Thank You To My General Practitioner

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I have been seeing my general practitioner doctor for two years.

I first remember meeting him as a depressed and anxious wreck during winter, where he looked at me and prescribed me antidepressants immediately, with a recheck in a couple of weeks.  I revisited a few times, both of us delighted that the first SSRI was a winner, and then I didn’t see him for a bit.

I didn’t see him until after my physio suggested my overreaction to injury may be fibromyalgia.  I described my symptoms to him and he said the words I hoped to hear:  “it sounds like you have fibromyalgia”.  We tried amitrip, then he suggested we try pregabalin, as amitrip wasn’t working for me.  It was a winner.

Then I got face pain and I went straight in to see him.  He said the words I really did not hope to hear:  “it sounds like trigeminal neuralgia”, but we treated it for a possible ear infection and possible shingles in the ear (because one of his friends had it years ago and it took a very long time to figure that one out).

I have visited him every week for so long the receptionist knows my name.

We’re now going for a private MRI and a public neurologist to get this sorted as quickly as possible, because I won’t be able to continue my education next year if this pain keeps up.

I have been incredibly lucky to get an amazing doctor first up.  He has never doubted what I have to say, never told me its in my head, always done additional research to ensure he is providing optimal care, and has taken the time and effort to personalise the treatment to my peculiarities.  He has been an amazing point of support throughout all of this.

So to my general practitioner:  thank you.  You are amazing, and you are improving my quality of life more than I can say.

Fatigue and Lethargy

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So as you probably all know by now (or, if you’re a transient blog surfer, you may not know – and also, hi!) I have fibromyalgia.  I am also being treated for trigeminal neuralgia.  Jury’s out on what’s causing that, I’ve got a referral so let’s see where that takes us.

Fibromyalgia unfortunately involves chronic fatigue.  Fatigue is defined as “extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness” (thanks google dictionary), but for some reason I find that word too … lively.  It’s the ‘t’ and the shortness of the word.

I actually prefer the word lethargic, and it’s defined as “a lack of energy and enthusiasm”.  While it’s an accurate description, I do indeed have a lack of energy, it doesn’t take into account the severity of that lack.  But, still, I like that word, because you can elongate the ‘e’ and the ‘a’ and it becomes a long, slow, exhausted exhale of a word, bringing to mind a sloth on a branch moving in that incredibly slow way of theirs.  It sounds how I feel, although fatigue describes it.

I was going to do things today.  I got up, I had my cuppa coffee, I took my meds (I’ve doubled my morning tegretol, as the pain from my trigeminal nerve is increasing), and I had my brekkie.  I lay around for a bit, read a bit, and then realised I was having difficulty focusing on the words.  My eyelids drooped, so I sat up and started sorting out a mindless but fun computer game to play (shield bashy bashy, sword smashy smashy).  I was just starting up when everything slowed down.  My arms weighed down with lead, my shoulders dropped, and the fatigue hit me in the face like a two handed hammer.  Oof.  It’s hard work just typing this.

I’d been improving so much with my fibromyalgia and my balancing act that I haven’t felt like this in a wee while.  Anxious and depressed and like I don’t want to do anything, sure, but not this whole body-weight drained fatigue.  I actually suspect it’s a side effect of the tegretol – I’ve found myself less able to do things lately.  Or it could be the pain from the trigeminal neuralgia fatiguing me in a shorter length of time to what I’m used to.

Regardless, I’m now going to put my feet up, put something on Netflix, and doze for the rest of the day.  When the fatigue hits, you just gotta rest.

I am doing good enough

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I find this notion of “I am doing good enough” incredibly difficult to define and accept.  As someone who has had chronic fatigue and chronic pain for over half her life, I don’t know what it’s like to not have it.  So, when I look at everyone else zooming around, doing so much, having all this energy, I think to myself how do they do that? why can’t I?  I still can’t tell myself I have a chronic illness that reduces my ability to do everything.  Not I have a chronic illness that stops me from doing things, because I am as stubborn as a mule and will chop my own nose off to spite my face, and if someone, even myself, tells me I cannot do a thing, damnit I will do the thing.

