onwards and upwards

It’s well over 2 and a half years since my diagnosis. And an age since my last blog post! I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time, but life has got rather busy. So much has happened!

My partner and I have bought a lovely house, which wasn’t as stressful as I’d expected, apart from the multiple gas leaks, holes in the roof and co-ordination of various tradespeople. I’m looking forward to being able to enjoy all our hard work in the coming year, now all the major work has been completed.

I also suffered one of the other delights of living with pots and hyper mobility-dislocated knees! (Yes, two!) I often get partial dislocations but never before have I actually dislocated something. It was flipping painful, especially the first time where we were in the middle of nowhere on a walk, and they really do take a long time to heal.

Despite this, I am still trying to walk at every opportunity, as it is the main form of exercise that I can tolerate. It’s also been fun exploring the area we have moved to through walking.

The first injury coincided with our house buying, and it all culminated in a bit of a flare-up. This then resulted in me making the difficult decision to go from full time to working 4 days a week. I do feel so lucky to have been able to manage for so long full time. But I realise now I’ve moved out of my parents house I’ll need to be able to manage my symptoms much more carefully. And anyway, I was finding I was having to call in sick a few times purely due to PoTS, and that alone stresses me out meaning my flare up gets worse!

Working part time has allowed me to be able to look after myself much more, and rest when I need to. This means I have that little bit more energy to do interesting things with my weekend, as I know I will be able to rest during the week. I’m also very strict with my days off-I do the absolute bare minimum which means I can nap whenever I want and usually feel much more able to get through the week. I’m usually too exhausted to do anything even if I wanted to anyway!

I feel I’ve come so far, both physically and mentally, since I last wrote a blog post. I’m comfortable with the fact that my career has taken a different path, and whilst I’ll always think about how life could have been, that’s ok. Life is different, but in a good way. Perhaps I’m able to enjoy life a little more, in the slow lane. Seeing things from the perspective of someone with a chronic illness has certainly made me realise how lucky I am, and I can’t really say I have any regrets. Yes I have been on a huge learning curve, one which I am still learning from today, but I am thankful for every day, no matter what it brings.

back to work

Hello again!

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.

looking through rose tinted spectacles

Nearly a month since my last post and I’m still running and cycling on the exercise bike! I almost can’t believe it but I can honestly say the only symptoms I have at the moment are brain fog and fatigue, which can both be severe at times but it’s a massive improvement and more than I could have hoped for a couple of months ago. My episodes of pre-syncope are very rare and usually only happen if I’m late taking my medication or get up out of bed too suddenly.

I made it to Wales for the weekend to visit a friend and apart from a few necessary naps felt pretty normal. We visited beaches and pubs and it was lovely to explore somewhere I’d never been before.

The long train journey home took it out of me especially when the person sat in my reserved seat wouldn’t let me sit down but thankfully the guard found me an alternative. Frustratingly that extra 5 minutes stood up trying to reason about my seat really exhausted me and made me feel really ill for the rest of my journey; I could barely stand by the time I’d made it home, but the whole trip was well worth it.

I’ve also got my pink/purple tinted glasses from the opticians. They’re really helping with my light sensitivity and reading even if they’re maybe not the most fashionable thing I own!

In other news I now own a massive 6 cup teapot so that’s at least 1/4 of my daily fluid intake sorted!!

lambs, lakes and laughter

I’ve just come back from a weekend away in the lakes with some lovely friends from uni. I was a bit apprehensive of how I would manage, and was also worried about having PoTS symptoms around people who know me from when I was well. I’m used to the reaction from people that because I don’t look ill, I must be fine.

I needn’t have worried  because I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to spend time with. They let me go at my own pace, have lots of naps, cooked and took me out in my wheelchair for which I was so grateful.

We were staying on a working farm and there were two very cute hand reared lambs in the field next to us, as well as free range chickens who seemed very keen on trying to break into the house whenever the door was open. I was proud of myself as on the first day I managed a short walk (we took my trangia and made a brew half way round for a cheeky break!). The next day we went for the day to Conistion Water but I wasn’t leaving the wheelchair behind for that! We were really lucky with the weather too, with blue skies and gorgeous sunshine.


In terms of how my PoTS was on holiday, I had all the usual brain fog, headaches, nausea, aches and pains and dizziness. I felt extremely fatigued and had to have naps where I was flat out comatose on the sofa for hours at a time. I found the third and fourth doses of ivabradine didn’t even touch me with horrendous palpitations throughout the afternoons and evenings. I could barely stand and felt really bad that I was unable to cook or wash up or generally be useful because I’m one of those people who like to get stuck in and help out. I do feel very lucky though that I was well enough to be able to go and very appreciative of my amazing friends. Love you all!!

The exercise bike will have to wait yet again whilst I recover, especially in this heat. When I arrived home I was so tired I could barely speak, and I slept for two days. Now I’m dragging myself out of that hole and managed to go for a gentle swim in our local lido today with my cousin. The heart palpitations are back with a vengeance! It was so worth it though because mothing can compare with spending time with good friends. I needed the change of scenery and some time away independent of my family (lovely though they are!).

ups and downs

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.

 

pacing

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!

how many spoons?

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!).