The Things I do Because of my Chronic Illnesses That are Often Misread

Sorry it’s been a bit radio silence here lately! I’m struggling with my ME and relying on adrenaline, caffeine, sugar and sheer necessity to get through everything I do. With feeling so god damn awful and trying to just carry on I thought I’d share some things I do because of my chronic illness.

1. Resting my head on the table or my knee whilst I handwrite notes or an exam – I started doing this at school when I was 10 and I always got told off for it. But it was just more comfortable like that. I didn’t know why at the time but as my symptoms have got worse I have realised it’s a thing I do to try and alleviate dizziness and head pressure and just keep going. Fun fact head on desk is how I got through my Land Law and Trusts Law exams.

2. Never having my feet on the floor and finding all manner of awkward positions to sit in so my feet are at hip height – helps with fatigue and dizziness and is just more comfortable.

3. Leaning against whatever there is to lean on

4. Constantly moving around if asked to sit/stand in one place – shifting weight and finding different positions helps with pain.

5. Working from bed or the sofa – I’m often dizzy and suffering from pressure in my head or I’m nauseous and in a lot of pain. My bed and the sofa both mean I can alternate sitting and laying.

6. Picking up my phone far too often when I’m meant to be working but my ME is causing severe head pressure and I just can’t concentrate – Really trying to cut the phone addiction. This doesn’t help I just am not good at sitting, or laying and blankly staring at what I’m meant to be doing.

7. Walking slowly – I’m sorry, I simply can’t keep up due to my pain and fatigue. Please be understanding if we are out together and walk at a pace I am able to manage on that day.

8. Grabbing hold of walls or using them to guide me I often get dizzy and go into pre-syncope. When my vision blurs due to this or I just feel unsteady on my feet I often use the walls to help me navigate my way to the bathroom or wherever in the house it is I’m going.

9. Taking my time when changing position (i.e laying to sitting and sitting to standing) – head pressure and dizziness is a bitch and it definitely gets worse when I change position.

These are just some of the things I do due to my symptoms that people may misread.

What do you do because of your chronic illness?

Step into my shoes: Growing up with chronic illness

Imagine being eight, going through a phase of constantly spraining your ankles in PE, your teachers not believing your in pain when you ask to sit out half way through for the 3rd week in a row. That started it, the belief that no one believes you, everyone thinks your a fraud. There can’t be something that wrong because if there was people would believe you.

Being nine and spraining more ankles and a wrist. Being told you can’t go horse-riding because you have an injury, albeit minor. That started the feeling that you should hide the pain because you didn’t want to miss out on the fun. Horse-riding was a passion at the time and the pain wasn’t that bad. For pain that wasn’t always going to be there when you rode it was worth pushing through.

Imagine being 11, running around in the playground getting a pain in your lower right abdomen. A pain that unknown to you at the time would plague the rest of your life. You’re scared, but feel unable to open up to your parents about it. You reach 12 and it gets worse. Your dad somehow reads your texts and says your telling your friends you feel unwell for attention. You ask to sit out of PE because the pain is beyond excruciating your scared you’ll die. The teacher doesn’t believe you. You try to play basketball despite, standing out hand on your lower right abdomen, leaning against the wall whenever possible. Because that teacher didn’t believe you, you don’t go to the medical room in the next class. You think they to won’t believe you. You internalise it even more. Hide the symptoms from parents and teachers even more.

More and more goes wrong with your body. Dizziness. Going from once being fit to struggling to walk up the stairs to your English class without feeling like you’ll pass out. Your knees hurt and you stop horse-riding. Between the abdominal pain and the knee pain from having feet in the stirrups it’s just too much.

At 14 you take ibuprofen into school, taking it every three hours instead of every four. Even then the abdominal pain rarely eases up.

The teachers think you don’t try hard enough. You should be getting better grades. But how from the ages of 11-16 do you pay attention in class when you are scared for your health but feel you have no where to turn. When the nausea and abdominal pain is distracting at best and excruciating at worst. When you are depressed, self harming and develop anorexia because you feel like no one understands you. No one is there for you and no one listens to you.

