. Day three I really felt it would hit, but it didn’t really. This is unheard of in my world. I was only saying to someone more moderately affected than me a few days before that unlike her, I am rarely surprised by how ill I feel, as it is predictable: do something slightly more than usual, second day, bam – feel awful. I take a few more days to rest, then carry on with the usual routines. Even my IBS did not flare up too much after the meal out, which again, it usually does even if I am careful about what I eat.
So I was on cloud nine about that. It really made me feel that the improvements are solid, even if I have not felt quite so strong since then. I feel an upward trend again at last. I am kind of hoping that most of the improvement is down to the new POTS drug. It has been about a year since I felt any real improvement in function from Midodrine, the other drug I take for POTS, which has plateaued really, despite some dosage increase. I also tried Ivabradine which I was not sure about in terms of improvement as I had such severe neuropathy at the time I was in a lot of pain and not sleeping well at all, so I could not tell. I could not get a prescription for that in the end anyway.
If the acupuncture is helping too, then all to the good. If I can get a decent improvement in pain through that then that will help me hopefully to move and relax my muscles more and increase my function again. I like to think so anyway. I feel a little hope creeping in…
The last couple of week I have changed some medications:
I have upped my dose of Gabapentin, which I am taking for nerve pains. These are mostly occurring on my lower legs, but also affect thighs, arms and other places on occasion.
I have recently (re) developed Trigeminal Neuralgia despite being on this drug, which is listed as one which helps. I had it about four years ago, in conjunction with forehead paralysis which meant one eyebrow did not rise (!) though it felt like it was doing so… a bit odd. This time my eyebrow is thankfully mobile but the nerve pains, while not severe, are quite persistent and annoying. I cannot lie on one side of my face much which limits the already limited positions I can lie in in bed due to other pain.
I have stopped taking Eszopiclone, a sleeping tablet. I am stopping for a month on doctor’s advice to evaluate how I am without it as I have been taking it for several weeks with mixed results. I have had two stern warnings from GPs about the risks of addiction and they say it is usually only prescribed for a two-week period. Well, I have not experienced any issues with stopping it which is a relief and good to know. I think I will just take it when I am having stressful times or when I have things planned that I need to be functional for, like holidays/Christmas or visitors.
It has helped me to sleep in some ways. I was getting to sleep earlier on it, getting up for the toilet only about 2-3 times as opposed to many more previously. I was still waking in the early hours and sometimes having trouble getting back to sleep, though it was perhaps easier than it is without sleep medication which was less stressful. The real issue for me was that I did not feel much better in myself in the daytime for supposedly getting more sleep. Why pollute my body and risk addiction/withdrawal in that case? I will see how things go. It is useful to have something to fall back on if things get really difficult for short periods.
I have also started Diltiazem for my POTS symptoms. It is a calcium channel blocker, though I do not know much about it. It is listed as a drug that can make Orthostatic Intolerance worse (!) but I am only on day two and it’s too early to say either way if it will help me.
I also asked the specialist at the hospital about my increasing pain levels and painkillers, as I am taking more and more these days, though still being fairly restrained. She says to focus on paracetamol and she suggested going to a Pain Management Clinic. I don’t know what they will be able to help me with, but I am willing to give it a chance.
The most exciting thing for me today is that I have just made an appointment with an Acupuncture practitioner. I saw him when I previously had Trigeminal Neuralgia and he sorted that and made my frozen eyebrow move again as normal in just 5 sessions. It moved a tiny bit more each time!
After my disappointing appointment with the specialist earlier in the week I am looking forward to his calming, attentive and holistic approach to my health. He is very well-regarded and very skilled as well as quite a character! I really enjoyed seeing him before and hope he will have a healing and de-stressing effect on me. I primarily would like him to focus on my trigeminal neuralgia and headaches/tension in neck & shoulders as I think they are all connected. I hope he will be able to help with neuropathy and other pains too. He also used to try to help me with temperature fluctuations and I think there is plenty for him to tackle in the long run but that perhaps it may be worth taking a set of symptoms at a time as it is easier to track progress that way. I will see what he thinks.
I have had a few massages recently as the pain and tension in my head, neck and back has been getting really bad. I have avoided them due to my nerve pain for a long time – just lying on my front was impossible even in soft clothes but better now that I am taking Gabapentin. I still would not be able to have a full-body massage (do NOT touch my legs!) but my back is possible. I have tolerated the massages pretty well and they have helped, but only in a very temporary way. I hope the acupuncture will be a little more long-lasting in effect.
