Losses and hope

There’s a photo challenge running this month for CRPS awareness. Yep, Nervember has come around again and I’m sporting my orange awareness ribbon on my bag and have matching ribbon lacing my knee-high boots just to make it stand out more. Every year I’ll get asked about it and that’s the whole point. Raising awareness amongst people who wouldn’t come across the information otherwise. 🙂

One of the challenges is to post a poem or quote which describes the losses I have experienced as a result of CRPS impacting my life. And the very next day the challenge was to post a picture about hope.

The losses challenge resulted in me just writing from the heart, that bit was natural. The hard bit has been making myself post it.

The list of losses are initially from way back (I’ve come a long way in knowledge, pain management and personal growth these 16+ years) and the last loss is just 5 years ago (please don’t worry – I’m coping. The last line is less severe these days as I have worked to find new meaning in who I am. I am still grieving, but also living again).

Losing so much as a result of an acquired turn of health is enough to make anyone depressed but CRPS is known in the USA as ‘the suicide disease’ because without diagnosis there is no treatment, no support and crucially no understanding for a patient who has mystery pain which doesn’t make sense. People just want out. It’s too much. Too relentless. Often with no answers.

But loss of neurological function is different. It’s terrifying when you find out what’s happening but before that it’s just confusing. Everything is confusing. Basic conversations become really difficult because you just end up guessing all the time. And then you try to reply with something which hopefully is on the right lines to make some sort of sense. The likelihood of misunderstandings beginning and continuing is frustratingly high when we’re going through this.

Loss of family is so common for CRPS patients that it is surprising (but wonderful) when we meet a fellow patient who hasn’t.

It’s so hard to rise to the awareness month challenge and post this. I don’t like to focus on the old losses and I still struggle daily with the latest one. Egads! Okay,
here goes…

Suzy's photo challenge, 2015, Day 6

 

And because I can’t end this post on that note, here is the post about how I eventually managed to find myself and start to re-build my life:

The way forward for me after the greatest loss was to find who I am at my core. I had to anyway because loss of family meant a large part of my identity was no longer there. So I had to rebuild with me at the centre instead. It felt very alien to do so, and was rather like a rollercoaster ride but it was worth it.

Knowing who we really are at our core is one thing but having our identity built on that alone is quite another and it allows us to live that core openly and comfortably every day which results in a sense of peace and a kind of improved emotional suspension system which smoothes out the bumps. When we are truly ourselves resistance falls away. We can just be, because when our identity is rebuilt on who we truly are (instead of where we come from, who our family is, what others think of us, what we do/did for a living, societal role expectations and so on) there is no resistance. There is just us. Other’s opinions may affect our emotions but our sense of self is no longer affected by them. And from that point life kinda opens up. 

Suzy's photo challenge, 2015, Day 7

 

xxx

 

 

Yes I still exist (honest guv’)

Imagine my surprise when I realised I hadn’t written a blog post since the end of last year! Lawks! I’ve been writing drafts when I can but poor ole Betsy the laptop has usually (always) got too many browser tabs open to cope that well! How is it possible that time passes by so quickly these days?!

I have been posting on the Facebook page though of course. Just never seemed to get to complete a blog post. The main reason has been lack of Brain. It pops in now and again but it doesn’t hang around as long as it used to. So I realise I need to change my way of writing to accommodate this change because mostly it’s resulted in me not writing. And as writing has become a love of mine I have been getting twitchy!

As I’m in the UK I was initially dealing with the tail-end of the continuing coldness through the Winter. Always a toughie getting through to the Spring, eh? Pain levels are up, natural vitamin D intake is down, relentlessness is the name of the game and by the end of Winter (well deserving of it’s capital W) we are begging and pleading the weather to bring Spring to us so that we can start recovering.

Winter was actually pretty mild here, but that just means that I wasn’t at quite such an extreme of my wits end, y’know? Winter is *always* hard. Springtime rocks!

I’ve been having some more health issues and I’ll write more about that in due course, but initially it appeared like it was a crazy-arsed allergic reaction to anything / nothing / everything which lasted all the time / 4 random minutes at a time / stopped for a few hours then came back with a vengeance. It was pretty weird. And yes it became apparent that it was so bizarre that it was reminiscent of my respiration issues a few years ago, so I knew it was a systemic overload which had to be stopped. Hence.. more on that in a separate post.

In March I said “yes” to a concert because I figured how could I not? I mean, it was in Winchester Cathedral, maaan! Beautiful! I didn’t realise just how cold it would get in there or that I should’ve dressed for the outdoors to better manage my pain levels, but fortunately they had some doghouse sized radiators to cuddle up to! So yeah, I went and saw Anathema perform acoustically in a gorgeous cathedral. It was stunning. Truly fabulous.

There are a few cathedrals around the UK who raise some of their funds through events like this so if you get the chance… dress warm, take a cushion if you need one, and because it’s acoustic it’s not like you’re gonna get your head blown off by mega-speakers so the volume is more compatible with sensitive ears (though if you’re unsure I can recommend the noise-reduction earplugs as they reduce the volume without muffling the sound).

Winchester Cathedral acoustic concert, Anathema

How stunning is this?!

 

I’ve also had the wonderful experience of two fellow CRPSers travelling from their home countries to come and visit me in real-live-3D, wow! That will also be a separate post because it was so fabulous 😀

Two of my friends got married and Magic Dude and I attended the sci-fi wedding in Star Wars fancy dress. Which I made with my own fair hands, I might add! My sewing machine and I are no longer nemeses, we have made friends and now I wish I had more time during which I am more functional to make some clothes. I now have a new creative project with the sewing machine which I’ll post about soon, too.

And for anyone wondering… I am dressed as Jareal (after the make-up has come off and been re-applied a gazillion times X-) ) who I found out about by researching the comic characters, and Magic Dude is dressed as Plo Koon who was briefly in one of the prequels (very briefly – when asked about his choice of wedding costume he said something like “you see him in one of the spaceships for a moment and then he dies”).

And of course that same month we had the UK government election. Voters were at a loss who to opt for if they even voted at all, many didn’t. The ‘majority’ on our ‘first past the post’ system was a shock. The majority means the party who got the most votes, even though the people who voted for them are actually in the minority of the voting population. Even weirder, our system is set up for the main parties and to keep smaller parties at bay. So this means that votes for the Conservatives adds up to more MPs from their party than exactly the same number of votes would get for another party. I know. Don’t ask. It’s so out of date. Anyway the shock factor was massive. No-one expected the same government to be voted in again. Not even the government peeps themselves! Many of my disabled friends were in tears at the news – welfare cuts have been horrific here with the poorest and most vulnerable getting hit multiple times through different cuts. The new welfare ‘assessment’ process is causing mental health issues to the extent that there have been suicides as a result. Before getting re-elected the government promised a further £12billion welfare cuts so you can see why so many people were in tears. I seemed to last a while in shock until Magic Dude’s Dad said something blinkered and I burst into sobbing and couldn’t stop for some time. The UN is now running a second investigation into the state of human rights in the UK to expand on their earlier investigative report.

So yeah, now I’m an activist. As it turns out. Not just a health activist any more, but an activist for the poor and vulnerable generally. I can’t do much in my state of ill-health but there are petitions I can sign, ideas I can bounce, people I can help. Being chronically ill isn’t going to stop me from caring about others and doing what I can to help reduce the additional shitstorms coming their way. Takes up quite a bit of Brain Time of course, another reason I have been so absent from the blogging as usually May is the time of year when I would begin to manage to write a bit more.

