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What the world doesn’t see . . .

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This photo struck me as being a good visual descriptor of so many people’s lives when they have ME/CFS.

It certainly is for mine.

So much of our lives are not seen by the rest of the world.  Maybe not by anyone at all, unless we live with a partner or family. So much is hidden and out of sight from friends, relatives, acquaintances.  Not intentionally,  but just the way it is.
The times we do manage to get out and see a friend, or go out somewhere with our partner, can be few and far between.
These are occasions where we have managed to reach the “tips of our icebergs”.

What the world doesn’t see is the struggle the rest of the time. Our lives behind the scenes. Or the bulk of our iceberg that is usually beneath water.

Some examples from my day to day life :

Being so exhausted after a shower or bath that I was unable to go out.
Or do anything.

Having to eat my dinner in bed. Sometimes in a lying down position if unable to sit up. (Not ideal for digestion I wouldn’t think. )

Usually needing a seat with a high back to support my shoulders, neck and back of my head.
Without this I often wouldn’t manage to remain sitting upright for very long. As neck pain would set in. It often feels like my head is too heavy for my neck to support.
Maybe I have a very big brain . . .

Having to buy clothes that will not need ironing.

Actually buying clothes is only done rarely because of the massive difficulty with it.
(This would need another blog post to explain to non-sufferers.)

Same with going to the hairdressers.
I managed recently to get my hair cut and coloured.
This was the first time in over 3 years.

Washing clothes/laundry – but the stuff lying in the washing machine for 3 days until I have enough strength and energy to take it out.

The struggle just to fill in a simple form, and the mental exhaustion afterwards.
eg.
Filling in a Dvla form for a new driving licence recently took me ages. I had mislaid my licence ages ago. But have now moved house also. From the guidance notes I couldn’t decide if a fee was required or not.
Should have been simple but this took over 2 hours to do.
Because of brain fog and headaches.
(and No – I couldn’t phone to ask. See next point.)

Phone calls are almost impossible most of the time.
Unless there is no queue, no more than 2 options to select from, and just very quiet soft music while holding on.
Even on “good energy” days, the brain fog and headaches make this simple task incredibly difficult.

The internet and using my laptop or tablet are torture a lot of the time. (And my mobile.)
Because of hyper-sensitivity to them. Headaches get triggered almost immediately. Brain fog gets worse. And some days it feels like my whole nervous system goes into overdrive.

Doing a simple Asda shopping online yesterday was agony.
Should have been simple. I had made the list the night before. But it took ages.
And triggered off so many symptoms that I was in bed the rest of the day recovering.

Keeping in touch with people is hard when I often can’t manage to type an email, make a phone call, or write a letter or card.
Or I manage to do it – but pay for it with nasty after-effects (exhaustion, headaches, even worse brain fog, etc).
Even text messages can be hard to do as I can’t tolerate using my mobile at times.

Reading a book.
Another simple task most people take for granted.
But I’m very limited in being able to do this. For lots of reasons.
Brain fog – this causes so many problems. Have to keep re-reading stuff as memory is awful. Or I just can’t take in what I’m reading.
Lack of strength in arms – makes actually holding a book too hard some days.
Headaches – often as soon as I try to concentrate.
Hyper-sensitivity to reading a Kindle download on my tablet.
A neighbour loaned me a book when I first moved here.
It took me 11 months to read it . . .

This list could go on and on and on.
But that would be very boring. And you get the picture.

But I guess the 2 hardest things about day to day life for me are :

1) Having to choose between small things because you can’t do both.
eg. Put grocery shopping away OR have a shower.
eg. Make a phone call to pay a bill OR send a text message to a friend.

and

2) The length of time it takes to recover from doing things.
To be stuck in bed all day recovering from just doing an online grocery shopping is pretty grim.

But this stuff (struggle) varies from day to day and week to week. It doesn’t move in a straight line. Up or down.
And while this does make it almost impossible to monitor and control – it still gives me hope that things will improve in time.

I mean, if something varies then it can surely improve in time ?
And more of my iceberg will move up above water . . . .

