Well, hasn’t it been a while? I’ve just not felt called to write for quite some time. Throughout March, which was MS awareness month, I shared almost daily stories on my Instagram (@gimmehopejoanna) where I talked life with MS. I shared my story of diagnosis, … Continue reading The Perching Stool
“Today was a Difficult Day,” said Pooh.
There was a pause.
“Do you want to talk about it?” asked Piglet.
“No,” said Pooh after a bit. “No, I don’t think I do.”
“That’s okay,” said Piglet, and he came and sat beside his friend.
“What are you doing?” asked Pooh.
“Nothing, really,” said Piglet. “Only, I know what Difficult Days are like. I quite often don’t feel like talking about it on my Difficult Days either.
“But goodness,” continued Piglet, “Difficult Days are so much easier when you know you’ve got someone there for you. And I’ll always be here for you, Pooh.”
And as Pooh sat there, working through in his head his Difficult Day, while the solid, reliable Piglet sat next to him quietly, swinging his little legs…he thought that his best friend had never been more right.”
From time to time, my mood dips and it’s usually triggered by a flare up in MS symptoms. Go figure.
This last week I’ve been feeling so extremely tired and in quite a bit of discomfort, particularly in my legs and hips. It’s not fun, but it’s my reality.
I don’t like to allow myself to feel too sorry for myself though – after all, there are plenty of other MSers who have it worse. But the reality is, there’s millions of other people who DON’T have MS. So I’m totally allowed to feel bloody miserable from time to time. And that’s ok. The big thing is how I recover from that, which I always do.
In the past few days, I’ve been feeling extreme amounts of gratitude. Particularly towards Dave. Some people would say it goes without saying and if the shoe was on the other foot, I would do exactly what he’s done, but it blows my mind that he’s stuck by me through this. The fact that I’m rarely up for a night out and would rather sleep doesn’t seem to bother him at all. And that deep realisation of just how much someone must love you is enough to move you to tears.
Unfortunately, in the many Facebook support groups I’m a part of, I often see that it’s all too common for the diagnosis and having a disabled partner to be too much. The other partner leaves. And it’s so easy to say that if someone leaves you in the face of your disability that you’re better off without them, but the truth is, we all need our Piglet.
Piglet and Pooh’s story is about me and every single person in my life who let me have my bad days thanks to the psychological impact of MS. I have been in awe as I’ve come to the realisation over the last week or so how many amazing people have my back. Especially when I’m having a Difficult Day.
Thank you for being my Piglets.
We’ve all been there. Whilst thinking we’re on death’s door from all the sambucca shots last night we’ve sworn we will NEVER drink again. But within a few days it’s forgotten and we’re making next weekends plans.
Granted as we settle down, those night’s out are probably less frequent, but the bottom line is that the majority of us are still willing to have a hangover to end all hangovers in exchange for an awesome night out.
And why wouldn’t we? I think they call that living!
So how is this relevant to MS?
Well, I have to make decisions similar to this everyday. Earlier today, I was explaining to a friend how you often feel that when you make a decision to walk the dog, go to the gym, dance around your kitchen or indeed go out partying or drinking, people are judging whether you really are struggling or not. Because surely if you can do that, you’re fine, aren’t you? Right?
It’s a big decision, whether you do those things or not. Going to the gym is something you might do, not because it doesn’t cause you pain and is easy, but because you know that if you don’t, your disability will get a hell of a lot worse.
You might decide to walk the dog because the dog needs to be walked. It’s unfair not to.
You might dance around your kitchen because you used to love dancing and your condition has robbed you of being able to do it for more than five minutes anywhere else. And you might still go out because you want to retain as much normality as possible, you’re still human and enjoy socialising and if you don’t, chronic illness can be really bloody lonely.
You make those judgements for your own sanity and because you’re not going to let your condition rob you of living. You decide to do it because even though you know you might pay for it for days afterwards, what it will do for your soul, far outweighs the pain and fatigue that will come after it. It’s a conscious choice to have fun knowing full well what the consequences are.
Not unlike a hangover 😉
My lovely Mum and Dad have been up this weekend to see Dave and I in our new home. It’s been a gorgeous weekend and I was devastated to see them go on Monday. I’ve been doing this for ten years nearly and it never gets easier.
The first thing to do on their visit, was to introduce my boxer, Poppy, to mum and dad’s Schnoodle, Reg. We did this by introducing them on the neutral territory of the water park a couple of minutes walk down the road from me. There’s a couple of big reservoirs you can walk round. It’s really lovely and lots of people walk their pooch there.
Anyway, I digress. We took them on a pretty big walk around them (which I rarely do – it tends to be Dave’s job). Mum and Dad both commented how surprised they were at how far I managed to walk. Roughly a mile. I think they were just as surprised when I told them that pretty much every bone and muscle in the lower half of my body was in pain. But there’s nothing you can do. You’ve just got to get on with it.
