ME Awareness Day 2014

Danni on ME Awareness Day 2014Yesterday (Monday) was ME Awareness Day. I had a couple of ideas of blog posts I wanted to write for the day, but my brother came over on Sunday and I spent too long chatting, which means I now have payback. I didn’t wake up until 5.20pm and spent most of the evening in a weird fuzzy state. I had been doing really well (last week I managed 2 hours in the living room with no worsening of symptoms) but I pushed too far Sunday and now I have to pay.

That’s the defining symptom of ME- a worsening of symptoms due to too much activity. What counts as too much depends on the person and the severity of their illness, and to make things complicated it can change from day to day, from hour to hour. The payback has various names (the most common I’ve seen being post exertional malaise or post exertional neuroimmune exhaustion) and the symptoms it causes are as varied as those of the illness itself.

My payback today consists of a worse than normal headache, pain behind my eyes, greater light, noise, smell and touch sensitivity, more pain (mostly muscle and joint pain, some nerve pain, other random pain I can’t really define), more muscle weakness, worsened coordination, worse nausea, difficulty swallowing, muscle spasms and the fuzziness I mentioned earlier. Compared to how I’ve been the last couple of weeks, it’s pretty bad, but before then this was pretty much my normal. I’m hoping with lots of rest I’ll get back to where I was.

If you want to find out more about ME, my previous blog posts about it from two years ago are linked at the top of my blog. There’s also the #MEAwarenessDay hashtag on Twitter. Jenny, Stroopwaffle on Twitter has tweeted about living with very severe ME for years. If you know any other good places please comment as I’m not sure when I’ll be up to finding them. It’s a sucky illness but hopefully there will be a cure found.

Blogging Against Disablism Day: Internalised Disablism

Blogging Against Disablism(This blog post is part of Blogging Against Disablism Day 2014. Is is hosted at

One of the hardest parts of disablism (or ableism) to deal with is how it invades your thoughts. All those insults and comments that have been said about or to me stick in my brain, and come out when my disabilities affect me. The thoughts that I’m not really disabled, that I’m just lazy or stupid or selfish or putting it on, things that have all been said to me by people aware of my disabilities.

I know logically that being disabled does not make me a bad person. Having impairments and needing help and support has no impact on my worth. Yet years of bullying, often based around my difficulties, mean I find it hard to accept sometimes. This isn’t helped by the current treatment of disabled and vulnerable people in the press, or how a lot of people talk about disabled people.

Recently on the news there was a story of a mother murdering her autistic son and then killing herself. Most of the articles were sympathetic to the mother, and went on about how difficult her son was to deal with. The fact a child was murdered because of who he was didn’t seem to matter. As an autistic person, it scares me, and it feeds into the thoughts that I’m not worth it. He deserved to live, and there is no justification for his murder.

Johan often tells me off for apologising when I ask him to help me. I can’t stop doing it though- years of being told I didn’t deserve it mean I feel guilty when asking for help, even though logically I know that I need it and Johan is quite happy to help me. I even tried to justify the neglect I suffered in the care homes for the same reason. If it had happened to anyone else I’d be outraged and want to do what I could to fix it, but because it was me and because I only deserved bad things because I’m not that ill/putting it on/it’s all in my head I felt guilty for even mentioning it.

Before my ME got bad there was no real external sign I was disabled, though I was odd enough to be called names/beaten up/literally trodden on. I was blamed for my difficulties, often by the people who should have been supporting me. The result was years of depression, and even that came with it’s own disablism. Though I’m no longer depressed, I still have times where I think I’m lesser because of my disabilities. I know I’m not the only disabled person who has this.

All people matter. Everyone should get the help they need, regardless of who they are. If someone can’t do something, that should be accepted and they shouldn’t be treated badly because of it. They also shouldn’t be denied the chance to do what they are capable of. No matter what people think, this is true. Now I just need to convince my brain of this.


Penguin and Penelope. Penny's wing is bandaged.
Penguin and Penelope. Penny’s wing is bandaged.

