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I Am Not My Illness

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the labels we have attached to us when we have a chronic physical or mental illness. They are powerful labels that can be associated with a lot of stigma, sadness or make you feel a little bit hopeless. I am trying to think of labels as something I ‘have’ rather than ‘am’.

When you have any kind of illness (mental or physical), it’s often likely that you will receive a diagnosis or something that labels the struggles you are having. Sometimes there can be a huge relief from having an understanding of what is happening for you, or a diagnosis / label that can lead to additional support or treatment; but sometimes a label can feel like a negative thing, it can lead to feelings of hopeless and shame.

As someone who has had difficulties with their mental health for a number of years, I have experienced the challenging and often complicated feelings that come with being given a label for a condition. It feels like some illnesses and difficulties can rate higher on a scale of what’s socially acceptable; whereas others aren’t spoken about and feel almost taboo. Some conditions are frowned upon and seen as ‘fake’ or unworthy of support or care.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the other labels that represent me. I have mental and physical health conditions but I’m not ‘broken’ or ‘mad’; I’m poorly and that’s ok. It’s not my fault and it doesn’t have to be my identity. I ‘have’ mental and physical illness, which is a part of my life that I have to manage daily. But I am also learning to love that I am a creative who can write, paint, journal, crochet and think in ways that are a little out of the box. I’m a writer, fundraiser, project manager, sister, daughter, cat mumma… and so much more. I am proud of who I am and I won’t let my illness take that away from me.

No need to be afraid quote

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Caring in Chaos

Caring carer caregivers

I’m lucky to be a carer for two amazing people!!! My son and my Mum!

My son was diagnosed with Aspergers/ High functioning Autism, at age 7. We have had a tough old road, now he is 17, done his GCSE’s and is now at college! Safe to say I am one proud Mum!

In May 2015 I became carer for my Mum. She has chronic Arthritis both Rheumatoid and Osteo, which means she needs lots of help. She had to take early retirement and move in with me and my son.

I took up embroidery and cross stitch originally to do something creative.

Its helps take my mind off our crazy merry go round life of hospital appointments, meetings, therapy and general house stuff.

I suffer with Depression and PTSD, due to a previous abusive relationship. So stitching helps and keeps me sane, or not as the case may be 🙂

Autism spectrum top sweatshirt hoodie
Autism spectrum hoodie

For a long time I had thought about running my own business, but just didn’t know what to do. One day Mum saw and advert for a embroidery machine, “you could do that!” she said. So, along came this huge machine which initially I was terrified of! (I had only done hand embroidery up to that point!!). Luckily my computer whizz and all things technical son came to the rescue!

I had had the machine for a month and just looked at it in awe! Half term was all that was needed, by the end of the week he had machine embroidery sussed, taught me and so my learning curve began!

Eventually after several months I braved it and in January of this year (2016) I jumped in. Mum and my boy love the things I make and look forward to seeing the new designs and products, Mum especially as she gets to keep the seconds!

So, here I am, self-employed and loving every minute!

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Caring is a full time job

Being a carer for your partner

I have never written a blog before and I am not all that good at writing about who I am or how I feel. Just lately I have felt that I should give it a go and reach out to people. Caring can be a lonely job. I get sick of people telling me it’s not a REAL job and that I should go to work and stop claiming tax payers money.

I care for my husband who was first diagnosed with Epilepsy 10 years ago. This is how it all started. He had to give up work because his fits got a lot worse. He was a hazard in the work place. It was worsened by the fact that he had an accident and broke his neck. He’s lucky to be alive. I love him so much that I am thankful he is still in the land of the living. His neck is crumbled and the gravel as we call it pushes on nerve endings which caused his fits to get worse.

While going through the system and trying to work out what was the cause, he was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. I have always taken his mood swings as a quirk and neither of us knew he had a mental disability. It opened our eyes to how much can be hidden under the surface.

Giving up work for him caused a great depression. He’s never been the same. With the system treating us the way it has it has caused anxiety and panic attacks so now talking to strangers and going to new places is a challenge for us.

Life can never be the same. So YES, I am just a carer but I don’t get time off. I don’t get holiday pay. I don’t get any support from anywhere and I am left to rely on my own decision making to what is best for us. I don’t have time to be sick. I am needed every minute of the day. I wish I could go to work and work nine to five. I would surly make more money and possibly have a more comfortable life.

I didn’t choose for this to happen. I’m not just sat here on my backside doing nothing all day like people seem to think I am. It’s hard work. Maybe not physically every day but mentally every second. Every time he has a seizure he could die. If you love someone just take a moment to think how that feels. He has at least two a day on a bad month. There is nothing I can do but sit by his side and pray he pulls through.

So no, I don’t have a title, a posh house or children. I gave up all my dreams to be by his side everyday. Love is the foundation of my life. My gift is the days I get to see him smile without pain.

I craft to keep my sanity. I love to create. I love to see people smile and I think LOVE is the most cherished gift we can share with one another. It’s FREE and it changes lives.

