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Bankruptcy in Scotland:  The law is an ass ? 

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I enjoy writing as it can be theraputic. But this is only the 3rd post I have done this year. And it will soon be the end of June. Half the year gone.

This is because I am still horribly limited by my ME and can manage to do very little. Everything takes me ages to recover from. Maybe 90% of the time I’m sleeping, resting or recovering. Some days a bit better.  And some even worse – when in bed 24 hours out of 24.

Resting or recovering isn’t much different from sleep for me. Well, apart from not having nightmares when awake. But I’m usually unable to do anything. Just pretty much non-functional. It feels like attempting anything, no matter how small, triggers off an increase in symptons. Which is miserable.

The Bankruptcy stuff is STILL ongoing. Since 2014. Shock after shock after shock. A constant battering to my health. And my husband’s health. It has been endless.

And is actually getting worse.

In my 2nd last post I had appealed for a solicitor to help. Because I was being sued by a property factor for their factors bills dating back to 2014. These bills were for their regular management charges, plus general repairs and maintenance.  And of course I was very shocked at this.

The property was one of my 14 buy-to-let flats which were handed over to the Trustee In Bankruptcy in 2014. When my health totally crashed.  All correspondence, bills, statements etc have been getting posted onto the Trustee every week since 2014. (By my husband as I have rarely been well enough to get out.)  And the point of this was that the Trustee would deal with everything. Handle everything.

That is what I was told by the bankruptcy Adviser. That was why I was advised that bankruptcy was the best option for me, as I understood it. And why I accepted this. To “give away” the properties and all responsibility for them. I was too unwell to even think about trying to sell them myself. I wouldn’t have wanted to do this anyway at that time. I would have waited until the property values had improved. As to sell then would just have resulted in many shortfalls against the mortgages.

I know I have laboured this point before. In this post – The Bankruptcy Stuff Keeps Getting worse.

And this one – A Long Slow Road. (This is quite a long post about various things. The comments about Bankruptcy are in the 2nd section.)

And this one – Unwanted Visitors.

And this one – My Life So Far – Not What I Expected.

But it is all the more shocking to me the more that happens and the more I find out.

IF I understand correctly what has happened recently :  It seems the original owner of the property (ie. me) is still liable for payment of bills like Factors bills from ONE DAY after their bankruptcy date. Up until the date the flat is either sold by the Trustee or legally taken back (ie. repossessed) by the mortgage lender.  Even if this takes years and years.

In this particular case it has taken years. From 2014 until March 2017 in the case of this flat. Almost 3 years. 3 years for the mortgage lender to repossess a property which was empty. Not tenanted. And no mortgage payments getting paid on it.  And its not just this flat. As I understand it – there are still 2 other flats left.  Therefore it would seem I still legally own these also.

Jesus wept . . . .

Just to talk about this a bit further.

As I understand it – all rents that were paid by tenants are taken by the Trustee. Even if any had been paid to me by the letting agents – the Trustee still gets them. As bank accounts get frozen.

But I am still meant to (legally) pay all these bills. I mean, seriously . . . . ?   And how am I meant to do this ? Or any other ex-landlord in the same situation.

To give a more extreme (but simple) example :

If a bankrupt landlord owned 100 flats. And they were all tenanted. All these rents would be taken by the Trustee In Bankruptcy. And if the Trustee doesn’t sell the flats themselves and the mortgage lender takes 3 years to actually repossess them – the bankrupt ex-landlord is still liable for all these bills. So the Trustee would get 3600 rents (monthly rents for 3 years).  But the landlord would still be legally liable to pay 3600 factors bills (if the factors bill monthly).  Does he/she magic the money to pay these out of thin air ?

IF this is the law – then the law really is an ass.  (I’m in Scotland. I don’t know if it is the same in England.)  I can still hardly believe it. It seems so unreasonable.

I have requested my solicitor to email me the details of where this is wtitten in the bankruptcy legislation. ie. The name of the Act and location (section, paragraph, whatever) of where this be found.  Not that I really know what I’ll do with this once I have it. But I need to be able to actually see it for myself. And it should be made widely known I think.  So that nobody else can be given the advice we were, without being told of these consequences.

Another point is : If any flats have been empty (not tenanted) a while – it gets even worse. As council tax bills build up too after exemption periods have been exhausted. Exemptions usually only last 6 months.

This then implies that utility bills for any empty flats, or empty periods, are my responsibility too. Where the supplier applies a standing charge.

This particular flat had been empty for quite a while before it was given to the Trustee in 2014.  Possibly a year, but maybe longer.  This was because the letting agent could not get any tenants for it. As I think the communal areas had deteriorated and fallen into a poor condition. This was because the previous firm of property Factors (who eventually went bankrupt themselves) failed to deal with any repairs or maintenance.

The irony of this is not lost on me . . .