I’ve had a rough day. My prescribed Fortisips arrived and though I was meant to be prescribed only chocolate and vanilla flavours, the first one Johan gave me was Fruits of the Forest. Which my body reacted to as badly as it did the Skittles milkshake and strawberry milkshake I tried, confirming that I can’t have fruit flavoured heavy drinks now (I can manage fruit squash okay, but pure fruit juice, smoothies and fruit milkshakes cause worse nausea; and burn my throat and taste disgusting when they’re brought back up). I also had my body attempting the final part of digestion, which had me shaking, sweating, curled up in a ball and at one point crying from the pain. It lasted several hours, and I’m grateful that I didn’t have to attempt it on a bedpan or toilet as though the clean-up sucks being able to lie on my side did help a bit. I think the worst of it is over this time.

Penelope’s wing got burnt in the microwave 🙁 I performed surgery (cutting away the burnt fur/feathers and removed the burnt stuffing) and have used a part of a dressing to stuff her wing and have bandaged it up. We’re going to look into a skin graft but even if that is possible her heating days are over. I’m giving her loads of cuddles and she’s asked me to find one of her siblings to do her job. Unfortunately the Intelex website is out of stock of Penny’s sisters, but I’ve emailed them asking when they’ll next be available and if that fails, I’ll look elsewhere. She might be a disabled penguin now but I still love her very much.

Despite all that, I’m happy. I believe that every person has at least some goodness in them (even Tories, though it can be hard to see there) and my friends show me their love and goodness all the time. I have Johan, who does everything he can to make me feel as comfortable and well as possible (and didn’t even complain about the messy clean-up earlier). It can be easy to think everyone and everything is bad when that’s what must of the news concentrates on, and there are a lot of bad things that happen, but there are people trying to make the bad things less bad and do more good things. One of Nerdfighteria’s aims is to reduce world suck (the other main one is DFTBA – don’t forget to be awesome).

I might blog about the downsides of having severe ME (and like a lot of disabling chronic illnesses it sucks a lot) but part of me learning to adapt to it was to try not to dwell too much on it. Blogging and tweeting helps me with this- once I’ve written about it it frees my brain to think about other things, and knowing that there are people who care really helps. Having ME has opened me up to a whole community of good people I proudly wouldn’t have met before, some of whom I now class as friends. I still want a cure and wish my friends weren’t suffering, but I’m grateful for what it has brought me. (I try and keep out of the politics side of ME for the same reason I limit my intake of bad news- there’s nothing I can safely do to help and there’s a lot of (mostly justified) negativity that makes me more ill.)

I’m also grateful to be Autistic. Unlike the ME I don’t want to be cured, despite the difficulties it can cause. I like who I am and I wouldn’t be the same person without it. I discovered Second Life through the autistic community, and without that I would never have met Johan. Autism doesn’t make me ill- it means I think and process stuff differently, but it’s not broken. I have super senses- it may mean I can’t tolerate loud noises or certain smells but it also allows me to enjoy lights and sparklies in a way I can’t explain. And every time I see a penguin it makes me very happy. The autistic community has also introduced me to some awesome people I otherwise wouldn’t have met, and learning there were people like me has been very positive.

Lent begins tomorrow. I’m not giving anything up for it this year- if I were to give up something food related I think my dietician would kill me, and I’m not sure what else I could give up. Instead, I’m going to try and do nice things for people. After I wake up I’m going to make a list of the specifics of this, but some ideas I’ve had are writing a note to someone on Post Pals, sending someone who needs cheering up a small gift, and seeing if I can help someone with one of my skills (I might not have many I can currently use, but there are still some).

Good things that have happened today include playing some World of Warcraft, Johan and the other raiders in my guild managing to kill Heroic Paragons, managing to install a new beta version of Paranoid Android on my tablet (accidentally wiping it in the process, but it needed it and I’d backed it up yesterday), cuddling my Penguins, making Penelope feel better, getting clean, dry pyjamas on, joking with Johan, talking about interesting things with my guild in Mumble, playing with the Google Now speech recognition stuff, and writing this blog post. That’s quite a lot considering I’ve been awake less than twelve hours and haven’t got out of bed 😛 Time to sleep now, and that’s good too.