So anyway that’s enough for the body to have to handle whilst still working through the months slowly recovering from Winter, right?

But I’ve also been doing my usual full-on overdoing it for one day in April and one day in June at Tai Chi tournaments. As you know it takes months for me to recover from Winter and weeks to recover from each tournament, so the overlap of tournament with Not Recovered From Winter Yet is substantial. But I do it because I am so limited and restricted every day that pushing myself for two days per year feels worth it because although the aftermath is horrific the memories last far longer. 🙂

The April tournament this year was not the usual nationals in Oxford but my first ever Europeans. (The Europeans were originally going to be held in Latvia and so this was a last minute alternative and much more viable for me to get to).

I performed the Sun Style 73 form which is not a flowery style so I have to show my understanding and skill levels in different subtle ways, so that was my challenge. I also performed the 42 form (a tournament form incorporating 5 different styles of Tai Chi) so performing two different things at one tournament was also my challenge. I was a bit awed that my teacher had put me in the advanced/open section whilst I am still officially at intermediate level, I guess that was also my challenge. Hey wait a minute? How many challenges am I fool enough to take on at once here?!

I was amazed that I ended up with a silver for my 42 form (with two lovely ladies from the Netherlands either side of me with gold and bronze) and a good score for my first ever tournament performance of Sun. But more fabulous was the fact that this was the first time that I’d been part of a larger team. We’ve only had a maximum of 3 of us there before, but this time we had a whole gaggle of us. Some in beginner, some in intermediate and some in the over 55s. Everybody in the team was supportive and encouraging to each other, and lots of fellow Tai Chi-ers there were positive towards us too. In fact I was so pleased to find out that my teacher had been told that her team were notable for their friendliness and positive attitudes. What a fabulous endorsement for her first event managing a larger team. 😀

Tai Chi, 2015, European silver

The next day I met up with my lovely teammate who also has chronic pain and was staying in the same hotel. We have travelled our Tai Chi paths alongside each other these past four-ish years and we have cheered on each other’s progression with such joy because it’s one heck of an achievement in the face of our respective health issues. I hobbled from bed to lift, and from lift to comfy chair in the hotel lobby. I sat in one chair with my feet up on a second, had my hot water bottle under my legs, blanket over the top, painkillers in my bag and he had been his usual sweetheart self and got the coffees before I got there. Several hours later we were still there nattering away. Movement was not very viable for either of us and it was great to be company for each other through the pain levels.

My lovely Magic Dude turned up later with the wheelchair so that he could get me out of the hotel room the following day. We went into Oxford town and I went camera crazy as I always do when I actually get out somewhere! It was really lovely to get to see the city this year. That wheelchair makes such a difference! 😀

Oxford, bicycles.jpg

Pictures obviously included bicycles (and many many grotesques and gargoyles on the old buildings)….

Oxford, Bodleian library

…the inspiration for Hogwarts main school hall in the films (Bodleian Library)…

Oxford, street pianist

…and a pianist on wheels who was super-prepared for any sudden change in the weather! Totally normal, nuthin to see here! (Actually his piano playing was gorgeous).

The weeks between the Europeans and the June Nationals whizzed by and I was not in great shape healthwise (starting the tournament day with the screaming ouchies in my left leg at a mean 8.5/10, boo!) but I managed to get the pain levels down a bit to perform in Sun Style at my intermediate level and got a good score considering I was racing through the 5-6 minute form to complete it within the required 4 minutes *and* I added in an extra move by accident, too! X-) Being able to get a decent score with Sun style was my aim. And extra wonderful was that my teammate (yes, that same friend) got the exact same score for his multiple-style 42 form and so we ended up on the podium together with joint silver, wow! I can’t tell you how awesome it felt to be standing there with my friend sharing that achievement after coming such a long way together in our journey to help our health situations. There really are no words to describe the singing glee in the soul but it was flipping wonderful! He’s put in phenomenal work to get where he is today using both physical and psychological tools to find the best pathway round the health stuff. If anyone deserved to be standing on that podium it was him, and I found myself standing on the same podium with him which felt so perfect that I wasn’t on a different podium or even a different level – we were on there together. Go Team!

I also entered the advanced/open section with the 42 form, managed to fluff it up in amazing style, made it look like it was meant to be that short honest guv’, and ended my performance somewhat (a lot) earlier than I should have, har! A good score considering the extent of my very silly error, and some wonderfully positive words from head judge Faye Yip telling me to come back next year because I have “potential”, yay!

Oh and no wonder my body has been so screwed because the classes that I use for physio’ include adaptive Kung Fu in which I have got my red sash and first level brown sash this year too. I’m not entirely sure how I managed to achieve those! Although the brown grading was during the heatwave and my legs were glad of it even if my nervous system wasn’t! My body needs more tiiiiiime, man!

And yet I posted on my personal Fbk wall the other day that it would be nice not to have to deal with people telling me that I am “lucky” to “not have to work” / “get to stay at home all day” because I get those sort of comments as a result of how people see me when I am out of the house i.e. looking ‘normal’ because I am doing my physio’. If only they could see me the rest of the day eh? Needing a wee and not being able to get to the loo in the adjacent room, wanting a cuppa and having to wait several hours til Magic Dude gets home and can make me one. Ah well, people just don’t get it eh?! 😛

And then we were getting the house ready to put up for sale. It sold at the end of July and we’ve been searching for our new home ever since. Not sure how much longer our buyers will hang in there but if they pull out it’ll sell straight away again. The market here at the moment for the main price bracket of £120-210k (your basic 2-3 bed homes with the usual squished space that we have in UK houses) is basically at about 15 buyers per house. Apparently we wouldn’t have the same extent of trouble if we had £210-250k. Oh if only eh?! Har, dream on!

We need some more space y’see. I moved into his one bedroom place and so nearly everything I own has been in the loft for the last 5 years. If one of us wants to do something creative there’s no space to set it up and leave it so most of my physio’ time is taken up with getting everything out and setting it up and then putting it all away again afterwards which doesn’t leave much time for whatever the activity in the middle was supposed to be (I want to get painting again). So yes we need a little more space but also….an enclosed garden. Currently we only have an open outdoor space between the house and the pavement out the front. Apart from how nice it would be to have some private space the main reason is (dahn-da-da-daaaaah…) we wanna get a dog! But the housing market is slowing down for chrimble so I’m expecting our buyers to pull out sometime soonish and that we’ll be re-selling in January when potential new homes start to show up in greater numbers.

So with fewer house viewings taking up my physio’s I finally have some time again, wheeee! Except for how that creative project I mentioned will now take over any available physio’ time. I look forward to sharing that when all the material has arrived. 🙂

Anyway, now you know I’m still here.

Phew! That was a heck of a catch-up!

Loves xx

Send in the clowns

Well here we are again. Well done people, you’ve traversed another year. Whatever you’ve been through this year, the ups, the downs, the wibbles, you’ve been awesome. You’ve hung in there and here you are now reading about my own little adventure new years eve.

I went out today to run some errands. It made me realise how long it’s been since I drove myself into town for a physio’. I was actually a bit nervous about going so far from the house on my own with no-one to meet there ‘just in case’. But it was a successful trip. The festive market has gone so there’s more pedestrian space, and the multitude of shoppers has thinned back down to a more usual amount so I didn’t have to wait in any long queues, hurrah!

