There and back again

During my brief* flirtation with cognitive  behavioural therapy, I found my first stumbling block to be the advice I was given to follow when I’m having a panic attack:

“Remember, it won’t kill you“.

Really? Because that’s not how I felt last night.

Terrified Woman Screaming

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Of course, it all worked out fine. It always does. This is the frustration; I know nothing terrible is likely to happen, but still I obsess and panic until I can’t see straight. Throughout my life this has happened hundreds if not thousands of times, and while bad stuff undoubtedly does happen… has the world ended yet? No.

I’m sick of not being able to make sense of myself.

Talking of sick, the Tramadol made me vomit. Penance, I guess.

 

*one session. I’m amazed I lasted that long.

So why don’t you slide

Earlier, S asked if I fancied a takeaway – curry from our favourite restaurant – and I agreed. Later he went out with a friend to buy some tools. They’re working on the basement beneath our flat, as technically that’s included in the rent. It’s currently filled with the last owner’s belongings; stacks and stacks of paintings, canvas, frames, lamps, chairs, books… Bob was a hoarder, and a painter. His work’s pretty good actually. Now he’s dead and his wife is in a nursing home (she went downhill very rapidly when he died), somebody has to clear it all. The basement is pretty big, taking up most of the floor space of the house, so it’s a mammoth task.

Anyway, while they were out I got a call from S. He asked me if I wanted to go to the restaurant with his mates instead of getting a takeaway.

Did I do the right thing when I said, “it’s okay, I’m not up to it. You can go along anyway”?

I wasn’t lying. I’m truly not up to it. I tried going for a short walk earlier, and by the time I returned, I was struggling to breathe and sweating like crazy. It’s been so long since I’ve had ‘proper’ exercise. That walk used to take me five minutes. Today, it took thirty.

Straight away S’s tone changed; the first time I’ve ever really heard it do so. He said, “oh. Okay. But we were going to have a takeaway.”

I shrugged him off, “it’s fine, I’m really, really not up to it. We can do it another time”.

He agreed, but… he didn’t sound happy. It’s only when I ended the call that I began to feel that familiar twinge of panic.

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Oh god. Oh god oh god oh god you fucking idiot oh god oh god.

I have never once done something (to my knowledge, anyway) to make S angry or disappointed. Unlike my relationship with O, I’ve managed to keep my irrational emotions in check; at least until I’m alone. I’m so determined not to fuck this up. I know it’s classic BPD to say, “oh, I love him so much, he’s my everything, I want to be with him forever” but all that’s got me in the past is a string of disastrous relationships and far too much bitterness. I almost have my head around that now, and the medication certainly helps me keep the more extreme aspects of my behavior in check. So while I know that these feeling might be BPD tricking me and that mental illness has a habit of making me cling to somebody like fuck… I want to believe this is real. I’m pretty sure I know, deep down, I love S with all my heart; how could I not? He’s the only man who has never condescended me. Who has never given me reason to suspect him of wrongdoing. The only man who I’ve felt comfortable enough with to let the mask slip.

I know I love him.

And now I’m scared.

scared-woman

So what did I do? I went straight for the Tramadol.

I’m now sitting at the kitchen table, trying and failing to calm myself with a joint. The urge to crawl into bed and hide under the duvet is overwhelming.

There is a light that never goes out

When I lived with my mother, there were often times when the only source of entertainment was to write. There are only so many cheap horror films someone can watch before they all drift into one, and only so many charity shop books you can buy before realising you’ve read pretty much every regularly-donated text. Back then, my days were entirely upside-down; sleep during the day, and lie in bed at night, typing away. It’s because of this – the ease of settling down to write in the past because the nights were impossibly long – that I’m now finding it difficult to balance my everyday life and the virtual world of my blog.

On the whole, my life isn’t much busier. Since moving in with S, I haven’t taken up any time consuming hobbies, and days rarely get so exciting that I fall into bed, exhausted. In fact much is the same; just with added domestic duties and a slightly better sense of night and day. I just find it difficult to juggle both living in a “normal” situation, and writing.

