What My Pain is Actually Like

It occurred to me one day several months ago that I’ve never stopped to answer a question people may have, the same question I often wonder about others in my situation: When I talk about being in pain, what am I actually talking about?

In my case I’m talking about severe head pain, and what some call “malaise,” but… Malaise is what you call it when you are sick and you feel “off,” and unwell, and basically.. gross. It’s a term you can use for having a cold or AIDS, much like a fever has drastically varying levels of severity.

In “malaise” standards, what I feel is like my immune system is fighting to save my life but it may or may not actually take me down with it. Pain is usually localized, or at least, if it’s everywhere, it’s an identifiable ache. This? Maybe I should invent a new term.

Deathlymalaise. Yeah that sounds about right.

What happens in my newly coined “deathlymalaise” (feel free to use that), is this:

  1. I always have “the” headache with it, the one I’ll discuss in a moment.
  2. I have a low-grade fever, and I alternate rapidly–or maybe there is only the sensation of rapid cycling–between uncomfortably warm and sweaty, and clammy, cold, with freezing and numb extremities. It’s like when you have the flu and every five minutes you’re either tossing the blankets across the room or clambering to collect anything made of fabric and burrito yourself in it. My GP says this is my immune system. Apparently it’s trying to figure out what to do with itself.
  3. I feel dizzy and there is often a “buzzing” sensation, but whether it’s nerves sending wrong signals or my vascular system trying to sustain normal circulation, is anyone’s guess.
  4. My lymph nodes, particularly the axillary and cervical nodes (under your arms, and around your neck), have a constant, dull ache, and get stabbing sensations.
  5. I get muscle spasms in my neck, back, and all around my abdomen in general, that are so sudden and severe I usually end up screaming.
  6. I feel a burning sensation in the nerves in my face, as if they were on fire from the inside-out. I think it comes from the same inflammation responsible for my headache. The trigeminal neuralgia is thus usually activated and I have to stop myself from clawing at my face–that wouldn’t help much, now would it?
  7. I feel as if I’m going to vomit, but I won’t let that happen–I take Zofran as necessary.
  8. My joints–moreso on my left–swell and get stiff, difficult to bend or move.
  9. There is substantial fatigue during these “bursts” of deathlymalaise, but sitting or–more appropriately–lying in one place is usually not an option because this is the kind of suffering that, on the pain scale, would be at the level that it interferes with your every thought.

I’m a complete and utter wreck. And please remember, this list is only covering the malaise part of the illness, something that has been very prominent since The Big Relapse. It’s not medication withdrawal, because these symptoms are part of the reason I started taking anything to begin with, and it’s not herxing. It’s just disease. It makes me uncomfortable to even type that, but it is what it is. I can’t sugarcoat something like this.

I usually feel aghast–but almost in awe–at the reality that a person could possibly feel so horrendous, and helpless at the thought that a hospital–the place you’re raised thinking can always help you during any health crisis–cannot do anything, because there is nothing to stop what’s happening. How do you explain to someone how terrible all that feels, with the word “malaise”?

Several of my friends who also live with Lyme & Company admit to feeling this, and even writing letters or notes to loved ones during the worst “episodes” because they think surely something must be about to go very, very wrong for the human body to give out all these warning signals.

They usually say, “I feel like I’m dying.”

We really do.

 

The progression of my headaches has been a monster all its own. Their onset began with occipital neuralgia four months after my tick bite, almost seven years ago. Bartonella came with its own, mostly frontal-oriented headaches; I don’t have those any more. But almost without fail, I have had a particularly severe headache for 4-5 consecutive days every four weeks since the Lyme invaded my nervous system. Now, that exacerbation happens about every two weeks, thanks to the Mycoplasma.

I used to need prescription-strength medications for breakthrough pain only a few times a year for the attacks of occipital neuralgia. As things steadily progressed (especially within the past two years), I went from needing them an average of 1-3 days per month, to having 3-week-long bouts of unrelenting head paid which alternated with 3-pain-free weeks, seemingly for no reason. Since my relapse in October, I’ve needed them every day except 1-3 days per month. I guess all of this is why needing them so much frightened me: I wondered–and still wonder–if there is no turning back from this point. Regardless…

This head pain is a throbbing sensation at the back of my head, the base of my skull and down into my neck. I wouldn’t outright call it occipital neuralgia, because my attacks of O.N. are even more severe and almost completely untreatable. But otherwise, it’s just like them. Baby neuralgias? They even exhibit the so-called “ram’s horn pattern,” and the top of my head often goes numb, and I am sensitive to anything touching my scalp. There is no sensitivity to sound, but extreme sensitivity to light. I get bursts of nausea. Since vasculitis has been such a major feature of this relapse, these “headaches” may have some vascular component.

As of right now, later this month my pain management doctor wants to try a shot in my neck. I’m uncertain is he intends a nerve block for O.N. or another route, but since this has gone on so long, it’s time to try something new.

 

There’s not really a pretty way to sum this up. But when I talk about being in pain, to all of this is what I refer.

 

a rainbow at night

It feels like I’m talking about someone else’s life, sometimes…

So, in my last post, I said I’d give myself another two weeks off treatment and then re-evaluate my state of health to see whether or not I should restart treatment for Lyme disease. Something happened to help me make that decision.

I got an ear infection. Just a minor bacterial one which I get about once a year if I’m not already on antibiotics at the time. (Well, at least compared to a VIRAL ear infection, they’re minor.) I’m a miniature pharmacy so I already had the Z-pack needed to treat it.

I took one pill (and you’re supposed to take two at first, but I didn’t think that’d be smart for me…I was right) and spent that night feeling unimaginably ill while trying not to have a mental breakdown.

Fellow Lymies already know this, but: Zithro is the cousin of the medication I’ve been on (Biaxin) to treat Lyme disease, and also a potent treatment option in itself, so taking it affected a lot more than just trying to help my ear. There was fever, chills, constant shaking, dizziness, numbness, nausea, and a host of other things, like not being able to remember my best friend’s name (?!?!). But the real “kicker” was that I felt that way from just one pill

After being off meds for a month and a half, I can’t even handle one pill. :|

I can only handle half-a-pill, which is less than a child’s dose, and I can only hope it will be enough to cure my ear infection… But it’s definitely not enough to treat my disease. If anything, these tiny half-doses may keep things from progressing too quickly, but will also make me a target for drug-resistant bacteria, and then talk about being in a mess…!

