Living in a limited world (an introduction)

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The truth of our worlds?

I started writing this blog in 2011 on another site that is now closing. So here I am complete with the past and heading into a future I am happy to share with you. I suspect like everyone else when they start to blog, they believe that it will just be a few lines every now and then, the truth for me, has turned out to be something else completely. I write daily, so this is a full and detailed account of living with chronic illness. The symptoms and what they do to me, not just physically, but emotionally. The impact on everyday life, not just for me but my husband, and of course, on our marriage. I am now in my 50’s, but I was just 21 when my story really began, although it took nearly another 20 years for the doctors to work it out.

When I was a child, I thought a good life meant that the sweetie jar was always full, and no one told you when to have a bath. It’s odd how life just takes hold, and nothing is ever what you first believe it to be. I chose the picture above, to sit here, as it is all about belief, it’s truer than most think it to be when they first look at it. Take a good look, then ask yourself honestly, which is your view of people with chronic illness? If it fits any but the last, well prepare yourself to see that side and more, as I hold no punches, and you may find out things, you don’t really want to know. But unless you read, you will never understand and understanding, is such a small thing to ask, and that is all I and others with a chronic illness really ever ask for, a little understanding. My blog is a picture of my life, there are happy, sad, funny, painful moments, lessons I learned and things I’ve discovered. If you leave here with nothing else, please leave with a touch more understanding at the least.

Relapsing Progressive Multiple Sclerosis took over my life and slowly, I found myself housebound, with a list an ever growing list of conditions. My collection is a list as long as my arm, the more they really looked, the more they really find. Being housebound isn’t an easy place to be at first, but with a little time and planning, it has become my sanctuary, where I live and live well. I am happy, I am more than happy, yes, you can enjoy life just as much as ever, and still discover new things about yourself, and others, without leaving your home. If you follow me on Twitter, you will know that my bio has one strong and true statement within it ““Being housebound is no worse than being earthbound”” It’s time for you to understand that statement, please enjoy reading my daily blog.

If you really want to start from the very beginning, well follow this link for some not so well-written entries, yes they do improve, I learned to write along the way: My first post from January 2012

Looking forward

We have made so much progress in the last few days. On Monday the house looked as though a bomb had hit it. We had old stuff waiting to go and new stuff piling up waiting to replace it. The furniture that I ordered has arrived bit by bit, and bit by bit, Adam and I have either constructed it or positioned it just perfectly. It was the dining area that was the worst, it is small with one table and chairs in it, with two, it was impassable. One of the things that was in that pile, was the old NHS bed elevator. I can’t even remember how long I have had, but all the time it was on our bed, it had caused this ridge down the middle. I don’t know if you have ever slept in such a bed, but the result is that you move slowly to the outside edge then spend the rest of the night hanging onto it. Until now, we had had no other option, but Mums money has meant that I could source and buy a new one, one that wouldn’t cause that dreaded ridge. The problem was caused by the fact that the old one was made of steel tubing, reminiscent to the backrest on an old hospital bed.  The new one is made out of box tubing and it, is, totally, flat. Even the way that it extends means it still remains flat, regardless what size of bed it is on. I even watched a video on YouTube to be sure it was right before clicking the buy button. Now it only has to arrive for me to be totally sure, but whatever it is like, it can’t be worse than the one that just left through my front door.

All my life I have over and over again said just how much I hate shopping. When I first said it, there was no other option than to trawl through shops, which were over crowded for my taste, even on a week day. All those people use to drive me up the wall as I hated shopping so much, that I turned into someone who had the item I wanted in mind, headed for it like a missile in flight, not once looking at anything else that was on offer all around me, I bought whatever it was and flew straight home again. I was delighted when online shopping appeared, and I was one of the first to use it. For the first time, I discovered that shopping could be fun, that finding what I wanted was easy and best of all, they delivered it to my front door. Unfortunately, that statement is no longer totally true. There are now so many sites out there that it is actually becoming harder and harder to find what you want. Not even Google can now hone in on some things, especially not those slightly different items. It took me one whole day of searching to locate three royal blue and gold key tassels and another full day to find the cord that matched them so that I can make new pull cords for the new living room blinds.

