A general health and medication update

This is a general update about my health and medication. Hey, it’s my blog so I can do that! Feel free to skip it if you want.

I’m currently suffering from:

  • ME
  • Migraines
  • Diabetes
  • Restless Legs
  • Depression
  • Neuropathic pain of unknown cause
  • Other random stuff

Just after the new year I had a massive relapse. I was overwhelmed by pain and fatigue, and I ended up stuck in bed almost all of the time. My blood sugar spiralled out of control, and my optician found retinopathy in my right eye, which means my diabetes is getting serious.

I have tried all sorts of pain medication in the past, mostly finding it ineffective or getting too many side effects from it. For the last couple of years I had only been taking paracetamol and codeine for the pain. Recently my pain has been on a whole new level and of new types so last month my doctor gave me naproxen to try and stop the burning neuropathic pain, as well as co-dydramol for the muscle aches and cramp-like and stabbing pains. I was actually a bit miffed about the co-dydramol because she gave me 10/500 tablets (10mg dihydrocodeine and 500mg paracetamol) whereas previously I had separate codeine and paracetamol so that I could use only paracetamol if that was all I needed, and then take codeine later in whatever amount I required at the time.

The naproxen took the edge off the pain, but not enough so I recently started taking pregabalin. Despite the horror stories and huge list of side effects it has actually turned out very well so far. In my first few days on it I was drowsy, dizzy, and had no balance, but that has all settled down now. I’m getting a lot of pain relief from it, and I actually seem to have more energy too! I’ve also got seperate codeine tablets again. My current cocktail of naproxen, paracetamol, codeine, and pregabalin takes most of my pain away. I still hurt after waking up until my morning tablets start working, and I still get aching and occasional slight burning but things are much better now.

My pain is now at a low enough level that I can start to function again. That is, the level that I am used to putting up with for the last few years where I have had reasonably good health. (About 80 – 90% of normal functioning.) Today my doctor and I decided against increasing any medicine for fear of bringing on side effects. Having said that, I am about to start duloxetine for my depression, and that can also treat neuropathic pain so things might improve a little bit more.

So now that I am not crying at the pain all the time, and I have also found a little bit of energy, I am able to spend a few hours out of bed on most days. I usually waste this on sitting at my desk to use my computer. (The netbooks that I use in bed are sloooooow!) The problem is that I have forgotten how to pace myself, so every time I feel OK I do too much and stay out of bed too long, so that the next day I suffer the consequences and end up too tired to get out of bed and in more pain. I’ve got a huge pile of notes on pacing from a few years ago and a new book that I need to read, then back to trying to have a routine of eating, resting, and activity at the right times. I find that very difficult.

The other problem that I have to sort out is my diabetes. I have only had it for two and a half years, but in that time I have progressed to the maximum dose of metformin and gliclazide and still don’t have my blood glucose under control. Every time I step up a drug or get stricter on my diet things get a bit better but deteriorate rapidly. Here’s my last month of blood sugar readings.

Glucose line Feb - Mar 2011

The next step from here could be a new medicine in addition to the two that I already take, or insulin injections. My doctor is of the opinion that the rapid progression of my diabetes means that I would be better off going straight to insulin. She explained to me that the earlier the onset of type 2 diabetes, the faster the progression seemed to be. She mentioned people in their 30s and 40s for this example. I had to point out that I was diagnosed the day before my 30th birthday, and so actually I became diabetic in my 20s which probably makes me one of the youngest people to get type 2 diabetes. I have been against the idea of taking insulin because I really want to train up and ride blood bikes and I think taking insulin would be a problem but I think at this point I have to accept that my health problems mean that I will never do that. With that ambition crushed, I might as well start insulin and have an easier time of it. As it stands, my doctor is going to wait until my next diabetes check up in just under three months, and if things aren’t under control then, I will be referred to a specialist to start taking insulin.

So that’s me at the moment. Some improvements, some deterioration. My diabetes is far worse and going downhill fast and taking my ambitions with it. My pain is down, although still probably what most people would rate as high, and my depression will be treated. As consollation prize at least I can get out of bed occasionally now.



One hundred Blog Posts!

This is my one hundredth post on this blog! To celebrate, I’m going to tell you a bit about why I write here.

This isn’t my first blog; I used to have one with Livejournal but I wrote on it about once a month or even less than that. I started this blog in June last year and I wrote perhaps every week or two but I still didn’t have that much to talk about. Two things changed that. One factor was my health, and the other was politics.

