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And so, to hospital

I hate hospitals.

Really, really hate them.

Since childhood, I’ve been paraded around them for various reasons; hooked up to so many machines I hear the beep in my dreams. I’ve been sick on so many hospital floors, and each and every single hospital visit – be it a planned appointment or a trip to A&E – has left me a nervous wreck.

I’m not ashamed to admit this: I just can’t cope with it. The smell. The horrible lights. The feeling of vulnerability and the worry you’ll never sleep properly again. The strange faces and unpredictable noises… and the memories of the times I’ve been really, really ill. Vomiting up black stuff all over the polished A&E floor, tripping on morphine and hooked up to every piece of machinery in the world. Happily floating on a cloud of prescribed IV opiates, not giving the slightest damn about anything but going to sleep and not waking up again.

So yes.

I really hate hospitals.

hanging-iv-bag

But I also hate being sick. Admitting to a phobia of vomiting sounds weak somehow; it’s hardly the worst thing to happen to a person, but it utterly terrifies me. I suspect it stems from years of bulimia; controlled vomiting is entirely different to actual sickness, and it’s the lack of control I can’t cope with. Vomiting for days on end and being unable to take my meds, wash, dress myself, eat, drink, or even sleep in the same bed as S… it all took its toll, and I ended up in A&E this morning, wired up to a drip and covered in heart monitor pads.

I admit, it wasn’t the plan.

I had an appointment with my GP this morning – to check up on my medications, which need to be raised or changed, how the pain is going… I didn’t make it, because I was busy concentrating on not vomiting in the taxi on the way to hospital.

If you’ve never been scared of being sick, you can’t imagine just how terrifying it is. Every movement, every sound, every thought even… if you feel nauseous, anything can and will set you off, and it’s utterly horrible when it happens. I’ve never vomited as an adult and not had a panic attack during. It’s not a pretty situation.

So I lay there. Sat up. Lay down again. Went to the toilet a million times. Couldn’t get comfy. The only time I’ve been on my own in A&E before is when I took an overdose – the latest in a line of them in my later teens – and my mother flat-out refused to accompany me. I resented her at the time, but I understand why now. I tried to quell the panic by browsing the internet on my phone, reading boring BBC news stories about absolutely nothing, trying to pretend everything’s okay.

18a_Cannula

Also, there was an added fear. One I haven’t mentioned to anyone, not even the doctor; I figured anything abnormal would show in the blood and heart tests. A few days ago I was in so much pain – agonising, screaming pain – that I caved, and begged everyone I know to find me some ‘proper’ painkillers. Z turned up with some 30mg co-codamol and, later, a strip of tramocet. Now, I’ve spoken about my little opiate problem before, but recently it’s been pretty dormant. I haven’t felt the need to self-medicate or block things out with tiny white pills.

However, fever doesn’t work well when you’re trying to be sensible. I accidentally took far too many painkillers; I don’t know how or why I did it, just that I took more than three times the recommended dose. It was in no way a suicide attempt, because I wasn’t truly aware of what I was doing. I just wanted the pain to stop, so I could finally get some sleep.

Then, days and nights of vomiting. Sweating; that horrible chemical-tinged sweat you get with opiates. Hallucinations and awful nightmares.

So that’s how I found myself curled up on a hard bed in A&E, trying to explain my ridiculous medical history, clutching an emesis basin and hating everything hospitals are.

I just can’t cope with them.

They scare me.

 

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22 Comments

Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Every day life

 

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I hope you’re feeling happy now, I see you feel no pain at all.

We drank vodka and orange juice, beer, cider and rum and coke. Played Boggle online, keeping a tally of scores. Sat in the garden – both rain and shine – and smoked while getting sunburned one day and sheltering from the torrent by squeezing into the spider-infested shed the next. Ate pizza, kebabs, garlic mushrooms, toast, a roast dinner, chocolate mousse, biscuits and pack upon pack of Wotsits. We sat by the lake and stuffed our faces with chips, watching a swan paddling away near a stack of beer barrels and an old paddle-boat which is long past its prime but still takes tourists out on the lake in the summer; rust and all.

We lay in bed for hours. Napped when we felt like it, and stayed up late. Ventured out to buy large mochas and sat for hours, watching the world go by. Bought blackcurrant beer and German ale, and laughed at the weird and wonderful passing our little spot in the street. Had mind-blowing, sweaty sex, over and over. Watched Trailer Park Boys on YouTube and ordered takeaways so we wouldn’t have to go shopping. Played 8-ball with a couple of friends and smoked a not-so-sneaky joint outside the pub. Got drunk and stoned and laughed at nothing, for days on end.

