Pseudo-relapses. WTF?

Anxiety, Dissolving into liquid sky, It's not fair, Lemtrada, Life is hard, Medication, MS, Multiple Sclerosis, Pseudorelapse, relapse, Worry

Exactly. WTF is a so-called pseudo-relapse anyway, and WHY?

A pseudo-relapse is a fun bit of MS bantz.

TOTAL LEGEND! What happens is, you have an infection – maybe your classic UTI or, if you’re me, which I am, you have that and, plus, of course, your thyroid gland spends a good few months wildly veering between out of normal range high and out of normal range low before entering insanely hyperbolic death throes after being zapped with radioactivity, and your – in this case my – body reacts by retreating into its comfort zone of distressing malfunction.

It’s a relapse brought on by external factors rather than by your MS kicking off.

My incapacity manifests thusly: right side of my body ceases to function. Walking involves, often, being unable to lift my right leg so therefore dragging it along the floor in a sort of imitation skim-walk (see George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo). Right arm hangs uselessly by my side reminiscent of a terrifying zombie, so I am forced to teach D to do ponytails as hair in your face can be well vexing. Instruction involves me frustratedly saying things such as, “what are you actually trying to achieve?”, “in what universe do you expect that to function as a ponytail?”, “I have literally no idea what you are attempting in this endeavour”, and such. Which is pretty much my teaching style as it is.  In addition, fun-times include spending ten minutes on waking trying to solve the puzzle of how to sit up – ‘Ema Weston awoke one morning to find herself transformed into a giant slug.’ Plus my voice is all ridiculous and salivary and slurry. BANTER.

Pseudo-relapses are scary because you don’t immediately know that they’re pseudo.  Inevitably your first thoughts are pure panic. Shitshitshitthetreatmenthasn’t workedIt’shappeningagainMSisgoingtotake meoverI’llbeirretrievablylostthistime nohopenohopenohopenohopenohope…

And then.

You start to believe the medical professionals and you get some steroids (I FUCKING LOVE STEROIDS – although they do give you insomnia which is why I’m writing this at 2:52) and you start to recover pretty quickly I HOPE AND TRUST.

And then you begin to think at least I’m not under rubble in Mexico City, at least I haven’t watched my house blow away in Anguilla, or have no fresh water in Puerto Rico, at least bombs aren’t falling on me in   Syria, at least British-made artillery isn’t maiming my children in Yemen, at least land-mines aren’t killing me as I try to escape to safety from a country that denies my nationhood like the Rohingya in Myanmar, at least I’m not dying in the slums of Mumbai after watching all my possessions wash down the street before disappearing, and Trump and North Korea and Brexit and austerity and AfD in Germany and climate change and refugees still, still,  trying to get here and the officially sanctioned hostile environment that awaits them if they ever do…

Oh dear (see Adam Curtis: Oh Dearism).

And on that, back to bed.


***Dedicated to K, who I miss terribly ***


Additional notes

  • My most recent MRI, done in July of this year, showed No Evidence of Disease Activity (NEDA) which I was obviously over the moon about, which is why this has come as such a horrible surprise. I hope I’m still in the NEDA camp but this may be down to lack of understanding on my part.
  • I sound glib, but it’s the overwhelming hopelessness I feel.
  • I’m an ardent Remainiac.
  • Yes, it is you I mean, K. StokeC is brilliant, but I’d like you to come back please. As well. I’m needy and entitled!
  • Meet me at the Lake Pub.
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I can’t think of a title for this post. 

Anxiety, Dissolving into liquid sky, Employment, Fatigue, I'd like to sit down please, It's not fair, Life is hard, MS, Multiple Sclerosis, Wasting the day

Well. [Aside: As an English teacher, I often put a cross through this word when a kid starts a piece of writing with it, for example: ‘Well, Juliet is eager to hear…’, or ‘Well, it was a sunny afternoon’.] However…

Well. It’s been some time since last I wrote. It’s a cloudy afternoon and I am doing absolutely nowt. Apart from this, obviously. And continuing to exist. I’m not gas, drifting through a vacuum.* Obviously. I’d forgotten how literal you are, Imagined Reader. Let’s try our best to get through this, then you can go back to whatever it is you occupy yourself with these days. 

