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Things have been difficult, but I am back!

An angry update against the NHS πŸ˜‰

I first went to see a GP about my seizures last summer.

I saw an awful old witch of a Dr, who spent the 10min appt glaring at the scars from decade-old self harm on my arm, saying my seizures just looked like I was watching TV, & asking repeatedly about my mental health.

We later found that on the neurology referral this Dr had already said I was having “psychogenic seizures” (that is, triggered by emotion, stress, mental illness – we’d told her my emotions didn’t affect my seizures, of course). She also mentioned in the referral that I had self harm scars in full view (it was summer, I was wearing a t-shirt due to the heat!!), & referred to my seizures as “funny turns”.

Since then, when discussing my seizures with *every* GP, it was a battle to remind them my seizures weren’t diagnosed as ‘psychogenic’. I had one GP tell me numerous times “psychogenic seizures aren’t voluntary, it’s a fight or flight response”, “you can’t help it, you’re not doing it on purpose”, & she wanted to refer me to a psychologist to help me overcome “past trauma” that was triggering these ‘episodes’.

I wanted to scream!

STOP INSISTING THEY’RE PSYCHOGENIC SEIZURES, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU LITERALLY JUST ADMITTED YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT MH. STFU!

My neurologist was the only one who was respectful. She wasn’t happy at all with how long I’d had to wait, that I’d been left alone like this, & that the GPs had jumped to psychogenic seizures.

In the year-long wait it took to get an EEG, I discovered that I had POTS. That is, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.

And hey, what do you know, there’s an entire bracket of non epileptic seizures that was overlooked simply because I have bipolar disorder!! Physiological non epileptic seizures, triggered by conditions that cause physical changes – usually blood pressure, oxygen to the brain, or blood sugar…OH HELLO POTS!!

(this is my hr when I stand up)

After being told, repeatedly, that my seizures were ‘all in my head’, & that my mh is the cause, it turns out they’re triggered by a physical condition. And once again I had to discover that myself, because the NHS missed it completely. They were too busy blaming my bipolar disorder for everything πŸ™„

All the symptoms I’d been to the Dr’s about (heart palpitations & dizziness first, in 2010), I was told were caused by my mental illness. I’ve been getting sicker & sicker, and nobody would listen or take me seriously…I have a mental illness, obviously that means I’m immune to physical conditions?!

This way of thinking is absolutely not okay!!!

I shouldn’t HAVE to research & diagnose all my fucking conditions. I shouldn’t have to find ways to prove them to Dr’s at appts…Dr’s who then become so worried, because my HR is so high when I’m just sat in a chair, that they push me for an emergency ECG in case my life is in danger!!

We can’t keep blaming any and all symptoms on MH, simply because the person has a diagnosed mental health condition/s. I’ve been left totally alone with zero support for my seizures (dozens every single day) for over a year. My life crumbled to nothing. I’ve had falls, black eyes, bruises, dislocated fingers in falls…and it was blamed on my MH, it was blamed on me!

Now I know I have Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, my life has actually improved. I know why my seizures happen, & although I can’t prevent them, I’m able to go out and enjoy more because I have a wheelchair now. For the first time in years I can be around light, I can go to museums, I can eat out. The wheelchair keeps my heart rate lower than if I was standing/walking, it allows me to rest when needed, & if I have a seizure because my HR gets too high, I can’t fall. It’s AMAZING, and it all got missed.

For a year I couldn’t go out, socialise, go shopping. I haven’t been able to go to the cinema since 2015. I was living in darkness, because we thought it was the light triggering my seizures – think about it, when you’re around lights (sunlight through trees, fluorescent lights, flashing lights), you’re outside, which means you’re standing & walking. Which meant I was having seizures. I’m also more photosensitive due to my POTS, so we weren’t that far off the mark.

For over a year I didn’t go anywhere, I sat in the dark…and I was left like that! Because the NHS jumped immediately to psychogenic seizures, because I have a mh condition. I missed out on a year of my life!

Yes, I am pissed off. No, this isn’t okay.

Thank god me and Lyle are strong, are resilient, & have found a way to make life liveable!

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Stupid comments are stupid!

I suffer from extremely photosensitive seizures.