Now, it’s Wednesday morning – almost 5am – and I’m sitting on my bed, wide-awake, cannabis smoke floating in the air and through the detritus which covers my bedroom. I don’t know what happened; a miniature hurricane, I can only assume. Pill packets and incense sticks are cluttering up my desk, along with bottles of nail varnish remover, jewellery holders, and empty tobacco packets. The coffee I made is strong and bitter, with grounds still floating on top, and my mouth is dry from all the smoke. I haven’t slept, and I have a doctor’s appointment at 9:30.

After such an amazing, hedonistic weekend… I should be happy. I am, really. I’m just… eh. Angry, I suppose.

I’ve occasionally mentioned having tendonitis. Acute Achilles tendonitis, to be exact. I’ve had it for over a year. There was no real obvious cause; the sole of my foot started aching every time I moved and, in a worryingly short space of time, I lost the ability to flex my foot up or down. I stuck it out for months, deciding it was yet another frustrating part of fibromyalgia, until the pain became so unbearable – like knives being driven into the back of my ankle – and I woke up one morning unable to hold any weight on my left foot. It was just dead; tingling and unresponsive with sharp ribbons of pain snaking over the whole of my lower leg. Naturally, I was a bit concerned and, considering I couldn’t walk and felt a weird combination of numbness and excruciating pain – along with balloon-like swelling of my foot and ankle – I went to A&E.

Long story short, I was given some painkillers and told to go home and rest. I wasn’t even seen by a doctor. I cried, but it got me nowhere. After going to my GP to complain that nothing was done to help the obvious damage, I was referred to a podiatrist/physiotherapist. He manipulated my foot, gave me insoles to force the tendon into place, and covered my ankle in ice until it burned. Whatever he did, the swelling refused to go down and so he referred me onto the biomechanics clinic to see a rheumatologist who specialises in movement.

Of course, they wrote to me and informed me that my appointment was to be moved to September.

That’s not why I’m angry. I’m angry because, after over a year, I’m still in pain. It’s yet another ridiculous sensation to deal with, and I’m sick of being pushed from pillar to post when nothing really seems to achieve anything. I’ve had an ultrasound scan, but still – over a month later – don’t know the results.

For the past four days, I’ve been unable to walk without standing on tip-toe on my left foot, because the tendon is so damn tight I can’t move it without pain. Tooth-gritting, wincing, tears-in-the-eyes pain. S has been his usual amazing self – fetching cups of coffee for me and helping me get over the back door step – but now that I’ve come back to my mother’s after an extended weekend (from Thursday to last night; S took some time off work) I’m quickly sinking into the old frustrations and regrets about not pushing harder for treatment. I’m such a mouse sometimes. I don’t want to tell anybody what to do.

That has to change today. Originally, I was seeing my doctor for a swollen finger; hardly the medical drama of the century, but a very painful inconvenience, and I figured I could get the whole blood pressure/side-effects/general emotional well-being stuff out of the way for another month or so. However, the red skin and suspicious ridged nail will have to take a backseat, because I’m determined to get something done about this damn foot today.

If I have to cry, I think I will. I rarely cry in front of doctors – I already feel inferior to them – but quite honestly… I just want this pain to stop. I have enough to deal with already, and I just need some respite. Some time to enjoy the effects of Lyrica – which doesn’t work on tendon pain or swelling – and try to start living my life again. Instead, this fucking tendon has taken over my life.

Over the weekend, the photograph of myself I posted has been weighing on my mind. Did I do the right thing? Am I utterly off my head to think that putting a photograph on such a personal blog is a good idea? More than once, I’ve thought about removing it; just deleting the post and forgetting it ever happened. However, doing that would also mean I’d lose all the comments which, although hard to read without wanting to run away, really made me feel secure, and my cold old heart was pretty damn warmed by knowing there are people reading this who don’t think I’m disgusting.

Also… nothing is ever lost on the internet. It’s there forever now.

So I just need to suck it up and accept that my anonymity was ruined a while ago, and it’s not like I’m a celebrity. The chance of somebody I know finding this blog on their own is still lower than low, and if they did find it… well, maybe they shouldn’t be so nosy. Perhaps they’d learn something.

I should really write a list for my GP. Each time I see him, I forget something vital. I only refuse to do it because my mother insists I write a bullet-point list – typed and printed – for every appointment; a bit of teenage rebellion which I never quite grew out of. This time… I haven’t slept. I haven’t drunk nearly enough coffee, and the weed is stronger than usual. Great for pain; not so great for thinking clearly.

If I throw myself on the floor and have a tantrum, do you think it’d achieve anything? I feel like it’s about time to direct my anger elsewhere than at myself.

