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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.

This is a quick post, not the one on leaky gut syndrome that I promised you! That is not finished yet. This is just to show how ridiculous the lives of chronically ill people can be! It is no wonder I get so little done in a day and am mentally exhausted! This stuff takes a lot of concentration…

 I have started taking digestive enzymes recently as described in my previous post. I have added a high protease (systemic) enzyme to take between meals (to allegedly reduce bodily inflammation and pain among other things). I have also started taking L-Glutamine (though I suspect it has caused diarrhea so I have paused for now to test that, but let’s assume I am taking it. I also read that drinking fluids should be avoided so as not to dilute the enzymes in their very important work, and that if you have low stomach acid the dilution is not good (I don’t know if this applies to me but it could and seems likely) so I should not drink for an hour before meals or two hours afterwards. The protease enzyme is the same rules, but only half an hour before meals is ok. I also take an anti-spasmodic and other medications not related to my digestive issues. I also have in the fridge two probiotics which I plan to start taking soon. I generally need to drink about 4 litres of fluids per day (that’s up to 4x what people usually drink unless it’s hot weather) to help with POTS symptoms.

So let’s see what a day looks like if I do this properly:

8.30am wake up and take my usual medications with water (most of my glasses of water and cups of tea are 1/3 litre).

9am Get up and have a cup of tea. Take vitamins including zinc (good for digestive/gut health). I really should take more vitamin C too – note to self – it apparently helps kill bad bugs in the gut.

Also put Alpha Stim electrodes on my upper back as I do every day (my pain relief machine).

9.30am take antispasmodic and L-Glutamine

9.45 take digestive enzyme (as it is a veggie capsule I read it needs time to dissolve so to take it a bit before eating, but other places say to take at the same time as food, so I am confused about this one. Let’s say 15 mins is ok for now.

10am take probiotic (type one) and eat breakfast

Also move electrodes on Alpha Stim to anywhere else that hurts or just to another position for upper back/shoulders.

11am change setting on Alpha Stim to CES and put earclips on

12 midday take systemic enzyme and wait half an hour for it to get into my system (think this way round makes sense or I would drink then have to wait an hour?)

Alpha Stim done.

12.30 take usual medications and push fluids for half an hour, perhaps 1 litre.

1pm stop drinking and wait an hour before food

1.30 take antispasmodic and L-Glutamine

1.45 take digestive enzyme assuming it takes time to dissolve 

2 – 2.30pm take probiotic (type one) and eat lunch

Go to bed and rest/nap

4.30 wake up and take systemic enzyme

5-5.30pm take usual medications and drink fluids – 1 litre

6pm take antispasmodic and L-Glutamine

6.15 take digestive enzyme

6.30-7pm take probiotic (type one) and eat

9pm drink – not much as getting late and don’t want to be up all night – 1/3 litre

10pm – take usual medications and probiotic (type two). Make way to bed.

So I have only managed to fit in 3 litres of fluids, plus a bit with tablets. I could take a jug and drink more before getting up. This regime also prevents me eating little and often as I prefer and forces me to make sure I have eaten enough in one sitting to last me 4 1/2 hours. This goes against advice for managing IBS and POTS symptoms. I also really like to finish a meal with a cup of tea, but I have known for a long time this is not meant to be good if you have digestive issues.

I have tried the systemic enzyme for a few days and that was fine although my stomach seemed to be getting more sore each morning so I am resting it before starting again as is advised. I am unsure about the L-Glutamine but will try it again in a few days. My plan is to do this properly in a couple of weeks and go sugar-free for that time to see if I get any symptoms of die-off to test for a yeast overgrowth. If I feel fine (normal for me!) than it suggests that yeast is not a big issue for me. The more I read about Leaky Gut Syndrome I suspect it may be an issue, despite being quite skeptical, but I think not too extreme for me. I hope so anyway. Even if I cut out all sugars I will still have to eat the diet that I can currently digest which is not very low GI so there will be sugars present (rice/potato) but it will be reduced and that should trigger some reaction. I think taking the probiotics at this time will maximise their efficacy as the bad bugs will be dying anyway –  ha ha evil laugh.

Someone had generously given me some Stevia to use during my sugar-free fortnight. My plan is to make some chocolate biscotti (I have found a recipe) so that I can end meals with something sweet and also sweeten my breakfast as I will have to switch to unsweetened soya milk (yuk!).

Sorry for the lack of links in this post – I really have no energy/time for it. Please leave a comment if anything is unclear – my next post on Leaky Gut Syndrome (coming in a week or two) should clarify it all anyway!