This does take away the choice (mostly) of whether to begin treatment again or not, because it’s obvious I physically cannot do it, and mentally, I am still so, so tired.

Toward the middle of November, I thought I was doing better. I left the house three times in a week, and (not the same days, but) I had three consecutive days with no pain. So I thought I was getting over the relapse, until this happened. I was just a little crushed… But it is what it is, right?

I’m not sure what’s going to happen from here. My friends say I can always begin treatment later after I’ve rested a bit more, but this is the equivalent of waiting until a cancer is stage 3 or 4 to begin treating. The disease is advanced, it’s harder to kill, and the treatment will be that much worse. (And the Lyme disease is stage 3, meaning it’s.. everywhere. And it does not wait for you to be able to handle antibiotics.) But regardless, this may be my only option, and all I can do is hope that with more rest, I will be able to begin treatment again in the future, and be able to handle it.

If not, well… C’est la vie, que sera sera, and all that jazz.

 

I stopped doing the ability scale checkpoints because they are a reminder of how I haven’t made much progress since finishing bartonella treatment. Now, I don’t want to make that sound mediocre… If that disease was still present, I wouldn’t even have the luxury of wondering whether or not handling treatment was an option; I’d just be dying very quickly again!

But the truth is still that I kept waiting for a stable period to make an assessment, and that has yet to happen. I repeatedly had to pause treatment, take such-and-such different medication, take this-and-that medication to balance out the first one, then relapse, recovery, relapse again, and whatever progress I did make, I just kept going downhill again.

I made my last checkpoint at the beginning of this year and I can honestly say I am still at that place, in general, with the obvious adjustment that my symptoms are more severe for the time being due to relapse. But at least I am not any worse than that. I like being able to breathe and walk on most my days. And I do think I am a bit recovered from this relapse that began at the beginning of October.

I can handle longer periods of light, I can be out of bed more, and I have longer stretches with less pain. The translation of that is: I can usually use technology for several hours a day instead of bursts of twenty-minutes until I couldn’t bear it anymore; I make it out of my room several times a day instead of barely once, and sometimes I can leave the house; and my “usual” needed dose of pain medication is once a day, instead of always twice a day…and I have random days where I don’t need any at all. So,

  1. without intervention of medicines like caffeine (which is the only thing that enables me to do things like take a bath, or have a stable blood pressure), or pain medications (which are the only reason I can be active at all); and
  2. with 100% being completely recovered,

I am currently at 15% physical ability and 20% cognitive ability. As we all know, there are better days and worse days, but in general…

And with 100% completely symptom-free, I am at 10% symptom severity. Though I think the chart should be in reverse for that section, because initially “10% symptom severity” sounds as if I only have symptoms 10% of the time, and it’s the exact opposite:

“Moderate to severe symptoms (6–8) at rest. There is moderate to severe pain (6–8) and/or sensations of illness/dysfunction throughout the body and brain for much of the day. Symptoms are severe (8) following any physical or mental activity with a recovery period as low as hours, or as long as days to months, or longer. It is all the person can do to just get through one day at a time.”

 

Thankfully I do have medications to help me get through this difficult time, and all the support in the world from my friends, fellow spoonies, and doctors, about whatever decision I have to make. (My family unfortunately has no idea of the magnitude of this… Right now, I’m not sure I’d want them to know, until I can give them an idea of what we’re looking at…) And I have an appointment with a pain management specialist next week, and I see my Lyme disease specialist on the twelfth. So this is where I am at!

a rainbow at night

(P.S. – Today is my 2-year WordPress Anniversary!! I never imagined so many people would be helped by the words I share. Thank you, all. Stay strong with me!!)

For right now, this needs to stop.

As far as my relapse conundrum, I could not continue treatment, after all. I just.. stopped. I am still so emotionally drained, and my body is at wits’ end. I’ve been off antibiotics for a month, now, and I’m flaring at the moment because of the usual beginning-of-the-month bug-flare that happens… Only this time I am not protected, so it’s scary to think of what they’re doing in there! How can one feel this close to having the flu and not actually have influenza?

On Samhain I ultimately decided to take another two weeks off and just restore my body as much as I can, with only the necessary things and as few medications as possible. I don’t think I have any yeast problems, but I’m going to take a few doses of candidiasis treatment, just in case. And then I’ll talk to my LLMD and see where we can go from here.

I can’t thank you all enough for the responses to my last post. At any given moment, I am ready to reach out for help, or curl into a ball and never speak again. It’s a constant back and forth. I want to say, “the disease is what makes me want to retreat,” but it’s not even that. It’s my response to it. It’s knowing that I do have some control here, I do have a choice, and I’m terrified of making the wrong decision. Continue this grueling treatment regimen and make myself worse, an inevitable decline, or forego treatment completely and still begin an inevitable decline. But I’ll tell you what.

My intuition says to stop.

And I always, always listen to it. It says I need this break. It says I could use it to heal my body as much as I can, and in two weeks I may know clearly again what next step to take. I can’t believe in God as much as I do, and ask Him to guide me, and then not follow what I feel is the right course of action, even though I can’t explain it.

That became even more apparent today when I really wanted to take my antibiotics again, because the thought that these infections are inside me running amuck and I have nothing to stop them, is very frightening. It was then that I noticed how strong my conviction was to not resume my treatment…

Anyone think I’m crazy, yet?

I can’t help but notice that the idea of treatment helping me, which has always been my motivator in the past, has not even crossed my mind. It’s as if somewhere inside I know that to continue with it at this point in time would do me harm. Logically speaking, I think that not treating is also pretty bad, but somehow, not as bad as taking these medications; at least not right now.

So that’s where I’m at.

 

I also had a visit with my new neurologist, and it wasn’t as productive as I thought it’d be. Part of that is my body’s fault because I only got to ask him half of what I wanted–I was so bad-off that morning I almost passed out in their waiting room.