So next time someone says they are a carer, take a moment to realise they give up their lives for others happiness. Give them some supportive encouragement. I know we all sure could use it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Much love to you all. xx

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A Desperate Plea…

writing to doctor about prolapse

Below is an email I sent this morning to a specialist I saw last year. It’s not professional. It’s not the right way to go about things. But it’s real. It’s my life. It’s the level of desperate I’m now at. I’m not sharing this for sympathy. I’m sharing it to highlight the thousands of people out there who are just like me, living with these problems. Sharing this isn’t easy. It’s hard not to be embarrassed and disgusted with myself. These are issues often kept behind closed doors. But I’m opening them. I refused to be ashamed. It’s not my fault I have to live like this.

If someone told you they had a prolapse, would you think it a big deal? Would you expect it to seep into every aspect of their lives? Would you realise that it could be on their mind of every second of every minute of every day? Probably not. Well… maybe this may open your eyes to what it’s really like…

Hello Dr ##1##,

I’m sorry to contact you directly, but I’m unsure what to do. I feel I have to take things into my own hands.

I have had my surgery in October with Dr ##2##. She addressed the cystocele and prolapsed uterus by performing a vaginal hysterectomy and anterior prolapse repair. No mesh.

However she refused to touch my rectocele, which continues to get worse and worse. I now cannot pass wind without pressing on my perineum, or bulge within my vagina. The only time I pass any stool is when my laxatives cause me to have violent and painful loose stool. However some of this always collects in the pockets of bowel and quickly hardens and blocks it. Mostly I have to manually remove my stool. This involves putting a thumb inside my vagina and two fingers in a v around my anus (which when I need a motion bulges out to varying degrees).

I manipulate the whole area in order to push the stool out, as my lower section of bowel doesn’t push at all. Often times I then have to insert a digit into my back passage to try and help the process along. Inside is a large cavern. It feels almost flying saucer shaped. (Sorry that’s all I could think of to describe it) I have to sweep my finger around to collect stool and mucus. Above this area it seems to become tighter again, but still won’t push, though the muscles around do clench. Since my surgery however there also seems to be a large grissly bulge protruding into that upper area.

Unless the laxatives cause me to have severe cramping I very rarely can tell if I need to pass a motion anymore. The only things that alert me are bloating, a heavy feeling, and being unable to urinate. This also happens with the large amounts of trapped wind I get. You don’t realise how much you must naturally pass throughout the day until you can’t do it anymore and it’s all stuck. Let me tell you, there’s a lot! I could power a wind farm. The only way I can tell which it is is to feel whether my bulge is full of gas or stool. Then get it out.

Every single time I go to the toilet is an ordeal. I’m left feeling in pain, bruised and without any dignity. Because of my POTS and EDS the positions I get myself in often cause my joints to hurt and sublux. My legs go completely numb and my heart fluctuates. I also get hot sweats and dizziness. All this combined means my husband often has no choice but to supervise me on the toilet and help me back to bed. I can be on there an hour or more at a time, and bed is always where I end up. It takes so much out of me. Plus, I never go just once. Often there’s at least three trips to actually get the entire stool out.

I have ended up in tears, wishing for an ostomy over this life. How crazy is that? I know it’s crazy. But I just cannot go on like this.

The only thing that Dr ##3## can think of is regular irrigation. Possibly even weekly, from now until kingdom come, to get my bowel cleared and hope that in between I feel ok. He said he doesn’t believe I have Crohns. There’s no sign of it on any recent test. But he told me, if it’s IBS it’s the strangest and most aggressive type he’s ever seen.

Please will you help me. Dr ##2## was lovely. But you are the best in colorectal surgery. I know I’m a complicated case. I followed your instructions. I saw a different doctor. I did everything you told me to. Now, months down the line, the problem I came in with is just getting worse and worse. You wrote to me saying if I was still having problems to get back in touch. Whilst writing this letter I got a call back from a Secretary. She told me my GP must write in and I have to wait all over again. I feel like I’ve been waiting forever. I feel like the main issue I need help with was pushed aside and I’m just left here to suffer. Now to hear I’m starting from scratch is devastating.

My in laws have booked to take us to Disney in early 2018. They’ve already put it back two years because of my health. They can’t move it again. How do I tell my kids I can’t go because I can’t go to the toilet like a human being and it’s ruining my life? I struggle to even wear clothes due to the extreme bloating. How do I tell them that after all the waiting and the surgery I am right to the back of the pack again?

I know I’m just another face in a sea of patients begging for your help. But I took your advice. Please, now will you try to help me? I’m not too proud to beg.

If you got to the end of this letter I appreciate it. Most doctors would bin it immediately. I really am sorry for contacting you directly. But desperate times and all that. Also, Dr ##2## really was lovely and treat me very well. She just hasn’t fixed the thing that most impacts my life.

Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.

Regards,

J

Please. If you know of anyone with these problems, don’t make fun or make light. Be aware of the fact that these issues can make you feel sub human and worthless. If, like me, you are going through this. Don’t just sit back and wait in line. Dig your heels in and kick up a fuss. Push hard for the treatment you need!!

If by some miracle any Doctors happen to read this blog. Well, to you I ask this. Please try to understand that prolapse can impact a persons entire life. Many people in support groups Im in are teetering on the edge of a complete breakdown. Treat us with respect and care. But also with a sense of urgency. The longer we live like this, the less human we feel. 