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Christmas lights

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I bought some Christmas cards for next year (I know, organised eh?! hehe), a notebook for my upcoming free online course on medical neuroscience and some beer for Magic Dude to swig at midnight tonight to see in the new year with me. But I also grabbed some unexpected additions: some cute lights to hang from the mantle piece and a reindeer decoration for the Christmas tree. Oh, and obviously I needed a Batman biro with multiple colour options. And a glittery travel mug. Obviously. 😉

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New Years Eve buying

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Living with chronic illness does tend to be a bit of a circus at times so new years eve is often pretty hard for many of my fellow patients out there. We tend to find the laughs, silliness and smiles where we can but some times are harder than others. Which is why I want to share this…. I fell about laughing when I finally saw this following little ditty last night which may become my theme tune for 2015….

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Imagine leaving a doctors appointment where we’ve seen a practitioner particularly lacking in knowledge specific to our conditions – what a circus. What better to cheer us up than to sing quietly to ourselves as we leave…”dah-dah-daddle-uh-da-dah-dah Circus…”! By the time I get to the bit about polka-dots I expect I’ll be chuckling. We’re stronger than we think.

Sending best wishes for the new year to you all,

Love from me

x

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P.S. Here’s a version in multiple languages. Just because. 😉

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CRPS and flu vaccinations

Please note: this article, and the meta-research mentioned within it,
is only discussing flu vaccines

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The question of flu vaccinations in particular has come up recently. This is a very individual decision based on our very individual bodies. Current CRPS research is looking at the subtypes of CRPS, so sweeping statements about all CRPSers are inappropriate. For example, some people experience CRPS spread whilst others do not, some people have other immune issues and/or autonomic dysfunction whilst others either do not or experience few symptoms of these. I could go on, but you get the point – we are not the same simply because we have the same condition.

Everything needs to be considered for our individual body, with our particular array of conditions and symptoms. What is okay for one patient may be problematic for another.

This means that sweeping statements are something to be very cynical about. If someone says all CRPS patients should get the flu vaccine there will be some patients for whom it’s not appropriate. Similarly, if someone says that all patients should avoid the flu vaccine then there are patients who would have benefited who are consequently put at risk. So the first rule of thumb is to steer clear of the sweeping statements.

What you need is facts – so that you can consider your own personal situation in light of the information. You need to be able to make an informed decision.

The difficulty when looking for facts is that most of what we find online is influenced by opinion and to sift through the science you’d need to trawl through many medical journals, (preferably the smaller ones as the big journals tend to publish more of the research funded by pharmaceutical companies which means lots of bias, and don’t forget what I’ve said before about negative data not getting published, too). But helpfully (or unhelpfully depending on how you look at it!) an independent systematic review found that there is no really clear evidence for or against flu vaccines (Jefferson et al, meta-analysis, 2010).

So to make a decision about whether we should have the flu vaccine or not then we should focus on how it works and how that might function inside our particular body.

file0001208028901(picture source)

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A bit about vaccines:

A  vaccine is merely a weakened or dead version of the virus. The flu vaccine has always been a dead version but I have heard from a pharmacist that very recently this has changed as some are weakened rather than dead – so if your body needs you to be sure which your doctor is offering just ask in advance.

They work because our immune system learns from the experience of the weakened or dead version so that it is prepared if we are later subjected to the same strain of the actual virus itself.

The manufacture of vaccines for seasonal illnesses like flu has to begin ahead of time to enable the manufacture of enough vaccine. So the experts have to predict which strains of the virus are going to be the most problematic several months in advance. This of course means that there is room for error, even the experts can’t always predict the next haute couture in flu viruses that far in advance. So there can be strains of the virus around which the vaccines don’t cover.

Ultimately a vaccine allows the human body to have a swifter and harsher response to the strain(s) of virus it protects against. Which is good for us in general terms because immune issues are part of having CRPS (and for one subtype of CRPS may be the foundational factor), but as general terms is not enough when it comes to chronic illness – always look at your own personal health issues to make a decision appropriate to you and your body.

 

One common area of discussion among patients results from experiences of becoming ill after having a vaccination. There are several ways you can become ill after vaccination:

– The vaccine reduces your chances of catching the strain(s) of flu in the vaccine. So the potential for illness if you are subjected to these strains at some point is still there depending on various factors (including the state of your individual immune system).

– It is still possible to catch a different strain of the flu virus which wasn’t included in the vaccine, especially as your immune system will be busy dealing with the vaccine at the time.

Many people think the vaccine itself can cause illness which is not the case as the flu virus in the vaccine is most commonly dead. However, as I mentioned above, there are some flu vaccines which now involve weakened versions of the virus and I feel I should include a caveat here simply because the human body is a complex critter and I have had enough encounters with patients with rare diseases and immune issues to know never to say never! But yes, really, if you got ill after having a dead vaccine the greatest likelihood is that your immune system was rather busy and that you caught a different strain that the vaccine didn’t cover.

Also bear in mind that the vaccination can cause some symptoms reminiscent of the illness for a day or two as the immune system learns about it inside your body.

Plus those of us with chronic illness continuously hanging onto bearable health by our fingertips can become more susceptible to illness during this period.

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Each year new strains of the virus have developed, so a new vaccine for the new strains of flu is created to help protect our bodies against them. This is why we are called in to our doctors’ surgery for a vaccine each autumn.

Sick person

(picture source)

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The vaccine positive: Reduced chances of getting flu. The key word is ‘reduced’, it’s pretty vague because different research has come up with different statistics on how well the vaccine works.

There are various aspects to this, we each have different bodies with our own immune system, does our body tackle this stuff well or not? Is this likely to work for us as an individual? Have the experts’ educated guesses been as good as usual about which strains are going to be the big problems this coming winter? We have to weigh up both sides and decide what’s best for each of us.

Personal vaccine positives: vary for each of us because getting or not getting flu is just the beginning in our chronic illness vaccine considerations. Being what we CRPSers tend to playfully call ‘normal ill’ means that our pain management regime is severely disrupted. We cannot maintain our usual paced daily activity which means that a pain flare is pretty much inevitable. What that means will vary for each of us, and even more so once we start taking our other related conditions (comorbidities) into account because being ill often has a detrimental affect on those, too. So what would be a week of flu for an otherwise healthy person becomes weeks or months of extreme hideousness for us chronically ill folks as we a) work through the flu itself and then b) work through the longer task of trying to get our health back to the level it was before we got ‘normal ill’ on top of our chronically ill which screwed up our delicate balance needed to manage our health as best we can. (Grr)!

We each have to weigh up potential injection-event pros and repercussive cons against the potential mega-flare that will result from having to get through a bout of flu on top of everything else. CRPS patients of any age fall into the ‘at risk’ from flu category courtesy of our compromised immune systems alone, before we even get started ticking off other stuff on the ‘at risk’ list and yet some patients out there could have good reasons to avoid the injection event. Sweeping statements do not apply.

For me personally I avoided the flu vaccine for years and every year I got ill and spent pretty much the entire winter trying to claw my way back to some semblance of functionality again. So I finally tried it (back in 2010) to see how it worked for me, and in my case it was a positive experience. Actually it was a reeaally positive experience because I’ve not had the flu since. Wowsers! Now that I know that, it’s a no-brainer for me! I cannot face the mega-flare that results from me getting flu. I have been through that delightful experience many times and each time it took me weeks, and sometimes months, to get back on track. Horrific doesn’t really cover it. So having tried both sides I now know that I personally would much rather have the vaccine to give me a greater chance of dodging the flu and instead incur a mere few days of potential flu-like symptoms as my body gets trained in kicking the butt of this years virus strain. I’ve had completely transformed winters since I started having the vaccine each autumn. But that’s me personally. You have a different body, a different set of symptoms, a different set of conditions. What works for me or for anyone else is irrelevant, you need to think about what works for you.

