Spiderweb has no Spider

March is Brain Injury Awareness month. I have brain damage in my fine little skull, all from untreated concussions, working through the pain, toughing it out and yet, I am never certain what issues spring from what challenges. Since I have autism and brain damage, as well as visual and hearing ailments, what causes what?

Too, when I sit out in the sun for five minutes and note my pustules later, reacting to the presence of the very thing that makes food grow and light fill our world, I have to guess, is this exact blister from Hidradenitis Supprativa, a side effect of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, an actual pimple, sun poiosning as my mother calls it or is it still something else.

Then, with the issues with walking. It could be a side effect of the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, the Spinal Cord Injury, or just a minor pelvic dislocation, but is it something else? Did falling through that chair do more damage elsewhere that no one can see?

Multiple disabilities are a huge challenge. When i thought I had a single disability, I had unanswered questions. When I thought I had two, I thought the world was ending. Then with three, it all began to feel alright, but with four I was once more mourning, and with five I became angry. With six, I felt as if i should just die. With seven, I just stopped caring about how many I had, and began to fight to thrive. With eight, I found it status quo, with Nine, Ten, Eleven, I began to count it all over again.

I am a spider’s web, everything is connect, everything has always been here it just has a label. The labels are flies, sticking in my webiness, wiggling and shaking things up. So far, the labels have done very little to better my life. Usually they complicate it. If I tell a doctor about more than one disability, they usually give up on me. What right does that give them to deny me a quality of life?

I want to see, I want to hear, I want to live in a world without fear, I want to dance, I want to be just me, yet me is not without disability. I no longer believe in a cure for any of my ailments, except the spinal cord injury. I do not want them. I fear the changes to personality that treatment could’ve brought. Sure, I might not have had it as hard as I have. I might have had more than just a single man to teach me how to be a person. I might have had friends.

Or I might have been worse off. I get tired of able bodied people, those in denial of disability, or those who think we are all cookie cutter identical creatures telling me what works for their disabilities.

I have tried experimental treatments, mostly for my PTSD and they made it worse every time. EMDR, I have no idea what the letters mean but I remember the treatment. It worked for every other patient, so I was just a failure for not becoming magically better. Penicillin allergy even has an example, a doctor wanting to see just how allergic I was, because of course it costs more money to have another medication and money has more value than the patient.

When I was younger, long before my autism diagnosis I had an Occupational Therapist funded by the school. She did teach some neat things, we worked on my fine motor skills, which still suffer, and made earrings. We did all types of activities, molding things in clay, dancing. This was what I did for recess, another bit of isolation granted by my abnormalities. I was lonely, until this program came forth however. There I met the other kids who were a little like me. This woman decided to have my mother take a rubber brush to rub all over me, to try and desensitize me to the world. She did not ask me, she just called my mother in and during school one day she grabbed my arm, while talking to my mother and began to scrub my flesh.

This worked on the other children, so it had to work on me. I started screaming. It felt as if she was pealing off my skin, I screamed, and screamed. She told me to shut up, it would all get better. My mother took the brush out of her hands and asked why she would do that, when I was sobbing. I don’t know the end result of the conversation, but we took that brush home. It was just like the ones sold to wash dishes with, and that is what my mother did with it. I think she chose to lie to this therapist. I do not remember because I went into my head, flashing back to times when my father did try and peal away my flesh.

The sensory overload pains me to ever remember, it wasn’t just a sensory overload it was a flash back and a denial of my right to unique treatment. I never accepted the treatment of this OT again, I went, but I became surly because she wanted me to be like the others. She wanted to scrub me, until I just didn’t care. It did not matter to her that it hurt. I still have nightmares from her scrubbing.

I wish I could say it never happened again, but, she would scrub me herself, at times using this as a punishment. Too often the medical community does this, forgetting that each body has a unique chemistry, each brain a unique perspective. Now I fire doctors who do not listen, they get one shot and that is it with me. I have to be harsh like that to survive.