In response to my relapse he said, “There will be good weeks and bad weeks, good months and bad months.” And apparently when you tell someone you have myalgic encephalomyelitis they don’t think twice about you having severe daily headaches and eye pain (i.e., I guess you do have headaches). But he’s a good doctor who at least didn’t outright call me a hypochondriac. I’ve noticed with having this lesion on my brain, people tend not to think you’re “just exaggerating” quite as much. He said it was post-infectious demyelination, but it wasn’t changing in size so he didn’t feel I needed a repeat MRI for right now. My various damaged nerves are healing up, so that’s a good thing! So much so, that he didn’t  think I ever had facial palsy… Luckily that’s in my notes from my last neurologist. :\

He also thinks all my movement disorder problems are Tourette’s… Which is wildly inaccurate, but because he thinks Tourette’s Syndrome is just a “group” of movement disorders rather than its own thing which should be diagnosed after the other movement disorders have been ruled out, it would make sense for him to say that. I can always see that movement disorder specialist should things progress even further, so. (I know it’s not Tourette’s because my TS does act up when I get new infections, however, it acts up completely differently than the problems I’m currently having.)

He said do NOT take any triptans for my migraines (the main reason I went to see him, actually), and gave me Cambia powder to try for my next attack. Which my insurance won’t cover, of course, so I’ll rely on samples like the other three medications I can’t afford. He diagnosed me with complicated migraine and said I really should be on a preventative medication with this type of diagnosis, but I mentioned that not ALL my migraines do the whole “Hey I Look Like I’m Having A Stroke” thing. I’ve had them fifteen years, so it makes sense they’d eventually progress, but I only get “those” maybe once a month or every two months…

Which is probably not very good, but good lord I just can’t handle another medication right now, especially when my options for preventative medications are very limited! I think he actually ran out of ideas for me since Topamax is practically my only choice and it lowers my intracranial pressure. :\ But at least Migraine is a well-studied disease and, should I live long enough, they will probably come out with something new, soon.

 

The best news I have is: (1) I got to visit a friend (actually, I returned to the scene of the crime of where I caught Lyme disease), and I recovered pretty easily from it with all the careful planning and tailored resting schedules. And (2) I invested in a tilting overbed table. I don’t think I have words to describe how useful it is. How have I never thought of this before? Person who is in bed most of the time, desks that go over the bed… Regardless, this thing is amazing. What I really love is the little mini-desk on the side that always stays flat so you can put stuff on it!

 

a rainbow at night

ARAN makes her first real post in months!

Something I try to do with this blog is make sure it makes sense and follows some semblance of “why yes I DO have a thought process,” but tending to either of those things is going to make this blog entry impossible, and I really need to write. So I’m sorry, people who like sentence structure and who like to translate my entries into their native tongue.

 

My birthday was in August. And it was incredible. Full of love from friends and family and the amazing gift that I was alive to enjoy it. I thanked my Lyme doctor for helping save my life, because without his aid I know I wouldn’t have made it. The whole celebration affair took two days to get through because I didn’t want to exhaust myself–I tried!–but let’s just say, next year I shall ask for more assistance, especially in opening gifts because I did the closest thing possible to arm-murder for someone with M.E. The eustress still affected me profoundly, and the muscle relapse I experienced took me weeks to recover from. By mid-September I did finally get to a place where I was okay enough to start typing, replying to e-mails, et cetera, albeit at a much-reduced level. I think that’s when I made my last entry… Anyway.

Since my last actual update I have been “officially” diagnosed with vasculitis, upped my Biaxin dose, and had to stop everything completely.

 

After a necessary car ride (read as: evacuation) put me in the sunlight for eight hours, my sporadically-present vasculitis-of-the-past-ten-years went into overdrive and has been bothering me daily, often severely, ever since. I have to avoid all sunlight and any temperature change…which I always have to do, but right now it’s even more important. I did get tests to see if anything autoimmune had been triggered, but the tests, ANA and the relatives, were all normal, so that’s good. I got the diagnosis of inflammatory vasculitis on the 6th of September, which ironically was two days after upping my Biaxin to twice daily instead of once daily, but the Biaxin was unrelated, since the problems began days earlier with all that sun exposure. My PCP told me all the weird quirks I’d been having–the INTENSE dizzy spells, the blurred vision, that the main vascular problems were in my hands and feet–were all related. She said it starts in the small blood vessels–ears, eyes, extremities–and spreads from there, and to manage it with ibuprofen, which for now, mostly works.

We want to avoid going on steroids if we can, because of how it suppresses the immune system… But I’ve been off and on Nasonex (an inhaled corticosteroid for sinus problems; I don’t have allergies) and it’s such a catch-22. I always feel better when I’m on it, but it also messes with my immune system so that other problems act up. Sigh.

 

For the most part I have been feeling GREAT with the twice daily Biaxin, but when I’m down, I’m really down. I have no idea what to say about my general health status, otherwise. :\ I always get a bad flare at the beginning of the month because this is one of the bug cycles (I think the Mycoplasma, but maybe the Lyme–I have no idea, I just know it’s not related to my menses because that has no reliable pattern, and hasn’t for years). Well, this month’s flare was absolutely terrible because of being on the doubled antibiotic dosage–”herxapalooza,” as one of my friends calls it.

When I was on Zithro (biaxin’s cousin), there would be one day a month I’d have to stop my antibiotics and let the herx die down, lest I end up it the emergency room. I came very close to going this month, not because of the herx itself, but because of a Migraine that was almost completely resistant to treatment. All I had at my house was off-brand medicine and name-brand Treximet, the latter of which  I cannot take with my type of migraine (which I DID NOT KNOW–need to discuss this with my new neuro!). So that was bad. Bad bad. The aura began with an awful episode of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome on Friday (Sept 28th) and the Migraine began Sunday (Sept 30th). Two days later, that was gone, but I have been sicker than sick ever since the whole thing started.

I have stopped ALL of my antibiotics in an attempt to recover, and I’m planning to resume them Monday if I’m able. If not, I’ll give it another week like I sometimes have to do. It’s been four straight months since having to take any kind of break, so that’s good. I hope it’s just the herxing (my liver is fine, by the way!), because this is a little frightening.

I haven’t needed my wheelchair in months, so I put it in the closet. Then yesterday I went to stand up and almost went to the floor. I’ve had NO trouble walking in months. Now my legs are very weak. It just hits me in “episodes”–one part of the day I’ll be sort-of okay; the rest, I am useless.  This would make sense if I were currently on antibiotics, but I am not. I have been sleeping a ton, and in bed all day regardless, only getting up for the essentials like restroom. And the pain… Oh, the pain. A day or two ago–they all blend together at the moment–I couldn’t so much as roll over in bed without vicodin. The headache phase (as that Migraine went on to irritate every surrounding nerve) has died down for the most part, but now I face exhaustion, flu-like sickness, numbness in my right leg leg and foot, a bizarre action-related tremor in my left hand/arm that has actually been progressing instead of going away… I am hydrated but my blood pressure is poor, I am resting but my heart is weak… My heart has felt weaker the past several weeks, at random. I don’t know what that’s about (side effect of doubled Biaxin?) but my next cardio appointment is in November.

