I know it’s been a while but so much has happened in the last few months it’s been a bit of a blur.
I finally, finally am working again- I’ve been redeployed to an office role in an HR department. The picture above was taken on my first lunch break! It seems to be going well but it was such a shock to the system getting back into the routine of work. I was lucky enough to be able to do a month of very light admin work a couple of days a week that my previous manager organised for me so I’ve been able to go back almost full time into my new role.
So far I’ve surprised myself in how I’ve managed to settle in. I’m very exhausted and achey and have had a couple of days full of intense symptoms at work but I’ve coped and new colleagues are being very understanding which is a massive help!
I have an emergency draw full of salty snacks, a huge water bottle, a desk fan, ginger tea (for the nausea), and cans of coke (I don’t know why but on the rare occasion I’m feeling really bad but I’m out and about and can’t go for a lie down, a can of coke, which I would never normally drink, can really help with the brain fog and pre-syncope especially, just until I can have a lie down). My pink tinted glasses are also a miracle worker as I have to spend my day staring at screens which would otherwise give me headaches, contributing wonderfully to my brain-foggy state!
I’ve discovered the key to surviving the working day is to eat little and often (rather than a big lunch in the middle of the day), take things as slowly as I can, have frequent breaks to make drinks and visit the loo, and use my lunch hour to sit with my feet up and a cup of tea. And then once I’m home I do as little as possible and go to bed early in the hope I’ll have recovered enough to go into work the next day!
I also have a shower and prepare everything-my food, drink, bag and clothes-the night before so that my morning preparation only involves eating and getting dressed. And if I’m too tired to have a shower in the evening then there is always the saving grace of dry shampoo and some baby wipes!
I’m still coming to terms with the fact I am not pursuing my dream career as a nurse and I am finding it difficult to accept that it may be for the best in terms of my health. However I’m just so relieved and glad that I can work at last and am so grateful for everyone who has helped me get to this point-the health professionals, those at work, as well as family and friends and my lovely boyfriend.
It’s been a while since I last wrote and I’ve been very busy! I was originally waiting to write this blog post after having a meeting about going back to work with HR/my manager however that meeting which was scheduled for October kept being rescheduled and finally happened last week.
So here we are two months later than planned! The outcome of that meeting is that I am unlikely to be able to go back to work as a nurse, as although (in my PoTS nurse’s opinion) I am doing really well in terms of managing my symptoms, I can’t stand for more than 15 minutes before becoming very symptomatic. That doesn’t bother me in my everyday life as I have become very good at working round this, but clearly it’s not ideal if you have a job that requires you to be on your feet all day (or night!). So I’m waiting to see if I can be redeployed to a desk based job. Meanwhile I’ve also sent off a work capability assessment form as I’m being reassessed for benefits. As I’ve improved so much in the last couple of months, I’m extremely doubtful as to wether I will continue to get benefits. This is extremely frustrating as they will no doubt assess me as capable to work, when work and Occupational Health are assessing me as incapable to work!
In more happy news, I’m able to make the most of my time off by spending my weekends visiting friends and family, and generally beginning to feel very Christmassy! Most weekends have seen me on a train to various parts of the country and I’ve got very adept at train travel with PoTS now!
I’m continuing to manage my symptoms so that I rarely have a ‘bad’ day now. I don’t mean to say I’m symptom free, it’s just that I’ve got used to how to best manage the symptoms I do have, and to pace myself throughout the day. I’m beginning to recognise warning signs that I’ve overdone things and can slow down accordingly.
For example, it’s getting easier and easier to keep on top of my fluid intake as it’s a natural part of my daily routine now, which is a big help in terms of keeping hydrated throughout the day and really helps reduce my morning brain fog and dizziness. In the winter I’m also finding it easier to keep a constant body temperature and not get too hot, which is helping me not develop symptoms due to overheating.
It’s all getting a bit easier to manage as I’m getting used to the changes I’ve had to make in order to get this far. I had a cold last week which made my PoTS symptoms resurface with a vengeance so it’s not all plain sailing but it’s definitely a positive step forward.