My cat William, the one with brain damage, has a similar problem. Touching his paws hurts him. He has dangerously sharp claws, cutting me when he doesn’t mean to, but to trim them means to cause him that same sort of pain. I figured this out after I had used our PetoFiler nail trimmer on him, it vibrates, rotates and basically sands down the nails. Sprite loves it. William was in pain for days and I barely tipped the claws off.

Each method for a traditional manicure fails him, I have yet to find out how to protect us both, but knowing what it is like to be tortured by someone thinking they know what is best, I back off. I would rather have cuts than send him into a world of pain. If you are a doctor, reading this, try and remember your patient might feel pain differently than you do. Sometimes I have to go naked because the pain from cloth rubbing against my flesh is as potent as that scrubbing brush.

It was yellow, it was multi-textured, and it is one of my worst nightmares. Those moments are on par with time spent in the care of a diagnosed psychopath. Do not traumatize your patients by thinking you know it all, or that every treatment should work for them. Humanity is full of individual people, not a bunch of identical organisms.

Ability and the Computer

My eyes are crapping out. I have a hole in the retina of one eye and neither can focus on anything near or far. I haven’t been able to read paper without great pain, and sometimes not at all, for over a year. Last time I saw an eye doctor she sent me to a specialist who ignored me, hurt me, and told me nothing was wrong and to ignore my degeneration.

The computer is a bastion of information for me. I have not seen the TV in a long time. When I really like a show I will risk the headache from eyestrain. Usually, it isn’t worth it. Even the computer is starting to fail me. Thanks to William Shakespurr, who turned out to be a Special Needs Kitty, I discovered a new command on my keyboard. I am sure everyone else knew about this but, hitting control and moving the mouse scroll button (that wheely thing in the middle) changes the text size in Firefox. Sweet heaven! I can actually SEE what I want to see. Not only does this magnify the text, without the annoying magnifier that Windows has Built In, but it magnifies the images too. Often without over pixelization, unlike the Magnifier.

If only I could do this to my TV. I am wanting to save for a huuuuge HD screen but, that is unreasonable at this time. My Person and I discussed it, yet with the economy he is having trouble finding a second job. My income does ascertain the rent but it is still $20 short. Without his work we do not eat. Without his work we do not have shelter. I hate SSI. They tell me I should be able to live just fine on it, but I do not.

My computer has helped me discover things such as, I should have a regular old wheelchair. Electric in my case is regular and old fashioned. I do not like the way scooters work. They are not really the proper adaptation for me. I may have to wait five years to get a proper wheelchair. The scooter turned out to be a good stepping stone.

I only discovered the notion of wheels on my butt when my friend came to town and brought his recently deceased mother’s manual chair and insisted we use it so that I could keep up. I actually did things four days in a row! Sure, I could not push myself, I tried and dislocated both shoulders. I had to be pushed and hated that, but I loved being conscious of my surroundings.

I even had enough mind power to rebudget my cash so I could buy a sword cane. That wasn’t quite enough to win me over. What happened next was a camping event with the SCA. There was no way up the hill to the camp where my friends were, I had to choose between volunteering at the event and actually seeing people I missed. I had to keep my word, and therefore I was stuck working. It was exhausting and I kept wishing for a way up the hill.

Another visit from a friend and we rented a wheelchair, also manual. I never considered the option of a scooter. This one was less comfortable, broke when too much pressure was put on the handles, because of a lack of a curbcut, but, I ran into that energy thing again.

My doctor looked surprised when I broached the topic. It took me almost another year before I had the guts, but I was dragging and my best memories in recent years consisted of rolling. I no longer shopped in stores that did not offer me an electric scooter, and I was missing out. I never did anything. Part of the challenges that would follow retained that sort of reality for me for a long time but I got my scooter. I was allowed to choose my model, and after a month of research on the computer I chose my Legend XL.

Now I miss it, and the computer helped me discover I am not the only one who has had a defective tool. I am working on finding the courage to ask for legislation mandating a quality level in assistive devices. Most are ugly, and most break fast. They are also over priced. Government regulation could make it where insurance isn’t needed for a simple bath chair. They denied me mine, a friend bought it so I could bathe.