I haven’t just been buying things for the house, I have bought myself a couple of things to make my life easier. Firstly the bed elevator and secondly, another item that should be here soon, a new blood oxygen meter. There is in some ways, nothing wrong with the one that I have, but it is so simple and all it shows me is what is happening in that second. It doesn’t save any of the readings and I can’t download them for later use. Whatever I learn from it is quickly gone as my brain just won’t hold the information and I can’t show it to a Doctor if I have any concerns and right now, I have a big concern. Those that have been reading for a while will know that I keep finding myself sitting on the side of my bed in the middle of the night with no idea why or how I got there. So far the doctors have been useless in finding out what is going on. Sometimes I find myself unable to pull myself in the conscious world long enough so that I can just lie down again. Recently though, there have been a couple of times when I have woken sitting up, with the vague feeling that I didn’t breathe until I got there. I have been left with the idea that maybe, just maybe, it is because my blood oxygen has fallen so low that my body has acted by moving me into that position.

Whenever I have checked my oxygen during the day lately, it has never been above 89%, often showing as low as 84%. My consultant has said in the past that those aren’t levels for me to worry about, but back then, those type of readings were occasional, now they are all the time. Our oxygen levels naturally drop when we are asleep but I have no idea how low that drop is, so I have bought a meter that has a 24 hour read out and I can down load to all to my PC. I have been looking on and off for one but they were all over £100, some over £1000 the sort of money I didn’t have. Just because I have some right now, I still wasn’t happy about spending that much so I went on a search. It turned into another long day. By tea time yesterday, I had found one, and it was closer to what I wanted to spend, just being £56, but it was that time of day, where I always switch this machine off and become social. This morning, I completed what I always do when spending money, I copy pasted its name into Google. Sometimes I do it mainly to see reviews from other users, but always because I believe in just checking before I buy, that I have the best deal. I was surprised to find the exact same one priced as high as £170, quite a jump but it often happens. I was though delighted to find one company selling it for just £24.50. I bought it straight away. It just shows it’s worth double checking, even if you don’t think you can afford it, check, you might just be able to. If I had found this months ago, I would have bought it there and then, but I didn’t. Maybe in future, even when I think something is well out of my range, I will make sure, before putting the whole idea out of my mind.

Busy, busy, busy……

Right now I feel as though I am on a playground roundabout, clinging tightly to the central pivot to stop myself being thrown off. There is so much to organise and to make happen in the next month that my brain is now throwing me from one job to another, it’s not even taking a proper break at night. It all sounded so simple when I said I’m going to spruce this place up again and make it the way it should be, now part of me wishes I hadn’t even thought about it. So yesterday, I decided to try and put the brakes on, to bring the whole thing down to a pace where I can at least get my head around each step. Apart from the delivery of all the stuff I have bought, nothing major is going to happen before the 21st of this month. I desperately need time for my mind to accept everything before the big push arrives. I never used to be like this, in the past, I was one of those people who once I had an idea, I made it happen that day, or if not, the day after. Now I need the time to build myself up, to settle my brain and calm down this feeling of impending doom that has taken over my life. In fact, when the decorators asked if they could start later this week, I could feel myself starting to shake inside. That was despite the fact that Adam and I had discussed it all the night before and he had already in his head, that I would need him here when the work was being done. I was so relieved when he said that. Fortunately, his boss has been able to give him the time off.

It seems that everyone who is involved in my care, all know me too well. It wasn’t just Adam, my nurses, and carers when told them of my plans all instantly asked how I was going to cope, and all looked relieved when I gave them the answer. It’s odd how we get these ideas in our heads that we are still just like everyone else and that no one but us knows the problems we live with, especially when it concerns those things in our heads. Then something happens and it turns out we aren’t people, we are books and everyone around us has read every page of us and some, everything that is written between the lines as well.

I don’t need any of them to tell me that I have been pushing myself too hard lately. I started by making what was, in fact, a horrific list of everything in this house that needs fixing or replaced. Until I found I had the funds to do something about it, I had somehow managed to know about all of it, yet sort of ignore it as well, as what could I do about it. Now every tiny thing on that list is real and growing in my mind by the second. I can’t even sit still here at my computer as I see this or that or remember I still haven’t done that other thing. I have been web surfing like I have never surfed before, trying to get the best deal on all that we need. In some cases, it has just been a case of trying to find what I need. It is amazing how some of the simplest of things, turns out to be the most obscure. Without a doubt, it would all be a lot easier if I actually had a brain. Just sticking to one task and completing it is hard as I keep thinking of another, or panicking that I just did the wrong thing. Every day when Adam gets home from work, he stands here telling me to slow down and calm down, as he can spot it the second I speak, As a result of my perpetual muddle, my speech is now also all over the place. Even his telling me how well I have done, and that it will all work out and be OK doesn’t really have the effect he is after, my racing brain doesn’t listen.

