5 years ago…

5 year ago today (30th September – is actually the 1st October now as I publish, oops!)  I was rushed to the hospital after a very large overdose. I was done, couldn’t do it anymore, I didn’t want to live in pain for the rest of my life, I just wanted it all to be over. It was a large overdose and I had a lot of other medications in my system too as they were my regular meds. I don’t know how long it was between taking the meds and falling unconscious, but I don’t think it was long. Most of the rest is a complete blur, my family found me, I don’t know how soon after it happened but I was in a bad way. They didn’t want to wait for an ambulance as often ambulances there would take forever to turn up, so they carried me down the stairs and into the back of the car. My Dad ran every red light to get to the hospital as fast as possible, my mum was sat in the back slapping my face to try and keep me awake. All I remember is being slapped and me telling her a few times to ‘fuck off and let me die’ before slipping unconscious again. From here I don’t remember much more just a couple of brief flashes in and out of consciousness. My t-shirt being ripped open in A&E, a porter praying over me in the elevator, a catheter being inserted. They put a tube down my nose for activated charcoal but don’t remember that bit at all. I was unconscious in the ICU for quite a while before I finally came to late the next day I think and then I spent another full day in ICU before a night on a ward as well. Other than these few brief details I do not know what else occurred and I don’t bring it up with my family to ask about it. I don’t want them to have to remember it so vividly and live through it again in their mind.

It feels like that was a lifetime ago, that it was a different person. I’ve been in somewhat bad and suicidal places since, but nothing as severe as how suicidal I was before that attempt and haven’t had any plans since my attempt 5 years ago. Despite the continued pain and illness the past 5 years, I’m glad I survived and I don’t want to repeat that experience ever again. And yes there have been bad times since and lots of pain but I’ve had good times too, some happy times and time spent laughing. I like laughter and sarcasm and turning things into a joke, often this can actually help me cope. I have a great sense of humour and feel that if I didn’t have one, what would I have left? It’d be pretty god damn miserable if I couldn’t see the funny side to things and wasn’t able to laugh at myself and at things in life, which is how it has sometimes been in previous years.
I thought I may feel a bit weird or emotional today about it all, but actually I feel okay. I feel happy I’m still here and that luckily 5 years ago my attempt at taking my own life did not succeed.

Currently I feel very stable mental health wise to be honest. I did have a brief struggle earlier in the year with the whole failed ONS situation, but I’m doing much much better mentally now. Which was helped by changing back to my psychologist of 4 years after having a brief break where I had to see the headache psychologist after ONS surgery, which wasn’t right for me. I feel upbeat and positive, right now I feel like I’m fed up of being miserable as it doesn’t help. Which is a big achievement for me, especially given I’m actually very unwell at the moment. I’ve actually been in hospital the past 2 weeks. But despite the pain and being very sick I still feel positive, able to see the bright and funny side of things, to laugh and to joke. I’ve got an excellent team of doctors, I feel positive and optimistic about everything.  I will write more about it all soon, when everything is all sorted out. I’m in good spirits despite everything, which is pretty revolutionary for me.
However I really need to stop being in hospital on the 30th September. Three years out of the past 5 I have been,  last year was my ONS surgery – can you believe that was a year ago?! And now this year too, which is unrelated to my NDPH or my mental health.

 

P.S have majorly conquered my doctors appointment anxiety currently and am feeling very proud of myself about that.

 

Advertisements

What I wish I could tell my neurologist tomorrow…

I’m not good at expressing myself to people in person, I’m never able to say what I want to or need to. I’m much better at writing it down, what I want to say and how I feel. I’m seeing my neurologist tomorrow and this is what I wish I was able to tell him…