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Now, after months of half-hearted posts and putting off the important stuff, I’m stuck in a situation where I have so much to write about that it has become an impossible task. I bypassed the guilt long ago – I’ve been looking after myself a little, for once – but now… I’ve somehow got to squash it all into one post because putting it off is only making the problem worse, and I know that in the long run writing about all this is good for me.

Not only that, but I somehow have to try and make some sense, which isn’t the easiest of tasks on 200mg of Tramadol. I appreciate this post may be a little… disjointed. Trust me, it’s nothing compared to how my mind currently feels.

When I posted the Letter To My Consultant a few days ago,  I had actually already seen him the Monday before. My mother and I travelled 25 miles by taxi to meet with the specialist who had agreed to give me a second opinion. I had expected to fight to to be taken seriously – again – but I can honestly say that he was never anything less than courteous, and I left the appointment feeling buoyed up by the simple fact of just being listened to. It’s all I needed. Someone to sit, listen, and offer advice. Once, I thought that the NHS was built around trying to help patients, but over the past few years my faith in it had slipped to the point where I didn’t even see a reason to have an NHS if they can’t achieve the most simple tasks.

Now, some faith has been restored. And all it took was for somebody to shut up for five minutes and actually listen to me.

It should never have been this hard.

Lot 40 - Alison Englefield Headings -Paranoia

I don’t yet have a diagnosis, but that no longer matters to me so much. The promise to try and control the pain is enough for now, and although Tramadol probably isn’t the smartest option for someone who fought addiction for so many years, it’s one which works, and while I’ve certainly been craving the pills, I haven’t abused them, nor do I have the real urge to. They’re important, you see. The only thing I needed to truly escape from was the physical pain, and Tramadol goes some way towards making it more bearable.

Also, S isn’t stupid. He knows of my addictions, and he knows it’s something which haunts me every day. In the past, nobody’s truly tried to take control over it, but S simply isn’t the sort of man who would let me abuse painkillers. Now we live together, it’s something I can’t really hide – the tiny pinprick pupils and staring into space are a dead giveaway – and although I know I’ll always struggle with the urge, I suspect S will never go easy on me if he finds I’ve been abusing them. I wouldn’t want him to go easy.

The consultant said that if Tramadol doesn’t work, the next step is morphine patches. Again, he listened.

So I don’t have a diagnosis, but there are a couple of conditions which are being bandied around. Rheumatoid arthritis. Psioratic arthritis. Psioratic seems more likely, based on where the pain in my fingers is and the nail loss I’ve been experiencing. Rather than just saying “well, it’s something, but we don’t know what” – which is what I’ve been hearing for years now – my consultant explained that while they may never be able to fully diagnose me because rheumatic conditions can be so complicated, they will “do their best“. In this case, that means an MRI scan, ultrasounds on my hands and feet, referral to a pain clinic, and my first full examination since I started on the journey to find out what the hell is wrong with my body. I have begged for these tests so often in the past that I assumed I would have to do the same at this appointment, but I didn’t even have to ask. For the first time, I’m being physically tested. My first set of bloods have been done. They even did a urine sample, which my local hospital has never bothered with.

urine specimen

 

I came away from the appointment knowing a few things; that whatever it is will “most likely be lifelong”, that I will “probably always need pain relief”, and that there are doctors out there who still do their jobs properly.

I’m okay with it being lifelong. I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime of it already, so a few more decades can’t be much harder.

Maybe now I can settle. Enjoy living here. I’ve lived with S for six months, and so much has been ruined by my health. Maybe now… I can feel okay.

A letter to my consultant

Current medications:
Propranalol Hydrochloride (80mg daily) – for anxiety and panic attacks
Lansoprazole (30mg daily)
Etoricoxib (60mg daily) – for inflammation
Pregabalin (300mg daily) – for fibromyalgia
Duloxetine (90mg daily) for pain, depression and anxiety.
Dianette – contraception and treating polycystic ovary syndrome

Recent medications:
Cipralex – for depression and anxiety
Celebrex – for pain
Omeprazole
Prednisone (12 week course to treat chronic eczema)

Past surgeries:
Four wisdom teeth removed
Laparoscopy (to investigate painful periods and bleeding) (2007). Laser ablation done at the same time to treat inflammation in cervix.
Cholecystectomy (2008)

