My experience of PEM/PENE

PEM (post exertional malaise), also known as PENE (post exertional neuroimmune exhaustion), is the key feature of myalgic encephalomyelitis, and differentiates it from similar or co-occurring conditions.

PEM/PENE is not simply “feeling tired” after doing an activity. It is an extreme increase in symptoms, & is generally a delayed reaction (usually by several days). It is also a prolonged state, & takes a long time to recover from (weeks & months rather than hours), and can even result in a permanent worsening of ME.

Here is my experience with PENE:

It hits 24-72 hours after ‘big’ activities (leaving the house, showering, appts), OR if I have seriously pushed my body too far, it can hit immediately after or during an activity.

This happened most recently when I had two days out with family in a row; on the second day I crashed within an hour of leaving the house with them. I lost the ability to react to my surroundings, couldn’t talk/respond, felt freezing cold, & needed immediate sleep. This is very typical of an immediate crash for me, although sometimes a migraine is involved.

Currently I am experiencing abysmal PEM/PENE from recent activities. Here is what it is like for me:

  • I’m having a LOT of seizures, & am feeling ‘spacey’ & on the brink of a seizure constantly
  • My exhaustion is unreal; I can barely move my limbs, can’t hold a drink, & am having to crawl to the stairlift to get to the bathroom
  • Cognitive difficulty is extreme – I can’t focus, my words get jumbled & I talk jibberish, I can’t hold conversation
  • Have lost my sense of taste
  • Experienced temporary loss of the use of my legs – I couldn’t move them at all
  • I’m craving carby food (big sign of relapse), so we’re getting takeaway 🍕 for the first time in weeks as I neeeeed it

Even though 85% of the last 4 days has been spent sleeping (as a result of pushing myself too far) I am –

  • beyond exhausted
  • desperately need sleep
  • can’t think
  • & currently my eyes are streaming

Life with ME everybody 🙄

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#doctorsareSTILLdickheads

In case anyone is wondering what my day would look like summed up in a photo 🙃😂

I’ve been in so much pain all day. My exhaustion is so bad I’ve spent about 6hrs total today lying in bed, lights off, eyes closed, doing nothing but letting my body rest. The rest of the time I’ve been cuddling my partner or reading.

NHS update: so we’ve been trying to get help for a particular health condition, myalgic encephalomyelitis, since January, only to be met with a bullying, condescending dr & the need for multiple complaints.

For the last 3 months my partner had been talking with the head nurse & she has been bringing my case up during weekly meetings, finding drs that would be willing to try help, & read the medical info we’ve gathered regarding my condition. She’s made promising noises week after week, but there’s been no progress, every week we call & are told the same thing – “phone back next week”.

About a month ago we spoke with a GP who wanted to help but “didn’t know anything” about my condition.

THAT IS HE PROBLEM, NONE OF YOU DO! THAT’S WHY WE’VE COLLECTED ALL THE MEDICAL INFO YOU NEED – THERE IS NO SPECIALIST NEARBY, THE DISGUSTING DR WE SAW IN JANUARY FINALLY CHECKED FOR THAT (then gave us a number for CBT – for a serious disabling physical condition – & shrugged his shoulders 🙄) WE HAVE NO OTHER OPTION, WE JUST NEED A GOOD FUCKING GP!!!

So. That GP said she would get the head GP to call us, hoping he would know more (he won’t) or that he will be willing to put in more effort to learn & help (he probably won’t 😂).

We had a phone appt scheduled several weeks from then, which was last Thursday. Guess what? He didn’t ring 🙄

When we phoned the surgery on Monday (giving him Friday in case he’d ring a day late), the receptionist said she didn’t know why the GP hasn’t rung us. She said he would call us today.

He didn’t ring.

So now my partner’s gonna have to make a physical appt (which is usually a months’ wait, but maybe he can argue it down as they’ve been fucking us around since January) & go in himself.

I am beyond sick of this stupid fucking cat-and-mouse BS now. This is how every interaction with the NHS goes; constant fuck-ups, no apology, no help.

I JUST NEED HELP!!!