UPDATE: Jennie’s doctor has responded and is asking his Secretary to book her in his clinic 🙂 Watch this space….

Beautifully Written by Jennie Louise Smales from This Little Life of Mine.

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There is another way…

medipen review Cannabis oil CBD Oil

In the last few months my levels of pain and exhaustion have hit a whole new high. This has left me pretty much bedbound most days. Then awake and restless at night. Alongside all that, my Gastroparesis has flared, meaning I’m nauseous almost all the time. My stomach feels full and bloated and eating, or even drinking, causes severe pain. When everything piles up like this it’s hard to cope. I found myself breaking down and sobbing on an all too regular basis.

I’m already taking slow release Tramadol, Paracetamol and Codeine for my pain. I also have Gabapentin for nerve pain and other issues.

Please note, it is not generally advisable to take Tramadol and Codeine together. I have special permission from the pain clinic and have been given clear instructions on safe dosage. Please don’t ever take medication that is not prescribed to you, or at a higher dose than prescribed by your GP.

I cannot take anything Ibuprofen based due to my IBD, nor can I take many of the anti nausea medications that are on the market. During my last Gastroparesis flare my GP tried me on many of these medications, they either didn’t work, upset my bowel, or worse. What could be worse? Giving me the symptoms of a brain tumour, that’s what. My body reacts to things in very weird and wonderful ways. Waiting for my test results to come back after I’d been told I was displaying all the signs of a prolactinoma was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life, one which I do not intend to repeat.

So, as you can imagine, my options are now pretty limited. Basically there’s only one thing to move up to. Morphine. Be it tablet or patch form, it doesn’t matter. That’s the only thing left. I discussed this with my husband. Yes, I want to feel better. Yes, I want to be up and about more. But Morphine? I’m thirty years old. Do I really want to put my, already dysfunctional body, through that? I know that Morphine is a strong pain relieving option. But I also know that any pain relief doesn’t seem as effective on me as it is on others, this could be down to my dodgy collagen. Even in hospital when I’ve been given Morphine intravenously, it’s not had a major effect. I never ever get spaced out or super relaxed. It just doesn’t affect me that strongly. So I’d be putting my body through all that stress, for a minimal effect. I don’t think it’s worth it.

But what other choice did I have? None. Or so I thought. Soon after our conversation my husband saw an article about the Medipen which he sent over to me. Basically the Medipen is a vape machine which uses extracts from the Cannabis plant, combined with coconut oil. The extracts are completely devoid of any of the chemicals which cause the feeling of being ‘high’. They purely contain the chemical which has the most benefits, CBD. I’m not going to lie, I was wary. Very wary. Cannabis has a lot of stigma around it. Then add to this the fact that you inhale it in a vape machine, meaning you look like you’re smoking. That was too much.

I’m not anti Cannabis. I don’t believe it’s a big evil drug that is bringing it to its knees. Honestly I don’t. Used in the correct way, I can see why it could be popular. However I am anti smoking. I do not smoke, have never smoked, and have no desire to. I’m not going to lecture people about their life choices, but in my opinion my body has enough wrong with it without me adding to the list. When you think of Cannabis that’s what comes to mind. Smoke. Lots and lots of smoke. Spliffs, bongs, hash brownies. But mostly dingy rooms full of pungent acrid smoke. That’s the stereotype. The stereotype that is widely spread and etched into people’s minds. But that’s not me. I’m a mother. A none smoker. A disabled member of the community just trying to make the best of my life.

My initial reaction to the Medipen wasn’t great. But I read the article. I researched. I looked on their website. Mostly I checked out the reviews. Page after page after page of people thanking the company. People with Cancer, MS, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Insomnia and bowel complaints, all were seeing results! They were gushing about their great experiences. Better sleep, less pain, more energy. The reviews were astounding. Many even called it life changing. My viewpoint started to shift. Reluctantly I discussed it with my doctor. Terrified by his reaction. What if he thought I was a pot head? I couldn’t believe my ears when he told me to go for it! Recently another patient of his had tried a similar product and had excellent results. He agreed it was time I started thinking outside the box in order to improve my day to day life. Wow! The (unofficial) go ahead from my doctor!

That night I contacted the company and arranged for my sample. I’ve been anxiously waiting for it ever since. Desperate to try it, but afraid the hype was too much to be true. Honestly, I was afraid to even hope. As for the stigma? I put it out of my mind. I told myself, who cares what other people think?! I need an improvement in my life. I cannot keep going like this, and I don’t want to take opiates. Besides, as with stigma about anything, we just need to raise our voices and educate. Show people they’re wrong. Highlight the true facts of the matter.

My Medipen arrived this morning. I’m looking forward to seeing how I go with it, and updating you all on my experiences; from my initial reactions (including reactions to it from those around me) to the results of longer term use. Here’s hoping it’s all positive!! I’m just happy I actually have something to place my hope in for once.

medipen review Cannabis oil CBD Oil
Medipen has arrived!

