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Well it’s been a rollercoaster of a week, but I have emerged fairly unscathed. I have surprised myself actually!

On Sunday, we went out to a concert (yes, again! Second of the year – get me! I know!). It was Frazey Ford and her band. The venue was wheelchair accessible, although it was not that easy as space was tight to get around as it was an old building. The good thing was how small the venue was in terms of audience, it was nice and cozy. I was really unsure if I would make it and the run-up was not good. I did make it, though I was in quite a lot of pain during the concert despite the painkillers and was constantly writhing about. I am sure the percussive sounds my joints were making added something to the music. I really enjoyed it and I actually love her album “Obadiah” even more than I already did as I heard lyrics I had not previously noticed (she does not always sing so clearly, not a criticism, just a fact) and also I am remembering her singing it in person now when I listen to the CD. Her voice is just amazing and we were front row (wheelchair is good for that).

 I am left in particular with some lyrics from Gospel Song going through my mind, which I find very calming and take me out of my body quite nicely: “Oh, beautiful clouds, I’ve been sailing through. Oh golden clouds, I’ve been sailing through you.” Check it out for yourself!

On a musical note, I just got Antony and the Johnsons new album “Swanlights” and I love that too though I have not listened to it many times yet. I am enjoying music more these days, though I can only tolerate certain things. It is so good, as for a while I really could not bear music at all due to my neurological problems. I am even listening to it really quietly now as I type. This is a big deal for me as I find it hard to think straight when there is music on, or tv, or any noise. It is nice to challenge myself occasionally!

Another good thing that has happened this week is that despite the difficult appointment on Monday (the day after the concert) and the fairly drastic emotional response I had to it (plus the usual payback from doing two things in a row) I managed to go for a walk with my partner in the woods along the road from our house on Wednesday. I was in the wheelchair and it felt good and did not make me feel any worse. In fact it was a great stress-buster and we were both smiling despite the greyness of the day. Well, my partner says she was smiling, but I cannot see her when we are walking. I took a few pictures along the way. They are taken with my phone, so not brilliant pictures and it was a cloudy day but I just wanted to remember it and maybe you will enjoy getting a flavour of it.

This one is of me with the apples we scrumped!

Another good thing, somehow among all the stuff I have been doing, my more erratic than usual sleep pattern and feeling quite bad at times I have managed to read How To Be Sick by Toni Bernhard. I have really enjoyed it. It is the first book I have read on my Kindle, which I think made it easier. I might write a bit more of a review soon.

I went on holiday a couple of weeks ago, and overall it was great! I was a little anxious about it beforehand as so many symptoms threatened to put a damper on it. Also I was feeling quite low in mood and really wanted it to be good – that kind of need is a dangerous thing.

My and my partner went on holiday, with our dog, but also a friend joined us half way through and stayed with us a week so we had some time with her on holiday and then at home as well, which extended the holiday vibe – so a good ten-day holiday for us.

We rented a cottage on the coast, actually very close to home, as travelling is something I struggle with and a long journey would have been something I would have to recover from once I arrived. Plus, if things were really bad, we also had the option of coming home again easily. It was lucky in the end that we did that as between booking and going I got my wheelchair. On the way home (because our friend had joined us mid-week) my partner had to make two trips as our little car was unable to take all our stuff, plus wheelchair, dog and three people.

The cottage was “bijou” – small and beautiful. It had a cabin-like feel with long painted boards on the ceiling and several times after being pushed in the wheelchair (which makes me feel pretty spaced out), or just when feeling a bit unsteady in general, I really felt like I was on the ocean wave without my sea-legs. There was a nautical theme with lighthouses, driftwood and shells aplenty and it was lovely and felt very “holiday”.