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So when people warn CRPSers against vaccinations what are they referring to?

Some of us have bodies which do not favour even such small invasive procedures as one needle. Good general advice is to to have the flu shot in an area unaffected by CRPS. If you are still unsure then discuss the potential difference of using a smaller children’s (paediatric) needle and whether that may be worth a try.

Perfectly healthy people can experience soreness in the area of the injection site so the potential for soreness is there anyway, and possibly amplified pain if our autonomic nervous system is playing up about it.

Elle and the Auto Gnome, notebook

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There are also some basic things to take into account:

If you have any allergies then these should be discussed with your medical team beforehand to assess how appropriate it is for you. There is also a standard list of questions that the nurse should run through with you beforehand, particularly ‘are you allergic to eggs?’.

If you’ve had a reaction to the flu vaccine in the past it is likely you will be advised not to have it again.

If you have an extremely poor immune system you will also need to discuss it with your medical team as you may be advised against the flu vaccine

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Each of us has a good idea about what our own bodies can handle. We know ourselves best. We live inside these bodies of ours and we know what is likely to set off a flare, and if so how bad it could be, and whether we are prepared to go through with that. For me personally, vaccination is well worth the positive outcome I experience from it, but we each have to make our own decisions.

x

Inspiring addition

I was window-shopping online during a time of brainlessness and I spotted a cushion cover which made me feel inspired.

We are often told we “can’t” do things and we soo often feel that we “can’t”, especially as we have a tendency to compare our abilities with that of our former selves. Change over time happens to everyone and we are being rather unfair on ourselves by comparing the me-now with the me-in-the-past, and extra unfair by focusing on what we can do instead of who we are. Change happens to everyone in various ways. And yes our health changes can be pretty massive, but the way forward is helped enormously by the way we view things. Our reality involves our perception of it. And perception plays an extra big part for us when it comes to coping skills and finding the positives.

Being able to turn those “can’t”s around into “can”s is a truly fabulous feeling. And feeling inspired is often such a floaty-light moment of gloriousness where we rediscover our smile, our hope, our confidence, our determination. It is not to be underestimated or neglected.

So I bought that cushion cover for myself. Every time I looked at it online I felt inspired so bringing that inspiration into my home where I could see it every day seemed eminently sensible!

It arrived yesterday, having travelled all the way from Australia, thanks to a shop on eBay…

Inspirational cushion cover

And the monkey was a pressie from, and created by, one of my friends from school so he makes me smile too. He and the cushion are a pretty good pairing!
(Thank you Jaime, he’s been enjoying sitting on the chair by the window in the front room). 🙂

What inspires you?

Is there something you could move to a more prominent position so that you feel lifted when you most need it?

x

Totally Tubular (Dumbarse) Tuesday!

I just found this draft from last winter and decided to finish it off and share it.
As you’ll see… you’re not alone with the Silly Brain stuff, but more importantly this post is about change being the only certainty with these conditions and crucially.. change can go either way.

So Keep On Keeping On is definitely the way to go. Sometimes we can be surprised by some good changes. 😀

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Last winter:

I started the day like a boss dumbarse.

It seemed okay at first: Magic Dude got up for work at Stupid o’Clock and I actually went back to sleep. Sleep! Awesome!

When I awoke I was lying there thinking I should get up when there was a knock at the door. I made it downstairs and stared bleary-eyed and incomprehensibly at the woman on the doorstep. She’d come to read the electric meter. Fair enough. I then went to look at the time… Ohgoodgrief it’s 10am – 30 minutes to get ready and leave for Tai Chi, eeeeek!

Yes, it’s Totally Tubular Tuesday! Which means that I have two physio’s today, but that they’re cool physio’s that I’m super pleased to get to do – Tai Chi and adaptive Kung Fu.

So I managed to throw clothes on and and shove my contact lenses in. Ruuuuush!

Then I Iooked at the time again.

It was 9am.

Dumbarse!

So I carried on getting ready at a more leisurely pace. Today is the only dry day for a while so I had to hang some washing out. This is the worst day I could possibly have to do it on as I have both physio’s taken up with my classes, so it means that hanging washing is extra activity which is baaad news for the pain levels. And as it’s winter here the pain levels are already dreadful as the cold takes hold.

But I did it. Hurrah! Washing hung outside. Breakfast eaten. Multiple tablets and supplements taken. Fluids imbibed. I even wrote christmas cards for my Tai Chi and Kung Fu classmates.

I got to Tai Chi on time. Or so I thought. I walked in and everyone had started already. I hate being late for anything. I can’t do the Chi Gung any more as this med’ doesn’t stabilise my ANS as well so I get too faint to Tai Chi if I do the Chi Gung. So I plonked myself down and did some stretches through the standing still bit, then I joined in for some Chi Gung arm movements whilst sitting down to reduce faintyness.

Then we all performed the Yang style 24 form together with the official music. I was trying to include the corrections I’ve been learning but my brain is always off after a bit of Chi Gung so it’s guaranteed to be sub-standard the first time!

Then I hurriedly swigged some weak tea from my flask and poured it down my tee-shirt. In front of my teacher. Awesome.

The rest of the lesson was dedicated to brushing up the Sun style 73 performance. Apparently I have claw hands today. *sigh* Blummin’ dystonia! My teacher was showing me how to smooth out one particular move. The correction is reeeaaally straight forward. I know it is. And yet I found that without the move beforehand I could not work out how to do even the basics of the move we were working on. That’s not too unusual for me, but then I found myself watching her show me the move several times in a row and I realised that I did not recognise the move at aaaall. I had no knowledge of what she was doing. I knew I did really, somewhere in my brain, but it’s the first time I’ve not been able to access something like that even when it’s happening in front of me. It was not an enjoyable CRPS Brain moment. 😦

you're always on way way to someplace more

But you know what? This is just part of that thing called Shit That Happens. So all I can do is acknowledge the brain anomaly and move on. No need to dwell on these things as it will make me sad. Move on. I’ll know the move another day.

So I practiced what I could so that I got some activity for my body during my allocated physio’/Do-Stuff time.

Then I got my christmas cards out and found that I’d brought some of the Tai Chi cards and some of the Kung Fu cards to the Tai Chi class. Ugh! Stoopid brain. It probably looked like I’d forgotten to write cards for some people. *sigh* Hopefully they know me better than that, though. 🙂

Then… gosh I’m so classy…I choked on my lemon barley water and coughed a lot, bringing my ‘happy christmas’ convos to an abrupt end. Waving goodbye to people I got outside and proceeded to do the whole whooping cough thing whilst bringing up scrummy mucus into my mouth. Yum.

This is all fairly typical for a Tuesday, I really struggle with the two classes in one day, but they are both important to me and I do them during my allocated physio’ time so they are not extra. (And usually there wouldn’t be washing to hang up).

So, off home for 6 hours of attempted recuperation with fluids, hot water bottle, cushions to prop me up, blanket etc, then on go the compression stockings again and back to the martial arts gym. Double checking the christmas cards before I left.

When I arrived home from Tai Chi I found that the washing had been rained on and was now sopping wet again. All in-keeping with the theme of the day I guess!