Now I do realise (or assume) that when most people go Bankrupt they do not have a choice.  Because finances and debts have got to such a position where there is just no way to rescue things.  But my situation was different. As mentioned in previous posts – our assets well exceeded the debts.  But voluntary Bankruptcy was taken purely because the Bankruptcy Adviser clearly said that the Trustee would deal with everything. Take everything off my hands. All mail, demands, forthcoming  threats (once things stopped getting paid),  phone calls, etc,  just had to be passed onto the Trustee.  (And we knew we had to pay a big price for this financially and emotionally. The loss of our home of 15 years and all the equity in it. It was no easy option or get-out.)

At the time of getting the bankruptcy advice nothing was in arrears. Everything was getting paid and there had been no missed payments.  I was even still getting 0% credit card offers thru. My credit score (with Experian) had been 999 (the highest in the Excellent range) for a long time. Although it had dropped down a level by early 2014 – to the Very Good range I think. I suspect because the amount of capital debt was rising, even though nothing was in arrears.  It was getting harder though – but that was more because of my health.  This previous post from Feb 2013 gives an example.

I know they say ignorance of the law is no excuse. And it seems to be no defence either. But seriously – would anyone reasonably expect this to be the case?  Even my administrator at the Trustee said she would dispute the claim because it wasn’t my fault all those factors bills had built up. Plus the fact that I have no income or savings with which to pay, or even make a payment arrangement. (This wasn’t legal advice of course. She told me the Trustee do not have any in-house solicitors that could advise me.)

To add insult to injury – I have no way of knowing if any of the work billed for by these Factors has actually been done. Plus – I don’t even have the bills I am being forced to pay. They were all sent onto the Trustee over the last 3 years. (Everything has been sent onto them. It is what we were told to do.)  Then everything regarding the Factors claim was sent to the solicitor.

Words cannot describe how unjust this whole situation feels.

Now this same firm of Factors have started more court proceedings for “planned maintenance” bills.  The next one is for £4900.00 and has been allocated a claim number for court.  And they have stated they will be further suing for yet another amount for “planned and ongoing maintenance” – this time for a sum below £2000.00 .

In addition, the council for the Motherwell area where this flat is (North Lanarkshire Council) have now sent me a demand for almost £2600.00 for council tax. It was delivered by sherriff officers acting for the council. I  sent it the Trustee right away. As they are still administering my Bankruptcy. They have now sent it back to me and suggested I ask the solicitor about it.

We cannot afford to pay for any more legal help. Husband has been working 7 days a week for a while now to be able to pay for the recent legal fees.  And towards repaying the friend who very kindly gave us a cheque to settle the factors demand. 

Neither of us would be able to obain any loans now as our credit records will be utterly trashed as a consequence of the bankruptcy.  And hubby working 7 days a week is hard – given that I can hardly do anything around the house. And he does almost everything.  Just a week or two ago he had the lovely task of emptying plastic jugs I was having to use in the bedroom – as I was too ill to manage to the bathroom. Too much info I know, but this is how bad it can be. And scrunching up A4 envelopes so I could use them to breathe into (like a paper bag) when I felt panic attacks coming on.

How much more can he be expected to do?

And how much more battering can my health take ? Or husband’s.

Trying to communicate with the solicitor over the last few months has taken a massive amount out of me.  If I was well enough to do this sort of thing I wouldn’t have needed to consider voluntary bankruptcy in the first place.

It was made harder for me as I don’t think they could understand how bad ME actually is, especially when symptoms are severe.  For example : how do you sucessfully communicate how bad your brain fog (aka cognitive dysfunction) is – when this is one of my worst symptoms?

Sometines I wondered if they actually thought I was exagerrating about how limited I am. And how long it takes me to “recover” from the exertion involved in a simple thing like an email or a phone conversation. A simple thing to them but a very exhausting thing for me. Always triggering a big worsening of ME symptoms and being more ill for days on end.  And I found myself trying to explain over and over how badly limited I am. Then giving examples. Not because I was looking for sympathy or anything. But because all this legal and court stuff have time limits set. And I was terrified of what would happen if I couldn’t do things in time. This was so exhausting and I had been hoping for some reassurance that some accommodations could be made if needed.

I don’t know what to do now.

I’m really not well enough to use the internet to look for ideas. Or make longish phone calls. I don’t mean these things are impossible 100% of the time. But I can only manage a very short time doing things without it making me more ill. Then I’m knocked out for days.  And I get nothing done.

I can’t think straight about any of this. The only thing I do know for sure – is that bankruptcy has been a terrible option in my situation.  3 years of Hell for mothing.

Any suggestions would be welcome. (About the forthcoming claims.) Any info that might be helpful would be great, eg. phone numbers, websites, email addresses.

Thanks for reading.

PS.  I haven’t put the links in yet – where I’ve mentioned previous posts.  Will add soon.

Crashing badly now . . . and scared 

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Trying to put this post on my blog in a hurry.

As I can feel myself crashing badly. And I’m fearful I won’t be able to communicate at all with anyone for a while. Not that I do communicate with people very much. Apart from my husband, I don’t think I have seen or spoken to anyone for months. But I do manage to keep in touch with a couple of friends by text message. Even this is hard for me with so many ME symptoms to contend with. Finding it painful to tolerate the brightness of a mobile phone screen is just one difficult symptom.