Doing your best isn’t killing yourself. It’s not pushing yourself unreasonably. It’s simply doing your best.

Maybe I should have been getting straight A’s but my circumstances meant I didn’t.

At 16 you develop ME, but it comes on so subtly. You start getting worse at climbing, cycling two minutes down the road makes your legs feel heavy and weak when previously you could easily do the entire paper round. The sore throat comes on and it never leaves, you feel tired and start falling asleep at 2pm over the summer holidays or fall asleep at 8pm in the middle of watching criminal minds. You’ve been busy. It’s nothing. You start college, the nausea gets worse, you feel tired but everyone’s tired. It’s nothing. That is until the dizziness and heart palpitations start, the fatigue hitting you like a ton of bricks at the beginning of second year. (Although not as bad as I am now). The doctors don’t know what’s wrong. They record a sitting heart rate of 135bpm but say you are just underweight. Hilariously you then relapse into anorexia, fall into an exercise addiction and push through injuries. You feel the PEM (albeit mild compared to todays PEM it was significant at the time). The what is now known as ME gets better but your abdomen and all those organs decide not to be okay. You lose weight after gaining back to a healthy weight. In pain. Nauseous. Bloated The doctor says It’s just stress.

That’s just a snapshot of life with chronic illness. We really need to start believing our young people. Really making our young people aware that we are there to listen and help. Not just stick to the standard “faking it, growing pains, stress, weight” reasons for symptoms out of the ordinary. I know had I been believed and had I felt loved and able to speak about my symptoms from the outset I would be a more confident person now. I wouldn’t have spent so much time so scared, thinking about what could be wrong with me and maybe I then would have got better grades.

The month of both excitement and tears

June feels like it’s flown by. I think that’s because I just haven’t stopped and if I have stopped it’s been because I’ve been so unwell that I’ve been unable to even watch TV.

June started with me with my family and ended with me back up north due to flat stuff. Moving out is not fun. But we move (Literally in 4 weeks from the day this will be posted). I definitely miss being home. Although my chronic illnesses are a lot worse and my family just don’t get it I’m finding it’s too quiet working from home on my own. I’m bored, not because I don’t have enough to do but because I need that stimulation of people (and dogs around). But the health benefits are certainly worth it. Lots of exciting law things happened this month. I got a video interview for my dream law firm (and then got rejected but we move).

I also got an interview for a scholarship I need which is at the end of July. The pressure is on because I need it but I’m excited. I also took part in Legal Cheeks virtual vacation scheme which helped me massively in determining what I want for career and in providing me with a network.

I really hope my luck in terms of interviews continues and I get some more interviews for my outstanding applications. If I don’t that’s also fine as I’m aware many firms have paused recruitment and it’s a difficult year. There is always next year.

My stomach eased up after I moved back to my apartment as it’s meant I can eat more flexibly and in a way that works for my body. My bladder on the other hand. I’ve spent the last week on antibiotics for a UTI that may or may not be there. It’s helped reduce the spasms but it’s still causing significant problems, especially if I dare drink more than one cup of coffee a day. I am at the moment whilst I’m trying to pursue law, trying to work my full time job and trying to sort out a job for August (I’m resigning it will be official by the time this is published).

My mum and nan are putting an awful lot of pressure on me about my decision. I’m leaving because I’m simply not well enough. I need to get my health back so although I’m looking for an ideally part time role my interest in something full time is limited to something of the dream job category. It will only be 5 months come resigning until I start my LPC so I reason if nothing I’m well enough for is available I will manage living with my parents and worst comes to worst just doing general CV bolstering activities.

There’s only so long you can push yourself for and although I am getting out of this ME flare, I think, Maybe that’s the adrenaline speaking, I need to place myself in the best position to excel in my LPC and go on to have a long career in law. I also need to recondition and doing that whilst working isn’t going well right now.

Passing out when trying to sit up after a laying down workout isn’t fun!

So that was June! How was the month for you?

More things I’ve done due to brain fog

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As I’ve got a busy and stressful week I thought I’d make a quicker easier post and that is more brain fog stories as I have plenty of stupid brain fog moments.