Let’s just say this week hasn’t gone quite as planned! I started off so drained after my last blog post. In some ways, applying for benefits is just the next positive step in the journey of getting well enough to go back to some sort of work. In other ways, it’s a horrible experience because it means admitting to myself how differently things have turned out to how I planned even though I like to turn a blind eye and think otherwise. When I left uni I’d assumed by now I would be working full time, planning holidays and travelling with friends, and moving into a place of my own. (I like to think of my time off as a kind of extended Christmas break. Shame not everyone is in a festive mood!). It also doesn’t help that the process is so confusing and feels like they are trying to catch you out at every step.
Last week I’d spent more time on my exercise bike than in my wheelchair, but this week the wheelchair has won hands down! As well as the usual, I’ve had some pretty horrendous nausea (luckily no vomiting this time, but there were some close calls!) lots of aches, pains and cramps and some truly awful levels of fatigue. Basically back to how things were before my diagnosis. I know my limits and this week was not going to be a week in which I pushed myself! I’m putting it down to the fact that I’m always worse in the week before and during my period, and that I’ll be able to power through when it’s all over. In fact I’m wearing my exercise gear while I write this as if I’ll be motivated to go and spend some time on the exercise bike later!
Highlights of this week have been making it to a gig with my family and going to a close friend’s birthday Ceilidh. There’s been a lot of laughter this week and I appreciate these moments with people who are special to me, friends and family. I’m so lucky to be able to get out and about even if it is in a wheelchair and it does take me a while to recover, it’s worth it to be able to feel normal for a little while. It’s also been fun binge watching TV with my siblings and baking (everything I’ve made this week has had baking paper stuck to it, proof that I’m not learning from my mistakes!!).
Here’s to a better week, I’m looking forward to the warmer weather (well the PoTS part of me isn’t but I am!!) and hopefully the exercise bike won’t be so lonely this week.
Although I know I have moments when I feel much better I also have days when I feel worse again. I think it’s probably due to the fact that thanks to Ivabradine I can stand more so I over-do things and end up feeling worse.
I’m really frustrated at myself today because I had a really busy weekend, but I’ve spoilt it today by having a bath this morning. I’m having to recover all day in bed which is a shame as it’s a lovely day outside. Oh well, tomorrow is another day!
Pacing is something I need to get used to, and to help me I have a few ‘cheats’ to get me through each day.
- Commode. Or as I like to think of it, my en-suite. I use it overnight, and as my Granny said, in her day everyone used chamber pots and it’s not too different to that!
- Shower chair. This piece of equipment has been life changing!! I’m so excited by the fact I can now have showers.
- Wheelchair. I was apprehensive about using a wheelchair especially if people see me getting out to go to the loo, or if I’m well enough to walk for a bit. The thought was much worse than the reality though, as it means I can go out even on not so good days, and for longer periods of time. My family are going to be so fit by the time I’ve finished with it!
- I’ve also got a seat in the kitchen, I don’t really have the energy at moment to cook but it’s useful waiting for the kettle to boil!
The spoon theory was devised by Christine Miserandino, as a way of helping her family and friends understand how she lives with chronic illness. She writes about it in her essay ‘The Spoon Theory’ on her website ‘butyoudontlooksick.com’. I would recommend a look as it’s a much better explanation than mine!
Basically, each activity that you might do in a day uses up ‘spoons’. Even little things like boiling a kettle or walking up stairs. You replenish these ‘spoons’ through rest. A ‘spoonie’, or someone with a chronic illness, has to conserve these spoons else they will run out, but someone without a chronic illness pretty much has an unlimited amount of spoons to get them through the day.
If a ‘spoonie’ runs out of spoons they could borrow some from the next day, but this will leave them with less ‘spoons’ to use in the future.
To illustrate, yesterday I was so pleased that I managed to sit up all day without having to nap, and so in the evening I decided to have a shower. However, that meant borrowing a couple of ‘spoons’ from today (climbing the stairs and having the shower took more ‘spoons’ than I had left) so I’m paying the price now. It feels like a backward step as I had been feeling much better yesterday, but it’s a little reminder that it’s going to take baby steps (which is a bit longer than I’d like it to take!).