Preparing For An Outing

Tomorrow morning I’m going out properly for the first time in quite a while. I have a hospital appointment to see my consultant at my GP’s request. It’s not at my local hospital, so it’ll be the furthest I’ve been in well over a year (it’s in Newcastle so not excessively far, luckily). As I’m not currently well enough to sit in my wheelchair at all (unfortunately I’m yet to have a repeat of the good days last month) I’m going by stretcher.

This is a big event, and requires a lot of preparation. I’ve selected a pair of pyjamas that are fancy enough to be worn as day clothes, yet are still comfortable. With them I’ll be wearing my arm warmers, as they’re short sleeved and my arms get cold (and in the event I need a blood test, they’re easy to take off). I’ll also be wearing some warm bed socks in an attempt to stop my feet freezing. I’ll need my tablet in case I lose speech and to communicate with the outside world if I’m up to it, and my phone for internet.

To accommodate my sensitivities, I’ll be taking my sunglasses, eye mask, ear plugs and ear defenders. Since too much light and noise make me much more ill I can’t be too careful there (hospitals are not known for being restful places so I try and avoid going there when possible). I’ve not found a decent way to deal with my sensitivity to smell so I’ll be taking an antiemetic and mints and hoping it isn’t too bad. Spare pads and wipes will come along just in case, and I’ll need my Hydrant to prevent dehydration. I’ve got a couple of blankets to try and deal with my temperature fluctuations, and will have a cushion or two to try and make it as comfortable as possible. I’ll also have my appointment letter, a short explanation of my communication needs/what to do in an emergency, and a list of important things to talk to the doctor about.

In a strange way, I’m looking forward to it. Getting out of bed is so rare for me that even going to the hospital is exciting. There’s a pretty good chance it’s going to make me crash afterwards (I’m currently so touch sensitive that even hugs make me more ill, and movement makes me feel horrendous) but we’re planning for that. I have lots of milkshakes and stuff in as my chewing is dodgy already and the easier ways to consume calories I have, the better. Seeing outside my bedroom will be fun (assuming I’m well enough to wear my sunglasses rather than needing my eyemask- otherwise I’ll just have to listen :P).

Since I last blogged I’ve seen the district nurse, who was the one to recommend getting stretcher transport when we explained my problems with trying to go by wheelchair, the CFS team who have shown Johan how to prevent my legs from unstraightening when I’m not well enough to straighten them myself and were reassuring me about stuff, the dietician who has prescribed some milk based supplements because of my new intolerance to heavy juice drinks (can have squash but not smoothies, proper fruit juice, fruit flavoured milkshakes or fortijuice) and my eating being really poor again, and the social worker who was doing a care review and she’s going to pass on our concerns for us (I’ve not been well enough to email the agency) and contact the doctor about getting the supplements. All those visits have meant I’m not doing as well as I was before them, but I’m not that bad for me.

Johan went to Manchester to see a ballet with Vicky, and my sister Becca came over to look after me, which was good. She’s also here now, originally to go see someone from the get back to work people (she’s in the work related activity group for ESA- they are doing the work related activity) and also just generally helping us out a bit. The break helped Johan a lot and he’s overall been more positive and able to cope. His trial for the raid team in World of Warcraft went well, so he’s now a permanent member and they’ve since got Siegecrafter Blackfuse Heroic down in 25 man, so there’s only two bosses left for them to kill. He’s really enjoying it and it’s good for him to have something to focus on There’s another discipline priest on the raid team that is his main competition, and he’s occasionally been beating him while less geared so that has made him very happy 🙂

I’ve been playing quite a bit of WoW, mostly doing my daily cooldowns, Timeless Isle dailies on Danni and levelling my lowbies. I invited Becca via Recruit a Friend and we’re levelling some characters together- she’s a warrior and I’m a hunter. I don’t know either class so that’s been interesting 🙂 For some reason I’ve not been able to watch television, even easy things like My Little Pony- my brain just can’t process it right now. I watched a little of the figure skating in the Olympics but I was absolutely exhausted afterwards, in a way I don’t get when I’m playing WoW. Danni is weird 😛 I’m so glad I’m still able to get on my computer and play WoW though, as it’s helping me cope with everything, especially since my digestive system really hates me now (recently it’s been taking between 12-36 hours for food to leave my stomach, which I know because I keep bringing it back up and it’s identifiable).