I am free of misery now that my quality of life has increased, yet I am finding the loaner scooter painful. It hurts my body often, and has helped me seet he flaws in my legend. It will always be wanted, and if we can repair it the Legend will become a camping Scooter once I get my regular chair but I cannot handle the jerking of the tiller. Often it is torn out of my hands, or my back hurts from leaning forward to reach the supposedly adjustable tiller. It isn’t without great force applied. I do not have great force. The loaner does the jerking thing too, nearly breaking my thumb once. It also doesn’t handle little things like pebbles or cracks in the sidewalk well at all. The seat is the one off of my own scooter, required medically to be transferred. The little loaner scooter also fails to start on cold mornings. I miss my early morning events. I miss doing things because Loaner doesn’t hold a good charge. It almost died during a Toastmasters meeting between the lectern and my spot. Five whole feet.

How Rare is Rare?

When every medical diagnosis I have is considered rare, I want to know how rare is rare? Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Raynaud’s Syndrome, Celiac Sprue… the entire list is much longer than that and as of yesterday has a new contender. I found myself laughing when my doctor said, “Well, It is rare… but there is a name for the skin condition you have.”

I wasn’t even aware I had a skin condition. I always thought I was just dirtier than the other girls, and that my skin just sucked. I used to shower up to six times a day, though that made little to no difference in the quality of skin. I have lesions, blisters, boils and abscesses constantly. I thought this was normal, and that everyone got them at least sometimes. The name of this condition? Hidradenitis Supprativa. This condition is considered an actual disability according to the government.

I know why personally. For one, there are days when I can barely move my arms and walking, beyond the agony of the broken bones and hip issues I already have can be made worse by the damaged skin in my groin. Psychologically some of my most depressive days are the result of being infected, sweaty, and often worrying over spreading infection to others. Now that I know the name of the disease and have some knowledge I am aware that I am not going to infect anyone with it. It is rare. It is genetic.

I want to know what the mortality rate is with this disease. Some might say zero but I remember just wanting to die when I had my first really bad abscess. I was at work, and my nice shirt was ruined by the pus and blood because the boil burst before my break. I hid more shame, and beyond wanting to hide, run, or just cut my breasts off I considered killing myself. The never ending work of trying to get everything done, trying to be clean enough? That day I could not fathom selling anything, hefting the heavy boxes of dishes, and what about the smell?

Infection is not a clean smell. Neither is sweat. Being a teenager I never felt pretty. It took me becoming an adult to start seeing past the little things. Still, attending a friend’s wedding my thoughts were how to make certain my formal wear would not retain the odor of my sweat, on how to make sure that no one could tell. I am now entering the mourning stage of a new diagnosis. I mourn the times when I cut out my own abscesses. I did that last week. I have never once considered seeing a doctor when my breasts split open. It happens so often, that it is normal to me to self care.

This brings me to another point where I was accused of Self Mutilation as a teenager. Beyond having actual issues with that due to the severity of my depression, there were times when I was told I had to have cut myself in order for my body to be so gory. I was sent to a therapist for it. My body has scars, open wounds that have been around longer than some of my siblings, and my mind has been shaped by this disease.

The other effect of more rare diseases that are incurable is this. Can I escape being disabled? How inevitable is it for some of us to wind up with our bodies breaking us down? My body is out to get me. How can I function like this? What is next? Is breathing going to become a forbidden act because of something rare and genetic?

How can something like this really be rare too? Some of the research I did today indicates it is related to acne, though it is not acne. What if it is not as rare as all that? What if more people have it, undiagnosed and are losing out on their quality of life?

At this time there is no treatment. I will be updating my disabilities page, and I will find ways to help others like me. The more people who know, the more the odds of a treatment being created increase. I currently treat the breast area with a steroid cream, though, this is dangerous to do for your genitalia, and therefore half of my effected area is untreatable.

