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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…

Well, Happy New Year to everyone reading my blog!

It is about time i posted an update about how things have been going… thing is, i have been so busy! Yes, it is time to be definite about the new the new tablets for POTS… they are doing some good, for sure!

Symptoms improved include:

Firstly and importantly, i  have not had to lie down in a public place, near collapse, due to a POTS “episode” (where my heart is beating very very fast, i am melting with heat radiating from me, feeling very dizzy, weak and ill wondering how i will get home), which is very welcome! I suppose this means my heart is not beating as fast anymore… although it still seems to race sometimes… we will see what the machines say at the hospital when they test me on Friday!

Headaches and muscular tension in upper back, neck, shoulders and head – still there but less pain and headaches less frequent.

Blurred Vision – seems a lot better – amazing what a bit of blood to the eyes can do 😉

Temperature control (less hot flushes and icy feet – although my new sheepskin slippers may also be having an effect there!)

Walking speed (short distances obviously!) and ability/speed to get up from sitting both often better.

Recovery period – i have been recovering more quickly than i would expect from such “big” things.

I am feeling better in myself, especially in the mornings and can usually wait til later for my nap if i need to.

I often have more stamina for talking to people, going out, being online or reading etc.

Things i am not sure if improved yet:

Distance i can walk and time i can stand up for: I have done a bit more of these to test them out but do soon reach my limits… have had a couple of good experiences where i felt it was a lot better but in general it is not a lot better so the jury is out on that… i am not getting to the point of collapse as quickly (see “episodes” above).

Things i have been doing over Christmas and New Year…

Travelled for seven hours door to door to stay with my Mum: this was a trauma and i NEVER want to see a train again, the wheelchair assistance helped (once it arrived) and if i had not missed my connection the journey would have been a bit easier… however, although i rested up, i did not feel as bad in the following days as i expected so i was very happy about that.

I stayed at my Mum’s house for a week and spent time with my sister, her boyfriend, my uncle, grandparents, dad and other people that came around and in general felt ok to chat and join in. It was nice to be so sociable!

I went out for lunch with my uncle, mum and sister.

I went into Marks and Spencer Simply Food (my sister drove me to the door and then took me home!) and i enjoyed browsing all the lovely things in there – i had no idea all the nice things they have!

A friend of mine drove me back home in her VW camper van, then stayed for a couple of nights to see in the New Year with us. The journey was lovely, sunny and frosty and so much more relaxed than the train. The seat in the camper van was really comfy and had arm rests and tilted back so that i could doze as well!

On New Year’s Eve we drove to the coast to a lighthouse and i walked a little way and looked in some rock pools, but saw not one crab! Once i went there years ago and there were hundreds so i was a little disappointed… the seaweed etc was beautiful though. We then went to a pub for lunch on the way home! We were out for 3 hours! I then had a sleep and stayed up til 1am to see in 2009 with card games and shortbread biscuits… needless to say i slept nearly all of new year’s day, but happily enough as there was a good reason for it.

Since then i have walked the dog once, a short distance but it was not too hard. I have been out for a couple of hours in the evening to a social meeting of creative people, AND been back to an M&S food shop 😉

Today my main task is to write this, have a bath and not much else as i don’t want to over do it too much and my headaches have been returning a little… all in all though it was been a really encouraging start to the year and although i still have just about all the POTS symptoms i had before they are less distressing and not as bad as they were. I am hoping when i go back to the hospital on Friday we can build on this good start and that this will not be it, as although it is a huge improvement from where i was before, and i am very grateful, i would like a bit more, please! (call me Oliver!)

I do not expect miracles, but have been operating at such a low level over the last couple of years that it would take several hundred percent’s increase to get back to where i could do certain things with any reliabilty, such as drive places and be able to stay there a while/walk a little then be sure to feel safe driving home, go out in evenings/socialise more often, be able to travel long distances to visit my best friends, be able to go somewhere regularly and reliably like an evening class, be able to wander around a little more to allow me to go into shop or visit museums or events more and to allow me to take photos again which usually involves a bit of wandering/standing to get the best shot – this last one has been very hard this year and i miss it but it would not take much improvement to be sometimes  possible again. I would also like to be able to take the dog out again at midday and not have to employ a dog walker to do it!

The other thing that may be coming back is the ability to do “boom and bust”… i know, i know, this is the thing that we are told never to do as people with ME! BUT the POTS symptoms have meant that i have not been able to take advantage of good days (i have not had much variation in my days – maybe operating more in terms of a good half hour!) to do something big, and to then suffer later. While this is not an ideal way to live, it does give us the option to do something we really want to, or to experience something important to us, even if we have to suffer the consequences, sometimes it is worth it!

So it is all good, and i have hope that this year will be a big improvement on the last. Even if this is a good as it will get, that will be a huge improvement. It is so nice to see the downward spiral of levels of health turn a corner and start to rise again, for the first time in maybe seven or eight years! You can see why i am excited!

The only depressing thing is that while I am getting a diagnosis and treatment, so many people are suffering with these symptoms and not getting any such joy. It is only because i volunteered to take part in a research study that i was diagnosed and got to see the specialist, and only because i live in the city i do that i had access to that option. I knew something was not right, that it was more than my usual ME symptoms and that it was seriously affecting my ability to carry out normal day to day activities in a very specific way. My doctor said “I just think your ME is very bad at the moment…” and would not refer me to anyone, so i took matters into my own hands. I was still shocked when my suspicions of POTS were confirmed but so relieved as well to have it acknowledged. I know of two other people with severe ME who almost definitely have POTS (i am no doctor!) but who have no hope of getting properly tested or treated. It is just another set of symptoms that they are needlessly having to cope with on top of everything else.

The drug i am taking, Midodrine, is not even licenced in the UK, so i think i am just getting it as i am part of the research being done at the hospital. It seems early days in POTS treatment in the UK, i hope things improve soon for everyone else as i have a feeling that there are lots of us out there needing help with this…

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