It’s just such a drastic change, and I was doing perfectly fine (relatively speaking) on the doubled dose of antibiotics until this hit… And despite being off of them, it doesn’t appear to be getting better yet, which is concerning when I’ve literally spent the past week in bed and usually this combination lends to me feeling better… Or at least, when it’s M.E.-related, this lends to me feeling better. I suppose, with that in mind, I should stop thinking of it in those terms, because even though the majority of my troubles the past month-and-a-half have been M.E.-related and those ARE improved with rest, these problems I now face probably are not M.E.-related, and therefore there’s no sense in thinking rest will help them. Maybe I’m rushing things, or being impatient, I just wonder what happened that I’m taking so long to recover, and I hope this will all pass over without me being forced into a lower state of fucntioning in the mean time.

 

Three hours after I typed this I was able to come back and fix it up a little, so it’s not too bad… But yes, as to my absence…! I have been doing mostly okay, seemingly doing much better–even starting to prepare my own meals!–until “this” happened.

a rainbow at night

I’m listening to the crickets chirp.

It’s one of my favourite things to do at night when it’s very quiet. Perhaps because it reminds me of the peace I had at my own home. I would listen to them every night as I fell asleep, the frogs and the crickets, and every morning I’d be awakened by birds chirping outside my window… Now I get that here, too. It’s one of the perks of summer. :)

 

The past week I decided to take a break from social media, Facebook and Twitter and the like. I still updated a little, but I couldn’t keep up with everyone else. I needed a social break. Also lately, in my social frenzy (I like people and interaction, I really do–don’t let the sick-person thing fool you), I realized I was starting to backslide into giving my very precious energy to people who don’t return that concern. It’s something with which I’ve struggled to maintain balance for years. I suppose, because for a small time I was able to be more social than usual, it caught me by surprise when that was no longer the case. I was reminded just where my energy was going–into relationships that were otherwise a one-way street, just me conversing with people who, for the most part, wouldn’t even bother to check on me if I suddenly disappeared. So I needed to back up and regroup, gather my thoughts and focus on what (and who) is important. It all helped.

And I made two great accomplishments this past week!

 

First, I walked inside a supermarket to do my grocery shopping and did not need any mobility assistance! Secondly, I ate a salad without the autonomic neuropathy screwing over its digestion and causing me severe pain later!

I’ve made several milestones this past year, as far as leaving the house. My first trip into an outside building using only my cane instead of being in my wheelchair–just standing up for those few minutes was amazing. My first minor trip inside a real store without needing a mobility scooter to do my shopping (though still earplugs, and sunglasses)–standing up on my own for more than a few minutes, amazing still. Now I’ve done my own grocery shopping, walking around completely on my own, for what must have been half an hour, with only earplugs. Another step in the right direction. :)

I wasn’t able to drive, or stand in the checkout lane, or put up any groceries, but I’m sure that will come later. The following three days (or, the past three days, I should say) have been spent recovering from that excursion. One with M.E. recovers by doing absolutely nothing. I was fortunate to not have too much of a neurological overload (probably because Lyme & co. are being beaten down?) so I was able to watch DVDs to pass much of the time. I went into rest-mode immediately after we returned, but the main start of the crash occurred roughly 24 hours later, very predictably with my legs. I took extra Co Q-10, and L-carnitine, and magnesium, and made sure I got enough protein, and maintained adequate hydration. After a decade with this disease I’m pretty used to coping with what inevitably occurs after so much activity: the muscle relapse and inability to be upright, from an overworked heart muscle and damaged mitochondria. Without all my supplemental intervention I would definitely NOT be at all functional, yet. But I’ve learned a few tricks or two! ;)

As for the salad, well… I love raw vegetables almost more than cooked ones, and I love fresh salads. But for the past several months, while my nerves have been trying to heal with the help of these antibiotics, I could not eat any raw vegetables (or anything high in fiber, for that matter) lest it trigger a neuropathic “episode” of my digestion basically.. stopping. My body would start to digest and then just.. stop. It’s incredibly painful, and something I’ve dealt with sporadically since first starting treatment to kill these infections, but which progressed pretty far before any substantial bug-eradication could be done. I’m not sure what the exact specific name for it is (I’m assuming something along the lines of gastroparesis, yes?) but it lasts for hours and I have to break out the caffeine to jump-start my nervous system and get things digesting my food again. :\ (Silly vagus nerve, either causing things to do too much or too little.) Needless to say I’ve been avoiding that horrible scenario… Until today. I thought enough time had passed to at least attempt some veggies. So I ate a salad…and everything went as normal! It was amazing. I’m hoping I can get back to my usual pre-neuropathic diet, or at least incorporate more of the things I truly enjoy eating.

 

As far as peripheral neuropathy goes: Much better! I can wear normal clothes again, for instance. And as far as the asthma flare up: My cough is now gone completely. :) My eyes have also been better, hence me being able to watch DVDs a lot. However, I did have a headache flare up last weekend, probably because I always get a flare up (Lyme or Mycoplasma, it’s anyone’s guess at this point) around the start of the month. I also had several days worth of migraine attacks (with horrendous postdrome) because I didn’t realize soon enough that something I was eating repeatedly had sucralose/Splenda in it. Erm… Some number of days ago I had a hive again. Any nick or cut I acquire refuses to clot for a long time, but with being on ibuprofen 2-3 times a day for the past two months, I guess that’s to be expected. My inflammation must be in a down phase, because I only have to take one ibuprofen per day right now. :) Probably because of the more-advanced anti-inflammatory (corticosteroid) I’ve had to take in the form of Dulera… Oh, and the urinaylsis came back normal, but we expected that much, right?