When I took my first Ivabradine it was so small I wasn’t even sure I’d swallowed it! It’s a tiny tablet anyway, but I have to cut them in half which is near impossible. It describes itself on the box as ‘salmon’ coloured. I was wondering if it came in fuchsia or teal but sadly not. Fun fact: pharmaceutical companies don’t like to make drugs a green colour because it’s considered unlucky. See, I have remembered SOMETHING from my nursing degree!
Ivabradine will obviously affect everyone differently, but so far I’ve experience headaches (normal for me), dizziness (normal for me, but occasionally it felt more like vertigo when the wheelchair would feel like it was moving when I had the breaks on; normally my dizziness feels like I’m looking through a haze). I have felt my heart rate slow, occasionally it’s felt really ‘heavy’ and pronounced, even more so than my usual palpitations. It’s a really slow acting drug though, which peaks after 30 mins and wears off after 4 hours.
I’m not looking forward to the most common side effect which is light sensitivity seeing as I’m very light sensitive anyway at the moment and am wearing sunglasses pretty much 24/7 so might have to become a mole or something. Lets hope that’s not a side effect I get (I mean light sensitivity, not turning into a mole. I’m pretty sure I didn’t read that as a side effect in the leaflet!). So far I’ve not felt a reduction in my PoTS symptoms but not sure if that’s because I’m feeling so extremely exhausted and rubbish at the moment anyway. Hopefully I’ll see some improvement in a couple of days when this ‘flare-up’ has settled.
My wheelchair has finally arrived, thanks to Dave the DPD man! You might get a picture later and I’m still thinking of a name for it. So mum and I decided it was time for a trip out. Word of advice, don’t move to a city known for its seven hills if you need a wheelchair. We found this out today the hard way. I do trust my mum in a lot of things, but I have to say I was worried about her taking me down the huge hill by a main road to the centre of town. ‘Don’t worry’, she told me. ‘I used to push you all the time in a pushchair when you were a baby’. I replied that I wasn’t exactly the same weight as I was then. We were half way down the hill when she said ‘You certainly arn’t’. Ouch. Thanks Mum.
So we made it to John Lewis via a few other shops with only minor hiccups (involving kerbs mainly). Luckily I have a seatbelt but I do wonder if I need to invest in a helmet too…
We mooched around for a bit then got to a tiny set of 5 steps, so I got out and helped mum carry the wheelchair down rather than look for a lift. Que horrified shop assistant coming over to let us know there was a lift available if we wanted next time. We found this hilarious, to her it must have looked like mum had made me get out to carry my own wheelchair. I promise you it was a be there moment!
We were both exhausted by this point so went to the cafe for lunch. After, mum headed off whilst I had a lie down. You know it’s a bad day when you’ve been in a wheelchair all day and you still find yourself needing to lie down (laughing emoji, crying emoji). I heard a small child on the next table ask her mother why I was lying down. She said ‘Oh that lady must be very tired’ and I swear the elderly couple next to me (to be fair they were sitting further down on the bench, closest to my feet) tutted. Actually tutted. I wanted to shout ‘Hey, I know I’m wearing sunglasses inside and I haven’t been able to wash my hair in a while and my feet are all sweaty from being rammed inside compression stocking tights but I’m not hungover I promise’. But then I realised that I’d rather go to sleep so I did.
Then it came to my attention that a crowd of people where peering down at me, including members of my extended family and weirdly, Graham Norton and Mary Berry. They were asking what the hell I was doing lying on a bench in the John Lewis cafe in the middle of the afternoon. I told them all to f*** off (which is most unlike me I assure you) and went back to sleep.
We came home on the bus. I was so exhausted and I wasn’t even the one pushing the wheelchair! I’m now collapsed in bed while my poor mum makes tea. I’m feeling really bad about swearing at Mary Berry and wondering why Graham Norton was dressed as Father Christmas at this time of year. Surely the Easter Bunny would have been more appropriate? Think it’s time for another nap!!