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Battered, Bruised and Bankrupt

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Voluntary Bankruptcy

This was the biggest and most life changing event which dominated most of last year.
And is still going on now.
I became voluntarily bankrupt w.e.f September 2014.
Or “in Sequestration” to use the correct scottish term,

I had to make this hard decision because my health was so poor. It had been steadily getting worse over the last few years and I was living a “non-life” really. In bed most of the time (maybe 80% or 90% of the time) struggling with all the horrible ME symptoms (an ever lengthening list). And at the same time trying to keep the property stuff afloat – mainly from bed. With my mobile phone for texts, emails, internet banking. And of course – actual phone calls. But phone calls had to be kept to an absolute minimum as I was too ill most of the time to carry out a business type phone call, or remember accurately what had been said . I relied mostly on emails as I could take breaks in a way you can’t in the middle of a phone call. Plus I needed a written record of almost everything – as my brain fog was severe.

But this was in no way ideal. You can’t deal with everyone purely by email or text. Plus a simple email that should take maybe 20 mins would often take me 4 hours to type. And that could often take me a day or two to recover from the exertion of doing even that.

My “PEM” or “PENE” (post exertional malaise / post exertional neuro exhaustion) has been severe and punishing.

Sometimes I would manage out of bed and get to my desk in my dressing gown and slippers. Looking like an unwashed wreck. Often I had to choose between washing/showering and getting any work done.
Almost every small bit of energy I could muster up had to go on work/property stuff. But over the last few years, I had built up a massive backlog of stuff that I would never have gotten on top of.

In the end I had to choose between my health and my ME getting even worse – or giving everything up.
When I write it like this, I can see there really was no choice.
But I went thru a lot of mental agony and anguish before deciding. Even started to have panic attacks at one point.

Doing this stuff had been my life for the last 11 years.
And I had struggled on for a very long time – because you can’t just get rid of 15 flats overnight. And I knew the consequences of “giving up” would be awful.
It wasn’t like resigning from my career in insurance in 1997 because of my health, after almost 20 years with the same employer. And walking away with nothing. And that door just closes behind you.
That was simple compared to this.

This has been terrible, and caused my health to go even further downhill. Which was one of my fears about doing it.
But it had to be done – and it was done to give myself a decent chance to improve again in the future.

When everything is more settled, and I get to a stage where I have some peace of mind.
I feel sure I can start to improve then.

I’ll probably write more about this in later posts.
As it has been traumatic, and I do need to get stuff out.

Moved house

For 2 reasons :

1) I wasn’t managing in our home very well any longer.
It was a semi-detached house with stairs (obviously). The stairs were hard. I could manage them some days – but with bad exhaustion after. Other days I couldn’t manage at all. My bedroom had been moved into a downstairs room some time ago – but the bathroom was still upstairs. (Had a downstairs loo, thank goodness.) My office was also upstairs (and I was hardly managing into it). The kitchen was too far away from the bedroom and living room for me. And when I did get into it, I often couldn’t stay in it for more than a few minutes at a time – as there was nowhere to sit down. And various windows throughout the house (incl my bedroom) I was unable to open – which would drive me mad.
It had a garden of course, but I rarely managed to get out in it over the last year or two. Any “good” days were spent trying to work and keep everything afloat. Not every one of course, but most of them.

2) The other reason was that we knew we would later voluntarily hand over our house to the Trustee In Bankruptcy. It would have been “taken” off us anyway. We had lived in it since 1998 and there was plenty of equity in it. So we knew it would be sold off to take the equity.
It has just gone onto Rightmove for sale this week. And it looks so sad and empty.

A house move is a stressful event anytime.
We moved well in advance of the bankruptcy taking effect. I actually moved into the flat before my husband at the end of May 2014. As I was desperate to get away from the house, its stairs, and all the other problems.

But as anyone with ME will know – a house move takes a huge toll on your health. Even when it’s a happy house move.
But in these circumstances . . .
I’m just glad its over – and I pray that we don’t have to do it again.

Had to change Banks – twice

How would I describe doing this (with ME) ?
Complete bloody torture . . .
The 1st change was recommended by the financial advisor and done ages before the bankruptcy. Bank manager clearly informed of probable future bankruptcy therefore ensuring everything done properly.
It took me months to get all the direct debits set up again – as I can hardly manage to tolerate using the laptop, or phone, etc with my ME being so bad.