  • Forgetting my brothers name. Not just confusing the two but going completely blank and having to settle for child and then getting told off by mum because “he has a name”. I know he has a name but my brain was so dead in that moment it couldn’t figure the name out.
  • Calling dad mum and vise versa – I did it twice in one evening a couple of weeks ago
  • How do I make a bowl of oats?
  • Completely misspelling words so they end up jumbles of letters
  • Writing the opposite of what you intended
  • Confusing words and names starting with similar letters
  • Leaving house keys in the front door
  • Forgetting to go to the toilet – yes I often wonder around wondering what I got up to do, go sit down again and then remember
  • Looking for ice packs in the kitchen draws instead of the freezer
  • Difficulty safely navigating streets and crossing roads when walking – my brain just struggles to process all the movement around me which is why I’ve not learnt to drive yet.

I hope these events show you the ridiculous things brain fog does to us multiple times a day and is somewhat relatable and helpful in helping everyone with brain fog feel less useless and alone!

May was a Mess but that’s okay

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I quite like doing these monthly reviews so I think I’ll continue them as much as possible.  But May was a not very fun month. Fun things happened but my body definitely took the sacrifice until I found the d-ribose and the adrenaline I’m in right now. Yes I’m aware harnessing the adrenaline isn’t good ME management advice but I do what I do.

The beginning of May actually feels like a decade away right now but I decided to commit to an ME awareness daily photo challenge on Instagram which I actually completed, like what? Everyone who knows me knows I get to about day 15 of these challenges and give up. But with a lot of pre-preparation and sometimes posting two or three days in one I managed. When I could dedicate the physical and cognitive energy to photo taking I really enjoyed expressing my creativity and posting different content. But I also liked  how I could go through a wealth of photos on facebook, google photos, my phone and post old content if I didn’t have the energy or muse. There is now a picture of 9 year old me in a tree on Instagram (Where else would I be?).

I also got to see my family again and I am loving being fed and my dog and my fingerboard and there being a tree I can climb in my nans back garden. It’s probably not safe as it’s probably taller than a bouldering wall (getting down was terrifying) but my brother climbs it all the time and I’m competitive. Yes even against a 14 year old because if he’s better than me at anything he endlessly rubs it in.  Also trees and doorframes are all I can climb right now so if I’m in the vicinity of a tree and feeling vaguely well enough I will.

But my health was not vibing in May. In all the ways.

I spent the month a really not fun gastro flare because my body was like “Hi your doing too much for me to have the energy to digest food.” The only reason I’ve kept weight on is because my family feed me and eat the typical unhealthy westernised diet so the calorie density has been higher, especially with my evening meal. I’m really hoping my stomach works this month because I’m done with the agonising all consuming nausea but also scared of gaining weight. I weigh the least I have since a bad gastro flare four years ago and I weirdly feel worse about my body than I did at Christmas when I was heavier. But such is life. I can’t do huge amounts about it when living with my family. If I wasn’t working I’d make separate dinners for myself more but I really don’t have spare energy to cook and wash up the cooking every day or walk to Tesco and back for fruit whenever. My nausea is something I really should see a doctor over as even though I can’t commit to one end of the country I could atleast get some anti-emetics. Over the counter and herbal remedies are of really limited effect right now and no I can’t concentrate on my job effectively if the all consuming nausea hits. But I also can’t concentrate if I’m hungry so I can’t really win.

My bladder also waged a bit of war on me, although that’s been going on since before lockdown I found it more noticeable when trying to work. I should really see a doctor about that actually as it’s been really painful over the last few months but COVID and not being committal over staying in one part of the country.  It’s also kind of scaring me because from my limited none medically trained knowledge it sounds like I’m having retention issues which is a common EDS comorbidity.

I still have an elbow injury even though that’s had a lot more rest (Should really do something about it) and my LCL is still injured even though when I got it checked out I was told a month. That was three months ago. I hate it when medical professionals underestimate injuries because of a high pain tolerance or maybe I just heal slowly because of my EDS. Everything else that got injured during the same heel hook is better now though!