 

 
53 Comments

Posted by on July 11, 2012 in Every day life

 

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What is borderline personality disorder?

Out of everything I have experienced in life, one of the things I find most difficult to talk about with any real candour is my diagnosis of BPD, or Borderline Personality Disorder. There’s something about it which I can’t bring myself to explain in words; that feeling of fear and distrust which dogs every move. It’s not simple enough to just call it ‘anxiety’ or ‘worry’, because it goes far deeper than either of those things and I often find myself tongue-tied, unable to describe just now BPD affects me. As a result, very few people in real life know I have the diagnosis. I just can’t bring myself to tell them.

Earlier, I read a brilliant post called What Is Borderline Personality Disorder? on the site “You Know You’re Borderline When…”. Since my diagnosis, I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about BPD in the hope of finding some sort of understanding of my often ridiculous actions, and the post I just mentioned is easily the best article I have ever read on the subject.

One point the author, Jaen Wildfly, makes is particularly meaningful to me.

I guess the keywords here are: Unstable Self-Image

That still sounds a bit fancy. In essence, it means “I have no fucking idea who I am or what I want since my desires change from one minute to the next.”

I suspect one of the reasons why I can’t bring myself to admit to having BPD is because it all sounds a bit, well… self-absorbed. Nobody knows who they are, right? It’s not like we have the monopoly on wonky self-image. Try telling the average person on the street that you have an unstable self-image, and listen to them talk about how everyone doubts themselves; it’s impossible to get across just how much of an impact being impaired in identity can have on your life without sounding like an attention-seeker.

When I was diagnosed last year by a psychologist, I had a hard time explaining why the label of BPD – or rather, any label – was so important to me. Over the years I’ve been given many diagnoses – clinical depression, chronic anxiety, schizophrenia for a short while – and usually they’re as welcome as a kick in the teeth. Each label has changed me in some way and determined the path my life took, and most have resulted in disaster. However, I started to realise that my life has been governed by my total inablity to react rationally to imagined disasters, and without knowing the reasons why I act like that, how could I ever improve?

Jaen also uses the word ‘fragmented’, which to me is the perfect description of how it feels to live with BPD. Sometimes I wonder what I’d see if I could open myself up and look inside; whether everything would be shattered and broken. I wonder if there would be a visual clue as to what’s causing me to destroy every relationship I have.

To describe BPD properly, you have to grit your teeth and be prepared for others to judge you, for them to think you’re a cold, uncaring freak with a tendency to fly off the handle at the smallest provocation. BPD, like any other mental illness, is very unattractive when it makes itself known.

Regular readers will know that I haven’t quite destroyed every relationship; I’ve been with S for over a year now, and through some sort of divine intervention we’re yet to have a single argument. Not even a small one. This defies everything BPD is about, and I can only assume that the combination of cipralex and beta-blockers I take – along with the ten or so joints I smoke a day and the tendency to turn to opiate painkillers when things get too stressful – numb the fears which make me irrational and obsessive. It’s the fear which makes me angry, you see; the fear that I’ll lose somebody, or they’ll think less of me.

We are romantic junkies. Borderline behavior will increase with each new partner; thoughts of a perfectly passionate soul mate will drive us to do things that can be considered “impulsive.” But we are driven by a primal urge for this special someone to be our ultimate romantic love and savior. It is hard for us to look for realistic love when we crave this intensity. We are “in love” with being “in love” and will do stupid things to get our desires quenched. Usually, we end up disappointed because we don’t understand the transition from desire to love.

When I met my ex-fiance, O, the relationship was already doomed to fail although I didn’t come to realise that until many years later. Throughout past relationships, my behaviour had developed into a seething cluster of resentment, mistrust and paranoia which ruined everything I came into contact with, and my tendency to fall for men who would take advantage of me had given me an incredibly skewed view on love. I believed equally in the great love story and the cruelty of men, hoping for the first but inevitably finding the other.

During the relationship, I rarely saw my behaviour as unreasonable. To my mind, all the injustice of the world was constantly thrown upon my shoulders and O simply didn’t understand how much his words hurt me. Looking back, there’s no way he could have known, because very few people would react the way I did. Most wouldn’t slam doors or bury themselves in the corner of the room, banging their heads against the walls. Not everybody would smoke ten cigarettes in a row, lock themselves in the bathroom and punch themselves in the face, just because their boyfriend didn’t answer his phone.

Storming out of his house in the middle of the night and waking his parents became a common event; I’d wait at the end of the driveway until O came out and apologised. On an almost daily basis I would walk away from him over a small argument, stomping down the road with tears running down my face, first marching along then slowing down as I realised he might not follow me if I went too far. I always wanted him to follow me. I needed him to.