My panicked state isn’t only down to all that I am doing. My brain has put itself on high alert, there is this feeling that any minute, the one thing that could destroy all my plans might just happen, that I could be thrown into a flare. It has been my experience that this is exactly the sort of time when my body suddenly decided to do something horrendous to me. I have become hyper aware of every spasm, twitching or pain that it picks to throw at me without warning, and the ticking time bomb that all with an illness like mine lives with, seems, to sound just that bit louder. Irrational, well yes I suppose it is, as I have nothing other than fear and sod’s law to base it on, but I can still hear that ticking.

It’s time

I’m heading out on another of those journeys that I find I have little choice over as it quite simply has to be taken. A couple of weeks before I took my break from blogging, my mother died. It wasn’t unexpected as she was a rather elderly and unwell woman. What did surprise me, was that she has left me some money. I believed that because of the way our relationship had been over the years, I had expected she would have totally written me out of her will, just as she had told me years ago, she had done to my elder brother. It turns out that was just another one of the hurtful things she said, rather than acted on. She chose to leave all of her four children, exactly the same as each other. If she had died four years earlier it would have been a considerable amount, but almost everything she had, has been swallowed up paying for her care over those years. What we have each been left is still a wonderful gift and one I never thought I would receive.

Like everything in life, closing a persons life, doesn’t go as smoothly as anyone would think, and it has taken until now for the money to actually be on its way to me. The delay though has allowed me time to actually think about what I want to do with that money. Not that it was actually that difficult. I have decided to spend it on repairs and redecoration of our home. Some rooms haven’t been painted since we moved in here 17 years ago, the most recently done was the bathroom 7 years ago when we were forced to change the entire room so that I could manage to have a shower. It was always me who did all the DIY. I had been doing it all my life without a seconds thought, it was there to be done, so I did it. 10 years of being totally useless and another 5 on top of being almost useless, well the results are not clear to see. The whole place desperately needs attention and at last, we can afford to actually do it. Along with other jobs like getting the curtains cleaned and small bits and pieces being fixed through out the house, all equally long over due.

It all seemed like such a good idea when I first thought of it, but my doubts have grown precisely to match my excitement. I guess that it is a female thing this making our homes, our personal nest, something I did years ago before I became housebound. I knew that one day I wouldn’t be able to work, so it all had to be perfect. When I look around the flat now, well it makes me feel as jaded as it is. I know nothing lasts forever, but I never thought that I would have the opportunity to do anything about it. I have decided that I am going to simply have them redo our home exactly as it is. No new colours, nothing changed too much as that would mean changing everything else as well, and my mother didn’t leave enough for new furniture, carpets, and curtains too. It is enough though to fix all those little jobs that have been piling up because I can’t do them. Like the last three doors in the hall that never got rubbed down and polished to match the other three I did. Or the dripping tap in the bathroom, which Adam is too unsure about what it takes to have even tried. Or the flooring in the kitchen that has gaps where some tiles have slid and bear patches caused by my electric chair. Or the sealant around the windows that have discoloured and needs changing. Luckily, there is enough to do all that.

On the surface, it all sounds wonderful, but there is one huge problem, me. You just have to read my previous post to know exactly why that is. How am I going to manage all those strangers in my home? Yes, this is another one of those joys that chronic illness brings with it. I have been longing for years to have the house redecorated and to be honest, Adam isn’t the person to do it, but like any other house proud woman, this has been a dream of mine for years but it is equally, a total nightmare all rolled into one.

I have spent several hours over the last few days online, searching for a company to undertake the work, which has good reviews and so on. So far, I have spoken to 5 different companies and two of them, have actually been to the house to take a look at what needs doing and to give me a quote. A few years ago I would have approached this whole thing differently as it is no longer just about the quality of the workmen, it is also about finding a company that is happy to undertake the work and willing to work around my medical needs as well as my irrational routine fixation. I had initially had this dream in my head that I would be able to find one company who would do everything, my searches have shown that dream to be impossible. Although, I am hopeful to have brought it down to just three rather than streams of them. Either way though, this will mean a lot of people in and out of my home for several weeks. I am thinking that it might be a good idea if once I have a complete timetable of who is here and when that it might be a good idea if I asked Laura to come and sit with me at least once a day to help keep my anxiety level just that bit more settled. Not just for me, but for those who will be around me.

Despite all of that, oddly, I am looking forward to all these things being completed, to actually having a home I can wake up in daily and be proud of again. I know without a doubt that the way it has deteriorated has played a role in my not wanting people here, even those that I’ve really needed. I have been ashamed of it, as it just isn’t my home as I remember it, the way it was when I for the very last time, I closed my front door behind me. I also know, that it isn’t just me who will be pleased to see all these things done, as Adam has said often that he feels the constant pressure of all those things waiting for him to one day find the time, the money, and the skill, to fix. As I said at the start of this post, I never expected to be left a single thing, but thanks Mum, you have left both Adam and me exactly what we both really needed, but you have also left me a future living nightmare.