If I don’t blog for a bit then it’ll be because I’m recovering from the hospital appointment. I’m hoping it won’t take too long though as I have so many things I want to blog about as soon as I can 😀

Perfecting Bed Life

So, for the past few months I’ve spent nearly every moment in bed. It doesn’t look like I’ll be leaving it any time soon so I’ve been working on ways to make it work better for me. These are what work for me- others may find it helps, or not.

  • Comfort is the top priority. Most clothes are not comfortable for lying in so don’t get worn. Some clothes are good though- t-shirts and leggings, shorts and skirts tend to work well for me. Pyjamas and night clothes are also good, and some of them can even pass as daywear (I have an awesome set of pyjamas that look like a long top and leggings but are amazingly comfortable). I find having a cardigan or zip up hoodie is good as it’s easier to put on or take off when cold than a jumper.
  • When I’m too ill for a proper bed bath, bath in bed wipes are often a pretty good substitute. These wipes are especially designed to be used for washing in bed. They’re bigger than baby wipes and can be microwaved to warm them up. As they don’t require extra water or drying afterwards, it takes a lot less spoons to be washed with them. I still like a proper bed bath when I feel up to it though.
  • There are various ways of dealing with hair. Dry shampoo works for a few days, but I find it doesn’t do a great job when it’s gotten really greasy. There is no rinse shampoo you can get (works best if you can sit upright for a couple of minutes) or even better, a shampoo cap that has the no rinse shampoo in it. The shampoo cap can be microwaved to warm it up (it makes it a lot nicer) and we’ve successfully used it with me lying down, kinda on my front and side.
  • For proper hair washing, an inflatable basin makes it a lot easier. If you struggle at all to hold your head up get one with an inbuilt cushion- in fact, do so anyway if you can as the extra cost is minimal and it makes it much easier and more comfortable. I find that kid’s 2 in 1 shampoo works for me, as the scent doesn’t bother me and it means I don’t need separate conditioner (so less spoons are needed) but use whatever shampoo works for you. I find that having a towel around my shoulders works to catch drips and makes it easy to be brought over my head to dry my hair afterwards. Also remember to put towels (or even a bin bag) under the basin so if it spills it doesn’t soak the bed. Also, make sure your carer doesn’t remove the bucket the basin drains into before it’s finished draining- we got a clean floor out of it but if you’ve got carpet it’ll be a bit soaked!
  • I ended up getting all my hair cut off after a really bad relapse as it was just too knotted to deal with and I wasn’t well enough to have it detangled, even by someone else. If you can have it brushed every few days, then having long hair in a plait or two in between is a good way to stop it knotting too badly. Scarves are really good for both tangle prevention for long hair and hiding greasiness for any length hair. I also have a turban that I can just pull on when I’m not feeling well but my hair feels wrong- eBay is a good place to get that sort of thing.
  • Cushions and pillows are essential for comfort. The best I’ve found for me is a U shaped body cushion. It’s absolutely huge, 12 feet long but it supports me on both sides and also makes it easier for Izzy to position me. Before that I used lots of pillows and that worked a bit but tended to move. Some people like squishy cushions but most of them are too small to work for me most of the time. They’re great for holding something in place though.
  • An overbed table makes life much easier. I use mine for my computer monitor now but in the past it was used for my laptop, meals (when I could sit up) and other stuff. I now use my Trabasack for meals and things as I only have one overbed table but I’m considering getting a second one at some point for other stuff. They’re not that expensive for the basic ones, though if you’re weak you may need help with adjusting them. Those that are easier to adjust tend to be a lot more expensive, but may be worth it if you have the spare money and would be able to work them (I can’t).
  • If you’re living life completely in bed, then toileting will be done either by bedpan or incontinence pads. Sucks but unfortunately it’s something that just needs to be dealt with. If you’re well enough then having a commode next to the bed is a lot easier (as it’s more like using a toilet) but those who can’t sit up at all without fainting or falling off (like me) don’t have that option. There are different styles of bedpan so don’t be afraid to try different ones to find one that suits you. There are also urinals for both men and women that might work, though as I tend to poo without warning that wouldn’t have worked for me. When my incontinence got bad pads became easier, and can be changed pretty quickly once you and your carer know what they’re doing. Still hurts but I find them more comfortable than using the bedpan was. There are bed changing pads that will help in case of accidents or spills. Some can even be tucked in to stop them moving too much.