I went to the hospital today to see the POTS specialist again. I had a good time! I was a bit worried about how i would feel, and considered ringing them in advance asking them to wheel me from the entrance to the ward, as i had to go alone and it was an early appointment again, but decided i would be ok. They have moved and last time when we went to the new location for the first time i felt very disorientated. This time i had to use a different entrance and it was actually better, though a bit of a walk. I have improved a bit the last couple of days so felt ok to walk a bit.
I was impressed with the hospital entrance which had a shop, cafe, starbucks, hairdresser etc and was really pleasant. I thought i would have an easier life if i lived there as everything was so close together and convenient! I went into the shop on the way out just because i could (i miss shops, not that it had anything i wanted really).
Anyway, so the apppointment: I saw her early as the person before me did not turn up (a “DNA” – i had not heard the term for ages and it took me a few seconds to realise she meant they had not rung to cancel: “Did Not Attend”. I like the term – good for medical appointments!), so she had extra time to spend with me which was good as i had a few things i wanted to talk about.
I told her that apart from the first few weeks this three month period since i saw her last have been pretty hard, probably due to the virus i had which i have not really got over… at least i have not regained the levels of energy or strength i had before that. She asked about my typical day again to identify any peaks and troughs in function to adjust my dosage to help me through the low points. She suggested taking a higher dose first thing, staying the same at lunchtime and re-introducing the late afternoon dose which i am pleased about as i seem to have a big slump late afternoon. So that was the POTS stuff done really, she commiserated me on the virus situation as the same thing happened in the period before i last saw her. Hopefully i can avoid catching any more and maybe experience more of the glimpses of feeling stronger that i have had between these long running lows. There HAVE been times where i have managed to do more, feel better in myself and bounce back quicker, but is it hard to remember them after so many weeks that feel like regression almost to the old days before i even got POTS treatment.
I also wanted to talk to her about my pain and discomfort issues. The last few weeks my muscular pain and tension have been particularly bad. I have had to lie flat on my back a lot more (which i forgot to say) just to rest my upper back as i am having trouble sitting comfortably, even in my one comfy and supportive chair in the house. My skin has been very tender and painful to touch, particularly in areas where my muscles are rock hard underneath. I have been having regular massages which have helped a little bit, but only in a very temporary way. I have also made a bit effort to stretch the worst areas every day, which feels good immediately afterwards and i am sure had helped, but again not dramatically.
I have also had an increase in skin itching and sensitivity, which may or may not be related to the increase in other pain, as well as more pain/discomfort from my already sensitive bladder, meaning that i feel a continuous feeling of needing a wee, especially in bed when lying on my side or when there is any clothing pressing on my stomach. The itching is also worst in bed and we now only have one sheet i can sleep on that does not cause itching, despite the others feeling quite smooth to the casual touch. She thinks the itching is probably just another symptom of my automonic nervous system not working right. She has previously given me a blood test to investigate the itching so there was nothing else to do really.
She gave me a CK blood test to see if there is anything going on with my muscles. While i do not want this to come back positive (after a quick internet search!), I am so impressed that she takes everything seriously and does not just dismiss it as a typical ME symptom and adopt the “what do i want her to do about it” attitude of most other doctors i have known. I am reassured that if there is something she can check out she will. As usual the taking of the blood was painful, as when a needle is inserted into my veins typically nothing comes out, and today was no different. I warned the nurse before we started and she said today we might be lucky, i said i doubted it. It is like my blood is just sitting there and not going around my body with any force at all, which explains a lot. So it needed to be wiggled and a very sharp pain shot up and down my arm and persisted long after the blood was taken. Ouch! I am used to that though and am not really bothered, though it did make me a bit flushed in the cheeks and lightheaded. She also tested my urine to see if i have any infection but that was negative.
She said there is colleague who does work on muscles that i could see but i can’t remember if that was if the test comes back positive or negative – i am not sure what he can do for me – we moved on quickly to talk about other research she is doing on muscle function and ME and she asked me if i would take part (yes). It involves a muscle biopsy but she says it is pretty much like having blood taken, and seeing as that is usually painful for me i think i will cope with it. Not sure when that will happen. She seemed surprised i am so keen to take part. I am just enthusiastic to do anything i can to help with much needed research and it is good to feel i am doing something worthwhile with what limited energies i have. It is something i CAN do. Plus i like going there, it may seem sad but it often feels like a social occasion. I have known them for over a year and seen them as often as any real life friends this year! They are friendly and take time to chat. It is nice to have some social contact and be out and about.