The facts about people

It still feels like every day is 10 hours too short and that I am no sooner out of my bed and I’m back there again. It has been such a strange week for me as Laura, my main carer, has been on holiday and I have had the joy of trying to get along with a complete stranger again. It could have been worse, as they wanted to send me not one new person but two, as Maureen, Laura’s replacement, couldn’t cover all the days. I quite simply couldn’t face that. The stress of one stranger had been more than enough, and I couldn’t face the idea of yet another one so soon. I know that to some that simply doesn’t make any sense. What could possibly be so difficult about having another person here to look after me, especially when there were several days separating them? For me, that’s a complex thing to answer, as it is a feeling that has appeared over the last few years. Having to say “no” to the agency was a simple to justify in my head. What is the point of having someone in your home to do things for you, when you have to be with them every second telling them what needs doing and how to do it. As Maureen was to cover all the other days, well that made sense, but someone else for just one day, that made none. It is the other part that is really so difficult to explain.

I have almost always found both strangers and crowds difficult. Which OK sound strange from a self-proclaimed extrovert. If you had seen the way I dress and acted back in the early 90’s, well you would never have guessed that inside that gregarious DJ, was someone who was shit scared nearly all the time. I had learned that if I put on a show, that that act allowed me to not show the truth. My work protected me from everything else, not just because there were bouncers all over the place, but my DJ booth meant I lived in a perfectly protected zone, one that no one else ever enters uninvited. Admittedly, those 7 years of working as a DJ allowed me to be the most extreme version of me, but that act started long before and still goes on to this day. When I don’t know people, and I am forced to be around them, well I panic, I get into a muddle, one that my health has now made so obvious, that I can’t bear having to go through it at all. These days I stutter, get wound up, drop things, forget not just my words but what I am doing and far more. It hurts, really hurts to be exposed in that way. This is the reason that I go nowhere without Adam by my side. But asking Adam to come home, to protect me and to keep my carer in line, well that would have been really mad.

I have often wondered if it is just me that has found that living with a chronic illness somehow magnifies all the quirks of our personality. Mind you, for me that is hard to know really which is which, as I was 21 when they think that this illness first got hold of me and who I was before that, was a child. But my inability to deal with strangers is something that has really grown over the years and the idea of being caught here in my home alone with one, that really freaks me out. It’s crazy, I know that, but emotions are always the one thing that none of us have total control over.

When Maureen arrived on the first day, well there I was all smiles and ready to show her how everything worked and what I needed her to do for me. What she didn’t see was the wreck who had been building herself up to being able to just say “hello” for the past few days. Once I had shown her everything, although I was only going to have 5 mins alone, well, I couldn’t get out of the kitchen fast enough and back through here to hide behind my computer while she finished things off. On day two, I let her in and hid straight away. Why I thought she would remember and get everything right without me, I don’t know, but that was my hope. I was of course wrong. She kept appearing in the living room to ask this question or that one and after she left, I found mistakes all over the place. She is due back tomorrow to make even more mistakes, as I simply can’t deal with the idea of taking her through it all step by step again. I will mention the biggest ones but I am still going to let her get on with it as I’d rather have shoddy than spend another half hour shaking and stuttering as I lose track of everything else again. When my health didn’t get in the way, didn’t exaggerate my every action, I would have acted my way out of this mess, but now, now I just hide and count the minutes until the whole mess is over with.

It took me about a month to totally settle myself to Laura, but it did happen eventually, and now, I fear the day that she will tell me she is moving on. I know it will happen, as she is a bright intelligent woman who has a degree and without a doubt, one day she will see that she really could be doing something that actually pays her a decent living wage. It is so wrong that our carers are paid so badly. I can’t afford to employ her directly and anyway I don’t need her 24/7. So I know the day will come when I have to face having to start all over again and I so hate that idea, especially after this week.

Laura has told me several times that she really can’t manage all the bills on what she earns. So in a bid to keep her here as long as possible and to help her out a little financially while Adam was unable to do the housework, I employed her several times outside of the system, to clean our flat for us. When I told my friend Jake all this he suddenly came up with an offer of cleaning work for her, from one of his friends. They told their friends and the ball started moving. She is now cleaning three of his friend’s houses every week. Money in her pocket on top of what the agency pays her and hopefully enough to stop her thinking of leaving me yet, but I’m not stupid enough to think it will last for ever. Well, nothing ever does.