And yes I still went to my adaptive kung fu lesson. I made it through despite nearly passing out whilst standing still and holding a target up for someone else to practice kicks past. Standing still is blood-pooling-tastic eh?!

It may look like I'm doing nothing but

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Today:

Now that my teacher is back from the Tai Chi World Cup in Taiwan and has finished winning gold and silver medals for a while she has got stuck into running a new class which started today. And yes, I was there for the first of the new class which is all about strength and conditioning.

As any pain patients know – pacing is the key to a lower pain baseline, and as any hypermobile patients know – pacing is jolly useful but strengthening muscles to help reduce the bendiness is pretty awesomely handy.

So that’s what I’m working on: strength and conditioning the parts of my body that I a) need to improve for Tai Chi tournament purposes, b) which will reduce various hypermobility issues and c) which is all done within my daily paced physio’ time so that I can do so without exacerbating my pain baseline.

spoons

I wrote a while ago about how the med’ I’m taking to help stabilise my Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) issues somehow remained pretty crap until this Spring despite starting it in the Autumn before. I don’t know why that is but I certainly wasn’t complaining when I could not only join in with the Qi Gung in class again but I could even shut my eyes without immediately keeling over. Wow! What an improvement! The dystonia reduced in severity too. It’s always worth talking to your doc’ about any tweaks or alternatives because tiny changes in med’s can result in substantial improvements in our uber-sensitive bodies.

This year I’ve worked at the Tai Chi and covered some of the lessons as substitute teacher that I would usually attend as a student as part of my physio’ anyway. (A physio’ spent teaching gives me a different insight into my Tai Chi and is a whole other learning curve. And definitely a challenge)! I’ve also worked at the adaptive Kung Fu, trying to adapt as little as possible as it’s within my daily physio’ remit but there’s always odd little aspects that I need to be careful about (e.g. when my heart goes dysrhythmic, when I get faint and working round issues such as my degenerative hip joints).

But as you can see from my draft above that I wrote last Winter… I am doing better than I was last year in some rather important aspects.

set backs and come backs

Admittedly my proprioception still goes awol and my teacher has seen me pour drink down my top many times. Even as recently as Thursday in fact! Ah well. I still have all the same issues with my health, and many are worse because that’s just the way it is, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t make improvements in important ways. And it certainly shows that my determination to keep at the physio’ pacing keeps paying off endlessly.

So finding my draft from last Winter and re-reading it was a pretty good experience for me. If you journal you’re probably telling me through your computer screen that I should try journalling more often eh?! 🙂

My determined physio-ing and my med’s tweak have helped me to build up to working on stabilising the most hypermobile areas in my body. It would be awesome to experience less subluxation of my shoulders and sacrum, and if I can do the strength and conditioning exercises as a tougher physio’ each week then my ANS should be more relaxed about the lesser activity the rest of the week. Or at least that’s what I’m hoping based on my past experience.

I’ll keep on keeping on anyway. Winter is not quite setting in here yet, the changes in weather are wreaking havoc with us Painies, and when Winter finally sets in our pain levels will rocket even more. So I need to be on top of my physio’ schedule to make it through to Spring with as few setbacks as possible. I don’t know where I’m headed so it’s all about doing the best I can for my health. I guess I’ll just follow whatever path turns up under my feet. And if I go backwards that’s all par for the course, it’s just setting me up for another comeback, right?

Feeling determined!

look at how far you've come, rather than how far there is to go

x

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The Elusive Spoon

This is written for Dysautonomia Awareness month and is spoon related as a result of Christine Miserando’s well known “Spoon Theory“. This is a bit of a day with a CRPS & Dysautonomia patient…

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Oh no, really? Morning already? How did that happen?! I mean it’s not like I got any actual quality sleep or anything! Ugh!

Scrunching her eyes up and contracting her muscles to pull herself back under the covers Elsie tried to come to terms with the time.

Yep. There’s no getting around it. It’s definitely morning and if I don’t get up I’m gonna be pushed for time.

Flopping the covers back she raised herself up slowly then waited for the spots of light to stop dancing in front of her eyes before attempting a full upright position.

Scooping up a pile of cutlery next to the bed, and then returning one to the bedside cabinet, she reached for her mobile phone to check the time. 9.30am.

Oh no, I’ve only got an hour!

A brief look of panic crossed her face before being replaced with one of intense determination.

“Right!”

Pushing herself up to standing she moved stiffly across the bedroom, being very careful to step overly widely around the corner of the bed.

No bruise that time. Hah!

Slowly becoming a little less bent over as she walked to the bathroom, she piled the cutlery on the windowsill as she reached for the toothbrush.

With clean teeth, washed body, brushed hair and an empty bladder she made her way back to the bedroom. A little more alert and minty fresh than before. A small pile of cutlery now also sat on the bathroom windowsill but the remainder was clutched in one hand and got deposited on the bed as she found underwear, tracksuit bottoms, a couple of layers and her handbag. After dressing she placed a couple more pieces of cutlery on the bedside cabinet, before stuffing the rest in her bag with the mobile phone and heading off downstairs.

How am I doing timewise? Checking her phone again. Pretty good. Still time for a proper breakfast. On went the kettle, into the microwave went the porridge, and she started counting out supplements, vitamins and medications into a pretty coloured shot glass. Tea made, porridge mixed with scrummy cinnamon, tablets collected together, hot water bottle made… all went into the living room and she turned the TV on for company before collapsing on the sofa.

Placing the hot water bottle under her legs and pulling a nearby blanket over them she grimaced a little but only for a moment. Then that look of determination returned again. Reaching for her bag she removed some of the cutlery, placing it on the table.

Hmmmm, this bag’s getting light already.

Half an hour later and once again standing upright, Elsie makes a soft drink to put into the bag along with a bag of ginger, half a bag of salted pumpkin seeds kept shut with a metal stationery clip, and her collapsed practice sword.

“Trainers! Can’t be forgetting them now, can I?”

I wonder if my neighbours can hear me talking to myself? Hehe
Coat, bag, keys, flask, mobile, trainers, insoles…. yep I think I’m ready.

Reaching into her bag she removed several items of cutlery and left them on the coffee table before locking up the house and settling into the car for the short journey into the outskirts of town.

As she pulled up into the car park at the industrial estate there was a single piece of cutlery lying on the passenger seat. After finding no parking spaces and all the disabled bays taken she had to use a space outside on the main road to walk from. Before leaving the car she placed her disabled parking badge on the dashboard and a second spoon next to the first and then walked to a business unit where she greeted classmates and teacher and started industriously putting on her trainers and doing some stretches that have a tendency to make other people’s eyes water. But that’s hypermobility for you!

After 15 minutes of calming Chi Gong she felt more separate from any stresses and strains but had to drink some of her lemon squash to try and reduce her body’s urge to faint. Some glugs of fluid later and the class were moving in time to the music for the Yang style 24 form of Tai Chi. It’s the form often seen practiced around the world and it felt good to go through the moves together as a group and to feel the body responding to what was being asked of it. The familiar moves being reined in by Elsie so that she doesn’t topple over as often nearly happens early in a lesson.

Good thing the teacher knows about me or I’d have a list of corrections as long as my arm!

While the others were chatting about the moves they’d just worked through, Elsie quickly ate some ginger to try to reduce the nausea, had another couple of swigs of fluid to try to reduce the faintyness and then she expanded her practice sword to it’s full length to start some individual work. The class numbers were small today and there was a little more space to wave the sword around!