I find myself to be emotionally fragile. A supply teacher can be dropped according to the whims of the school. Listen: “we think you’re great, you’re good at your job, but we really need someone full time – so the kids have continuity – and you need to focus on your health, that’s the most important thing.” Not strictly a whim then. Gah! Chronic illness! And as I’ve referenced before, in the distant blog past, I get easily attached – I’m Velcro Girl! Anything that feels like rejection turns me into a pool of sadness, a puddle of self pity. 

I find myself sans work, sans income, sans a third noun to complete this list of three. Woe. What to do? That’s an actual question for you to answer. WHAT SHOULD I DO? Answers on a lovely postcard please. 

Should I get over myself? Emerge from the metaphorical encasement of cotton wool I have wrapped so securely around myself? Volunteer? Do an online course? Acquire some new skills? Sink further into the morass of self doubt I’ve tripped into and have been making feeble, mainly for show, efforts to pull myself out of for, oh, x number of years? 

Someone wise, I assume, once said that MS without fatigue would be nothing. I tend to agree. 

* would’ve made a good title, don’t you think?

A Spur Of The Moment, Ill Thought Out Post. 

Anxiety, Apocalypse, Cats, Dissolving into liquid sky, Fatigue, It's not fair, Lemtrada, Life is hard, MS, Multiple Sclerosis, Wasting the day, Worry

I can be found midway between dismay and despair. 

My thyroid has gone hyper again. This is no fun. 

I can’t remember what it’s like to be well; I tend toward the melodramatic. 

I am so bored. 

Having to continually tell your teaching agency that no, you’re not available for work – again, is a little destructive to whatever self esteem your diseased self has in store. 

I think if I learned a new language, or a musical instrument, things would be better. 

Maybe stop obsessively reading The News. 

Remember: a life spent reading – that is a good life. 

Me and my cat. Always together. Perhaps start a humourous comic strip? Photocopy and place in local shops, bus stations, library books, post offices. 

Construct a bunker in my back garden, what with Current Events. Decorate with fairy lights, bunting – to keep spirits up. Also: bottled water, canned food (variety of beans, vegetables), books, wine. 

Practise meditation. Learn to calm mind.

Look at art.  

A window into my mind. 

Anxiety, Cats, Dissolving into liquid sky, Fatigue, Insanity, It's not fair, Life is hard, MS, Multiple Sclerosis, Quiet life, Why aren't I Patti Smith?

A buzz of late summer midges clouding around your head. 

Mathematical equations scrawled on a pane of glass, signalling troubled genius. 

A shoal of fish flashing silver into black, semaphoring their way who knows where. 

A murmuration of starlings folding against a mid autumn sky. 

I am neither young nor old. 

They say she has something of the night about her. 

I HATE BEING CHRONICALLY ILL

Anxiety, Career, Cats, Damn like or damn comment on my damn blog! Thank you., Employment, Fatigue, Happiness, I'd like to sit down please, Insanity, It's not fair, Life is hard, MS, Multiple Sclerosis, Sexy foxes, Why aren't I Patti Smith?

September is like January Pt 2 for teachers. And probably some non-teachers as well. Like the first official month of the calendar year, I’m having a ‘dry’ September after a reasonably alcoholic summer. And I’ve made both a mind map and a to-do list. Which proper disrupted my sleep last night with list induced panic. Horror show. Disclosure: one item on aforementioned list is WRITE BLOG POST. So don’t think I’m doing this out of kindness, alright?

The first list item is: PAY MONEY INTO BANK. I’ve put a line through that one. And it’s only 10:17. Go me *rolls eyes*. 

And this is why I HATE BEING CHRONICALLY ILL. 

