Saturday Submissions – With MeggioMum

Todays Saturday Submissions is brought to you by MeggioMum A.K.A Heather, who lives with Pots and EDS, be sure to check out her wonderful blog about ‘Two cents from a Midwest Mom’, HERE.

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Potsy Mamas: What We’re Hiding

No, I’m not talking about marijuana, though that would definitely be an interesting article. I’m actually talking about coping with chronic illness while raising a family. Perhaps you’ve heard of Disautonomia, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Perhaps you haven’t. But these conditions are very real, and being a mom of four (soon to be five) while living with them is a surreal experience full of both suffering and beauty.

Imagine for a moment that, like every mother on the planet, you have more things to do in a day than are physically possible to accomplish. Now imagine trying to tackle that when your body feels heavy like you’re wading through thick mud, and coffee only makes the feeling worse. You’re exhausted like you’ve just run a marathon… ALL THE TIME. Walking up the stairs is like mountain climbing without oxygen. You have to constantly write yourself notes and set alarms on your phone because your memory is swiss cheese. Complex situations are overwhelming because your brain is in a fog, like when you first wake up in the morning, except it never goes away. The mere act of standing makes your heart jump in your throat, and the smallest movements can dislocate a rib or hyperextend a knee. And you are in significant pain every waking moment.

What happens when you live like this every day is both heartbreaking and inspiring. A series of things start to unfold. The first thing to go is your house. Dishes and laundry pile up, as does random clutter everywhere. You forget to clean the cat box and don’t have the energy to mow the lawn. Your house starts to look like an episode of Hoarders and you’re too ashamed to invite people over or even let your kid’s friends inside to play.

Then goes your self esteem. You blame yourself for all the things you know you should be doing. You feel lazy and worthless. Thoughts creep into your mind like “I’m not trying hard enough”  “I’m such a burden” and “My family must be so disappointed in me.” You curse your body for not working right, and feel resentment towards both yourself and towards healthy people who live more mainstream lives. Your marriage suffers, both physically and emotionally, and you start to tell yourself that your spouse would be happier without you.

The guilt and self-blame are the worst when it comes to your children. You want to give them the world, and instead they don’t even bother to ask if you’ll take them to the park because they know that pained look in your eye all too well. You teach your children to be self-sufficient and independent; more out of necessity than anything else. You are proud that your teens can cook dinner, wash their own clothes, and fix their own bikes. You love how your younger kids can quietly entertain themselves outside in the fresh air without you hovering over them. But you also know that their childhood is flying by at lightning speed while you’re laying in bed trying not to throw up.

Then comes the judgement squad. Doctors not familiar with your condition, random people on the street, your kid’s teachers, coworkers, sometimes even your own family members. Everyone has an opinion on how severe your illness is and how you should be handling it. A lot of people don’t even believe your condition is real because you look “normal” on the outside. Your slurred speech and shaky movements means you sometimes get mistaken for an alcoholic or drug addict, and then treated with open disdain and discrimination.

Some people will be sympathetic, but insist you’ll be cured if you would just take more ginseng, or stop eating gluten, or do more yoga. My personal favorite is when they tell you to think positive and visualize yourself healthy.

I am a strong believer in homeopathy, clean eating, healthy exercise, and so on. But none of these things are magic cures that will stabilize the blood flow to my brain and keep my joints from dislocating. None of these things will keep my autonomic nervous system from misfiring like an electrical short. This is what leads to the final stage: the mask.

You start hiding your condition as best you can from the world. You grit your teeth and smile through the dislocations and spasms. When someone asks what’s wrong, you tell them you’re “just a little tired” instead of telling the truth. People get tired of hearing about your symptoms and start to tune you out. You avoid social interaction as much as possible, and start lying to cover up for it. (“Oh I’m sorry I missed the meeting, I had a flat tire”). You completely shut down in stressful situations because everyday life is already stressful enough, and you just can’t bear any more. You decide it is so much easier to put on the normal facade than wasting energy trying to make everyone understand. (Because 80% of them never will.)

I am trapped inside this body like a butterfly in a cocoon, except I don’t get to break free and fly.

There is an odd beauty to it though. This purgatory of inbetween health- not sick enough to be disabled, but not healthy enough to be normal- is like slowing down and living your life in stop motion. You learn to appreciate tiny moments like the sun warming your skin, the crinkle of smile in your daughter’s eyes, the earthy flavor of a hot cup of tea. You appreciate the people who stick by your side, and love them fiercely for it. You learn to let go of the things that don’t matter; like messy hair,  dirty kids, and judgemental people. You learn to slow down and just breathe.

We are moms (and dads) worth knowing.

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Thanks so much to Heather for submitting this post today, does this relate to you? How do you find juggling parenting and family life with chronic illness? If you relate, please leave a comment or consider following the directions below and submitting your own post to share!

——— Wanna Be Part of Saturday Submissions?———-

All you have to do is tell us a little about yourself and write a blog post (Any word count) in relation to your chronic illness, or how a relation/friend/patient with an illness affects or interacts with you, etc. all welcome!

