A Dose of Reality

First off, a huge thank you to those who have expressed their support and gratitude of my recent writing… I was not expecting it. I have read your words and I want to reply as soon as I can. Right now I feel an update of sorts is in order. Forgive me while I use my spoons for expression, but know that I am actively awaiting the right words to respond to the support you have offered in my direction. :) You help me feel less alone, and on weekends like this one, I really need that…

At the beginning of May I wanted a mini-celebration of the fact that I’ve been off treatment six months and I am still walking okay. So what better a way to affirm my functioning feet than with new shoes!

K9 by Rocket Dog® Odetta Floral-Print Ankle-Strap Pumps, $30

K9 by Rocket Dog® Odetta Floral-Print Ankle-Strap Pumps, $30

This event was right before my monthly bug-flare, which still happens around the beginning of the month. I forgot about it this time, so it wasn’t until day three of being in bed that I realized why all these symptoms were happening.

I effectively went from walking “normally” in new shoes and eating at my favourite foodie joint, to being in bed four days, excessively sleeping through over half of it, and having seizure-like activity again.

Yesterday, I felt as if every inch of me was buzzing, vibrating from the inside-out. I tried to wash my face with sunscreen, use toilet paper as moisturizer, pour my milk into a sauce bowl instead of a cup, and made accidental purchases online. I found myself standing in places I didn’t have any memory of walking. Yes, I remember all of these symptoms.

But still it helps to know why it’s happening. Not only that, but I’ve noticed I’m typically worse on weekends, again…an ominous sign from my bartonella days, but a fact nonetheless.

 

My ego said, I would rather all this NOT occur immediately after I finish celebrating how relatively well I’m functioning after six months with no antibiotics! Why did you have to remind me, right now? Maybe I wanted to forget for a little while, just how much my body is going through, just how sick it is…

Another part of me is saddened at the reminder.

The other part of me, is thankful for it, that I don’t float away into denial, and hopes that I won’t also sink into despair…at least not for too long.

See, I go through the same emotions as everyone else. I don’t ever want to seem like I don’t. I don’t ever want to seem like the decisions I’ve made or the way I live is something unattainable.

 

I’ve been relatively doing so-so. I never imagined stopping treatment would have given me so much of these months back, these months that I would have otherwise spent in misery with no real benefit except more worsening. Instead, I have more good days right now, I’m determined to use them fully, and I can be mostly comfortable.

Symptom-wise, this has developed:

  • I consistently see the squiggles, black dots, and smoke-fog illusions in my vision.
  • My hands go numb more often, and various irritated nerves cause intermittent curling of my fingers.
  • There is more numbness in my feet, and more of the old “fire foot” sensation.
  • I have more heart palpitations and trouble staying hydrated.
  • My left leg buckles more frequently.
  • I get more spasms in my back.
  • I get choked more easily.

I recently returned from two ER visits with a random virus…and just like after my last viral attack in December/January, my vasculitis is temporarily on hiatus. So for now I’ve been able to stop the daily ibuprofen which was keeping it in check, which I like, and yet this has resulted in more trigeminal neuralgia episodes and eye pain.

While the shot I had to attempt treating the occipital neuralgia didn’t go as intended–giving me odd side effects like falling backwards and an inability to recognize myself in the mirror, I suspect because of the brain lesion(s?)–it DID interrupt those signals, so it’s not as constant as it once was. There are still so many other types of pain, which was depressing to realize, but that one is better. Being on only half the pain medication that I was on before, this has unmasked many of the neuropathy symptoms I didn’t know were developing.

My favourite bit of news is that, I found out if I cover myself in sunscreen before being exposed to sunlight, the vasculitis doesn’t flare up. :) And as of my most recent echocardiogram, my heart function hasn’t worsened, so they don’t want to see me for another 18 months!

 

I’ve noticed I try to leave you all with something that’s helped me, recently. This time I offer you something for your friends and loved ones, and possibly as justification for your feelings, as well: The book, How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick by Letty Cottin Pogrebin. It was mentioned on Facebook by the lovely Toni Bernhard, whose book How To Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers changed my life a couple of years back. Both of these are also available on Kindle and Audible, so pick your best function!

a rainbow at night

 

Trigeminal neuralgia: A consequence of Lyme disease.