The beds were pretty comfortable. I was very worried about that before we went and had even rung them up to ask about them, after the very bad bed experience on our last holiday the winter before last. I did have a lot of nerve pain while i was away, both in bed and just randomly in the day which was quite draining and disruptive but I did sleep pretty well as I have started to take Eszopiclone and I think it really helped me to sleep in the different surroundings and with the nerve pain, which certainly allowed me to do a few nice things while away.

So what did we do?

We travelled up on the Saturday, but did not leave home until 3pm as the cottage was not available until 4pm. This worked quite well as I usually am not up to much until then and need a midday nap anyway. We got there and had a quiet evening but we did go along the road to find a view overlooking the sea before we settled down for the night. You have to see the sea, right? (It was not this late when we went that first day, but this is the same view).

The village streets were far from wheelchair friendly and I had to get out a few times when we went about (not to mention the time when I flew through the air and landed on my feet when the wheelchair came to a very abrupt stop in a big hole between some cobbles… I am a human cannonball… I was fine but my partner developed a huge bruise where her foot had hit the tilt bar at the back – ouch!).

On the Sunday it was really sunny and lovely so we went for a wheelchair walk, first along the river, which was the perfect width of path and really easy (except for the massive steps at the end), then down to the beach. This was not very easy as it was a steep hill and we didn’t properly think through the return journey (what with our sense of adventure and holiday excitement!).

The beach was lovely and warm. We (well not me, to be honest) dragged the wheelchair down the beach with us so that we could get to the water without leaving it miles away. I threw caution to the wind and decided to paddle. My nerve pain is worst at my ankles and is triggered by water and temperature change so it was a bit risky, but basically I just tip-toed so they didn’t get too wet. It was lovely and warm and frankly I would have just gone for a swim if I could have. Lots of people were and it was packed.

After a sit down, it was decided that my partner would take the wheelchair back up the beach and go along the car park and I would walk along the beach to the next path and meet her there. The car park was large gravel and like one big pot-hole so she could not push me along there, so I had to walk and so I might as well enjoy the beach. We hoped the other path would be less steep that the one we came down. The sand was very soft and although I enjoyed the walk it felt much much longer than it looked and it was hard going. I found some nice shells and all was sparkly and beautiful, but by the time I got back to my chair I felt quite awful, weak and POTS-like. I sat a while to get my breath back and let things calm down before I then had to walk more (huge gravel then steep hill!). I managed but it was way too much. On the way back to the cottage we sat in pub beer garden for a quick drink and it was sunny and quiet and I was comfortable sitting in wheelchair and felt ok. I really needed the “tonic” part of my tonic water! By the time we got back to the cottage though I had completely crashed. Just lay on sofa in zombie mode for some time. We were out for several hours but the time just flew by and we both had a really nice time being out exploring together so it was worth it.

After that I had a couple of quiet days resting and recovering (with a lot of nerve pain), and our friend arrived the Tuesday evening and we went out to the Indian restaurant around the corner, which was really good. I was really careful about what i chose and basically just ate rice with a little bit of the different dishes to taste – it paid off as I had no IBS flare-up afterwards! Amazing! The noise really got to me in there though, and after I finished eating all I could do was sit with eyes closed as I could not even follow the conversation with all the other noises there. We could not stay long. I felt better once we left and got some fresh air.

On the Wednesday I still did not feel too good but after an afternoon nap we went to a local second-hand bookshop. It was only ten minutes drive and was fully wheelchair accessible so I knew it would not be too hard. I was concerned that my brain-fog would prevent me from being able to focus enough to choose anything, but I found 4 books which all look really interesting:

The Diary of a Dying Man by William Soutar – (This is available on Amazon, I have not chosen that link, but it’s easy to find). I have read the first few pages and I think this will be a really interesting book. It is witty and also has already come up with some parallels with my life; early on he discusses various things people tell him will do him good (pills, potions, foods) and he says that he would be taking things constantly if he listened to all of this advice. I know that feeling! 