*I do not advise anyone to undertake this strange regmen, I know not how useful it will be, only using myself as a guinea pig, as usual…

This may seem like a silly question, of course i am very happy and excited to be having some much better days, but i do have mixed feelings…

I also know that i am getting very ahead of myself in writing this at all as it is only a week or so that i have had this real buzz, and hardly all day everyday…  it could be just a post-holiday buzz? It does come on the back of gradual improvements over the last few weeks/months and my change to a higher dose of Midodrine a couple of weeks ago though, so maybe it may be here to stay???

Firstly let me explain. I went to Scarborough for my holiday, i got back on Sunday (a week ago). I rested for three days and did not feel too great initially, but by Thursday i felt up to going to see a friend and her baby. I went by taxi both ways as it would be a bus and then a bit of a walk otherwise, and i wanted to save energy for the visit and not overdo it so soon after the holiday. I was there about two and a half hours, mostly lying on her sofa but chatting and playing/interacting with her son. I also had my favourite taxi driver both ways and we did a lot of talking on the journeys, so it was quite an extended time of activity. I had a great time, and although i was exhausted afterwards i only had one rest day, then went out again yesterday!

So yesterday i went with my partner to the garden centre. They have a wheelchair available and we have used it before, but as i only wanted to look at plants and felt pretty good, we did not bother. I sat down a couple of times but felt fine, and we were there quite a while in the end. I was desperate for the toilet by the end and they didn’t seem to have one, so we stopped by a pub along the road and sat outside for a quick cuppa and to use the facilities. Then we went to Tesco and i went into the health food shop which is near the entrance and got a few things, then we went home. All in all this was a lot of walking about and i had felt good and really enjoyed it. We got some beautiful plants to cheer up the backyard, a couple for the front garden and two freebies as well!

 

achillea scabiousWhen we got home i felt a bit less ok, so lunch was made for me and i had a lie down. However i could not sleep as too excited and after a doze i got up again and we did some potting up type activity (i was mostly instructing but still active). Then in the evening we sat outside and had a BBQ in the yard, admiring the new plants in the sunshine.

 

 

 

 

basketWe stayed out until 8pm playing cards and chatting and it was really good. I was amazed at my stamina as it had been a long day but i was buzzing with happiness and excitement about feeling so good, just as i was on my last day in Scarborough. The Red Arrows flew by and did an amazing stunt right where we could see it, a tight and high loop in the sky, in formation, with them all plummeting earthwards together, then fanning and levelling out at the last minute – leaving a big smokey loop in the sky… it was very dramatic and we were so pleased to have seen it as it was over in a flash.

red arrow

I was tired by the time we went inside but very happy. One possible warning sign of overdoing it is that i have had a lot more of a symptom i have had on and off before, which i know a lot of people with ME do get. It is like a shiver or a twitch when you are not cold. It is quite a big shiver and i have been getting it in the muscles of my shoulders and my whole upper body shakes spontaneously, particularly in the evenings when i am tired. On the up side, my muscular pain and tension has been a lot better in that area this week (since my holiday massage and such) and the shiver is painless and feels a bit like a releasing of tension, so i am not too bothered. Heat seems to help relieve it. I think it is a neurological/nerve type symptom. Maybe it is like mini electric shocks, as it does feel a bit like a TENS machine induced spasm, caused by or linked to my new extra excitable brain activity!?! I met a woman who had it very badly at a support group for ME and she would involuntarily suck in her breath when she had the shiver and it made a lot of noise due to that and was quite distracting during conversation… another unexplained ME oddity!

So it’s all good. Today i have slept more than usual and only done a bit of emailing and writing this, but have not felt too bad. These things, if i managed them at all (and certainly not in such quick succession) would take days or weeks to recover from a few months ago.

So why am i feeling a bit strange about all this? I really don’t know how to explain it…

Firstly i have a feeling that i am somehow cheating someone or something, that this is not my reality, my life, my lot. This feeling is quite worrying, but it is no wonder i just expect to feel awful all the time, i suppose, based on the last few years. It is a survival strategy not to expect anything to change. I think also i have to spend so much time explaining what i can’t do for benefits reasons and to people who share my life or new people i meet, that when things change it is as if i have been lying… hmm that sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? Change is always an adjustment…

Maybe i feel bad because i am getting Midodrine for my POTS (the very likely main reason for me feeling better) which is unavailable to everyone else and i know they may read this and it is always hard to read that other people are improving when you are not, usually i am the one who is not, but when will their turn come?

Also, I think it just feels a bit surreal to me, very unreal, and perhaps i cannot trust it to last or continue to improve… maybe i am coming around to that dangerous concept of Hope again! I cannot help but let my mind get carried away with itself; from dreaming of day trips and socialising, to doing courses, travelling places… and all the things that may become possible if things improve even more! (hmm better stop that!) I am already almost expecting August to be great… very dangerous territory…

It is mostly the euphoria i am feeling that feels strange. I am getting very high and excited (is better circulation to my brain allowing such feelings?) about quite simple things… most people do not get overly excited and “high” about a short wander to the beach, or a trip to the garden centre on a sunny day, do they? I wonder if it is just because it is so amazing to be able to go and even more amazing/unusual to feel good while doing these things, rather than just surviving them? If so, will the excitement fade if it becomes more everyday and normal to feel this good? (I hope not.) I am not getting any low mood as a come down, but i almost feel like i am on drugs at these times! Is it just my brain chemicals playing up? Was i depressed before but did not know it?

