My Chronic Illnesses

From the start, I haven’t wanted this blog to focus solely on my health/chronic illnesses.  I will definitely be mentioning it from time to time, as it’s obviously my everyday reality.  But I also have a lot of interests and passions of my own, which were there long before my chronic illnesses started.  I fully intend to be honest about how being unwell affects me, and will not sugarcoat anything, but I will also be discussing more “superficial” topics like makeup, beauty, skincare and food.

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My Chronic Illnesses

As awareness and understanding around chronic illnesses is massively lacking, I want to take this chance to explain what I have, and how it affects me.  This way, you will understand when I can’t do certain things, post daily, or don’t leave the house for days on end.

Technically, I have 4 chronic illnesses (chronic meaning of long duration, may not be “solved”).  I have been diagnosed with IBS, TMJ, ME and Fibromyalgia.  If you would like to know more about the conditions generally, please click on any of the condition names for a wiki link giving fuller details.

IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome)

I have had IBS since I was around 16 and although it is unpleasant, I would say mine is generally fairly mild and only flares up on occasion.  I will probably not be making mention of this condition as it is more in the background.

tmj (tEMPORO mANDIBULAR jOINT dISORDER)

I was diagnosed with TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) in around 2007/8.  Basically around my teenage years, it turns out one of my left jaw bones grew longer than my right one.  This causes strain on the joint, a lot of pain and disalignment.  If you ever see a photo of me unsmiling, you will see that my face is completely lopsided!  My TMJ flares up and down.  It can cause immense pain and headaches, but sometimes responds well to botox injections (to relax the muscles).  I have had times where I have stuck to a liquid/soft diet as it hurts so much, and times where it’s just in the background.  I see a consultant every 3 months to keep on top of it, but the only real option left is surgery, which I am very nervous about looking into.  It doesn’t have the best success rate and could even cause the condition to become worse!

Katie Cupcake Life With ME Blog Happy Thoughts Chronic Illnesses

ME (MYALGIC eNCEPHALOMYELITIS) AND fIBROMYALGIA

Now come the two biggies.  I was diagnosed with ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) in September 2013 after a long struggle with poor health.  I was later also diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.  I probably had it the whole time I had the ME, but it took longer to be diagnosed.  These two conditions impact hugely on my life, and in truth have changed it and turned it upside down!  I have gone from being an active gym go-er and roller derby player with a full-time management job and an active social life to…. a girl who struggles to get out of bed most days, has a medical intolerance to exertion (ie exercise) and is on long-term sick leave from work.  Now luckily for me, I have a great support system.  My husband and Mum do a lot for me, and my friends and family are supportive and understanding.  I haven’t become depressed (like I know a lot of sufferers do, unsurprisingly!) but there have been a lot of tears, feelings of grief for my old life, and feelings of “life’s not fair”!

Sadly, there is no “cure” or even any registered treatment for ME.  Most of us sufferers are guinea pigs for various treatments including pacing techniques, counselling, LOTS of rest and a multitude of medications and painkillers.  Not a day goes by without me taking painkillers, and I am various medications 3x a day just to keep things ticking over.  There are slightly more medications that you can try for fibromyalgia, but again, no actual cure.

The biggest difficulty, and misunderstood factor of both ME and fibromyalgia, is that they are fluctuating conditions.  This means that (personally speaking) on Monday I may be bed-bound, unable to get my own drink, prepare food, stand up for a small amount of time, may be in excruciating pain and have “brain fog” (inability to concentrate or think clearly).  On Tuesday or Wednesday, I may be up and dressed, preparing a simple meal and have my pain more under control.  There is just no predicting it!

The Spoon theory - Chronic Illnesses

It is also fluctuating in a different sense – for example my ME has always been difficult and I haven’t had good attendance at work in the past due to sickness.  However I had some basic function of getting up most days, preparing some meals, keeping in contact with friends etc.  Since late December 2014 I have had a huge “crash” (period of worsening).  On Christmas Day 2014, I was too unwell to open my own presents or get up the stairs on my own.  Since then, I have been off sick from work, have been mostly bedbound and have had most of the cooking and general day to day maintenance done for me by my husband, with extra help each week from my mum.