For the last while – maybe almost 2 months now – I’ve been pushing myself regularly way beyond what I can safely do. Which is frustratingly very little anyway.   I haven’t had any choice in this – see last blog post for details.

A combination of lots of emails and maybe 3 quite long legal phone calls has finished me off.  Every email or phone conversation I only “managed” by somehow summoning up a huge amount of adrenaline (God knows where from).  Because of the importance of the communications. And every time I crashed miserably afterwards.

Every time the crashes have felt worse. More symptoms, worse severity.  But I had to keep pushing against this – because of the situation.

I feel so angry about this whole situation. All of the last 3 years. And now this legal fight – to cap it all.

But I can’t do anymore just now.

I feel as though this last 2 months extra-big  surge of stress, exertion, confusion, worry, etc has caused one crash too many.  Too many extreme type symptoms have started again, or feel worse, eg. can’t tolerate much light at all, or sound, or movement/vibration near me. All the usual symptoms are worse.

Trying to type this thru severe headaches and the agonising brightness of the screen is really really hard. And my brain feels like its plugged into electricity. I feel so horribly wired and over stimulated. Thoughts of the last 3 years of Hell all racing round my head.

I have had to spend a lot of 2017 so far in bed. Not all of it – but far too much of it. It is a rubbish life. Although there are many people with ME who are much worse than me. I know this. And I usually try to focus on being grateful that I’m not even worse. I read about one young girl who wasn’t able to sit up in her bed for 9 years.  9 YEARS . . . .  not weeks or months. And people who have lost the ability to speak. Or swallow food.

And I’m quite frightened now that I could deteriorate even further.

The last 2 months have been too much.  Its as simple as that.

I need to rest completely.  Even if this means bowing out of any communications with the outside world for a while. And avoiding any stimulation.  Or thinking.

Just breathe . . . .

Needing to be heard

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Its been over 3 months since my last blog post.

I have so much I want to write about but haven’t been able to. Because of all the usual ME symptoms. Profound exhaustion and weakness, pain (mainly the headaches, despite new glasses), appalling brain fog (aka cognitive dysfunction or brain dysfunction) and hyper-sensitivity to using anything like a PC, a tablet, or a mobile phone most of the time. Or looking at a TV screen.

And the fact that stuff done on a good day just goes on to cause a crash the next day again. And then I need time to recover from this.
An endless vicious circle . . .

These symptoms have been making my life a misery for a long time now – years I think.

  • I haven’t been outside in the fresh air for 2 months now. Not by choice.

  • I am still having to spend a huge amount of time in bed. Not by choice.

  • I get to see or speak with virtually nobody apart from my husband.
    Not by choice.
    eg. In the last 6 weeks I have been in the company of 2 other people. For maybe 9 hours in total. Spread over two occasions. (This is less than 1% of the time.)
    Even one of these occasions probably wouldn’t have happened unless hubby had been present. As I think the visitors wanted to see him rather than me.
    As he says – “everyone likes me” !
    He is right of course – people do like him. He is always friendly and fun. And has energy. And makes a joke about everything – never serious.
    I must seem dismal by comparison.

    • I can hardly read anything – apart from links to short news articles (usually via twitter).

Reading books is still very hard because of everything involved with the “brain fog” – as well as the physical exhaustion of course.

For instance : I have been trying to read Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert for possibly almost a year now. I first bought the kindle version and downloaded it onto my tablet. To read in bed, usually lying down. But I had to give up on this as (1) the tablet was often too heavy for me to hold, and (2) I very often can’t tolerate the brightness from it, even on lowest setting.
So I then bought the book (again) – the paperback version this time. By the time I managed to do this (as using the internet can be torture) I had to start reading it from the beginning again. And I’m still struggling.

I can’t read comfortably with my new £310 varifocal glasses (thanks Specsavers). So I have to read with my glasses off which = headaches. And the brain fog means I have to keep reading and re-reading the same bits. Over and over. And this isn’t a difficult or challenging book. Its an enjoyable easy read – or should be.

  • Using the Internet is torture most of the time – because of my hypersensitivity to bright screens. And pushing on triggers headaches very fast. Then it feels like my whole automatic nervous system goes haywire, heart pounding, feeling wired and hyper, etc.

  • Using emails to keep in touch with friends is also hard and exhausting. Usually its just too much.
    I think the last email I did was in December. To a friend I hadn’t seen since the previous December. I was concerned incase there would be a short-notice visit over the Xmas period. As there would be so little chance I’d be well enough for this. So I tried to explain this in the email, because I did hope to see them.
    With headaches, brain fog and the torture of the bright screen – the email took me a whole evening to do. About 5 hours. It wasn’t massively long. But I needed so many breaks.
    And I don’t think the person has even read it yet. As her laptop was out of order.

  • Watching TV : this I can do in small doses. There was a long period when it was almost totally intolerable for me. But I still struggle with bright colour, movement on the screen, sound changes between channels, or at adverts, etc. I have the final of Strictly Come Dancing recorded from December. I wanted so much to watch this – especially as my long time favourite Anton Du Beke was in the final for his first time. Ok, I know now that he didn’t win. But I do still want to watch it. However, as yet this hasn’t been possible for me.

