Diagnosis Murder Part 1

Well I’ve attempted to write this a few times and failed. In the past I’ve been given labels and written about them. And in reality my diagnosis is still fluid and ongoing.

It’s mostly described as a list of symptoms with a few anecdotes/ short stories thrown in for goo measure. I’ll start all the way back in the beginning… take a deep breath and grab a comfy seat, it’s a long one.

The early days

When I was younger I used to have bouts of severe stomach aches, and vomiting. I remember my first one so clearly. As a birthday treat my mum and dad had taken me to London to see ‘Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’. Any 80s child, and closet Jason Donavon fan, will remember the song that was at number one for like forever (sorry if it’s now in your head t… any dream will do…). We were too late to see Jason but starring in it was Philip Schofield of the broom cupboard fame. If you’re too young to get the references then you really missed out. I vaguely remember the show and the t-shirt I got a treasured (until my sister pinched it and vommed all over it whilst travel sick). What really sticks out though is the insane stomach ache I had after the show. We had gone to get pizza and I spent the whole time in the toilet unable to hold anything down.

And so it continued from that point and happened anywhere and everywhere. Always coming on super fast and the most painful thing ever. All the attacks were attributed to an almost ten year grumbling appendix. In reality I think they were Abdominal Migrainesthat were mentioned at the time but not really explored. This was the appearance of my first condition, Chronic Migraine.

Head and occasional abdominal migraines are with me to this day. And no they are not just headaches but they are completely dibilitating and so painful you wonder whether you can cope (if someone gave you a shotgun you’d probably pull the trigger). I have ended up in hospital with mine and take meds daily to stop them. In the last 3 months I have had 5 major attacks each lasting from 7 to 24 hours. Sometimes they cluster and sometimes they don’t. They have a significant affect on my life as are so sudden and viscous. They stop me functioning completely. I’ve tried multiple medications including Propranolol (worked a little bit) and Pizotifen (worked a lot but caused massive weight gain) and my current medication Sodium Valproate ( I have it under review). I also find that sumatriptan is the best medication to use when they start. My latest one has lasted 6 days and although I’ve managed to carry on functioning throughout and stave off the big blow out. It’s been painful I’ve lost my appetite and sleep.

Teens

At 17 I had an enormous attack of stomach pain and migraine. I was supposed to be painting the set of a play and ended up rolling around on the floor cloth in agony, I saw the school nurse and begged to just go home. Looking back I was so used to self managing these attacks that I was convincing to others that I was better than I was. (I still do this now, so if you ever do see me asking for an ambulance, I really need it.) On this occasion the School Nurse must have got me a cab home or something. All I remember was the next couple of days wanting to die from the pain. At some point a GP came out to me and when I wouldn’t let her touch me because of the pain she told me I was being a silly little girl. She gave me pethidine and anti sickness and told me I’d sleep for ages then be ok. I woke up twenty minutes after she left and was back in exactly same pain and vomiting. Eventually I was only bringing up pure black liquid (sorry) and had a circular bruise on my forehead where I’d passed out on a bucket and was still being sick. Eventually another GP came and said it was classic appendicitis. I went off to hospital and had my appendix out.

As a side note, the not being believed by doctors, the self managing of the attacks, misdiagnoses. Plus falling behind at school and teachers thinking I didn’t care has had a huge affect on my mental health and self esteem. In particular feeling as though I had failed and feeling guilt for being ill, or though I was using it as an excuse, is still with me now and it hurts to write it. I remember one of the drama teachers, who was involved in the play I mentioned above, pulling me aside and asking me if I should be doing drama! All because I’d missed the play whilst in hospital and hadn’t finished the floor cloth I was writhing on. Despite getting an ‘a’ in that course, completing a degree, and running a successful theatre company for ten years, I still ask myself the same question and it cuts really deep.

After my appendectomy (still don’t know if it was appendicitis or migraine) at 17 I kept getting flu like symptoms. I had constant fatigue and joint pains. It went on for weeks and weeks, then into months. At the time it was attributed to a glandular fever like virus that my body couldn’t fight off. I dropped back a year in sixth form and began the pattern of doing things at my pace. I couldn’t focus in lessons and would fall asleep on my desk despite fighting it. Interestingly at a similar time my sister was diagnosed with Juvenille Arthritus, and what I didn’t know till later was my mum was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. I think this episode was either my autoimmune trigger or the first signs of activity. Multiple blood tests at the time showed positive ANA and white blood cell activity but it was never explored further.

Also from about 15 years old I began to struggle with mental health. At this time it was suggested I had Anxiety and Depression. By the time I went to University at 19 this was really affecting my life and I asked for counselling etc from my GP. By the time I was in my 4th year of university I was having an extremely difficult time personally, with my degree and at home. All of these contributed to a series of severe panic attacks. These were medicated and I just got on with it.