It felt good to work through the sword moves she knew so far, but after some corrections from the teacher the fluidity and meaning of the moves increased and it felt great! No, it felt awesome! How wonderful to be upright and moving with purpose. She knew the moves could look beautiful if she worked at it hard enough, so while the lesson lasted she went over and over and over… just getting the moves more clearly etched into her head and into her ‘muscle memory’ for an even better foundation to work on. Fantastic!

When she returned home she found that getting out of the car was already difficult. Walking as well as she could she went indoors to put the kettle on again. The pain was already rising. She could not stand long enough to make any food for a midday lunch so she grabbed a banana and a protein flapjack. With hot water bottle and a cup of tea she returned to her spot under the blanket and this time she lay down flat to try to help her body recover from the near-fainting that had come on.

Reaching for her bag she removed several pieces of cutlery and looked at what she had left. One piece for everything she did. Starting with a finite number she had to lose a spoon for every move she made. One for getting to the bathroom. One for getting washed. One for getting dressed. They go down in number so fast it makes her days very tricky. Carefully placing her remaining spoons on top of her bag she figured she might have enough to get ready for bed later, but not enough to get any food.

Sighing she lay back and waited for the heat of the hot water bottle to help her muscles relax a little, for the pain levels to reduce a little from the high levels to something a little less screamy.

She knew she’d not be able to move for several hours.

Good thing I forced myself to the bathroom already or I’d be dying for a wee by now!

Resigning herself to the hours of pain ahead she smiled to herself.

An hour ago I was doing sword Tai Chi! What an achievement!

She grinned and adjusted the position of her legs. Then turned on the laptop to see how her fellow patients were doing that day. Her brain was not up to much at all, but at least she could say hi and check everyone was okay.

She settled in for the long haul. Distraction would help pass the recovery time. Then it would be time to physio’ again. That’s when she would decide what to do about not being able to get food. Maybe one of those vitamin powdered drinks, she could possibly mix that with milk before running out of spoons entirely and ending up in a mega-flare.

We’ll see. That’s later. This is now. And right now I’m chuffed that I learnt more in my physio’ class today.

***

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Spoons are more than cutlery to us ‘Spoonies’, they are our metaphorical spoons that help to describe our medically induced limitations to others. We try to make spoons last longer, try to get the most value out of each one that we can. We desperately wish we had more of them to be able to function a little more during each day and often send virtual spoons to each other in solidarity for our daily challenges. Sometimes we ‘borrow’ spoons from the next day, a kind of advance on spoons that we will severely pay for later in health repercussions.

The 'Ishishara Spoon' created for one of Jasper Fford's books

The ‘Ishishara Spoon’ created for one of Jasper Fford’s books

Picture source – no longer available but it was a challenge on Jasper Fford’s Facebook page to use various images. He was intrigued to find out what we might use them for!
You can still see this artwork on his webbie here though. 🙂

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 x

National Poetry Day in the UK

The Now

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I’m having a transition

I don’t feel quite right

It’s not bad

It’s just…

The full extent is not yet in sight

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I’ve tried to put it into words

But they only show the edge

The words are right

The truth is there

But I can’t see past the ledge

So

What I think is happening

Is only half the tale

Or less maybe –

I just don’t know how deep the scale

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I think I’ve passed another milestone

Or I can feel it by the way

I yearn to peek

And see what’s what

But a day still lasts a day

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I cannot rush to find out

I can only live each day

The Now

That’s when I like to be

No peering in the grey

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This trembling within myself

Has not yet reached my brain

The body knows

But I do not

And

I must not entertain

Speculations

That might not help

They are not my realm

The Now is home

The Now is mine

And I am at the Helm

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x

Loss of a friend and raising awareness

Today I write with a heavy heart. I lost a friend to suicide. Yes, he had CRPS, but he actually coped astoundingly well with the condition. His love kept him going. His love of his God, his love of his canine companion and his love for life. He enjoyed being outdoors and growing veg’ in the garden sharing photo’s of his crops as many of us gardening types do, he really enjoyed going fishing with friends until his condition worsened to the point where he could no longer do so, he loved his music (from Beethoven to ACDC) and he just loved and believed in goodness so strongly that every time his health knocked him down or stopped him from being able to do something he found the strength to dust himself off and grow from it.

His first response would be to share the beauty he felt in that recovery with his friends by posting in a CRPS support group where he knew fellow patients needed to hear just that. He always supported fellow patients, encouraging them to keep going, reassuring them that he understood the pain, the loss, the limitations and yet that there was still beauty in the world. Still a life to be lived. Still love to experience. He truly was a shining soul who lifted so many in dark times of their own.

His outlet was his poetry. That’s how he found the words to express his experience with CRPS. A condition so removed from common experience that words just don’t suffice until you suspend the usual way of communication and get creative with them. He let those words fall from his mind onto the page and they captured moments living with such intense physical pain. Burning. Loss. And yet hope. Love. The will to continue.

Cross' poem, CRPS doesn't own me (2)

One of Cross’s poems that he shared on his public page to raise awareness about CRPS

So yes, he had coping mechanisms that allowed him to find the strength to focus on the beauty in life to keep going. All of us will have a point where our situation finally outweighs our coping mechanisms. In fact I wrote about this just 12 days ago and it rips me apart to know that he so desperately wanted those around him to understand. He appreciated my article and wanted others to read it to help them to understand what he had been feeling for so long. He had been talking about suicide on and off for a long time by then. It was one of the reasons I wrote the post. I needed to create something that fellow patients could share with loved ones that said what they could not find the words to say. To reassure those close to them that it’s not cowardice or weakness, selfishness or meanness or anything else of that ilk. It is human and understandable. That those finding themselves in this situation are not to be treated badly but helped to gain more coping mechanisms, helped to make the necessary changes. Helped. Understood. Helped.

His spirit was strong, his will to live was amazing, his love for others was out of this world, his coping mechanisms worked as any of ours do – only as long as they are not outweighed by the situation.

When the situation is out of our control we have to make what changes we can that will enable us to keep going. As dis-empowered as we can be by our own supressed self-worth, by the lack of CRPS knowledge that causes others to behave badly and/or inappropriately around CRPS patients, we can still make changes. We can change our way of thinking and our approach to our health, we can choose which physio’ we can do at home, we can choose who we are in contact with, change the way we plan our day, we can stop trying to do what we used to do and start thinking about things we can do whilst we are working on the physio’, or when resting afterwards. We can make changes. My friend was unable to do so because even his most personal space was not his own. In such extreme circumstances we can still make changes because there is a social care safety net and a social protection safety net – people we can contact in dire need who are directed by law to help. But when that fails, well, there is quite simply no safety net.

My friend’s safety net failed.

It shouldn’t have.

Public services should not fail like this.

I cannot stress how much we need to spread greater awareness of CRPS and it’s multiple effects. No not that embarrassing Pepsi ad’ with the link to a local support group website which is out-dated and incorrect despite being asked to update and correct it by patients, that is so unhelpful. Every time I see that blasted ad’ I <headdesk> in a way akin to shouting “Whyyyy?” at the heavens. Link to the RSDSA please. They are up to date, they are informed and they have current professionals in the field working with them. 

I haven’t written about my friend’s particular circumstances because another good friend has already done so with her fabulous professional knowledge from working in the medical field and her close contact with our mutual friend. You can read her piece here. I’ve delayed reading it myself so as not to muddle my own writing here, so I shall pop over and read it (and probably have a cry whilst doing so) once I have finished writing this post.