This means any change in lighting is a trigger (eg leaving our gloomy house and going into daylight), TVs are a trigger, florescent lighting is a trigger etc etc.

So I have to wear goggles, and they reduce the amount of seizures I have outside of home by about 30%, more if I’m somewhere extremely bright.

Those are welders goggles, and these are ski goggles. I use both depending on the type of lighting I’m battling or how bad of a day I’m having.

You would not believe how much attention I receive, simply because I am wearing goggles πŸ™„πŸ˜ž

I mean, they’re not that big a deal, right? Wrong, according to the rest of the world 😫

Reactions vary from the mild – staring as I walk past, often staring with mouth agape (no honestly, this happens ALL THE TIME!).

To the ridiculous and rude – from laughter and cries of “what the fuck” and “nice goggles!”, to the comments I hate much more. These come from people who see their comments as innocent, or funny – certainly harmless.

BUT THEY’RE NOT πŸ˜‘

These comments are usually along the lines of…

  • Forecast snow today are we?
  • Going deep sea diving?!
  • Oh wow, is that the latest fashion accessory?
  • Why are you wearing those? Oh they’re for seizures? Do they work? Do you wear them at home? Can I try them on?
  • Hey, look, a bank robber!

To anybody reading this thinking ‘well I don’t think any of those comments are that bad!’…it will be hard to get you to understand how they make me feel.

The thing is, when you’re already aware you’re attracting attention, and you’re already battling the difficulties of a disability, these comments are almost more than I can bear!!

They remind me I’m different, that people can’t see past that, that people are laughing at me. That I’m being watched ALL THE TIME because of goggles I have no choice but to wear…I’m constantly thinking ‘can I risk not wearing my goggles here? Am I bad enough I *have* to wear them?’

These comments force me to interact with people, and to disclose my disability. People are fucking rude!!

But more than that I shouldn’t have to deal with these comments!!!

Sometimes it’s not about them making me feel sad, it’s just about…well, people should learn to mind their damn business! I should be able to go out and not have to worry about comments or questions! Just as (most) people wouldn’t think it okay to say to a wheelchair user “too lazy to walk?!”, making a ‘funny’ comment about my goggles isn’t okay either! I don’t owe you an explanation, and you can keep your bullshit humour to yourself…I’m sure I’ve heard your ‘joke’ dozens of times before anyway πŸ™„

I HATE having to go out in my goggles, but *especially* to busy places, such as restaurants or towns. I see people staring and sniggering dozens of times, and get at least a few arsehole comments for every hour I’m out…it makes me hideously aware that I’m different and look ‘stupid’ πŸ™„

So next time you see someone different, and feel like making a humorous comment about it…just don’t. There’s really no need.

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A&E, nice staff & negligence

I’ve been having an awful time for seizures.

Ever since autumn hit, and the days are mostly grey and the sun sets earlier, I’ve been having 10+ seizures MORE a day than I usually do.

Saturday was awful. Mid afternoon I was out of it for over an hour, with back to back seizures and being unable to respond or understand anything between them. I was having seizures regularly all day.

At about 8pm we called 111, making it clear they were NOT tonic clonic seizures and I was not in non-convulsive status epilepticus right now. We said we were just concerned abs didn’t know what’s to go four help. The guy said he wanted to call an ambulance to bring me in, and when we said we could get the train there so as not to waste their time, he said he wanted us to travel in am ambulance.

We arrived at A&E at 9.30pm. The paramedics were lovely – asking us about our pets and really putting me at ease. They turned the lights off in the ambulance and put the blue lights on so add to be nicer on my brain. I had four seizures on the way to the hospital.

We waited about four hours at A&E then were seen by a Doctor. He did some examinations, then turned the light off in the cubicle so he could do exams where I’d need to remove my goggles. He did this himself and I didn’t ask him to do so.

He did a pupil reflex test where he shone a light in my eyes, which immediately triggered a seizure. He timed the seizure (45 seconds) and asked my partner if how I was behaving was typical – staring, unresponsive, picking at things.

When I came round he said the light was clearly a trigger, and that these were obviously absence seizures. We told him how I feel before, during, and after, and he said it was all very typical of seizures.

