Category: Physical pain and physical health

Waiting and feeling like a fraud

I had to come to hospital this afternoon for an urgent MRI scan. I’m in a room off A&E waiting for the results. The GP told me I had to come in because my back pain, numbness in my legs and incontinence have got rapidly worse than usual and he was concerned I may have nerve compression. I feel sure the scan will show nothing or at least nothing new. Waiting and waiting it’s getting worse. I feel a total fraud. I feel sure they will tell me nothing is wrong. That I’m crazy. That I’m stupid. That nothing is wrong and there’s no reason for the pain. I feel panic and sick and dizzy thinking of it. I want to go home. My mind is spiralling thinking how angry my GP will be an how my relative who has found out I’m here, who doesn’t believe I’m ill in the first place, will use this to show how “it’s all in my head”.

I feel like I’m such a fake.

I want to go home to bed.

I’m so tired of pain and tired of hospital. Everything I’m trying to do, which the pain clinic tells me is meant to help, is making the pain worse. Or it’s getting worse despite it.

My head aches and my stomach feels like something clawing it and twisting from the inside out.

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I don’t want to bring only despair

I am sorry I have not written in many weeks.

I am shattered.

There seems to be no end to the pain and suffering my husband and others I care about are going through. No end to how many times we are brushed off or turned away by all those who should support us. My husband is seriously ill physically and mentally and we are utterly overwhelmed by what he is dealing with and the fear of what’s to come and the frustration of being passed from department to department in the hospital, ultimately left to cope alone.

It feels like fighting and screaming for help in a massive black hole I’m at the bottom of whilst the people I would have depended on stand way above me at the edge of the pit and sneer and laugh at me. And it’s so many times worse because I’m crying for people I love to be heard and helped and understood, not for me.

I’m exhausted. I’m in a huge amount of pain. I’m struggling to do more as I’m “supposed” to but the pain is worse and worse and I don’t know how much more I can take. Physically, so many small things are now really difficult. So many things I want to help my husband with, I’m physically unable to. I’ve been going through a very bad time with family realising how the abuse I suffered is actually not over and people whose behaviour I excused, actually perpetrated abuse; how control and manipulation is still happening in my family and hurting vulnerable people.

Worse still, family members refuse to hear me when I speak out about what’s happening, precisely because I’ve been abused – they use this to say that the problem is me and that I’m the one with a sick view of the world.

This negativity and exhaustion and despair is not what I want to bring to this blog. I want it to be honest but I don’t want to write time and again about hurt and loss. When I started this blog I wanted it to be about hope. Holding on to hope is very hard right now. Lots of days I can’t write at all. I desperately want to share good things and desperately need to be more thankful. When I’m so low all I can do is try to walk through the day and I have no words left.

I need to figure out what changes I can make to shape this blog differently; to still be honest but write more consistently and change the balance of what I post about.

Ginny xxx

In Athens

In Athens

I thought I’d share with you some of the beautiful things we’ve seen and experienced in Athens so far.

There are countless interesting churches. In the rear of this picture is the main Greek Orthodox metropolitan cathedral, The Cathedral of the Annunciation, recently refurbished, whilst in the foreground is a centuries-old church known as Little Metropolitan, really St Eleftherios Church (which we haven’t managed to go into yet as it is often shut, unusually for this area). On our last trip here my fiancé and I prayed outside under the moonlight, giving thanks for each other and asking God’s guidance during our engagement.

This past Sunday we were able to go to Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of St Dionysus where we found this very peaceful portrayal of St Joseph and the Christ Child.

There are several people we need to buy gifts for and also we are going to bring some non-perishable Greek foods home to form part of the meal after our wedding. So we went through the Monastiriki which is a set of narrow, winding streets packed with little open-fronted shops selling jewellery, leather bags and sandals, T-shirts, traditional dresses and embroidered shirts, icons, crosses, ornately covered Bibles, food (olives, baklava, Turkish delight, sweets, herbs, stuffed vine leaves, olive oil), drinks (lots and lots of Ouzo and Metaxa brandy miniatures), replicas of Ancient Greek artefacts and statues, toys, and countless souvenirs (some tackier than others – apparently you can fit a picture of the Parthenon onto everything from a teacup to a wooden replica of a certain part of the male anatomy!!).

