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 also a term you can use for having something as simple as a cold or as insufferable as end-stage 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. Most types of pain are 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.

[ETA, 2016 Feb] In Dr. Hyde’s book about Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (which back then in 1992 he abbreviated as “M.E./CFS”), he describes our malaise like this, under “Pain Syndromes Associated with [M.E.]”:

” ‘Malaise has probably occurred in every [ME epidemic] described in the literature.’ Malaise is accentuated in the Initial Stage and it recurs for as long as the disease process exists. Malaise is almost impossible to describe. It is often referred to as the pain and discomfort that one has during the acute phase of an influenza. However, it is not always the same. The patient feels terrible, feels as though he is about to die.

“It particularly injures the sensory and dulls the cognitive abilities of the brain. The pain seems to originate everywhere, both on and within the chest and abdominal areas, head and extremities. The rapid muscle and brain fatigue that is normal in [M.E.] becomes accentuated.”

As you can see, what I described when I first posted this in 2013 is almost exactly what Dr. Hyde wrote; I was absolutely floored when I read it, and honestly, most of the book is like this: full of specific, uncanny validation about all the quirky things that occur in this disease. If you have M.E. I highly suggest you buy it while it’s still available.

Some of the other things I wrote are very specific of Lyme disease, such as the burning in my face where the infection damaged multiple nerves, and the “buzzing” sensation, which many Lymies describe as, it’s like you’re sitting atop the hood of a car while it’s running. [/ETA]

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, some 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 (or at least, I assume).

I used to requite 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 pain which alternated with 3-pain-free weeks, seemingly for no reason. Now, since my relapse in October, I’ve needed them every single 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 close this article. But when I talk about being in pain, to all of this is what I refer.

a rainbow at night

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 from the long-term antibiotics, 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, and that it should be diagnosed only 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, while my TS does act up when I get new infections, 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 (or at least that’s when I was finally diagnosed), 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

My First Real Post in Months: “Something” Has Happened

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 “real” entry… Anyway.

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

 

After a necessary car ride (read as: hurricane 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 they suppress the immune system… But I’ve been off and on Nasonex (an inhaled corticosteroid for sinus inflammation; 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 had 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 due whatsoever, 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 it was bad. Bad bad. The aura began with an awful prodrome of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome on Friday (Sept 28th) and the Migraine began two days later on Sunday (Sept 30th). Another two days later it was gone, but I have been sicker than sick ever since.

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 a dose of Vicodin. The “headache phase” (because that Migraine went on to irritate every surrounding nerve) has died down for the most part, but now I’m facing exhaustion, flu-like sickness, numbness in my right 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 functioning in the mean time.

So 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

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 Kit, 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 with Lyme disease has the exact same problems I do (also hypertonia, also brain lesions). 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 sending 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; for another there 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, 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 indulging my creativity to help me cope, so here are a few pieces:

a rainbow at night


PostScript: 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.

Is this some form of optic neuritis? Also, lots of improvements!

My eyes hurt. My eyes hurt a lot, behind the sockets, but mostly when I move them… Well, try to move them, because I really can’t due to the pain, and specifically, it’s just my right eye. I’m also terribly photosensitive but that should be a given, right? (Sunglasses are your friend. So is the screen brightness adjustor on your computer.) I haven’t had this happened in months; it used to occur minorly as a bartonella symptom. But I don’t know WHAT this is, because it’s never been this severe nor lasted as long. It only responds to high doses of ibuprofen–not even entire Vicodin pills (I only ever need half at a time) give me any relief. This is the third day of it, and it’s starting to finally ease up. Yesterday the front of my skull also hurt, and now I have some type of headache in my neck, but that might be unrelated since the middle of the week is approaching (middle-week blues!). I’m very glad to be switching antibiotics!

I don’t get to say this often, so let me mention: Besides the at-times-excruciating eye pain, I have felt fabulous. We are finally in our new home and instead of being housebound I have been walking unassisted and moving boxes, and.. ha! Probably overdoing it a little, but I’m willing to pay the consequences this time. The only difference is I’m only on Rifampin because I had to stop the Zithro; unfortunately you can’t just take Rifampin because it creates bacteria resistance. This has only been for two days, to let the azithromycin clear out of my system because I had to start Bactrim today, and I didn’t want them to mess with my QT interval.