I don’t want you to think I haven’t given this enough of a chance or that I haven’t tried hard enough with it. I wasn’t expecting any sort of relief yet when I only had surgery 7 months ago, but I’m so much worse it’s unbearable and I know it should not be this way. I can feel that my pain/head/brain does not like what is happening to it when the stimulator is on, I can feel it and it’s even more agony than I’ve been use to for the past 7 years. And if that wasn’t bad enough an extra headache has been created at the back of my head, which was never there before and I don’t understand what has happened for it to be there, but it’s really very painful and I just wish it would go away. I wish I never had the surgery,  I wish I had listened to the people who said not to go through with it. However I’m the type of person who will try anything within reason if there is the slightest possibility it could result in some relief, and I know if I had not gone through with it I would always be wondering if this could have been my answer.
I don’t often complain to you, I don’t often complain to anyone, I usually hide my pain with a brave face, a fake smile, a laugh or a sarcastic comment, mainly because I don’t want anyone to see just how badly I feel and just how much pain I’m actually in. But this is me complaining, when the stimulator is on it causes me so much agony it’s becoming unbearable. And I’ll be completely honest, I don’t want you to turn it back on and reprogram me which will probably send me back into even more agony, I want you to keep it turned off and then swiftly arrange for removal. I’m in agony and I don’t know what more to ask for other than this and hope that I can return to what it was like before surgery, which was also agony but it wasn’t quite as bad as this. I know you’ve tried so hard to help me and I appreciate everything you have done to try and help me over the past 6 years I have known you, I appreciate it more than you know, you were the only neurologist I have ever seen that didn’t dismiss my pain, that listened to me, that cared enough to want to help and for that I will always be grateful. But I’m not sure I can keep going with this stimulator and how much extra pain it is causing me, I’m completely fed up and done with it and I honestly don’t believe that reprogramming it any different is going to change the extra pain it causes me when it’s on, I know my pain better than anyone, I know what it does not like and it does not like this, I wish so badly it did and I wish this could have been my answer for some relief, but I really don’t think it is.

I know everyone was worried about what would happen to me if surgery turned out not to help and where I would be mentally if that was the case. I wish I could tell you I was okay, or that I will be okay. But the truth is I’m not okay, I’m so very far from okay, I’m completely heartbroken and devastated about this and completely unsure of how I’m even going to be able to move forward from here, of how I’m going to cope with the rest of my life with this pain. I’m probably in one of the worst states I’ve been in and I’m probably beyond anyones help anymore. I’m 23 years old it’s been over 7 years since this started and I have no clue how on earth I’m going to survive the rest of my life with this pain, I don’t know how to deal with the fact I will probably never have any sort of relief, that all hope for that is gone. And I feel that if all I’m ever going to be is sick and in pain, then what really is the point anymore? 

I know I won’t be able to say this to you tomorrow, I’m not even sure I have the courage to show you this post, but maybe I will surprise myself.

 

The art of looking OK.

I’ve been in pain for over 7 years, but if you didn’t already know you probably wouldn’t be able to tell. It’s taken me a long time to perfect the art of looking okay even when I’m in agony. But now the majority of the time I look relatively normal but nobody see’s what I look like when the pain is at it’s absolute worst, because I stay at home and in bed.

My pain levels are always on the high side, but I am able to mostly function a portion of the time. Over the years I’ve learnt to deal with the pain better, but I’ve also learnt to hide the look of pain in my face and hide how I feel from the world. When my headache first started I had no idea how to deal with it and I was unable to hide the pain and how depressed and angry I felt, and it drove everybody away other than my family and Jo. I’m not saying that nobody in my life these days knows about my headache; they all do and I’m completely fine with that and telling them updates on my stimulator and medical issues. But when I’m with people they have no clue the extent of how actually I feel like my head is about to explode or that someone has stabbed me multiple times in the head. I hide my depression and just how badly I feel about the fact that I’m going to be in pain for the rest of my life, how surgery was my last attempt at a life with less pain and it’s been a complete and utter disaster that has only made me worse. I hide just how completely devastated I feel about that right now, and I don’t necessarily want to talk about it with anyone because I honestly don’t know what to say and I don’t want to see the disappointment in everyone else’s eyes, because they were all rooting for this to be my answer too. My body has let me down, it has let everyone down.

Everything I do is clouded by the pain – I go to training (my best relief and coping mechanism) and hang out with some of the most amazing people afterwards having a laugh and a joke which is hilarious and always makes my day and slightly distracts me from my pain and the thoughts in my head. The pain is not great whilst I’m there but I get home only to be engulfed by agony. And how my life is right now is really all I can manage, I wish so badly I could manage more and it breaks my heart every day that this is all I will ever be and I’m really not sure I will ever come to terms with that.

