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

“Pay attention to me, pay attention to how I got this, and how hard it is for me to get my health back, so you can avoid it.”

I was going to make a more drawn-out post explaining why I’m not participating in any of the awareness campaigns of May concerning my illnesses…but then I came upon the realization that I don’t owe anyone justification for my actions! Or wise inactions, as they were.

And I am comforted by the knowledge that many other people with these conditions are feeling the same way I am: For those who can advocate–and I do it at random, it does have its purpose, particularly in our government to let them know we’re still here–that is fine. If it gives you purpose and belonging, then do it. For others like myself, my entire life is an advocacy campaign. I don’t need a month. Or a day. I get 365 days, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, of “this is what this disease does.”

Pay attention to me, pay attention to how I got this, and how hard it is for me to get my health back, so you can avoid it. Know that I was just like you, once. Know that I didn’t think it could’ve happened to me, either. That’s the biggest advocacy I can do.

Talking about Lyme or M.E. every second of every day for a month (and nothing coming of it, because people who have their minds made up are NOT willing to hear anything else) is not going to help me at all. I am not my disease. I am not Lyme disease, or mycoplasma, or myalgic encephalomyelitis, or autonomic neuropathy, or dystonia.

They’re just things that have passed into my life to help shape and change it into something else. That’s all.

I’ve spent the past decade in advocacy-mode. I’ve done my part, I think. In my absence there will be others. I personally think people learn more if you’re not yelling at them in desperation. I’ve been blessed to help several people find out they had Lyme, for example, and it had nothing to do with advocacy. You can’t force the information on anyone–if they want to know, they will seek. And if they’re interested, I am here.

So instead of advocacy, myself and several, several others I know, are focusing on what makes us feel normal. Sure, our every waking moment may be imposed upon by symptoms and dysfunction, but that is not all we are. No matter how sick I’ve ever gotten, nor how sick I will ever be, there’s always more to me than an illness. This blog is my health diary, yes, that is the POINT of this journal, to track my symptoms and such, but I don’t want anyone to get the idea that it’s all that I am. I have friends and family and pets and hobbies and interests (often obscure ones) just like anyone else. And I am an artist. Not because the title makes me feel important, but because at my core, that’s how I express myself, it’s who I become when my physical limitations allow.

“Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence.”

So yes, no posts about my conditions (though I did finish the “What is M.E.?” section a while back). It’s time to cultivate the parts of my life that inspire and enhance, what makes me feel human and normal, not advertise what makes my life a living hell for the other 90% of the day, mostly to people who already know what I go through, anyway. And I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking this.

I’ll leave you with this link: 60 Ways To Make Life Simple Again

a rainbow at night

Thoughts on Emily Collingridge, and being judged for our disabilities.

These two topics complement each other in an unexpected way.

First, the recent death of fellow M.E. sufferer Emily Collingridge has shaken me. And I’m ready to be honest about why. Usually I would skip this part and post the conclusion of my thoughts, but it’d probably be therapeutic for myself and for those reading (whoever you are) to read a different part of the process.

There are many friends I have with M.E. (or, what is supposedly M.E.) that have never known the level of sick that even I have, much less something like what Emily endured in her final years. And that’s good, really! But it’s scary to think that this could be me, because of my susceptibility to this level of sickness. (And goodness knows not anytime soon, because she had the illness twenty-four years and I’m just at ten, but…) It’s not even the death itself, but the way it happens.

Most illnesses so severe will take you out quicker than this. There aren’t many that drag on and on in such a way… In 1995, as Professor Mark Loveless served as Medical Director of HIV/AIDS Programs at Oregon Health Sciences University, he said in his Congressional Briefing that someone with M.E. “feels effectively the same every day as an AIDS patient feels two weeks before death; the only difference is that the symptoms can go on for never-ending decades.” It broke my heart to hear of her suffering so much, for so long, and, just like Sophia, knowing that if she got hospitalized it’d be the worst thing to happen… Then sure enough…

I don’t want that. I want to be home, wherever that might be by the time I’m at that stage in my life. Who knows, maybe they’ll have hospice options for people like us in the future?

My friends say that even when they were at their absolute sickest with Lyme, they could still listen to music softly or watch television with sunglasses on, and they can’t imagine being that ill and suffering that much, not being able to do anything whatsoever. I can’t imagine it, either. I was only like that for a short amount of time, my symptoms being exacerbated by the trauma of those additional infections, and it just sucks all the happiness out of you (being unable to listen to music, in my case, was particularly difficult). It’s so hard to hear of someone enduring that for so long, to be on morphine from so much pain, and to not make it through… Had she not the illness for twenty-four years, she likely would have been able to bounce back to a less-afflicted state of sickness as she previously had, as many do, going in and out of the severity levels. Yes, she was young, but it is still a quarter-century’s worth of disease affecting her body even as it was still forming.