After some rescheduling confusion, I spoke with my LLMD this past Wednesday. Apparently his nurses had told him my results, and sent them to me, but he never got to look at them! This happened at his first office, too, when his staff said my Mycoplasma pneumoniae was negative and it wasn’t. (He needs new nurses.) But anyway! He confirmed that my bartonella result is positive. We’re not sure about the ehrlichiosis, as far a what my results showed before I got all the new flea bites; I get the idea he’s not too used to dealing with it though he knows that fleas are a big transmitter and how to treat it. He’s not certain what’s causing my flare-up every seven days, but suspects bartonella. He also said bartonella can cause the spots on my feet (I hope “that’s all” it is), and he’s not too concerned with retesting me because of me already being on the right treatments. I’m fine with that. He was unsure of whether it was my old infection was flaring, or the result of something I caught via those new fleas, but the conversation mainly became, what can we do to kill it now that it’s showing itself?

First I was going to start Cipro. But I have at least four contraindications: severe muscle weakness similar to myasthenia gravis (and I’m not completely certain I don’t have that, not until I get tested a second time this November to be sure), CNS lesions, chronically low or borderline potassium, and arrhythmia related to QT internal. So instead, we’re putting the Lyme treatment on hold for a few months and targetting the bartonella on its own, with Bactrim, to hopefully kick it out completely. So we’re dropping the Zithro, then in addition to the Rifampin I’ll also be on Bactrim. I took my first dose tonight and I feel okay, save the normal things. I hope I don’t herx too bad! The Lyme shouldn’t have enough time (just three replication cycles) to gain any momentum before I start something to start killing that, in January. That will be one year of bartonella treatment! From there I can hopefully just be on some type of maintenance dose?

Also, a current milestone is that this is the longest consecutive time I’ve stayed out of a hospital in three years! It’s been nine months since I last went! There were some close calls, especially two months ago, but I made it through and I’m setting a new record. ;)

AND EVEN MORE GOOD NEWS. I am now almost at the healthy weight I was before these infections relapsed roughly two years ago. I have gained seven more pounds, and have three more to go! This is not only great, but security, because if I ever do end up severely ill and lose weight, it won’t automatically be dangerous.

I think if the Bactrim dosen’t herx me too severely, I should be able to drive within another month. But we’ll see. ;D

Well, that’s all for now. I’m going to the theatre tomorrow!

a rainbow at night

Here we go again! (A real post, this time.)

All right. A real update! As far as I’m aware, the strange macular rash on my stomach is gone. For now.

My weekend sickness? Otherwise known as the 7 Day Flare? Well, in the beginning it was from Friday to late Saturday. Eventually it was all of Saturday and Sunday, which is when I mainly started to notice it. A couple of weeks or so ago it started to be Sunday and Monday and now, I think it has moved even further down the week. (I do recall pondering the possibility of it working its way forward, but other things could be causing this, such as when I had to stop antibiotics for a week last month, and the re-exposure to new bugs via the fleas…)

All this weekend, I was fine. On Sunday I even chased my dog around for a minute! But Monday night I started getting an awful headache, which I’ve had since. I’m unsure if it’s a migraine or not, because it moves around and started in my neck, which is not typically migraine-y…? But I did get an absolutely awful episode of Alice in Wonderland syndrome the night before. But yes, then Tuesday wasn’t great, but by the time I awoke on Wednesday I was in full meltdown mode, as if it were a weekend. Then today was even worse. I did have a fever yesterday and much of today, but no thermometer to check its severity. I’ve been so medicated. Ibuprofen every few hours, Lortab every four hours, and I’ve already gone through half a pack of my ginger gum whereas I usually only need one per day! Every morning since Tuesday I’ve woken up with simultaneous excruciating head pain (worse each day), wanting to vomit, and the room spinning. I know some bug is flaring up, because I have been fighting dehydration for three days, and subsequently had very, very bad Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome–I’m lucky to be able to be upright the few minutes it takes for the restroom! Yesterday my father even asked if I needed help getting there, which was truly humbling. (Do I look that bad?) And for it to be happening despite me getting adequate water and electrolytes… It’s typical of my spontaneous bug-related dehydration episodes. (But no hospitals!) Even worse, my cardiac symptoms, which sprung up with September’s Beginning of the Month Lyme flare, are in general so much worse, and they haven’t left yet! In addition to the arrhythmia, I’ve also had chest pain, and I’ve been struggling to breathe. I am always needing to take a deep breath (it’s not air hunger, though) and it gets worse when I lie down. So, further evidence for my electrolytes being off, as far as arrhythmia, but… The chest pain, and then difficulty breathing when I lie down…?