Everything was just getting settled and running fine – then the bank decided that they were freezing and closing down all accounts (nationwide) for any bankrupt people. No notice was given at all. It just happened instantly.
This threw us into chaos.
Husband’s salary had just been paid in a week before this happened and we couldn’t get it back out. Well, we did eventually. But with a lot of hassle.
And trying to get a new current account once you have actually become bankrupt is very difficult. (No surprise really.) Most banks don’t want to know, and I actually thought we weren’t going to be able to open one at all at one point.
It was chaos, and mega stressful with ME.
Because you can’t pay many things without a bank account. And, as already mentioned, I am very limited in even being able to make phone calls. Or use the internet. And physically going out to places to try and pay things in cash was totally beyond me. (Still is most of the time.)
We now have a new account up and running (thank god).
But almost everything (DDs etc) have still to be set up all over again.

Not easy . . .

Homeopathic Hospital (or Centre Of Integrative Care)

Had a 5 day in-patient stay in January 2014.
This was a huge disappointment and actually resulted in my condition getting even worse afterwards. Especially when I read the doctor’s report a few weeks later.
There were many good things about the stay – I must add this.
Eg, the company of the other patients, getting good food at a regular time, the garden view from my bed (and got out into it twice), some of the meditation classes, a marvellous massage (called a Bowen Therapy massage), a great adjustable bed, a chair in the shower area to sit down on.
But there also a lot of odd, weird things that I tried to ignore and block out while I was there. This was hard work to do mentally, as a lot of things didn‘t “feel“ right.
But I didn’t speak up while there.
Partly because too exhausted – the whole effort of getting organised and getting there had taken its toll. And my husband was ill too and I was worried about him.
And the brain fog doesn’t make it easy to think clearly or express yourself when needed.
The other thing was – I didn’t want to be labelled as being “over-anxious” or having a “depressive/negative mood”. So I just kept quiet about things I was concerned or confused about.
But when I read the doctor’s (fairly short) report later – I was horrified. Angry, upset and despairing at what a waste of time and energy (mine) it had turned out to be.
Most of my symptoms had been ignored. And I reckoned about 80% of what I had said (or tried to say) had been dismissed or ignored. Or I hadn’t been allowed to talk about some symptoms.
Looking back – the total time the ward doctor spent with me was maybe 45 mins on the 1st day. Out of a 5 day stay. For 25 years of illness . . .
And a list of symptoms that was getting longer and longer. And more severe.
I had been so “grateful” and “positive” and “upbeat” while I was there. And on the last day, And even when I was just home.

But it all knocked the stuffing out of me.

I tried to reason with myself that I maybe had been expecting too much. But I just expected a doctor/doctors who had some knowledge and understanding of ME/CFS. Then I used up even more energy trying to go back over how it had gone so wrong, why had I not been able to make myself understood, did I not speak clearly enough, had I been speaking too fast (trying to get 25 years of history out remember), etc etc etc.

But it was damaging.

Have no GP now

Well, that’s not totally correct. But as good as.
The combination of having moved house to a different post code (although I’m actually closer to the surgery now), and the fact I haven’t been able to get into to surgery since 2011, means that I was told in October 2014 that I had to find a new GP.

I’m still reeling from the phone call that day.

A GP that I had never met or even spoken to before phoned me after my husband went into the surgery before going to work that morning. To ask for better (any) painkillers for me. My headaches have been very bad the last few years (mentioned while in the Homeopathic Hospital, but not taken seriously). And I had been awake most of the night actually crying with the pain. One of the worst nights ever, pain-wise.
The GP who phoned was abrupt and aggressive, wouldn’t let me speak, and I’m not sure she even understood what I was trying to say part of the time. She had a foreign accent.

She used phrases like :

“What’s wrong with you – are you housebound or something ?“
(Re why I haven‘t got to the surgery since 2011)

“We only do home visits for elderly people or people who cannot walk”.
(I didn’t want a home visit – just some effective medication.)

“If we come out to visit you and find out you CAN walk – we will be very angry with you.”
(I didn’t want a home visit but I was speechless at this.)

