Life in a Spin

Dizziness.  Giddiness. Vertigo.  Lightheadedness.  Wooziness.  Disequilibrium.  Unsteadiness.  Faintness.

Whatever word you choose to describe it, dizziness is defined as “having or involving a sensation of spinning around and losing one’s balance.”

It is also a symptom that I have lived with since early childhood.  The reasons for the dizziness is as a result of my neurological condition; a long-standing brain stem lesion.  Although we know the cause of the dizziness, we are unsure of the reason why the dizziness and vertigo occurs, and what it worse we have no way to treat or cure this very life-limiting symptom.  In the past I have tried various medications as well as undertaking vestibular rehabilitation exercises but unfortunately nothing has worked in even decreasing the severity of the moving sensations that I have to live with twenty-four seven every day.

Dizziness is not just an unpleasant symptom; it is also one which is life-limiting (Click to Tweet)

Dizziness can send you into a spin

Dizziness can send you into a spin

This condition and the symptoms, such as the dizziness has changed me.  It has also affected every part of my life.

Dizziness has not only changed me but it also affects every part of my life (Click to Tweet)

I cannot stand without feeling my body swaying due to the balance problems that the dizziness and vertigo causes; I find it difficult to be able to leave the house on my own due to the disorientation that dizziness and vertigo can cause.  Some days that I am so dizzy and the spinning is so extreme that I am unable to get out of bed.

Through this whole experience and after living with dizziness for so long, I have come to learn how little dizziness and vertigo is understood within the medical community.  According to some online resources, dizziness is one of the most difficult complaints to assess because it is a subjective sensation with many differing descriptions of the experience.  Furthermore, doctors are also unable to directly and objectively measure dizziness.  And mirroring my own experiences, patients complaining of dizziness and vertigo will see a number of different specialists, as dizziness and vertigo can be caused by a multitude of different pathophysiological processes, thereby making diagnosis particularly difficult.

As a result of it not being understood within the medical community, it is therefore also not understood within the wider community.  That is why awareness events are so important.  Now, there may not be an awareness week for my particular diagnosis, but the American organisation VEDA (Vestibular Disorders Association) is this week helping to raise awareness of Balance or Vestibular Disorders this week (September 15th – September 21st) of which dizziness and vertigo is a classic symptom.

The vestibular system includes the parts of the inner ear and brain that process the sensory information involved with controlling balance and eye movements. If disease or injury damages these processing areas, vestibular disorders can result. – VEDA website

Vestibular disorders can also include the following symptoms:

  • Visual-spatial problems
  • Clumsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Holding head in a tilted position
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Tendency to touch or hold onto something when standing
  • Poor hand-eye coordination

See this informative infographic from VEDA to find out more about these disorders.

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There may not be an awareness week for my neurological condition anytime soon but I am happy to support an awareness event to raise awareness of a symptom that greatly affects my life.  I may not live with a vestibular condition myself, but after living with dizziness and vertigo for so long, I can understand and empathise with those who do.  So, I will help VEDA and stand in solidarity with everyone affected by dizziness, vertigo and balance conditions and do so whilst wearing my ‘Dizzy not Drunk’ t-shirt!!

 

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30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know 2014…

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I originally completed the ’30 things you may not know…’ meme back in 2012.  However, I thought it might be fun to complete these 30 questions again, not only to meet new (and old!) fellow bloggers but to also see how my answers have changed during the past two years.  It is true that as my condition has progressed and am now have the need for mobility aids such as a crutch and sometimes a wheelchair, my condition it could be argued is no longer invisible.  To some extent this may be true, however, I have also found that when I do use these mobility aids I do so with suspicion from others because I look ‘fine’ and in their minds I have no need for such assistance.  It’s as if they are expecting someone with a legitimate illness or disability to have a specific mark, branding them as such.  It therefore does raise the question about what exactly defines an ‘invisible illness’ doesn’t it?