That’s the thing about invisible illness. The only thing that isn’t invisible sometimes is the brave face you put on. I only ever admit how I’m feeling when someone close to me asks me like they actually want to know. Anyone else will simply get the stock “yeah I’m fine” response.
It’s a difficult balance to strike. You don’t want to go through life being miserable about the pain you’re going through and constantly going on about it. You don’t want to inflict your troubles on everyone else. They’re your problems, not everyone else’s, after all. But you also want people to see and understand that sometimes you need a really simple adjustment to make your life easier. Sometimes that adjustment is as simple as an acknowledgement that you’re finding life a bit hard.
Because it’s a tricky one to get right, many MSers end up on the side of permanently pretending that everything is “just fine” but having this internal struggle and frustration that “nobody gets that things are a bit harder for me”. Then they still won’t speak up and we’re all just too damn proud to ask for help. Or we genuinely believe we don’t need it.
As I’ve already said, as a general rule, Dave does the Poppy walking because I find it so hard. But as he was at work, I really didn’t have much choice on Friday. And let’s just say I’m still paying for it now.
This isn’t a tale of “woe is me”. This is a tale of a girl that was so bloody desperate for the temperature to cool down because she was sweating constantly, she’d forgotten how much pain the cold caused her. It’s a tale of a girl who needs to learn to be a bit more honest when she’s feeling a bit shit.
It’s not unbearable pain – I can keep going through it on the odd occasion there’s no alternative. But it really is enough to get me down. And I’m starting to feel a bit fed up of it all.
But for now, I’m practicing gratitude where I can. It does tend to distract from the pain slightly, as does writing this blog. I’m throwing myself into reading excessively. I’m napping when I need to and generally trying to slow down a little because it’s been a whirlwind six weeks.
It’s been ages since I’ve written and I guess I just haven’t been feeling all that inspired to write. Having said that, I’ve got lots of ideas following my recent, amazing trip to Bucharest for the MS Sessions (more on that in a blog in the VERY near future).
But today, I want to talk about the mind/body link. Because today, mine are totally not on the same page, and haven’t been for the last month or so.
Some of you reading this will know that Dave and I completed on our first home just over three weeks ago. And it’s amazing. I truly, could not be happier.* But my word, isn’t moving exhausting? There’s been a never ending stream of flat pack, boxes, admin, decorating and just “stuff to do”. Throw a trip to Bucharest in the middle of it all and you end up with one exhausted MSer.
I try to slow down, but my brain is constantly thinking of the (what seems like) 1,001 things that I need to do. Add to that, I’ve been crazy busy at work this week and I’m just feeling a little overwhelmed. I’m not living in the present – I’m constantly looking at the next task.
Let’s back track a second.
The day after I got back from Bucharest, Dave and I headed out to do a food shop. And for the first time I felt like my disability wasn’t invisible anymore. I was walking along with stiff legs. My knees just wouldn’t bend. My balance was way off. I’d gotten out of bed that morning and had fallen straight back in.
My first thought was “shit, am I having a relapse?” A couple of weeks on and I’m almost certain that I’m not. I’m just bloody exhausted. BUT I WON’T SLOW DOWN!
I’ve got fellow MSers left, right and centre telling me to “slow the hell down” but I’m not doing it.
And now I find myself lying flat on the bed with every bone and muscle in the lower half of my body aching. All comprehension and reasoning in my brain is gone. Ask my a question and I have no idea what the answer is.
It’s my own fault. I insisted on going out and doing a food shop today. I know, I know, but Lidl don’t deliver and they’re WAY more cheaper. By the time I got home I was physically exhausted. My legs hurt, my hips hurt and my feet hurt. I wanted to cry in pain. I did for about five minutes but got in bed with Pops (my dog) and we had a nap.
The second I woke up (feeling much better), I jumped up and I’m doing all sorts of crap that really does not need to be done yet. And now I’m back in bed in pain again. I know. I’m an idiot.
The thing is, sometimes I don’t feel mentally exhausted. I have so much clarity and I feel like I can take on the world. And I’ll just keep on pushing through the pain to get the job done. I need someone to tell me to stop. Which Dave did eventually do today. After I got up and I started trying to unpack the last boxes, he walks in like “what on earth are you doing?!” and promptly tells me to go and put my feet up.
Thing is, when I don’t feel tired, it’s tough to stop me. I physically find it hard to just sit and do nothing. I get restless. I’ll keep on going until the pain cripples me and someone tells me to stop being a hero and sit down.
Really, what I need to do is learn to accept that almost everything really can wait until tomorrow. I don’t have to constantly live “getting shit done” and at 100mph. And let’s face it, the only person beating me up when it’s not getting done, is me.
*That’s a lie. I’d be happier if the used tea bags actually made their way to the bin and if he bought 3ply loo roll and not 2, but I can just about live with it 😂
“Have Lemtrada” they said.
