You make me sick..

Chronic illness is a shit show. Sometimes literally. Which is thing a that often goes unmentioned. Beyond the pain, being incapacitated & generally hindered in life there is the embarrassment factor. Believe me, that’s no small thing.

Disability brings many embarrassments. Perhaps most notably, for me, is the discarding of a layer of delicacy that I cherished. I am not by nature a person who cares to discuss certain bodily functions. I don’t find toilet humour funny. I don’t need the details of your bathroom trip. I have weird anxieties about toilets/bathrooms that are not my own. I’ll hold a pee for ten hours because the toilets in the bar aren’t spotless or because I saw a hair in your bathroom. A pee used to be the absolute limit of what I would even consider doing in toilet outside my own house. Now, I long for the time when I could reject toilets willy nilly & only go in the privacy of my home. Those were the days.

These days I always need to know where the nearest ladies is. Often I can’t leave the house because I cannot be more than a few feet from my bathroom. If I go out the choice of where & when I deign to use the facilities is no longer mine. My stomach now reigns supreme. It’s not a benevolent ruler. IBD has put paid to any friendly relations between myself & my digestive system. Throw in a hiatal hernia, GERD, anxiety & fibromyalgia and you have the making of all out war. In short, my digestive tract rarely behaves. Whether it’s vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation it’s always up to no good.

Sick emoji

Now, along with cramps & heartburn & nausea & wind & reflux & horrible, horrible pain I get to deal with the crippling embarrassment. I have to worry that the public toilet will be packed when my stomach is in distress. I panic that I won’t get off the bus in time to not ruin everyone’s day with the smell of my vomit. I have to use friend’s bathrooms & worry if I’m taking too long. My boyfriend gets to listen to me throwing my guts up whilst he lies in bed; trust me, it’s not sexy.

I am constantly trying to manage these symptoms in ways that allow me to avoid talking about them. I time eating around when I will be in locations that I can easily to escape to the facilities without drawing too much attention. I’ll avoid eating before car or public transport journeys. Often, I’ll just stay home. At heart I’m still a person who doesn’t want to even allude to any of this stuff. I’ll say I don’t feel great when what I mean is one way or another the contents of my stomach are going explode. I’m embarrassed to talk about it. I’m embarrassed for other people to know much about it. I’m mortified at the thought of it getting worse.

Embarrassed chimpanzee

As hard as I find it I’m now a person who has to do these cringe inducing things ALL THE TIME. I find myself having a near panic attack in a cubicle because maybe people can hear my insides trying to get out. I’m quietly dying whilst Drs question me about my bowels. I am rushing into pubs you usually couldn’t pay me to step into to use toilets worse than the one in trainspotting. It’s awful. I hate every twinge & cramp & wave of nausea; partly because they feel rotten, but mostly because I’m embarrassed.

So, here I am talking about it. I’m hoping if I just put it out there for all to see I can stop freaking out. I know other people experience this stuff & I’d hate to be part of the silence that makes anyone else feel this rubbish. If nothing else perhaps being a bit more open will alleviate some stress, which can only be good for my tum.

A day in the life…

This morning I was rudely awakened at about 3am. The ill mannered culprit was pain. This time it was intense & centred in my stomach. So, i got up, took my stomach meds, some painkillers & hoped for relief.

Relief was not to come. I lay in the dark for half an hour waiting for the medication to work it’s magic. My body was having none of it, a wave of nausea washed over me & I knew I was going to be sick. I ‘rushed’ to the bathroom where I proceeded to vomit repeatedly. Each violent wretch sent pain shooting down my back. An hour later I’m sweating, dizzy, sore & unable to get off the bathroom floor.

All the throwing up had triggered some hefty heartburn & reflux, but meds weren’t  an option for fear of kicking off more vomiting. I slowly picked myself off the floor & retreated to the living room. Once situated on the sofa, I turned out the lights & put Joni Mitchell on low.  Over the next several hours,

I tried breathing exercises,

put on my tens, 

paced, 

drank mint tea,

curled into ball,

took more medication, 

vommed more medication 

watched the sun come up

& resigned myself to having a rough day. 