When you get it young, like Emily did, like I did (though certainly not as young as six years old), you usually do experience a remission (most, at around four years after the onset) and a lot of people stabilize after that. Most stabilize after that, actually, into a moderate or mild affliction. It’s just this 30% that get it really, really bad, and it continues to progress over time; almost all the deaths occur from this group. Some never remit, but for the others, something usually triggers it again after the remission or semi-remission, but that could be anything from a year later to a decade later (like a cancer might stay gone for long lengths of time, or come back within months).

I started this blog with severe M.E., my condition having been worsened by secondary infections, and I was very privileged a couple of months ago to remove the “severe” classification from my blog description, “Chronicling a very special way of life, that of someone living with M.E.,” instead of “severe M.E.” Even when I look outside, I can’t help but be reminded of the people who can’t… I remember a year ago, just wanting to be able to brush my teeth whilst standing up. And I have a chance to get better, still. I’ll be in the moderate group, if I can beat the Lyme disease into submission, and that would be good. (Well, not good, but, given my options…)

I never knew Emily personally, though I was a big fan of her her book for sufferers of severe myalgic encephalomyelitis, and linked to it here several times. It is an indispensable aid to those forced to navigate these unstable waters, one that could have only come from someone who knew its unpredictability and cruelty first hand.

It’s really not often I have to think of the M.E. anymore, because the things I do to keep it in check are just.. routine, after all this time. Really, fighting the Lyme disease is my focus and takes up most of my energy. I suppose that’s why being brought back to the reality that even once I get the Lyme subdued, that I’ll still have this terrible disease, has startled me so.

My niece, who I live with, has been sick with a viral-induced cough, and I’ve been thinking, at least it’s not like the flu (which would hospitalize me) so it wouldn’t be that serious if I did accidentally catch it… But then I remembered that it was a viral ear infection that ultimately made my M.E. relapse five years ago. And again, Sophia Mirza, too, was striken into irreversible relapse by an ear infection. So there really is no such thing as a “better” virus when you have ME. Just the thought that if I were to catch something so miniscule…

It was a lot of triggers at once.

 

And it came at a particularly awkward time, after reading an article about a woman with muscular dystrophy who paints:

“With her condition, most people would just be vegetating, watching TV, enjoying checks from the state. But she does a lot of work. She stays strong.”

I was furious at this.

It’s just more proof that you’re only allowed to be disabled and worth something at the same time, if you still do things. If you can’t, if you’re really, really sick, then you’re just “vegetating and watching tv and enjoy checks from the state.” Nevermind that we need those “checks from the state” to survive, or that watching tv might be the only relief we have from the every day, nonstop suffering…

People don’t want to hear of the severely disabled. They only want to hear of people who are disabled and yet still do things. They don’t want to hear of people who are bedbound to the point of being unable to do anything at all but exist, like so many people I know, and the person I have been (and will be again, one day). People like Emily, when she became too ill to even eat on her own.

Finding that article all started because I was wondering if there was any way I could still do art with the M.E. besides just taking a very long time to complete things. So I googled muscular dystrophy, which, with its similar progressive muscle weakness, was the closest thing I could think of to M.E. that might have more information out there about how to manage it while being an artist.

Then I find an article whose interviewer says that if I can’t do it, I’m just lazy and not strong enough in character!

It was infuriating, and the reason I wrote my “Media and Resilience” rant a long time ago. I really don’t take it as a compliment anymore when people say I’m “so strong” because I’m still doing something

Because what, when my M.E. gets to the point that I can only lie there and breathe, then I don’t matter anymore?

It’s just horrible being reminded that there are people out there who would look at you and think you, as a disabled human being, are inferior, weak, and lazy, for the sole reason of you existing without also inspiring them.

As fellow blogger and severe M.E. sufferer Laurel stated, Emily embodied “strength, spirit and determination — all of which she continued to demonstrate to the very end,” and which was not determined by how much she did.

She did do a lot when she was physically able, even though it took so much out of her. She thought her causes important enough to spend her very valuable resources on them, but when she became unable to continuing doing in her last years, that did not, and does not, make her any less strong or determined.

Lastly, I would ask you to take the time to read Emily’s Appeal, which she wrote over the course of several weeks while she was still able. Additionally, Emily’s story, from her own words, can be found here.

I’ve no idea what kind of conclusion statement would be appropriate for such an entry… Most of this post is a combination of things I’ve written in other places over the past week, that I edited to make into a blog post. So that so much needless sickness no longer occur, I hope that things change for us in the near future.

Somehow.

a rainbow at night