“It’ll make everything better!” they said.
Right now, I think “they’re” big fat liars.
Today has resulted in a full scale pity party. I feel terrible. I’m pissed off that I’ve got MS, I’m pissed off that I’ve had Lemtrada, I’m pissed off that I haven’t stopped feeling lousy for two weeks nearly now. I’m just pissed off.
So, since my last blog last Wednesday, what’s been going on? I was discharged from hospital by about 5pm. I felt pretty chirpy and just generally ok. Legs felt really whoozy though. If you remember, last year, I’d managed to get quite a bit of time off the ward so I’d managed to retain the use of my legs a lot more than this year.
I spent the majority of Thursday sleeping and just generally aching but for the most part I was ok. Friday was reasonably ok too – I even managed to go out for a couple of hours.
Saturday saw me at Poppy’s play date for a couple of hours, then sleeping the effort of that off all day. Same for Sunday, minus a playdate.
Sunday night, I headed back to mine and pretty much, all was about as I’d expected.
So far, my experience was mimicking what had happened last year for the most part.
But then Monday happened.
Following a terrible night sleep, I had to stay awake for my Tesco food shop to be delivered. Given the three hours sleep I’d had, this proved difficult. And the temperature really increased. When my shop did arrive, I was the hottest, sweatiest mess I’ve ever been!
The sheer effort of unloading my food shop made me want to throw up, and I found myself horizontal on the ice cold kitchen floor, desperately trying to feel cooler.
Monday night was another night with very little sleep (but that could have been because I stayed up reading a book).
Tuesday was a terrible day. I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. I barely moved all day but when I did I was seeing stars, dealing with waves of nausea and my heart rate spiking from taking three steps. I wasn’t good. I never felt this bad last year.
I was beginning to realise that perhaps I was lucky last year for Round 1 and how much it had affected me. I admitted defeat and got a taxi back to Dave’s. I couldn’t look after myself. Every effort to just made me feel worse, but I have to eat and stay hydrated.
I want to say that Wednesday was a better day. And in many ways, it was. I didn’t feel as sick or weak. But Dave spotted a patch on my arm that didn’t look like the rest of the Lemtrada rash that was slowly taking over my body. I usually like to give a visual representation but you definitely don’t need to see my rash. Think hives.
The short version is I ended up seeing a Doctor, not from my regular surgery as they close on a Wednesday afternoon (coz people don’t get sick on a Wednesday apparently). He said it looked like I had early onset of cellulitis around the site of my cannula. He prescribed me a course of penicillin to add to my already offensive list of medication.
Overnight, it definitely hasn’t got worse and it’s less red in colour now and more pink.
Today, I’ve just slept. Then woken up eaten and gone back to sleep. But I’ve got a confession. I have also had a proper wobbly today. A real “why me, why MS” angry strop. I cried my eyes out. I try and avoid doing this too often, because for me personally, it’s counter-productive, but some days putting on a so-called brave face just gets too much. And nobody would blame me for it.
I feel so weak for doing it though. I feel like I’m not living up to how people perceive that I’m coping. In life, it feels like crying is seen as weakness. But I truly believe that strength is not in your reaction, but how you recover. So it’s ok to cry and let it all out.
Or it could be the emotional rollercoaster of steroids and I had no control over it.
In short, whatever I thought I knew about going through Lemtrada has completely reversed. Last year I felt under the weather. This year I can barely move with every limb and joint aching. I have a horrendous rash, I’ve ended up with cellulitis and I can’t stop sweating.
However, if you’re reading this, waiting for Round 2 yourself, please don’t let this scare you. All this proves is that this is so different for everyone and there’s no way of predicting how this will go for you. And please remember. There’s a greater good behind all of this. It could be leading you to a day where you don’t even think about the fact that you have MS.
So yesterday was Round 2, Day 2 (aka R2D2)
Woke up after a good night’s sleep and made myself feel a bit more human with a quick shower after breakfast. Feeling a lot better this morning, with the headache finally subsiding and feeling a lot cooler.
Got off to a good start, being hooked up nice and early by 10 o clock.
Infusion mostly all went without a hitch – just had a little doze when I was having the saline flush at the end but woke up back in sweat mode and the rash was starting to make a bit of an appearance. A dose of piriton later and that seems to have subsided but I still feel damn itchy!
So for the most part, it was an uneventful day. Kat (my person that keeps it real does my nails and gives me all the offensive jokes) came to visit me with supplies. Because quite frankly this hospital food ain’t cutting it, as a you can see below…
But Kat the hero arrived with pringles and lindor which made it all better!
So really not much to report apart from I’ve managed to watch an entire season of Friends and finish a book that I’ve been taking ages to get through.
In summary, day 2 went as well as it could do and we’ll keep on powering on for my last day on Wednesday!