  1. The illness I live with is…
    A neurological condition known as a long-standing brain stem lesion, as well as spastic paraparesis.  However, there is some debate that there may be more going on and therefore am going through tests and seeing more consultants to determine this.
  2. I was diagnosed with it in the year…
    2010
  3. But I had symptoms since…
    As long as I can remember, I am certain that I have had the stiffness and weakness in the legs since birth but went undetected for so long because I hadn’t realised that there might be a problem with my legs as I never knew anything different!  The vertigo and dizziness started in early infancy also but the exact age I am unsure of but I was very young.
  4. The biggest adjustment I have had to make is…
    Accept the limitations regarding my mobility and accept my need for a wheelchair.  I am often incredibly stubborn and will refuse to use my wheelchair, and by the end of the day I am in a lot of pain as well as having trouble moving around because of severe weakness in the legs.
  5. Most people assume…
    That because I am able to stand and walk sometimes when I have the wheelchair then it must mean that I am faking it all for sympathy or because of laziness.  Many people need to learn that because a person uses a wheelchair does not automatically mean that they are entirely dependent on one.
  6. The hardest part about mornings are…
    It has to be getting up out of bed!  Fatigue is another symptom that I suffer as a result of my condition and therefore it is very difficult to get out of bed as I still feel so tired.
  7. My favourite medical TV show is…
    It’s still has to be Grey’s Anatomy, although I am also addicted to Private Practice!!
  8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is…
    This is a tough question as like most people I own several gadgets which are all so useful in my daily life living with chronic illness.  But having to choose just one I would have to say my smartphone (Samsung Galaxy Note 3) as I am able to do so much with it and can be with me wherever I go.  For instance, thanks to applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest I can work on things related to my blog and keep in contact with fellow spoonies, which is fantastic on days which are struggle and need someone else to talk to.  More than this I can take photographs, be reminded to take medications on time, play games, watch videos or listen to music – generally be entertained and distracted from pain, dizziness, and life from a chronic illness in general!
  9. The hardest part about nights are…
    Trying to switch off from the pain and trembling that I experience in my legs due to the spastic paraparesis.  I often experience insomnia because of these symptoms and it’s even been known to wake me up!
  10. Each day I take __ pills and vitamins…
    9 pills
  11. Regarding alternative treatments I…
    Do not use any, as in my case the condition is not treatable even with conventional medical treatments, only can attempt to control the symptoms.  I did enjoy a lovely and relaxing massage whilst on holiday earlier this year which I did find help with the pain
  12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible I would choose…
    An invisible illness could be more positive in the way that people are more likely to treat you as everyone else
  13. Regarding work and career…
    I would love to have a career and full-time job but often worry if anyone would hire me due to the amount of time that I am unwell and also would question if I could hold down a job due to my legs giving way a lot and the inability to stand for long.  Am also not allowed to drive due to the severity of the dizziness and vertigo, and public transport is not an option as it requires standing for a significant period of time
  14. People would be surprised to know…
    That despite living with a neurological condition and dealing with severe symptoms everyday that I still manage to be positive!  Many people expect me to be depressed because I am stuck inside of the house for most of my time, and so am surprised that I am positive and upbeat.  Also, a lot of people love my positivity board which contains letters from friends, cards and posters with positive quotes and photographs of happy memories, all of which help me stay positive.
  15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been…
    I am not like everyone else my age and cannot achieve the milestones that I was once looking forward to, passing my driving test being one.  Another example, is going out at night with friends, which I am unable to do due to the weakness in my legs, as well as the intense fatigue I experience at night.  It has also been hard to accept that I may need to use a wheelchair as my legs keeps becoming worse over time.
  16. Something that I ever thought I could because of my illness which I did was…
    It has to be going on a cruise.  Not only did I think it was out of my reach due to the severity of the dizziness relating to my neurological condition, but also I never expected me to be able to handle it, but I did and looking back the holiday was a fantastic experience, and between you and me we have just booked to go on another one next year around the Canaries!
  17. The commercials about my illness…
    Are non-existent as the condition is rare.  In fact it is so rare that I haven’t met anyone else with the same condition.
  18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is…
    Going on shopping trips with my Mum to our local city centre (Cardiff).  Since my legs have become so much worse am unable to go as a lot of walking is involved as well as not being able to queue in the big department stores as my legs often give way.  Also, large cities such as Cardiff can be very difficult for me to handle because of the dizziness, as it makes me very disoriented due to the large crowds, fluorescent lights in the shops and high ceilings and so on.
  19. It was really hard to have to give up…
    Doing all the exercise that I enjoyed such as going on my exercise bike or going on walks as not only is it beneficial physically, I often found it helped with mental well-being.  I also miss walking my dog as it’s something that both her and my Mum and I enjoyed doing together.
  20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is…
    Blogging and writing.  If I had not ben diagnosed with this neurological condition then I would never have started blogging or meeting all of the wonderful people I have as a result of my writing.  I also never would have had the opportunity to contribute to the inspiring digital magazine ‘The Pillow Fort Magazine’ especially for those battling with chronic conditions.
  21. If I could have one of feeling normal again I would…
    Spend the whole day out of the house with dinner afterwards and maybe headed to a party after that!
  22. My illness has taught me…
    To listen to my body, and that we all know when there is something wrong.  To never settle when doctor’s are telling you there is nothing wrong when you know there is.  To keep moving forward and to never give up until you find a doctor that will listen and is determined to find out what is wrong.
  23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that really gets under my skin is…
    “There are people much worse off than you”.  Yes, I understand this but it still doesn’t help!!
  24. But I love it when people…
     