One thing I do wish I could start is my Zoloft, because my OCD is borderline raging recently, from so many months not taking anything for it. I am on so many prescriptions right now that I cannot bear the thought of adding something else. I have never been on so many prescriptions at once in my life! I’m trying to keep in mind that this is just a temporary thing, to help get me through this phase of treatment…

That’s all for now. It was nice to summarize my improvements for a change. :)

 

a rainbow at night

This is an entirely new way of formatting, but…

…it’s the only way for me to get this entry published. I’m basically forcing myself to update. I won’t be making a habit of this, but for now… Purple things about life, black things about health updates (read as: Purple for things that are semi-interesting, black for things that I need to write down lest I forget). Also, some random quotes by me, because, why not.

  • June 5th: I started reading American Gods. (So far I’ve made it to chapter four, I think.)
  • June 6th: I got my bloodwork back, showing that my liver enzymes are perfectly normal, back in their 20s and 30s, thanks to the Liver Chi my LLMD put me on! I’m enthralled. If anyone is having trouble with their liver enzymes, and milk thistle isn’t enough, try this stuff! I’ve been on 2 capsules 2-3 times a day, as per doctors orders.

~*~ Life is like Music. If you combine a few key, simple
elements in the right way, you get beauty.
~*~

  • June 8th: Spent the day listening to music and watching the rain. If you want to know what it sounded like (AND YOU DO), open and play this and this at the same time. Also, decided that one day I will own a professional camera.
  • June 9th: Shaking for most of the day with very visible tremors.

~*~ Acceptance doesn’t mean we sit back, stop fighting, and
give up hope. It means we acknowledge truthfully
where we are and how we feel about it.
~*~

  • June 10th-11th: Muscle fatigue (via M.E.) due to a lot of arm usage in talking/typing to a bunch of amazing people. (It was worth it. ♥) Also very, very sore, with a “I feel like I’ve been run over” type of pain, reminiscent of my fibromyalgia days, but not as severe. I had ordered some very soft clothes that finally arrived, which really helps the burst of peripheral neuropathy I’ve gotten lately. I’m assuming my nerves are trying to heal from whenever these infections had spread to my arms several months back. Fioricet is a HUGE help for neuropathic pain!
  • June 11th: I realized that, over the past.. well, a long time, I can’t remember anymore, but I’ve developed oromandibular dystonia that’s mostly triggered by eating. I hope it is worsening now because of herxing, like my other forms of dystonia did when I began treating bartonella last year, and not because it’s something that’s going to hang around. I have quirks, yes, but it is mainly triggered by me trying to eat and chew, etc. Perhaps there is some kind of sensory trick I can learn to tame it? I have some information about when it may have started thanks to my wonderful tagging system, but I’ll have to sort through that, later.
  • June 12th: My niece made me an acronym poem, something awesome about me for each letter, and left it out for a surprise. Aha. I love being the aunt. ♥ Also, I needed my glasses this day. Most days I am fine and don’t need them indoors, but it was a “blurry-can’t-see-the-tv” day. Does anyone else get that? You just wake up with poor eyesight?
  • June 13th: I felt great, it being a Wednesday and the furthest day from my Thurs-Sun Flagyl pulse. And for the record “great” means being able to breathe when I stand up, and able to walk around. I did some minor cleaning, and even did some laundry!

Yesterday I had my cardiologist appointment. He agrees that the palpitations are probably from the Liver Chi, said to be careful with the ibuprofen since it is also processed by the liver, and to continue getting regular labwork to make sure things stay stable. If anything continues to flare, I should go see him again, but as of now I am good for another five months and I don’t need to repeat any heart function tests until next year. :) He’s sending me to get a urinalysis because I have nocturia that has been worse the past several months. During the day I think I urinate a normal amount, but during the night it gets worse, and we’re not sure why. I also told him about this cough that’s gotten worse the past several weeks, but I forgot what he said! Also, I had the beginnings/continuation of further eye problems, which I want to talk about, more.

My eyes continue to be a bother for me. As I mentioned previously, I’ve been staying in the dark since beginning treatment because it is too painful to be in normal light. Some random days I am okay (like the day it rained, and I was able ot have the window open!) but for the most part, it is me in my dark room with my dim lamp.

As for this recent “episode,” I assume it started on the 12th when I woke up and needed my glasses. Then yesterday, as I was lying on the exam table waiting for the doctor, every time I opened my eyes, the walls were a different colour. Yesteday night, the photophobia started. (I need to make a photophobia tag…) The light from my cellphone, on its lowest setting, was excrutiating. Today it was just as bad.

I have my one window covered completely with layered curtains, and thumbtacks around the edges to keep them completely shut–the only light that enters my room is through the top of them, and I even have a towel over that. Just the few flecks of light that managed to escape through the top of the towel this morning were enough to make me roll back under the blankets in pain. I eventually got up and threw two more towels on it. After several hours in the dark, some ibuprofen, and some coffee, I am much better, hence the typing. According to my tags I’ve had this exact set of symptoms in April of last year (cough included!), and it was when I was (1) on Zithro (read as: Biaxin’s cousin) and (2) having one of my “these are strange symptoms what is going on” phases. So I’m going to assume this is Lyme or Mycoplasma, and just be glad I am on antibiotics to kill both of these beasts. :\ At my next LLMD appointment I want to start A-MYCO from Byron White formulas, too.

…And there we have it!

a rainbow at night

No more minocycline and guilt over happiness.

The reason I have this blog is to keep track of my symptoms and occasionally share a ramble. I never imagined I’d be getting thousands of visitors… Thank you, for your views and your comments, and I sincerely hope the things I’ve written can help someone else. Many of you have shared that they have, and I will always feel blessed by it.

So yes, I need to update on a few things for future reference… The first one being: My brain fog. If I haven’t said it before, let me say it now: Flagyl gives me the worst brain fog ever. I’m glad I only take it four days a week. My typing has been fairly atrocious lately (sometimes worse than others) so I apologize in advance if this entry doesn’t come out right. I know some of you have to translate it into your native language and this one might not be.. erm.. see, I can’t even think of how to finish that statement! :\

My eyes have been hurting for weeks. I’m so sensitive to light, and I get stabbing pains in them. I’ve spent the past week in the dark. My nervous system has been very sensitive, in general, since I started treatment, however my eyes don’t usually hurt this much… I’m wondering if the Nasonex has anything to do with it. I’ve taken it for.. probably a decade, now? But I had a two year break, and I don’t recall it having an accompanying Glaucoma Warning in the past…? But it does, now. I’ve stopped needing it, so I stopped it two days ago. Today my eyes ARE better, but it’s impossible to draw any conclusions from that. It’s probably just coincidental timing and I’ll get a severe case of eye pain tonight like I did yesterday, aha. If in the future, however, I start Nasonex and get crazy eye symptoms, I’ll know something.

