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Moments That Change Your Life

A few days ago I was taken to hospital by ambulance. Not a particularly shocking event for me or my family anymore, (although upsetting for those who love me to see.)

Recently I had been feeling the symptoms of my disorders quite strongly: like cement is being poured into my legs (sometimes they go numb), I lose my sight for about 6-10 seconds everytime I stand up, I get really short of breath (feels like I can’t get enough oxygen into my lungs), my heart rate rises very high (like at least 130 – 160 bpm, I lose my hearing, my muscles become very weak and if I don’t lie down, I just pass out — which is basically my body doing what it needs to do to reset the pumping of blood to my heart and brain. Need to reset blood pressure = need to get horizontal = if you don’t lie yourself down we’re going to make ourselves pass out.

Another day went by and by this stage I couldn’t eat or hold fluids down and I had had a migraine for almost two days that was getting worse by the hour, so I reluctantly let the family call the ambulance. Usually Dave would just drive me in to hospital but I couldn’t stand up without passing out. I needed IV fluids STAT, and the paramedics out here know me and know my protocol.

We got set up in the ambo and got going. The paramedic assisting me, has taken me to hospital a few times, so we kind of sort of know each other a little bit, so we chatted now and then, and then he asked: “How’s Dave’s cafe going?” I replied: “The cafe is going great”. Then tears lightly formed as I added: “But it has to close … because of me.”

The paramedic was looking at his laptop at the time but immediately looked at me and said: “Well, not because of YOU. Because of your illnesses, you don’t control that.”

I’ve been trying to tell myself this for ages and my family tells me this, my husband tells me all the time. 

I’m lucky to have close, immediate family, and quite a few friends who are very supportive and never make me feel like I’m making illnesses up. 

But I’ve also had my fair share of people telling me I am making it all up, or I’m a hypochondriac. Despite tests proving these illnesses are real and happening to me.

Even some quite close relatives (who due to distance haven’t seen me or what my life is like) have told me, my children and my husband, that they believe I’m using my illness to control my husband and our children, among other ridiculous claims.

I get people (from the general population as well as the medical profession) thinking I’m faking my illness all the time. Until I pass out in front of them or something visual that they can then believe.

I can’t begin to accurately describe how awful it feels to know that someone thinks I would make this shit up. It is absolutely soul-suckingly awful, to feel like such a burden on other people. So to then hear people question your near death experience or whether you’re “really THAT sick”, just makes me feel a hundred times worse. 

So, when I was in that ambulance, and a third party, unbiased, person verified that it is my illnesses that make my situation what it is, it’s not ME choosing this situation, it was powerful beyond words.

Those words from that paramedic sank in over the next few days and they truly changed my life. I finally allowed myself to believe that I am not to blame for my illnesses, that this situation is happening to me and I am doing my best to work within it, and, as always, working on trying to get out of it.

And it also helped me to realise that when people don’t believe me about my illnesses, then that is their issue, not mine. And it says more about them than it does about me.

I’m always thankful for those in my life who support me, but I wanted to write this experience out as a reminder that you never know what small thing you might say to someone that might make a difference to how they’re viewing themselves and their life.

Cheers,

Zoe xxx

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I Wish Support For You

Someone asked me today, ‘Do you have support?’ 

I’m lucky that I could say yes. An absolute, unequivocal YES!

My family and friends who support me are angels. 

It’s not easy to support a chronically ill person. I get that. It’s hard to see someone you love hurt, weak etc. And it can be physically and emotionally hard to help or even just watch someone you love be chronically ill.

My support family make my life bareable. That sometimes we can laugh about some pretty serious issues, and at other times come together and find a solution to a problem we never thought we’d solve, as if pulling a solution out of a magicians hat, is remarkable to me.

My support team are my soft place to land. They are my reminders that there are good times ahead. 

They are my ‘I can’ when every part of me is screaming ‘I can’t’.
Thank you, support team. I love you now. I will love you forever. And even though sometimes it’s hard to see, I am appreciative of every second that you make me feel worthwhile of care and love.

My wish for everyone with a chronic illness is that you either have your support family already, or you find one, because you deserve one — and you can add me to it if you wish!