I have made an appointment with an osteopath for Tuesday as i really need to try something new with my upper back problems in particular, although they don’t just treat backs. I am hoping to also get advice about stretching my problem areas, even strengthening them perhaps, or am i getting carried away here? Also i wonder if my pillow is the right one for me (i am constantly fighting with it to get it fluffed up to the right depth) and if he can advise me on sleeping arrangements, seeing as i spend so much time in bed. It may be making my shoulders more painful if lying on my side is putting too much pressure on them, and it has been too painful to lie on my side much lately, but i do prefer it so maybe a higher pillow (tempur?) would be helpful, but i don’t want to spend a fortune on a fancy pillow then it be no help.
My partner is away for the next few days (though she seems to be coming down with something this evening so we will see what the morning brings – virus alert!). It is the last planned trip she has this year except one overnight trip which should be ok. I am really pleased about that as i don’t think these periods of self-care have been kind to me when i am already struggling. The compound effect of several days alone can really have a big impact on me and take some getting over. Apart from the Osteopath appointment i have nothing much happening while she is away, and i am feeling ok about it now that my pain levels are gradually improving. Maybe in a few weeks i can actually have some spare energy to do some of the creative things i have on my list, as recently i have been just doing the bare minimum in daily tasks and i am getting a bit frustrated. Where is the fun? Where is the creative sparkle that makes life worth living? I have been limited even in computer time, tv time and reading abilities… this blog post may be a sign things are improving! Woman can not live on stretching and resting alone.
Well, i went to Scarborough again, to stay at the lovely Fountain’s Court Holistic Health Hotel. I had a real mixed bag of experience, from euphoria to (brief) misery, but i think it was a LOT more good than bad so i have come home happy.
So firstly, the journeys: they went fine and the disabled assistance was good. I felt a bit wobbly at times but it was easier than previous trips and the two hours on the train went quickly. Even better, i managed to call my “personal chauffeur”, Malcolm (my fave taxi driver) to take me home from the station which was a nice end to the experience and we had a nice chat on the way.
I arrived on Wednesday late afternoon and had a rest and relax, and an acupressure thing called Shen Dao where i sat in a chair and it focussed on upper back neck and shoulders. It did not appear to do much as was very light touch, but it was like a 20 minute meditation really as the sun was shining into the room and i could hear the fountain in the garden and it was deeply relaxing. After eating and resting i felt pretty good and went for an evening walk to the park which is next to the hotel and watched the sun setting behind the trees from a bench. There were canada geese, a black swan, a tern, gulls, pigeons and some fluffy ducklings, as well as lots of people having an evening stroll to watch. It was very peaceful, and i was pleased to feel able to pop out after travelling that day.
Thursday i had a great day. I had a little lie down after breakfast then made myself go into town (i could have had a proper sleep but it was so sunny and i did not want to miss the lovely weather). I headed for the shops as i had yet to see the high street despite two previous visits. I have been in need of some pyjama bottoms for ages (as i do live in them!) but rarely get to shops and thought Scarborough might be good as the shops would be more compact as it is a small town. I went into Debenhams and got a pair that are perfect for just a tenner and it only took a few minutes to find them, try them on and purchase them! I sat on a bench with a sense of satisfaction and acheivement – one of my main aims for the holiday done. I also had a feeling of how unbelievably easy it was to “pop in” and get them, and how it was no big deal in the end (i didn’t feel too dizzy even when the shop assistant told me a long story about her boyfriend while i was paying)… such an easy everyday thing for most people, yet so rare for me for be able to do it. I felt lucky to be feeling well at that moment, but sad that such simple things can be so often impossible.
I had more of a wander along the street and popped into a couple more shops then rested on benches, and then i came to the cliff top and looked at the fantastic view over the sea. There was a lift there down the cliff to the beach, which i was not planning on going to, but the lift itself looked fun as it was really old-fashioned with a turnstyle entrance. Inside it was like a little tram and had long wooden benches.
It was 60p and only lasted a few seconds but it was fun anyway. I crossed the road and sat on the beach for a while and watched the donkeys before calling a taxi to take me back to the hotel for lunch.
I had to eat all my meals in the hotel as my diet is so limited there really is nothing i can buy and eat out apart from nut/seed snack bars (which i had with me for emergencies/travelling).
So i had some lunch then had a deep sleep before my reflexology. She has given me reflexology every time i have visited and said my feet seem much less clammy and cold than before and that i look/seem better in myself as well, though she said i look better as i have caught the sun a bit. It is nice that she can tell i am a bit better. My feet still get cold and clammy and it is summer but i do think it is better – the Midodrine must be helping my circulation to my feet. The walk around town probably got it going too!
I talked to other guests when we ate and spent the evening in my room. It was a good day and i felt good.
