Health Recovery Journey
12 June 2019 is a night I will never forget. 2019 was set to be an exciting year, with the beginning of my shamanic drum sessions, my healing work reaching more people, and events booked throughout the year. So much to look forward to.
On 12 June I woke with my heart pounding. I sat up, lay back down, but it continued.
I went downstairs to get a glass of water and by the time I reached the kitchen, the pain in my sternum was unbearable. It felt like someone was turning off my oxygen supply very slowly.
Heat rose from my chest, up into my throat and face.
A severe pain began in my jaw, eyes, ears and head. Then pins and needles in both arms.
At this point I called for an ambulance and my husband came downstairs to find me. I ended up lying on the floor, convulsing and hyperventilating, desperately trying to film a video to send to a good friend, to ask her to support my husband and our two sons after I was gone, as I truly believed I was about to die. The ambulance arrived, all my stats and ECG were normal. I had experienced a severe panic/anxiety attack. The week that followed I could not sleep. Every time I went to bed it started again, but with controlled breathing I managed to prevent it from escalating. Then it became more frequent, and I found myself in a vicious cycle of being too scared to go to bed, with the effects of sleep deprivation now setting in on top of everything else. I was unable to swallow anything but water for a week, and the 6 weeks following, all I could manage to eat was liquidised organic porridge oats with almond milk. Even blending blueberries to put in the porridge was impossible for me to tolerate. The weeks that followed I struggled to gulp, drink water or take tablets. My throat just felt simply 'stuck'.
For weeks I had several trips to A & E and my GP. My husband had days off work to be with me, as each panic attack was frightening and immobilising.
It was suggested by health professionals in the early weeks that maybe this was due to the menopause and to ‘try some HRT’. I refused to ‘try’ any medications, as someone who dislikes taking tablets, in fear of long-term repercussions over something I did not know for sure was the problem. I was convinced this was a mix of something physical, possibly a nervous system burn out and unresolved trauma. We had our family holiday to Spain coming up end of July and I became anxious over that. How could I travel when I could hardly breathe, eat, sleep, and the fear of being so far away from the medical support I knew? Everything had become a hyper-stimulus, and I decided to remove social media from my phone, as it was a trigger sending me into overwhelm. Mid-July was my last hospital visit via a 999 ambulance call out. My BP was 219/165. I was given morphine and taken in. As they injected the morphine I can remember asking what was happening to the tops of my legs. Acute pain rippled across the front tops of my thighs, my muscles feeling like they were contracting to intolerable levels. After several hours, an ECG and chest x-ray I was discharged again.
The next day it happened again. My husband took me to my GP surgery, which was empty on arrival. I could hardly breathe and the familiar pains and heat began. The doctor had just got back from visits and saw me. By this time, my vision was deteriorating, my breathing difficult and my legs giving out. I could hardly walk and had to be supported into the consultation room. She was fantastic and after about an hour with her, I emerged out of the episode. It was this moment, I knew I had no option but to accept I needed medication at this time, and made it very clear that this was to be short term to stop me sinking further, to re-gain strength and focus to help me find solutions to whatever was going on. I left the surgery with four prescriptions – anti-acid meds, anti-depressant, diazepam and sleeping tablets. Two GP’s shared my care and saw me every single weekday over about 3 months. This was very supportive, it gave me continuity and I did not have to repeat my story over and over to someone new, at a time I was struggling to talk.
3 months of being unable to drive was difficult, as someone who loves to be out and about most days. It was also one of the loneliest and darkest times, with so little contact from the outside world. I was unable to function, not even wash a cup in the sink. My husband and children have been by my side supporting me so much. I went on to have an endoscopy procedure to examine my ongoing oesophagus issues. There was no physical obstruction in my throat, my ENT examination confirmed the same. I also had a 24 hour urine test, 24 hour heart monitor and Auto Immune blood test. I have also had 3 of 6 online counselling sessions with Benenden Healthcare as an interim measure, as I was unable to access any NHS psychological support, despite both of my GP's efforts.
I managed our holiday to Spain, with the help of a wheelchair organised by airport Special Assistance, which in itself was challenging mentally, with a feeling of ‘how did it get to this?’, but I remained focused on the goal. The second hour of the flight felt like forever. Just before we went on holiday, I managed to eat normal cooked porridge, oatcakes and hummus. During our holiday, progressed from liquidised porridge to salmon fillet, small chopped stir fry veg in olive oil, soft cheese, melon, payapya and Chufa (Tiger Nut drink). However, I developed a photo sensitivity to the sun and only managed to go out 3 days out of 14. Every evening when dark and cooler, I would walk around the local area to exercise my legs which were swollen and in constant pain. BUT I am proud I achieved trip, and happy my family did not have to cancel their holiday. Since then, I have found the physical and mental strength to solo travel to health appointments in other areas of the UK over the last 2 weeks, putting the right strategies in place of what I needed, to enable me to do so.
The medication stopped the meltdowns to enable me to function, but some symptoms have remained, and my fibromyalgia pain issues remain, some of which have worsened since June.
My GP has supported me in my goal to decrease and stop medications. I no longer take sleeping tablets and diazepam which is a great feeling, knowing I have not had to take them for a long period of time. I remain on the anti-acid tablet until I can find help with my nutrition to enable me to manage my reflux and digestion naturally, and also remain on my minimal dose anti-depressant until I can source complex-trauma/somatic experiencing therapy.
I am focusing now on the priorities for my personal health journey - Dental detox, movement therapy, nutrition and psychology. I have the people in place I would like to work with, but finances prevent it, so I do what I can when we can afford to cover the cost.
This chapter in my life has highlighted areas I was already aware of, and some that I was not. It seems that most things I feel I need are only available privately, an issue I know many will relate.
I have taken steps to gain some publicity to raise awareness over these important issues, one of which is a podcast with a well-known journalist who has set up his own production company. This could be near the end of this year of beginning of 2020. I am also trying to engage with products and produce suppliers who may wish to support me, with an aim to inspire and give hope to others.
I have been reminded yet again, the importance of not only good health professional understanding and support, but of friendship too.
Although I am not using my energy to engage on social media conversations right now, I am posting updates on my health journey on my Tamaya facebook page and Instagram (tamayahealing) for those who wish to follow my progress. We need to remember during challenging times, that it will not remain so forever, and we learn valuable lessons in this process, which can change our perspective on life. One of the more amusing aspects of all of this for me, is I have decided to grow out my hair dye at the age of 54! It occurred to me, that I am doing my best to detox my body, so why am I putting so many chemicals on my hair, and also, why should women feel it is not okay to have silver sparkles?! I am seeing many women around the world, many younger than me, doing the same and feeling very empowered becoming their natural selves. I am mindful this is rather long for a blog, but I hope by sharing my story, some of it may resonate with others and help them if they are struggling. Invisible illness can be hard for people to understand, even with all the publicity, hashtag events, support groups for mental health and physical illness. It struck me after people have said how well I look in recent photographs I have published on social media, yet on the inside was a very different story going on. So … is the message on invisible illness, whether mental or physical really getting out there and being understood?
I hope to return to my healing work much healthier and stronger. Going with the flow means I do not know when that will be, or even how I will eventually get there. You can never rush your healing journey. You just need to trust and accept It will be as long as it needs to be.