My Mum has even been roped into hair-washing as I often don’t have the energy and strength to hold my arms up long enough.  This leads to misunderstanding and perhaps resentment from some people – it confuses them that you may be unable to go to work all week, but then may be able to nip to the shop or go out for a meal a few days later.  It can lead to people wondering if you’re “faking it”.  This is my biggest concern, as I will always do my best each day.  If I can go to work, I will go to work (although as I am currently signed off).  If I can see friends, I will.  It’s just that most of the time I can’t.  So you can’t blame me for making the most of better days and trying to fit it all in (I’m guilty of this, but have got much better at pacing!)  So if you know someone or meet someone with a chronic illness of any kind, please remember that they may have been okay yesterday, but they may be struggling today.  They may “look fine” (I get that as I don’t usually go out of the house without makeup, which covers up my paleness and massive dark under-eye circles – read more about that here!)  But they probably don’t feel “fine”.  They may well feel as though they have been run over by a truck.  Which then reversed…!

I will probably refer to the term “spoonie” frequently.  This is a term used by the (amazing and spirited!) chronic illness community.  It is derived from the “spoon theory” which you can read here.

5 Signs That You're a Spoonie Chronic Illnesses

So this page will just sit here for anyone who wants to understand more about my chronic illnesses and how they affect me.  Thanks for reading!

15 thoughts on “My Chronic Illnesses

  1. Kayla says:

    I don’t mean to come off as an expert or a know it all. But have you been tested for Celiac disease? The IBS and fibro can both be symptoms of it.

  2. Chronic Beauty says:

    Hi Katie, congrats on a fab blog. I only started mine earlier this year as I was a therapist who loved her work until Fibro & Arthritis made it so hard for me to continue. I had migraines from a young age, IBS plusher issues and, it took years for my Fibromyalgia to be dx. I love the fact that you have a combo of a beauty and spoonie blog. Snap! I focus more on beauty as I find it a good escape from my ‘chronic being’ but, I do like to include Spoonie posts to help others too. Here’s to us and long may we blog.. when able! Hugs.
    Heidi xx

    • Katie Cupcake - Life with ME says:

      Hi Heidi – thank you so much for your kind comments! As I said before, I’ve had a read of your blog and it’s really good 🙂 Sorry to hear you have so many health problems too – no fun is it?

      I’m the same, I always planned to write more ‘spoonie’ posts but I ended up writing mostly about makeup as it’s my passion!

  3. Louise manderson says:

    Reading this Kate wow helps me feel it’s not all in my head how I feel.most of how you feel is me too.all those things is such a effort to do.i have to take a breather when I’m doing my hair ect very hard work.and I don’t like going to doctors had they just fob you off if to say I’m ok nothing wrong.but I do try and keep strong but yeah I agree there’s not a day I don’t take pain killers to.i was taking tramodol which I became addict to they help the pain at first but not no more.after taking them for about 5 years I have now came off them because not helping me anymore it was very hard getting off them on top off how I feel.i just would love to have lots of good days feeling healthy.thanks Kate.x

    • Katie Cupcake - Life with ME says:

      It’s definitely not in your head Louise, sadly it’s very physical and very real. I often see a joke online, “you know you’re chronically ill when you have to lie down after having a shower” (or in some cases have to put off the shower all together!) – very true.

      It’s a shame about your issues with Tramadol, I still take it and it’s the only thing that takes the edge off my pain, but certainly doesn’t take it away – I can’t remember when I was last pain free. I hope they can find something else that helps you instead. Well done on coming off them though – withdrawal is nasty!

      Hopefully we’ll both have better days in our future xx

  4. Tina says:

    You’ve explained all this so well. I didn’t really know anything about the main two. Sorry to hear you struggle sometimes, but I think you do so well! The fact that you make an effort when you can, and try to make sure you don’t let it get you down too often is really inspiring xxx

  5. Becky says:

    Wow. It never fails to surprise me when someone’s life is pretty much a mirror of my own. Surely there must be something in it why we all tend to suffer the same illnesses at the same time. I too have IBS, TMJ ( which is excruciating) , ME and Fibro ( diagnosed 3 years after the start of symptoms). I also battle with severe Endometriosis which I have suffered with since 14 yrs old but due to ignorance and basically my GP not giving two f**s I wasn’t digagnosed until I was 28 during a laparoscopy to remove a 10×10 Endometrioma. I have a lot of respect for you and I understand that just because you can keep a blog and try and put on your best face it doesn’t mean you’re good. I had to give up work in 2015 as I could no longer do it. I tried but my best wasn’t good enough and I quite frankly had had enough of the snide comments being made about me behind my back from colleagues. I was informed after I left, by one woman I worked with that someone on my team had said i “played on my health” . Is it wrong to want that person to experience what I have for just one week? May God forgive me. I really appreciate you being an advocate for us spoonies. May God cure you and don’t forget to Keep on keepin’ on.

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