Anyway, I am trying to just take each day at a time, not to overdo it and rest up in between things. Importantly i must remember how bad i still feel regularly, how my life is set up based on me being barely able to look after myself/do much and if i reintroduced all the self care and household tasks that i do not do, i would not feel so positive; that what i am able to do is a big improvement for me but still very low level for most and I should not get carried away on the very odd but FUN tide of euphoria and just see what happens…

(but who can blame me?!!)

So, i went to see the POTS specialist this morning for my 3 month review and this involved setting my alarm for seven am… i have to take my midodrine then wait half an hour before rising so i lay there until half past trying to convince my body to rouse itself… it was hard. I had a little breakfast then my partner drove us to town. As it happened the rush hour was lighter than usual and we got there quite quickly, but happily i was seen a bit early too.

I was told last time that she may give me another drug to try on top of Midodrine when i go this time, but had not told me what it may be. I had a bit of a nightmare thought a few days ago that it may be SSRI anti-depressants as i have read they can help with POTS, and also i know that beta-blockers are used too (they have side effects which don’t seem good for a pwME). I started remembering all the side effects and experiences of being on anti-depressants and started to worry about what to do if this was her next plan for me. One the one hand, if it would help the POTS is it worth trying again, despite my negative experiences and associations? I was not sure.

But thankfully all she suggested was upping my current dose again and taking more of it earlier and not bothering with any at tea time. I am happy with this as although i have not felt great the last three months and the first two months after upping the dose last time i really didn’t think it had made a lot of difference, the last few weeks i have felt stronger in myself and think at last it could be midodrine having a positive effect. Month two was plagued by wedding recovery and virus, so that could have delayed any awareness of it working being apparent.

I did ask her what the other drugs may be that we may try in the future. She reassured me it would not be an SSRI, but a new drug to slow the heart, or Florinef, which i have heard of. So i am happy to hear that.

The meeting was over pretty quickly and i came away feeling like i had not said something. I often feel like this though, especially when i have been building up to a meeting for ages then it is over so quick and i don’t trust my brain so much these days to remember everything either.

I did not mention the urine test i took, but more importantly i did not mention the muscular pains and tensions, headaches and skin tenderness that continue to plague me. They are more ME related than POTS related but who should i talk to about them (if anyone)? I am no longer seeing the ME specialist as he said i didn’t need to see them both and the POTS specialist deals with ME patients/diagnosis etc. but when i see her she doesn’t ask about those things. My GP would probably not have the specialist knowledge about ME and I have never got much useful out of them about specific symptoms before. I no longer see a particular GP, i just take lucky dip when i go as i have given up on the one i used to choose and have not settled on a new “favourite” yet. I only really go for sick notes anyway as my employer still wants them(!). I think i will see if these symptoms improve over the next three months and if not i will make a mental (and paper!) note to mention them next time i go. Life would be much more pleasant and productive if these symptoms were not so often present… I think the POTS specialist thinks that all my symptoms will improve as the POTS is treated and improves – this has largely been the case, but has affected a few dramatically and some not so much.

We shall see, as always…

POTS: I went to the hospital again the other day and saw the POTS specialist and told her that after over three weeks on the higher dose of the medication i have not yet started to feel the benefits of it, in fact i have been feeling worse than on the lower dose.

I have been having quite bad side effects, particularly affecting my temperature in bed in the afternoons, where i will feel cold despite two heated wheat bags, a hot water bottle, two duvets and central heating… only to suddenly get very hot and sweaty and covered in goosebumps after about an hour of feeling cold. The top of my head was also cold and i was having to cover myself completely with the duvet! Also i felt that my stamina and recovery time from very small activities was worse. I am not having the POTS “episodes” so much although i am still dizzy and have trouble standing for long but that it at least an improvement.

So i am now back on the lower dose. i hope that i feel the benefits i felt when i was on it before, as i am starting to doubt that it was a big improvement and that i am thinking things are seeming worse now because my hopes were raised too high. It is so hard to measure/judge how bad things are as it is so subjective and changes according to what is happening at the time.

Also i wonder where we will go from here, even if the lower dose makes me feel a bit better, if i cannot tolerate the higher dose. After hoping for double the improvement on the double dose, i am wondering again if this is it.