I’m really struggling at the minute, I’ve got some aspects of my life that keep me going, my training and the people there, they don’t know it but they keep me alive and make me laugh and smile a million times more than I use to. But theres a hole in my heart that the pain has created and a deep rooted depression that I hide so well but will probably never recover from.

Can you be ‘fixed’ in 8 sessions of therapy?

Along with having my surgery in September I was given psychological support form the hospital I am at in London. At first it was a temporary psychologist whilst the ONS surgery service employed a psychologist to be on their team. I saw the temporary one for 4 sessions and it was going okay, and then I got moved to the new ONS service one. I’ve been with him since the start of the year and I’ve spoken about it on here a bit before.
At my first appointment he asked me what my goal was, and I replied to feel better. By better I didn’t necessarily mean my headache would miraculously disappear, though that would be lovely, instead I meant to feel less miserable all the time. We agreed with a set of 4 sessions before reviewing it.

To be honest in the beginning I wasn’t too keen on him and his approach, the sessions made me very anxious, still sometimes do, but my anxiety levels within the sessions have improved as I have got use to him and the approach. It’s been going okay, and I’ve become more aware of my emotions within the sessions, how I feel when I talk about certain things in my life and where I feel that feeling in my body. I have improved with time but I wouldn’t say I was any less miserable unfortunately. At the end of the initial 4 sessions I said I’d like to keep going and we agreed another 4 but then that would be the maximum they would be able to offer me. I know I won’t reach a goal of being less miserable, and I honestly don’t think that is possible in only 8 sessions, I also don’t think that most people with complex issues would be able to go from depressed to somewhat okay and ready to leave therapy in basically just over 8 weeks. I’ve been in therapy 7 years and I’m still not there. I know not everyones the same and people have different problems and yeah maybe 8 sessions would be enough for a small number of people, but for a lot it’s not and where do people go once they get discharged from their 8 sessions? It also makes me wonder why people wonder why we have a mental health crisis on our hands this day and age. With my experience with some NHS mental health care I completely understand it. People don’t get better, local mental health teams are often shocking, I know they are in my area, and then not enough therapy is offered (that’s if and when it is offered) so therefore people don’t get better. I get that the NHS is often overworked and understaffed and staff work really hard to look after patients, but often mental health care is lacking, trust me I know I’ve experienced it.

As I near the end of my 8 sessions I know I won’t cope well without therapy, so I’ll have to find an alternative. I also wonder if I will ever reach a goal of feeling less miserable, it seems like I’ve been trying for 7 years just to feel somewhat slightly better but I’ve never got there. I question whether being less miserable is possible for me, or whether I’m destined to just be the way I am for the rest of time? I actually feel like the total of 8 sessions I will have had will have been a waste of time when they can’t be continued to reap any long term positive effects. I’ll start again with someone else, maybe my old psychologist or maybe someone new and that could possibly mess up thought processes or effects the past 8 sessions have had because of another outside influence with different thoughts and ideas. What was the point in the past 8 sessions, because I feel that once they are over because they were so short term that they will have effectively been pointless and that frustrates me because I was improving.

I get that maybe short term therapy works for some people, but I believe that for people with chronic pain or illness, which influences so many aspects of your life they may need longer term work. Especially if they’ve been sick a long time, perhaps there isn’t much hope of their health ever improving. I’m sorry but how can 8 sessions fix how you feel about spending the rest of your life sick and in pain, as someone who knows first hand and fully admits that they need psychological help and support, for me I know it’s not possible for in 8 sessions to be fixed and ready to be discharged.

I pride myself with always being honest on here, and that’s my honest opinion.

 

I feel defeated by my body.

Why does my body not work properly? How did I get so unlucky to have so many things wrong with it? Will I ever catch a break? Will I ever get any better?