  • Phone Calls : mostly impossible and/or pointless – as I struggle to remember anything. Important calls are pointless – the more important the call the worse my brain fog seems to become. And people get so annoyed when I have to ask for a letter or email to confirm everything said . . . !

    • Music : even listening to music can be too much. With sound sensitivity. If I’m in bed then my option would be listen to music on my mobile from U-Tube. There is a whole world of choice there. But if I’m too sensitive to using my mobile then even this can cause symptoms to worsen.

NB. Not meaning it to sound like I want to spend all my time reading, listening to music, being on the internet, using the phone or email, or watching telly.
Just saying that if I can’t ‘even’ do these small things it makes for a very dry life.
When I can hardly get out or see people. Or do much at all.

How do you stop yourself sinking mentally and emotionally ?

 

On the medical/health front :

  • I am successfully registered with a new GP surgery now. This worked out because they accepted new patients without the need for a face to face visit with the GP or a nurse. Just forms submitted.
    As yet I haven’t been well enough to actually meet the GP or even manage a phone consultation. A few were booked but I had to cancel them every time as not well enough on the day.
    Some meds I’m still being allowed on repeat prescription. Others have been stopped a long time ago, eg. Vitiman D. As I need a blood test check whether I still have a deficiency or not. (Given that I rarely get outside – I tend to assume I will have.)
    Painkillers – I am no better off yet. Still spending £40 or £50 a month on stuff like Panadol Extra. Paracetomals do nothing.
    A big worry is I have no idea what the GP’s view about ME or CFS is. I will just have to hope for the best. (The surgery was chosen because of the easier procedure to join.)

  • New Glasses :
    I prioritised this (over trying to meet new GP) as I hoped that new glasses might help reduce my headaches. The last eye test and new glasses was over 5 years ago.
    I used Specsavers Healthcall as they do home visits. And paid £310 for new varifocal glasses. My distance px had got quite a lot worse. But my reading px had improved. I was told this wasn‘t unusual as sometimes one can compensate for the other.
    Or I think that’s what I was told.
    While I was very grateful for the home visit – I wouldn’t really recommend them.
    Their procedure was difficult to fit in with if you have ME. They couldn’t arrange an appointment with much notice. Because they cover a big area and don’t know where they will be going day to day – until their computer prints off a list for the next day. So they would phone in the afternoon and say “we want to come out tomorrow morning”. This was very difficult with my ME severely affecting me. A lot of the time my phone is off, or on silent. And the whole process (just 2 visits) took around 2 months to manage. Even the 2nd visit to fit the glasses I really wasn’t well enough for. But I agreed as had said No to quite a few other visits.
    And I now have glasses that I cannot comfortably read with . . .
    (Yes, I have emailed them twice after I realised this. With great difficulty. No reply yet.)

  • Smear Test :
    This was very overdue and I also prioritised this over meeting the new GP.
    Mainly because of having blood since 2011 or longer (that I shouldn’t be having). In fact when I started trying to focus on getting this done – I didn’t really have a GP at all.

My last contact with the previous surgery had been that absolutely atrocious phone call I received from a foreign sounding GP following my request for painkillers.
Then I had spent maybe 8 months trying to join a health centre where an ME charity had mentioned there was a good GP.
The GP himself may well have been good (in his treatment of people with ME or CFS) – but the staff were awful. They acted like they had no knowledge, understanding or tolerance for this condition.
The nurse wasn’t very nice and changed the procedure for joining the health centre once I mentioned CFS (as I called it then). Then after 3 different attempts at explaining my health (and why I couldn’t get back into the surgery again) to different receptionists – I had to give up. The 3rd person was the worst. She would either argue with me – or go silent for long spells. And make sighing noises . . .
That last call lasted 9 minutes – I gave up after that. I felt exhausted and demoralised by the whole experience.

So, to get my smear test done I went to the Sandyford Sexual Health Clinic. This was a good solution for me as a friend had told me they were a walk-in clinic. Meaning I wouldn’t be in the position of booking an appointment then having to cancel on the day if not well enough to get there. I phoned to ask what choice of days I would have – as didn’t expect they would do smear tests every day. But unfortunately the walk-in service had ceased just 2 weeks before. This was a service that had been going for maybe 30 years too.

However I got to speak to a nurse over the phone when I explained my dilemma. She was incredibly nice. And went out of her way to tell me to make an appointment anyway, and not to worry if I had to cancel on the day. As cancellations are almost always taken by someone else.

I ended up getting a smear test, a womb biopsy, blood tests and an internal scan. Because of the issue with blood. Everything was fine. I had absolutely no anxiety about any of these tests. (My only anxiety with medical people is when I have to deal with anyone about my ME.)
I dealt with 3 different doctors – 2 at the actual appointments and one over the phone. They were all lovely. Very thorough and very professional.

The contrast between they way they treated me – and they way I’ve been treated over all the years with my ME – was astounding.
I actually send a letter saying thank you afterwards.