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Jaymee’s Battle

Borderline Personality Disorder

Our story begins when Jaymee became a mother, at the age of twenty. Soon after she was diagnosed with Postnatal Depression, a fairly common problem that many mothers face. As is so often the case, Jaymee was given antidepressants and sent on her way. But Jaymee knew deep down something wasn’t right. Months passed, and she didn’t improve. Those months turned into years and still Jaymee was no better. During this time the doctors tried many different tablets, but none of them worked. The only thing Jaymee gained from the medication was a detachment from her feelings, a numbness to life. This feeling (or lack of it) enveloped her, it became her new normal. Her coping mechanism to get through the endless days of feeling broken inside.

Around 2013 Jaymee got to the point where she lost herself completely, she had a complete mental breakdown. The medication she had been on had only delayed the inevitable. She describes herself as “high as a kite one minute, the next (she) was the lowest (she’d) ever been”. Jaymee was thrill seeking, and taking crazy risks, with no consideration for those around her. Yes, she admits she had fun at first, but there comes a point when the fun stops and all you’re left with is emptiness and regret. It’s not fun anymore when you’re constantly hurting those who love you. You’d think that being a mother would help put things into perspective, but alas it didn’t. She couldn’t see beyond her own selfish desires. Looking back it was a very dark time in her life, though at the time she didn’t realise.

Jaymee says, “This is a place I don’t want to go back to. It was awful. I hurt and blamed the ones who loved me, pushed away people who cared.”

Along the way Jaymee was unkind to herself as well as her family and friends. She had completely lost herself, to the point she wasn’t even Jaymee anymore. It felt as though her head just wouldn’t work how she needed it to. She was lost, adrift in a sea of confusion and extreme emotion. Eventually she snapped. Everything came crashing down and Jaymee could cope no longer. Desperate for help she did something “really stupid and regrettable”, and though she wishes it had never come to that, she did finally get the attention of her doctors. After years of them just telling her it’s depression, here’s a tablet; they finally took noticed and realised there may be something more going on.

Jaymee was referred to a Psychological unit. Finally she had been guided onto a path, instead of wandering aimlessly lost through life. She remembers how the first thing they considered was Bipolar Disorder, but it wasn’t that. She remembers how it took a whole year of doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists analysing her to finally get an answer. A year of being watched, evaluated, pried into. A year of waiting, stressing and wondering. It was not easy to go through, but it was worth it. Because eventually Jaymee got her diagnosis. Her label.

Jaymee has Borderline Personality Disorder. The symptoms of this are wide ranging and can easily be mistaken for other things, such as depression. But BPD is completely different, and as such will not respond well to the tablets Jaymee had previously tried. Mind describes Personality Disorders as being a type of mental health problem where your attitudes, beliefs and behaviours cause you longstanding problems in your life.

Being diagnosed didn’t make all Jaymees problems go away, but it did help her to understand herself a lot better, to start being kinder to herself. Her diagnosis meant she was able to explain to the people she loved why she behaves in the way she does. It helped her learn to accept herself again, and take some control back. She was finally put on medication that had been properly tailored to her needs. Medication that actually helped. But even more importantly she was given a team of people to support her, and guide her through learning to live with her new label. She had counselling and went on courses to help her manage her emotions.

The journey was just starting, and it was to be a long and difficult one. Getting a diagnosis, a label on your back, does not automatically make things easy. There were many bumps in the road, and Jaymee almost gave up on herself so many times. But she didn’t, she caught hard and she’s still here today, stronger than ever before.

Last year Jaymees life took another turn, tragedy struck and she lost her Father. The man she had worshipped and adored all her life. Such a cataclysmic event is enough for anyone to fall off their path in life, let alone someone with mental illness. But instead Jaymee did the opposite, she grasped her life in both hands and took back control entirely. Starting by coming off her medication. Now, Jaymee admits this was probably a rash decision, and it’s certainly not something she would recommend to others, but she knew it was something she needed to do. Jaymee needed to grieve for her father, to work through her pain and her loss, she knew this wouldn’t be possible for her on medication designed to dampen down extremes of emotion. Her doctors disapproved, but in the end it was her choice, not theirs. But she didn’t turn her back on all the things she had learned since her diagnosis. Jaymee took those skills and used them to get through life, facing one day at a time.

A year on and Jaymee hasn’t touched her medication again, and she’s feeling better than she has done in a long time. Finally she feels as though she’s found a part of herself again. Things are not easy, she still struggles from time to time, a diagnosis of BPD doesn’t just go away if you choose to stop taking your medication. But Jaymee is learning to live with it, with pride and a new sense of self worth. This has been one of the hardest battles she is ever likely to face, and she’s done it! Eight years, eight years was how long it took to get a diagnosis. Jaymee will never get those years of her life back, those years that should have been spent enjoying motherhood but instead were full of battles. Battles with herself, doctors, and those she loved. She knew in her heart all those years ago that Postnatal Depression didn’t fit with the way she was feeling. Jaymee knew the doctors weren’t doing all they could for her, and she often wonders how her life would have turned out if she had just shouted a little louder, pushed a little harder.