    Listen to me and tried to understand even though it can be difficult due to the unpredictable and unusual nature of the illness.
  25. My favourite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is…
    It has to be “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain”
  26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them…
    It is not the end.  You still have a lot to offer just need to be open to new opportunities.  You need to find a new normal instead of focusing on the past and everything that once loved doing but can no longer do.
  27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is…
    Although that I do not know anyone else with the exact same condition, I am still not alone.  There are many other people who experience the same struggles as myself and whom I can learn from and can support each other through the tough times.
  28. The nicest thing that someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was…
    Sending me a care package with things that I love and a beautiful card to add to my positivity board
  29. I’m involved with ‘Invisible Illness Week‘ because…
    To spread awareness of the difficulties faced when living with a chronic invisible illness; to educate people that although you cannot see the problem does not mean that it doesn’t exist.  That people with invisible illnesses are not faking or are lazy and that we should be careful when making snap judgements about people.  It’s a cliché but it’s true: ‘You cannot judge a book by its cover”.  It would also be nice to connect with others living with invisible illnesses like myself for support and friendship.
  30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel…
    I feel validated and supported so thank you!!

I’m supporting Balance Awareness Week! Will you?

Every year in September VEDA (Vestibular Disorders Association) aims to raise awareness for vestibular conditions.  They also aim  raise money for research into these disorders which causes dizziness and affects the balance system.

According to the VEDA website:

The goal of Balance Awareness Week is to reduce the time it takes to diagnose a vestibular disorder. We help patients recognize the symptoms of a vestibular disorder and urge them to seek help from a professional specialist. We also encourage family and friends to learn more about vestibular disorders so they can support their loved ones’ who are suffering from dizziness and other debilitating symptoms.

Although, I do not suffer from a vestibular disorder myself; dizziness and disturbances in my balance is a large part of my life.  Due to a neurological condition, I am constantly dizzy as well as frequent episodes of vertigo and as a result my balance is affected with these symptoms affecting my gait (the way I walk) and causing falls.  Therefore, I understand and have experienced the loneliness, frustration and isolation these symptoms can cause and as a result I am supporting the ‘Balance Awareness Week’ (September 15th – September 21st 2014).

One way in which I have already shown my support for VEDA and raise awareness for Balance disorders is by purchasing a t-shirt designed by my great friend, Marissa.  Marissa has been a fantastic advocate for everyone affected by dizziness and vestibular conditions.  Marissa not only blogs about her own battle with dizziness and balance issues at her site Abledis.com, but she also founded ‘The Spin Sisters’ a podcast that discusses life with chronic dizziness and coping with a chronic condition.  To find out more about why Marissa is raising money and helping VEDA, then you can read so by viewing her personal campaign page here.

balanceawarnesstshirts

There are two t-shirts available in the Balance Awareness storefront – one funky and lighthearted design that features the phrase ‘Dizzy not Drunk’.  This is because many people who suffers with vestibular disorders often are accused of being drunk because it can result in an unsteady gait when walking which is also a sign of intoxication.  The other design is a simple and plain design with the hashtag ‘Cure Dizziness’ and ‘Balance Awareness Week 2014′ underneath.  The ‘Cure Dizziness’ design is available in adult (men and women) and youth sizes.

There is only six days left on the t-shirt campaign, so please if you can then purchase your own to show support for everyone affected by dizziness and balance disorders.  These disorders can affect anyone at anytime and is something that could affect at you at some point.  As Marissa says:

Rocking an awareness t-shirt means we all get to stand in solidarity with those suffering in silence… PLUS you’re getting a cool looking t-shirt!