“I am noting your records now that you are not to be given any more prescriptions.”
(She talked to me like I had done something wrong. And was therefore punishing me.)

“There’s no rush – just within the next few days.”
(Telling me I had to change to another GP surgery – despite me trying to explain I hardly managed out, or even to make phone calls most of the time.)

And it went on and on.

I was in tears (of frustration) after it. And my heart rate felt like it was thru the roof for days later.
I have been with that surgery since 1987 and l don’t think I’ve had a home visit (or even asked for one ) in all those years.

Asked 2 ME Charities for help in finding a new “ME/CFS friendly GP”

1) Most recently (a few months ago) :
Paid £20 to join one and used a lot of time and energy emailing their advocacy worker. To explain in detail how limited I am and why I was asking for their help with the GP issue.
She was very nice, but explained she had a big backlog of people with ME needing help. And couldn’t really spend any time with me at this point in time.
She did mention one GP but I don’t think the practice is going to be suitable for other reasons. Even if he still works there, which she wasn’t sure of. And I would still have be a lot more well than I am just now to be able to make enquiries, or go there.

2) A few years ago :
The other charity (or maybe its more of a support group) – I used to be a member of years ago. But only managed to go to 2 or 3 meetings.
Anyway, I asked if I could pay the annual membership and rejoin. And explained my main need was for help finding a decent GP.
(This has been a big problem for me for years.)
I had hoped that somebody/anybody could just give me a recommendation for a decent one. I got an email reply just suggesting I come along to their next meeting – although I had tried to explain how limited I was, and rely mainly on email. I emailed back a few times asking could I pay their membership and rejoin anyway – but they just stopped replying.
So I gave up.

Car broken down at end of road – 5 weeks ago

I went into bankruptcy for health reasons.
To relinquish all the properties, and all the work and responsibility that went with them. And all the dealings with Letting Agents, Tenants, Banks, Mortgage Lenders, Tradesmen, Factors, Insurance Companies, etc etc etc.

It wasn’t so much for financial reasons – although debts had certainly built up over the last few years with me not being able to deal with things well, or quickly enough. I was making losses and haemorrhaging money.
But before the process started, everything was getting paid ok and nothing was in arrears. But it was a struggle trying to juggle it all.
Our assets well exceeded any debts – on paper anyway.
After the process we are left with almost nothing.
The Trustee is allowing us to keep this one flat to live in – mainly because it has a big mortgage on it and no equity in it.
But any life assurance and mortgage endowments were taken off us and cashed in.

But – the one bonus for us was they allowed us to keep our beloved BMW.
Only because it is so old – it is a Y registration. Which is roughly 15 years old I think. And it is probably worth less than £1000.
I have always loved this car.
It is the most reliable car we have ever had – and it looks good. And is so comfortable and secure to drive (when I’m able to.)
I was forever boring people with how reliable is has been.

5 weeks ago it broke down at the end of the street . . . .

A major suspension issue – involving a lot of labour time to fix (as well as an expensive part). To have it fixed by a BMW dealer or even a smaller garage would be unaffordable. The repair would cost more than the value of the car itself.
However, we are lucky that a friend of husband’s is working on it. Which will be much cheaper. But its a very slow process as he can only do bits at the weekends. In daylight. And the weather hasn’t helped.
But it will get fixed – eventually


This blog post has taken me ages to write. I changed it so much. And didn‘t want it to be so long – but felt the need to get all this out.

And it will be the first that most people in my real life will learn about the Bankruptcy.
I have only managed to tell a very small number of people. Mainly because my health has been so bad and I have hardly managed to see anyone.
(And it’s not really suitable for a text message . . . )

I’ll probably write more about much of this stuff in future posts.
I’m desperate to be writing again.
It is a struggle as I’m still feeling quite unwell much of the time. And just trying to think and concentrate is exhausting. And using my laptop feels like torture some days.

Doing this post will no doubt wipe me out for days. I feel totally wrecked after doing it.
But in this case, it will be worth it.
The more I can pour all this stuff out (onto this Blog) – the more it is out of my head. And creates “headroom” for better stuff.

That‘s the plan anyway . . .

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