Invisible Disability

Truly one of the hardest disabilities is one that is invisible. On the outside, we look, ‘fine.’ But on the inside, we’re anything but. It shouldn’t make a difference but unfortunately in our society, it very much does. People judge and that judgement includes doctors, ER staff, family and friends. They don’t see the pain. They don’t see the fatigue. They don’t see the disorientation and dizziness. We look….. normal.

I’ve sadly fantasized about missing a limb in my moments of frustration thinking if maybe they actually SAW a disability, then they would finally understand or treat me with respect and not make assumptions or judge wrongly. It’s also brought a deeper insight and understanding into those who cut. Not that I’d ever cut but I can see it as a way to show the world the pain and turmoil hidden inside when the world ignores your pleas and minimizes your feelings.

Our world is not kind to the disabled. I have a family member who once told me during a migraine that she could ‘finally see’ that I do suffer… That she needed to ‘SEE’ my pain to believe me. Most of us hide our pain. We don’t want to walk funny, look different, or spend our day moaning and making noises for the world to hear. It’s not like acute pain. We learn to adjust and push through it but that does not mean it isn’t disabling or not extreme. We just had to adapt regardless. No one can see the heavy weighted invisible sandbags clinging to each limb. I can describe it all day long but truly unless one experiences it, they wouldn’t understand. It’s extremely difficult to function when gravity acts differently with your body which is another way I like to describe it.

It’s even worse having dysautonomia. Being upright too long triggering migraines, disorientation, pain, shakiness, palpitations and tachycardia. My best position is a slightly reclined position with head support. My muscles simply don’t want to hold my head very well. It kills me knowing one of my children suffer this same thing. My muscles have atrophied along my spine, my butt, and my thighs. It’s hard to come back from that. No matter how hard I try, I won’t build endurance. I can spend all summer lifting a small weight and it will have no improvement in my muscles and cause the same pain and fatigue every time. In fact, it will cause my muscles to progress. What kind of disease is that!?! The catch-22 when you need exercise to improve your muscle function but the disease that causes exercise to worsen it instead. I feel for my children.

Then there’s the Elhers-Danlos. That alone is bad enough but alone is not what Ehlers-danlos does. EDS is systemic and likes to collect it’s own set of other disabilities to join the party. My labs are some of the most bizarre labs I’ve seen. Even the doctors are baffled by them. Truly a Zebra with no desire to be one but that’s my lot in life. I’m fortunate to have a husband who has been by my side over 22 years, supporting me and being my biggest advocate.

No one chooses to be disabled. We need better programs, improvement in insurance and services for those of us who find our lives altered by these diseases. Currently, most policies are set up for those with visible disabilities, again, discriminating against those who remain invisible. Then there’s the issue of government involvement in our healthcare, making medical decisions and guidelines without a license to practice medicine or policies on medicine made by people who don’t even represent the population the medications affect. Patients being denied care, needed medications, correct dosages, having to choose between treating one thing or the other instead of treating them completely. Where is our choice over our own bodies and what we want when we’re the ones having to suffer? Where is the common sense? I’d rather sign a release of liability and take what I need at the dose I need to allow me to fully function than to be undertreated over some unfounded fear that that might cause addiction or maybe even death. Yet the dosages are so low as to not being a realistic concern. But shouldn’t that be my decision to make? After all, I am the one living this life. Quality over quantity.

Yesterday I read an article about a 20 year old male suffering from a disease they can’t figure out that causes him disabling pain. Rather than treat him with pain meds enough to function and have some quality of life, they are offering him euthanasia instead. This is Canada. Euthanize rather than treat. Having a child who’s had those same desires, as well as suffering myself, I can empathize and understand his position but what I can’t understand is how government would rather allow this much suffering rather than allow someone the quality of life they need with medications that DO work or allow the option of euthenasia but not the option of good quality care. This is our world. Where is the outrage about this?

So much outrage over woman’s right to abort but near silence over the abuse of pain patients and the disabled. It truly is a world where people only care if it affects them personally. They’ll turn a blind eye if it doesn’t. Maybe had they fought for our rights when we were seeking help and advocacy warning about the atrocities going on in our country, things wouldn’t be the way they are now. But instead, they were filled with the propaganda by our media, the fear mongering over opioids as if it’s the real cause of our countries overdose crisis and not the illicit street drugs coming off the streets. Yet, the real studies are readily available, the proof is there but the world is blind to it.

I could write an entire book on patient experiences that would boil the blood of anyone who read it if they knew what’s been going on to so many of us in pain. Even those with cancer, crippling disease, major surgeries, so many affected by these biased policies that cause patient harm. Smell some lavender oil after that bowel removal but no opioids for you. When government can offer incentives for hospitals to follow their guidelines and protocols that don’t take patient individuality in account but a blanket policy then we have a real problem. Incentives need to be removed and government needs to get out of medicine and our healthcare. They also need to remove the hypocrisy in regards to cannabis, it’s status under a substance that has NO medical benefit and yet legalized in so many states for the medicinal benefit it actually provides. When it takes legislation and decades to do what’s right, maybe we need to look at our system and fix what’s broken. It shouldn’t be that hard. We’ve lost common sense in our country.

