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.

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new year

Just a quick update now a new year has begun! Things are looking a lot more positive than this time last year. I have a diagnosis, can manage my symptoms and hopefully am not far off going back to work.

Being able to manage my symptoms while working will be very challenging but it’s something I want to do, having been off work for so long, even if it’s not quite what I expected I’d be doing a year and a half after qualifying as a nurse.

I can’t believe how things have changed since this time last year. In early 2017 I was still waiting for a diagnosis, in fact had only just heard of PoTS, but was sure I’d be working again in a couple of months. Little did I know things would first get worse before they got better, and that I would be off work for such a long time.

2018 has started off in a much more positive way. I’ve been able to enjoy celebrating Hogmanay in Edinburgh, have had a weekend away in the Peaks walking, and visited friends and family. I’m so grateful to have amazing and supportive people around me and am also glad that I am getting to make the most of my time off now I feel well enough to enjoy myself. It’s been a long journey to get to this point and it’s taken a lot of patience, determination and perseverance. I know that while I’ll still have ups and downs symptom-wise, I’m now in a much better position to get through the down parts.

So now all that’s left is to wait and see what there is in store for me jobs wise (oh I forgot to mention, Occupational Health have finally cleared me as fit to work, in a desk based role rather than clinical nurse, so I am just waiting for a meeting regarding my redeployment to a new job with my manager and HR) which seems like a huge step in the right direction!

making the most of it 

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. 

phew!

Despite my body kindly reminding me on a minute by minute basis that I do in fact have PoTS, it’s been a good week, so here’s my favourite view of Sheffield (from Meersbrook park if you’re interested).

Drumroll please ……… after over a months break I’ve finally got back on the exercise bike!!! This is partly because after struggling on for a while I finally rang the specialist nurses who let me increase my second dose of the day of Ivabradine, which has so far helped give me a bit of a boost. I’m hoping eventually they’ll let me try some other combinations of medications as I’m a long long way off feeling vaguely ‘normal’, whatever that ends up being. For now, though, I managed 5 whole minutes on the bike. Those 5 minutes where the hardest minutes of exercise I’ve ever done (yes, even including cross country in year 9, or the dreaded bleep test in PE). I was on such a high afterwards I may as well have run a marathon.

I’ve been to my first PoTS support group meeting and it was lovely to meet other people with PoTS who understand what you are going through, and what a mad mad thing PoTS really is.

Without a doubt, the best thing that happened this week was when I went in to my GP for yet another sick note. We’ve had a system where I ring up the receptionist who then lets a GP know that I need a new note. So I haven’t actually been in contact with a GP since before my actual diagnosis and I thought I’d go in to see them in person for this one. Best decision I could have made! Before I’d even sat down in the consulting room this lovely GP who I’d never seen before was saying what I tough time I must have had lately and asking how I really was. Those ten minutes were probably the best GP appointment I’ve ever had even though I only needed a sick note. We talked about my diagnosis journey and how uncontrolled my symptoms where, how long it might take to recover enough to regain a decent quality of life, what my career options might be, how I was mentally coping, if my family were supportive, what my manager was doing to help me regarding work…. I could go on! I’d like to add that he didn’t claim to know much about PoTS, but he had at least heard of it and knew enough to know how dehabilitating it can be.

I came out feeling quite emotional, it made me realise how damaging it was to have had bad experiences in the past because it made me feel that it was a constant battle to be believed by health professionals. My whole past experience means I can doubt myself or not want to bother GPs or even the PoTS specialists that I’m under as I worry about the reaction I might get. A tiny irrational part of me worries before each appointment that I will have a repeat of the past and be told I’m just an anxious young adult with nothing wrong. Which is silly I know but I think it is a natural reaction to have. It’s hard to undo the 10+ years of being told nothing is wrong when you know deep down something is in fact very wrong.

In other news, I’m waiting for the outcome of my work capability assessment questionnaire and after many phone calls and confusing letters my oh-so-generous Employment Support Allowance payments have begun. Let me put it this way, I’m really grateful for once that it’s my parents I owe rent to!

The hot weather recently has been tough, tougher than I imagined, so I’m enjoying the torrential rain and downpours at the moment. Also, more often than not I’ve been waking up feeling as if I’ve been hit by a bus. I’m sure it would be much more painful to actually be hit by a bus, but it’s the only way I can think to describe it. Everything aches so it’s taking superhuman effort to get up, but most days I manage! I feel so relieved I’ve made it through the last week or so and am still smiling and (relatively) sane*.

*to be fair that is debatable!!!

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!