Did not sleep so well and had no bowel movement in the morning (the reason i am telling you this will become clear!). I had bad stomach pains and felt really like a zombie. I lay in bed all morning kind of half asleep, did not feel up to eating much so just had some soya yogurt for lunch then some rice cakes and honey later. Went back to bed again then made myself get up and got into the hot tub outside mid afternoon, which did make me feel a bit better/more alive and it was good to feel i was doing something. It had rained really heavily since the evening before and was just easing off to a drizzle which was refreshing while in the warm water. I had another lie down, then had a massage and felt a bit better and ate in the evening. The hotel owner washed all the oils out of my hair and i just rested for the evening, hoping that on my last day i would feel better.
Saturday i woke up and felt ok. I had breakfast and then had a very bad upset stomach and was on the toilet for a couple of hours in a lot of pain. I took some medication (i was prepared for such an event!) and it did stop but i felt absolutely drained of all life and energy. I drank lots of water and mint tea. The hotel owner could only make my lunch between 12.30 and 1pm and i was not ready to eat really but knew it was a long time until eating at 7pm and that i would not feel any better if i didn’t, so she made me a small jacket potato with some grilled halloumi cheese on top as that was what i fancied. It did make me feel a bit better, but i could hardly sit at the table to eat it and went right back to bed again.
I was very disappointed by this point as i felt there was little chance i would make it out of the hotel again. As great as my little walk in the park and Thursday’s trip into town were, i did not want them to be the only good points of the holiday.
I woke up gently and did feel a little stronger. I decided to get washed and dressed and see if that felt like too much effort or if i was ok. I did feel ok, though a little shaky, so i decided to go out again. I got a taxi to the Art Gallery, as i thought it would be small and have lots of seating (there was not so much seating but it was managable). It was a bit disappointing actually, so i decided to walk a little again.
Walking felt quite a lot more difficult than it had on Thursday but i had a few bench rests. I tried to look around a shop but there were no seats and i felt awful so i sat in a cafe and had another mint tea. The music was a bit loud but the seat was so good i stayed a while. When i felt a bit stronger i left and walked down a steep hill past an art gallery that i had seen on a previous visit when it was closed. This time it was open! I went in and had a look around – it was packed with interesting pottery, wood turning, jewellry, art and paintings. It included an exhibition by Yuki Snow, which i was impressed with. I bought some postcards of her work (a picture called Hope which obviously i was drawn to, as i am very interested in the concept, as regular readers will know! Also it features a bird, see my other blog for why that matters to me… click here to see the Hope picture!) and a present for my sister’s birthday, which i was very pleased to find as i was a bit stuck about what to get her. I had a long sit on a low seat, leaing on the counter while the gallery owner wrapped my things and wrote my receipt and that was very welcome! I continued down the hill and sat on the beach again. I stayed there for well over an hour, maybe two, and it was lovely. It was quite cloudy and overcast when i sat down and as i sat there it slowly cleared up and got warmer and warmer. By six thirty i had to leave to get back for my meal and i really didn’t want to as it was beautiful! I was out about 3 hours in total which is a lot for me, but sitting on the beach was so relaxing i though i may as well be there as lying in bed so i just stayed. On thursday i was only out for just over an hour so i was pleased to have been out for so long! I had taken an extra half of a midodrine tablet at 4pm as my previous dose was wearing off and it was just when i needed it, and i think that really helped.
I went back and ate, then went up to my room and packed and got my (new) pyjamas on and got into bed. It was 9pm and i felt better than i had all day, and had a really “itchy feet” restless feeling which i did not recognise from recent years – there was nothing on tv and i did not know what to do. I did not want to make myself feel bad for the journey the next day but also i felt that i would not sleep unless i did something as i actually felt that i had energy to burn! So odd, as i never feel like that… maybe it was the extra midodrine!
So, i got dressed again and went for a walk to the park. I wanted to climb the hill in the park to see the garden at the top which everyone says is beautiful, but the gate was closed. I continued walking and went to the beach!
It was a downhill walk and it felt so easy and natural; i cannot remember feeling that walking felt so normal for a very long time. I thought “this is a short walk” and i could see that this was a short walk for most people, and it felt short to me, despite having not being able to even consider it before.
When i turned the corner onto the beach i saw the cliffs with the castle on the top, bathed in a pink light of the sunset opposite, and it took my breath away. (This picture does not do it justice!)
I was so happy that i had been spontaneous and had come down to the beach. The water was a beautiful metallic blue. I walked to the water line and rolled up my trousers as i was filled with the urge to paddle, but on putting a toe on the cold wet sand i thought again. I was concerned that i did not want to ruin feeling so good by freezing my lower legs when i had an uphill walk back again to go, so i played it safe and rolled my trousers down again! (felt a bit silly and hoped no-one was watching me!). I did not walk on the beach but just gently kept moving rather than standing still to keep my blood moving in my legs. I stayed a while until the light was fading and i set off back so that i was not walking through the park in the dark.