  • A sheepskin is wonderful for helping make a bed more comfortable and helping to prevent bedsores. In most places they’re rather expensive but Ikea does a decent one for £30. They’re pretty hard wearing but can’t really be cleaned that easily so bear that in mind. That said, mine has managed with just patch cleaning for several months now and though it’s looking raggedy it still helps.
  • If you’re well enough, a laptop, tablet or internet connected phone makes a massive difference. I find a 10 inch tablet and my gaming computer set up next to my bed (with the monitor on the overbed table) works best for me, but that may not be the case for others. I don’t have the fine motor control now to manage a phone and struggle with a smaller tablet but I know for others they’re often easier. A laptop is easier than a desktop computer and you can get special stands to put them in the best position for using lying down, but they’re not as powerful as a desktop computer for heavy gaming. I do know I’m lucky to be well enough to do gaming though 🙂 I use my tablet mostly for Twitter, reading blogs and ebooks and browsing websites. I also use it as a communication device when I’m nonverbal.
  • A Hydrant is great for drinks in bed without having to worry too much about spilling and you can go for a bit longer between refills as they go up to 1 litre in size. The ends need changing every couple of months (of constant use) or they do start leaking, but they’re pretty cheap (buy in bulk to save on postage) and easy to fit when they need replacing. For hot drinks, I find a travel mug works best for me, with straws in the little hole for drinking. I also have an extra handle for when I’m strong enough to lift a cup to help keep it steady.
  • The best headphones I’ve found so far are the Sleepphones. They’re headphones designed to be worn in bed and I find they’re much more comfortable than standard ones, especially when I’m lying on my side. They are flat headphones in a fleece headband (looks a bit like a sweatband). It comes in different colours and sizes, including purple 🙂 The extra small fits me but I do have an unusually small head. They’re not the cheapest in the world but I think they’re worth the £31 I paid for them. There are other similar ones but I’ve not tested them as these ones work for me.
  • If possible, have as much stuff in reach as you can. The less you need to call for someone to get stuff, the better. When I was in a single bed I had a small bookcase next to my bed that held quite a lot. Now I’m in a double bed and unless I’m having a very good day, I can only reach the stuff on the bed. I can have quite a lot on here though- my penguins, my tablet, snacks, maybe a magazine, my cushions and pillows, computer mouse (on a large book for a flat surface), my scarves and often random other stuff. If you can reach a bedside table, have what you need most frequently (or urgently) closest to you. I have a drawer in mine for storing snacks and another for medications, so when I’m well enough I can grab my own snacks (great at 4am when I don’t want to wake Izzy if I can help it) and means my medication isn’t always on show (though Izzy often forgets to put stuff back).
  • Bed socks are amazing. I find my feet get cold even while the rest of me is sweating and overheating, and proper bed socks are warm, comfortable and unlike normal socks, don’t dig in. When they’re not enough, I have slippers that have microwaveable inserts that warm my feet up even when they’re most icy. I also have a wheat bag I use near my feet when I’m not up to slippers and for when I go to sleep (I find my slippers feel wrong when I’m trying to sleep). I get mine from eBay.
  • My microwaveable penguins are awesome. Not only do they keep me company at all times, the heat also helps warm me up when my body temperature is all wonky and helps with pain. There have been many times when those penguins have kept me out of hospital. You don’t necessarily need penguins, but some form of wheat bag is a great help (I find the animals keep the heat longer- maybe it’s the fleece?).
  • Try and have the bedroom as pleasant as you can. I know some people need it as non stimulating as possible, but if you can have nice pictures and things you like where you can see them. I have my bed placed so when I’m well enough I can look out the window and watch the birds. At my old flat I used to watch the sunset (here there are buildings in the way that mean I can’t see them, but that is a benefit as my light sensitivity is worse and means it’s darker in here).
