Don’t leave me this way…

Since we seem to be heading full steam into SUCK IT territory for the disabled & chronically ill I wanted to talk about my experience of covid. There has been an overarching theme of those with existing health conditions being dispensable from the start, but now it’s pretty much being explicitly stated by our leaders. I want everyone to know how frightening this is for those of us that so many are happy to sacrifice.

As a person with chronic health issues (arthritis, fibromyalgia, stomach disease, anaemia, PCOS) I took covid seriously from the beginning. Lockdown was a complete lockdown for me. I stayed at home. I had no visitors. All my essentials were delivered. The only contact I had with anyone was the occasional driveway visit. My sister or bestie would stand in my drive and I’d sit in my open from door. I didn’t touch another human being or leave my house for months. I had hospital stays without visitors, didn’t celebrate my 40th birthday and spent Xmas 2020 at home on my own. My lockdown stretched on further than the official stay at home orders. Since early 2020 I have spent the majority of my time at home and I have been scared since the beginning. I had no idea what covid might do to me. I’ve experienced catching bugs or viruses that were no biggie for others, but sent me to the hospital. Every time I heard of someone dying being caveated with they had existing health problems, I knew that could be me. This pandemic has always been an emergency situation for me & those like me.

I now regularly see family & one close friend. I wear a mask, sanitise, stay outside as much possible. If I must be inside I go to places that follow all covid precautions and I exercise extreme caution. Doctor appointments aside I leave my home about once a week. I still have everything delivered and avoid contact with those outside my immediate circle. I do home tests before and after I go anywhere. With a couple of exceptions a restricted life has become my normality.

I contracted covid 19 in oct 2020. At that point I was spending 99% of my time alone at home. I was seeing only my sister, mum & nephew and wasn’t visiting anyone indoors. I still managed to catch the virus despite none of the family I was in contact becoming infected. The acute illness was not severe. It lasted about ten days & felt like having a stomach flu. I had more gastric than cold/flu like symptoms. My cough was very mild. I lost my sense of smell & taste. I felt terrible, but I didn’t require any medical attention. In the following weeks I really struggled with breathlessness & racing heart but assumed this would pass. It did not.

15 months later I am still dealing with long covid. My already limited mobility has been massively impacted. I become breathless even moving around my own home. I have to sit even to brush my teeth, make a cup of tea etc. I have overwhelming fatigue, brain fog and widespread pain have markedly intensified since having covid. I experience palpitations and chest pains on the slightest exertion. My heart rate regularly climbs to heights whilst trying to complete the most basic of tasks. I have been hospitalised on 4 occasions because my heart rate would not slow down to an acceptable level. Drs can monitor and treat symptoms, but they know almost nothing about long covid. They can’t tell my why these symptoms persist or if they will ever go away. My chest x rays are clear, my heart is not damaged. The tachycardia & breathlessness are a covid mystery.

A frightening and very real mystery. It is scary to feel as though your heart is going to burst out of your body. Or to be so out of breath that your head spins and chest burns. It’s a million times more terrifying to be told that the experts have no idea why it is happening or how they can make it better. Fear has been common thread. 2021 has been a really hard year for my health. All of my existing symptoms have worsened. The added problems have caused me serious problems and I think I have picked up every cold, stomach bug & infection going. All of which has been alarming. I’m worried that the next illness or flare might be the big one. I’m stressed about all the work I can’t do and the financial repercussions of that. I am chilled at just how little I am now able to do before becoming too exhausted/sore/dizzy/breathless to continue. Most of all I am terrified of what could happen if I get another variant of covid.

I am fully vaccinated (& boosted). I have masks galore, anti bac in every bag & pocket. I still leave parcels & deliveries by the door for an hour before I touch them. I bought a device to sanitise my phone. I’m never in crowds. I rarely go out. I’m acutely aware that I was being even more careful when I caught covid the first time. Every single aspect of my life has been affected by this pandemic. I know I am not alone. Most people have sacrificed. Many are in the same boat as me & others in far more treacherous vessels. I understand that this has been a collective trauma that everyone is eager to put behind them. I just wish more people would understand that this isn’t over yet.