The hotel owner had told me that there were bats in the park, and i had not seen any on the first evening, but it was darker this time. I could not see any as i walked, and paused on a bench for a minute just in case, as i thought that seeing some bats would really top off the holiday. As soon as i sat down i saw one! There was just one, but it was really big. I first thought it was a bird, but it moved in a batty way and when i looked closely i could see it’s outline more clearly. It was flying around for a while catching midges (i got bitten twice while i watched) then disappeared.
I walked back to the hotel and i was on such a high, truly buzzing with happiness at the lovely evening and how good i felt walking. It was so amazing and i think all the more special as the day was looking so bad up until mid-afternoon: what a contrast! I never would have thought it was possible to feel so good after such a bad start to the day. I wanted to tell someone about it when i got back but everyone was in bed, so i rang my mum and we had a chat for a while, which was really nice. I took a sleeping tablet and although it took a while to kick in i did sleep well, although i woke up early, as as soon as i opened my eyes i remembered the great evening walk and was smiling and excited again and could not get back to sleep! I did go back to sleep for an hour after breakfast and felt ok on the journey which was a relief.
I have not felt great since getting home, my stomach issues have settled down a bit but were making me feel quite queasy the day after i got back, which is not something i feel much usually. I am starting to feel better today though (wednesday) which is pretty good and quick in terms of payback so i am happy about that too.
I think things are slowly changing for me – although it is very hit and miss. For a long time i was not having any times where i felt really good, even for a short time. I was not able to overdo it, as i had no reserves of stamina to draw on (or doing anything was overdoing it!). I feel that i have a bit more to work with these days, a bit more variation, which if carefully managed could really improve my life. I hope it is the Midodrine that has made these last few weeks easier (rather than a random blip) as that means things may continue to slowly continue to improve… I feel i am getting some Hope back.
August will be a busy month with visits from my Mum (my staycation!) and from a good friend who lives in Barcelona. I really hope to have some good energy at the right moments!
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…
On Thursday i had a full body massage and (possibly) learnt more about my body than i expected! Certainly i am asking more questions!
It was much needed as I had had a bad headache for 3-4 days and even when that improved i was left with so much tension in my head, neck and shoulders that it was still painful to touch many areas. I often/always have these tender points, in my upper back, shoulders, jaw, scalp etc. They are little knots of pain and i am unsure what i can do to ease them. Anything which helps seems very temporary and they always return to their previous level of tenderness within a short time. These symptoms were at their worst before i started to take Midodrine, which did seem to ease the almost nightly headaches (as more blood was flowing to my upper torso and head – which is kind of useful to have!), but every now and again they do resurface and there is always that underlying muscle pain and tension. I am wondering if the higher dose of Midodrine i am on is causing this clenching up of my muscles, (i did have worse upper back pain the last time i tried to up the dose) but of course it could be a myriad of other causes…
So that was my motivation for going, as well as the fact that i have a busy weekend away coming up (my sister’s wedding!) the prospect of which is causing me some anxiety, as travel and social situations always do, due to how difficult they can be to take part in and the impact they can have on my health for weeks afterwards – there have been moments where i have doubted i am well enough to go at all, but i am feeling more positive now, and looking forward to actually attending a family event for once!
I have not been for a massage for a long time and it was so good. As always when i go, i realise how much it was needed, discover areas of pain and tension i was not immediately aware of, and think how much it would help me to have a massage much more regularly. I do not know if that would create any long term improvement, or prevent my muscles getting into such a state or if the relief is just temporary… I think it would take a lot of massages and more than i can afford anyway!
When the massage started she did my face and front of shoulders and upper arms, and immediately on touching my upper arms, said there were a row of knots down the front (it was very sore there with even a light touch, which i have been aware of for months). She asked me if i do weight training! Apparently they are “Weight-Lifters Knots”!! I did laugh at that. I explained to her that i struggle to lift even small things, like the kettle, and that my muscles do not behave like normal muscles, as they quickly lose power and energy and over-react with pain and tension for a long time if “over worked”…. She was very surprised and said that she would have thought i was a weight lifter if i had not told her… She asked again to clarify: “so you couldn’t go to the gym and lift a few weights?” “Er, no, really, most days i cannot get as far as the corner shop, i rarely leave the house… i could not get to the gym, never mind do anything when i got there” or words to that effect… As keen as i am to educate people about ME and spread awareness it is quite a pain to have to use time when i am supposed to be relaxing (and I am paying) to explain this stuff but i answered a few more questions (no, i don’t just fall asleep all the time, i am not just tired, i am ill… etc etc blah blah blah).