It was so nice to be listened to and understood!

He wanted me seen by a neurologist, but there was no way to do that right now, so he said he’d admit me to a ward and I’d spend the night there.

We were waiting in that room about three hours. Within the first hour I had a blood test, ECG, gave urine, and had blood pressure & temp taken for the 4th time. 

At about 4am we were moved into the hallway. Here the fluorescent lights were extremely bright, and I’d already had 45+ seizures that day so my brain was mush. I began to feel very out of it,  had seizures, felt awful and was panicky. I got a really bad headache and my partner got me some paracetamol. The hospital was full of noisy drunk people which was not being my head. I remember tearfully begging staff to put me somewhere dark.

Just before 5am I was moved to the ward. A consultant Dr came and did reflex tests – no lights, just tapping my joints, getting me to squeeze his fingers etc – he asked for an overview of why I was there and looked at my notes. He commented that a temp reading said I’d had a fever earlier, which was ‘weird’ but ‘probably nothing to worry about’, although he wanted to do a chest xray the next day.

At 5.25am I was left to go to sleep, although it took a long time. I was next to the brightly lit hallway which didn’t help, and the nurses walked about singing, shouting to each other and patients etc.

At 7.15am a male nurse said “turning the lights on ladies”, and fluorescent light flooded the room. I’d slept with my face under a jacket, so I emerged and grabbed my wide brimmed hat and goggles. Almost immediately I started having seizures – the lighting was an obvious trigger, along with only getting one hours sleep, stress, the heavy seizure day the day before, and I hadn’t eaten in 20 hours.

I spent the next 45ish minutes out of it, seizing, and feeling terrible physically – trembling, exhausted, nauseous. I deliberately wanted to ask for help from one of the nurses walking past, but wasn’t aware enough and couldn’t manage words. I finally tearfully stammered to one “the lights are really getting to me”. He turned the light directly above me off.

At another point the nurse who had been assigned to me for the day said “welcome back” as I came around from a seizure. Otherwise I was ignored.

At 9am a Dr and someone else came to see me. He asked how I was, and all I could think to respond was “okay…”. He asked where I lived, and it took me about 10 seconds to work it out and reply. He asked what I did for a living, and I couldn’t work out what to say so said I receive PIP. He then said something truly disgusting: “You’re too young for PIP, no? You should be out and about in the world”.

I was unfortunately too ill to respond and tell him that disability has no age limit. And don’t you think I would truly love to be able to get out in the world, rather than living a life of misery?

He finished with “you want to go home today, yes?”, and I confusedly said yes. Because I did, after I’d Breen seen by a neurologist and gotten help. He then said I was released to go.

The nurse assigned to me came and asked if I had someone who could come pick me up. I was still confused, but said my partner. I called my partner and didn’t know what to say other than come to me haha.

I sat there for a while, not understanding at all what was going on, then gathered my things and tried to find someone to ask if I could leave and wait outside. I just wanted out. I stood in the hallway for several minutes, but was too out of it to understand how to catch anyone’s eye and ask, and everyone just walked past me. I had a seizure, then walked further up the corridor and finally said to a passing woman “excuse me, if I’m being discharged can I go wait outside?” She checked with a nurse and said yes.

I left the ward and walked down a few corridors before having to stop, very confused, and have a seizure. Once I’d come around I started walking, stumbled across an exit sign, and left.

I called my partner to let him know where I was heading, then called my parents. They were furious about how I’d been treated, and my mum insisted on calling the hospital. Staff were happy to speak to her about confidential information to do with me without asking for my consent.

My mum was told several HUGE lies.

  1. That I’d had a CT scan, and the results showed I wasn’t having seizures. This didn’t happen. I never had a CT scan. I didn’t have ANY examinations that could identify seizures. When my mum called back to confirm this, she was told it was a ‘mistake’ and that they can’t be expected to know details of 43 patients at once!
  2. They said that no staff had witnessed seizures in 12 hours of observation, and the reason I was released from the ward was because I hadn’t had seizures that morning. I was able to tell my mum I’d been having many seizures since 7.15am, and one staff member actually referred to them by saying “welcome back”. There were also the paramedics, two A&E nurses, and the A&E Dr who had witnessed seizures.