But this whole thing (the smear and other tests) took up perhaps a 5 month period. Because of me having to cancel some appointments and then re-arrange them. Like everything else – it was very exhausting for me. But totally worth-while and reassuring.

 

NB.
When I started writing this post I’m sure I had a different point in mind. Rather than just another summary of how shit all these ME symptoms are. And the medical updates.

But I can’t remember what it was and have gone off on a complete tangent here.

Bloody brain fog . . .


Continued :

Actually, the point is coming back now.

It was the fact I discovered I have 2000 followers on Twitter at the weekend.

Now I know this is peanuts compared to :

Stephen Fry – 12 million followers

Duncan Bannatyne – 774000 followers

To use just 2 examples.

But 2000 is a big number to me.

It was a pleasant and much needed boost to my self esteem. Which has been near rock bottom for a while now to be honest.

Its bad enough living such a limited life with so many symptoms day to day. When things have been really bad for years now – then add in the whole Bankruptcy stuff on top of it. (Still ongoing.)

But maybe even worse than this is the fact I feel almost nobody listens to a word I say – in real life. And there are valid reasons I feel this way :

1) Years of being ignored and dismissed by medical professionals.
Since the late 1980’s.
(There is one recent exception to this but I don’t want to jeopardise it by writing about it !)

2) Not being listened to by the Bankruptcy Adviser or the Trustee In Bankruptcy. Despite me using up huge amounts of energy explaining my health position.
Over and over and over.
Since 2014.
To the further detriment of my health.
What has happened is I have been ignored and not really represented at all in this Bankruptcy process. Despite it being about my Property business. And having chosen Voluntary Bankruptcy in an attempt to stop my ME getting even worse.

Again, I have been traumatised by this experience.
The nightmares I had been having for years (presumably because of the medical profession not listening to me) have been increased and intensified by this.

But maybe even worse emotionally is :

3) Not being heard or listened to by people in my life – just pretty much left alone. (Apart from husband of course.)

In the past and recently I have used up so much energy trying to explain stuff to friends, people, etc. About my ME.
Not to bore them to death with it – but just because I want to be able to see them, stay in touch, etc.
But if they don’t understand a bit about how limited I often am it can make things really difficult. And ends up with frustration and possibly annoyance from others.

Even when I was more well and could socialise more – I would often just get talked over or sort of ignored in some situations.
A lot of situations actually.
I have quite a soft voice which doesn’t help matters.
My husband would often say things like “people don’t want to hear about all that”. And I would get cut off.
To clarify : I have no desire to bore folk to death about my health challenges or limits in a social situation. Nobody would. I’m meaning times when it felt necessary.

One example, out of hundreds of situations over the years :

This could be 10 years ago now :
Hubby and I were 2 hours late for a small drinks get together. With people who are very close to hubby – almost like parents. Two people were visiting from Australia. When we eventually arrived there was a bad atmosphere and clearly everyone was upset with us. One person went as far as to say “you shouldn’t have bothered coming at all”.
Wow . . .
The reason for our lateness was I had needed a lot more time than usual to recover and get my strength back after having a shower earlier in the day.
Now, all these people knew I had ME. But like many folk probably didn’t understand how it can limit me. So I tried to explain myself, how it was my fault but really couldn’t be helped, etc.
But I was just shut down, dismissed, talked over, etc.
And we just had to sort of endure everyone’s annoyance and irritation all evening.
Eventually I just gave up trying to speak – as even hubby wasn’t helping things by talking over me !

This is just one example of a type of situation in which I may try to explain a wee bit about how ME affects me.
Not just to talk about it for the fun of it.

This sort of thing would upset me although I tried hard not to let it. To me this was hurtful and rude. But to him it was ok.
But he was usually right I guess – so many people just don’t want to know or hear about anything difficult.
If I expressed any dismay at this I was told I was too sensitive or over-thinking the situation.

He has said to me so many times over the years :

“ People don’t understand, they’re not interested and they don’t care “ . . . .

(But what if they are meant to be friends?)

I think he keeps saying this partly to try and stop me feeling upset (even though it upsets me more every time). And to keep my expectations of people low perhaps. To be more accepting of poor treatment.
Also, maybe to absolve him of not being able to get friends to understand either. (Maybe of not being able to help me with doctors either. Apart from collecting prescriptions etc.)

He says he explains to people “until he’s blue in the face”. But they’re still not interested or don’t understand.
And its just the way it is.

I personally tend to feel “it’s just the way it is” if you have ME or CFS.
Not so much with other serious illnesses?

Needless to say all this hasn’t helped me.
And I’ve used up so much energy trying to understand it. Because I feel I wouldn’t behave that way if situations were reversed. I mean, it doesn’t take much to give out some kind words – does it ?
Or maybe it does.

This has turned into a very long post. Much much longer than planned.
It will take me days to recover from typing this.

But the 2000 twitter followers has inspired me today.
And given me a well needed emotional boost.
Made me realise that some people do want to hear what I say.
And are interested.
And do care.