Longshore Drift by Katrina Porteous and with Linocuts by James Dodds – this is the first book I really focussed on when I went in. It was on a little display and I cannot believe that no-one else had grabbed it before I got there. A little gleaming gem. The poem is very interesting but it is the linocut prints that have had me reaching for the book several times while away and also since I got home. They are just amazing and there is always something new to see. As I have tried to do stamp carving (I don’t know what to call it really), I can see how he has chosen which parts to cut to make the black image/lines and it is interesting to observe his techniques and choices. The detail is amazing; as is how simple lines can do so much.

Southern Mail/Night Flight by Antoine de Saint Exupery – I have only read Le Petit Prince before, but this is described as poetic and it sounded interesting, though I have never really been interested in flying… But if birds do it, then it may be something I can get into!

The Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris Lessing. This, she says, is part autobiography; but it seems from the description to be a kind of dystopian novel and by far the most frightening-sounding book I have chosen! She is someone I have heard of in terms of her feminist and political views, but I have never read anything she wrote before, so I will see how it goes.

That evening I stayed in resting while they went to pub for a while. It was nice to have much-needed quiet time but when I got lonely they came back for a chat before I went to bed, which was really nice.

The next day, Thursday, the sun was out again so after eating breakfast outside on our tiny bit of decking, I walked down the hill (funny little path through people’s back gardens) with my friend and we went to explore the estuary.

We took pictures of boats and I tried to do a little sketching but it was not really the best circumstances as it was a bit on the parky side with the cool breeze and also not very comfortable/relaxing to sit. Sand was too wet/squidgy so we sat on a concrete block for a while. Had to walk a little way up a hill (very slowly!) then rang my partner to come get me with wheelchair. We stopped for a cuppa in tea shop on way home. I had a big sleep then we watched DVD of The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo, which I really enjoyed. I was the only one who had not read the book, but they said it was a good film version of the original.

Friday I felt pretty rubbish. We tried to go to the pub and play cards in the afternoon but it was too noisy – first a large group of middle-aged women squawking and screeching in hilarity at each other, then when they left another gang of younger people who all laughed really loudly together in great bursts. I felt a bit sad that I can’t enjoy being in groups like that anymore. I could not focus on my cards while that was going on, and it was really uncomfortable for me, so we had to leave. We played a game later in the cottage, but I was still not feeling too hot.

Saturday we had to get up early to leave by ten. My partner had already been home and back again by then with the first load. We actually left at 9.30! I tried to rest once home but my body/brain had obviously become fairly confused by it all and gone into emergency mode. In the afternoon and evening I felt hyper and weird and could not rest, adrenaline taken over and although I knew it was not real energy and I tried not to do too much, I did unpack and tidy up a bit as I knew I wouldn’t be able once it all caught up with me and it is nice to get sorted.

The next couple of days I was in bed until mid afternoon both days and not feeling great but we managed to have some gentle chats, watch a bit of TV and have half a game of scrabble before my friend left early on Tuesday morning.

So it was a mixed bag, but with some really nice experiences. I would have like to have been able to go to the beach a bit more but the inaccessibility mixed with the torrential rain at times (I forgot to mention that!) meant it did not happen. We could not drive around the village much as the parking was so tight we could not move the car much at all, which is the only reason I would not stay in that actual cottage again.

Since the holiday I have been feeling generally pretty awful much of the time, and my cognitive function has been very low for me which has been a surprise really. I wonder how much is due to the new sleeping tablets I am taking. I am going to have to experiment with them. Writing this has taken f-o-r-e-v-e-r!!!

I have however been out a couple of times since being home again, just taking advantage of the fact that my partner has been around a bit more and also not wanting to waste any last sunny days before the end of summer, which feels somehow imminent and over much too quickly. We went into town with the wheelchair, which made it the most pleasant trip to shops I have had in years; it really helped and I bought a few things while I had the opportunity to try things on – it was actually fun! Also we went to a local lighthouse to enjoy a sunny afternoon and just sat and enjoyed watching the waves and feeling the warmth. A gentle but lovely trip out. I finished my camera films off at the lighthouse so I am sending my holiday snaps off to be developed soon! I did not take as many as I would have liked, but I hope there will still be some nice ones there.