If you are struggling with mental or emotional problems Jaymee has this message. “Please , please, don’t suffer in silence, seek help if you need it and keep going until you’re listened to. Mental Illness is not a weakness, from mine I found my strength”

Jaymee bravely decided to share her story on Facebook recently. Had she not many of her friends, myself included, would never have known of the struggles she’s faced. Mental Illness is perhaps one of the truest forms of invisible illness their is. So easily hidden, and so often seen as taboo, people can be left helplessly floundering, battling their demons alone, for years on end. Jaymee says that if even one person can be helped by reading her story, then it was worth it to share. To Jaymee, I say thank you. Thank you for letting us in, and for trying to help those in need. I too hope your story helps others, I believe it will.

If you are struggling with Mental Illness advice can be found at Mind.org. This post was adapted from Jaymee’s original Facebook post.

Beautifully Written by Jennie Louise Smales from This Little Life of Mine.

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Why Mommy Can’t Dance

Mommy Can't Dance book - Help children understand Chronic Illness, Katie Carone

Here’s my story (reposted from My Website Mommy Can’t Dance)

Spanish-style music was playing in the background. It was unusually hot for October, but I could feel a slight breeze on my cheek. The nerves in my limbs were twitching like they wanted to get up and run yet felt like they were being held down by cement. My eyes were closed, but I could see lights dancing and swirling like waves of fireworks in my head. I vaguely heard a man walk by and comment in my direction, “I guess you can have too much fun.”

This was me—sprawled out on a table in the wine garden at Disney’s California Adventure Park. It was the nearest place I could get to after exiting a ride with my kids and sensing I was going to collapse. It felt like I was in a dream. I had no perception of time or the fact that I had been non-responsive for over two hours.

The paramedics that huddled around me were prodding me and asking me questions, but they seemed so far away and I was just too tired to answer. Too tired to open my eyes. Too tired to move my leg that had fallen asleep some time ago. In the back of my head I could hear a frantic voice whispering, “Something is very wrong!” But at that moment I was just too tired to even care.

Little did I know that this incident was the beginning of an illness turned disability that would change my life.

Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)

So what was this mystery illness? Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, also known as POTS. As my doctor explained, upon standing my heart rate increases much more than is normal. While this is a defining characteristic of my condition, it is not just my heart rate that is altered. POTS is a dysautonomic disorder. It affects the autonomic nervous system, which controls our bodily functions that we don’t usually have to think about, like heart rate, circulation, blood pressure, breathing, digestion, temperature, hormone production, etc. POTS can be triggered suddenly by a trauma or viral infection, as it was in my case. (I’d had a sore throat for a week and been under a lot of stress from work as we embarked on our family vacation.)

While many of my symptoms are present all the time, they are amplified when I’m sitting up and even worse when standing. Because of poor circulation and low blood volume my brain suffers from not enough blood and oxygen. My symptoms include brain fog, dizziness, migraines, chest pain, nausea and other gastric issues, temperature control problems, and extreme fatigue and lethargy. I get overstimulated quickly– movement, light, and especially noise really affect me. Additionally, my body overproduces adrenaline, causing intense tremors and muscle spasms.

Overnight I went from being a relatively healthy, active person to someone who could barely get out of bed.

Chronic Illness Affects the Whole Family

Katie Carone, Mommy Can't Dance
Katie Carone
Mommy Can’t Dance

I have always been a go-getter and an overachiever– from dancing 4-6 hours a day and attaining valedictorian in high school to an adulthood of teaching group fitness classes, owning and operating a small business, and being a wife and a mother of four. To lose my mobility and functionality was devastating.

This condition was not just life-altering for me, it affected my whole family. I could no longer take my kids out for the adventures we loved, like going to the children’s museum or hiking in the mountains. I couldn’t go to important events like music concerts, dance recitals, or preschool programs. And the day-to-day limitations were even harder to accept. I could no longer make dinner, help kids with homework, or get them ready for school or bed. I oftentimes could not even get myself out of bed without collapsing. (My husband has found me on the bathroom floor more times than I care to admit.)

I was battling to come to grips with my new reality. But I was not the only one. My kids were also struggling to comprehend why I couldn’t do what I used to do.

Our family has a tradition of taking turns sharing good news and bad news each night at dinner. The nights that I could make it to the dinner table, I noticed a trend in the news my kids shared. My four-year-old twins started repeating the same news night after night. “My good news is that I love mommy. My bad news is that I miss mommy.” Even my 10-year-old daughter would say, “My good news is that mom was able to come out for dinner. My bad news is that mom is still sick.”

I have vivid memories of a meltdown my daughter and I had one evening as she was preparing for her dance recital. She came into my room so I could do her hair, yet I couldn’t even sit up on the edge of my bed long enough to do it—let alone make it to the recital.

Over the holidays, one of my twins rushed into my room so excited for me to come see the Christmas tree he had helped decorate in the basement. After five minutes of him tugging on my arm begging me to come, and me trying to explain why I couldn’t simply get up and walk down the stairs, we both ended up in tears.

These are just a few of many examples.

Mommy Can’t Dance

As a mom, it is no fun to feel physically awful, but it is worse to know that your kids are suffering too. I hated that my illness was affecting my children. I needed a way to help them understand that my illness and inability to do things for them or with them in no way affected my love for them. Additionally, any chronic illness brings with it feelings of helplessness for the patient and the loved ones. I wanted my kids to find ways that they could feel helpful and loved. Thus, the book Mommy Can’t Dance was born.