 

If you aren’t able to get your own t-shirt then please  help spread the word and raise awareness about such conditions on social media and help all those who are suffering with such conditions in silence.  Awareness is a catalyst for a change so help and be a change agent!

In the dark and in the unknown…

This is a very hard post to write.  Not only because of its contents but also because of the way recent events has left me feeling, which is very down if I am to be honest with you all.

This is because last Tuesday, I had yet another hospital appointment with the neurological consultant that I am under.  The purpose of this visit was a follow-up on how I have progressed since the last visit but also to find out the results of the tests that I have had conducted as well as the findings from the other consultants that I have seen, since the last time that I saw him.  All of the test results came back clear, however and as a result we are no more closer to finding a diagnosis than we were before.

Of course, it is a relief to know that there isn’t anything seriously wrong, but at the same time I was devastated at the lack of positive test results and as a result no diagnosis.  During another neurological examination, when asked to slide my ankle down the opposite leg, the bent leg started going into spasm.  At this finding, the neurologist’s face became puzzled, but at this he could tell something is wrong but is at a loss what it could be.  Interestingly, he noticed findings that were not present during the last examination.

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So what now?  Well, now he has decided to test for some genetic causes to explain my symptoms, including:

  • Dopa-responsive dystonia
  • Dystonia
  • Spinocerebellar ataxia

I think I am partly becoming down because of the unknown of this situation.  The unknown of what exactly is wrong with me as well as the unknown of what I am facing.  In my opinion, not knowing is often the worse than the reality.  If I had a definitive diagnosis, then at least I would have an idea of what may happen and to make plans accordingly.  However, not knowing is similar to being stuck in limbo; stuck in the middle of nowhere and at a lost as to the direction my life is headed.

“Not having a definitive diagnosis is like being stuck in limbo…” (Click to Tweet)

I am also worried that if the doctor’s are a loss as to the cause of my symptoms than they are eventually going to be labelled as being psychological.  It is true that in the past I have had problems with both depression and anxiety but I am positive that these were as a result of my undetermined condition.  For example, I know that the anxiety started after the dizziness – who would not become anxious after experiencing something so unpleasant and not knowing what was happening?  Then there were the thoughts that I should have asked more question, for example should I have asked for a MRI with contrast – could that have shown something a regular MRI would not?  Although I am worried about this, the neurologist that I am under seems to be determined to find the cause of my symptoms and is even willing to refer me to someone else in the department or even a possibility of being referred to a specialist neurological hospital in London.

But in the meantime, it looks like I may be stuck in limbo for the forseeable future…

 

So I am interested in hearing your stories of diagnosis…How long did you wait  for a diagnosis? If you are still waiting for a diagnosis, how do you feel about it?

Am also interested in the views of those living with the disorders that are mentioned above…How long did you wait to be diagnosed?  How were you finally diagnosed?

Feel free to comment below…

I’ll be there for you…cos you’re there for me too…

tumblr_lr8hwvvEai1qmupweo1_500 Throughout my teenage years, I was a massive fan of the television show ‘Friends’.  Not only was the show incredibly funny but I also loved the relationships between the six main characters – their strong bond of friendship and how they were constantly there for each other.  However, although the show was entirely fictitious, I also found myself feeling envious of the close friendship as unfortunately I had none of my own after my so-called friends abandoned when symptoms, especially the dizziness started interfering with my everyday life.  There is nothing like a diagnosis of a neurological condition, or any other chronic illness to show who your real friends are. After leaving university and entering adulthood, the problems regarding friendships have not improved.  Many friends that I have made, unfortunately no longer in contact with me; despite my attempts to do so.  This is something that has hurt me deeply over the years, especially as I thought of them as close friends.  I am not sure the reasons behind the now lack of contact – the reason may lie in their own prejudices towards my conditions; or perhaps they failed to understand the reasons behind my inability to go out to certain places that I find uncomfortable and can precipitate an attack of vertigo.  Whatever the reason however, it hurts deeply and has often led to a decrease in self-esteem and self-confidence as a result. In my last blog post I write how many of my symptoms have recently worsened and furthermore how I have struggled both physically and emotionally because of the sudden deterioration.  What has also made it harder is the loneliness and isolation that I have felt when in the house during this period.  It is during these times that I wished that I had friends living close-by that could pop-by for lunch or to take me out to distract me from my severe symptoms and make me feel that I am less alone in my struggles with living with this condition. Although I may have a distinct lack of friends living in a close proximity, I have however made a lot of friends online that although the distance between us is large, they should not be excluded from this discussion into friendships and chronic illness.  These friendships that I have developed online through the blog and social media have come to mean so much, as they too also experience chronic illness or other long-term chronic conditions and therefore understand exactly what it is like to live with them and thus gives support like no other.  Furthermore, by using tags and hashtags on social media such as the term ‘spoonie’ (a person who is living with a chronic illness or chronic pain) is not only fantastic at connecting with others going through similar experiences but also makes us feel that we are part of a community, a fact that is important as due to our conditions we often feel excluded in other areas of our life.;