It’s worth looking up, as well as at the shop fronts, because there are often pretty balconies above you and twisting grapevines where doves sometimes sit.

With new sensory experiences around all day long, I have needed to balance busy hours with down time, and we are so fortunate to have a pool at the hotel to cool down or rest beside.

My fiancé has been utterly impressively amazing at getting me and my wheelchair around – not at all easy when the streets are cobbled and up / downhill. I’ve been really concerned he will wear himself out caring for me. I walk where I possibly can but it is not much at all. My fiancé’s love is a deep blessing I never could have imagined existing. I want to help him rest and care for his own needs too.

I will post another Greece update with more photos soon.

Ginny xxx

This boat is sinking

This boat is sinking

I feel rubbish that all my posts are negative at the moment. Like I can’t say or do anything good anymore or be thankful when there’s so much I really should be thankful for – am thankful for – but I’ve lost touch with it all.

Every single time there’s going to be a short moment or peace or rest the next disaster happens. That’s been life pretty much since I remember and I don’t even have things that bad. It’s stupid. Stupid because it’s insignificant in the scheme of things; when there’s so much deeper suffering everywhere around; stupid because I’ve got this far so why can’t I carry on.

But I’m running out of energy and mind and hope and everything else.

My fiancé’s been rushed back into hospital again today after months of fight with the doctors and being dismissed and going round in circles. We don’t know what’s going on or what they suspect or why they are doing the tests they are now. I’m useless for him because physically I’m so ill at the moment I have been in bed, unable to get up for more than a few minutes at a time.

All I can see right now is confusion, being overwhelmed, people I love hurting, me letting people down, mentally breaking apart.

We are going under Lord, is it nothing to you, the apostles cried out to Jesus as the boat was overwhelmed with the waves. I don’t know how much more storm we can stand right now. Where are you, Lord Jesus?

Xxx

Losing Lily

TRIGGER WARNING for discussion of suicide, of deaths of people suffering mental health conditions, and of failings in mental health care. If you are in mental distress, caution is advised in reading this post.

A NOTE: This post mentions anonymously the death of a person who had recently left the care of a service I worked in. There was an investigation into the circumstances of the person’s death and the investigation has now concluded. I want to make clear that this post discusses solely my experience from my point of view and my knowledge of the situation, my thoughts and feelings. It does not reflect the position of the service I worked in, or of any other person or team involved in the person’s care.

During the time I worked in a specialist community and inpatient mental health service 7 or 8 years ago, two of our patients died. One lady had moved away to a different part of the country so hadn’t been in our service for a couple of years when she tragically died from an overdose. The other lady had just left our inpatient ward (as far as I know against doctors’ advice but assessed as having capacity to make her own decision in this regard) and gone to live independently, but deteriorated rapidly within weeks and died 4 months later. I’ll call her Lily*.

At any one time we were working with several other patients in my eyes dangerously close to death – because of their drive to harm themselves (by overdose and substance use and so on), because of their suicidal intentions, and/or because their organs were so damaged physically by the effects of their mental health conditions (starvation and other eating disorder or self-neglect symptoms leading to heart failure or diabetic coma, for example).

We were working constantly short staffed, physically and mentally unwell ourselves because of the workload and emotions and conflicts and fear of making mistakes, within constraints of time and policy that often felt out of our hands, trying to provide a service fair and the best for everyone, but knowing we could not give enough.

