Monday, May 11, 2015

A Happy Family

   I have a whole house full of people with issues. Me and the 3 younger kids have HEDS and all that entails ( Dysautonomia, gastrointestinal issues, low level allergies to everything, food intolerances, chronic pain and fatigue, etc.), my step-daughter has POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), and I don't know what is exactly my husband's problem and he seems to have an allergy to doctor offices.

Our biggest problem was that everybody was cranky. We were all cranky, irritable, complaining, and in pain. We seemed to have no control over our outbursts. The children and I would have frequent outbursts of rage, crying, or other unpleasantness. This was a very unhappy house where everybody was miserable. There was talk of divorce and Child Protective Services was called on me. Don't worry though, they found no reason to do anything. They said there was nothing about my house or way I was raising my kids to be worried about. I was worried about how my family was, I knew that nothing was right in my house, but apparently my standards are higher than CPS's. All they did was visit me a few times to see how things were. I remember, in the midst of telling them my whole life story and how I needed help, crying about the pain. This was after I had spent 2 months trialing Wellbutrin for the depression and fatigue. That did not go well. I remember telling the worker about how I had tried it, how it had made the pain worse, and how it had made me suicidal and I had thrown it away. I told them all about the doctors and my psychiatrist and the stuff I had tried. They were supportive and assuring. They had no more answers for me than the doctors did at that point.

I was determined. My daughters and I did a "Happy Family" spell together. I was hoping that the picture they drew and the words we said would help them keep it in their mind what we wanted to accomplish. Maybe seeing the picture would remind them everyday to try the hardest to be kind to each other. It was a start. I kept going to doctors. Finally, after a bad infection cased me to have a permanent change for the worse, I got diagnosed with Neurally Mediated Hypotension, a form of dysautonomia. I wasn't getting enough blood to my brain anytime I was anything other than flat on my back. Medicating that with Fludrocortisone was a turning point, an answer to our prayers, and a sign that our spell was working.

I realized, right away, that I had been missing some very crucial parts of my personality. Things came flooding back, like compassion, love, tenderness, patience, empathy, and joy. Things I had had a long time ago that had drifted away. I was too sick, too dizzy and fatigued, too out of it to notice. I had become a different person, a real change in personality. My husband had been telling me for years that I wasn't the same person anymore. Now I see just how much I had changed.

It wasn't long before I started researching more about dysautonomia. I needed more help. I needed my energy back, I needed more. Just more. I still wasn't completely back to my old self. I suppose I never will be. I have to continuously monitor myself and make sure I am keeping my hydration, diuretics, antihistamines, vitamins, electrolytes balanced at all times. I started making more appointments with more doctors. In the meantime I knew I could help my oldest biological daughter with her problem. It had to be the same as mine, EDS runs true to family. I took her to her cardiologist and told her what I was diagnosed with, what I was taking for it, how it made me feel, and what symptoms and emotions my daughter was showing. She had a lot of experience to pediatric EDS patients and was happy to look her over. After an exam and talking to her, she decided to give her the same med I was taking. She agreed that with the EDS that my daughter was likely to be having the same issues that I was having.

The medicine changed her. She became happier and more energetic. She was more cooperative. The most amazing thing was seeing her get her joy back. The change I have seen in her proves I was right about why she was having so many emotional outbursts. Her schoolwork improved. She was paying attention in class and finishing art projects. She was even doing her chores without much whining. She was going around telling everyone how much she loved them!

My step-daughter always had migraines. They had her on imipramine. It wasn't getting rid of her constant headache. I always encouraged her to tell me about all her symptoms because I wanted to make sure she had the right help. All this studying I was doing about dysautonomia led to believe that she had it as well. She fainted when standing up too fast, had a headache all the time, was always angry and depressed, and was very moody and cried easily. I had written all of the kids behavior off as a reaction to my own, but it wasn't. Only half of it was because of me, the other half was there own issues. I took this info and went to the neurologist who was handling her migraines. I told them what I thought. The neurologist tested her right then and there. he laid her down and took her blood pressure and heart rate, had her sit up and did it again, had her stand up and did it again, then had her stand for 3 and 5 min and did it again. Bingo. POTS. She had drops in blood pressure that came back up with a huge jump in heart rate that stayed raised the whole time. At first they tried her on a drug to lower her heart rate. It helped with the anxiety but not with the headache or mood stuff. It actually made her more depressed, more tired, more angry, and she had more trouble with schoolwork. She gave the med a good months try, but it wasn't getting better. I called and had them try something else. They gave her midodrine. It is supposed to help the blood vessels stay tight to help the blood get to her brain. That was huge. Her headaches disappeared. That helped her mood. She felt more confident, smart, happy, and she quit passing out. This was huge. Her anger came down, her patience went up, and she was doing much better in school.

Now we are all happier. We all seem to have more control over our emotions. I understand that 8 and 11 year old girls can be emotional and moody anyway, but the outbursts of rage are gone. They can choose to get along now. I can choose to be patient and kind.

I am not saying that everything is perfect now. Like all families, we are a work in progress. There will be days where we have symptoms that can cause upset. I have days where I am very symptomatic and in a lot of pain. I still slip up those days, but I try to keep myself separated from the kids when I feel like I am losing myself again. My husband has been pretty helpful about that lately.

With the help from the medicine, my other coping strategies help more. Keeping track of my symptoms, my hormones, my cycle, and the weather help remind me to take outside influences into account. I can remind myself that my increase in pain is due to PMS or the rain. Today it is because of both and I am struggling with some pretty bad and pain and fatigue, but I know why and I have more control. I can remind myself that these other things are making it worse. It really helps me stay focused. I can be the mom I used to be all the time. I feel like I am the person I used to be again. I am not talking about energy levels or pain levels, I am talking about my personality.

Have you ever lost your personality? Have you ever lost what made you you? Have you ever found yourself unable to control yourself, drowning in dizziness, pain, and fatigue, wishing for it all to end, hating yourself because of the way you treat the people around you knowing that isn't who you were? Lost in rage, unable to feel a connection to anybody or even see the people around you as people instead of objects that cause pain? Feeling trapped deep inside your brain, being constantly tortured by your own body? I can only imagine that this is how my children felt too. No wonder the whole house was in chaos. There were no loving feelings, no compassion, no comforting hugs for them. It has been a living hell.

All I ever wanted, since I was a little girl, was a happy family of my own. That, along with all my other dreams, seemed lost to me. Now I feel like I could attain some of my most important dreams. The happy family, the loving mom, the loving marriage, being able to clean the house, cook good safe food, take the family on outings, finish crocheting projects, use my sewing machine, go to yoga class, swim laps, go camping, hiking, fishing, and when all the kids are in older maybe get a job again. The last one is probably an unattainable dream considering my condition is degenerative. I am trying to just concentrate and what needs done now. Most of my childhood dreams are over. I won't graduate college, I won't have a career, Never make enough money to buy a house or have new cars and fancy clothes. I will always be poor, disabled, in pain, tired, one episode away from getting permanently worse. But, I have a reason now to go on. JOY. I can feel joy and so can my kids. Life seems doable now. I can push through as long as I can see those smiles on my kids faces and feel the warmth flood my heart.

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