I’ve been screaming this for 2yrs now, & all I’ve seen is #doctorsaredickheads who refuse to listen (& immediately blame my very obvious physical issues on my MH), & waiting lists that last years.

I’m still waiting to check if my seizures are epileptic. I first tried to get help for them way over 2yrs ago 🙃 They were repeatedly blamed on my MH by GPs who knew nothing about seizures. Then I saw a fantastic neurologist, who couldn’t believe my treatment & wrote that my seizures seem to be complex partial seizures – she wanted an EEG, a 24hr ambulatory EEG, & me started on anti-seizure medication. But she left, & now I’ve just been lost on the waiting lists, with a few fuck-ups along the way.

I know now that my seizures are almost definitely *not* epileptic, so I’m not as scared as I used to be. I know they’re physiologic & I know what triggers them (ME, dysautonomia, spine issues) – but back in 2017 I hadn’t a clue, & I was terrified. Would I get brain damage from them, would they develop into tonic clonic seizures, were they caused by a tumour?! I lived in such fear, & along with not knowing that I had ME I was unknowingly making myself sicker.

Imagine if I hadn’t found answers by myself along the way. I would still be living with that fear, with zero medical support, & having 25+ seizures a day 🙄

A day out – you don’t look sick?!

Today I spent a few hours out the house, & it made me think once again how disabled/chronically ill people are desperate for ableds to think beyond what they see when we leave the house.

I have severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, which means I function at 5-10% of a healthy person. As a result I am unable to go out much. When I do go out, I’m feeling as close to MY version of ‘best’ as possible, & that is the only time the world sees me – the rest of the time I am bedbound with excruciating symptoms.

For example, this is easy to see:

What a lovely happy time out! And of course, parts of it were lovely, & super fun…but at NO POINT was I symptom/pain free. Throughout the entire time I was having seizures, struggling with the environment, in pain etc.

Here I am having to lay on the ground to try reduce dysautonomia symptoms & enable me to breathe:

Next we have a video, & I’ll explain it below –

In the first clip, I am having a complex partial seizure.

Although we don’t know for sure my seizures aren’t epileptic, I don’t think they are (been waiting on the NHS for 2yrs to get them tested, & then tested again after an abnormal 20min EEG). However they 100% ARE physiologic, which refers to seizures triggered by physical things going wrong inside my body.

This is thanks to my ME & orthostatic intolerance. The easiest example is my heart rate; my heart rate increases by 80+bpm when I stand, & by 20-30bpm when I sit. These fluctuations trigger seizures, syncope (passing out) or blackouts.

On the train home today I had a cluster of seizures, resulting in literally a 30+ min blank I can’t remember, & about 15mins of constant seizures. When I have a lot of seizures in quick succession, I lose myself & get an amusing shocked expression – I was totally out of it here, I stumbled right after Lyle stopped recording “i don’t know how to human” 😅

Earlier in the day I also had a seizure on the steep ramp that goes below the platforms of our local train station, & apparently I started to fall out of my chair. My partner had to hold me up whilst also keeping hold of my chair & stopping it from rolling down the ramp 😂

In the clips of my partner talking, he’s explaining how something as simple as taking off a slip-on boot is extremely difficult. I didn’t have the strength/energy to pull my leg away to help slide it off as I was in a crash, but if he tried to wiggle the shoe off, my ankle partially dislocated. I couldn’t verbalize what happened/what I needed, so I was just yelling “no no don’t, DON’T, give give!” 🙄😌

Finally we have clips of Finley alerting repeatedly, the evening after a few hours out the house. He was constantly letting me know I very much wasn’t okay!

These are the parts abled people (especially friends/family members) don’t think of when they see you out & about, or see photos online. They assume we’re magically better, that because we “don’t look sick” in the photos, we’re symptom-free…it’s simply not true. It also needs to be understood that the world only sees us when we’re at our best (which is still extremely disabled/unwell!).

The number of times disabled people are told we’re “lucky” we “get to” rest/stay home so much (I had an online [ex] friend tell me this literally a week ago), or that they “wish they could spend all day in bed too” is truly disgusting.