You can include photos (preferably your own, if found online be sure to add links to where you found them)

Be sure to add links to your social media accounts so people can link back to you OR You can write it anonymously if you like just be sure to put your details in the email so I can respond to you personally 🙂

You can send your submissions to: irishpotsies@gmail.com

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Saturday Submissions – With Dr. Liam Farrell

It’s a day late, I know, I know, I’m sorry – (It will be worth it, promise!) I haven’t been well in the last few weeks, I completely forgot all about Saturday Submissions last week and then I do it a day late this week, oh dear! I can do better than this, surely!!

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This week I speak to Dr. Liam Farrell, yes, a real doctor, or at least used to be a family GP, now better known as an award winning columnist and broadcaster. You can find Liam over on Twitter as @drlfarrell.

 

Why presentations are best served rare

We are doctors; we do terrible things to people. They come into the surgery like healthy folk and go out as patients. If they’re really unlucky we confine them to an institution where the occupants are routinely left immobile, deprived of sleep, fed a diet that is tasteless and nutritionally marginal, and experience the de-humanizing indignity of being half-naked all the time.

‏The average age of a patient in general practice is 75 years old.. Many have multiple diagnoses, and their care is incredibly complex, and above all requires more of our time. But our time is in increasingly short supply, so much of it wasted on the worried well and on health promotion. If we reckon on 15 mins per consultation, a family doctor with 2500 patients would spend 7.4 hours per day to deliver all recommended preventive care and 10.6 hrs per day to deliver all recommended chronic care.

‏This leaves a generous 6 hours every day for those pesky acutely ill patients, sick certs, insurance and passport and DLA forms, paperwork, eating, sleeping, banging our heads against the wall in sheer frustration, toileting and reproducing. But what is never understood, by patients, the general public, the media, bureaucrats, managers or politicians, is the huge numbers of people family doctors see who aren’t sick, and who have nothing wrong with them; this really can’t be comprehended unless you sit in with a family doctor for a whole surgery. A huge part of our job is telling people what they don’t have. Unfortunately, ‘nothing wrong with you’ is a retrospective diagnosis and can only be made after the consultation.

As the threshold for attending healthcare services grows ever lower, there are more and more worried well, too much screening and over-treatment. It becomes harder and harder to pick out the really sick person from amongst the ranks of the worried well; when you are looking for a needle in a haystack, the last thing you need is more hay. There is consequently not enough time and resources to the really sick; so everyone loses, especially those with hard to recognise rare diseases.

As The Fat Man said in The House of God, when a medical student hears hoof-beats outside a window, he thinks it’s a zebra.

Which might be true, of course, in certain circumstances – if you were in practice in the Serengeti, for example (curiously, I was once in the Serengeti, heard hoof-beats outside my window, peered through the early morning mist and saw only an old cow).
A medical axiom used to be that common things are common and uncommon presentations of common diseases are more common than common presentations of uncommon diseases. But this is now known to be misleading. Taken all together, rare diseases, and rare variants of common diseases, are not uncommon. And diagnosing rare diseases is very difficult; it’s not as if there is a are disease specialist we can refer patients to.

I do have some hard-earned experience. As an intern, I saw a young lad in casualty. He had fainted at a disco (yes, it was that long ago, Saturday Night Fever was quite fashionable. Old age is creeping up on me, not sure why but fairly sure it’s up to no good) and he had a few unusual skin lesions and a labile BP.

These days, I doubt if I would be able to recognise a phaeochromocytoma ( a rare tumour of the adrenal glands) if one walked up and assaulted me with a blunt speculum (I’ve been flogged into apathy by too many URTIs and sick certs, rare and interesting diseases only present to other doctors), but I was young then, fresh and sharp and so hip, I could hardly see over my pelvis.

I wrote ‘possible neurofibromatosis?’, ‘possible phaeo?’ on the chart and admitted the young man to the ward. I was too green to realise the importance of hoarding unusual cases to myself, for my own advancement, and sure enough, the rumour spread around the hospital as fast as an epidemic of flaming gonorrhoea.

Later, when I went to check up on my patient, I found him buried under a tide of medical students, SHOs and research registrars, all keen for a piece of the glory, all ordering 24-hour urines, all dreaming of a case report for the peer-reviewed journals and another notch on their CVs.

‘Help me, doc,’ he said, desperately, ‘they’re suffocating me.’ I whipped away the students, but the others were far above me in the hierarchy and I could offer little succour.

‘Sorry, pal,’ I said. ‘It’s a common complication of uncommon diseases.’

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Thank you so very much to Liam for providing todays Saturday Submissions!
What did you think of his post?
Do you relate as a medical Zebra?

Please leave a comment and let Liam know what you think, be sure to check out his Twitter Link and make a new connection! 🙂

——— Wanna Be Part of Saturday Submissions?———-

All you have to do is tell us a little about yourself and write a blog post (Any Wordcount) in relation to your chronic illness, or how a relation/friend/patient with an illness affects or interacts with you, etc. all welcome!

You can include photos (preferably your own, if found online be sure to add links to where you found them)

Be sure to add links to your social media accounts so people can link back to you OR You can write it anonymously if you like just be sure to put your details in the email so I can respond to you personally 🙂

You can send your submissions to: irishpotsies@gmail.com