These are questions at the minute I ask myself daily, I just feel defeated and worn down to the ground.I have an appointment booked with my GP on Friday and then on Monday I have an appointment with a immunologist. The 18 different extra symptoms I’ve been dealing with for over a year could be explained by a histamine intolerance/Mast Cell Activation Disorder, and they’ve been getting progressively worse. My neuro wants me to start some meds for it but I’d like it investigated further before starting any treatment which could mean any tests done for it would be inaccurate if I had already started the treatment. So hence the immunologist appointment on Monday. Hopefully it will go okay and might make me feel a little better about the whole thing but at the minute I’m still feeling distraught that there is probably yet another thing wrong with me.

My stimulator is being turned back on for Burst programming on the 24th of March, I’m not feeling too optimistic that it will be any better than the standard Tonic programming of before, but I’ll just have to see.

In other news in 23 days time it’s my birthday and I will be 23 years old, it doesn’t fill me with joy, instead it fills me with sadness. I’m going to be another year older yet I’m still no better, if not worse than I was when I was 15 and this all started. I’ll be another year older yet I have not achieved anything I’ve wanted to, I’ll probably never be able to hold down a job, I’ll probably never move out of my parents, probably never have a relationship or a family. All because I’m sick, all because of my stupid never ending headache which I loathe so much. So I ask you, what is the point? I just feel so unbelievably defeated by everything at the minute that I don’t know what to do anymore.

Latest appointment with my Neurologist.

I had a very interesting appointment with my neurologist in London yesterday. I’ll start off by saying that I’m very grateful to have such a good neurologist who genuinely cares about helping me and takes time over my appointment. Before I met him I had had some very bad experiences with neurologists in both Dubai and London. When I met the one I have now I instantly breathed a sigh of relief that I had finally found someone who cared and understood. We have been working together for 6 years now, in some sense we haven’t made much progress but that’s not for lack of mine or his attempts, just my stupid headache. But unlike other neurologists he has not given up and he won’t give up, I will forever be grateful to have met him.

My appointment started off by seeing one of my neurologists headache nurses who does my reprogramming of my stimulator. I told her what had been going on, that I had an extra headache at the back of my head since surgery and that my normal headache was still worse, we went through numbers of the pain scale and where my pain usually sat during the day, which is from a level 8 to level 10. She then looked over my system and decided she didn’t want to do anything till she spoke to my neurologist. So I went back out to wait to see my Neuro.
He called me in and I told him how much I was struggling with everything that has been going on. He then said he thinks I am part of a very small percentage of people who’s brains cannot tolerate stimulation and the feeling of it. I guess I had already figured this out because of how much worse I am and how much the feeling of the stimulation makes the pain worse. But he said that they had put the latest stimulation tech in me which has the new capability of this burst system which is stimulation that goes on and off without you realising and you cannot feel the stimulation. So he thinks this might be better for me so wants to try it as soon as they can get the stimulation company rep to come to the hospital and sort it out for me hopefully in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime I’m to keep my stim off and he said hopefully my pain may calm down slightly.

He then asked me if my skin on my face was always red and blotchy I said well yeah it is quite a lot, my mum comments on it a lot. He rolled up my sleeve and took his blunted pen  and pressed it down in a zig zag motion down my wrist. Within about 2 seconds I had an insane reaction of severe redness. He said it’s called dermographia which is. skin condition. He then asked me to go through the Beighton scale, which is the test of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which I am already diagnosed with along with Potsural Orthostatic Tachycardia syndrome. To be diagnosed with EDS you have to score a minimum of 4-5/9 I score a 6. I think he wanted to go through it to show his colleague about it in real life as it’s not particularly common. He asked me some other questions to do with stomach issues, I said I have a temperamental stomach and I keep getting a rash in the crook of my right arm, I thought I was allergic to something like milk so cut it out and it hasn’t particularly helped so I don’t know whats wrong with me. He told me I have too much histamine in my body causing all these symptoms. He said people with EDS are more prone to histamine issues. He said that in a very small percentage of people with headaches who have histamine issues, that treating the issue in some cases made the headaches improve ever so slightly. He wants to put me on some histamine blockers and wants me to follow a restrictive diet. Having done some research and spoken to a couple other chronic illness friends, I actually think I might have Mast Cell Activation disorder which is causing the histamine issue, so that is something I might explore.