Like many BPD’ers, I’ve made a number of suicide attempts. I’ve barely mentioned them so far because the feelings behind the attempts are still quite raw, even years later. Also like many people with BPD, because I survived it’s assumed they were a cry for help or attention, and so the doctors who treated me in A&E for paracetamol and antidepressant overdoses didn’t take me seriously.

Each and every time, I wanted to die, and was disappointed when I hadn’t. The efforts of others to save my life were lost on me; I just wanted out. The last time I considered suicide, I found myself running out of the house in the middle of the night, into a storm. My mother and I had been arguing about the amount of control she has over my life, as usual, and I suddenly just couldn’t take it any more. For a few minutes, the idea of walking into the sea crossed my mind. I even set off along the embankment, planning on getting to the sea wall and letting the tide pull me away. The urge was addictive, and I couldn’t think of anything else but ending my life. The ability to see how my death would hurt others was lost to me, and I still don’t quite know why I went back home after two hours. I stopped being angry, I think.

I have never considered suicide when depressed; even thinking about it would be too much effort in that situation. However, anger and panic are what drive me to think such thoughts, to harm myself, to chain-smoke and take more pills than I should. Any type of fear sends me into a blind panic; I just don’t know how to deal with the emotions. Or any emotion, really.

 

 
58 Comments

Posted by on April 7, 2012 in Every day life

 

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Chloroform, hospital, a holiday in Wales and the not-so-secret diary

I’m sitting up in bed, wrapped in a dressing gown and looking at a bottle of long-expired cough medicine. Earlier, I went on a mad spree around the house, determined to find some sort of drug to knock me out or at least calm me. I eventually found a dusty old bottle of Jackson’s All Fours in the kitchen cupboard, stashed behind the tubes of toothpaste and all-natural cleaning products my mother is obsessed with. The use-by date is 2003, and the word “chloroform” keeps catching my eye. A quick sniff of the contents suggests that something has deteriorated in there, and common sense tells me to stop being silly and that drinking it is nowhere near being an option.

However, I’m tempted. I’m almost disgusted by my temptation; I feel like a junkie grabbing at anything for just one more fix. I don’t even know if it’ll work, or harm me in some way (Google gives no real clues), or will simply taste like shit. I’ve already resorted to some Bach Rescue Remedy – I don’t even believe in homeopathy – and I’ve been drinking Ovaltine like a fiend in the hope that somehow the warmth and comfort will slow my brain down for just a short time, enough to allow me to breathe.

Two things set me off today, the first being the eczema which has now plagued me for around eight months. The official name for my particular brand of skin-lurgy is pompholyx – a blistering, peeling, cracking and incredibly painful version – and today I finally lost my cool and went a bit mad because of it. The soles of my feet are both covered with big, itchy blisters and large cracks where the skin has split. I have a hole on one foot where the skin has almost totally eroded away, which burns and is agony to touch. It’s on my hands too, but for now that is somewhat under control. Topical steroids – the strongest ones available on prescription – simply aren’t helping anymore. Nothing gives relief, and I’ve tried everything. The only thing which helped was oral steroids (prednisone) at a high dose, but the rash never cleared up completely and the blistering and pain came straight back when the dose was reduced.

My dermatologist was supposed to send me an appointment, but I’m still waiting to hear from them. I’ve phoned the department and they just say I have to wait for the letter. I’m half tempted to amputate my own feet with a kitchen knife.

The second panic-giver was discovering one of my old diaries from 2006 in my mother’s bedroom. I know for a fact I’d thrown it away, and I can’t begin to understand why she’d rescue it from the bin and keep it. I know she finds me difficult to understand, but I’m fuming over the breach of privacy. I was trusting her again, after years of not knowing whether she was spying on me, and now I can’t feel that trust. Something’s been shattered, and I don’t know how to fix it. I sat down with the diary and started to read through it – big mistake – and ended up thoroughly depressed. I was such a mess; utterly fucked-up, in fact. I’d forgotten just how bad things were. With the benefit of hindsight I can also see just how wrong I was to put my faith in the general goodness of people.I wrote about how “I knew O would never hurt me“… I was so wrong, and so damn blind.

I’m also feeling guilty (yet again) about neglecting the people who read this. I know I’ve been told, over and over, not to worry about replying to comments, but it’s difficult not to when I’m still unsure why anybody takes the time to look at my ramblings. So, you know, I’m sorry. Sometimes communication is the hardest thing for me to allow myself.

