Fibromyalgia, Stress, and Exhaustion


I had some news on Wednesday that reminded me of my beloved pets’ health, the fact that they are old, with many of the associated diseases, and had a realisation about their mortality.

You don’t think about it that often.  Or at least I don’t.  I’ve had one of my cats since he was barely a month old, and my other since she was 2.  I’ve had my dog since she was 6 months.  My derpy boy is now 13, my girly cat 15, and my pupper coming up to 6 years old.  They’re starting to get into their ‘geriatric’ years.  Both of my cats have geriatric diseases – hyperthyroidism and renal failure (to differing levels) – and my girly cat has other serious problems with her back and legs.

It hit me like a Volvo truck to the face.  They’re old.  They’re going to die.  If I’m lucky I’ll get another 3-6 years out of any of them.  But sometime soon they are going to die, and I’m not ready for that.  I’m not ready for my babies, who I’ve had since they were so young, to be old.

So I did what all people do when they’re faced with mortality: I had a meltdown.  I sobbed.  I curled up and rocked for a bit.  Then I sat and put on high quality distractions so I could just exist as a brainless blob for the rest of the day.  By the time I was due to go to sleep, I was already aching.

The next day, yesterday, was agonising.  The stress kicked off a flare.  All my joints were stiff and muscles burned.  My head was foggy.  I could hardly see straight, let alone keep my eyes open.  After a few hours of fighting the fatigue, I curled up on the couch and slept for 5 hours.  I was still incredibly dizzy and exhausted, so I continued my blob.  I slept like the dead.

Well today I’m still overly fatigued and my entire body feels heavy.  Even typing is hard today, and I strongly suspect another nap is in order, despite the long sleep I had last night.  My joints are still stiff and achy, especially my knees and hips.  My motivation levels have completely bottomed out.  My ability to do even easy things, like play a game, is completely nonexistent.

And the only thing I can do is ride it out.  I’ve had to put on hold all the things I needed to get done because I just can’t.  Some of them involve driving for hours and heavy digging, which I can do on a good day, but holy hells bells I can’t do when I’m like this.

When this kind of thing happens you can either fight it or relax into it and embrace it.  I’m still working on the relaxing into it, I really have to force myself.  But it’s better to relax into it than to try and fight it!

Microvascular Decompression: The Ultimate Fix for Structural Trigeminal Neuralgia


Today I am talking about brain surgery.  It’s a terrifying thought, having someone faff around inside your head, but it’s also an important thought.  Because if you have a blood vessel touching your trigeminal nerve, this could be your ultimate cure.  You could get out of this life, the one where you’re constantly worried about when the next attack is going to hit, the one where you’re avoiding certain foods because you have to chew them a lot, the one where you can’t go out in the wind or the cold because it sets you off.

You could enjoy your life again.

Australian scientists have shown that chronic pain can physically change the brain.  We have lower levels of glutamate, which is a chemical messenger between brain cells and can help regulate emotion.  What this means is brain cells can no longer communicate in their usual way, and so the ability to process positive emotions is reduced.  So that feeling of being tired and unmotivated all the time?  That’s the effects of this change within your brain.

One of the first steps taken to diagnose and categorise your trigeminal neuralgia should be an MRI – with contrast.  This will allow a neurologist to identify any structures that might be touching or compressing the trigeminal nerve – things like blood vessels or tumours – or any damage to the nerve itself.

If you’ve got a blood vessel touching your trigeminal nerve, I’ve got good news for you: you can get microvascular decompression!

Microvascular decompression is a really cool surgery wherein they go in and put a very specialised sponge material between the blood vessel and the nerve where they are touching.  Once they’re no longer touching, there’s no longer a reason for the trigeminal nerve to go off, effectively curing your trigeminal neuralgia.

But it’s brain surgery, and brain surgery is scary!

In most cases, it’s not actually brain surgery.  The blood vessel and the nerve often touch outside of the brain, sometimes within the skull, sometimes outside the skull.  So while they may be entering your skull, they’re not actually touching your brain.  That remains unmolested.

The sponge they insert into your head is a very specialised one.  It’s not like a kitchen sponge, or like a sea sponge, it’s a very special kind of medical sponge, and it’s very very sterile.  Because of course it’s going somewhere bacteria must never go: inside your skull.  It’s also very small.  When you’re working in a confined space, you don’t want to add too much bulk to existing structures, because there’s nowhere for other structures to go.

It’s carefully placed between the blood vessel and the nerve, right where they are touching, and they stitch the sponge onto the blood vessel.  All blood vessels have several layers of tissue, and the stitches are only placed through the outer layers.  The stitches aren’t placed all the way through, so the inside of the blood vessel remains perfectly smooth, and you don’t get any accidental bleeding.

My best friend who has typical trigeminal neuralgia has just undergone this procedure.  She had an artery twisting around her trigeminal nerve and touching it in two places, so she has two sponges in her skull!  She had her surgery on Monday morning.  She went home on Friday.

For now, the right side of her face is numb, because of course the trigeminal nerve has been faffed about with.  She occasionally gets itchy teeth.  But she is pleased to announce she now has complete taste back on the right side of her face!  This numbness is expected, and it’s expected to continue for the next few weeks to the next few months, and she has commented that it’s bearable because she knows it’s only temporary.

She’s also said it is amazing to be free of pain.