Tweet: The term ‘spoonie’…makes us feel that we are part of a community… http://ctt.ec/XB4rF+ via @serenebutterfly

And it is thanks to these online friendships that I now feel that I have people outside my family that actually care about me, and have also led to the feeling that I am worthy of such friendships (as I have been burned by many people in the past, I often felt that there was something wrong with me, or was not worthy of friendships). It is surprising that these online relationships can develop into such strong and meaningful friendships, but for many of us living with long-term health conditions, or conditions which prevents us, or makes it difficult for us from getting out into the community we know that it is these friendships that are so important to us and makes life living with illness a little easier.  In my experiences, I have often found that the friends whom I have met online actually keep in contact with me, or even cares more about me then the people who are in my real-life existence. images A favourite saying of mine is “Friends are like stars.  You don’t always see them, but you always know that they’re there…” and it is certainly true regarding my fellow chronically ill friends.  Just because I don’t see them, it does not make the friendship any the less important or real – what is important, however, is that they continually are there for me during my struggles and even through the good; and also that they show concern and support when I need it.

Tweet: Friends are like stars. You don’t always see them, but you know they are always there http://ctt.ec/HUlcN+ via @serenebutterfly

So, what if it comes through a computer screen instead of a face-to-face interaction, isn’t the fact that we have made a connection with another person the most important point? But perhaps there are ways which I can develop these friendships further – perhaps swapping phone numbers with friends I have made online, or even start using Skype as a means in keeping in contact with people may be a start in gaining support when I am in need, and to also give support for when I am needed to support someone else in need?

So, I am interested – what are your experiences of friendships and life with chronic illness?  Have you still managed to maintain friendships with those in your real-life existence? Or do you rely on friendships that have developed through online communication?  Love to hear your thoughts and comments on this subject so please don’t hesitate by getting in touch by commenting below or even getting in contact via social media (links can be found by clicking the icons at the top of the page).

A Personal Experience of Cruising with a Neurological Condition

As mentioned in my previous post, I concluded that in my opinion cruises are a perfect option for  those with disabilities due to the excellent accessibility of cruise ships by large companies such as Royal Caribbean and the fantastic care that the staff provide for those passengers with disability.  It is also preferable to using air travel because of the lack of waiting around for hours in a large airport.  However, as the first post was a general overview of cruising with a disability, I wanted to write another post, writing about my own experiences of going on a cruise with a neurological condition.

As regular readers will know, one of the main symptoms that I experience as a result of the brain stem lesion is dizziness and problems with my balance.  As a result, I was hesitant about going on a cruise because of the severity of these issues that have been increasingly become worse recently.  In fact, a few days prior to leaving for the holiday, I was in floods of tears stating that I couldn’t face going on the cruise because of how bad I have been feeling.  Furthermore, the attacks of losing my vision also came back the days before the start of the holiday, and as a result I just felt that I wanted, or even needed to stay at home to be among the familiar surroundings and those items that give me comfort.  I was frightened of these episodes occurring when in unfamiliar surroundings and somewhere where I do not know the layout.  I was eventually talked round into going obviously, and had to go anyway as it was too late to cancel without losing a substantial amount of money.

I so wish that I could write telling you, I had an amazing time.  I wanted so much to be well enough to enjoy the whole cruising experience as well as visiting new places such as Rome and Florence.  However, unfortunately I found the majority of the holiday feeling very unwell.  The dizziness and vertigo were severe for the entire trip, and has not settled since returning so I am hoping it is not yet another deterioration in my condition.  A lot of people who I know that have been on cruises assured me that these ships are so large that you cannot feel them moving at all (apart from the times when the sea is rough!), however my experience was far different.  Even when the cruise ship was docked at the ports, I still felt the ship moving; for the entire holiday by world was awash with constant motion.  Perhaps due to the neurological condition and the problems with balance as a result, I am hypersensitive to any type of motion.  Furthermore, as a result of the increased problems with my balance whilst onboard, the number of falls that I experienced increased as a result and therefore had to rely on my wheelchair for most of the cruise.  However, having  said this for me a cruise was preferable as if my severe symptoms suddenly presented themselves then I would not be too far from the cabin where I would be able to lie down and recuperate until the symptoms dissipated and I felt well enough to rejoin the fun onboard again.