There is nothing that relieves the pressure, beyond bursting the abscesses. There is nothing that relieves the burning sensation, and there is nothing I can use to cut down on the sweat. Sometimes saline solution helps to dry me out, but, there is nothing that has a permanent or even reliable effect. Antibiotics have helped some, during the worst part of the cycle, yet not for me.

I am tired of being rare. I am tired of waking up in the middle of the night and squeezing puss out of my breasts. I am tired of denying myself sex, when I truly want it, because I fear being disgusting or the pain is too great. Sex is important to most people, me included, but my body is attacking itself and eventually my genetalia may be scarred so deeply that I can no longer function sexually.

In a long term relationship, this has an effect. It is not positive. As a woman, I have had a lot of challenges facing my femininity, partly because of this disease, but this adds another facet. If I cannot pleasure my partner, and vice versa, what are the long term side effects psychologically?

I am rare. I am one of the rarest people you will ever meet. My pain is rare. My skin is rare. My eyes and hair, and my entire body is a rare example of surviving despite it all. So is yours. So is the man on the street corner in the business suit. So is the single mother. Rare is not rare at all. For every diagnosis of a rare condition, countless others are never discovered. Statistics are faulty, when not every case is discovered, so how can we truly understand rare?

Info Links on Hidradenitis Supprativa:

http://www.hs-foundation.org

http://www.hs-usa.org

You are a Fighter!

I have a list of ailments and challenges, and in one of my conversations someone told me I am a hell of a fighter. I am not. I just have to work to have a life. That is one of the things that got me to take pain medication. I had no quality of life. This is where I get frustrated by things like the Teri Chaivo story, people want to prolong the lives of those with no hope of quality, and that is fine, but, to blatantly torture someone is not, and where is that line? Personally, I am not certain, though I wish it was clearer for me. Do I want to live forever on tubes if I am really dead? Absolutely not. However, what if the doctors are wrong? Does that make me a suicide or forcing someone I love into Murder?

The moral lines are very murky. Morality itself is questionable, as who sets the moral compass for others? Does my doctor share my own Morality? How can I know? Asking is considered politically incorrect. Do I want to know if they do not agree with me? The odds are that they do not. My religion is not up for debate, and neither is theirs, yet, religion is what is often cited as a moral compass.

What does it take to truly be a fighter? I do not think I really am one. I know that I have to army crawl through life, but, doesn’t everyone? How can I say that my multiple disabilities make me a better fighter than someone who I percieve as perfectly healthy. There are hidden disabilities out there, some of which might even be up for debate via personal interpretation. There are people who see me in my wheelchair and do not comprehend me as an intelligent being, and others that presume every disabled person is just a faker.

Yes, I fight daily, but, it is a personal struggle. This doesn’t make me a fighter, it merely makes me human. To be seen as a fighter might be an honor, one I am not sure I want. I just want to be alive. I want a life free of discrimination, and I want to remain who I am. I would not be me, without my challenges, and therefore if I am a fighter, it is merely the nature of the beast.

People often claim to fight diseases, another thing brought to mind whenever someone tells me I am a strong person or a fighter. I have even used the words myself, for other people. I have an aunt who has had Cancer for longer than I have been alive. She endures, she fights, she struggles. She is also gentle and I never see her as the warrior archetype. I see her as the almighty Mother, iconography aside I do not see her as a fighter. Perhaps it is because of my youth. Perhaps it is because she is a private person, hiding her pain most of the time. Does claiming you can fight an incurable disease make you a fighter? Does enduring it give you the title?

Is there a better term? I admit that survivor is appealing, though when you are in the thick of surviving it doesn’t apply. Maybe, I just want to be told “Oh, hey, you are a person.” Maybe I am a fighter, but, I just don’t see it.This doesn’t mean I do not get tired, it doesn’t mean I do not fight for my rights, it merely means, I see myself as a writer, a cat owner, a cat ownee, and even a friend, before I see myself as a fighter.

Are you a fighter? What does it mean to you to be a fighter?

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