Last summer I had surgery which kept me in bed for several weeks. (Warning, grossness behind that link!) Just as I was recovering from that, I had to have surgery again because the problem came back. Then I had flu, and was in bed again. Then I had more flu… I ended up in a full relapse of my ME and a whole new lot of pain which might be diabetes complications or fibromyalgia. Being in bed all day gave me lots of time to think and write, unfortunately various symptoms often conspire to prevent me writing. Brain fog means I often can’t think for long enough to construct a whole paragraph. (Although I can still manage a 140 character tweet!)  I am quite often unable to sit up in bed, so can’t type on a keyboard. I can still use my phone though, and have written several blog posts using the wordpress app, typing on my touchscreen phone with just one thumb! I often use twitter this way too.

Politics gave me something to actually write about. You have probably noticed that I get angry about politics quite easily. I describe myself as an “angry lefty” and the current government has done plenty to get me worked up. I have written about the government, their policies on cuts, their attachment to big business rather than the people, the police and their abuses of power and the chilling effect that they have on protests. I have written about freedom of speech, privacy, and the right to protest.

I have often written about my illness. When I write about being ill I usually think that I am just moaning too much and tend to be quite apologetic about it to my readers, but they tell me that they love me writing about illness and to write more. Writing about ME and the impact it has on me has shown quite a few people the realities of living with this kind of illness. Some of what I have written has turned out to be accidental poetry, or so I am told. I have even written a couple of book reviews, although one of them was intensely political. Well it fitted the theme.

So I have had plenty of time to write, and between the government, the police, and my illness, I have plenty to write about. But what really kicked this all off is the protests against the tuition fee rises. During that #dayx protest, I was watching live TV news. (On three different channels at once!) I saw the vandalism of the infamous police van, and all the events leading up to it. I was outraged that the news reports about it were all wrong, and so I wrote about it on my blog. I updated that article through that day as I received more information. But the real surprise is that my blog post got twelve thousand hits! That is what really motivated me to start writing more. I realised that words written here can have real power and make a real difference, good or bad. Since then I have written a blog post almost every day. On most days this blog gets about 100 page views. About once a month I manage to write something that really resonates and will get as many as 1,000 views. I started out by ranting quite a lot, but I have been making an effort to include more facts, more evidence, and less anger. It’s still all my opinions, but I hope that I make that clear and direct people to the evidence to decide for themselves. It’s a long slow learning process, but I think I’m winning.

This blog has been great therapy for me personally. Finding subjects to write about and researching them has given me something to do with no time pressure. Knowing that people actually read it gives me some sense of purpose while I am stuck in bed. My combined efforts on this blog, facebook and twitter have, I think had an impact on the anti-cuts movement despite me being unable to go out and join them. It has led to me writing articles for Liberal Conspiracy, (1,2) Beyond Clicktivism,(1,2,) One Month Before Heartbreak(1,2,3,4) and The Broken Of Britain. (I have an article to be published there next week and a regular slot after that.)

And so, here we are at 100 blog posts. 23,378 page views. 18,851 visits. 14,231 unique visitors. The most popular post ever was about a police van. Here’s to another 100 blog posts!

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Police increase their chilling effect on protest

There is a big march of protest coming up on the 26th of March, March for the alternative. It has been called by the TUC, but will be attended by many other groups opposed to our governments ideological choice of deficit reduction through savage cuts.

This march is looking to have at least two hundred thousand people attend, hopefully more. I encourage everyone reading this to go along. The less-mobile are well catered for too with special gathering points and a shorter route if required. You can even hire a scooter for the day.

There is an aspect that I am unhappy about though, and that is the way that the march is being policed. The guardian explains in its article Police prepare for more kettling at cuts protest.

First of all we learn that the police have designated a “Containment manager.” On the face of it, this is a positive move to make sure that the police are doing everything correctly. But actually, it’s a scary move. It shows that they expect to use containment (kettling)  at these protests. Assistant Commissioner Lynne Owens is quoted as saying “Containment is only used where there had been violence or where there is imminent violence.” Is there anyone left that believes this line? Containment has been used on too many occasions in recent months, in inappropriate conditions, adults and children alike, and even on people that were obeying orders to leave. (The Westminster Bridge kettle, 9th December 2010) It has certainly not been used as a last resort unless the police had no other plans at all!