I’m starting to wonder if whatever I picked up from the fleas is affecting me worse than I initially thought. I do have an appointment with my LLMD on the 14th, and I’ll be telling him about all these things in case he wants to test for something. I’m not sure what it would help, since I’m already on the treatment, but… It might be important to document re-exposure, if it did happen. So that’s where we’re at…

…I just took a moment to read my last post and noticed that I had nearly the exact same symptoms last Tuesday and Wednesday. Severe headache that started in my neck, bouts of severe dizziness, and (though I forgot to write it above) I also had shin pain yesterday, just like this time last week… Ah! See, this is why I keep a health blog. :\ I had forgotten all about last week, but there seems to be something of a pattern with these symptoms. I really hope next week isn’t this bad–especially because my appointment is on a Wednesday! That used to be the best day of the week for me, but it’s certainly not anymore. You just have to go with the flow, though. I’ve really been into Buddhist teachings and everything concerning living in the moment. Because that’s all most of us can do–take it one moment to the next, and enjoy as much peace as we can along the way.

Til next post!

a rainbow at night

Random Health Development: Possible Re-infection?

Things are going well with crushed house/new house endeavor. So many miracles have occurred; I wish I could share them all with my few but dedicated readers, but this is, at its heart, my health blog, and so health rambles it shall be. I have some things to report that might be crucial to remember later on…

On the 3rd, while being outside with the EMS services and firefighters, I acquired innumerable fleabites. I happened to be on an antibiotic break because, in the days prior, I began to experience a severe worsening of my symptoms. A potentially-hospitalization-worthy worsening, accompanied by hives and the like: i.e., all the warning signs things were about to take a dark turn. The one-day-break I have to take about once a month didn’t work, so I began a week break, which did help a LOT. (During it, I was able to feel how much the antibiotics have helped me, and I look forward to the day when I can be on a maintenance dose that will allow me to enjoy that improvement.)

Several days after getting the flea bites, I woke up with a spotted rash all over my feet, just like the one I’d gotten when I acquired my first set of flea-borne infections in 2008 (that relapsed and remitted for the next two years). I also noticed the muscles in my legs hurt a lot. I immediately restarted the Zithro, and the next day, the Rifampin. The next day the pain disappeared, and within a few more days the rash began to as well, which is typical even if I’m not on antibiotics (at least from my previous experience with this rash). This is evidence of some infection, most likely rickettsial due to the nature of the spots, which includes possible ehrlichiosis. I assumed since I very promptly started treatment, with the best antibiotics possible, I wouldn’t require much more… (This, in addition to my several-year-old infection flaring up with spots on my legs and ankles right before all this happened, but I have high doubts to the new spots just being a flare exacerbated by pausing antibiotics–NONE of my other abx breaks have elicited such a reaction, and with the flea bites happening and all… Oh, right, I don’t think I even got to mention here that I’d been having spots on my ankles, did I? Well, I was, for about a month until it cumulated in the “I have to stop antibiotics or else” scenario.)

Today I have had a few spontaneous bouts of severe dizziness and for several hours today I also had a severe, throbbing headache in the back of my skull and my neck. These are both intermittent. I’m unsure if it’s to do with any new infection or the beginning-of-the-month flare up that I’m due for, but what made me get mildly concerned, is last night I looked on my stomach and noticed I have a macular rash. It’s mild, but… One of the things that has ruled out a lot of potential infections from those fleas is that I don’t have a macular rash on my torso. Or at least, I didn’t. Now it seems I do, which opens up a lot more possibilities to whatever I contracted.

Is it just the natural course of the infection that’s soon to disappear completely since I’m on the appropriate antibiotics? Is it a flare up of my bartonella quintana, which causes a macular rash on the torso? (I have had a lot of shin pain, actually, and my legs are weaker than usual, but I’m thrilled to report my neurological manifestations are less, at least for now–no more insanity/moodswings every five days!) Or did I, heaven forbid, contract B. quintana yet again from the fleas? Or are these symptoms just flaring because my immune system is distracted, fighting off whatever new bug I caught on the 3rd? (I’ve also had more of those “bumps” on my hands and fingers, which I’m unsure of their reason, but I’ve realized over the past year they appear as part of my flares.)