I briefly wrote yesterday about ending up in A&E. Last Wednesday I woke up with more ankle/foot pain than usual and when I went to stand on it, I couldn’t. The pain was unbearable; I felt like somebody had smashed every bone in my foot while I slept. It was so swollen that I could hardly get my boot over it, and even putting a sock on hurt like hell. I couldn’t walk on my left foot at all. After a lot of umm-ing and ahhh-ing from my mother (“but we have to do the shopping!”) we managed to get me into a taxi. I have a deep loathing of our local A&E department after they royally fucked up my treatment over gallstones, but the pain was incredible and I couldn’t see any other choice.

I really wish I hadn’t bothered. After a mercifully short wait, the triage nurse called me into a small room, asked me a few questions, then sent me to minor injuries. I still don’t know how I managed to get there; I decided that a mixture of hopping and limping was the only way. I sat with my mother in the dingy minor injuries unit, holding my leg in the air like an idiot since any pressure on my foot made me want to be sick.

Whilst I sat there, staring at the orange and brown lino flooring and listening to my mother witter on about everything and nothing, I considered just how many times I’ve sat in hospitals, waiting for very little to actually happen. This time was no different.

When the nurse (not a doctor) called me in, she didn’t watch me walk or offer any help. When I finally half-fell into the open-plan examination area, she told me to take my boot and sock off and kneel on the chair. I didn’t understand what she meant – I was tired and in pain – and I could tell she was thinking I was a bit of an idiot. When I finally clocked that she meant to kneel backwards, I did so only to feel like she was sticking a huge knife in my ankle. Turns out she only tapped it, but I could have cried. I explained that three months ago I had hit the back of my ankle on the top of a glass bottle while swinging my leg off my bed, and she said that it wasn’t worth x-raying my foot because the trauma was a long time ago. I was sent away with weak painkillers and an appointment with the physio department. I asked – in all seriousness – how I was supposed to get to the other side of the hospital when I couldn’t even walk, and she said “get your mum to do it”.

I was fine until I got out of the room. Once my mother had managed to haul me towards the exit doors, I burst into tears and collapsed against the wall. I couldn’t take the pain. I couldn’t take being dismissed without even a bandage. I couldn’t cope with the NHS telling me to just get on with it, like I’m not a real person.

Crazy took over. My mother managed to get me outside before I totally flipped. I screamed. Shouted. Cried. Told her I should never have been born, and meant it. Full-blown panic attack mode swept over me and all I could see was a pointless future. I wanted her to go away, so I could somehow get to the main road and stand in front of  a truck. I’d given up entirely, after years of being dismissed and treated like a nobody by the health service. Chronic pain? Dismissed. Infected gallbladder? Called a liar. Pelvic pain and flooding? Just women’s problems. PCOS? Not worth paying attention to. Threatening suicide? Told it’s just stress.

Somehow, I eventually calmed down, but not before summoning an adrenaline reserve and hiding around the other side of the hospital. I sat on the same bench I sat on all those years ago when I was being treated like a fool on the wards, and cried my eyes out. Nobody gave me a second glance; I suppose people crying outside hospitals isn’t all that surprising.

Initially, I thought there would be no way I’d be able to go on holiday with S. I eventually found some inner strength though and decided that sitting at home, in pain and feeling sorry for myself, wasn’t going to achieve anything.

The holiday itself was wonderful, even if I did struggle with some pretty extreme fatigue. Stronger painkillers helped with my foot, and being around S the whole time kept me calm. We stayed in a big cottage in Snowdonia National Park, with two living rooms, bathrooms galore, a hot tub and sauna, and a huge country-style kitchen. I forgot my camera so only managed to get a few blurry pictures on my mobile. This was the view from the bedroom window:

I’d go back today if I could. S and I spent most of our time reading in the snug, accompanied by a woodburning stove and plenty of red wine. I felt like a bit of a recluse for avoiding the other people, but I just wanted to relax and spend some real time with S. We got on fantastically, even when I got a bit grumpy one night over absolutely nothing.

One night, S had a nightmare. When he woke up, he grabbed hold of me and crushed me into his chest, saying “it was horrible. I did something awful and lost you. It was horrible”.

 
25 Comments

Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Every day life

 

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You. Me. Us. Free… we’re alright, alright.

Just over a week seems like such a long time away from writing here, and I feel a bit guilty for not putting the time in. Between a holiday to Wales with S, a trip to A&E/hospital, withdrawal from celebrex and general fatigue, it’s just felt like too much effort. I’ll explain the trip to hospital when I have the energy and manage to stop playing Heavy Rain for more than five minutes, and write about the holiday when I can.

I’m okay though. Just tired.

 
24 Comments

Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Every day life

 

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