It would appear that warning-hive I got a few weeks ago held true to its title. On the 12th of May, I got very, very sick, and had to stop all antibiotics. Aside from the fact that I felt completely flu-ish with a severe headache, I’d gotten to the point that I could not eat anything, even drinking water was becoming difficult, and amassed in me shaking, becoming dehydrated, and needing Zofran three times a day to keep my nervous system from having a meltdown. These are the same things that the Doxycycline did to me last year before I was hospitalized for five days. We were worried that the minocycline might do this, too, which is why we’ve been easing into it for all these weeks… It’s clear now that I can no longer handle the tetracyclines. I’m just glad that (1) I knew what was about to happen so I stopped the medicine in time, and (2) that I basically had available to me the same medications that they gave me last year to pull me through it (except re-hydrating took a tad bit longer without an IV). After three “missed” doses of antibiotics I was able to eat a chicken sandwich, and it’s been a steady improvement since then…well, at least in regards to being able to eat and keep food in my system.

Wednesday I couldn’t breathe again, having much the same symptoms as two weeks prior. And I’m still having that problem: I cannot breathe when I sit up, but as long as I’m lying down, I’m pretty much okay, though I still have to gasp for air every so often.

Now, I’ve had flare-ups every two weeks for almost two years, now–since summer of 2010, I believe, when I took grapefruit seed extract (GSE) for a few weeks–so this isn’t too much of a shock. But I usually have Lyme symptoms during those flare ups. This time, I haven’t. At all. I’ve had lung pains, and coughing a lot, and an inability to breathe right. That can’t be Lyme disease?

The reason I assumed the GSE had woken up the Lyme disease when I took it, and gave me flares every two weeks instead of every four weeks, is because GSE is a supposed to be a destroyer of Lyme cysts (i.e., the cysts that the bugs were hiding in, open up and start causing symptoms, then you can kill them with antibiotics)… Well, I’m on Flagyl, which is THE cyst buster, so could that have anything to do with my minor Lyme symptoms during these flares? Or is this not Lyme disease at all, and is it Mycoplasma? My money is on the latter for this particular scenario, given the hive and the breathing problems and lung problems which are all the things that I was worried might happen. :\ Because I tell you, my other symptoms are very mild. Shockingly so. When I was off antibiotics this past week, my neuro symptoms barely even flared up! I’ve been having mild “hot foot” sensations in my right leg, and that’s about it. (My tags say I last had that.. well, let’s just say that every time I’ve mentioned it, I’m also talking about Mycoplasma… The evidence mounts!) Nothing went to attack my arms, nothing started quickly progressing like a starved animal waiting to pounce… That is very exciting, and makes me feel like we’ve at least done something the past four months. As I usually say, time will tell! I’ll keep updating on it, and hopefully a pattern will emerge.

Until then, we just make sure I’m on both Lyme and Mycoplasma antibiotics. So I started Biaxin today! I’ve heard great things about this one, and it treats borrelia burgdorferi and mycoplasma pneumoniae and even bartonella, in the event that some of those critters have survived and are saving up for a revolt. Also, the pills are bright orange!

Ah, and so far, I feel accomplished with my goal to not be advocacy-frenzied. I’ve reposted/retweeted a few things, but that’s about it. Life is good, despite everything. I’m happy, even though I feel like I have society and ten thousand other sources telling me I’m not allowed or shouldn’t be… I’m sick, I’m “supposed” to be complaining about everything, right? Ha. Last week I felt the urge to announce, “I’m so happy to be alive.” Because I was. Because I am. And afterward I felt so odd about it. One friend said, “You feel odd because society tells you to complain about your woes. You’re happy because you see what matters most.” Which is pretty dead-on. Another said that people see someone like me “who is thankful for another day and enjoys life as much as possible, and they make a hateful comment” because they’re trying every materialistic avenue available to them and still can’t feel happiness and appreciation.

I suppose when it comes down to it, I was worried someone would take it in the wrong way, or find a way to interpret it negatively, or think I was just “saying it to be saying it” even though I really do mean it. Also, I didn’t want it to sound conceited? I know people going through minor troubles who are very bothered day in and day out, and I have.. erm, well, a lot of daily troubles and suffering and yet lately I have maintained happiness. It’s just a fact. So I don’t want it to sound like I think I’m better than anyone, or something. Because I used to be bothered by daily insignificant things, too! I’m just so happy to not be that person anymore, to have inner joy no matter what, and I want to keep that balance between expressing that happiness about it, but not rubbing it in everyone’s faces. Then again, I only have so much control over how other people interpret what I say, especially when I know my heart is in the right place: Again, balance.

a rainbow at night

On livers and Lyme and dystonia and…another antibiotic break.

On Thursday, the 5th of April, I upped the minocycline to 200mg a day. For the next few days I only noticed a greater need for sleep. Since starting the minocycline in general, I had a greater need for lortab/vicodin (at least once a day) to deal with the head and neck pain (read as: severe), so that also got worse temporarily before tapering off into less-severe pain.

Mostly because of this, my sinuses were really bothering me (hydrocodone causes a release of histamine, and when you stop it, then you can get a rebound release of it), so I had to take Nasonex for several days–it helped so much, and by days Three and Four of being on it, I was outside taking pictures of flowers!! I figure it might have been helping subdue some of the herxing because of its immunosuppressive tendencies. After day Four I was able to stop that, too, since my sinuses had returned to normal.

Then on the 9th I got a fax from my doctor saying my liver enzymes were very elevated. This, after them being perfectly normal two weeks earlier, and me still taking milk thistle three times a day!! I was upset, but I had to stop all antibiotics again.

I don’t know if it was from not taking my antibiotics, beginning that morning when I got the fax, or rebound inflammation from stopping the Nasonex, but I felt absolutely horrid starting that day, and did every day after/have every day since. We’re talking complete flu-feeling and just.. awful. It was the metaphorical equivalent of hitting a bear over the head once, and then standing there staring at it. Lyme is a very, very angry bear. To further my physical suffering, a few days later my Lyme flare up began! D:

And then an old Lyme-related friend came to visit me: Dystonia.