While this book is near and dear to my heart, I recognize that I am not the only mom struggling with chronic illness. I hope this book can help other mothers and children that are similarly struggling.

The children’s book “Mommy Can’t Dance” is available at:

Mommy Can't Dance book - Help children understand Chronic IllnessAvailable to buy via Amazon Paperback or Kindle.

For UK orders BUY BOOK here

For USA orders BUY BOOK here

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Support Dysautonomia International

In an effort to further the advocacy and research on POTS, the illustrator and I are donating all proceeds of the book Mommy Can’t Dance to Dysautonomia International a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded by patients, caregivers, physicians and researchers dedicated to assisting people living with various forms of dysautonomia.

http://www.dysautonomiainternational.org/

Happy Endings?

While I wish I could write a fairytale ending to my personal story, that is simply not the case. I have found a few medications that have helped, and I continue to pursue additional treatment options through trial and error. Like many others who suffer with chronic illness, I understand that this may be a lifelong condition. However, I refuse to give up or give in, and I hope to someday report that mommy can dance again.

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The Real Me

The real me EDS zebra Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Blog

Sally-Ann EDS Ehler-Danlos SyndromeI’ve always loved finding about about myself. I was a shy child with hardly any dress sense (though very sensitive to irritating clothes). I matured late, have always been something of a tomboy and absolutely love stories, be it in books, in films or making them up with friends.

I had a career as a professional modelmaker and another in preschool education as a Montessori Directress. Unfortunately, despite however much I loved what I did, I could never seem to physically do it for long. There was an invisible barrier that I kept hitting time and again.

I look back and wonder how I managed to do what I did? With the companionship of a loving partner that I’ve known since our college days, a wonderful family and finding my creative outlet in Live Roleplaying for twenty years. I learned Reiki to cope with stress and became a Reiki Teacher.

A few years ago though, a cascade of symptoms began. Dizziness, fatigue, clumsiness, odd sensations…the list went on. It took three years to reach the root of all my problems – even ones from my childhood and young adult life finally got explained.

At first, I thought it was MS. It looked ever so much like it but the MRI said ‘within normal limits’ and the Neurologist said ‘Functional Neurological Disorder’. What’s that? In a nutshell, symptoms without a clearly discernable cause. Go to FNDHope to learn more.

After that, it was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, for which I did a very good OT led therapy course and made a group of friends. We still meet up when we can. Generalised Anxiety Disorder along with historical (i.e. in childhood) Social Anxiety Disorder was diagnosed next.

Eventually, a trip to orthotics to get some new insoles that I’d been prescribed after the weight of pregnancy left my feet a funny shape, led to me being told – for the first time in my life – that I was hypermobile. Sure, Yoga and Tai Chi teachers had remarked on my flexibility and I just took it as a compliment, a positive trait. I had no idea…

The slew of symptoms kept increasing, my mobility kept decreasing, my cognitive abilities kept glitching and I had to know why. So, I chatted on forums. I researched. I looked for the right words to craft the best questions to present to my GP. I printed out information and asked his opinion. My ferreting of information and determination to know what my body was up to finally led me, at the age of 41, to get a confirmed diagnosis of EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome). That in turn led to a realisation that I just might be autistic (my doc said “Oh gosh, yes!” when I asked if I might have Asperger’s). I’m still waiting on that one.

Sally-Ann Zebras Bizarre EDSSo, in the past eight years I have survived a perilous labour (though sadly, my womb did not), become a proud mum, started two online shops, closed a Reiki Practice, gained clarity about my orientation (still happily with my college heartthrob though) and transitioned from able-bodied to disabled. I now do the school-run on two Smartcrutches with braces or my mobility scooter.

This is the real me. I love making jewellery but rarely wear it. I only dress up to do LRP or Steampunk and usually have a less mature hairdo than my now 7 year old. I love making friends but need plenty of solitude. I’m happy to offer my experience to others in the hope that they might find it helpful. Above all and quite aptly, I’m a Conscious Craftie. ♡

Visit my Zebra’s Bazaare shop

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Why I started my craft business…

Chloivia post natal depression helped me start to craft and how being in the supportive community of Conscious Crafties is helping me cope

In this blog I have decided to write about why I started up Chloivia.

It all started on the 23rd of August 2014! I’d been searching high and low for a frozen hairband for Chloe (my eldest daughter and hence the chlo in Chloivia). I couldn’t find one anywhere. So I searched good old ebay and came across some frozen ribbon and some plain headbands. I remember sitting there on the 23rd of August not knowing what on on earth I was going to do with this ribbon. Well I managed to transform it into a lovely headband, which Chloe loved and still does!!

As I have mentioned previously I received some lovely comments from family and friends, and so I decided to make some items to sell.

That’s the reason I started Chloivia, but the reason I carried on with my venture was because it helped (and still does help) with my post natal depression (PND). It gives my brain something else to think about, it makes me happy and I thoroughly enjoy crafting!

I say crafting as I don’t just make hair accessories anymore, I make a wide array of alsorts of different crafts.

I was diagnosed with PND in April/May 2014 shortly after Olivia was born (my youngest daughter and hence the ivia in Chloivia). I realised hat I had gone way past the stage of “baby blues” and wanting to cry was not normal!!