ME Awareness Month

May is #MEawareness month.

ME is a neurological disease which affects every part of the body – cognitive, cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal. It is not ‘CFS’.

We need more awareness of this illness as, if sufferers are told by medical professionals/family/friends to push through their symptoms in the early days, they can end up EXTREMELY sick – this is exactly what happened to me.

I began experiencing symptoms in 2015; my symptoms were brushed off & I was advised by professionals to ‘continue exercising’. In the space of 1yr I went from being able to walk around the house, help with housework, & spend hours walking outside the house EVERY DAY – to being 95% housebound, not being able to be around any light, having seizures, & not being able to walk without extreme cardiac symptoms.
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Over the past few years it has been a steep learning curve. I’ve been bullied, belittled & ignored by the NHS, so have had to work out for myself what makes me worse. I’m 90% bedbound, struggle severely with cognitive issues, have 24/7 pain, & have severe orthostatic intolerance – sitting up leaves me unable to think & having seizures; standing results in my heart rate increasing by 50-100+bpm. I have periods where parts of my body become paralyzed; I lose my taste for days at a time; my brain is fuddled & I talk absolute nonsense.

I battle intense symptoms 24/7, but these are much worse following activity. I’m unable to bathe alone, cook, clean, do much of anything. I’m very much still grieving for the life I had, & still getting used to a life of so little.

I understand I must not push myself. Overdoing it will result in my condition deteriorating, & if this continues, my ME could end up fatal. This is terrifying.

I’ve lost so much to ME. My health, my life, my hobbies – integral parts of who I am, what makes me me! I’m unable to do anything for myself. My partner has to do everything. I experience abuse & stigma from every dr I see; myself & partner are dealing with this terrifying ordeal entirely alone, & it’s awful.

ME is much more than feeling tired. It’s not a joke, it’s not a mental illness, it’s not laziness. GET could kill us & CBT will do nothing for our physical symptoms.

We need more awareness & better (ANY!) education for medical professionals 🙄
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The book in these photos is “Caring for an ME patient” by Jodi Bassett, who had severe ME & sadly passed because of it. It is an amazing book & I highly recommend it.

Autism passport: done!!

After, I think, 2 months of constant effort…the autism passport is finally done. Phew.

Now I have another weapon to fight shitty drs & handle medical appts!Excuse me whilst I hide in a dark room for the next week… 😂

This is a local NHS scheme, & the passport actually instructs drs during any hospital visit that they must print out, read, & gang the passport on my bed. Any staff interacting with me are supposed to read it. This should hopefully be an awesome tool at stopping medical staff being dickheads, & limiting trauma.

Autism passport aggro

If I had the energy, I’d be banging my head against the wall rn 😂

So there’s a really cool local NHS scheme where autistic patients get a passport to fill in. This gets logged on your file, you get a copy too, & at hospital appts or visits, staff are asked to print the passport out, read it, & hang it on end of your bed. The passport gives staff crucial information about how your autism effects you (things you like, things you don’t like, sensory issues), & also has blocks to tell them about other health issues you have too.

For me, this will be an extremely helpful safety net, as at every hospital visit I’ve had to deal with abusive or bullying doctors.

Needless to say I want this tool asap, but unfortunately because it’s produced by the NHS & I guess a new scheme, it’s faulty af. I’ve tried filling this beast in eight times now, only for it to fuck up each and every one of them 😂

Text disappearing, icons disappearing, images disappearing, text changing size, images & text boxes overlapping each other. Like, just a ridiculous number of technical issues.

I thought I’d finally got it working today. But nope, nope, so much nope 😂

The sent file looked great. We re-downloaded it to check it was okay, & this is what we got instead!

Uuuugh.

If it worked it would be FANTASTIC. But 🙄

We’ve asked the guy for help for the third time, hopefully he’ll respond & we can get it sorted… 😅

I wasn’t out done asap as when I go see the GP about my hypermobile joints & rheumatoid arthritis, I wasn’t to hand it over to them. It’s been a loooong process 😂