And it couldn’t have come at a better time. Because I think I was starting to give up – mentally and emotionally.

We all need to feel heard after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These headaches are driving me mad

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Today Sunday – I don’t know whether to cry because of these headaches.  Or scream with frustration.
I haven‘t been outside in the fresh air for more than 3 weeks now. Not even for 5 minutes, or even one minute.
Today is a lovely bright sunny afternoon. I can see lots of golden autumn leaves lying on the street below. A warm coating. And trees with different shades of green.

It’s as if nature is saying to me – Anne, please come outside and breathe me in.

And today my physical energy didn’t seem too bad. I was up,  washed,  dressed and have eaten.  Just a banana and toast and tea. And water.

And I was determined to get out.
I so badly wanted to get out.

But these headaches . . .

I’ve been complaining of them for a very long time I know.
But I haven’t successfully managed to get any medical help. In fact some of my attempts to seek help have just resulted in them being made worse. And my other symptoms escalating. (Have written about this before of course.)

The thing that should eventually help lessen the headaches a bit – is to just lie down. On the bed, or in bed.
And may have to put on eye patches. Or just pull down the blinds.
And have no stimulation at all.

Doing this (lying down) tends to ease various symptoms a bit – not just the headaches. eg, neck pain, being out of breath,  chest tightness, etc.
To mention just a few.

But I spend so much time lying down.
So much of my life.

As its never just 10 mins, or 30 mins that’s needed. More like a few hours. Sometimes three, sometimes six.
Sometimes a whole day.

Last night I had headaches that lasted for 5 hours – after taking painkillers.
But I was able to stay up during all of this time. Even though I couldn’t actually do very much.
Well – I watched Day Of The Jackal. The whole film. One of my favourite films.
And I was quite pleased with that.

But this is worse today.

And I just needed to have a moan.

Today I had the physical energy to be able to go down the stairs and get out.
But simply any movement at all is making the headaches worse. And this has stopped me.   And changing from looking at a close-up item to something further away makes it worse too. (This is a very recent change or difficulty.)
Yes, I do probably need new glasses now too. 
That’s another challenge to think about . . .

A friend told me that Specsavers at Morrisons (the supermarkets) actually do home eye tests.
So I have emailed them to ask if I can have one.

Will see how that goes.

Media nonsense about ME and exercise

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This article has been re-blogged from the Blog http://www.uttingwolffspouts.com which is written by Claudia Gillberg and Geoffrey Jones.  I had to reblog this as it concerns a very important subject that has often been misunderstood concerning the impact of exercise on people with ME or CFS.  The dreadful article on the front page of a major newspaper this week prompted a justifiable outcry from many sufferers of this illness. And it was no wonder – our lives are hard enough without having to contend with this rubbish. The Telegraph article is here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/11959193/Chronic-Fatigue-Syndrome-sufferers-can-overcome-symptoms-of-ME-with-positive-thinking-and-exercise.html  (if anyone wants to read it).

The blogpost speaks for itself – and I love the title :

” THE SCIENTIFICALLY CHALLENGED UK MEDIA STRIKES BACK “

” When I first heard The Telegraph had featured an article concerning a follow-up study of the notorious PACE trial I was inclined to ignore it1. I’ve long become used to the appalling coverage of ME by the British media2 and felt I didn’t need to read any more disinformation disseminated via the Science Media Centre. However, I cracked and had the misfortune to read an article written by Sarah Knapton that is the worst I have seen in the thirty years I have been ill with this disease, which considering the competition is an impressive achievement1.

The article clearly implies ME is a non-illness, the suggestion in the headline that a bit of positivity and exercise could cure sufferers merits no other interpretation. One wonders what spin was put on the latest study by the SMC, as the results of this research bear no similarity to its reporting in the press. Indeed, flawed as the PACE trial is, at no point do the researchers suggest GET or CBT cure ME, as claimed by Ms Knapton in her inaccurate and mendacious article1.

Most in the ME community are aware of the substantial problems with the PACE study, including the selection criteria, the self-reporting and lack of objective measures, a flawed methodology, which have been outlined in detail by various authors including Angela Kennedy, Professor Malcolm Hooper, Tom Kindlon, Jane Colby, the late Dr Elizabeth Dowsett and, most recently, David Tuller in the US. Unfortunately the UK media continues its obsession with treating ME as a non-illness affecting lazy people whose only problem is their inability to pull themselves together and push through their fatigue, which seems to be the only symptom the media acknowledge.

To start Knapton states:

‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not actually a chronic illness and sufferers can overcome symptoms by increasing exercise and thinking positively, Oxford University has found’1.

Not a single word in that opening paragraph is accurate. The study included a large number of participants who probably did not have ME as the primary criteria for participating was fatigue. Despite this the PACE trial was only able to establish that some participants showed mild improvement while undergoing GET and CBT (though these were self-reported, subjective results). Participants remained ill and severely limited in their ability to perform normal daily activities.  To repeat, any positive results revealed by the trial were barely notable yet according to Knapton,

‘The new study found that graded exercise therapy (GET), in which sufferers gradually increase activity levels, as well as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which encourages positive thinking and behaviour, had a dramatic impact’1.