It was my “birthday week” the week before last. I had a good week! I was careful to rest and eat nothing different (like cake) as i planned to go out into town on the Sunday to meet some friends. It really felt like a whole week of celebrations though, with cards, messages and presents trickling in day by day (unopened of course!). I was feeling a bit down after Christmas, just struggling in general, and it was nice to feel my mood lift (if not my energy levels) and to feel genuine excitement about my birthday, getting some presents and going out to see friends i had not been able to see for months. As usual i was blown away by the kind and thoughtful messages, presents and the efforts people went to in order to make me feel special. It was really nice and a much needed break from the norm.

I did make it into town and went to an art gallery, saw my lovely friends, then also stayed in town for an early meal at a place which does food i can eat (rice and tofu based). I will never forget the taxi driver’s face when we asked him to drive me a very short distance along the road, he seemed to be unable to understand that, yes, we really do mean just along the road there… he didn’t refuse though, which was good. Although i became uncomfortable sitting in the restaurant with heavy blood-filled legs, i felt pretty good while out and it felt so nice I did not want to go home. I knew i had to but it felt like so long since i was out and about, i did not want it to end.

It almost seems easy when i am out and not feeling too bad and i find myself wondering why i don’t manage such things more often, until i remember the whole week of resisting the urge to leave the house (despite feeling quite stir-crazy at times) or do anything more than the basics, eating safely, the morning of lying in bed trying to get that extra boost of a nap, the day before of preparing myself, making sure i was bathed, hair washed etc so i did not have to do before i left, and the inevitable recovery time which would be just as long, all for three/four hours of being out.

This week since the trip out has been a hard one. I did not get a proper full recovery from that before other things happened. A decorator came the next morning which i had to get up for, after not sleeping well at all (as usual after doing something stimulating/exerting myself in any way). As it happened i managed to have a bath and go back to bed and sleep with my earplugs in while the decorator was here and when i woke up she was almost finished but still it was not as relaxed as i needed. My stomach was upset after the meal out, despite being so careful, which always saps my energy. Then there was the hospital appointment a couple of days later which should have been quick and easy, taxi in and out. Long story short, i looked on the website to find the appropriate entrance but it was incorrect and i did not ask for a wheelchair transit as i did not know how far it was (thought i was ok and receptionist made it sound like not too far) and walked far too far. Had a POTS episode (didn’t actually pass out but got to the department in a bad state, could hardly stand/breathe/talk) had the very quick appointment  after recovering a while in the waiting room and then went home. That evening i felt awful and i am still recovering from that. I also had to pop out briefly with my partner on Friday, she drove me only ten minutes each way but i ended up sitting in the car for 3/4 hour and although it was no exertion and i was relaxed and warm enough, it just sapped that little bit of energy i had left away… Last night i could hardly function and the tv was too much for me even really quiet so i was in bed from early evening and only just got up properly about 16 hours later. I have slept a lot so i hope i am ok now for my dentist appointment tomorrow… very tempted to cancel but i really need to go, it is overdue.

There is more plastering/decorating happening in the next couple of weeks but i won’t be alone with them so hopefully i can ignore it mostly. I hope things calm down a bit as i hate getting myself into that really bad state by overdoing it. It is distressing to feel so ill and incapable of simple things (like holding a mug without dropping it – it bounced luckily). I have felt quite emotional and i think that for me is one of the main benefits of pacing well, it that i can avoid burning out completely and feeling so helpless. When i do very little i can still feel pretty bad, but it is different to the feeling of teetering on the edge of total meltdown… some little voice says, have i broken myself this time? Will i get over this crash this time? My usual level of functioning may not be great but it feels so different to that.