Current diagnoses:
Synovitis in left ankle and inflammation of tendon at side of foot (originally misdiagnosed as achilles tendonitis 18 months ago), diagnosed approx. 6 months ago.
Pompholyx eczema/dyshidrotic dermatitis (diagnosed in 2012)
Polycystic ovary syndrome (diagnosed in 2001)
Fibromyalgia (diagnosed in 2006)
Irritable bowel syndrome (diagnosed in 2002-ish, originally treated with Mebeverine but currently under no treatment due to side-effects)
Depression and anxiety (first diagnosed at the age of thirteen) and Borderline Personality Disorder.

Current symptoms:
Pain and stiffness in fingers, knees, upper neck/base of skull, hips, feet/toes, lower back and wrists. Fingers, knees and toes most affected, although neck is becoming much worse. Pain and stiffness much worse in morning/after sitting still, and takes at least 2-3 hours after waking to begin loosening. Gentle movements seem to help the pain in most joints.
Unable to bear weight on heels for 2-3 hours after inactivity.
Swelling in fingers, toes, ankles and knees after waking/inactivity, especially in joints closest to nails in fingers and toes.
Clumsiness, especially in morning. Unable to grip items with confidence, especially pens and cups.
Fingers and toes have become misshapen over the past 18 months.
Weight loss. This is a particular concern for me as I haven’t dieted, although my appetite has decreased dramatically, again over the past 18 months. Since September 2012 I have lost almost three stones in weight, which is very unlike me as I have always struggled with keeping my weight down and I love food.
Recurring cold sores.
Itchy eyes and very dry mouth, which seems unconnected to medications.
Lack of temperature control. I have suffered from this for a number of years, but only at night. Recently it has become an issue throughout the day also, leaving me either far too cold, or far too warm. Fingers and toes always feel painfully cold regardless of weather or environment.
IBS has become much worse in the past 18 months, with constant diarrhea, cramps and loss of bowel control.

I have been referred to orthopedics, physiotherapy, rheumatology at SDGH, and to the local mental health team all regarding my symptoms. Because the pain and swelling in my left ankle was misdiagnosed as achilles tendonitis, they have only concentrated on that area of my body, and not taken the whole range of symptoms into account, which I feel are connected somehow as all my symptoms either appeared or became worse around the same time.
Emotionally, this has had a huge impact on me, and my life. I am no longer able to live independently as I need somebody around to ensure I have help with basic tasks (like cooking, taking a shower, and walking), as co-ordination and balance are something I struggle with a lot now. I am no longer able to go outside on my own in case I fall or am unable to bear weight on my heels. As a result I am now almost entirely housebound and even though I have bought a walking stick (after physiotherapy claimed I didn’t need help with walking), this only causes pain in my hips and neck as I try to balance with it.
I feel that if I could at least have a name for what is happening to me, I would cope a lot better, and possibly find a treatment which may help. Currently, I have lost all hope of ever leading a normal life, of being able to work. My hobbies all involve movement (walking, sewing, knitting, photography) and I am no longer able to do these things, and the rapidly increasing pain in my joints leave me unable to do the most basic tasks such as hold a pencil (I am also a writer) or comfortably type on a keyboard without wrist pain.

My little empire.


“My little empire
I’m sick of being sick
My little empire
I’m tired of being tired”

“Well, I had no confidence in my ability to dent another human’s life”

Sometimes it’s impossible to even think of a title to a post, let alone which words to use. Being stoned doesn’t help, but it’s the only way I’ve been able to cope today; it was either dope, or masses of co-codamol and a bout of self-harm. I figured weed was the safest option.

Where to begin? It’s past 2am, and I’m still furious from the orthopaedics appointment this morning. As usual, nothing was achieved – my consultant wasn’t even there, and I saw a junior doctor instead, who couldn’t do anything except repeat what I’d already been told at my previous appointment – and I’m furious. I’ve had enough. This officially isn’t fair, and I’ve stood back and let this happen over and over because I haven’t wanted to cause any problems.