Lily has never left me. She’s come to my mind every week or so since the winter she died. I was a secretary, not a clinician. I didn’t know Lily as much as I got to know some of our other patients. She was intelligent and wanted to do well and was very driven for her goals. She made close friendships with a couple of people on the ward. Yet, she really needed love which I think she often didn’t find where she may have most expected it. She really did start to get better but something very painful remained impossible to reach. Sometimes I wonder if she was hurting so much she’d had enough. If everything was so locked in and disconnected from the people she needed and wanted to trust, that in her pain it felt like time to go – if she didn’t choose exactly when but she did know she’d quietly slip away.

We didn’t reach her. Even as she got a little better, we couldn’t reach through her pain. We didn’t catch her. We didn’t keep her safe when she was slipping. We lost her.

There was an investigation – many investigations – after Lily’s death. The final investigation ruled that the harm she suffered, and her death, were avoidable. I just now read the start of the report of the last investigation and horror and panic and confusion took over. The room swayed and spun and I couldn’t breathe. I’m still freezing cold.

Her life is on my hands. Not mine alone, and not the service I worked in alone because several other services were involved – but I was there.

Of course we had not wished to reject her or abandon her or disown her or her care. One of the worst things is that a lot of what was judged harmful in the report, were either actions in line with procedures we were taught to follow to give safe and fair and consistent care to every patient in the service, or matters that within the constraints we faced, we could not personally control. But whichever, it wasn’t right or safe for Lily. Consistency and guidelines and constraints are one thing but every individual patient is in very individual circumstances at very individual risk. Procedure under huge constraints imposed from outside, doesn’t make account of that.

What do we do when the steps that were supposed to have been good or safest or standard, or following established guidelines, or the best we could give, or taken in faith in the decisions of those we work for and trust, were actually steps that led to a death?

Personally, what should I have done and what do I do now? My heart is screaming at me, you did not speak up, you did not speak when you had concerns at what you heard, you did not act, you did not follow your gut – you followed instructions instead, and you know this wasn’t the only time.

Good intentions or having tried to follow what was supposed to be good enough, or even best, count for nothing now.

I’m reminded of my mother and her care and deterioration; how we were locked in an agonising cycle of her discharge, the same crises repeating, her deterioration and readmission, worse and worse every time, all of us knowing what would happen but all held powerless by legislation that didn’t allow us to put in place a few simple steps that would have kept her safe. Ultimately an adult judged to have capacity to make a decision is allowed to make a decision that will harm herself, allowed to cut herself off from sources of help, allowed to deceive everyone who wants to help. Even when those decisions and actions are the work of a delusion founded in deep-rooted, severe psychosis. My mother couldn’t be more different from Lily but I see similarities in how the hands of those who wanted to help were rendered powerless.

In my head when Lily stares at me, slowly fading, I don’t know what to say, and everything I should have said back then echoes around me.

(*not her real name. Again please note that the opinions and thoughts and experiences mentioned in this article are mine alone.)

Ginny xxx

Sleepless at the latest precipice on our path – PIP, and hospital

I so want to be asleep right now but my brain’s awake with useless whirring energy. This week has seemed so long already. My partner was admitted into hospital on Monday night after a fall and worrying symptoms. He was “only” in til Tuesday evening and thankfully is now safe at home but more question marks are hanging over his complex health difficulties right now. We feel so lost navigating the way through to get him the treatment he needs and cope with the process.

On top of this we found out today – through a text message he received whilst he was in hospital – that a big chunk of his PIP (a Benefit paid to people with disabilities) has been taken away following a review he had a few weeks ago. No warning, just stopped; just a text message with no details and no support. We are waiting for the letter detailing the decision. It seems crazy as his condition has worsened so much since his last assessment but it was what I feared would happen, because of my own prior experiences with PIP assessments. This is what seems to happen to so many claimants. With this cut, he will lose his car, because he has it through a mobility scheme tied to the component of PIP they’ve taken away from him. We are both dependent on the car to get anywhere. I will now be housebound except for when I can afford door to door taxis as I am too physically disabled to reach the bus stop and can’t manage on and off a bus without help. He will be in a similar situation. I don’t know how we will get to his almost daily hospital appointments. £25 – £30 per day on taxis there and back is impossible on our budget. I don’t know if we will qualify for hospital transport. Thankfully there are a few weeks before the car is taken away. We can appeal the decision on his PIP but I doubt a new decision will be made before we lose the car. His other Benefits may well also be affected because the rates paid are linked to receiving a certain rate of PIP or not.