Migraines, pressure in the back of my head, migraine like headaches that aren’t actual migraines and pain in the rest of my body has been a constant battle. Yes another thing I should consult the GP about but I have 99 problems and I don’t know which to prioritise.

I was finding myself on the floor multiple times a day, although that did reduce at the end of the month by starting D-ribose and getting back on another supplement that I think I probably was on at some point but stopped because I couldn’t afford. It’s very weird living in an abelist family who don’t even believe that is a thing, collapsing multiple times a day but never in their sight or rarely because adrenaline is a wonderful thing. It’s honestly even more hilarious when your younger brother has issues with you not emptying the dishwasher and your dad gets in on the “Why can you do X but not Y?”

Especially when you can’t explain because they don’t let you get a word in and lets face it no one will ever understand ME until they have ME. No one will ever understand that yes I can do this thing but this thing makes me very dizzy and I have to work after lunch so no I can’t do this thing right now. I can do this thing but it’s unsafe for me as I often can’t feel my feet and am dizzy so if I am able to walk down the stairs carrying a hoover down and then hoovering the mess I made after exerting a lot of energy before now is something I need help with.

I did the hoovering. Not the carrying.

I feel like able bodied people also don’t understand that we’re allowed to have fun. And I’m not blaming my brother for his “Why can you climb a tree but not empty the dishwasher.”  But it’s something I’ve come across my other people who are old enough to educate themselves and allow themselves to be educated.

May also ended in a bit of a mental health crisis. I won’t go into details of why or what but it was terrifying, especially as I had been doing really well. Honestly if I had records of my recent anxiety and depression questionnaires I could prove it. (I have to do them before each therapy session.) But seriously being worse mentally, even if only for two days than you have been for two years is terrifying.

So May was not great but hopefully June will be better. On one of the last days of the Month I was able to walk for 10 minutes without too much PEM. Still some PEM but less.

I may go down to one post a week in June. It’s certainly not felt right to make two posts this week with everything going on. I’ve been sharing resources and info #blacklivesmatter related over on my IG stories @spoonielivingfree which will likely continue but writing a blog post on the matter when I can only come from my own white privileged view isn’t something that’s felt right. We need to share voices from black people without putting pressure on them to educate us. I may however write some criminal justice/sentencing pieces if I can find the energy although I’m not sure whether they’ll be posted here or somewhere else.

That was a tangent. But yeah, I’d like to do two posts if I can but it’s not something I’ll pressure myself to do!

How was May for you?

 

 

 

 

Dealing with rejection

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I don’t think I’ve already covered this, or if I have I’ve not dedicated an entire post to it. Which is strange considering just how much rejection I have faced.

At the end of April I was rejected from my dream job, although I was put on the reserve list so maybe if we keep our fingers and toes crossed it will come to me. Or not and something else will happen that was so meant to be.

And very unlike me, I dealt with it okay. Maybe I’ve experienced so much rejection that I’m immune to it.

I was able to appreciate that getting as far in the recruitment process as I did was an achievement in itself. Many people who get the job are a lot more qualified than me, or a lot more privileged and from better universities.

I was able to appreciate that rejection isn’t the end of the world. It doesn’t mean I’m not enough or I didn’t try hard enough.

It’s just life.

Life makes no sense sometimes especially when your dreams seem to just not be coming together. But I truly believe that one day it will all make sense. l

God has a plan.

He just doesn’t make us aware of that plan.

Fibromyaliga

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May 12th was fibromyalgia awareness day. May is also fibromyalgia awareness month so I thought I should write a lil something to raise awareness. Yes I have three chronic illnesses with the same awareness month.

Fibromyalgia is a widespread chronic pain condition which causes pain all over the body. This is generally nerve pain and is often sharp, electric shock like burning pain. I find mine can radiate around my body so much so that I am unsure what part hurts the worst. Or it will target a specific part of my body like my lower left leg and stay there, leaving me unable to walk normally.

Fibromyalgia often causes tender points and previously this was used as diagnosis. I don’t often get tender points, other than in my lower legs, not that I’ve noticed anyway and I’ve never had a full tenderpoint examination.  These tender points mean some sufferers find that they can’t bear their own clothes without causing more pain.  Although I don’t have tender points as such my sensitivity to pain has increased. I never used to feel blood tests or vaccinations and now “sharp scratch” feels like a lot more than a sharp scratch.