I’ll never forget the day I was diagnosed. I can’t remember the date but it was a Friday. I had fought the tears all the way to school, dropped chloe off, got back in to the car and sobbed. About 20 minutes later, after I managed to compose myself, I phoned the doctors and managed to get a cancellation – it was meant to be!! I don’t know about you but I believe in fate!!!

I am still being treated for Post Natal Depression – it has been a long and windy road and I don’t know when/if it will end – but I WILL keep fighting!!

I just want to point out that PND or even depression is an invisible illness and unless you’ve had it, it is very hard to understand it. PND/depression etc is not an excuse, it’s an illness and people like myself cannot help it if we are having an off day or one minute we’re fine and the next we’re in tears – it’s all part of the illness and unfortunately it cannot be helped.

During my first 12 months of Chloivia I have met some friends for life and people that actually understand! My family and my doctor have been amazing too!!

(You know who you are – thank you!!!)

A few months ago I was looking for another branch to jump onto, another platform to sell on. I have already set up my items on a couple of platforms including Etsy, but I felt I needed something else! I put the question out there on a Facebook group and a lovely lady replied asking me to have a look at Conscious Crafties

Hmmm I thought – that’s not one I’ve heard of. I popped over and the first thing I read was

Creative people crafting through Chronic Illness, Disability or Caring for those affected

“Dedicated craft selling site, supporting people who are chronically ill, disabled or caring for those affected.”

 

Now people may read that and think ‘but Becky, you’re not chronically ill, disabled or a carer so why even bother to apply?’

This thought also crossed my mind. PND is a chronic illness and like I said earlier, it’s invisible!! A chronic illness is an illness that persists for more than 3 months. I’ve had PND for over 12 months!!

Anyway I filled the form in and I thought, the worst they can say is no!! But within minutes I had a lovely message welcoming me on board.

Conscious Crafties is a lovely platform to be on and I highly recommend it to anyone. There is so much love and support on there! I love it. Thank you for being so welcoming, supportive and there when I need to talk etc!!

Well that’s all from me for now, I’ve probably bored you to death and if you’ve read until the end you deserve a medal xxx

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The words I dare not speak

*** I don’t know how this post is going to go. But I would say reader discretion is advised. ***
As many of you know I’m struggling with the symptoms of a prolapse. In fact, when I saw my surgeons for the results of my Proctogram their exact words were that ‘everything is coming down’. I do hope to share my story at various stages, and was intending to share my experience of that appointment. This is not that post.
But that appointment does play a part. You see it culminated in the surgeon I’d never met before telling me I would be fitted with a pessary. I told him I didn’t want this. I’d been told I’d need surgery. I stuck up for myself. But no. He thought a pessary was the way forward, and that’s what was to be done.
Ordinarily in this situation I’d feel disgruntled to say the least. Royally pi**ed off would be a more accurate description of my feelings when doctors steamroll me into things. This time I didn’t. This time was different. This time I was devastated. Completely and utterly devastated. I felt something inside me well up. Something I hadn’t felt for many many years. Something which I wasn’t ready for.
I told myself it was disappointment. I’d been hoping for a surgical fix. But yet again I had landed myself with a condition to be ‘managed’ rather than cured. Something that would need long term treatment rather than an end date, a fix. I lamented this fact to my husband. He was sympathetic, but also confused. This was a none surgical option, surely that was better? He had a point. So I saw my GP. I asked questions. I looked at diagrams. I researched. ring Prolapse Pessary
The results were good. The pessary was less invasive. No recovery time. I may be able to cope with it for a long time and only need smaller surgery. The side effects were minimal. If it didn’t suit then surgery was still an option. I even spoke to women with a pessary. The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive. I feel I need to point out that for many women the pessary would be a wonderful option.
But not for me.
For a while there I put it to the back of my mind. Then my letter arrived. My letter with the info on the pessary. My letter stating I would have my appointment for a pessary fitting ‘in due course’. I read that letter and I sobbed. I cried long forgotten tears. Once I started I just couldn’t stop. I think I sobbed all night that night. Quietly in bed. My back to my sleeping husband and wonderful baby. I broke my heart time and time again.
Eventually, in the dark, I picked up my phone and emailed my ‘nice’ surgeons Secratary. I wrote the words I wasn’t ready to speak. I wrote the words that I didn’t even realise had been the problem. I spoke of a tragedy I thought I’d long since got over. I wrote and I hoped. I hoped for understanding. I hoped for compassion. I hoped for a new option.
Soon after I saw my GP for an unrelated issue. He innocently enquired if I’d had my prolapse appointment yet. I think he was surprised when I broke down into a puddle of tears in his office. He almost cried himself when the words came tumbling out.
FOURTEEN. VIRGIN. RAPE. VIOLATED.
It was at that point I knew 100% I could not have the pessary. I could not, and would not, force myself to go through all those emotions again. After so many years of counselling, healing, regression and then finally progress, I wasn’t going to step back into the dark. My demons have been long locked away. I thought I’d got rid of them altogether. Clearly not. Clearly they still exhist in the darkest depths of me. But that is where I intend them to stay.
I feel weak. I felt pathetic. I felt downright stupid for allowing something from so long ago to affect my health today. But my GP didn’t. He understood. He understood that childhood trauma becomes engrained in your soul.
I was a child. Until that day in my GP office I’d never seen it like that. At fourteen I’d felt like a grown up. I was independent. Strong. Fearless. But now, fifteen years later, I finally see I was a child. That was a hard pill to swallow.
So that’s where I am now. My GP has written to my surgeon stating he feels the pessary is not an option for me. My truth is out there, and now I’ve scared it with you.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard. I’m still struggling. I’ve dredged up a part of my past I never wanted to face again. But I’m glad I spoke those words. Because had I not I know I’d of ended up being railroaded into something that just wasn’t right. Not for me. And now I have a doctor to vouch for that.
So ladies, and gents, if you have a past experience that still impacts you today. Something you dare not speak of. Something which affects the way you may view medical examinations or treatment. I implore you, find someone you trust and let them know. Because they can and will help.