I still can’t tell myself it’s okay, I am doing as much as I can, and I am still doing well.  This is because I am comparing my achievements to able-bodied people.  Not only am I comparing my achievements to able-bodied people, but I am in a course where my achievements are compared to able-bodied people.

I am in one of the most difficult and gruelling degrees in the world, one that is hard for even able bodied people to undertake.  I am allowed to be doing not as well as them.

But I don’t see that.  I don’t think that.  I’ve gone my entire life thinking, and being told, that I’m normal, that I’m just lazy, that I just need to try harder, work harder, do more.  It’s a mentality I’m struggling to shift.

I suspect it’s a mentality many people with chronic illnesses and/or disabilities have difficulty with.

Sometimes I manage to remind myself.  Sometimes I even manage to feel it in my heart, instead of just in my head, but that goes away with so much as a stiff breeze or an assignment.  I try to keep up with my more able-bodied class-mates.  Sometimes I succeed.  Sometimes I struggle.

But at the end of the day, I am passing.  I would like to be getting ‘average’ marks, and each time I think that, I tell myself I am doing good enough.

Tegretol – Day 4

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Whoa, I have been through such a variety of side effects with Tegretol, almost a new one each day!

The first day was fine, just a bit of dizziness and loss of balance, nothing unusual.

Day two was worse, I was high and euphoric and so intensely itchy.  I was very careful not to itch anything and to only rub the areas that were itchy, but it drove me mildly insane.  The only benefit was, well … I was high.  So it bothered me, but not that much.

The itchiness began on my neck and shoulders and spread down my arms.  I couldn’t wear anything on my arms, because it went beyond itching into pain.  My legs itched, my back itched, my waist itched, even my breasts, and under them, itched!

When I lay down to nap that night, I noticed sharp stabbing pains up my arms and legs.  It wasn’t overly bad, more like the sensation of a decent sized needle, only in a larger area.  I still fell asleep.  Boy does the Tegretol help with sleep!

Day three I was high as a fucking kite, I was euphoric and joyous and I could have sat and watched the tree outside move in the wind all day.  I was dizzy, had difficulty focusing my eyes, and my balance was gone.  It was only through intense strength of will that I could walk straight.

Day four I’m still pretty high and euphoric and my balance is still out of it.  My tinnitus is louder.  My hearing is hypersensitive and I’m more reactive to sounds.  My skin is hypersensitive to texture, and even my usually comfortable clothing is a bit too much.  It would be a problem if I weren’t so chill and happy about everything.

Now one very important thing of note, if anyone is reading this blog specifically for the side effects I have been experiencing, Tegretol can induce some very serious and potentially fatal skin reactions.  If you, or someone you know who is taking Tegretol, are experiencing any itching, rashes, blisters (this includes in your mouth, on your tongue, or on your lips), or skin discolouration, THIS IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY, PLEASE SEEK MEDICAL TREATMENT IMMEDIATELY.  These are symptoms that your skin is possibly going to begin to necrose.

I and my amazing human are monitoring me very closely for any rashes or skin discolouration in light of my itching.  Hopefully my skin decides to stay alive and in one piece!

Setbacks

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Sometimes things keep piling up and all you want is a break.

It’s been one of those months.

One of my beloved animals became very ill.  We spent a lot of time going to and from the emergency after hours.  She was admitted for a few days.  Fortunately she is now well on her way to recovery and back to shouting at me through the door as soon as my alarm goes off (“FEED ME, FEED ME HUMAN”).

Then my face started to hurt.  Just one side, around the temple, spreading to my zygomatic arch and down my jaw.  I went to the doctor, who discovered a red tympanic membrane (ear drum), so put me on antibiotics and NSAIDs with a recheck in 48 hours if the pain hadn’t gone away.

You guessed it, the pain hadn’t gone away.

Revisited and now I’m being treated for shingles (chicken pox take two) and trigeminal neuralgia.

Unfortunately I suspect it’s likely to be trigeminal neuralgia.  The tympanic membrane is looking much better.  I have no rash or blistering associated with shingles, and the pain is progressing from a tooth ache to stabby stabby.

I’d been stable on my new bunch of meds for quite some time, and I was quite liking it.  I’m not entirely pleased with this new spanner in the works, or the new medication (which makes me really sleepy).  But it is what it is, and I’m just going to have to live with it.