Anyway, it is reassuring that my muscles appear normal in size etc after 3 years of pretty severe ME and ten years in total of being unable to do any kind of “exercise” as the term is generally understood, though i was more active for several years than i am able to be now. It is something which has baffled doctors and led to people being disbelieved and denied benefits (still are, if you read the guidelines for decisionmakers for DLA on ME/CFS which suggest there should be muscle wasting in evidence to qualify as severe… will find link if anyone interested, but can’t be bothered now!) as doctors would expect more muscle wasting considering the lifestyle we claim to lead. There have been different theories about why it only happens in people who are very severely affected but it is not fully understood how our muscles maintain their tone.
It seems that my muscles are reacting as if they are overworked. In a way they are (yes i am a closet weight-lifter!): As i say, they struggle with everyday tasks like lifting a kettle, moving a chair, lifting a watering can. What is even harder and has a more long term effect is anything repetitive, like rubbing to clean the bath before i get in, chopping something, rubbing my scalp when washing my hair, and i generally avoid this kind of activity when i can as it leads to muscle pain, long term aches and cramping, as well as adding to a feeling of general weakness and exhaustion afterwards. Some days are better than others, depending on my general state and if i am already in recovery from something or struggling in general.
So far, so much i already knew. What i found intriguing was that, as well as my upper arms, my lower legs at the sides (from ankle bone up, on outsides of legs) were also incredibly sore to the touch and knotty under the skin. I have been having really sensitive skin in these areas (upper arms and legs) as well as itching. My legs in that area are so sensitive that if something touches them unexpectedly (like in bed) it is like a bolt of electricity running through my whole body. I have a real problem of certain areas of skin being so easily irritated and therefore often itchy that it affects my sleep as well as what clothes i can wear. I have to “sweep” out the bed before i get in to get rid of any tiny bits of dirt or dead skin or whatever that has been carried in from the floor, as any of this stuff (which i call “Gravel” as it is so sharp to me, though tiny) can cause a major episode of itching. I find if there is dead skin on those areas it triggers itching and if i moisturise after a bath and the dead skin rubs off (gross i know, but it does) the itching stops, despite me having rubbed it, which is usually something i avoid as it can trigger the itching. I was starting to think that my nerves were over sensitive and that i had a problem with my skin and pain, though i had no idea what to do about it. This may be partly true but the massage therapist seemed to think that the knots and tension in those areas may be partly causing this extreme discomfort i am having in the skin of these areas. I suppose it makes sense as that underlying tension must affect the skin and could make it more tender and sensitive in the whole area surrounding the problem.
I have heard varoius people asking about skin itching and if it is a symptom of ME. There was a letter in a recent ME Association magazine, and one on a message board i saw recently too. They caught my eye as i have had these problems for a long time. The consensus seems to be that, no, itchiness is not a symptom, but it seems to me in bodies that are riddled with problems that there can be knock-on implications causing almost anything!! (what a cheery thought). My sister has ME and also has problems with itching and sensitive skin.
I have another problem of itching which may or may not be related where if i have a shower my lower legs in particular always react very severely and start to itch. It can last for several hours and all i can do is sit in bed and stroke the skin gently which seems to confuse the nerve signals a little. It can be so painful that i am in tears and is obviously exhausting and distressing. It is like nerve pain, i think the word itching does not do it justice! I never shower now, and the rare occasion that i have (when no bath available) it still happens.
It also sometimes happens after a bath, particularly if the water is not hot enough. I think there is something to do with temperature, as it seems to happen when i get out of the bath and the cold air hits my legs. It first happened when i was 13 years old, so i wonder if there is a hormonal influence. The stimulation of the shower may trigger the itching sometimes, or it could be a problem of being upright, as in the shower and when i get out of the bath. These days i have a very strict ritual around my bath, the temperature, shaving (stubble and hair seem to aggravate the problem so i have to shave every 2-3 days, which is a big comittment when ill), standing for as little time as possible and exposing my legs to as little cool air as possible on energing from the bath. I get straight into bed and moisturise with my tried and tested “safe” moisturiser, then lie there allowing any itching to subside and i cool down slowly and in a controlled manner. I have also noticed it can be worse in Autumn and wonder again if the dead skin as my (usually meagre) tan fades is irritating my skin… so many questions.