Life experience

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You didn’t just go there?!

I often read blogs about ‘What not to say to the chronically ill.’ On the whole I do think these are helpful for people who want to remain a good friend to those of us who have been blighted with these kinds of issues. (Huge credit to you for trying!! We know we aren’t the easiest bunch to be around at times, or at least I know that.) However I do find these blogs to be a little blanketing. Not all of us are the same. For example, many advise not to tell your chronically ill friend they’re looking good, because it implies you think there’s nothing wrong with them that day etc. Well, sorry to break the mould here folks, but I couldn’t disagree more. You see, most of the time I look far, FAR from good. In fact I look positively haggard. So, if by some miracle I’m actually looking good (particularly if I’ve made a special effort to) it’s lovely if people notice! Funnily enough I don’t want to look as sick as I feel.
So, here’s my list of things guaranteed to get MY back up, and why. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.
But you’re used to it.

This is usually in reference to the pain I live in, or some other aspect of my ill health. People often say this when they are ill, because clearly having these symptoms temporarily makes them oh so much worse than living with them day in, day out, for years on end.
Can I just clarify something here. You NEVER get used to crippling illness. Resigned to it. Yes. But not used to it. Learning to live with something is very different than becoming used to it. For example, if it became law that all men were to be kicked in the balls on the hour every hour, would their lives remain the same? Would they be happy? Soon this would become the new norm. After initial fighting, and resistance, the men would be resigned to their fate. But, would that make it hurt any less? No. Would it make the daily torture ok? Hell no.

What are you using that for?!

Often accompanied by ‘It makes you look like an old lady.’ Or also ‘You didn’t need it yesterday.’ As you may have guessed, this is referring to one of my mobility aids. Whichever one I happen to be utilising at the time.
Just know that using any of my aids is a huge disappointment to me. I hate to do it. But I will. If it means I can get out on a day Id usually be stuck home, or go on a day trip with my family, I’ll use it. But I’ll also struggle as long as I can without it. There is nothing shameful about using mobility aids, but it’s a personal issue I have, one that I’m trying to get over. I don’t want to feel embarrassed to use something I need. Your ‘joking around’ doesn’t help. Please stop.

It must be nice getting to stay home all day.

I’ve even been called lucky. Lucky. (Just let that sink in.)
I did not choose this life. Staying home all day everyday is not my idea of fun. Being stuck in bed is not my idea of life. I went to university. I used to have a career. I was going to earn good money and have a nice house. I was going to travel the world. There is not a day goes by I do not wish I could be working and less of a burden on my family. Oh, and there’s the crippling pain, exhaustion and plethora of other symptoms. They’re not fun either.

I wish I could be a stay at home mum.

This fits in seamlessly with the above comment.
You know what? So do I! I wish I could be a stay at home mum. At least the mum I always wanted to be. But I’m not. I’m an ill person. I’m a woman who listens to my daughter play whilst I lay in bed. I’m a woman who lets her husband run the home, and needs him to look after her. I’m a woman who’s absolute best will never be anywhere near what she feels she should be doing. Please don’t think I’m getting to be a Betty Crocker mum. I’m not. But I am giving my kids the best of me I possibly can.

You want rubbing out and starting again!

Someone also once kindly told me I needed putting down.
I know these comments are meant in jest. But, when someone is feeling worthless, this type of thing doesn’t help. It’s just another stick for me to beat myself with.

I feel so sorry for you.

There’s many other ways of saying this. But they all boil down to the same thing. Pity.
I don’t want your pity. Sometimes I have my own little pity parties, but they have a guest list of one. My life is what I’ve been handed. I’ll live it as best I can. Knowing I have your pity is not going to help me enjoy it. I’d rather have your friendship. Thanks.

So, that’s a few of my pet peeves. I know there’s many many more. This is a post that may end up having several volumes to it!! But I’d like it to be about more than just me ranting. What is like is for people to read this and for it to make them think. Are you being insensitive without realising it? Could there be better ways of talking to your chronically ill friend? Or even to people around you in general. People all have battles, and past hurts, we aren’t aware of. If I could give one piece of advice, it’s this, if you’re not sure if you’ve caused hurt, just ask. Knowing someone cares always helps.

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