University

Fast forward a couple of years and I wasn’t coping physically at all. Firstly I constantly had the flu and couldn’t function. I worked really hard and just found ways of coping with feeling so ill. I went to the doctors and was told I was ‘unlucky’ to have had flu nearly every month. This was the biggest insult and I just couldn’t cope. I couldn’t get a full time job but built up my self employed work. This meant I was self managing whatever was going on in my body. I could work around the illness by ploughing on with everything I had when in a good patch and hiding when I couldn’t. This managed everything on the surface but in reality I was chasing my own tail constantly. Friends and others constantly commented on how often I was ill, other less kind comments urged me to just suck it up and stop moaning. I remember having conversations with people saying I think I’m going mad but something in my body is really wrong. I still felt like a fraud and the burden of guilt.

In 2005 I began to get severe chest pains. They were so bad I couldn’t use my arms or breathe. The pain was unbearable. My first reaction was that there was something wrong with my heart so I went to my GP. They thought it was either muscular or even anxiety and sent me away with pain killers. But it kept happening in cycles and I could feel the attacks coming. I saw multiple physios who mostly made it worse through their exercises. Eventually I saw a brilliant physio who wrote back to my doctor. She had seen me for a long time and recognised a number of symptoms pointing to something more than a mechanical problem. My trigger points were wide spread and with the other symptoms she thought that maybe it was fibromyalgia. She wrote a long and thorough report for my GP that took into all my symptoms such as fatigue, confusion, dispraxia, flu like symtoms, migraine etc. I returned to my GP who called in a senior partner and they decided together that this was something more. For the very first time I was being listened to and this GP stayed with me through a lot of the next bits.

Adulting

So I finally got referred to a rheumatologist and felt like everything would finally into place. I was finally being listened to and it was recognised that something was wrong. Within seconds of the rheumatologist walking into the room I was crushed. Before even meeting me or talking to me he looked at one set of bloods and announced ‘it’s not lupus, it’s not RA’. Only then did he examine me or ask any questions. But he never really looked or listened. He avoided eye contact with me, choosing instead to stare into his computer screen. I can honestly say I’ve never met a colder or more inhuman person in my life. By the time he abruptly said ‘you can go now’ I was more confused than ever and in tears. I began to walk out as the nurse barked ‘go get your bloods’. ‘What bloods?’ I said as I broke down completely. Then she explained everything the doctor should have done, and that he was a good doctor despite his bedside manner. I don’t think he was a good doctor and triggered lots of mental health issues. Later I got a mystery letter in the post summoning me to a full upper body MRI and physio. Apparently all ordered by the rheumatologist, I didn’t have a clue what was going on. Nor did the physio it seems. I was dumped in a cubicle with a trainee who took one look at me and said ‘I can’t treat you you need someone more senior’. They’d be in contact,  they weren’t.

The next letter I got was summoning me to hydrotherapy. Amazing I thought something practical I could do to help myself. But this was not the case either. The therapists didn’t know why I was there and asked which physio I’d seen, I never had had a proper appointment with any. So they offered me sessions which I tried. The result was cancelling after three seasons as I was in so much pain I couldn’t breathe, move or sleep. My GP wrote a letter of complaint, I was so let down and felt toutured by the treatement both physically and mentally. Again I thought I was going mad, but this time my GP was behind me and persisted. I finally had someone fighting my corner.

So letters of complaint were written and I chose my next rheumatologist at a different hospital. I decided to give it another go and this time couldn’t have been more different. He listened carefully to my history and family history. He said he thought something auto immune like was going on. The first thing he diagnosed me with, however, was Joint Hypermobility Syndrome. This explained a lot of the chest pains I’d been having, as well as other symptoms in most people hypermobility isn’t a problem but with overlapping symptoms it was reeking havoc with my joints, connective tissue and pain. I was finally referred to a specialist physio who confirmed all the previous physio I had received was more damaging than good. I still see her now and she is part of my ‘magic team’ of experts. Without all the sessions I’ve had with her, including ultrasounds and acupuncture, I wouldn’t be able to move half as well as I can today.

To be continued…

Lets rest here for now because I’m tired physically from writing this and mentally from going through it all. I hope this begins to explain to others the extent of what’s going on. But mostly its been a hugely useful process for me to go through it all chronologically and to realise why some of my behaviours and blocks towards the system are there.

Next up in part two, my thirties…

I will tell you about selfish people…

Rupi Kaur

“I will tell you about selfish people. Even when they know they will hurt you they walk into your life to taste you because you are the type of being they don’t want to miss out on. You are too much shine to not be felt. So when they have gotten a good look at everything you have to offer. When they have taken your skin your hair and your secrets with them. When they realize how real this is. How much of a storm you are and it hits them.

That is when the cowardice sets in. That is when the person you thought they were is replaced by the sad reality of what they are. That is when they lose every fighting bone in their body and leave after saying you will find better than me.

You will stand there naked with half of them still hidden somewhere inside you and sob. Asking them why they did it. Why they forced you to love them when they had no intention of loving you back and they’ll say something along the lines of I just had to try. I had to give it a chance. It was you after all.

But that isn’t romantic. It isn’t sweet. The idea that they were so engulfed by your existence they had to risk breaking it for the sake of knowing they weren’t the one missing out. Your existence meant that little next to their curiosity of you.”

Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey

Gosh this speaks so loud to my soul

Today

The streets itch with discontent,

The map was off centre all day.

Childish tears threaten to break through the adult face.