So at a time when my partner is already under utmost pressure and stress with his physical and mental health, a legal case relating to one of his injuries, anniversaries of painful bereavements and traumas, finances, and multiple problems involving lies and deceit from people we placed trust in (leading to the collapse of several projects that we so hoped would bring stability and security to us and another family member and the apparent loss to waste of hundreds of hours of work) – now this. Now that one bit of security is gone.

It is hard to know how to carry on. It is hard to know where to get the emotional and physical energy to do what we have to do. I don’t know how to act or respond seeing the person I love suffering, hurting, being treated terribly, being let down and abandoned. My brain kicks into gear with the adrenaline in some way and buzzes with lists of what we have to do now, different outcomes and scenarios. But my emotions can’t keep up. Nor does my physical body. Right when my partner most needs me and I most want to be there.

It feels as though we are trying to find our way on a path through a jungle. Each side of us is dense vegetation and tall trees we cannot see through. We work our hardest at following the path, staying on the path, walking onward. We cannot see far ahead as there are always blind bends. Beyond each blind corner we don’t know how the track may twist or split. Even trying to be prepared for each possible eventuality isn’t enough. There’s always a stone, a thick fog, a sudden precipice you couldn’t see. Worse still, sometimes there are gaps in the foliage and you see through to sunlight and in the distance, a view stretching ahead of a safe and beautiful place. You work out the route you need to take on the rocky path you’re on right now, to reach that place, and your steps are a little lighter. Then without warning, a branch bends down from the trees surrounding you, coils round your middle, it drags you high in the air, spinning, crushing you, and then flings you as hard as it can and you fall back into the jungle again. Any sign of the safe place is gone. You find yourself beside another path but you have no idea what path it is; certainly it’s no longer the one you had worked so hard to follow.

It’s hard to keep on getting back on the path and you lose hope that any of the paths really lead out of the jungle. You almost know that the moment you think of the beautiful place, a branch will grab you and fling you as far away as possible from everything that have you hope.

That’s what it feels like. It’s self indulgent to express it but that’s what it feels like. Focusing only on our pain does no good, but that’s what it feels like.

We do still have homes. We do have the chance to appeal this decision. We can choose hope. We can do all we can to save money. We have so much more than many people and our lives are so different together. I can at least be here always, for my partner. We can trust that Jesus is with us, beside us, reaching for our hands.

I just needed to get it out tonight. Thank you for listening.

Ginny xxx

Reforming my food intake – eating disorders v changes for healing

TRIGGER WARNING: this post discusses diet, eating disorders and food restrictions.

I was back at hospital a couple of weeks ago with another bowel pseudo obstruction, with a lot of pain and bleeding. Scary. Thanks be to God this was not as serious as the obstruction I had last year. However over the past year on the whole I have had a marked increase in gastric symptoms which are part of my POTS and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. It’s painful and disruptive. Possibly it’s also doing the rest of my body no good if I’m having inflammation or not absorbing nutrients properly.

I’ve decided to change how I eat along the lines of what I’ve read can help people with my conditions. It will involve a lot of protein, cutting right back on wheat and sugars (this will be hard for me!) and eliminating junk food. It will be quite bland at first whilst I find out what foods work for me or not. I don’t have celiacs but people with POTS and EDS can have problems with wheat that aren’t celiacs.