Maybe I should be happy he found something wrong with me,  and yes I’m glad my neurologist spotted this, but I actually feel really upset. I don’t feel joy to the fact that treating the histamine issue may improve my headache and yeah don’t get me wrong I wish that would be the case. But I feel upset that my body is not normal, that my body does not work the way it is meant to that I have yet another thing wrong with me. That I have to go back on medications after I was just about to be medication free for the first time in 7 year, as I’m withdrawing slowly from the last one. But now I have to go back on meds and follow a very restrictive diet which is probably going to make me miserable in itself. That being said I am going to try it all and see a dietician about it, but I feel very upset about it. And don’t get me started on the fact that my brain can’t tolerate stimulation because that’s just fucking brilliant. I feel like crying at the minute, why does my body not work properly.

If anyone reading this has similar issues with histamine, or Mast Cell Activation disorder please comment or email on iamtheneverendingheadache@gmail.com as I’d love to hear your experience.

My fear of failure.

I’ve been seeing my new psychologist in London every week for the past 4 weeks, to start with I wasn’t too sure about it, but it’s been going okay and I’m getting use to him and his approach. It’s hard going in the appointment but I seem to have actually progressed with this psychodynamic approach as each week has gone on I have got better at identifying my emotions and the reasons behind them and my anxiety. It’s also been getting easier to talk to him, rather than lots of silence.

Last week he asked me to talk about something he read in one of my clinic letters from my neurologist. It was to do with studying and going to uni, so I told him about how I went back to college to try and obtain some qualifications because I desperately wanted to go to uni. My main reason for wanting to go to uni was because I just wanted to be normal, and secondly that I wanted to be a psychologist. However I was unable to complete the course because of my pain and ended up dropping out of college for a second time.
He then went on to ask if I would agree to some homework, he wanted to me to go home and look at some volunteering opportunities in my local area. He suggested things like volunteering for the Samaritans. He asked if I would be willing to do something like that, I said I am more than open to looking, however it’s the actual going forward with it that would be the problem. Don’t get me wrong I would love to do something productive like volunteering however in actual practice I worry that it wouldn’t work out. I’m scared of failure, actually I’m terrified. Everything I have ever started in the past 7 years I have not completed, I didn’t finish school, then college, then I had a job/apprenticeship and I didn’t finish that either, all because of the pain getting too bad that it becomes impossible. I feel like a complete failure and I don’t want to enhance that feeling by yet again having to drop out of something because the pain gets too bad. But I’m stuck in this cycle of never doing anything for fear of pain and failure, meaning I never move forward and enhancing the feeling that my life is stuck. Today I’ve had a look at some volunteering near me and I’ve found a couple of things that I’d possibly be interested in. Both of which I’ve actually looked into before however I’ve never gone forward with either for fear of pain and failure.  I’d like to do either of them but I’m just terrified of how I would feel if I started and then had to give it up because of the pain.

He also gave me a second piece of homework, which was to get out my old college papers which I obtained all distinctions on. As often I get into the belief that I’m not clever and I have never achieved anything. The belief I have that I’m not clever is not true (hence all the distinctions at college), but I guess I try to believe it because I actually am really clever but I never get to use my intelligence and I’ve never managed to achieve anything with how smart I actually am because of my pain. So I guess thinking that I’m not clever is almost like protection from the feelings I get in knowing that I actually am clever but I feel it will never amount to anything worthwhile and meaningful. That probably doesn’t make a lot of sense, but somehow it makes sense to me. Anyway I got them out and had a read through them and I was reminded about how easy and straight forward I found the assignments. I was also reminded about how I felt when I realised I was going to have to drop out of college because the pain was too bad. I was distraught despite knowing yet again in my life that education was not the right thing for me and my headache and that in my eyes I had failed at something again.

This homework task was okay, I kind of figured out the reason behind my thinking that I’m not clever when actually deep down I know I am. It also revealed how much I’d like to do something productive like volunteering, though I don’t know if I will go through with it because of my fear of failure due to pain.

I’m in London twice this week, Wednesday to finally see my neurologist and hopefully get some answers on my extra pain. And Friday to see my psychologist again, which is my final session out of an initial block of 4 sessions, however I would like to continue seeing him as it seems to be being helpful, so hopefully he can offer me some more sessions.