A definition of dramatic: sudden and striking, impressive3

The PACE trial in no way justifies such an adjective, a more accurate description would be, ‘a negligible impact’ though this would not have supported the slant of Knapton’s piece.

Her next paragraph aggravates matters,

‘The finding is important because many CFS sufferers believe that exercise will make their condition worse.’1

Sufferers do not believe, ME is not a religion (the proponents of the psychosocial model and their media acolytes exhibit cult-like behaviour but that’s a separate issue). ME sufferers know exercise can make their condition worse through first hand experience of the damage it can cause, something supported by scientific studies illustrating physiological damage(4,5).

Two more paragraphs in the article were particularly disturbing:

‘But gradually increasing exercise and therapy to remove patients’ negative thoughts that they would never get better seemed to work. Prof Sharpe said the study was likely to prove controversial because a “minority” believe that CFS is either caused by a virus or is chronic and cannot be alleviated.’1

In what other chronic illness would sufferers be accused of contributing to their illness due to their ‘negative thoughts’? A more clear case of blaming the patient is hard to imagine and to make such a statement with zero evidence to support it, is unworthy of an academic. Suggesting that only a minority believe a virus triggers the disease and that it is chronic is not only untrue, there has never been any suggestion that ME is an acute condition, but a use of language designed to offend ME sufferers. The following paragraph continues in the same vein,

Prof Sharpe added: “It’s wrong to say people don’t want to get better, but they get locked into a pattern and their life constricts around what they can do. If you live within your limits that becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.”1

There is no science to substantiate anything the professor states in this sentence and I can think of no other illness in which a researcher would speak of sufferers in such a fashion, it is immoral, breaches the Hippocratic Oath and constitutes abuse of a vulnerable group of patients.

Another point to make, highlighted by John Cohen in Science6, is that the basis of the original trial’s supposed success has been undermined by this latest study. The PACE trial claim that GET and CBT were the best treatments for ME is demolished by the finding in this latest study, which revealed that all therapy options produced the same results. To quote John Cohen,

After analyzing the responses, the researchers concluded that the benefits reported in the original study, which assessed participants at 1 year, were maintained for at least another 1.5 years. But the participants randomized to receive the two interventions that initially did nothing also improved, and there “was little evidence of differences in outcomes” when compared with the people in the other treatment groups’5.

Sharpe et al try to explain this by claiming that participants undergoing other therapies switched to GET and CBT in the intervening period but there is no evidence to support this conclusion. I’d also like to query what condition participants are in now, as the suggestion that any improvement was maintained for ‘at least another 1.5 years’ implies their health could have declined after this period of time.

Knapton’s article provides a list of ME symptoms, which exclude post-exertional malaise (PEM) arguably the defining symptom of the illness. It also includes a link to a video featuring Martine McCutcheon talking about the lightning process, telling you all you need to know about the malicious intent behind this article.

‘These are not magic cures’ says Sharpe. Apparently Sarah Knapton disagrees.

A final comment from Professor Sharpe:

‘It’s sometimes quite hard to understand what motivates the very vocal minority that gets upset by this apparently benign bit of moderately helpful treatment’1.

Perhaps some of the headlines in the British media this morning will enlighten the good professor as to why so many in the ME community are upset by his ‘treatment’.

1) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/11959193/Chronic-Fatigue-Syndrome-sufferers-can-overcome-symptoms-of-ME-with-positive-thinking-and-exercise.html?utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#link_time=1446019914 (Accessed 28/10/2015)

2) http://uttingwolffspouts.com/2015/02/14/chronically-fatigued-the-uk-media-and-the-recently-released-iom-report/

3) http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/dramatic (Accessed 28/10/2015)

4) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23813081 (Accessed 28/10/2015)

5) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25990639 (Accessed 28/10/2015)

6) http://news.sciencemag.org/health/2015/10/criticism-mounts-long-controversial-chronic-fatigue-study (Accessed 28/10/2015)

Difficulties keeping in touch and feeling isolated

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I’m feeling a bit down this week at how difficult things are.

My main way of keeping in contact with people has usually been with text message. This is often a struggle too, but at least it was an option on days when I was able to do it.

But now I feel this has been taken away from me.

I just can’t bear to switch my mobile on and see missed calls, text alerts about the missed calls, and voicemails. From people (eg. mortgage lenders) about the bankruptcy stuff. They usually refuse to acknowledge I am Bankrupt. 
Because all this stuff has been going on such a long time – my automatic stress reaction is quite severe now. I talked about this in a previous post.
The last time I put my mobile on it showed I had accumulated 20 voicemail messages. Over a few days. And I ended up having to listen to them – I couldn’t stop myself. And of course I ended up totally debilitated afterwards by headaches.

And another whole day was wiped out because of it.

Another big problem is my hyper-sensitivity to things like my laptop or tablet – this often makes it torture to use email. I can manage it some of the time, just not very often. And even that’s assuming my brain fog will allow me to think out an email.