I’m conflicted because any strict diet, food restriction or elimination is triggering to my eating disordered thoughts and voices. Moreover I can’t deny that I’m hoping that my change in diet will lead me to get back control of my hunger, cravings and bingeing and that I’ll lose weight. I really want to sort my stomach problems but control and losing weight are hugely strong desires too. I’m overweight and repulsed at myself.

Possibly what I’m doing isn’t what professionals would think is a good idea if you have bulimia, binge eating disorder or a history of anorexia. Usually elimination of foods isn’t advised and you are supposed to listen to your body’s cues. I have no idea how to safely listen to my body’s cues. It seems to constantly scream “hungry!” In a way, am I listening to my body by recognising my gastric issues and the fact that my current eating is doing me no good? But I’m furious with myself for the binges and constantly want to punish myself. The diet that I’m going to be following will cut out a lot of foods I binge on. Will that stop my binges being triggered? I’m hoping so but I just feel I know I’ll lose control.

I’m trying to think of the changes as a long term way of eating, making it work for me throughout my lifetime, not a fad diet; also I’m trying to remember the fact my body needs this to get better.

Ginny xxx

Looking for an app to track mood and pain

I am seeing a psychologist at the pain clinic for a short number of sessions. When I was first sent an appointment to do therapy I was really worried and almost angry about it, feeling I’d had enough of therapy in other services where I couldn’t trust the therapists or the community team and I couldn’t risk making myself vulnerable again. On top of that I was sure the therapy would be from the point of view that nothing is wrong with me, the pain I have is unnecessary and my fault because I’ve rested too much and not pushed myself enough, which is an attitude I’ve encountered too many times on so-called pain management courses. Amazingly it has turned out to be a very different experience.

I don’t tend to find pain is terribly related to my mood, beyond the fact that I’m more anxious and low when the pain is worse. It’s also connected to flashbacks but I don’t quite know how. We identified in therapy today that I find awareness of my body very difficult. Maybe that is common in personality disorder and certainly in dissociative identity disorder.

I want to try tracking my pain and my mood together to see if this may show up any links I’m not aware of. I’ve done the two separately before as part of learning to pace activity (I did not find the recording gave me any new insights) but I’ve not really done the two together, not over an extended period anyway.

Phone apps exist to track your mood but I’m looking for an app that tracks mood and pain. Ideally I’d like an app where I could record a numerical score for my pain and my mood every couple of hours through the day, with space to make a brief note if something very significant happened (for example if I have flashbacks or an event triggers traumatic memories or dissociation).

Have you used an app like this and did you learn from it? Any recommendations would be very helpful.

Ginny xx

Q – “Have you got your hearing aids in?” A – “Pardon?”

I thought I was losing my hearing. Over the past 2 years or so, I’ve found myself asking people to repeat themselves more and more often. I noticed it particularly when I was working in the department store. What customers said came over as a jumble of sound to me, often as though far away, or sometimes I’d miss it entirely. At the day centre where I volunteer, a couple of the elderly clients remarked that my hearing was terrible an I needed a test. Discussing this with a friend, she commented that she’d long thought that my hearing was worse on the right side.

So I booked a check up and hearing test.

I had my ears checked and syringed. Nothing remarkable was found. No mountainous heap of gunk blocking my ears 🤪.

I had the hearing test.

Everything came back normal.

What is happening?

I’m left thinking that my hearing “disturbances” are to do with attention, dissociation absences, or the effects of overwhelming anxiety. Certainly, high anxiety affects my attention span and my memory. I can talk to someone but not take it in, or not remember what someone has said. Dissociation definitely affects my memory and I lose big chunks of time, not knowing what I’ve done whilst I’ve been gone. If I’m very emotional, I may be unable to remember events before and after the time of heightened emotion.

Is my weird hearing loss / confusion also because of anxiety, distress or dissociated absences? So not only is my memory affected, but also the information does not come into my brain normally in the first place?

Does anyone else have this problem?