I’m tired. Just truly tired.

Freedom to Move! My First Powerchair!!

On a whim I decided to check out the local LINC liquidation sale. They sell disability supplies and I was curious what the going rate would be for a used powerchair. Ideally, I really need one I can fold and transport in my own vehicle. I’m not quite ready for a new vehicle or modifications to my current one. I love my car. But I know someday soon, it will be time. It’s getting harder and harder to drive very far and I don’t typically drive except to doctors appointments. But, I decided to check it out and I’m glad I did.

They had so many options available. A powered wheelchair style, full powerchair with lift and headrest, regular wheelchairs, and an abundance of other supplies. I already have 2 regular wheelchairs but they do me no good for independence. I can’t push them. My muscle disease causes paralysis and severe fatigue with repetition and pushing a manual wheelchair would not get me far. So I have one but I depend on others to push me and that really takes away from my independence, something I am not ready to totally give up on yet. Plus it’s not fun being knocked into things when they can’t see the leg rests sticking out in front of me. A little frustrating.

Insurance rules are a hinderance to those with invisible disabilities. It’s much easier to get approval for things if you’re missing a limb or are completely dependent. I still have some independence. I can walk in my home. I’m typically in one of two recliners most of the day but I can still walk in my home. I can’t stand long inside or outside and I can’t sit up unsupported for long either. My barrier to caregiver services was for the sole ability of being capable of putting a spoon to my own mouth. Yet, I don’t cook or prep meals often due to the dysautonomia, fatigue and pain. We need a better system for people like me who fall through the cracks and are left without the services needed to help us function.

So as I’m checking out the mobility devices, I found one that meets nearly every single need. It’s comfortable. It’s thin to fit my thin frame. It reclines and it has a headrest. It’s not the fastest one there but it would get me out of my home and allow me to exist in the community without the immediate decline in my status. There’s only one problem. It can’t be transported without a lift. They didn’t really have any travel chairs that could be taken apart or folded and put into the vehicle. There was one I could potentially transport but not without assistance getting in the car and out and it doesn’t recline or provide head support. I fell in love with the blue one that checked off nearly all of my boxes. I do have a travel lift at home but it’s a huge task to utilize so I really had to think on it. The cost of this chair was literally around 5% of what I’d pay in stores. They even offered it to me for free. I gave them some money anyway as they really went out of their way for me, they even transported it to my home. I now own my own powerchair. No insurance hassles. No VA hassles. No long drawn out waits. It is mine.

The taste of freedom if even for a day on a rare occasion, to be able to be out of my home in my reclined position, to be by my kids side, walking the dogs, enjoying the fair, a concert, whatever, it’s liberating and it’s exciting all at the same time. I’m am happy in this moment. I am blessed to be able to obtain this product that so many of us desperately need. I’m thankful to the person who posted it in my local disabilities group. I’m thankful for the great staffing who went out of their way to assist me. Now I just have to figure out the transport issue and I’m golden. Otherwise, out comes my lift and I have to wait for hubby to help with that one but I’m that much closer to having a little more freedom without the intense pain from sitting upright in a standard chair. Or squatting down in public from simply standing. So many take that for granted.

I’m excited today!

The Edge of Darkness

Living day to day, I struggle just to breath.

Trying to keep my calm. Praying for a long reprieve.

Balancing on the edge, each moment that I take.

Stomping down moments of regret, trying to avoid another mistake.

End it now or keep pressing on, decisions never far from thought.

Wishing for a peaceful existence, no demands or responsibilities fought.

For my shattered mind, so fragile, worn thin, how did I get to this place?

Always so strong, so determined, now weakness, an utter disgrace.

Body broken, weighed down, crippled in chronic pain.

Pushing myself, the frustration, no endurance, pushed in vain.

Questioning my existence, anger, fear, and doubt.

Stuck in a hole with no exit, surrounded by a withering drought.

The end so close, I feel it near. Do I reach out and grasp it’s hand?

Even the thought of that decision is simply too heavy a demand.

I think of their faces, my heart and soul, the pain that would never heal.

Do I put that burden upon them? A pain I never want them to feel.

But is my life worth keeping? A weight dragging everyone down.

Unable to care for myself, all the tasks piling up and I drown.

No one here to pass the torch to, everyone looking for me to depend on.

How can they even think it’s realistic, blinded by who I once was, she’s gone.

My hubby, exhausted, I see the burn out taking it’s toll.

He refuses to acknowledge, yet it seeps from his very soul.

My heart breaking in a million pieces, I feel helpless to my core.

Dreaming of winning the lottery, hire help, hire so much more.

Life’s journey, roads traveled, didn’t turn out as I’d expect.

How much damage one’s health can do, lacking services and respect.

No one chooses to be ill, dreams shattered and washed away.

Passions abandoned and unfinished, life in a state of decay.

Never quite enough to qualify for getting my needs met.

Like a dangled carrot above me, while being judged, but don’t fret.