Time will tell. But I thought it fairly significant, and I wanted to jot it down while I had the opportunity. I’ll tag this post later.

a rainbow at night

No more oxygen machine! (Improvements and Symptom Recap)

I know not if it’s to do with this recent bout of occipital neuralgia (that left me completely by Monday), but my eyes are having a lot of problems ever since. Last night I had to go to the restroom, turned on the light, and started shaking from the pain it caused to shoot through my body. I’m always sensitive to lights but that.. that was something else entirely.

I’ve managed to keep some type of headache–whether it’s remnants from the nerve irritation I’m not sure–even when the majority of the skull-splitting pain has left. I’ve been seeing things. Lots of things. Shadows, bugs, black specks, colorful spots, dancing zigzags. I distinctly remember mentioning this in my video post from earlier this year, so I know it hasn’t been that long since these have flared up. I usually associated these symptoms with bartonella becuase it was when I got that infection (though unbenounced to me at the time) that I began to “see things” all the time.

As far as the bart goes, I’m not sure of my last flare besides around the 14th. Yesterday I was plagued by severe muscle spasms, there were the eye problems (they hurt so much upon moving them, even just to look around), and that night I had another terrible headache that was focused in the front of my head… Then today woke up very moody, nauseated, and no appetite… And by this evening all of that has gone away. Sounds typical bartonella-ish to me, particularly the muscle spasming, eye-related symptoms, and headache.

Other notable, strange symptoms are the heat sensations in my feet, and the facial grimacing…. Though, to clarify, it’s not as much a grimace as the muscles in the left side of my face just tend to go downward. I’m just not sure what else to call that? I think I had a worser cough yesterday as well. I mentioned my throat having inflammation and sores a few posts ago, and I’ve had a lot of throat pain focused around the lymph nodes the past two days. I take ibuprofen for this and it helps a lot, for the pain and for just about everything else.

I’ve been feeling better as far as fatigue and dizziness goes. I’m unsure of where those several weeks of dizziness came from, but… I’ve also been walking more! And today..  today! Today, at one point, I got out of bed and stood up and walked to get something. That’s from lying down, to walking, and I didn’t pass out. Now, at other parts of the day I attempted this, and let’s just say I was lucky my bed was behind me… But the fact that I was able to do this at all, is a great thing!

During my walking, my left leg begins to go dystonic, and that’s actually more of a hinderance than my blood pressure, lately. I’m unsure if it’s due to nerve damage or perhaps a minute oxygen imbalance because of me standing, that’s producing the dystonia there. It was one of the first places to get the symptom–even when low oyxgen wasn’t a problem for me–so perhaps it will be the last to leave?

Also, tomorrow the pharmacy is coming to pick up my oxygen machine as I haven’t needed it in two months! I ma so excited! :D I hope to never need it again. Next step: Get out of wheelchair, dare say I, completely?

I’ve been remembering to take my ubiquinol and olive leaf extract. That’s.. very important. Bad things happen when I forget them. You’d think after all these years I’d have learnt that by now, but… When the Lyme-brainfog caught up with me, I was forgetting things left and right. I think I’ll do another month of these low dose antibiotics and then in June, talk to my LLMD about moving up the dosages.

Oh, did I mention? I was tested for B12, B6, B1, and Zinc deficiency. All normal. And they YET AGAIN tried to get my Lyme and bartonella titres, but of course, nothing turned up, because I just don’t “do” antibodies. But! I’ve met my insurance deductible, so now I can get tested with IGeneX again! I’m excited to see if even more bands will show up this time. The first time I only had one band; the second I had five. I wonder what will pop up now, especially being on a cyst buster (Rifampin) that has released a lot of my initial Lyme symptoms? (That means the bacteria are active, which hopefully means my body will create at least a weak response to them, enough to be picked up by IGeneX labs.) This time I’m also going to do their Bartonella FISH test, their Babesia FISH test, and the PCR test for Ehrlichia and Rickettsia (the latter of which I truly think I have sometimes, due to the rash that was on my feet for two years). All I have to do is.. call and order the test kit! Which I should probably do tomorrow, hmm?

a rainbow at night

Oh, right. That.

Occipital neuralgia. Damn it.

But now I know why it’s so resistant to treatment, why it hurts when anything presses on my neck, why my eyes hurt but not my ears, and why this “mysterious” pain is worse on one side…oh, and why it’s so bloody severe!

I’d completely forgotten I get this.

Thankfully the migraine has left me, so that’s one less thing, but I’m left with this part. I can’t ever remember a time when it stayed longer than five days, so I’ll keep that in mind until it passes, which should be fairly soon.