Of course i have told a few doctors about this over the years and they have no idea! There is no rash and that is where the discussion ends…
Anyway, i had another massage today (trying for a compound effect) which was great again. I asked her what her advice would be to weight lifters who have “weight-lifter’s knots” and she said that stretching can really help. I already do stretch tense areas, but kind of randomly. When my POTS was at it’s worst i couldn’t even stretch up in a chair without serious dizziness but that is better now… Maybe i should make more effort to do it several times a day and see if it helps… so many things to fit into my day though!
Well, so much has been happening… and now at last time to relax a bit and report back…
Last weekend (end of November), i went to Scarborough! On my own!
Well, it is a two hour train journey and i booked disabled assistance for the first time. It went well and there was (usually) someone to meet me with a wheelchair to push me between trains and to carry my luggage as well. There was no-one waiting for me at Scarborough station, but my train pulled in right by the exit and there was no queue for taxis so i managed fine. When i arrived back to my home station there was a man to meet me but no wheelchair, as they were all in use… not really good enough when i had booked two months in advance! It was not too far to walk to the the station exit and he pulled my case for me, but the taxi queue was long so i had to take out my tiny folding stool and sit on it, but keep getting up to shuffle forwards as the line moved along… not exactly comfortable and the reason i booked the chair was to help me get to the taxi as it is standing in particular that is hard for me… as well as walking for more than a few minutes… well nothing is perfect and luckily i was not feeling too awful, but i could easily have been… he offered to queue with me but i told him could go as he was no use without the wheelchair… so i would say 7/10 for service… I was pleased that i could step off the train myself and was not dependant on them coming on to get me as i would have found that stressful, and i don’t think they are 100% reliable based on my limited experience. I will be travelling by train at Christmas as well, hopefully only one way, but a much longer journey and have booked assistance again. I hope it works then as well!
By the time i got to Scarborough i was really drained and felt very weak. I booked into the hotel (the same place i went last time) and could not really take in what was being said to me as my brain was shutting down… I lay down for a while and felt a bit better though. My feet were like ice and despite an hour and a half with a hot water bottle, when i went downstairs for my first treatment – reflexology – my feet were still not properly thawed out! The woman who was doing it said she couldn’t decide if they were warm or not as they felt so strange! My circulatory system is not well behaved.
I had another lie down then ate at the hotel that evening, and got talking to a really nice couple while i ate. The food was really good and it was nice to chat to new people and i really enjoyed the opportunity to be sociable as i find i rarely meet new people and have the opportunity or energy to talk properly.
The next day i had breakfast brought to me in bed (yes, this is a heavenly place) and then had a shiatsu massage (my first ever and really good – she did a gentle version for me which felt just enough to do something but not hard enough to cause any flare ups or pain – afterwards i felt looser and that everything was flowing better) then another sleep. I felt quite good then so i got a taxi down to the harbour and sat outside watching the sunset!
It was not as cold as i expected (i was well wrapped up) and it was so nice to be out in the fresh air. I wrote some postcards which i got from a shop next door. Once the sun went down and i finished my hot drink i went into a pub to warm up for a bit, (this is the view from inside the pub, of the remains of the sunset)
then went back to the hotel feeling pleased that i have made it out and about, as i feared i would not be up to leaving the hotel much and maybe not brave enough on my own. See my other blog for another picture of the sunset. I ate in the hotel again and chatted to the same couple which was good. I took a sleeping tablet each night i was there to maximise my chances of having good sleep and therefore good days!
The next day I had an aromatherapy facial in the morning which turned out to be more like a shoulder, neck, face and scalp massage with a face mask thrown in (i could have lived without that bit as my face didn’t seem any different afterwards) but the massage part was amazing and she really gave my scalp and head a thorough going over and as my head is always tense and painful it felt as if it released so much tension and got the circulation going really well. I had a nap, then my Mum came to visit for lunch as she was coincidentally in the area! She drove me five minutes along the road to a cafe and we had a nice lunch, then we drove all along the seafront (north and south bays) to get a feel of the place and see the sun setting again before going back for a cuppa in the hotel. I felt a lot weaker than the day before, and quite lightheaded and became tired quite quickly but it was still really nice. I had another sleep before the evening meal again, which i ate with the hotel owner (Helen) as i was the only guest at this point! It was nice of her to eat with me as it would have felt odd to sit on my own.
Got up the next morning very early for my train and Helen drove me to the station as she had time, which was very kind and gave me a big hug goodbye. It is so nice to know that i have somewhere to go for a change of scenery where even if i am really ill and need to stay in bed i will be looked after :). I felt a sense of independance in managing to go away and largely felt fine while i was there. I wonder if the new tablets for POTS i am taking helped? Hard to tell. I feel it is so important to keep trying to do things, within reason and with careful planning, or i would miss out on so much and get stuck in a rut of thinking i can’t do anything or go anywhere… As my partner went to both Shanghai and New York this year and i was unable to go due to my poor health i felt it was important to try to have my own holiday as well.