The stone walls sweat yesterday’s rain,

I pound the concrete with sticky heat between the layers of my clothes.

The lipstick curdles and I wipe it raw with paper.

 

Fingers bandaged from no fight,

I’m neither citizen or tourist just broken knees.

Guts cramping propel us from cafe to cafe.

Food sticks in my throat as I push it round the plate.

My hands tremble as they try to raise the cup,

Thick black coffee drives my blistered feet.

 

Something is not right in the world, I’m not quite here or there.

It’s ugly criminals saunter like they own the roads.

We ask ‘why are people so cruel?’

Then the man stops to pick up some other’s rubbish.

A women tends the silk and velvet with more love than she knows.

The smile of the woman on the bus is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

 

The flash from no camera, the sky opens and moans.

White then orange makes my heart pound.

‘Don’t walk on the floor with bare feet’ she says.

It makes me want to feel it’s force, to feel alive,

to take off my socks and dance with life on the cold tiles.

I bleed with the sky and prepare to begin all over again.

I broke my rules for you…

On an adventure that took us from cliff tops to forests, we ran free and hid amongst the shadows, sick with being found out, wasting away like a panicked songbird wanting to be set free.

I broke all the rules for you.

We lost a key in the forest, we swam in the dark water. All the danger was there and you made it safe. We flew away to a house that crumbled by the sea,We lived in ruins under the weight of guilt, we pieced together a home.

 I broke all the rules for you.

Given a crown to wear  I let myself believe, this was a fairytale and I could be queen. I dared to dream of adventures that would last a lifetime. To always say your name and be ok.

I broke all the rules for you.

You wore my name and I walked by your side, my every moment was to grow us, to nurture what little we had, I loved you so fiercely that I forgot to love myself,  I broke us somehow when I broke all the rules for you.

I broke all my rules for you and now I’m alone in a dark forest, lost amongst the shadows. 

I walk the cliffs alone, pulled towards the dark waters below. 

The house is an ugly broken shell and I don’t even have the key. 

The adventures won’t happen and the crown is made of broken glass.

 But still I break all the rules for you.

Parenting Yourself

So the last few weeks have been living in crisis. Caused by pain, mental health, relationships, work and income. All at once, in one big lump. Pow, taken out by the world!

14192571_1167441439995378_9200289525648559145_n

3 emergency hospital trips, 1 breakdown, 1 job lost, 1 relationship ended… It’s so easy to get swallowed into the negative and not see the positive. But the positive moments have been about the friends I have and love dearly.

What it has done is made for a very interesting discussions about life. It’s been useful to surround myself wth my friends and those who have been in the same place.

Today’s post is dedicated to Helen who has been amazing. Having been through the same shit she’s been one of the most resilient people I know. Oh and she’s a reflexologist too. I cannot recommend her enough for any kind of healing!

12068846_939860746086783_403464652320274183_oHer Facebook is here, and website is here

A few of her wise words include:

“So the world currently feels like a very scary, lonely & overwhelming place yeah. It’s all shit, there’s no-one you can rely on and you’ve just not got any more energy to keep fighting it all 😭

I’m not in your head but I can recognise it: I mean, when even your own fucking body seems to hate you what’s the point eh FFS!

But there is a point. It’s horrific right now & you prob can’t see any light.  Let me reassure you, there is a light. It’s called resilience, a strength you didn’t know you had, friends & vague contacts that will step up & help you find a path where you didn’t know there was one. It’s chaos, but out of the storm there’s new horizons, ones you’d never dreamt of before.

I’m not saying it’s easy, that’d be a lie. Trust me Vicki, it’s an ending but also a new beginning. It hurts like fuck. That hurt eventually turns into the determination your new self will rely on. Among my closest friends we no longer call it a ‘breakdown’ but a ‘breakthrough’ because in order to be true to ourselves the pain has to be faced & the old patterns need to be broken.

People don’t understand what it’s like living in pain every damn day. For doing that in itself , AND continuing to work as long as you have, you have a strength that most do not. Be proud you’ve made it this far. And with or without a bloke, your journey is only just beginning.”

These words were my solace in my darkest moment. They became a mantra to cling to. I love the idea that when in crisis experiencing a breakthrough rather than a breakdown. Maybe my list should look like this:

3 emergency hospital trips signs that I need to ask for help with my conditions, 1 breakdown breakthrough, 1 job lost assessment of my career, 1 relationship ended  6 close friendships formed and countless true friendships beginning … It’s so easy to get swallowed into the negative and not see the positive. But the positive moments have been about the friends I have and love dearly.

Today in our feet pampering session we discussed parenting. She suggested writing down all the things we want from our parents (theoretical ones if you are reading this mum and dad). Then you cross out parents and make it a list for how you want to treat your self. So here is goes…

I want my parents to be I want myself to be:

  • Supportive
  • Non judgemental
  • Not to know best for me but accept I know this
  • Kind
  • To listen without an answer
  • At the end of the phone
  • Strong
  • Not pull me into their dramas!
  • Not to take on my illness as something they’ve done or passed on
  • Trust me

Well that was a lot of writing and self led therapy for one day, I’m off to bake a cake!