Fibromyalgia also causes morning stiffness and unlike ME/CFS which is a very similar illness can be managed through exercises. (Low impact exercise like swimming, Pilates, walking etc.) As I have both I find gentle movement and stretching can oftentimes help my pain, especially in the moment but there’s a danger of doing too much and then getting payback.

People with fibromyalgia often get migraines, suffer from IBS like symptoms, have numbness and pins and needles, fatigue, brain fog, TMJ, bladder issues, in females increased period pain. On that note there is a link between endometriosis and fibromyalgia, or atleast seems to be.

I know many women who have both and I myself am suspected to have both and a doctor has actually said to me before I got my fibro diagnosis that the increased widespread pain I was feeling was likely due to my body being in so much pain with gyne stuff for so long.

It causes insomnia, which for a fatigued population is really not fun. People without sleep issues probably think if we were lacking that much energy we could just sleep all day.

But fatigue and sleepiness are very different things and sometimes our symptoms are overwhelming that it is simply impossible to get to sleep.

It’s common for people to mistake it as a psychosomatic but although fibro can be triggered my emotional trauma it is not psychosomatic. We just don’t have a biomarker. It’s a diagnoses of exclusion although many people get fibro diagnoses and later find they actually had something else.

It’s also common for people to ignore the spectrum and think just because one person can do an active job we can all do active jobs or we can all work at all. This isn’t true. It’s so complex and varied, every person with fibro is different and some of us have access to effective pain control others of us don’t.

Ibuprofen and paracetamol may help some people but it does nothing for my symptoms. I take the maximum dose of gabapentin but also use heat ice, heat cream, freeze gel, spiky balls and self massages.

Pain management is a cocktail of things. It’s also very much trial and error. Managing the other symptoms can be even harder, with doctors often unable to provide useful treatments the cost often falls upon us to make often expensive lifestyle changes which will come to no surprise as often unaffordable, especially if relying on benefits.

Fibro has no rhyme or reason and is almost impossible to understand until you get it but I hope this has given you all some sort of insight.

The problem with Illness Bingos

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These bingos have been floating around Instagram for years, they’ve only recently popped back up into the stories of those whom I follow. Maybe due to pandemic caused boredom.

I find these bingos problematic, on many counts. Both the physical health ones and the mental health ones. This isn’t an attack on anyone I’ve seen doing them or anyone creating them because I’m sure many people don’t realise the issues with them. It’s just a harmless piece of fun right? Maybe… to you. But there are some real issues associated with them that I’d like to discuss.

With both the physical and mental health bingos create some sort of sick competition as to whose the sickest. Who can score the most with symptoms, treatments and comorbidities. There has been this toxic competition going round certain parts of the spoonie community before and it’s simply not okay. A place that many come to for support and a sense of community. A place that many people come to in order to feel less alone. It’s supposed to be a safe space and not a source of ones own illness imposter syndrome.

This can be even more damaging with the mental health bingos. It’s already common with mental illnesses for people to believe they’re not sick enough for treatment. These bingos make that worse.

Mental health bingos can also be hugely triggering, especially eating disorder bingos which often give ideas for behaviours that can be used or use numbers.

It hurts my heart to see these in the recovery community, where someone’s followers are often highly vulnerable.

The thing with Instagram and especially stories is that it’s hard to avoid taking in this information. Unless someone puts a trigger warning on before doing the bingo and you can then choose to click off of the story.

I know how hard that is when we have limited energy and when we may not realise the trigger as it doesn’t trigger us. But if you want to engage in these bingos I believe it’s the safest way to do so.

 

Well that was a quick month

April seemed to have gone by in a flash. It also seems to have been very sunny, not good for the migraines but good for the mental health when I’ve been able to get out.

Trust the UK to get it’s act together the year we’re in lockdown.