My mum was furious.

She’s filing a formal complaint for us, so we can rest and recover from the experience. I’m still having a ton of seizures and feel awful everyday, and medical professionals are still refusing to help. 

And I’ve learnt to never go to A&E for my seizures again!!!

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Spoons, disability, stares

We had some friends stay recently, and boy did it take it’s toll on my body!!

I actually had a really fun time, and the friend who was here longest (four days) was so fantastically great about not putting pressure on us to do things, or on me to recover faster after seizures, but doing basically anything uses way too many of my spoons, so the trip was always gonna leave me knackered XD

Here are some photos of our adventures though!

On the final day I woke after five hours sleep to an awful migraine. I swallowed codeine and paracetamol throughout the day, whilst also trying to force my way through a drastically increased number of seizures…the first four hours of the day (walking our dogs, traveling into town and eating) were awful, but finally I started feeling better and was able to enjoy some museums πŸ™‚

Our friend really was wonderful, and we noticed him doing several adorable things to help and put us at ease. This ranged from joking about brains being weird, to reminding us he could go off alone if we needed him to, and even catching me as I was falling during a seizure. Having that extra support was really appreciated!

I got a lot of stares one day, a really posh town where when I wore my goggles there last time (this was before we’d written EPILEPSY on the side) we got a lot of stares and rude comments. Well the same thing happened this time…wtf is it with that place?!?

The only comment came from kids, but there were plenty of people (generally older people) who gawked at me unapologetically. One man I stood in front of and stared back until he finally looked away, and my partner also told Β a group of old woman that it was rude to stare.

We also had an old woman who, after I’d left my partner at the counter to pay, asked him “Are they those glasses for dyslexia? Do they have dyslexia?” UUUUGH, MIND YOUR OWN FUCKING BUSINESS!!

It gets exhausting -_-

Today my partner phoned up a helpline to try apply for a disabled person’s bus pass, as we realised we hadn’t tried since I started having seizures. We were told immediately that now I will qualify.

In order to prove that I would be refused a driving license (which is the bracket I fall under for all my disabilities – the others are legally blind, have no arms, can’t walk far, or have a severe learning disability), I first have to apply for a provisional driving license. So that I can be refused.

WHERE IS THE LOGIC THERE?!?

Haha!! So today we went into town and I got a passport-style photo ready to send off for my provisional. The owner of the photo shop was wonderful, we phoned in advance to ask if they could avoid using flash as I have epilepsy, and he said they don’t use flash but there are several lights / machines that are bright or flicker, so to send my partner in and notify him when we got there.

We did just that. When he saw me in my goggles he smiled and said “Wow, you really do have it bad don’t you?!” This wasn’t derisive at all, and made me feel understood. I do have it way worse than 98% of people with epilepsy in regards to how sensitive to lighting I am, and I’d rather that was acknowledged than he gave me some BS positivity!

He turned some things off and took the photos as quickly as possible, and I didn’t have any seizures! πŸ™‚

I also tried to legally change my name for my bank account today, but the woman assisting us was an a-hole. She said that because our ‘witness’ wasn’t a solicitor it wouldn’t count for anything (this isn’t true, we checked when we were choosing our witness!), and when she got to my title of Mx, she turned to me and said “So you’ve just made that up, have you?”

No, Mx is a title just the same as Ms, Mr or Mrs. It is accepted to stand for Mix, so perfect for a non-binary person like me, and is legally accepted in the UK.

Ugh.

She sent off the forms regardless, but said head office may not approve it as “it has to be witnessed by a solicitor”. Bleh.

Also, my littlest turned one a few days ago! πŸ˜€

tollersbday6

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Smashing stigma: shitty GP!

Oh we had a funny appt today πŸ˜€

I had blood tests done about a week ago, so I can finally be put on the waiting list to see a neurologist in regards to my seizures. If they are epileptic seizures I can then be put on medication to try stop them; if they’re non-epileptic seizures at least I know they’re not fucking with my brain, and we can try find ways to manage them.

The GP today was a HUGE bitch. So much so it was funny!