I am back from my week’s holiday and i can say it was a successful trip 🙂

sunset

We went to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, which is right up in the far North East of England, just a few miles from the the Scottish Border. It is literally an island and is cut off from the mainland by the tide twice a day. It was nice to feel cut off from the rest of the world by the tide, and also by the lack of internet access. It felt like a retreat from my usual life and a chance to do things that i do not usually get to do.

Things i wanted from the week were:

  1. to spend more time outdoors and feel part of the landscape, not just be a “tourist” passing by in a car, as i often do these days
  2. to experience being outside at different times of day, as i usually only go out in the middle of the day (if at all!)
  3. to take some good photos
  4. to have some fun!
  5. to go on a pub crawl! (As there are at least three pubs in the very small village).
  6. to learn more about the Lindisfarne gospels by going to the Lindisfarne Centre on the island
  7. to do creative things (painting/drawing etc)

So, which ones did i manage?

Well, i did most of them…  i did not get to the Lindisfarne Centre, though i did read a bit about the Gospels and the history of the Island in books that were in the cottage we stayed in. I did not manage to do much creativity either – i wrote one haiku (see below), but there was not energy or time for other bigger creative activities after walking about the island a bit and going out for occasional pub meals, and a trip up to Scotland to a craft centre and tiny fishing village and sleeping and resting between each thing. Also i did not manage a “pub crawl” as such, though i did go into several different ones. Seeing as i don’t (can’t) drink alcohol it would not have been very authentic anyway…

I was really pleased to do some walking around the village and also along the shoreline and harbour. The shops and pubs were just metres from the cottage, which made little trips out to them manageable. I walked quite far on a couple of occasions and it was so nice to feel the ground under my feet, feel my body “working”, see the lovely views, take some photos and feel connected to the landscape, to be in it and part of it, in a way that only “walking it” can do for me.

I did not always feel great by the time i got back and i think i am still recovering from the longest walk i did on Thursday, and it is now Sunday! But it was so worth it and i had to seize the opportunity while i was in that beautiful place. It seems that, try as i might to change, the things that give me most joy are still the things i used to enjoy as a “well” person. It was a treat to be able to do it, but i wish i could find something to replace that with for it’s therapeutic & mood enhancing benefits, enjoyment and buzz that i could do almost every day, as i used to go for a walk all the time.

On that big walk i felt well and my body behaved itself and i did not feel any POTS symptoms really, despite being upright (with regular sitting rests on benches) for about an hour. I often stood still for taking pictures and it was so nice to feel good, reasonably strong and able. Although i have felt that i overdid it and am still recovering energy-wise, there would be no way i could have managed that without the POTS medication, as i was rarely able to walk for more than five minutes before and any movements were slow and so much effort. I now find that sometimes, if i pick the best time of day and have had enough rest etc etc, i can move in quite a normal way, get up from a chair quite quickly and walk at a reasonable speed, at least for a short time. That is really nice, and gives me some hope for having some nice wanders about this summer. I miss wandering!

viewfromhill

I climbed(!) a small hill to take this (and many other) pictures. All these photos are just using my phone as i have not got my films developed yet. I hope there will be some better ones to come!

One of the main highlights of the week for me was when we went out in the evening and sat on a bench overlooking the castle in the dark. We took the torch from the cottage which was useful as there was only one street light on the way! It was very cold so we wrapped up well. It was really quiet and there was no-one around. We sat on the bench and looked out to small lights on the water, out to sea and along the coastline. There was a bunch of flowers tied to the bench and the cellophane rustled in the breeze and we could hear the water lapping gently at the shore just a few feet in front of us (though we could not see it!). The best bit was the castle. We could not see it, but every minute or so it was lit up from behind by the light of a lighthouse which was out of sight behind the castle mound. The light was green and not very bright and we could just make out the outline of the castle before it disappeared back into the darkness. I wrote a Haiku about it:

Illuminated

Dark castle mound: back-lit by

Rotating green light

Obviously i could not take a picture of it, as it was far too dark but now the image is cemented into my mind. You will have to imagine it too!