I’ve got to confess I’ve spent the majority of the month sleeping. My ME has taken a huge hit from months of overexerting and a possible COVID-19 infection which I still can’t fight off. I still have a cough. It seems to come in a cycle now though rather than being completely unrelenting. I’ll stop coughing for a couple of days then the cough will return. Under the UK guidance this means I don’t need to self isolate as I’d never actually stopped coughing so it’s not a new continuous cough and I did the initial self isolation when it started. However I am regularly checking my temperature and if I get a fever again I will, as that could be sign of reinfection. I’m also taking essential shopping to mean essential shopping. Not “oh I just want a bar of chocolate”. I have witnessed such interpretations of essential and trying to combine trips where reasonable in terms of my ME to try and limit contact to the outside world just in case.

It’s so much fun not knowing whether immunity is a thing to the novel virus right?

I have spent the month largely sofa bound but doing my best not to decondition anymore. There has been lots of bad migraines, lots of bad pain days, lots of fatigue and brain fog.

My activities have been somewhat limited but I think a lack of energy has stopped me from going crazy during this lockdown. I normally get very cabin feverish very quickly which is why I had never mastered the art of pacing. In the past I’d feel a little better and then I’d leave the house and end up bedbound again.

Now I’m feeling a little better and yes leaving the house when I need to but also thinking of things I can do in the house which are less likely to cause payback. I’m finally learning how to pace. I’m noticing early warning signs of a crash and trying to slow down straight away. Instead of pushing myself when every inch of my body is saying no. I’m still not perfect at it, there are still peaks and troughs in my ME. I’ve not perfected the art of pacing. But by remembering that I will actually have to work full time again soon, despite not being well enough I’ve allowed myself to slow down enough to slowly get out of this flare.

I’ve become addicted to tiktok, follow me @spoonielivingfree if you want some quality content. I’ve refound my love of writing. And not just my blog but I’m kind of working on a secret project and wanted to write fanfiction again. (The actual fanfiction writing has been non-existent tbh)

I’ve been able to dedicate time and energy to reading. Mainly YA fiction because it’s accessible to my foggy brain. I’ve been really enjoying getting lost in fiction again. It’s not really something I can do without PEM after work as my job is so cognitive.

Lots of chocolate has been eaten which isn’t great for my waistline but weight gain is okay!

It’s been a hard month and a socially distanced month and I really really miss my family and I am so ready to go home, although I don’t know when as when the office opens albeit in a socially distanced way I’ll have to be in some of the time. Hopefully not all as some would give me leeway to go home without the guilt of annual leave. I’m kind of contemplating illicitly going home myself once I get a work laptop, if I get a work laptop.  Providing I have enough medication and the office isn’t opening imminently to my knowledge. Technically your allowed to move between households and if I went ideally it’d be for two weeks to limit what I may or may not be spreading.

But it’s not by any means be a bad month. Not every month that you get paid for not working a day. And in this age of adult responsibility and bills it’s not every month you get to make decisions to look after your health instead of running yourself into the ground.

Hilariously despite this entire month of time I’ve still not applied for PIP cause anxiety. Even tho I actually need to… I’m just not good at advocating for myself and I know I would be denied it because I don’t look sick…  and a lot of people with ME are.

I am the queen of procrastination over anything that causes anxiety.

How has April been for you?

 

 

 

 

My Mental Health is Suffering in Lockdown

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And we are in week I don’t even know of lockdown. But it’s fair to say the lack of meaningful human interaction is starting to take it’s toll. I’m an introvert but even us introverts will start to crack if left alone with our thoughts for too long. I’m lucky I have access to social media and people to talk to virtually but I’m definitely starting to feel more low than usual.

My sleep schedule is non existent

I’ve started having anorexic thoughts again. Sometimes some really intense ones that have been hard to not give into.

My brain fog is worse and my ability to concentrate also worse.

There are things other people can do, which would help like they’re daily outdoor exercise which I’m not yet really well enough to do. Daily. (Although getting there)

I feel this social experiment COVID-19 has played on us leads to two questions being asked.

Will we have the mental health services and resources to help everyone after this?

Is there going to be more awareness of the fact that poor mental health in people with chronic illness is oftentimes secondary as a result of the isolation it causes?

I really hope so!