Here’s to our support saviours. Our earth angels!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

(Tag someone who is a support angel for you.)

Photo: me with some of my support angels.

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Moving Forward

What a weird year its been so far. 

I’m now recognised by our local paramedics, I’ve had a few trips to ED, I’ve almost died, and learnt that there is far more going on in my body that needs tending to than I previously thought.

I remember several months ago I was planning on a fairly simple trial of ballet for physical therapy. I was planning on trying it for several months and seeing how I go.

And I did try it, and I did see the improvements in my health that I wanted to.

Then four days into the new year I had a new health event that I’d never had before, and nearly died. And I found out that this could repeat any time. There are things to do to try and prevent another event, but none of them are definite answers.

I have since had a few more of the same types of events. One resulted in another emergency ride to the hospital. The others were able to be managed at home.

But every time I have one of these events, it results in pretty severe dehydration and severe weakness. Basically it creates a massive POTS flare up and I am back to almost passing out even when I just lift my head off the pillow.

So I have been feeling incredibly stuck. Like REALLY REALLY stuck. 

My mental saving grace has been two things: 1) Knowing that I wasn’t always this sick, so there’s hope that I can not have to continue to be this sick, and 2) Knowing that summer makes my health so much worse and we have been having a terribly hot summer. So I feel hope that once the heat backs off I will at least be able to not pass out as much, (or almost pass out as much), which will give me the chance to do more exercise, which is a cornerstone to my health improvement.

This experience over the past few months has been so hard. I have had to work really hard on my mental game. And for a while I felt pretty lost and not sure where it all left me in terms of what I’m working towards.

Last week, my exercise physiologist was brutally honest about where my goals should be right now. 

We talked about hero stories that people in my situation can create in their heads. Like, basically, setting unrealistic goals for themselves, which set them up for failure.

He was worried that I was going to do the same, like imagine myself dancing across a studio within the next few months, and that that was going to be my expectation from him and from my exercise therapy. He wants to help me achieve whatever I’d like to achieve, but in a realistic way.

I could see he really wanted me to not think unrealistically and end up feeling devastated, so I stopped him during the appointment and said…

Tom, my biggest goal right now is not having to be scared that when my husband goes to work my children might have to call an ambulance for me on their own, because that’s where we’re at right now, and it’s terrifying for them. 

Don’t worry, Tom, no hero goals here.

So, this is where I’m at. 

It feels like rock bottom. 

I know of course, things could be worse, I’m not ignorant. But this is close enough to rock bottom for me.

So what am I doing?

Not really even sure why I wanted to right this blog post. I think it was a combination of needing to set the record straight on where I’m at, as well as where I’m heading — what my path is moving forward, as well as a cathartic purge of shit that’s been circling my mind for too long now.

So my current capabilities are low. I’m mostly lounge bound. With several therapies I do every day to try and assist the different parts of my body and mind’s functionality. These therapies are, for example: exercise therapy, small activities (like walking a few metres and back), meditation and mindfulness. Everything is set to my capabilities, so we’re talking very small amounts of exercise etc. Because, as I said, I’m mostly lounge bound.

My goal is firstly to stabilise my hydration and work on my exercise therapy. 

First goals are:

1) Less emergency situations.

2) More stable hydration.

3) More upright stamina.

4) Progression in exercise tolerance (which include floor ballet.)

I will be starting where I’m at and working with my medical team to start getting some improvements.

We are relying on the end of summer being part of my medicine. And actually, we have had our first few cooler evenings recently, and I my nausea has started to ease a little bit. Yay!

During the summer, my cognitive function became so bad, I could barely put words together, let alone write a blog post. So just the ability to write this post is testament to me regaining some of my functionality with the easing of summer. Yay again!

I am not sure whether anyone is even slightly interested in hearing about this odd journey I’m on? I suspect it is difficult to relate to for many, and straight up boring for most.

I remember when I first started ballet, I started a blog at the same time, to write all the stuff in my noggin out, to help me process what I was doing.

And I think this is what I want to use this blog for now. As my processing tool, my sounding board — as well as knowing that perhaps my story might help someone else out there, struggling, not feel so alone.

I expect that much of this post made no sense at all, but I’m just stoked that I managed to get through the writing of it!