I’m back

It has been some time since I last made an addition to my blog and I apologise to any who have been fretting as to my well being. I assure you all that I am fine, I quite simply found myself suddenly not wanting to write. Every time that I tried, and believe me I did, nothing came out, there was nothing there. After 5 years of constant updates, not only did I have nothing to say, but I had this great desire to simply take a break, to not write, to do anything other than that one thing, so that’s exactly what I did. I never intended for one second for it to be as long as it has been, but what is it they say about best-laid plans?

The first couple of weeks went just as I thought they would. I found silly games to play online until I found one that pulled me in and suddenly I was addicted. Days passed with easy, so much ease that it was almost scary. I think it was around the start of week three when Adam suddenly had an accident that damaged his back severely. It wasn’t like he did anything that you would expect to cause such an injury, he simply stood up from sitting on the settee and that was it, he was in excruciating pain. He couldn’t stand, he couldn’t sit and he couldn’t walk without pain like he had never known before. Suddenly, he was in my world.

Like many out there, he thought he knew, especially as he had witnessed what has been happening to me, over the past 17 years, exactly what chronic pain was. As each day passed, the pain he was in was wearing him down but still his admiration for the way I cope grew, yet oddly, he was reluctant to take any of my advice. Just as I once had been, he was determined to work it all out for himself and I became more and more helpless just watching him struggle. Unlike me, Adam has this thing about not taking tablets. For as long as I have known him, it has been a battle just to get him to take an aspirin, convinced that it would do damage far worse than what it would cure. It was the middle of week three, and only because his doctor had prescribed them that he started to take high levels of ibuprofen and codeine, but only when the pain was at it’s worst.

Adam has been my carer for so long that finding myself having to care for him the best I could, was hard. Not the caring bit as I totally love him, but there is so little that someone can do from a wheelchair to aid another, especially someone who is finding it hard to walk. Yes, because of my electric chair I could do much of the running around in the house, but I was totally unable to support or aid even one of his steps where ever he had to take it, and the emotional support that he needed was draining. My energy levels aren’t great and when you have to repeat over and over again the same things you said just an hour ago, well I simply didn’t always have the patience he needed from me, and he needed a lot of it. I found those five weeks of holding him up, amazingly hard work. Not too surprisingly, there were a couple of points when I did snap, like the day through his tears he said: “What am I going to do if I can’t ever walk again?” I did kind of go through the roof on that one, but I think I was justified.

After weeks of physio and doctors prodding and checking, he is now fully mobile again, but the support is still going on as they discovered halfway through his recovery that he has high blood pressure and I do mean high!. He had been at work when he started to feel really ill and he phoned me to tell me what was going on. He’d only been back at work for about a week, but all I could do was tell him to speak to his boss, then come home. It was over an hour before he phoned me again. His boss had called one of the nurses to his office and she had taken his blood pressure. Straight away he was sent out to the main hospital in Glasgow for an ECG, why that couldn’t be done in the one he works in, I still don’t understand. By the time he got there, it had lowered, but was far from low enough.

We have been going from one medical disaster to another, mine being fitted around his as they occurred. As I said, don’t worry, I’m OK, for me, it was just all the normal stuff that makes up my life, but finding the time to relax or to rebuild the energy that I needed to get through each day, has been hard and sometimes impossible. At times I have been so tired that doing anything other than playing those banal games, has been totally beyond me. I have sat here hour after hour, connecting numbers, stacking different sized boxes, eating snakes and all those other free games that are out there. I have sat here quiet simply happy to let the hours tick by and looking forwards to when I could next just go to my bed and sleep. Because Adams health has generally been so good, I had forgotten what it was like trying to be me alongside being his carer. I know there are a lot of people out there who do this daily, handle their own health along with that of their partners, but it’s all new for me.

High blood pressure is a chronic condition that can be handled with ease by taking medication. Not something that Adam finds easy and has no intention of doing for the rest of his life. He knows that he has to lose weight, something he is doing well at, he is already over a stone down but upping his exercise levels isn’t going so well. I am finding it so hard not to nag him, as I know he doesn’t respond well to that, either mentally or with the level of his blood pressure. I can see now that he has probably had this problem in the background for a while as trust me, I can see when it flares. I know that if I could just get out there with him, go swimming with him or just on long walks, that it would be easier for him, but I’m trapped here in the house unable to support him any more than do. I am such and easy excuse for him to use, as doing any of those things that are good for him, would mean leaving me behind and once again alone and he doesn’t like that. Somehow we will work it out, we always do.

So now you know what has kept me away. What was supposed to be a short restful holiday, has been anything but, but I’m back and I’m happy to be here.