The appt started with her asking if I could take my goggles off, to which I replied I could, but the polarized lenses help prevent seizures. Strike one against me, she didn’t know what polarized lenses were and obviously hated feeling less superior.

I began telling her about the seizures (telling her about my auras, symptoms during and after). Β I told her about CBD oil, and that we’ve identified several seizure triggers (she didn’t ask what they were or give me time to tell her them).

I showed her a recording of a seizure, and she responded with “Well what’s supposed to be going on here, because it looks like you’re just watching telly”.

OMG hahaha, what an idiot!! When I’ve just told you all the symptoms, and wow well done for showing you have no knowledge of seizures as anything other than tonic clonics / grand mals!!

This was the video btw

She spent ten minutes (meaning the appt ran over) talking about my MH. She kept trying to belittle or insult me, using my MH as a weapon, and got increasingly angry when I refused to be belittled or ashamed.

Some of the questions include

  • When was I last on medication
  • When was I last seen for my mental health
  • Why aren’t I receiving help now
  • What is my mental health like now
  • Why do I think my MH is better now
  • (weirdly) Did I go to a public school
  • (after staring VERY pointedly at the scars on my arm) Do I have a history of self-harming? Why? For how long?

I was able to answer these questions extremely confidently, and this also annoyed her. Me and my partner joined as a team to explain the stress of appointments were extremely detrimental to my MH, and the fact they never helped anyway meant all they did was make me worse. I am doing better now, mentally, than I have in almost a decade.

She then asked me if I worked and when I last worked, and did not approve of the fact I hadn’t been able to work due to disability for so long.

After this she began talking about my seizures, but obviously referring to them as “episodes”. She began telling me that they may not be “true seizures”, and I interrupted to say we were very well aware about non-epileptic seizures, but obviously it’s worth seeing a neurologist because if I do have epilepsy, I can get treatment.

Everytime she spoke about epileptic and non-epileptic seizures, she referred to them as ‘true’ and ‘not true’ seizures. Well done for perpetuating the stigma against PNES!!

She said we might want to collect more video footage before the neurologist, and we said we had about a dozen videos spanning a year. She began to say we might want to record how many seizures I have a day, and we interrupted her to say we use a seizure tracking app to record how many I have, triggers, auras etc.

By the end of the appt she hated us, because I wouldn’t be embarrassed about my history of MH, and we were so knowledgeable about all my conditions. We (my partner and I) came out laughing, and feeling like a really solid team πŸ™‚

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Seizures aren’t all the same!

Did you know there are over 40 different type of seizures?

When people hear the word epilepsy, they think of people dropping to the floor and shaking…but that isn’t even the most common type of seizure!!

The most common type of seizure is complex partial (also called focal impaired) seizures; where the person looks conscious, and may move or wander, but in actual fact they have lost consciousness. Think of the phrase “the lights are on but nobody’s home”!

I have simple and complex partial seizures. I find on an almost daily basis that because my seizures don’t involve dropping to the ground, people don’t take it anywhere near as seriously. This pisses me off, because I deal with the following yet I have it ‘easy’?!

  1. Over a dozen seizures daily that last 1-2.5 minutes at a time
  2. Clusters, where I have half a dozen seizures in a 20 minute period
  3. A complete loss of control about where these seizures happen…it can be mid sentence, when I’m eating, surrounded by people, staring at someone etc
  4. Feeling exhausted afterwards
  5. Feeling spacey, slow-brained and confused
  6. After complex partial seizures I act erratic, and may shout swear words, burst into laughter, or gesticulate hugely with my hands. People have called me disgusting, because they assumed I was drunk / on drugs
  7. Before about 70% of my seizures I experience an aura, which lets me know a seizure is incoming. My auras vary from flashing white specks (the most common), to a panic aura. I feel flooded with panic, and often end up hyperventilating and crying, THEN having a seizure
  8. Losing large chunks of memory, hours at a time
  9. Not being able to go out without wearing gigantic ski goggles
  10. Having to avoid bright lights, flashing lights, arcades, the cinema, and bodies of water
  11. Having several migraines a week, because my brain is mush from all the seizures

Epilepsy is anΒ invisible illness. There’s so much suffering going on under the surface that passers by don’t see.

For anyone interested, this is me during a simple partial seizure