The bottom line is: this shouldn’t have happened.

What I want to do is highlight my friend’s beauty of character, to remember him in the way that his friends knew him and not in the way that a few quotes from his last few desperate and angry days on social media inadvertantly make him seem. He wanted to live, but could find no way to escape his circumstances to be able to do so.

What I want to do is to to highlight the impact that lack of knowledge about this condition can have.

In fact what I want to do is initiate change.

With regards to that – watch this space. And share the link to the RSDSA, the CRPS FAQ of useful links and information on here, and don’t feel you have to keep quiet about CRPS.

There is a drive to get information to doctors on the Facebook page CRPS Research and Developments, so pop in online and ask for a postcard or two to drop in for your doctors to read. This is important. So very important. So many lives are lost to CRPS each year, and if we wait for the general medical field to catch up with the specialist research it will be too long. Too late for another soul who found that their safety net was missing because CRPS was not understood.

There is an opportunity to raise awareness with the RSDSA’s event “Color the World Orange” which you can see on Facebook here. It gives you an excuse to shop for clothes *and* you can help raise awareness. And if you would like to be part of an orange display on here too then please do post your all-oranged-up piccies to my Facebook page here, because I would love to colour this blog orange too, x

There is also a patient-initiated memorial event which you can see on Facebook here. If, like me, you do not want to release balloons owing to the potential effect on wildlife don’t worry there are other ways of raising awareness and it would be wonderful to have your company raising awareness in honour of such a good soul.

You can purchase awareness tee-shirts and other items on the CRPS, Art & Spirit Cafepress shop here. All of the proceeds go straight to the charity (currently in the process of setting up, and there are no wages to pay at all thanks to our awesome volunteers with a variety of fabulous professional skills) which is involved in sharing information and knowledge with those who need it to help bridge the gap between doctors and patients. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the shop then let the CRPS, Art & Spirit team know here because we may well be able to rustle up a design at your request. 🙂

If you knew Cross and would like to leave a condolence message then you can do so here.

I am so so glad and honoured to have known him. I will always remember him because he has a place in my heart and that’s forever-land in terms of my memory.

Cross, be at peace my friend. Your wish to educate others and spread the word on CRPS to help fellow patients will continue, xxx

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Much love to you, readers, as always.

Thank you for looking into one or more of these easy awareness raising events, it means an awful lot to us patients and it would swell my friend’s heart to know we are working on his fondest wish.

x

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Invisible Illness Week 2014

Invisible Illness Week is 8th-14th September and the 30 questions are in circulation again. So here’s my answers for this year, it will be interesting for me to see how different they are from last years answers too..

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30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know….

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1. The illness I live with is:

Multi-systemic – it affects entire systems in my body with multiple ongoing issues all day every day…

faulty autonomic nervous system,
which affects the central nervous system,
plus unhelpful neurological re-wiring and
a compromised auto-immune system.

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So I have a terrible disease but not to worry

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2. I was diagnosed with it in the year:

CRPS in 2005

Dysautonomia 2014 finally in writing, though it was diagnosed verbally back in 2010

Partial Hypermobility 2014, as the mega ‘growing’ pains and clicky joints were dismissed by my childhood GP despite my Mum’s concerns

Degenerative issues in hips 2014

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3. But I had symptoms since:

CRPS since 1999

Dysautonomia since 1999, it kicked in within weeks of the CRPS with IBS, closely followed by a tendency towards low blood sugar and body temperature dysregulation.

Hypermobility always (also affects the autonomic system)

Degeneration in hips over time – a development potentially related to the hypermobility

All of these conditions are inter-related. The issue from birth was the hypermobility… which can affect the autonomic nervous system but I experienced no major issues there originally.

The pre-disposition to autonomic issues and the priming of nervous system default responses during childhood resulted in the development of CRPS (which involves faulty pain signals through the ANS) after a minor injury… which had the knock-on effect of more autonomic issues developing over time (some within weeks, others years later after a trigger event).

Plus the long term hypermobility has also had its own effects on my joints.

So it’s all very over-lapping.

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4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is:

Learning how to still be *me* despite the massive lifestyle changes.

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when life gets harder

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5. Most people assume:

That I’m not that ill <facepalm>

(because I usually look and sound fine when they see me during my physio’ which is the tiny portion of my day where I’m mostly functional) :-/

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What you see depends on what you look for

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6. The hardest part about mornings are:

Having to wait for hours to actually be able to move about with less extreme pain and/or less extreme near-fainting.

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7. My favorite medical TV show is:

Scrubs 😉

(In the UK medical programs are all soap operas. We also have documentary series which might occasionally cover a health issue).

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8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is:

The kettle!

(because my hot water bottle is a permanent fixture in my daily pain management *and* the kettle also enables cups of tea!)

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9. The hardest part about nights are:

I know I should probably say the pain, or the fact it never ever ever goes away, or the silent tears that might escape every once in a while when it gets so hard to just keep fighting when even sleep won’t grace me with it’s assistance. But you know what really bothers me the most? Trying not to wake Magic Dude up coz the headboard creaks when I shift position when I’m sitting up!

(He says I shouldn’t worry about it but I’d rather he got more sleep)!

That not to say that it’s worse than the other things, just that the other things are permanent and horrific so I tend to focus on the fleeting or non-health aspects of the toughest stuff to help me to deal with it!

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10. Each day I take ? pills & vitamins:

9, plus painkillers when required (with occasional anti-inflammatories though I try to keep away from those if possible owing to detrimental long-term effects)

Bitstrips, meds and supps

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11. Regarding alternative treatments:

‘Alternative’ can have many interpretations. If we’re going down the ‘anything that’s not prescribed’ route… even 8 of my 9 pills are supplements crucial to assisting my body cope with this condition. I ‘pace’ my activity to manage my pain (because it retrains my autonomic nervous system to not over-react). I don’t just do functional movements at home I also attend classes to further strengthen my muscles, improve my balance, work on my awareness of surroundings and where parts of my body are during different movements etc. I also attend a tougher class once a week as I find that this enables my nervous system to compare the rest of the week with that hour rather favourably which also helps baseline pain levels! I’ve had acupressure, auriculotherapy (non-invasive acupuncture on the ears) and even carefully applied acupuncture (they didn’t help the respiratory issues because the faulty de-fault had been set in place for too long, but it was worth a try especially as it was available on the NHS which, by my own description of alternative being non-prescribed treatment, renders all that as mainstream medicine now anyway). I use helpful psych tools for dealing with problematic symptoms of my conditions and to work through any negative feelings I may experience about various aspects of my health (these are available through pain management teams on referral but I acquired these skills myself partly through my psych’ studies but mostly through self-searching and trial and error). I learn much about my own conditions so that I can logically work around the health issues and give my body a better chance of coping with all that is wrong within it. I also happily accept reiki healing offered by friends.

My conditions mean that meds are very problematic in various ways, so doing all that I can to try to keep things vaguely functional without adding the negative effects of meds is reeaally helpful.

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12. If I had to choose between an invisible or visible illness I would choose:

I have both depending on whether it’s during a paced active part of my day and how much various symptoms may be playing up in that moment. Both have their pros and cons, but having both gives me the extra insight which I can employ usefully by helping others, sharing insights and so on.