My walking is all difficult today, so instead of making my way through town looking all ‘together’ like a woman in a sanitary product advert, I weaved all about the pavement, in serious danger of veering into actual traffic, probably presenting as a drunk – which would be fine if I was, in reality, drunk – but I’m at the start of a dry month. And I’ve a new haircut that I alternate between HATING and REALLY QUITE LIKING but this morning it added to my woes by making me look like a DERANGED MANIAC/SMALL BOY/HARASSED HOUSEWIFE IN A KITCHEN SINK DRAMA DIRECTED BY KEN LOACH. 

And. 

Despite my friends saying stuff like, “well, you never really liked being a teacher…” THAT’S NOT THE POINT. Yes, when I could work, I complained incessantly, always boring on about wanting to go part time, BUT NOW, I’m totally envious of my teacher husband/friends starting the 16/17 school year today. IT’S NOT FAIR. Work means colleagues and intellectual stimulation and money. AND NOT FEELING LIKE A TOTAL LOSER BECAUSE YOU DON’T WALK RIGHT AND YOU GET SO TIRED AND NEED A REST AND YOUR WRITING IS TERRIBLE BECAUSE YOU ARE BROKEN. 

So. I feel great. Have a nice day. That’s one more item crossed off. 

END OF POST. 

Insanity through inaction.

Anxiety, Cats, Employment, Happiness, Life is hard, Medication

Let’s set the scene.  A bar, midweek, early evening, some sort of social gathering. Music plays indistinctly in the background, inconsequential chat drifts across the room as friends of friends and acquaintances of work colleagues awkwardly exchange small talk.

The camera begins to zoom in and, deep breath, there she is! The writer (ofthisblog). Gazing pseudo-interestedly at an art print on the wall, sipping a glass of red wine. Responding to a gentle tap on her shoulder, she turns…

Hey! – it’s been, like, forever – where’ve you been?

Hey! – uh, y’know – here and there, back and forth – holidays and all that – but here I am – back now.

So, dear reader, if you’d do me the kindness of taking on the role of ‘guest at indeterminate social gathering’ and I’ll be me. Don’t worry, you won’t have to do anything but listen, and do try to maintain eye-contact. I’ll be mainly monologuing.

Where do I start? Let’s go with MEDICATION.

If you think back, you’ll remember that I was hoping to stop Tysabri sooner rather than later – the two-year deadline is mid-November – and start ‘my Lemtrada journey’. Near to the end of August, I had an appointment at Royal Stoke University Hospital with their neurologist, who I liked a lot, and he said “yeah, that’s fine” – or words to that effect. Yesterday (yes, just yesterday) his MS nurse called and asked me to go in to see her next month and told me I could stop Tysabri immediately! This is good news. There’s a three-month wash out period so the Lemtrada won’t happen yet, but still. I shall tell you more as and when…

UNEMPLOYMENT

To sleep in and not have to deal with all that the first day of a new school year entails was delicious. The rest of the week though? I fear I was perhaps a little crazy by Friday. It’s the not doing anything, man. I mean, obviously I haven’t literally done nothing at all. I’ve read quite a bit. Listened to podcasts. Had my hair coloured. Hung out with the cat (can you spend too much time with your cat?). Not made myself a schedule which I had sworn was something I was definitely, without a doubt, for sure going to do. I spent the week stagnating. My brain disintegrating, My conversation collapsing.  Maybe I’m exaggerating a smidgen. I need some supply though, unless I am to be incarcerated in debtors prison. Or sectioned. One or the other looks likely. Might get a book out of the experience though, so swings and roundabouts.

Anyhow. Is that the time? I must be away! Things to do!* People to see!** Madness to stave off!***

Swiftly gulping the last of her wine as she stands to leave, you wonder when, and if, you’ll see her again. As she heads for the door, a voice cuts through the now alcohol-lubricated chatter,

Is this chair free?

chair

*Lie.

**Lie.

***Not a lie.

Dying with Dignit(as)y. 

Anxiety, Assisted Suicide, Death, Dignitas, Dissolving into liquid sky, Life is hard, MS, Multiple Sclerosis, Worry

L and I spent our morning yesterday researching how much it costs to go to Dignitas. 