So then i got back home and have had a crazy week! I have had to abandon all routines, and have struggled to fit in my daytime naps most days, or have had them much later than i would like. I have had to get up early, then stay up for deliveries and post (the downside of doing xmas shopping online), then be in for the dog walkers to pick up and drop the dog back an hour later, then one day the cleaners came after that (after cancelling last minute earlier in the week, so i had already prepared for them and stayed up). We have had men in to fit new doors… well i use the past tense but they are not finished so we still have gaping holes around the new doors letting in a lot of literally freezing air (and probably snow flakes too!). They were supposed to come back the next morning to finish the job but the man’s axle on his van bent from driving on the ice, then was supposed to come the next day and he broke his little finger by slipping off his icy ladder. So fingers crossed (those that can) he will be able to come back tomorrow! Added to this the boiler broke down so we had no hot water (except the shower that i can’t really use for too many complicated reasons to go into now) and no heating except one electric radiator and a gas fire. Add in many drafts from front and back doors not sealed and sub zero temperatures and you get the picture… So i was ringing around, organising men to come and do these jobs, making numerous cups of coffee, fetching things for them and generally doing things i knew i shouldn’t, but did not feel i really had any choice.
Also my partner’s parents arrived on Friday night for the weekend, and the boiler was only fixed in the nick of time! The house was a tip from having the door men in and it all felt like chaos. The visitors left yesterday and today i am just going to do very little and see how my body is… i feel that i have been running on adrenaline for days and i am not sure what will happen next! Again maybe the POTS tablets have been helping me cope as i have been more active and largely coping… who knows?! I am certainly still feeling POTS symptoms, but i am not sure if it is maybe less severe. I am unsure what feelings of weakness etc are from POTS and which are from ME, so it is hard to judge, especially when my usual routines have been so broken.
Also the boiler stopped again this morning… it has resumed activity after we pressed the reset button, but i suspect that the problem may not be completely solved, despite a new flue fan… i am hoping for an uneventful week once the door men leave tomorrow, what are the chances?
This afternoon i had my first Hot Stones Massage. It was really good! I had it done just a few doors from my house, so not far to stagger home again and it is on special offer – £30 for all of August (usually£45) – and it lasted nearly one and half hours!
It was really nice because it covered practically my whole body and i was amazed by how many painful and tense areas i had – i knew my upper back, neck, scalp and shoulders were bad as i have been in quite a bit of pain and had daily headaches since coming back from the festival as it was hard to care for my posture when away from my usual chair, bed and travelling etc. – but i was amazed by how bad my leg muscles were and also in the bridge of my feet. My upper arms were also very sore. I knew my head was tense and i could have done with another half an hour just focussed on that, but apart from that the massage was very focussed where it was most needed… So i have booked another one for the same time next week 🙂 i can’t wait… i think that two in a row will mean that things have chance to improve much more: cumulative effect! I am going to try extra hard this week to keep my newly massaged body stretched, relaxed and massaged where i can to keep up the momentum!
The stones were really nice – they start off very hot but cool quite quickly so the person keeps leaving to swap them over so it is not like a normal massage where the hands barely leave you for the whole time, but you are left with the heat of the stone in-between times so it is still very relaxing. The stones are rubbed over you quite gently but it is supposedly the heat which penetrates into the muscle and releases the tensions. My back would not even click when i sat up and felt amazing, so i think it definately works! When she had done each foot she placed three little stones between my toes! That made me laugh – she said that quite a lot of people’s toes can’t hold them in place… a talent i didn’t know i had! Also after doing my arms she left a large stone in each hand, which was nice to hold.
Since i went to Scarborough i have had a new perspective on alternative therapies – i have tried quite a few before, but went through a phase of thinking what is the point, as however nice they are, none will ever “make me better” and you can spend so much money on them – but when in Scarborough and having a treatment of some kind each day i realised that the value gained from something that helps you to relax, takes you away temporarily from reality and gives you a sense of well-being and makes you feel good can be immense and although may not heal you in any absolute sense, can contribute to positive change on some level, even if it is just in mood. If it can help shake these tension headaches away i will be happy as i am taking painkillers every evening and i don’t feel comfortable with that for more than a couple of days in a row, but have had no choice lately. Obviously i can’t keep having a massage every week, but i think it is good to know it is there for when i really need it and so convenient being on my doorstep… roll on next Tuesday!