Well, fuck that. I’ve been in constant agonising pain for over eighteen months. I can’t walk properly and need a stick most of the time. Ice? I can’t leave the flat if it’s even slightly icy, because I have no balance. I can’t sleep. I can’t exercise. It’s all I can think about, and even strong painkillers (which I’m doing my best to avoid, for obvious reasons) only take the edge off slightly. I’d gladly take back the colocystitis pain over the constant needles and cramps in my foot.

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www.thechinchilla.com

I got home, and cried. Smoked a joint and ranted to myself for a while. Mentally calculated everything in the flat I could possibly hurt myself with. Considered making myself sick. Ate half an egg sandwich then threw it out. As it is, I haven’t eaten since; I’m hungry, but the gnawing feeling in my stomach is comforting. It’s… control.

I feel very out of control.

Since S came home from work, he’s been cheering me up immensely; so I’m coping okay. I haven’t taken any codeine, or hurt myself. Oh, the urge was there – I thought about it the whole taxi ride home – but you see… if I hurt myself, I hurt S too. It’s strange for me to feel that way, because in past relationships I’ve never truly accepted that my tendency to damage myself could have any effect on my boyfriend. It wasn’t that I was being selfish, it’s just… well, I had no confidence in my ability to dent another human’s life.

I don’t want to hurt S. He’s my world. I know I can’t care about myself, but I adore S. I assume that much is obvious from my past posts.

adore

danielleflanders.blogspot.com

I’ve been thinking a lot about where I go from here, and I believe my only option is to put in a formal complaint of medical negligence. As much as I’m tired of fights… I refuse to go on being treated this way. From the first time I saw a consultant for PCOS, right through to today, I’ve had sub-standard medical treatment and every single condition I have has been made worse by lack of action and misdiagnosis. I don’t think any of this is fair, and I’ve got to stand  up for myself at some point.

The fight never seems to end

Life is good. It is also equally bad. It’s strange to feel this way; things have always tended towards the negative, and so far my life has mostly been 95% bad, 5% good… and it hasn’t been rare to be trapped in a cycle of 0% good, unable to see anything positive either in the present or the future. Heck, there’s been a ridiculous number of times when I couldn’t even see a future.

The fibro flare is lifting, and I’ve been able to function pretty well today. Getting up at two pm wasn’t exactly the plan – I wanted to get up with S when he goes to work at eight am – but otherwise I achieved a few minor things. Washed up. Tidied a little. Swept the kitchen floor and emptied the bathroom bin. Had a shower, washed and dried my hair. I’m trying; as much as I find it difficult to see any real hope for the future at the moment, I am making a small effort to do the normal everyday things and occasionally interact with people other than S and my mother. Socialising has… become an issue. I’ve been wobbling with trust issues for months now, and I’m finding it incredibly difficult to allow myself to even speak to other people face-to-face. Every time I open my mouth, or type something online… I’m questioning whether I’ve said too much, given somebody ammunition. Logically, I know that mistrust is pretty unfounded, but since when did logic feature in my mind?

paranoid

www.techwench.com

It’s strange. I know my fears are unfounded, yet I can’t help feeling persecuted in some way. My awareness of what’s BPD and what’s me is becoming more clear, and I can see the profound differences between my normal personality and the borderline part of who I am. Although I know these feelings are entirely caused by BPD, there’s still part of my mind which refuses to let me look at the situation rationally and comfort myself. I no longer fly into uncontrollable panics over absolutely nothing, but I know those freak-outs are just sitting under the surface, and sometimes they feel so horribly close that I can’t bear it. I’ve let them creep in lately; convincing myself that S will leave, that I’ll do or say something stupid, that I’m not pretty enough or thin enough to have such a wonderful boyfriend. That people are whispering behind my back. Hating me for reasons I can’t quite pinpoint.

I’m taking my medication, but I’m not convinced it’s working that well; although Cipralex had problems towards the end, Duloxetine just doesn’t seem to have that ability to take away all the nasty things I can’t cope with.

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I suppose I just feel frustrated now. I’ve come so far, and there are still hurdles. I was once naive enough to think that life would get easier one day but now I wonder if that’s just a myth; if the whole thing isn’t a lie.

I mean, I’m happy. I am. For the first time in my entire life I can say I’m genuinely happy. I just don’t like knowing the fight never seems to end.

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