We also learn that the police are providing training to 2,800 TUC stewards on how to defuse conflicts to delay getting the police involved, and how cope with sit-down protests. Defusing conflict is a useful skill, but I am confused who they expect to use this skill on. Do they think protester will be fighting protester? Or are they expecting to defuse conflicts between protester and police? Because if a police officer is ordering someone to move, kettling someone, shoving someone away from a picket line or hitting someone with a baton, I’m fairly sure that neither protester nor police officer will be inclined to listen to a TUC steward.

As for coping with sit-down protests, what do they mean by cope? If the TUC aims to prevent such things from happening, I expect a lot of unhappy people. If trying to protest and make a point without being violent, sitting down and linking arms with others so as to avoid being moved is just about the only option left. The police seem to think they have a right to order protesters to move, and so it seem, do the stewards.

The police have also announced that they will once again hand out leaflets to “inform people of the official march route.” As we have seen before, deviating from the official route is seen as reason to introduce kettling. But why? The leaders that agreed the route do not speak for everyone. Many protesters do not want to simply march from A to B, or follow the route that they are ordered to. They may well want to spend time in an area where certain politicians are more likely to see them. What right have the police and the TUC got to order people to follow their route? What right have stewards, who have no power, got to tell people what to do?

The police have taken a small positive step in that the TUC and Liberty will both have representatives in the MET central operations room and Liberty will observe the event. Remember though, that policing at previous protests was considered flawed enough that there was an inquiry by a parliamentary joint committee on human rights. In the face of this, Hugh Orde, chief of the ACPO, wants to see “more extreme” policing, and Lynne Owens, assistant commissioner of the Met, promises to act “more robustly.” CS spray has been used at protests twice now. Section 14 notices have been used to arrest people that refuse to leave. The police have introduced “hyper kettling” where they actually reduce the space available to protesters until the are crammed so tightly that they cannot breathe. Their moves are authoritarian, continuing the chilling effect that policing is having on our right to protest. I have heard from many people who say that they will not go to protests and certainly will not take children, because of the actions of the police. If that isn’t a chilling effect, I don’t know what is.

Given that trouble mostly seems to flare up when the police make contact with the protesters, here’s my suggestion to them. Stay away. Don’t go near the protests unless there is some actual violence or vandalism that you need to address, and even then, go away again.

Try it. It might just work.

Related Articles

Threats of more extreme policing prove that they still don’t get it

Section 14: Police try to order you around

The right to protest, even if it’s inconvenient

Related Links

March for the alternative

Police prepare for more kettling at cuts protest

Homeopathy again

This is yet another post on homeopathy and alternative medicines. This one is prompted by a conversation that I had a few days ago which unfortunately resulted in me no longer being friends with someone that I had previously enjoyed talking to. The conversation was prompted because the person in question had put up a link to the “Homeopathy Heals” campaign web site. After questioning her views on the subject I received several comments about how great it was and I responded by asking her to read my recent article on alternative medicine to see what I thought. Unfortunately as soon as she started to read the article she told me “if you believe chiropractors to be useless, nothing written by you is worth reading I’m afraid.” (I mentioned chiropractic at the start of the article. Chiropractors believe that every part of the body can be fixed by manipulating the spine.)

Alternative medicine seems to be as emotional a subject as religion. But then, alternative medicine mostly works through faith. It practically is religion.

The thing is, homeopathy does sometimes do something. And it mostly does that something through the placebo effect. The placebo effect is actually quite effective at treating quite a lot of physical health problems and can help a lot in reducing pain. What it can’t do is cause major physical healing, such as curing diabetes or cancer, or replacing vaccinations.

Part of what makes homeopathy occasionally effective must surely be that homeopaths spend a lot of time with their patients and show more interest in them. I have heard from people that have spent hours or even whole days with their homeopath. That results in a more holistic approach that allows any worries and stress to be talked through, something that rarely happens when our GPs are so rushed.

If people choose to use alternative medicines like homeopathy and chiropractic in the face of all logic and reason then ultimately they are relying on faith. I can be quite happy with people relying on faith, as long as it doesn’t affect anyone else. I am OK with someone using a homeopathic remedy for a headache and having faith that it will work. I am not happy when people use faith instead of vaccines, or force their remedies on children that cannot decide for themselves, or on animals that will continue to suffer. (And I don’t believe for a second that animals are cured by homeopathy. Show me the evidence.)