When you justify the need to ‘live with covid’ by saying that most healthy people only experience mild symptoms I am the exception in that sentence. People like me will die or be permanently disabled if we ignore how dangerous covid still is. I understand that you want your life back. You want to stop worrying and missing out. I do too, but if we throw caution to wind now it’s not without consequence. If we pretend that covid is just another part of life we are throwing the sick, disabled, old & vulnerable to the wolves. I believe that those lives are worth as much as any other. Our needs are already ignored in so many ways, please don’t abandon us altogether.

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If I had a little a money…

In recent weeks the cost of disability debate seems to be all over the place again. Mainly able bodied folk rudely telling disabled folk what we do & do not need. It is of course offensive and exceptionally annoying to be on the receiving end of this. Debating your reality us never fun. Hence, I thought I’d do a little run down of the day to day expenses that my disabilities incur. I am far from the worst case scenario, so bare that in mind when you’re processing this.

It feels important to make it clear that sick & disabled people are rarely just given the things they require. There is a myth that equipment, money, human support & treatments are just handed out to anyone asking. They absolutely are not. Any help we do receive is procured through humiliating assessments, long waiting lists & much general fuckwittery. At the end of which our requests are often denied. It’s a special kind of torture to lay yourself bare to unfeeling beaurocrats only to be gaslit & told you’re fine. Or, sometimes even more frustrating, It’s accepted that you need help & such help exists, but it is not available to you for ‘reasons’. We are screwed over time & again, left with the option of paying for the thing ourselves or never getting it. When the thing that must be paid for is essential, that’s not really a choice.

So, bearing in mind that many disabled people’s ability to work full time (or at it all) is impacted by their conditions, how do you think your pocket would deal with this.

Travel

I can’t get around much on my own as I can’t walk very far. During Covid public transport has been even less of an option for me. I have to take taxis everywhere. Using last week as an example, this costs:

  • Hospital App – £11.80
  • Visit Bestie – £11.30
  • Vet – £8.60
  • Pick up Bronan’s Prescription- £8.80
  • Post Office – £8.60
  • Work Meeting – £22
  • Weekly Total – £71.10

Pain Relief

Lots of really effective pain relief options are simply not available via the NHS. These are pain management related items I have had to buy.

  • Heat Pads – £5 per 3 pack.
  • Tens Machine – £65
  • Tens Pads – £5 per 10.
  • Long Hot Water Bottle – £20
  • Microwaveable Heat Pouch – £15
  • Dragon Balm – £2.50 a jar.
  • Lidocaine Patches – £60 per 10 pack.
  • Vape – £35
  • Cbd Oil – £15 per 50ml.
  • Freeze Spray – £1
  • Paracetamol – 56p per 12
  • Massage – £70 per 60 mins.
  • Kinesiology Tape – £5.50
  • Yoga Mat – £20
  • Foam Roller – £12

Disability Aids

I believe some local councils will fit disability aids in social housing or if people meet certain criteria. Unfortunately I do not live in social housing nor meet those criteria. Thus, I had had to purchase any device I require.

  • Walking Stick Ferrule – £5
  • Easi Reach – £10.99
  • Easy Open Food Containers – £25
  • Jar Opener – £5.50
  • Easy Veg Chopper – £20
  • Multi Bottle Opener – £5
  • Auto Can Opener – £15
  • Lotion Aplicator – £8
  • Walking Stick Seat – £25
  • Sock/Tights Aid – £8
  • Bra Angel – £17
  • Hook/Zipper Assist – £6
  • Suction Grab Handles – £28
  • Shower Seat – £35
  • Wearable Tens Holder – £20
  • Press on Lights – £10 per 3 pack.

Services

There are jobs that must be done regularly that I am incapable of doing. There is no support for such things, so I must pay people to do them.