We’re both alright by the way, don’t want you to worry, we haven’t booked flights (yet), but… It’s been in the news recently – the 70 something woman who was generally fine but just really didn’t want to experience the type of old age that she’d witnessed in her time as a nurse. So off she went. Never to return. I’m  completely empathetic to this point of view. 

When I was at the lowest point of my devastating relapse (previous posts: Losing all the things), in a heap at the bottom of the MS well, despairingly attempting to focus on the ever diminishing sunlight, I thought a lot about dying. About how, if the things I had lost never found their way back to me, I couldn’t envision a life that I’d want to live. Some people could, I get that, but for me there is a point at which I’d give up, throw in the towel, call the whole thing off. The thing that terrifies me most is the loss of my voice. Metaphorically and a bit literally as well. I never never ever want to find myself trapped in a situation where decisions are removed from out of my control. That’s a clumsy sentence, I know. But losing control. No. *shakes head, looks decisive, and cool, good hair!

And this thing, this losing, or getting lost, not having a voice, being spoken for – I couldn’t live if that was caused by MS or illness in old age. 

I’m lucky, at the age of 35, to have four grandparents who are (mostly) fine. Especially the women: they know their own minds. I hope I’m like them. And I hope they live – healthily, happily, well – you know, forever. 

But, in addition to their wellness, they have children, grandchildren who love them. They’re never going to be forgotten, neglected, lonely. And my parents obviously have my brother and me. But there it stops. Is having a child so you’ve basically got a possible future carer okay? Obviously they might not particularly want that, but hey! I will’ve given them the gift of actual life!

Ideally my dream death would be at home, asleep, bed surrounded by weeping disciples who all immediately take their own lives at the point of my death, in solidarity with me, so the room resembles the end of a Shakespearean tragedy, aside from one who can’t join us until she’s written a flattering portrayal of my life and works, various miracles etc, which will, when discovered years after my passing, become a uniting world religion that ends all conflict and suffering. Ideally. 

Basically, I don’t want to have to get on a plane, fly to Switzerland, die in a clinical space that’s so much not home. And I think the anxiety surrounding old age, chronic illness, would dissipate if assisted suicide was legalised in the UK. Feel free to disagree. That’s just where I stand. At the moment.  

 

In defence of *my* quiet life. 

Anxiety, Be nice, Epiphanies, It's not fair, Quiet life, Shed of the year 2015, Summertime drinking, Why aren't I Patti Smith?, Worry

I agonised about whether the title of this post should be ‘In defence of…’ ‘a’ or ‘the’ quiet life. I went for ‘my’ because it’s specific: everyone’s life is different, right? Regardless of its volume. 

In my teenage bedroom the walls were, and I use this term in its loosest possible sense, ‘decorated’ with pieces of plain paper on which I would write song lyrics, fractions of poetry, snippets of my own awful, angsty writing. I was aspirational pretentious. One of my favourite lyrics at the time went:

Why live in the world when you can live in your head? 

From Pulp’s Monday Morning. And now I have part of an Annie Dillard quote tattooed on my arm, which goes:

But a life spent reading – that is a good life. 

Are you drawing a comparison?

Seems to me that I’ve always tended toward a quiet, non-experiential life. And herein lies the rub: is this something I should feel bad about? Should I hate myself, even just an small amount? Are all the books, the songs, the imaginings really an adequate substitute? Should I accept, even defend, the stillness of my life or should I turn up the volume, as it were?

The other day I was having a private tantrum wondering why we weren’t going away anywhere this summer when we clearly should be able to afford it. I was angry that I wasn’t exploring exciting locations, having my mindset slightly altered, if only for the duration of the ‘holiday’, creating beautiful memories or, at least, well-shot Instagrams – see how I try to belittle to reassure myself? 

But then I realised. We could indeed afford to travel somewhere that’s not here, except we spent our money on a new carpet for the hall and a lovely garden bench. The quiet life. And I love my house, being at home, nesting. Like a tiny bird.  And the bench, which I’m calling my Reading Bench, will give me real long term pleasure. So just shut up. But… It’s a big world, kiddo. And before I die, I’d like to see a bit more of it. 