I didn't manage to get off the ship during the cruise but didn't miss out on the amazing sights that were on offer from the ship itself.  This is an amazingly beautiful picture of Nice

I didn’t manage to get off the ship during the cruise but didn’t miss out on the amazing sights that were on offer from the ship itself. This is an amazingly beautiful picture of Nice

The symptoms however did not dissipate or I recovered enough to fully enjoy the experience, and therefore unfortunately was unable to leave the ship and visit the various destinations that the ship docked.  The symptoms were just too severe for me to feel well and strong enough to get off which is such a disappointment for myself as I so wanted to visit these places, and those in Italy in particular.  Instead, I had to make the most out of what I could do, which was not much because of the severity of the symptoms and due to the weakness in my legs.  Instead, I stayed in the cabin and slept due to the fatigue or spent the time reading.  It might sound as if I didn’t accomplish much, however I did manage to read a rather impressive 6 books during the 15 night cruise, some of which I have wanted to read for a long time but hadn’t found the time.  A positive therefore is that the holiday gave me time to rediscover a love of reading and losing myself in stories that for a short time took my mind off the dizziness, trembling, weakness, fatigue and pain.  And talking of pain, I spent a lot of time using the Solarium and enjoying the facilities including the warm jacuzzi, sauna and steam room.  I found that spending time in the jacuzzi was excellent to relax and unwind from the stresses and worries of my condition as well as helping to ease the pain that I experience in my legs.  In addition to using the jacuzzi my mother also splashed out for us to have a massage at the spa onboard Adventure of the Seas, which again was incredibly enjoyable as well as being incredibly relaxing.  The masseuse noticed the stiffness in my legs, as well as my cold toes, which apparently is a sign of poor circulation so was even recommended on some oils which we could use at home to ease the pain and increase the circulation in my legs.  It was very pricey but really was worth every penny.  My highlight of the holiday!

My sanctuary onboard Adventure of the Seas

My sanctuary onboard Adventure of the Seas

Even going down for dinner was difficult for me – the lighting, the varying ceiling heights and the loud noises  all seemed to bother me,, making me feel very dizzy and setting the vertigo and although I felt silly for wearing it, I needed the security of my hat with me, the majority of the time in order to block out the stimuli which were making my symptoms worse.  I was unable to attend the shows because of the strobe lighting and flashing lights being used, as they too are a trigger for the episodes of vertigo that I regularly experience.  However, I did attend an ice show which used such effects, and was very unwell afterwards, with the inability to even get dressed the very next day.  People did stare and felt very self-conscious but I remembered a great quote by Dr Seuss “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”  A lot of people who we met during the cruise were lovely and very understanding such as Gemma and Stan, a granddaughter and granddad who sat on our table at dinner.  Both were lovely and we enjoyed their company during the cruise.  Although even attending dinner was difficult as positive is that, during most of the holiday I still managed to go despite the severe symptoms I was experiencing and very much enjoyed dressing up for the formal nights.  Arriving back at the cabin we were on some nights greeted with the fun and cute ‘towel animals’ created by our wonderful room attendant (who nicknamed me Rihanna during the holiday!).  They also helped put a much needed smile on my face!!

 

Being so unwell and suffering with severe symptoms so much on a holiday was incredibly difficult and as a result was very difficult to remain positive.  For obvious reasons, did not have room to take my positivity board along with me on the board which is a main tool of mine to remain positive despite chronic illness.  I did however take my gorgeous Book of Strength and Book of Motivation along with me, which helped me to cope during the difficult times.  Then whilst browsing the shops onboard, I saw a gorgeous necklace, depicting the word ‘hope’.  In replace of the ‘O’ was a ribbon using silver stones.  A silver ribbon, I remember reading is used for a variety of different including brain disorders (or neurological conditions) and as a result was drawn to it, and thought it would be a perfect piece of jewellery to remind myself to remain positive despite living with a neurological condition and remain hopeful on the days where dark clouds are appearing in the same way the positivity does for me when at home.  A couple of days before the cruise, they had a jewellery sale – this time selling charm bracelets by the jeweller Bella Perlini.  There were many bracelets to choose from in a variety of different colours; so many that I had trouble to decide which to buy.  Then I found a plain silver charm bracelet, which had the words ‘Live, Love, Laugh and Dream’ engraved and again the inspiring positivity of this piece of jewellery really spoke to me and so had to buy it.  With these pieces of jewellery it is like wearing a piece of my positivity board and carrying it with me wherever I go.