After the success of the evening walk, a few days later we tried a dawn walk. I set my alarm for half past six and out we went back to the same area. My body was not quite so happy about that and the dawn was grey and not very inspiring! I was hoping for a glorious sunrise but you can’t win them all… here is one picture i took on my phone once it got light enough that morning just before going (crawling zombie-like) back to the cottage for some breakfast then back to bed.

holy-island

 It was often cloudy during the holiday, which was a disappointment, as it limited when i could take good pictures but the sun did come out on my big walk on Thursday so i can’t wait to get the films developed and see what comes out!

I feel really happy that i managed to do so much while away, and coped with the awful bed and unsupportive chairs and being away from all my other home comforts quite well too. It took a little while to relax into it but i really feel better for having a change of scenry and a break from the usual routines. Travelling anywhere is such a challenge and it doesn’t always work out very well, so i am so pleased this was a success!

Today i went to see the POTS Specialist again. She was pleased to hear that i have been feeling better and said it has made her New Year! I said that it had certainly made mine 🙂

They did not do the tests again so i don’t know if my heart is racing a little slower or not these days. She said it was too early to see much of a difference but they would repeat the tests again in a while.

She has doubled my dosage of Midodrine as i was on a very small dose. I now will take 5mg twice a day, morning and lunchtime. She said she hopes i will see twice the improvement! I like her enthusiasm and her positive attitude. She does not make wild promises but at the same time is optimistic and so enthusiastic about helping me.

I took the first “double dose” at lunch time and my hair went all tingly and i felt a bit shivery like goosebumps when i went for a lie down a bit later. This is the only side effect i had when i started taking the tablets 6 weeks ago and it soon passed. It is not unpleasant, quite amusing really as side-effects go!

I asked her if there was anything else i could be doing, such as leg exercises, as i had read that keeping legs toned was helpful and mine are obviously not in great shape after years of illness and limited activity. She said NO, quite strongly. She said it took years to get into this state (!) and that it will take years to get out of it and that I am not to push it or go “running marathons”… er, well that was not what i was thinking but point taken, doc! So gently does it…

I also asked if i will always be on this drug. She said that maybe i would be but that hopefully with taking the medication and increasing my activity the POTS will improve too. She said i will keep going to see her and she may adjust the dosages as we go along as required, then after a year she will assess if we can reduce the dosage or if we need to continue for longer.

This is promising as i was thinking i would maybe be stuck on it forever. The thought of it actually getting better and not needing any medication one day is beyond my wildest dreams, having only just got a diagnosis and treatment 6 weeks ago!

I am really starting to dare to hope that i can eventually return to the levels of health i had about 3 years ago, when i was working 20 hours per week. (This is a world away from where i am now, however, so it won’t happen overnight). I am certain my POTS symptoms began at this time, although they only became serious gradually about 2 years ago. The last year they have been getting noticeably more and more debilitating and have limited every activity and caused so many of my symptoms. It will be so interesting to see which symptoms are persistent once the POTS symptoms are managed/reduced. I am getting ahead of myself though…

I am getting out and about more and coping well. I still have to sit down and can feel the symptoms if i stand still for even a minute but am learning to read when it is ok to continue and when it is not! I was so happy today after seeing the specialist, as instead of getting a taxi home, i walked down the hill to a chinese supermarket that i used to love popping into and have not managed to visit for at least 3 years. I bought a few things and then bought some fruit and veg from a stall by the bus station and got the bus home! I didn’t feel ill on the bus and felt ok standing to pay in the shop as well. It is such as small thing for a healthy person to walk about for half an hour and get the bus but such a novelty to have the freedom to do that rather than get a taxi home and collapse. I saved £7 by getting the bus, so most of my shopping was free! I did still have a well earned nap this afternoon, of course! I had to stop myself buying everything just for the novelty value as i still can’t carry much without getting aches and pains afterwards.