Phone calls are often too difficult – for lots of reasons.
So many reasons.
Other ME sufferers will know exactly what I mean, especially if they have had severe symptoms.  I don’t have enough energy to explain it here just now. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before – somewhere. If I can find it later I will add a link.

So the only thing left is sending letters or cards.
Which is a nice thing to do – really nice actually. And lovely to receive.
But it takes a lot of energy too.  And not always ideal. Eg. I may just want to text hubby to buy me some more painkillers on his way home.
Plus, when my supply of cards runs out – I can’t just easily order more and have them delivered.
Especially if I feel I cannot open the bloody door . . .

I’m so frustrated at how much these neurological type symptoms (headaches, brain fog, hyper-sensitivity, heightened stress response, etc) are severely limiting my life day to day. On top of everything else.
And even more frustrated that the Trustee In Bankruptcy cannot seem to do anything about many of the unwanted phone calls. Or visits.

I thought about getting another (very basic) phone of course. Maybe just for texts.
But with my levels of exhaustion, brain fog, headaches, etc etc – this is beyond me at the moment. And the delivery wouldn’t work anyway.

Not being able to open my door to anyone (on a good day when I’m up and about) is rubbish.
At least Asda or Tesco deliveries can be booked for an evening delivery when it should be “safe” to answer the door. Thank God for that !
But most other things can’t.

But it’s just life I guess.
We have to take the bad as well as the good. That may sound philosophical and accepting. But I don’t actually feel philosophical or accepting in any way at all right now.

The thing is – we all need connection and contact with other people. 

The physical ME symptoms I struggle with already drastically reduce my contact with friends, and the outside world.
And for this to be made even more difficult now, thru no fault of my own, is hard to deal with some weeks.

Hence why I’m writing this post – to get it out.

Final note :

I have an Eckhart Tolle app on my mobile. Which has lots of calming and accepting and philosophical statements on it.
A good idea I thought.
A positive action.
Trying to help myself.
Will help me stay strong.
Try to focus on bring grateful that things aren’t even worse.
But have you spotted the obvious problem ?

I cannot switch on my fucking mobile because of all the shit going on . . . .

Apologies for the F word.

” Bullies ” comment and The Lancet

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There was a bit of a row on Twitter yesterday. And reading it (which I could not help) left me feeling angry and upset.
I will probably exhaust myself writing about it here – but it is too important not to.

It involved an editor from The Lancet making some astonishing comments to ME/CFS sufferers. Then actually blocking some people on twitter – so that they could no longer interact with her and The Lancet. Or be able to read anything she was writing about them, or any other health stuff.

The comment which jumped out at me involved an accusation of bullying. Followed up by a 2nd tweet showing she had no knowledge or understanding about ME/CFS at all.
If I have understood things right, her comments were initially in response to an ME sufferer pointing out inaccuracies in a piece that had been published in The Lancet. And commenting that another publication/magazine/journal had apologised for something – I,m assuming similar inaccuracies.

The 2 actual tweets were :

1st )
” What exactly would we be apologising for?? For having a view? Ridiculous.
You,re bullies ! ”

2nd )
” Chronic Fatigue = polarised field ! We,re entitled to our view as anyone else. Its an editorial !!
Write a letter if you,re that aggrieved ! ”

Gosh.
I mean, where do you start  . . . . ?

I could write so much, but simply don,t have enough energy. So I will just need to make my comments in shortish bullet points.

1) This Lancet editor has less than 1000 followers on twitter – but The Lancet itself has 164,000 twitter followers.

2) People with ME/CFS have a very serious, debilitating condition. In some cases people who have Very Severe ME have to be tube-fed as they are too weak  even to swallow.
Even the most mildly affected often struggle with simple daily activities. That the rest of the world take for granted.

3) We are hardly in a position to be bullies, are we ?
I thought bullying was about having power and control. In this situation – who has this ?
I don,t think it is an ME sufferer or the ME community.

4) Another ME sufferer tweeted :

” Jaw dropping response to chronically ill #MEcfs patients. Many cannot write an email ”

And there were many many other upset, outraged comments too.
Not surprisingly.

5) The ” write a letter . . ” comment really upset me too.

I have a multitude of symptoms to struggle with most days – just like thousands of other sufferers. The “brain fog” symptom has been pretty severe over the last few years in particular. Making writing an email or a letter a very difficult, time consuming and energy-draining task for me a lot of the time. It is difficult physically and also mentally.
I know I have written on this blog over the last few years about how much I was struggling with this. How an email that should take maybe 20 mins would take me 4 hours. And I would pay for it by being wiped out sometimes all the rest of that day. And the next day too sometimes.
etc etc etc . . . .
(A letter can be even harder if you don,t have somebody to post if for you.)
This was the reason I had accumulated such a huge backlog of work, and my business was spiralling out of control.
ie. That I couldn,t even manage to do simple admin tasks most of the time.

And the repercussions of this for me have hit me very hard.
Voluntary Bankruptcy, and the loss of almost everything – now in my 50,s.

So I did feel enraged at a health editor from a powerful health publication making such comments.

Over and out for now.

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