Is it worth hanging on, listening to others scorn?

Sitting in their high castles, while my soul does nothing but mourn?

Cut them out from my existence, not worth the extra stress.

Neither willing to lend a hand, while I continue to regress.

Sitting in judgement seats while my body rots away.

And you wonder why I cut you out, a game I simply won’t play.

Every little bit of stress adds another layer deep.

Breaking down my body even faster while I weep.

My life now down to few, the only ones that matter.

Do I continue to hold on, do I give in to the madhatter?

Like a prophesy once told, left a simple talking head.

But even talking exhausts me, maybe better off if dead.

Dianne MacKay 6/24/2022

A Million Dollars… I can dream, right?

I’ve played the lottery so many times, I’ve lost count. Even if I only got 5 in a row for the million dollars, I’d be content. I’ve entered the HGTV dream home as often as I remember as well. Cash option or the house? What a tough decision but if I won it today, I’d choose the house! (I think!). A fresh start in a new state away from the nightmares of the last 7 years that have plagued me. And better medical! Just the idea of living so close to a good medical establishment is enough in and of itself. A place that understands rare disease, doctor’s who could actually give me and my children a treatment plan and care. Sigh…

The dream of simply being debt free. Free to use the money we have to handle our needs without struggling, without juggling, without having to pass up on things we could really use but can’t quite afford. So many things that could make our lives easier when battling disease but just out of reach for us. A main floor master bedroom with an appropriate bathroom, an office, a pool for hot days when our heat sensitivity flares up as simply entering the cool water lifts the heavy fatigue, dizziness and disorientation in a way nothing else can. I was recently told by my home physical therapist that I simply have two appropriate options for physical therapy that would be a benefit for me due to the conditions I suffer. Water therapy and a recumbent stationary bike. Two items I don’t have and to access them is difficult due to the energy it drains from me simply leaving my home, not to mention how driving is becoming an issue and hubby works too much to take me to my appointments.

To imagine being debt free and my husband being able to simple work a part time job to keep him stimulated while being available to the family to help with our medical needs. I dream. The loss of my career aspirations when I become disabled was a devastating blow, having spent over a decade working towards that goal and then having it slip through my fingers. I feel useless being unable to contribute. Even though I have my VA disability, it’s truly not enough to cover our needs. Imagine being debt free and being able to hire the help we desperately need. Someone to help me upkeep my home, change my bedding, clean my shower, tasks I actually once enjoyed as I’m a stress cleaner and neat freak and now unable to do those simple tasks. It saddens me. I miss my yard work, spending time in the garden. So much work I put into our last home when my condition was moderate and not quite so severe. Yet we gave up that home for extended families sake which ended up being one of the worst mistakes we made.

So many regrets. That home was much more fitting for my disabilities and contained all the touches, blood, sweat, and tears that I was able to put into it, doing my passion, a little here, a little there while still able at that time to at least do something I loved. The regret is a heavy burden I carry, unable to put those touches into our current home that isn’t nearly as set up to meet our needs and nothing left in me to give. If I won the lottery, I would hire someone to design the home in the way in which I imagined when I first set eyes upon it. But I’d still move. I’d probably keep it as an investment but just being able to see my ideas spring to life, even if from someone else’s hands, that would satisfy me. But the cold in our state was not something I thought I’d ever have to worry about.

The bitter cold, so crippling to my muscles. It’s cold about 8+ months out of the year here. That’s just over two months to be able to live my life with less pain and more movement before having to start the cycle all over again and stuck to my recliners and left to my writing, my support groups, and my anxiety over the tasks that never get done. I need a warmer climate. But I feel stuck. The money it costs to move to a whole new state, a new life, starting all over again, I just don’t have that kind of money. The thought depresses me as I know having better health care and living in a warmer climate might actually improve my function and abilities and options. I feel stuck.

I truly dream of buying one of those rectangular hot tubs with the hand rails and moving current. That would be the PERFECT way I could actually exercise my muscles so I don’t lose anymore than I already have. I tend to live at the waterpark during the summer, sitting on a tube in the lazy river and moving my legs as much as I can to maintain what’s left of them. But each year it gets more crowded and the tubes get less and less as I wait for an availability and then worry about having too many pushing people around me shoving me in wrong direction and hoping not to get hurt. It’s not the best environment for disabled people.

And my kids. My kids who need access to top specialists due to certain rare conditions that I would not trust just anyone to take care of. They’re my life. The services are extremely limited where I live. Our state is also behind on access to certain medicines legal in over half of our states but not in ours. A medicine that actually provides some relief and benefit and even suggested by my kids doctor as well as my own but yet, it’s not allowed. What is, isn’t enough. So once again, I feel stuck.

If only I had a million dollars. The ability to pay off every one of my debts, fix the house enough to either be sellable or rentable and the money to move to a place more suitable to our needs, our family. The funds that would then be available to hire the help we need, the devices and services we need, and to finally rest. It’s that time. Rest is needed, the ability to pass the torch and be taken care of. I’ve spent my whole life taking care of others but now it’s my time, my turn, to simply rest. I need rest.