June 26, 2013

Where I’ve been

Posted in Food, ME/CFS tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 3:59 pm by Reva

I have had a crazy month or so which has kept me away from the computer. To an extent I’m paying for it all now but I’m getting by on the fact that I have a week off work scheduled for three weeks’ time. I made myself take a day off yesterday because I don’t want to be taking a week of holiday leave to sit on a couch if I can help it. The truth is it’ll probably happen but I do have a few things I do want to get done.

So where have I been and what has kept me away?

Three weeks ago there were some big birthdays in my family and I volunteered myself for cake making duties. The first lot of cakes I made were for my Dad. I decided cupcakes would be easiest because they can be easily frozen. I decided to make toppers myself and so that I wasn’t doing them all at once I tried to plan ahead and make them over several weekends. As usual I underestimated how long they would all take and spent my weekends going from the kitchen bench to the couch to rest. I’m so grateful for the stool I use at the bench because I’m sure that helped. I coloured most of the fondant myself, except for the black so ended up with lovely aching hands and arms afterwards. The last weekend before the party I also made up all of the buttercream.

photoThat last weekend before the party was also the weekend before my goddaughter’s birthday. I’d decided months ago that I wanted to make her an apron, and I already had the fabric so between rolling fondant and making buttercream I was cutting fabric. A pattern would have been helpful but I had a picture in my mind of how it would look so I played around with the fabric and hoped for the best, and I actually managed to get it in the post and to her house in time for her birthday.

On my day off the week of the party I made my brother’s cake – a caramel mud cake at his request. It was a very easy cake to make and kept beautifully until it was served four days later. I had great intentions of decorating this cake as a laptop computer and made a fondant keyboard in preparation later the same day.

The following evening I made the chocolate cupcakes – a simple melt and mix cake that made a large quantity. I had decided this would be easier than freezing them – I wouldn’t need to find freezer space, and the recipe was easy and make a large amount of cake. Or so I thought. In the end I had fewer cakes than planned so decided at the last minute to make an extra batch. I had enough of everything except for eggs (as I’m not supposed to be eating them at the moment). I replaced the egg in the mixture with “No Egg”, an egg replacement. Big mistake. All of the cakes came out with a big hole in the middle. They didn’t just not rise, there was literally a hole in the middle. I gave up for the night then.

The next night after work I drove home to my parents for the party, loaded up with cakes and decorations. I have never let myself do that drive in the evening before in winter. The last hour or so of the drive was not great but I wouldn’t exclude doing it again.

With the help of my sister we finished the cupcakes on the afternoon of the party I piped white buttercream on the cupcakes and topped them all with toppers – little red telephones, cameras and bicycles. We were pretty pleased with how they looked in the end (I did have to make an extra batch of cakes though).

The party weekend was a massive one for me between the busy lead up, the long drive then the late night, not to mention the socialising. The nodding and smiling when people kept telling me how “well” I looked. I think I lost count of how often people told me that and I still don’t know how to respond when I don’t feel “well” but I went with nodding and smiling. Easier than going into detail with EVERYONE. And it was truly not everyone’s business how I was really going.

The following night we had a smaller get together for my brother’s birthday. We went to dinner and a local restaurant then return home for dessert. By mid-afternoon the cake was still uncut and un-iced in the container it travelled in. An executive decision was made to go for something easier than originally planned. After some time on Pinterest and Google Images we came up with a plan, and hit the supermarket to stock up on snickers bars, chocolate coated peanuts and caramel sauce. We mixed some caramel sauce through the buttercream icing and lathered it all over the cake. Next we stuck chocolate coated biscuits around the edge. We chopped up the snickers bars and sprinkled them over the cake along with the chocolate coated peanuts, then drizzled more caramel sauce and melted chocolate over the top. Not too bad if I don’t say so myself. And even though I’m not supposed to be eating majority of the ingredients (wheat, cow’s milk, egg and peanuts) right now I had a sneaky little slice – so worth the stomach pains afterwards!

So all of that was more than enough for little old me, but to top it all off there was a family wedding. Knowing that weddings generally involve socialising, late nights and standing, I took care to rest the weekend in between as best I could. For me it also involved some more travel (a shorter trip this time though). As expected it was a late night. I also slept poorly the night before – I think four hours all up – which hasn’t happened to me for ages. There was a lot of standing after the ceremony – I was trying hard to find somewhere for my Nanna to sit so it wasn’t as obvious I was doing it for myself but even poor Nanna had to stand around for a long time. I was fortunate that I could sit for most of the time at the reception though, and even ran into my prep teacher who I haven’t seen for about 25 years which was lovely (also lovely that she remembered me).

So that’s it. Clearly it’s time for a nap because I can see that I’m rambling. Things are getting back to normal now though and I promise not to stay away so long next time!