I am sure that placebos could have their place in medicine. If we can reduce the amount of chemicals and drugs that must be used to treat illness by getting the mind to cooperate, that is a good thing. But the deception that we find in most alternative medicine is wrong and dangerous. Promoting such things by attacking science is especially wrong. We need our medicine to be based on evidence. I am outraged by the fact that Boots continues to sell homepathic treatments alongside real medicine, misleading people into trusting something that they shouldn’t. I am even more angry that the NHS continues to pay for homeopathic hospitals and treatments.

If you want to use homeopathic medicine, and you have faith in it, then it might do something for you some of the time. But know that it works through faith not science and reason. Please don’t inflict it on those that have no choice, and please, I beg you, don’t use it instead of vaccines. Most of all, don’t ever tell me that I should use it, and don’t expect me to respect any of the bizarre attempts at explaining how it is supposed to work.

Related Articles

Alternative Medicine – a dangerous game

More on the placebo effect

Interesting Links


Homeopathy Heals campaign

10 23 campaign

Moving house

I’m living on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and because of that I receive Housing Benefit to pay the rent. Now my wife and I are being forced to move house to keep costs down. According to the rules, as a couple with no dependant children, my wife and I are only entitled to a single bedroom, and therefore they will only pay a maximum of £103.56 per week. (£448.76 per calendar month) We currently live in a two bedroom flat which costs us £121.15 per week (£525 pcm) so there is something of a shortfall there and we are struggling to pay the rent. Additional problems with our housing benefit are making things even harder. (My wife is registered with seven different employment agencies ranging from teaching to cleaning but still barely gets two days work per week, and the council can’t cope with variable income from multiple sources.) We went to look at a place earlier today. It’s too small, has no storage, smells of damp, and is next to a noisy main road and a noisy pub, but we will probably have to take it.

So why shouldn’t we have to move house? Well to start with, we can’t afford it. I’m sick and claiming benefits and my wife has so little temp work that she is claiming Job Seekers Allowance this week. Where am I going to come up with agency fees of £396? On top of that, we have to cover the costs of a months rent and a deposit in advance, at least until we get our deposit back from our current home, so that’s another £1,000, plus find money to purchase a fridge, a washing machine and a wardrobe, because our current ones came with the flat and the new place doesn’t have them. That’s at least another £200 even if everything is second hand. We’re a month behind with our rent, how the hell are we supposed to find £1,600? We can’t. We’re utterly reliant on other people giving us money to even contemplate moving at all. And if we don’t move then we still have to magically find £75 per month from nowhere, even before we allow for the catastrophe that is our housing benefit calculations.

Then, there is my care and support. On the rare occasions when my wife does have work, I’m on my own. On a bad day, which is a lot of them right now, I can’t even get out of bed. I’m on my own for getting food. Fortunately, I live next door to my sister, and five minutes from my parents. I currently rely on my sister to help me nearly every day. When I had a hypo and ended up in a heap on the floor, minutes away from blacking out if I didn’t get help, I was able to call for my sister to rescue me. Once I have moved house, I will be at least ten minutes, probably fifteen, away from help from my mother or my sister. If I collapse in a heap, and somehow manage to get to a phone, I will be more likely to call an ambulance than family. How much does does it cost to send out an ambulance? Who will bring me food and drink and help me walk to the bathroom in future? If my family can’t easily provide that help, I might be asking the council to provide care in future. How much does that cost?

We already moved from a very large flat into a slightly poky two bedroom flat, and threw out loads of stuff during that move. Now we have to throw out pretty much all of the rest of our possessions to fit in a one bedroom flat. Admittedly we do use the second bedroom largely for storage and drying washing, but it is basically space that we need and use. The new place has no room to set up our computer table either, so if my wife does get a teaching job, she has nowhere to prepare or mark school work. When she gets occasional work marking exams, she will barely have room to do it. If I recover enough to work from home, I won’t have any space to do it in. In all likelihood, this will prevent me from going back to work, and will not allow me to slowly return to activity. I basically have to recover enough to work from my office again before I can go back to work. Without building up slowly, recovery is less likely. Even moving house is going to set my health back weeks.

All this ranting isn’t going to change anything, of course. The bureaucracy says move, and so move we must. Future problems be damned.