Whatever it is, it’s scary. It disconnects me from the people around me, as if I’m floating in a vacuum or surrounded in bubble wrap. Sound doesn’t pass through the bubble wrap wall at all, or if it does, it’s chaotic noise that’s very unsettling deep into my mind and body. It makes me scared and I just want to get away.

Maybe it gives me some insight into what it’s like for people who live with deafness.

Ginny xxx

Facing how much I need to lose

Warning: this post contains discussion of weight, weight loss, body image and eating disorders.

I have lost control of my eating and my body size completely. I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been. I’m disgusted at myself, expanding and ballooning. The voices love it – greedy, pig, ugly, foul, repulsive… we’ll always know how bad you really are… images of rotten evil and greed bursting out of my skin… cut it all off, cut it out… 50 kilos. Lose 50 kilos then keep going.

It’s so much and so unattainable I let the despair close round me. It’s cold and numb first, then comes the bingeing. I don’t know if it’s a result of the despair. Often it’s a result of hunger that won’t be satisfied and demands more and more, til I get rid of it by purging til it hurts so much.

I am fat and more than fat.

I want to lose 50kg. I have the idea that then I could look at myself without so much hate and disgust and then the voices might be satisfied for a while, if only I could maintain it. Objectively I know losing 50kg would be too much and would put me in the anorexic weight range. I know losing 40kg would put me at the very bottom of the healthy weight range. I desperately want this then desperately want those 10kg more, to get rid of the fat greedy consuming thing inside me. To get rid of the evil inside me. Then I could look at myself. Then I’d have control back. Then maybe it would stop. Please. Please would it stop.

Why can’t I just do it, like I always did before? Why have I lost control?

I’m trying to be objective. Trying to think about losing 20kg first. Trying to focus on goals, not specific weight targets week by week but on good things that are coming and that will be even better if I lose the weight – going abroad in February for my fiancé’s work, being able to do more of my physiotherapy exercises, our upcoming wedding, and so on. Trying to remember that my fiancé does not think I’m disgusting or greedy or bad or anything else the voices tell me, and that he loves me and does not require me to change. Yet I have his support to lose some weight to take care of my health and that’s a wonderful help.

I’m going to try to identify specific actions I can take to stop bingeing and start losing weight.

Looking objectively, why do I think my weight has gone up out of control?

  1. Greatly reduced mobility because of my degenerative health conditions getting worse. I used to walk loads a few years ago but now I need a wheelchair.
  2. My medications – quetiapine and other daily medications I take increase my appetite and affect metabolism and cause a lot of weight gain.
  3. Binge eating repeatedly on sugary foods and other carbohydrates. Insatiable hunger. Yes I frequently purge or restrict after but it can’t get rid of everything and it’s dangerous in itself.
  4. Relying more on convenience foods because I’m not well enough to cook and at times when I’ve been really short of money.

How can I change this?

  1. I can’t exercise in the usual sense of the word but I can prioritise my physio exercises and then when I’ve lost some weight, going swimming. I’m changing my daily routine to make sure I fit these in.
  2. I can’t change my medications, at least not short term.
  3. I will not keep trigger foods in the house. At first I will greatly restrict the food I have in the house so there is literally nothing to binge on. I can’t leave the house unaided because of my health so won’t be able to go and buy more. My fiancé will help me get small quantities of non triggering foods and occasional treats only. I’m amazingly fortunate to have his help. This isn’t a permanent solution but might help for the first couple of weeks.
  4. Though I still need to rely on convenience foods because of my disabilities, I will stay within a daily calorie limit.
  5. I will research any advice I can find for coping with binge eating disorder.

How can I keep the rational part of me in control rather than whatever drives the insatiable hunger? I really don’t know what drives it. When I was anorexic I had found something that shut off the hunger, but I don’t know what it was. The disgust I felt for myself then and the disgust I feel for myself now are pretty similar. In fact I feel more disgust for myself now. If disgust doesn’t shut the hunger off, what does? I think if I knew that, it would stop me bingeing.

Ginny xxx