That’s exactly what happened. Today was a riot of pain. My stomach continued to be a nightmare. My back ache progressed into agony. I was intermittently sick throughout the day. Thus I had to cancel appointments. Most of the writing scheduled for today wasn’t even attempted. More housework piled up as I struggled to control my pain & rising panic. An acute flare like is this stressful because I never have any idea how long it might last. I could be in better shape tomorrow or I could be in hospital. I live alone & I work freelance; if I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. I worry. A lot. I grow concerned about 

staying solvent, 

my professional reputation,

keeping my home presentable,

keeping myself presentable,

how I will keep important appointments,

letting my loved ones down, 

losing control of my mental health, 

Basically, I worry about everything, from the state of my kitchen floor to the state of my relationship. Of course all this stress is detrimental to my health. Especially with regards my to stomach problems, stress is the enemy. Likewise, stress is an anathema to sleep. Lack of sleep makes illness more difficult to cope with, but of course pain & illness also make it harder to sleep. If I can’t manage my anxiety it will spiral into panic attacks & depression. Any decline in my mental health reduces my productivity, my ability to leave the house & my chances at engaging with the world positively. Around & around I go. Symptoms exacerbate symptoms all adding up to an almost permanantly exhausted, scared, sick & sore me. 

And this is my life. This level of illness is not rare. My good days are not pain free. I don’t know when the bad times will hit. I wake up every morning with no idea if I’ll be able to get out of bed. Chronic illness is fucking nightmare. It forces you let people down, to miss huge chunks of your own life & to live that life always walking on broken glass.  

Don’t patronise me…

I’m struggling to sleep tonight. My  pain got a little out of control last week & so my dr upped one of my pain meds. It was quite a big leap & my body hasn’t been behaving since.  My mood hasn’t really been behaving either. It took a dive earlier in the week for, I imagine, a combination of reasons. Perhaps feeling so bizarre, or the pain or an upcoming anniversary. Who can say?

On account of the above there have been days when even getting out of bed has been difficult. Yesterday was one those days, everything hurt & I was very foggy from the meds, but things had to be done. Bronan had to be fed. I had to return some important calls & I had to put my bin out to be emptied.  Dragging myself out of bed was a struggle, but I did it. So, up I got, flung on whatever clothes were lying on the bedroom floor, brushed my teeth & completed those tasks as best as I could. I did these not because they would lift my mood. Nor did I do them as part of an ‘action plan’. I didn’t derive any sense of achievement. They needed to be done, so I did them.


Later, I tried to write, but couldn’t concentrate for more than a minute or two. It occurred to me that I hadn’t eaten all day & perhaps something in my stomach might counteract the effect of my medications. My fridge contained some broccoli that had to be used today or it would only be fit for the bin. So, I steamed that broccoli in the micro, poured some boiling water on noodles & flung soy sauce over both. I didn’t cook because it would make me feel that I was worth taking care of. I simply used the ingredients available to feed myself in the quickest manner because otherwise, I would not eat.

I tell you these things not because they are interesting. I certainly don’t mention them because I want applause. I merely draw your attention to these mundane activities as they are the reality of day to day life.
THEY ARE NOT SELF CARE.
Mental health organisations & increasingly, just anyone are constantly spouting the merits of self-care. I am so tired of hearing this bullshit. Everything I do does not have a therapeutic purpose. Mental illness (or for that matter physical) does not define me. I am a single woman living alone. There are always tasks that need taken care of. I take each day as it comes & do as much as I can manage. That’s just survival. In that respect I am no different from anyone else. Obviously my illness can make simple jobs difficult. Things the average person may take for granted come harder to me. That doesn’t change the nature of life. I either keep living to the best of my ability or I lie down and die.

To label each chore or treat self-care is to rob me of my basic humanity. I am no longer a person, but a collection of diagnoses’. Illness becomes my defining feature. I strenuously reject that characterisation. To measure my wellbeing by how many dishes are in my sink is insulting. Similarly, to minimise serious conditions by suggesting a nice dinner will make it all better is also offensive. A cute badge with a star & I took my meds or A childish phrase is not going to brighten my day. 

I live my life as fully as possibly. I enjoy whatever I can and try my best to endure the rest. Doesn’t that sum up most people’s experience? I don’t hear anyone congratulating ‘non-mentals’ or ‘non-spoonies ‘ for continuing to exist, so why are they patronising me?

If my thoughts on this offend you, then just imagine how I feel when several times each day I am confronted with the cult of self care. If it works for you, cool, you do you. However, don’t suggest I have a bath with candles to get over terrifying flashbacks. Don’t tell me to give myself a wee treat to combat searing pain. Most of all don’t belittle me by suggesting my daily drive to survive is ‘self care’. Keep it to yourself, darling or prepare for my wrath. 

The mirror has two faces…

Yesterday I performed a fairly miraculous transformation. I was so impressed with myself that I felt the need to share my handy work. 

I posted the above on Facebook with the caption, left to right & out the door in 40 mins. All of which is true, but there’s so much more I didn’t say. 