(I tried to kick it out–you must mean the house down the street, no rainbows at night, here!–but, that didn’t work.)

And not just dystonia, but that special brand of dystonia with parkinsonism thrown in there that makes me unable to walk, that makes everything on my left side either fail and freeze, or flail and dance. (Why does Lyme like the left side so much? No one can figure it out, not even the doctors.) It began on the 14th, when I got out of bed, took two steps, and my left leg decided it wanted nothing to do with this “walking” business. Luckily, there are wheelchairs. I still had a lot of movement problems even wheeling about the house, but standing up makes it so much worse in general, even if I’m not trying to walk. It got worse on the 15th and 16th…

I wish I could adequately describe what this type of movement disorder is like. A dear friend of mine in Pennsylvania has the exact same problems I do (also hypertonia, also brain lesions) and despite telling her this, she really didn’t “get” that we were having the same issues or that I really did understand what she meant when she explained them! Then one day I guess I explained it pretty well, and she understood, and didn’t feel so alone. I wish all of us Lymies could record ourselves having these problems and put them on YouTube to give each other some comfort that we’re not alone…but I don’t know how many would go through with it. I know I don’t want people to see me when I’m having these problems; like most, I’d rather just wait it out! :\

Anyway. So a typical “episode” of this happening might start with me attempting to walk. A varying amount of time passes before I slow dramatically and then my left leg will start to drag. If I stand in one place it often curls inward. If I try to walk it is essentially frozen, or moves so little that I might end up walking on the tips of my toes to compensate. Something around my hip/thigh happens and my leg jerks upward, causing me to simultaneously fall forward, often twisting my neck to one side at the same time “for some reason.” I don’t always have to be walking for this to occur. I know low oxygen (or at least low oxygen ratio) makes this worse, because supplemental oxygen always helped in the past.

“A major principle of body movement is that all muscles have an opposing muscle. Movement is possible not just because one muscle becomes more active, but because the opposing muscle relaxes. …Rigidity comes about when, in response to signals from the brain, the delicate balance of opposing muscles is disturbed. The muscles remain constantly tensed and contracted so that the person aches or feels stiff or weak.”

Other times it involves my face and neck–like an episode of Bell’s Palsy that isn’t so much the nerves (I don’t think, at least) as it is the muscles contracting, and causing issues like facial grimacing, an inability to open my left eye all the way (lots of times I cannot look upwards, which is truly disturbing–I don’t think this is dystonia but I wanted to mention it anyway), and my tongue might tremor, etc.

This time, much to my dismay, my arms were involved, interferring with my typing. :( It wasn’t the M.E., and it wasn’t the neuropathy that’s started to invade my arms causing the weakness, but something different. (It’s probably impossible for me to put the difference into words, but I know what that feels like.) They were doing the same thing my legs did–gradually getting slower and slower and it was as if the nerves were failing to send adequate signals, where in my head I was giving them the action I wanted them to perform but everything was going very..very…..slow…… :| (But not the paralysis and takes-five-days-to-recover like the M.E. muscle failure; this is far more neurological.)

And then the 17th happened. Or rather, the night of the 16th when I tried to sleep. I spent all night waking up every hour going “omg I’m going to vomit” and “omg why is everything moving” and then when I woke up once at 7am, the back of my head was killing me (figure of speech, of course). And thus began the cycle of the next five days. But at least after about the 18th, the dystonia and parkinsonism got better and I could walk again. Oh, the things I had happen every morning… One morning was like I described above, for another it was all I could do just to roll onto my back and take medicine, another was gastrointestinal nerve problems that immobilized me in pain, then to add insult to injury, I woke up dehydrated, because I usually do during Lyme flares; it has been an incredibly difficult couple of weeks! What got me through it was knowing that it would pass.

And it did.

The 22nd I felt good enough to take a ride to the city. Well, with the help of adequate medication for pain and inflammation. Right now I’m waiting for a supplement to arrive (tomorrow), so I can resume antibiotics.

I can’t thank God enough for such an absolutely amazing doctor to get me through all of this. Especially after so many years of people who didn’t know what they were doing, no idea how to help me, or just passing me around from doctor to doctor. (From primary to cardiologoist to neurologist to immunologist to infectious disease specialist to another cardiologist to another neurologist to a movement disorder specialist to…) I feel safe in God’s hands and my LLMD’s experience to get me better. He called and told me this herb collection to order for my liver, called Liver Chi. He says he has patients with Lyme-induced MS who are on triple IV antibiotics, their liver enzymes inevitably going high, but who can’t stop treatment for fear of their disease progressing. He thinks I am in that group with the rate that my symptoms progress the moment I stop antibiotics. And if this supplement (a mix of chinese herbs) has been able to bring theirs back down to normal, on all of those antibiotics, I’m sure it can help me get back in treatment! So he said to take a two-week break (which I have), and.. essentially, don’t wait, get the herbs, and resume treatment whenever I got them. And of course keep checking my enzymes.

 

I’ve been doing a lot of art lately to help me cope, so here are a few pieces. Three photos, three paintings. You can click on “Permalink” when they open in the gallery, to read more about any piece you want.

Things I want to add into this post but have no idea how:

  • Ibuprofen always helps. Always.
  • My PCP says I should tell my cardiologist about the fact that I feel like I’m going to pass out when I take a deep breath–I actually had to lie on the examining table this time, which is new. My first guess is my usual lack of my heart rate variability and the fact that it’s supposed to vary when you inhale deeply, but mine often doesn’t… But that’s autonomic neuropathy for you.

a rainbow at night

Almost finished with bartonella treatment!!

I used to post much more often than this, I know, but… Things are somewhat monotonous! I don’t have to constantly be on top of symptoms every five to seven days to post updates as regularly. Or at least I don’t think I do… Last month, around the 5th, and then the 10th, I had the same symptoms as this month, around the 5th, and then the 10th… I’m not sure what that’s about.