Yesterday i went ten minutes on the bus to some shops nearby and got a few things and had lunch out, and got the bus back home, and tomorrow or sunday i am planning to go to an art gallery in town with my partner. I will use their wheelchair as i want to relax, take my time and be able to see things that don’t have a chair nearby, but to go out so often in quick succession is something i could not have contemplated 2 months ago.

I am still not walking the dog but hope to build up to doing it on days where nothing else is happening, which will be nice, as i have really missed the fresh air and nature fix that i got on good days where i could go for 20 minutes or so. Also the opportunity to take my camera and record anything beautiful i see. I have not missed the way things had become where i was out for 5-10 minutes and felt like death, sat on a bench across the road and worried that i would not make it back to the door and had to lie down for a long time afterwards to recover. Hopefully i won’t have too many of those days again.

All this hope of improvement comes just weeks before my DLA tribunal, although i may well still qualify for something it has thrown me into a quandry about whether to go or not. I do not want to get ahead of myself in my enthusiasm for change and i am not sure what i can and can’t do on a regular basis as it has only been a few weeks and i have had bad days, of course, among the good. I think i am not in line for higher rate mobilty now, as it was always borderline and i feel more able to get about short distances and more predictably, although i have not really tested it on a regular basis and have only been out when i felt at my best time of day. The lower rate care therefore is all that is left and i think this is probably out as well. It is a shame that i almost definately qualified for that until a few weeks ago, so all that back pay is lost as i am improving at the last minute! I don’t really care any more though, i am just pleased not to feel so vulnerable that i cannot look after myself properly. I am sure i will still need help with cooking sometimes and having my hair washed and other bits and bobs, but i am unsure if it is enough for DLA… I just hope i can improve enough to leave all of that behind… I will just talk to my benefits advisor people and see what they say. On the one hand there is no harm in attending the tribunal and letting them make the decision, after all i have been through to get to this point, but on the other hand i just don’t want to go through it if there is no point. I want to look to the future.

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…

Yesterday, i went to see the POTS specialist! It was a positive experience, and although i have realised that i have been pinning a lot of hopes on her and her potential treatments for me, i have not lost that hope since speaking to her. It is the first time anyone has really tried to help me with medication (except painkillers/antidepressants which the majority of people will take at some time), which is the way many illnesses are treated and managed, but to someone with CFS/ME it feels very novel.

She said to me that half of those with POTS experience ME-like symptoms of weakness, fatigue etc and about 27% of people she sees with ME have POTS. I said “oh i am one of the lucky ones to have both” in a sarky way, and she said “well yes in a way you are as it means we can offer your some medication to help manage it.” So if they are not completely distinct entities, it could be said that i have the type of ME that lends itslef to POTS and that there are things that can be tried to improve my quality of life… although my first thought was that she was putting a very positive spin on the fact that as i have both it is a sign that my illness is on the more severe side of the spectrum in the first place! Take your pick! 

I had similar tests to those i had before and again my blood pressure was low and my heart rate was very high on standing – it was 152 beats per minute at one point! They always ask me how i feel when this is happening, and it is quite funny, as i feel ok, just a little lightheaded but it is so normal to me now that i think i have forgotten what it feels like to stand normally. I tell them i feel ok, and they look very doubtful! They only make me stand there for two minutes, i think any longer and i would struggle as i do notice i am swaying more as time goes on and my lower legs tingle and feel heavy.

So they did the tests, and then i spoke to the specialist who is really nice (as is everyone in the unit, it seems). She has given me Midodrine, a Vasoconstrictor, at a low dose to start with. I have taken one yesterday and one this morning and so far, no bad reaction! There are not meant to be many bad side effects, especially on a low dose, but i know i am quite sensitive to drugs so i am always worried about side effects. The ones to look out for are all things i experience anyway, so it may not be obvious unless a big reaction. The doctor says that minor side effects should be temporary anyway. Also it is good as i can still take the painkillers and sleeping tablets that i sometimes take as they don’t affect each other… result!