  • You can get remote controlled lights and electric switches. They mean a lot to me, as any control over my environment helps. My main light bulb is remote controlled (LED and colour changing, which I like a lot) and I have a different remote control for the sockets that my lamp and fairy lights are plugged into. That means I’m able to control my own light levels.
  • A fan helps a lot when it’s warm in summer. If it’s placed where you can’t quite reach it, you can have it plugged into one of the remote control sockets to be able to control it that way (though you won’t be able to change the speed, you could turn it on and off which is the important bit).
  • I have an eye mask that I don’t sleep without now. There are many different ones so hopefully there will be one that works for you. It lives on my bed so I’ve always got it to hand. I also have ear plugs and ear defenders. My ear defenders aren’t comfortable when I’m on my side but work well against machine noises (lawnmowers, vacuum cleaners, washing machines) and are easy to put on. Ear plugs are harder to put in but block more noise and are more comfortable when lying on my side. Combining the two means when I’m really noise sensitive I can get some peace.
  • Don’t forget to move while you’re in bed! The biggest risk is bed sores, and you really don’t want them. If you’re able to move yourself, do so as often as you can- I tend to wriggle around quite a lot while I’m awake. When I’m asleep, the pain from being in one position wakes me up every 60-90 minutes so unless I’m paralysed I roll over then. If you can’t roll over yourself, make sure someone changes your position every couple of hours. I’m hoping for a better bed and mattress so I get less pain soon, but in the meantime the waking up and wriggling works. I’ve only had (grade 1) bed sores when I’ve been paralysed and so unable to roll over or to let Izzy know I can’t.
  • There are hobbies you can take part in while you’re in bed. My personal ones are currently reading, watching television shows on my computer and playing computer games (I’ve been doing pretty well recently with noise and light- it’s mostly movement and being upright that’s keeping me in bed, and a lack of hoist). When I’m less well looking at pictures (on my tablet or in magazines) has been good. Communicating with people via twitter on my tablet also helped keep me sane while I’ve been too ill for many visitors. For those who have hands that work, there are loads of crafts- knitting seems strangely popular, and many different types of art can be done with an overbed table or a tray.
  • A waterproof mattress protector is essential. You will spill something at some point and the last thing you want to do is soak the mattress. If you can cope with the noise, a duvet protector and pillow protectors can also help. I have spare pillows and duvets for when mine are wet as the crinkly noise is too much (I’ve just ordered a spare U shaped pillow as it’s now so essential to me) and while you can change bedding while you’re still in bed, changing or turning the mattress is pretty much impossible. My mattress protectors don’t make a sound and have a terry towelling top.
  • Have a way to contact whoever helps you. For me, I can use my tablet to message Izzy, or if necessary send her a text message or call her phone (it’s connected to my phone via Bluetooth). When I’m on my computer we go on Google Hangout using webcams so we can see each other even if we can’t be in the same room. For absolute emergencies I have a care call system where I have a button to press that will go through to a call centre who can get the police or an ambulance if I’ve fallen or I need help. I don’t have the strength a lot of the time to press the button which is a problem, but the idea is sound (we pay for it along with our rent I think). Some people find that wireless doorbells work when their carer is in another room.
  • Try to remain positive. Living in bed is not the end of the world. It may not be what you choose but it doesn’t have to be completely negative. I find joy in many things while being in bed, and though I do want to get out and back into my wheelchair, it hasn’t been all bad. Bringing my computer in here so I could use it in bed was one of the best decisions we made.

That’s some of the stuff I use to help with living life in bed. Below are links to some of the items I mentioned- some I won’t link as I either can’t remember where I got them or they are widely available and/or there are different types. Feel free to ask if I’ve missed one you want to know about. – Bed in bath wipes, shampoo caps, no rinse shampoo, hair washing basins, overbed tables, and other stuff. Tends to be well priced. – U shaped cushion. Amazon also sell many other things I mentioned here- Sleepphones, radio controlled plug sockets and light bulbs, duo cup holder (extra handle for cups), eye masks, penguins, and other things. – The Hydrant (drinking bottle with tube).