I realise that this post doesn’t really live up to the promise contained within its title. Not really a defence, is it? It would’ve been more honest to write:

I haven’t had a holiday this year. Not fair. 

  

Here’s looking at you, kid. 

Anxiety, Career, Employment, Happiness, MS, Multiple Sclerosis, Sorry Morrissey, Vegetarianism, Worry

Yesterday, I went into ‘my’ school to drop off ‘my’ laptop, keys, id badge and to collect my stuff, teacher stuff, you know, pencil cases, laminator, mini guillotine thing, from ‘my’ classroom. And that was the end of my career as a teacher.*  

90s callback! Oh Egg…

  

Pardon? Say that again? Well, I can’t make out what you’re saying if you don’t enunciate, boy! Jesus. How do I feel? Er. I dunno. A little defeated, a little melancholy, a little unsure of my place in the world. Out of sorts. Alas, like Icarus I overreached! 

But as C, wise as ever, has told (texted) me: A failed experiment is better than one not tried at all. In the words of Aliyah, another wise woman, I better ‘dust myself off and try again’. 
So. This is an opportunity, I guess, to take a good long look at my life and try to answer that near impossible question, what is it that I actually want? Whilst still earning a sufficient amount to cover the bills/at least some fun stuff obvs. 

Something’s just occurred to me, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before? MS is a total and complete kleptomaniacal bastard. 

My plan is then, to stay positive – can we turn that frown upside down! 

An aside: *book recommendation siren* I just finished reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Harari and, in the final chapters, he talks about happiness, about how as individuals we each have a kind of innate happiness setting, like how air-con maintains a specific room temperature, and I think mine is probably about a four, so staying positive? Tricky. D’s however is an annoying seven, so I can’t worry too much about breaking my next decision to him because, he’s a seven! He’ll get back to that pretty quickly. He’s a resilient fellow. So here goes. After eating tonight’s undoubtedly delicious chicken based dinner, I will no longer be consuming meat!** For reasons most people figure out when they’re thirteen. Not thirty-five. Better late than never, eh Morrissey! Morrissey? Come back, Morrissey! 

 
That’s the extent of my plan thus far.***

I’m sure I had more I wanted to share, but the sky has full on clouded over, and my brain has ceased to function. Well, not entirely so you don’t need to call an ambulance or anything. What is it with you taking everything I say so literally? Man. 

See ya. 

*You’re right, I will be doing some supply, but to earn a living, not as a career. 

**We’ll discuss this. 

***There’s a bit more irl. 

I can only disappoint you. 

Anxiety, Be nice, Damn like or damn comment on my damn blog! Thank you., Why aren't I Patti Smith?

As the crowd wait expectantly, the mood palpably begins to shift, from one of anxious-excitement to anxious-irritation. She’s almost an hour late, the group seem to think as one; all that anxiety has transformed them into a buzzing hive-mind. Dangerous. 

Then, finally, like the tide coming in, a ripple of silence makes its way from the front row all the way back to those bearded old blokes that are to be found at the back of every gig, ever, engaged in esoteric nodding. 

The lights dim. 

On stage, appearing to have been literally pushed, a single diminutive figure reluctantly makes their way to the mic-stand. 

The audience, as one, hold their breath. 

She speaks thusly: Er, guys – hey there – thanks for coming out to see me tonight – appreciate it – but – erm – the thing, the issue, the nub, is – I haven’t really got anything to say. 

A mumour of confusion, the shifting of feet. 

The thing is, I was pretty proud of my early stuff, but the well’s run dry, man. And, I know, I know, I promised y’all posts about the NHS, Right to die – but really – what have I got to say that hasn’t already been said more coherently, pithily, succinctly by countless others?  

Ema, I love yooooou! Some handsome and intelligent looking fellow shouts. 

Thank you *bashful wink* – What I’m saying to you tonight is, I’m not going anywhere, but you know, try not to expect too much – ’cause – like late 90s band Mansun – I can only disappoint you. 

In a hail of bottles, she exits the stage.