To conclude, the cruise was a difficult holiday for me, with the deterioration and severity of my symptoms.  A cruise, however does offer several benefits such as the easy and fast booking and check-in day on departure day, and the short distance to your cabin when chronic illness strike.  Although, the cruise was difficult and felt very unwell for most of it, I am glad that I went; if I hadn’t there would always be that ‘What if?’ question being asked in the back of my mind.  In addition, if my parents were to go on a cruise again, I would not feel as if I were being left out or jealous that they were going away and I wasn’t because I am aware of the effects that the constant motion of the ship has on my particular symptoms.  But as unwell as I was during the cruise, there were several highlights of the holiday and positives of my time away.  Would I do it again?  Probably not; perhaps the only way, would be if the doctors were able to cure the dizziness that I experience.  How, likely that is I don’t know.

 

Make plans…our bodies laugh

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Welcome to the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge brought together by WEGO Health – a social network for all health activists.  Again, I am participating in the annual Writer’s Month Challenge in which I will be writing about my health activism and health condition based upon prompts given.

Today’s prompt reads as follows:

Summer Lovin’…Summer is coming up.  What plans do you have?  Any family vacation?  What do you look forward to in Summer 2014?

I have to admit that I currently have no plans for the Summer of 2014.  Why is this?  For starters, in my opinion making long-term plans whilst living with a neurological condition or chronic illness like myself, can be extremely difficult.  It can be extremely difficult because everyday is an unknown.  We do not know what each day will bring; how severe the symptoms associated with our condition and how we will feel from one day to the next.  Sometimes especially when experiencing a bad flare in our conditions, we do not know how we will feel one minute from the next even, and so therefore making plans can often be problematic as there is always the worry that we will need to cancel.  And cancelling plans not only disappoints those with whom we have made those plans with, but also leads to disappointment for ourselves.  You know that phrase “We plan, and God laughs” – never has a saying been so true for life with chronic illness, except that it is our bodies that laugh and not God.

"People plan and God laughs" or the Spoonie equivalent is "We plan and our bodies laugh!"

“People plan and God laughs” or the Spoonie equivalent is “We plan and our bodies laugh!”

By the time that Summer arrives of course, I would have already have been on my holiday.  The first holiday in fact that I have had for several years.  At this very moment, I am a mixture of being very excited but also very nervous.  Living with my neurological condition can be very difficult, and therefore I realise that going on holiday may at times be very difficult due to my symptoms such as dizziness.  However, as I am going on a cruise, it has a variety of benefits, such as being able to set the pace for the holiday itself.  I can be as active or passive as I want; and in addition if I suddenly become unwell, I can simply head straight back to our cabin without the hassle of travelling back to a hotel from the beach or from somewhere further afield.  Also, being on a cruise ship could also lead to more independence away from my parents as I can (with hope) wheel myself around to areas of the ship where the activities that I want to take part in are held.  For example, I have learnt that often cruise liners hold art and craft sessions, such as lessons in jewellery making or scrapbooking and so as I have found art and crafts to be useful in distracting myself from symptoms such as dizziness and chronic pain and so therefore may be beneficial for me to attend such onboard activities.

I also know that it may take a while to recover from the cruise and from all of the added activity that comes from being on holiday.  The start of the Summer therefore may be recovering from the holiday.  Unfortunately, the Summer may also see more hospital appointments as am waiting for an MRI to be conducted before seeing my consultant again.

Although I don’t have definite plans for this Summer, I do hope however for more lovely, relaxing and fun days out with my carer and enjoy the most of the warm weather.  Day outs to nearby tourist attractions, days out shopping or simply a trip to our favourite coffee shop, I don’t really mind as long as the Summer isn’t spent in my house with only my symptoms for company.