…Or bartonella. Or Mycoplasma. Or similar infections that are commonly found in the same tick that carries Lyme disease. (Unless you’re like me and you happen to get them from other sources because you’re immunocompromised and collect infections like some people collect stamps.) I’m not sure which is the culprit. I know I started getting occipital neuralgia about four months after my tick bite, so that is definitely Lyme disease-related, but… I haven’t had an attack of that in a long time; I think it’s been a year? :)

My serious cranial nerve involvement began when I got Bell’s Palsy immediately after contracting mycoplasma pneumoniae. My right eye twitched and my face drooped. I’ve mostly recovered, but some of the damage is permanent. Then my left eye began twitching and it got damaged. That is permanent. It was all downhill from there, as far as my nerves go. But I’m here to talk about the ones in my face.

When I began treating with Rifampin and Doxycycline in January 2011, all hell broke loose and that’s when the whole autonomic neuropathy made itself apparent. I can’t coordinate how it all fits together, but I know my vagus nerve is damaged, my trigeminal nerve got involved somewhere, the Bell’s palsy (i.e., damage to the seventh cranial nerve, the facial nerve…THE facial nerve, that’s really what it’s called) is a factor, and my migraines are connected.

When I ended up in the hospital, I would eat something, get an “episode” where my vagus nerve would trigger all sorts of things it wasn’t supposed to trigger, and I’d get a migraine. I got so many migraines I had to be on Topamax for almost a year. These days, sometimes when I start digesting (not necessarily having eaten anything), I’ll get facial pain, and it can trigger migraine-like pain on the right side of my face until the digestion stops. I seriously don’t know what happened that they trigger each other…

The trigeminal nerve is implemented in migraines and facial pain. The facial nerve can be implemented in facial pain (ha, no kidding!), and the tongue numbness I get. Also, episodes of trigeminal neuralgia can involve the trigeminal nerve and the facial nerve simultaneously. The vagus nerve… Well, my vagus nerve and I are just now learning to be friends, again. It does and has messed up far too much to mention, here. Relevant to this post, it’s responsible for digestion-related reflexes… But again, I don’t know how all this ties together: I just know these infections attacked my cranial nerves, and I’m left with odd remnants.

 

So after my last post, the “tension headache”-like thing went away and was replaced with the worst episode of trigeminal neuralgia I’ve had to date. Perhaps the tension-like pain was a precursor, or something? (A Lymie friend on Twitter mentioned that she often gets headaches or migraines before her trigeminal neuralgia attacks, too.) The best way I can think to describe what happened is that, I ate a bowl of crunchy cereal, and immediately after it felt like my teeth were going to explode. It’s one of those things where, if someone else told me the level of pain they were in, I would swear they were exaggerating because how is that possible?

My other attacks have been similar–extremely severe, extremely sudden pain that makes you start shaking from its intensity–but it’s never lasted quite this long. I remember a long time ago writing about something that acted like “an ice pick headache that keeps on going,” sort of like last week’s tension-headache-thing-that-wasn’t-quite-a-tension-headache but was basically a quick way to describe those cluster of symptoms. In hindsight, that headache that felt like someone stabbed me in the forehead may have been an episode of TN, too. :\ It certainly sounds like it, from what I wrote.

I especially hate how deceptive TN can be, when it starts to fade away only to attack you suddenly again… How cruel. But that’s a trademark thing, isn’t it? It took several days to completely go away, and stop fading in and out. I have moments of unexplained facial pain daily, anyway, but nothing so severe as that. For my usual, spontaneous facial pain, the kind that is often tied to my digestion for some unexplained reason, Fioricet is a huge help… It’s a huge help in my neuropathic pain in general, actually, even though I’ve never  heard of anyone else using it for that. Half a tablet and my pain is usually gone.

Like occipital neuralgia, nothing much helps trigeminal neuralgia. That night, I was on Lortab and ibuprofen, had to take twice as much as I usually do, and it still only dulled it enough so that I wasn’t shaking. I couldn’t lie down and put any pressure on my skull until it began to ease. The gratitude I had for being able to take those pain relievers cannot be put into words. And I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that something can hurt that much, and that I went through it. If you’d have told me two years ago I’d be going through something that would make my face feel like I was being stabbed and my teeth as if they were going to explode out of my skull at any moment, I’d have called you crazy.

I feel so much for people who have to go through TN…especially if they have no idea what is causing it. At least I know what is causing mine.

 

This is not related to TN, but with this month’s Lyme flare up, I had my old parkinsonism symptoms of slow moments and “freezing” while walking. It’s been a few months since I’ve had those, and they definitely caught me by surprise. It was a little startling, even, especially with how slow my hands were functioning. Those of us with Lyme know how it can be when you’re doing “okay” (comparatively speaking) and then suddenly your body thinks it got Parkinson’s overnight! Luckily, as usual, it only lasted a few days and I am all right, now.

Someone help me come up with a closing statement for this entry…

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