March 22, 2013

More Sleepless Nights

Posted in Crashes, ME/CFS, Progress tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 5:29 pm by Reva

For months I’ve been trying to work out what might be increasing my symptoms these last 9 months. One and a half years ago I started taking low dose amitriptyline to help me sleep. Before taking it I had no trouble falling asleep but I’d wake on and off throughout the night, sometimes lying awake for hours. Once I started taking it I still would wake once through the night but I would fall straight back to sleep.

Recently I wondered if maybe it might be behind some of my fatigue. Maybe it was causing me to be foggy through the day. A few different people have suggested that at the dose I was taking it really shouldn’t be causing problems. Amitriptyline has other uses and when used as an antidepressant it is given at much higher doses. At the low dose I was taking there shouldn’t be any issues. I was still curious. I don’t think I have any issues with tolerating medications and chemicals that other people with ME/CFS have but maybe the reaction for me is subtle.
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I had a chat with my GP, and I also asked about high dose melatonin. She was more than happy to prescribe it, however given that melatonin works by resetting the body clock and I’d been sleeping well for 18 months I shouldn’t need it. My body clock should be reset.
That night, and the following six, I cut the amitriptyline tablets in half to reduce my dose. I was sure I was on a winner. No change to my sleeping pattern. I was falling right to sleep at night, then waking once through the night and then waking up with my alarm. The waking was as difficult as ever, but it was no different.

The next week I cut out the tablets. For another week things continued on the same. Wake once, then straight back to sleep until my alarm went off. I even slept well through the heat when everyone around me was complaining of sleepless nights.  But last Saturday morning I woke at 1am. Then again at 4am. And then I didn’t go back to sleep for an hour and a half. The result – complete overwhelming fatigue and pain. The kind that makes you feel nauseous, that sits there in the forefront of your mind stopping you from being able to distract yourself with anything else. The next night I was back to my usual “wake once and go back to sleep” routine so I decided one night of poor sleep isn’t enough to change go back.
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Then Tuesday morning I had a repeat of Saturday morning. Not so easy to cope with the overwhelming fatigue at work. It reminded me why I’d gone on the amitriptyline in the first place. This used to happen so frequently that I was struggling with work; but one day I should be able to get through.
It was the second replay on Thursday morning that changed my mind. Three sleepless nights out of six compared to I think one in 18 months is pretty clear that the amitriptyline was doing some good. Even if there is a little fogginess (which I don’t feel reduced at all, but I don’t know how long it would take for it to completely get out of my system), the fogginess is actually easier to work with than the severe fatigue, nausea and radiating pain I feel after the days is a thousand times harder to live with.
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So last night I put myself back onto the amitriptyline. I had a good night’s sleep and I think given a few more I should be back to my normal, or at least my most recent normal, and I’ve crossed one more theory off my list.

February 2, 2013

Fighting the Sleepless Nights

Posted in Crashes, Strategies tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 10:43 am by Reva

Sometimes when it feels like everything around you is falling apart, when you are playing things that are frustrating you or you feel like you aren’t doing properly around in your head instead of falling asleep.  When it feels like these things that you feel like there is no solution to these things but you’re determined to find one, or work out where you went wrong, I think it helps to take a step back and remind yourself of the good things you are doing or have achieved, and of the bigger picture in general.

As I’ve mentioned I’m going through a crash that for me is one of the worst I’ve had.  I am feeling like I am not doing my job properly as a result and that I don’t have the support of my direct manager.  I acknowledge that some of this is because I’m yet to find the courage to sit down with her and fully explain to her what my “fatigue thing” is (and that no matter what response I’ve had with regard to this in the past, it’s a conversation that has to be had).

Last night as all of the contradictory comments, the emails that contain underlying complaints certain people don’t feel that they are not getting what they expect from me and how they could do a better job, the conversations I’ve had and wished I’d handled better and the conversations that I want to have but am too scared to have were playing in my head when I should have been sleeping I turned on a light and started to write down the things I am doing well and have achieved.

  • I have acknowledged that I’m not getting better like I used to and have started to take steps to improve my health.
  • I have ordered a meal program where all my meals arrive pre-prepared to my door once a week.  This has helped my save energy that I would normally use on supermarket shopping, meal preparation and washing up.
  • I have started to reintroduce previous treatments – I am doing my best to drink my electrolyte solution every day.
  • I’ve spoken to our HR department about my options and now have avenues to pursue.  Plus I know I have people who can support me when it comes time to have the above conversation.
  • I’m doing reasonably well at keeping my new year’s good intentions.  I’m doing a reasonable job of leaving work on time, I’m sticking to my timetable but trying to be flexible if I can. I’m colour coding my day and my patient list so I can quickly identify the priorities.
  • I am accepting I need help and researching the best way to get it.
  • I am starting to stand up and state when I believe that something I see is affecting those around me (now to start doing it when it’s just affecting me!)
  • I am realising that if those around me are also stressed, anxious and exhausted, it is not me and my medical condition that is the problem.  It is the environment that I am in that is affecting my medical condition.  And while I think the above points are going to help bring my health back on track, I think this point is key to solving the problem.