What I didn’t mention was how I felt. My head was wobbly yesterday. I am titrating Pregabalin slowly up to recommended dose. This is an issue because every time I up the doseage the side effects come back. Hence, my brain was not that sharp. Along with that my anxiety was troubling me. The thought of going out alone was frightening. I was of course sore; my back & feet are a constant source of pain at the moment. So, basically what I’m saying is the first picture is an accurate representation of how I felt as well as how I looked. 

I worried and procastinated for so long that I only had 40 mins to get ready. I forced myself out the door with the aid of diazepam, earphones & big sunglasses. I still felt exposed. I dreaded anyone talking to me or even getting standing too close. I got lucky with an almost entirely empty bus, but my heart was still pounding as loud as the music in my ears for the entire journey. At every stop I had to force myself not to get off & go home. Every bump in road sent a shudder of pain up my back. I persisted because I’d really like to have a real life. 


I met a dear friend who I feel completely safe with. We had a drinks & I managed to relax to level where I could enjoy myself. The weather was lovely, the company excellent & I passed for an attractive human being. 

I’m smiling in this picture because I was having a lovely time. I was still in pain. I’m always in pain. I say that not for pity, but as a fact. For my one evening’s entertainment I’ll probably require two days of rest. Today I am suffering. 


My point is that invisible illnesses are often attacked as not genuine & the weapon used can be anything sufferers manage to do. 

You can’t be that ill if you can work.

You can’t be so ill if you can go out.

You can’t be in pain if you excerise.

You can’t be depressed if you can put make up on.

And on & on & on.

I’m offering myself as an example. Some days are good, but I never feel ‘normal’. There is always pain & anxiety. There are nightmares & flashbacks & urges to butcher my flesh. There are days when I can’t get out of bed & nights of no sleep at all. It’s shit to have to push & push to accomplish everything. We (spoonies) have no alternative, if we want to build a fulfilling life, we have to fight. Wether we’re fighting to wash some dishes or to have some fun with friends we don’t need judgmental bullshit to add to our burden. 
Your reward for reading me venting my frustrations is the cutest cat in the world.

All things must pass….

Last week I finally got an appointment with the pain specialist I have been waiting see. I had pinned my hopes on this Dr having some answers for me. He did. Unfortunately it wasn’t a diagnosis I wanted. 

My new consultant is convinced that I have Fibromyalgia.  As you may know I have been living with chronic illness for some time. I have a number of debilitating digestive tract issues. I also have problems maintaining a healthy haemoglobin level, which causes a raft of symptoms ranging from fatigue to angina attacks. Along with these known conditions I have increasingly had mystery symptoms. Pains with no definable cause, intensification of pain resulting from my health issues, continual sleep disturbance despite taking really quite strong sleeping pills, confusion , memory loss & needing to pee constantly. Add that to my existing physical symptoms & PTSD and you begin to get picture of what I’m dealing with. 

Pain in particular has been taking over my life. It limits almost everything. I can’t make plans, my social life has contracted & working outside the home is impossible. Even keeping up with housework is a mammoth task. I needed help. I was clinging to the idea that someone would find a problem that could be fixed. That I’d be offered surgery or medication of some crazy treatment, at the end of which I would reclaim some of my life. I knew that my diagnosed problems wouldn’t go away, but I held out hope that these newer cryptic concerns would be cured. Sadly, that is not to be. 

There is some relief in having someone say this is what’s wrong with you. I am glad not to have been patronised or had my mental health blamed again. I just wish the outlook was a bit sunnier. Since Thursday I have been adjusting to the fact that my pain is never going away. My current condition is likely to be my continuous one. I’ve had to read up on fibromyalgia & prepare myself for all it may mean. I have also been confronted with the new knowledge that pregnancy, which was never going to be straightforward is hugely impacted by fibro. This has been a big blow. I’ve wanted to be pregnant for a very long time. Knowing that I will most likely struggle to enjoy the experience is a punch in the gut. 

So, accepting this new diagnosis is a process. However, I am by no means defeated. I will start a new medication tomorrow. It’s likely to be a rough ride as it is harsh on the stomach, but the pain relief it can offer is worth trying for. I’ve already been referred to various groups & medical professionals. I’m doing my own research; I am open to anything. Expect to join me on a journey of experimentation with pain management techniques. 

I refuse to be beaten by this. Which is not to say I won’t bitch or wallow sometimes. I’m not superwoman. I accept my body will always place limitations on me. I also acknowledge that I am nowhere near to being at peace with that. I’m angry and sad, but not defeated. I have a very clear picture of the things I need to be happy. It’s just a case of working out how to achieve them within the confines of my illness. Let’s face it, I’ve been playing with a bad hand for a while, but I can bluff my way to a win.