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Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

I find myself going through a lot of stages with grappling with this diagnosis. Most of them involve anger, rage, even… Not at the syndrome, but at how I was treated as a child. I keep flashing to things… like having pronounced leg pain and not wanting to walk, and being told I was “making it up for the attention”. I was four.  Being the slowest runner in any class… and being told I was just lazy and that I needed to “try harder”. I’d try harder…and my ankles would go out, and I would fall, and then I’d be told I had done it to get out of running, and that I was making it up.

“You’re so flexible.” Yeah. Great for party tricks when you’re a kid… as an adult, showing off that flexibility hurts every time. I guard everything, and become paradoxically stiff because I’m putting so much energy into holding myself together. It did not dawn on me, oddly enough, until I was in my 40’s, that this is different from how most people experience the world.

IBS… gut is made of collagen. Mine is wrong. IBS is common in EDS.

Allergies (see gut is made of collagen and mine is wrong…)

The stretch marks that riddle my body. The weird texture at the bottom of them.

My fingers… handwriting always terrible, told I wasn’t trying hard enough, wasn’t concentrating enough.  “You’re holding the pencil wrong”. I fix my grip, my finger stays for a moment and then bends backwards. I adjust to something that sort of works. I’m told my handwriting is terrible and I’m holding the pencil wrong. Typing is a godsend. Typing is easy. When I can type my notes, I can actually take notes because I’m not pouring every single ounce of attention I have into holding the damn pencil.

Fibromyalgia… except that unlike most people with fibro, I don’t have constant pain. But every other symptom. Oh, right, those are all co-located with EDS, which explains more than the fibro.

You know solarcaine? Yeah, that shit never worked on me much. Nor does Lidocaine, or novocaine… The doses they’d use to get something approximating enough numbness to do dental work were terrifying. The epidural would have been funny in its ineffectiveness if I hadn’t been in so much pain. It worked…for about 15 minutes. Then not. Oh look… EDS involves aytpical responses to medications. Huh. Funny, that. It’s not just being a redhead.

Going to physical therapy feels like whack-a-mole… we get everything aligned and something else pops out. Much of my time there is spent with the PT pushing my joints back into the socket properly. They’re not VERY far out of alignment… but enough to cause excruciating pain. And people wonder why I don’t want to move.

“Your cervix is very friable” says one doctor… it bleeds every time they do a pap smear. “It’s very sensitive” says another doctor… every touch causes contractions. I spent most of my periods as a teenager curled up in a miserable ball. “You have PID” says a nurse midwife doing a pelvic exam that causes me pain. No tests come back positive for anything, but I wouldn’t hurt if I wasn’t a “bad girl”. They give me antibiotics and birth control pills. The pills nearly kill me. They help the cramps, though.

“Your skin is so pretty,” gushes a drunk woman as I stand, age 17, waiting to float down the river for an event. I don’t know what to say. “It’s like velvet she says” and starts to reach towards me, the woman with her pulls her away. I am nonplussed. My “pretty” skin is also highly prone to rashes, scars a little funny, and I’ve had keratosis pilaris since I could remember. All those things are common in people with EDS.

“Your cervix was so fragile,” said the doctor, “That I couldn’t keep a clamp on it. Your uterus was falling apart as I took it out. I’ve never seen anything like it, and neither had my assistant.” Later, she says, “Oh, I see the problem. The stitch was tearing your skin.” I suspect that if she’d known the diagnosis at the time she would have stitched me very differently.

“Are you sure it’s not a psychological problem,” asks a well-meaning family friend who is chronically short on tact.  I stop spending time with him. I stop spending time with a lot of people.

“You should just go to bed earlier.” I wish. My body’s fucked up sleep cycle thinks that if I sleep before 1-2 am, I must be napping, and wakes me up after a couple hours. Interestingly if I lie down for a nap at 10 or 11 in the morning, it is easy to sleep for four to six hours. Sleeping hurts though… if I get enough sleep my body hurts more from lying in bed that long.  My goal is 2 am. But brain fog sets in and it is hard, hard to get up to bed sooner than 3 or 4. If allowed I can easily sleep for 8 solid hours if I start at about 3:30 am and am not disturbed. I have small children. Hah. “But if you just had more self-discipline….” And then I read “sleep disturbances are common in EDS.”

I spend my energy constantly in holding myself together. If I get distracted, I get hurt. If I am happy, I get hurt. If I exercise and am not scrupulously careful not to overdo it, I am toast for days.

The human body is 80% collagen. And mine? My collagen is all a little bit wrong. Welcome to the grand unifying theory of what the hell is wrong with me.

Published in Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Fibromyalgia Health

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