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13. Regarding working and career:

Work is not just paid employment so although the psych career went down the pan for me I have the 24/7 job of keeping my body functioning as best I can which includes trying to keep up with the latest research when I have enough Brain to make sense of strings of words. My hands are full just with that. When possible though I also spend time assisting in a couple of support groups (albeit rarely at the mo’ as I’ve been more symptomatic of late) and the infrequent addition of writing of course. 🙂

What's wrong with my brain

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14. People would be surprised to know:

How bloody awful I feel at any given moment!

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Pain scale with continuous smiling!

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15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been:

How much it keeps me from doing really worthwhile things that would help others e.g. starting a charity as a healthy person would not take two or three years just to get to where we are with it now. It will be really helpful when it’s set up, but it’s so frustrating to be kept from doing things when there are good things to be done, it just means that everything is so slow going.

(Or, more personally, the people I’ve lost as a result of the effects of these conditions. But I’m still steering around that a lot of the time, although at least I’m finally coping better with it now it’s four years on, x)

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Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can

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16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was:

Start learning martial arts (albeit adaptive, but many able bodied people have injuries to work around so really ‘adaptive’ is a typical approach, or should be anyway).

when nothing is sure everything is possible

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17. The commercials about my illness:

That’s a very US thing, as the UKs NHS is now mostly privatised and getting more so I would not be surprised if we started seeing things like that over here eventually as it will lean more towards insurance for health care and all the knock-on effects that entails. There is certainly very little awareness of CRPS and Dysautonomia in the UK, even amongst most medical staff though, and I would be surprised to hear anyone talking about CRPS or Dysautonomia.

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18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is:

Dancing. Not professionally or anything, just dancing for the enjoyment of it.

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19. It was really hard to have to give up:

The career path I was working towards.

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Problem or how we percieve it

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20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is:

Tai Chi

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21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would:

Skip! I would skip gleefully and laugh a lot!

Of course there’s so many things I’d want to do and any of them would be awesome, but the first natural thing of the moment would be to laugh with pure elated, unabashed, incredulous glee and skip skippety skip! (There’d probably be a cartwheel pretty soon after that, too)!

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22. My illness has taught me:

That I am stronger than I ever knew and in more ways than I realised.

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you decide how your soul grows

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23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is: 

I don’t expect much from non-CRPS people, not in any objectionable way at aaall, but simply because how could they ever be expected to know about such a complex and little-known condition? I certainly wouldn’t have prior to actually having the condition, and it took several years even after I was diagnosed to find out. But when doctors doubt the fundamentals of the condition(s) I have, or start down the “and what makes you think you have CRPS?” route…gah! It’s okay, I mean I can pull them back down to earth with a thud when I point out that I was diagnosed by one of the countrys top specialists courtesy of my medical history and an MRI scan as the clincher, but it’s the time it takes you know? It’s wearing having to explain basics to doctors all the time, and it’s a waste of valuable time.

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Arse from elbow

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24. But I love it when people: 

Check to see if I’m okay to do something because they know it might cause issues in my body. It gives me a chance to say if I’ll have trouble doing that today and it doesn’t put a damper on things because *that’s* why they asked. Looove those friends  😉

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25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is:

“Be the change you want to see in the world”

I still use “This too shall pass” (a lot!) but I fancied including this other quote as it is a huge motivator for me.

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26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them:

Anti-oxidants!
Pacing!
Beware of outdated and incorrect info’ online!

Anti-oxidants..
Inc Vit C up to 500mg at a time (because that’s all the body can absorb in one go) 2-3 times a day. This is also a good thing to do before and after any invasive procedure (even dentist appointments) and 2-3 months after the event is common advice.

Many long-term CRPSers take vit C every day.

Antioxidants are so important to the long-term health of our mitochondria. I also take Co-Q10 every day.

Pacing..
the same amount of activity every day no matter what the pain levels. Starting with a few minutes if that’s all that’s viable is fine because it’s keeping it consistent that is important in retraining the autonomic nervous system to not set off the inner alarm bells every time you move. Eventually this will reduce the pain baseline and improve quality of life and it will even out the days instead of having good days and bad days (which we perpetuate by doing more on good days thus causing bad days and which is the worst thing we could do because it reinforces the faulty autonomic over-reaction, and hence the circular hellishness goes on if we do not pace)

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Online info…

The ‘stages’ were discarded in 2004.
The ‘types’ were a carry-over from the old RSD name but it makes no odds which you have – the nerves are damaged in both cases and the treatments are the same

Lots of info’ online is so terribly out of date and therefore incorrect. Research in recent years has shed loads of light on CRPS and most websites do not have this latest info’. Many fellow patients are also not aware of the latest knowledge and (sadly) neither are many doctors.

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27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is:

How much you often become one of two extremes depending on people’s view –
I’m either…

a) not that ill really or
b) not really a person, irrelevant to the point of near invisibility

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pirates have no concept of ableism

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28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was:

This past couple of weeks the near-fainting has been so so bad I’ve even been missing my crucial paced physio’ time. On a day where I was spinny on the sofa Magic Dude turned up after work with pizzas.

At the Tai Chi nationals in June I competed even though I felt so awful. I concentrated so hard and sweat was pouring off me by the time I finished my handful of minutes. As soon as I could leave the performance area I collapsed. Magic Dude was on hand with a bag of salted peanuts, a bottle of water and a sweet drink. He is on standby when I get really symptomatic and he generally knows what to get for me depending on which symptoms are being particularly arsey!

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29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because:

The concept of ‘disability’ in the UK is worse than ever since the welfare reforms and the posited concept of the disabled as scroungers. The number of attacks on the disabled has increased shockingly. I have been screamed at for parking legitimately in a disabled parking space and yet I have many a time gone home in tears because the disabled bays were taken by people with no badges and the screaming pain was so bad I had to turn round and drive home again and wait days (weeks in the pre-diagnosis years) for the pain to calm down enough for me to try again.

There is even an organisation pushing for a more active looking disability symbol but still only include a wheelchair user in that symbol. Only 7% of UK disabled use a wheelchair so no wonder concepts of disabled have been so skewed for so long, let alone the worsening effects of contemporary politics. So it is apparent that even some of us disabled folk are conditioned to think that the wheelchair is the most appropriate symbol for a group of people, when 97% don’t wheel about the place and therefore are often targeted for not looking disabled.

To work so hard to change a symbol which does not address the distressing effects experienced by 97% of disabled who are mistreated for not ‘looking’ disabled is hard to get my head around. It’s a nonsense.

We need change.

And we need to make it happen, because we have the informative inside view.

.accessibility

7% of UK disabled, 93% of disabled look nothing like this picture

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new NY disabled symbol

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7% of UK disabled may experience improved attitudes, but 93% of disabled look nothing like this picture

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A broader idea of disabled which includes the concept of non-wheelchair users and which could help to broaden understanding of disability and thus result in less aggressive behaviour towards the 93% non-wheelchair disabled when they legitimately use disability utilities, parking bays etc

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30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel:

Relieved that someone out there wants to learn more during Invisible Illness Week.
So many people don’t realise that many disabled and chronically ill don’t necessarily look unwell.

So… thank you xx

seal of approval

^ geddit? X-)

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I’ve just had a look at my post from last year and I’m intrigued, and pleased, to see the positive changes in my answers to 15 & 18. 🙂

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A note on pictures: I have found these wonderful pictures floating about being shared on social media. If one of these is yours I would love to attach an official source so that others can find your work, or if you would prefer your work not to be included please do let me know and I’ll remove it straight away, x