Although this drug is obviously quite a serious drug, and is recommended long term only if it has a marked improvement for people whose quality of life has been greatly reduced by POTS, i feel that it will be so worth it if it helps me. My quality of life in terms of being able to care for myself and get out and about has been so much reduced over the last three years and has felt like a steady decline, that any turn around in that trend is worth some long term risks. I feel lucky that unlike many chronically ill and disabled people i have not had to pollute my body with drugs just to stay alive, or get through each day, regardless of the side effects and the impact that may have later (and i have a prospect of “later”). Because ME is not (seen as) a terminal illness, at least, most people live with it, even severely, for decades; there is always a feeling that we want to preserve what we have got, health-wise and not jeopardise the future by taking risks now, in case we get that miraculous recovery and because we don’t know how long we will have to endure this if we don’t. But it gets to a point where the implications of living such a limited life are also so “dangerous” on many levels that any drug that can help is welcome. That is how i feel now. Not that this one seems particularly risky but it makes me think of these issues. The prospect of taking a drug every day for the forseeable future is strange for me. I only started taking the contraceptive pill recently and that was enough of a decision, although i am so pleased i am on it now. I realise this is a priviledged position, but it also comes from the fact that there are no drug treatments like this for ME.

It is interesting to compare the way i have been diagnosed and treated for two conditions that are very similar in cause (often viral, but may be other factors) and which affect very similar bodily functions (autonomic nervous system). No psychologist assessments so far for POTS! Just go in, have a test, and take some tablets!

It seems that many of my worst symptoms could be attributed to POTS, so there is great potential for improvement, if we can find a drug which works for me…

Top of my list would be: ability to stand up for more than a few seconds/minutes which is variable and unpredictable, ability to walk for more than a few minutes without making myself feel very ill for hours or being worried if i can make it back to the front door/taxi, not having hot flushes many times a day, not having blurred vision, not having such constant pain and tension in neck and shoulders and also bad headaches practically every day… there are many others but that would be a start and don’t want to ask for the moon on a stick… so no pressure then doc?!?

Interesting what she said about pain, as she said i may have trigger points (this is known as myofascial pain, and is what people with fibromyalgia typically have, and many people with ME have it to some extent as well. I have just bought a book about it, The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook, so i hope to work on my trigger points soon as well, once i have found the energy to find them and understand the book!), but she said that there is a pattern of pain associated with POTS which she called “coathanger pain” which is pain across mid back, shoulders, up the neck into the head… this is my exact pain pattern! She says it is caused by the muscles being starved of oxygen as blood flow in upper body is limited by POTS and the larger muscles show most distress. No wonder my brain hurts!! ha ha.

So my brain is literally hurting now and i am sure there is more to say about POTS but it will have to wait. All i will say to close is that i had no idea how much the themes of my first blog post on Hope and Acceptance would be so much the themes of the whole blog, it seems it always comes back to this for me. Now i have some Hope again (the most i have had since early on in the illness when they were still telling me i could recover and i still half belived them) and it is very dangerous territory… but maybe i am becoming more experienced in coping when hopes are dashed? i “hope” so!!!!

Took the dog out the other day and saw a mouse!

It was so tiny! I was taking a break on a handy bollard (not nearly enough benches in my village to cater for my needs, so i just have to make do) and it just scampered about for ages right next to me on the side of the main road. it was so small even the dog didn’t notice, she just munched some grass as she often does when i stop walking…

This may seem unimportant but it made my walk actually pleasurable, which is happening less and less as i find it so hard, and it is nice when you don’t have to go trekking in the undergrowth or up a mountain to see wildlife! As i tend to stay in a five minute radius of my house it is nice to see something different.

ME/CFS Awareness

ME/CFS Awareness

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