Interestingly at the hospital my tests when i stood were different than before i was on the medication. My blood pressure did not drop as much when i stood, and my heart rate went up and down a bit but was not as ridiculously high as before nor as consistently. So it seems i should be feeling better and more able to stand… but am i? I feel as if i can stand up a bit quicker and be less dizzy but my stamina for standing is about the same. I still get weak and dizzy quite quickly. It has not lead to the acute “episode” event which would happen regularly when out at appointments etc though and this is very good. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, because i am, really, it just feels like a step backwards.

DLA: Well my tribunal is in two days. I am trying not to let it stress me out but i think it is taking it’s toll on me. I have been feeling quite down. An adviser woman came around to talk to me about what to expect, told me things to watch out for and what will likely happen. This has helped a lot, although it was all as expected really she did highlight some things that i had not really thought though. I do not think i will get much out of it but i just really hope that they listen and that i feel they have made a fair and considered judgement, even if i am not awarded anything. If they do not listen or allow me to explain how thing are properly it will be so frustrating, as the DWP medical was.

Holiday: The thing that is helping me to distract myself from the Tribunal is the thought of going away for a week! I will have a week to recover from the exertion of the tribunal, then my partner, my dog and I will be going for a week in a cottage a short drive up the coast. I am so pleased my partner can drive now 🙂 I just hope it does not rain all week so that i can take some photos and enjoy the views. I know it will be freezing cold but i think i can cope with that (as it is the same here after all). It is a small price to pay for not being able to travel abroad and it is a beautiful area anyway. Just a change of scenery will be so welcome and i hope to be able to spend a bit of time sitting outdoors enjoying the sea views, even if wrapped up like a mummy!

Work: also i have been summonsed to a meeting by my employer again to discuss my ongoing sickness absense (now over two and a half years!). It will be just after my holiday. I wonder if they are going to give me the final shove this time. I have a Union rep coming with me as usual so we will see what happens…

Anniversary: It is also now the TEN YEAR anniversary of when i became ill. I have not been dwelling on it too much as i have too much else to preoccupy me but i think it is affecting my mood a bit too. I said to my partner when she came up to bed a couple of nights ago:

“i think it is ten years today that i got ill”

she said “oh i didn’t realise, if i had i would’ve brought a sparkler up to bed!”

I thought this was a funny reaction and it made me laugh.

Well, this week has not been good. I have not been really bad, but not well enough to do anything much for long. Some days have been as bad as ever, seeing a return of bad upper back pain and regular headaches among other things. I have had to sleep a lot and have just not felt much sparkle…

Yesterday i went to see the CFS specialist again. He suggested it may be the medication causing this down-turn as he says it is generally not well tolerated (The POTS specialist did not say this to me, who is right?). Up til then i was thinking maybe i was fighting the nasty virus my partner has had all week, but i take his point. Maybe i just didn’t want it to be that, but thinking about it, it makes sense. I have had more problems with temperature regulation again, including goosebumps when warm (particularly on my thighs) and cold feelings on my head when my body is warm. Also a difficulty getting warm, followed suddenly by being over-hot and sweating. Goosebumps is meant to be a side effect, paricularly on the scalp so it kind of follows.

I am going to give it another couple of weeks to see if things improve as my body gets used to the new dosage as it was three weeks before i was sure it was having a positive effect intially. If no better i will ring the hospital and see what they suggest. After the initial success, i don’t want to give up on midodrine too early.

Although i am not hideously ill, i feel pretty much as i have pre-medication which is disappointing. What seemed “normal” has now become “worse than expected” , as i got my hopes up, which is not a good way to see it mood-wise. But i am well practiced with patience and i am trying to just see what happens. I really want to go to a lecture on monday evening that the POTS specialist is giving, and it is my birthday during the week so would like to be able to do something outside the house next weekend to mark the occasion. What we attempt will depend how this week goes… my short-list is:

  • Lunch/afternoon tea at a fancy hotel/country mansion type place up the road (easy ten mins drive for my partner) where i have not been before
  • Go into town to the arts cinema, with optional meal out afterwards if stamina allows
  • Go to National Glass Centre in Sunderland – this is a very long shot and the meds would have to kick in big-time as it is quite a drive and would need to be pushed in wheelchair etc etc – but no point ruling it out til the time comes as I have wanted to go there for years and have never been. There is a really interesting-looking exhibition on called Beautifully Crafted (see above link).
  • Also in Sunderland are the Winter Gardens, which again i have not been to, but i could never do both things at once… it is winter though so must be a good time to visit 😉

Or i may have other inspiration in the week, who knows! I hope i can do something anyway… If not i could become old AND grumpy overnight!

Also, to throw a spanner in the works, my partner has been ill with a virus all week and is still not tip-top, so it will depend on how she is doing by then as well… fingers crossed… again!

ME/CFS Awareness

ME/CFS Awareness

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