The past few weeks I’ve still been antsy over my random symptoms. Flu-like, fever (99.5 on the 6th–probable Lyme?), severe headaches, neckaches, dizziness, legs going very weak/requiring wheelchair, POTS, poor mental state. All very possible Lyme symptoms! But this is my last chance to make sure there’s no reliable pattern before we stop the bartonella treatment. These are possibly my last few days on Rifampin, after being on it a year! I also don’t think I’d be able to tolerate a maintenance dose of my Bactrim (i.e., two single-strength tablets per day) plus the Minocycline and Tindamax I think he’s switching me to this week… But! I am comforted by the fact that Minocycline has bacteriostatic action against bartonella (and mycoplasma), so even if there are some remnants, they won’t be able to replicate! :)

At any rate, Lyme is being.. interesting. I have not have a headache for about a week! Which is very ironic, because they’d otherwise become daily events! (Also ironic is I didn’t have a headache the last time I posted!) I just don’t get the bartonella-related headache anymore, the ones that hurt in the front of your head like a sinus headache might. I have about half of the symptoms I had at this time last month. The inflammation is way down so I haven’t needed any ibuprofen. Severe fatigue for several days, weak legs, numbness in my legs, episodes of arthritis, an internal tremor all day yesterday… What has surprised me with its reoccurence is the sensation of a bruise on the back of my left ankle, just like last month! It’s not an actual bruise, I don’t think, because it just spontaneously happened while I was lying down, and then I was limping the rest of the night. It makes no sense, but it’s obviously something Lyme related. It’s like achilles tendonitis that only lasts one night, haha.

I don’t have the results of my thyroid ultrasound yet but the technician said I only had like three little cysts??? That’s very good!

I leave you with a quote from Ralph Marston. :)

“Frustration comes from focusing on what you cannot control.
Achievement, on the other hand, comes from focusing on all the useful and valuable things you can do.

Resentment comes from seeing yourself as a victim.
Effectiveness comes from stepping up and taking responsibility.

If you constantly complain that life is unfair, you’ll blind yourself to the best opportunities.
Yet by simply accepting that what’s done is done, you’ll find a way to make the most of it.

Don’t waste your time arguing and fighting with life.
Instead, invest your time and resources in inspiring and encouraging the best in yourself and in those around you.

There is good, positive, fulfilling value to be lived every day, in any situation.
Choose to be the person who shines a light on that potential value and who brings that value fully to life.

Let go of the frustration, resentment and despair by letting the positive possibilities fill your awareness.
Embrace and enjoy the immense power that comes from taking full, unconditional responsibility for all you are and all you experience.”

a rainbow at night

First post of 2012! (Some pictures, a painting, and a recap.)

Your 2011 year in blogging

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,300 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

In 2011, there were 99 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 123 posts. There were 37 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 6mb. That’s about 3 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was December 29th with 83 views. The most popular post that day was How I Forgave the Doctors That Called Me Crazy.

Well thank you, everyone! I’ve recently begun getting a lot of hits on my black bean brownie recipe, too? Who would have thought!

I hope 2012 will be a productive year. In just a few weeks I’d have completed my bartonella treatment, hopefully. More on that once I actually get there, but I haven’t–to my knowledge–had any reliable exacerbations every five days. ;) My LLMD was impressed, and said one more month of treatment, to be sure.

Okay, so I’ve managed to post about life lessons, recipes, and articles lately, without any mention of how I’m actually doing… So symptom charting, right! I had a mini-flare (???) around the 16-23rd of December but it wasn’t too severe–the main symptom was excruitiating fatigue. For the past five days (about) I’ve had lots of what appear to be Lyme symptoms. This is pretty typical since I often have a Lyme flare up at the beginning of the month. The “fire foot”/”hot foot” sensation, in my left leg. The “dragging left leg” thing, yesterday. Numbness in my left leg, and today in my hands. Facial nerve disturbance (pictures I take of myself during this scare me a little!). Severe cognitive dysfunction. Joint pain, nasty headaches (but none today!), worse fatigue, minor palpitations, internal tremor, eyes going every-which-way, seeing things, temperature of 99.5, complete lack of appetite, needing ibuprofen every evening. I stopped having headaches for I think a week…then they were back. The past week I’ve also found several bruises–one on my ankle, one on my shin, one on the back of my arm, and another on the back of my elbow on the other arm. One actually appeared on a day I know I didn’t hit anything, so I’m assuming them to be sporadic. Anemia-related? It took me about a week to recover from Christmas, but it went very well–I took lots of rest breaks!

Randomly, my new favourite thing to put my lemon juice in, is pineapple juice. Three ounces of pineapple juice (natural, not concentrate!), 1 or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and three ounces of sparkling water–detoxing never tasted so wonderful!

Also randomly: I’ve developed a new migraine trigger of…cheetos. Yes, cheetos. Apparently fake “cheese flavoring” is not something my brain likes. Nor is the sucralose (splenda) I found in my antacids, of all places!

Since my last ability scale checkpoint in October (which was right after I started Bactrim, but before the Lyme had a chance to hit me again) I have gone back down a bit. In general, I was thinking last week that.. as much as I hate to admit it, I think I’ve overestimated myself on the ability scales, out of genuine forgetfulness of what it’s like to be healthy. I have been ill for a length of time that begets forgetfulness about what normal people, with their non-diseased bodies and mitochondria, are capable of…
I remember enough to know that I could go go go all day then sleep it off and be fine; that I could lift things all day and just be sore from it, not experience muscle paralysis; that I could think about a tedious problem (technology or math) and not get physically ill from the mental exertion; and that I could keep things in my short-term memory for more than a few seconds. But for the most part, I forget that my level of improvement is completely relative, and that my 40% or 50% is completely different than someone else’s. Perhaps those who read my blog and happen to be less ill, or those who are healthy, don’t realize that, either. It might really become a problem if I were to tell someone in charge of determinig my disability status what level I think I’m at, because 50% recovered to me, just means being able to take care of myself and my basic needs!
None the less, since my last checkpoint, I am for now at: 15% physical ability, 15% cognitive ability, and 40% symptom severity. I’ll reiterate that bad days are worse, and good days are.. well, better/higher up on the scale. For instance, today I was up a lot more, and New Year’s Eve was also a better day in which I stood up a lot and didn’t need much assistance. But in general, this is where I am. I need caffeine to take all my baths, and even then they are often an immense task, but I’m just so glad I still have those options!

I’d like to end this with some pictures I took on a day when I was bedbound, as well as one I took when I wasn’t! Afterward, a painting I did a couple of weeks ago, when my days were horrible but, for some reason, I felt better for an hour or two each night (probably from resting all day).

Clicking them will obviously enlarge them in the gallery, then if you want to read more about a particular picture (or comment), click on “permalink” and it will take you to the individual description page. Happy New Year, my fellow spoonies!

a rainbow at night