  • Grass Cutting – £45
  • Hedge Cutting – £60
  • Weeding & Garden Tidying – £100
  • Wheelie Bin Cleaning – £8
  • Window Cleanimg – £8
  • Bathroom & Kitchen Deep Clean – £175

On top of the costs outlined most disabled people also report spending more on bills. My gas bill tends to be high as I have a greater need & more difficulty keeping warm. My electricity bill soars with the need to charge various essential aids & technology. My food shopping is increased by the need to purchase lots of pre prepared fruit & veg, free from items to accommodate my dodgy stomach, plus the cost of food waste when I am unable to cook/eat. Having everything delivered incurs a cost as does working from home, which both add to my outgoings. In fact, Scope reports that on average disabled people face extra costs of £583 per month. That’s only accounting for necessary day to day living.

Should a disabled person attempt to do anything beyond the basic there will of course also be additional costs. Try going on holiday, trying a new hobby, undertaking to study a new discipline and you will find that there are always extras/different apparatus to enable a disabled person to take part. Almost every aspect life presents a bigger bill.

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The drugs don’t work…

Yesterday was Fibromyalgia Awareness Day and I think my body knew it. My back is certainly making me very aware that fibro hurts. So much so that I couldn’t even finish this in time to mark the day. If I’m forced to know about fibromyalgia all the live long day, then I’m afraid you’re going to have to find out about it today.

Fibromyalgia difficult to manage. It’s unpredictable. You can hurt everywhere or the pain can focus on a new spot everyday. One day you might be too fatigued to get dressed. The next everything you eat sends your guts into a temper. It can have an effect on cognitive abilities, make your skin burn, muscles ache & head throb. Sometimes all the at the same time.

There’s no cure. Sufferers often experience constant pain. Treatment usually includes a combination of pain relief medication and non pharmaceutical interventions (massage, tens, specific exercises). Many also receive therapy aimed at helping accept chronic pain because treatment rarely results in the eradication of symptoms. Living with fibromyalgia means always feeling some version of unwell.

Whilst you can’t make any of us better, you can help. There are easy peasy ways to not make our lives harder.

Ditch ‘Get Well Soon’

Fibro is a chronic, incurable illness. We are never getting better. It may be well intended and seem like a little slip, but it’s exhausting. Luckily it’s simple to fix. You can express both your well wishes & your understanding of the situation with these words, I hope you have a better day soon.

Don’t offer magic cures.

Struggling with an illness that impacts every aspect of your life motivates you to get informed. Fibro folk don’t need your unsolicited advice. We definitely don’t need to hear about the same magic cures over & over. We’ve researched whatever diy fix you heard about in instagram. We try credible therapies available to us. We’ve considered our diets & yoga & cbd. We really don’t need to hear about how your cousin’s flatmate changed their life with turmeric. It’s patronising on so many levels. Stop it.

Invisible isn’t imaginary.

Fibromyalgia can be an invisible illness. It doesn’t necessarily leave any physical sign of its presence. That doesn’t mean it isn’t real. If you don’t know what fibro is, 10 minutes on google will be illuminating. No one is required to answer your intrusive questions. Medical records are private for a reason. If you don’t understand the condition, don’t worry about it. Extremely well trained medical professionals do. As a person with fibromyalgia it is not our job to convince you of the severity of the illness. It requires zero effort to mind your own business.

Don’t judge my good days.

Fibromyalgia is erratic. I never know how I will feel when I wake up. Sometimes I can go from reasonably ok to excruciating pain in the space of an hour. I try to plan around fibro, but nothing is ever set in stone. I can spread out appointments. Schedule rest days. Make a timetable for essential tasks, but my body doesn’t care. It will throw a painful spanner in the works whenever it pleases. The fact that I could do X yesterday is no guarantee that I will be able to today. An outing that I managed last week could easily leave me unable to function for days another time. I want to live as full a life as possible. So, on good days I attempt to get things done. The fear of being judged solely on those days is horrible. I’m not faking symptoms to avoid things I don’t want to do. I’m not lying when I cancel plans. In fact, the opposite is true. Most of the time I underplay how bad I feel. If I were to vocalise every dreadful sensation I’d never talk about anything else. I know my illness is frustrating. I hate that I inconvenience so many people. Please, believe that I am I trying my very best.

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