Hi everyone. Well today we have a special interview the
person you all know from my blog as “Hubby”, AKA The Raspberry (@raspberrytalk). Hopefully it
will give you all a little insight into how he feels about things and is
dealing with what is happening.
We’ll also be hearing from my alter ego, Samantha,
Raspberry’s wife and full time carer. We’ll take a look at some of her inner
thoughts and fears.
Hopefully it will make you laugh and cry but, most of all,
let you know that you’re not alone; not the only one that is scared and that
it’s ok to be worried – as a carer or caree – and its ok to have doubts.
These are the things that push us to keep going. Remember -
Without darkness, we can’t appreciate the light.
So let’s jump straight in:-
Where did the nickname raspberry come from?
Ah yes, that is courtesy of my older brother. Long story
short; my wife and I were taken to dinner by my brother and sister-in-law,
along with my mum and father-in-law and a friend of my brother. Their friend,
my mum and me all use walking sticks and my brother jokingly said “oh god,
we’re taking all the raspberries out”. I had no idea what he meant until he explained:-
“Raspberry Ripple = Cripple”.
I thought it was hilarious and so I nicked it. Some people
find it offensive, but hey, I’m the one with the stick, so bugger off! :-) lol
So Samantha, what do you think of your husband’s new
Like my husband I find it very funny. Also you have to
understand when Raspberry’s brother said it, it was said with humour and I also
think it’s his way of dealing with it.
What health problems/conditions do you have?
Well, how long have you got? Hehehe.
Ok, I’ll try to keep it brief and just summarise. I’ll start
at the top and work down.
year headache. Seriously! I’ve had a constant pain in my head, usually
near the back, but often like a gentle vice grip on the top of my head. It
moves around, but it is every … single … day! :-( I generally ignore it as
I’ve become used to it over the years.
displaced vertebrae in my neck.
muscles in my neck and left shoulder.
Spondylosis (coupled with the above this also causes numbness of left
arm with painful tingling in extremities of both arms).
pain in lower back, the cause of which is still being investigated.
This also causes abnormal shaking of my legs and back, muscle spasms and extreme
pain in right and left buttocks and both legs. My right and left arms and
hands have also both started to shake.
and limited mobility in left foot caused by my left foot being shattered
in a motorcycle accident in 1994. The side of the foot was also torn off
(replaced with a large skin
graft from my thigh) and the big toe partially severed.
above causes me constant severe pain and my knees often buckle causing me
to fall. I also have a
neurological problem that makes my head think the floor is the wall
and causes me to fall backwards without warning.
also have ME
and these cause a whole host of symptoms from minor to extremely serious
and excruciatingly painful – look them up :).
top of all that (or maybe because of it!) I suffer from Anxiety,
and get really bad panic attacks, mood swings and weird attacks that leave
me hyperventilating, drenched in cold sweat, heart pounding, vision
blurred, dizzy, disorientated and unable to move or speak properly (these
are not the panic attacks. These are different).
I recently did a sleep study at Papworth Hospital in
Cambridge. I’m normally awake most nights until 3 or 4 and when sleeping I
normally wake several times throughout the night.
So of course at the clinic I fell asleep in 8 minutes and
had the best nights sleep I’ve had in ages. Typical!!
BUT - I seem to have stumped the doctor and will be invited
back for further study. I appear to have some symptoms of narcolepsy, but some
that completely contradict a diagnosis of narcolepsy.
I slept without waking for 6 1/2hrs ... but never once
reached REM/dream sleep (the human brain usually runs on a 40 minute-ish sleep
cycle - light sleep, deep sleep, dream sleep and round again every 40 minutes
The nest day they did nap tests throughout the day. I had to
lie down and try to relax/fall asleep for 20 minutes or so. I jumped light and
deep sleep and went straight to dream sleep all 4 times - without even
realising I was asleep!!!
Apparently this is not right :-)
Anyway, the doc was very interested and wants to do some
follow ups. Hopefully this will start to pull some threads together.
I know all of that sounds like a lot when it’s written down,
but I have a hell of a lot less going on than some people, so I’m grateful for
Samantha, do you have any health problems of your own?
Yes, but not as many as Raspberry. I also suffer with
depression, so I can completely understand what he’s going through. I’ve had
anxiety issues, so I can also understand that. I even sometimes give hubby
advice on how to deal with certain situations.
I have Migraines which I’ve been told by a neurologist are
stress induced migraines.
If you read the following blog entry it will tell you a bit
more about my health problems:-
Raspberry, when did you first notice signs of your health
That’s a difficult one. Obviously I did a lot of damage to
myself when younger from motorbike crashes, etc, so pain has been a part of my
life for over 2 decades. Like most people I’ve had issues with stress,
depression and anxiety issues off and on over the years – I even lost my job in
2003. I had a sort of mini breakdown in the office, threw everything off my
desk and ran out of the building screaming and crying.
I never went back and was “made redundant” (my manager swung
it with the upper levels) in 2004.
But the rest has sort of snuck up on me since then. I
started to need help to get up stairs as my knees kept swelling up and getting
in/out of chairs was murder on my back. I’ve always had pain in my foot and
neck since the crashes, but it was getting worse and worse. I was in pain
everywhere, suffering fibro fog and was popping pain killers like Smarties just
to keep functioning!
But it wasn’t until all the muscles in my neck seized for a
week that my wife forced me to go to our doctor.
Samantha, when did you first notice signs of your husbands health
I personally noticed subtle changes as far back as 2002,
just in the way he acted, didn’t seem to enjoy his work anymore and seemed like
the life had been kicked out of him. As the years have passed I’ve noticed him
complaining of having a bad back all the time, his neck hurting, shoulders and
You have to understand that I’ve been with my husband for a
long time now (17 years in July!), so I did notice subtle changes in him as a
person as well. I noticed him popping down painkillers like sweets, even though
he thinks I didn’t know. I could see he was hurting long before he would admit
it to anyone … even himself!
Raspberry, you say you have ME and FMS. Aren’t these “in
Some very ignorant and silly people believe this, yes – like
that nutter who advises the government and says things like Gulf War Syndrome
But talk to any real doctor and they’ll tell you they are
both very real. ME is certainly Neurological, not Psychological and both ME and
FMS have very Physical effects. The government’s crazy idea that Cognitive
Behavioural Therapy will make it go away just shows you how out of touch and clueless
these people are. “Yes, you’re in agonising pain, but try to think more
positively about it and it will go away”. WTF!?
Yes, both ME and FMS have psychological components, like
“Fibro Fog”, etc, and every chronic disorder will leave their victims with
depression and anxiety; but that’s not the be all and end all of the condition,
that’s just yet another symptom.
When my muscles are screaming and my joints are swollen, how
can anyone say that’s in my head or that it will all go away if I think more positively
So, Samantha, what is your opinion on ME and FMS?
I believe they are real and not just in someone’s head. For
example, as I’m doing this, my husband is in bed because his body and mind are
so exhausted he simply can’t keep awake. Also the amount of pain I’ve seen him
in, it’s actually emotionally painful for me to see. My husband has a very high
pain threshold, so for him to be so fed up of pain and nearly in tears because
the pain is that unbearable, even with painkillers, it’s got to be real.
I personally think more research needs to be done world wide
into both of these conditions.
Do you feel like you have support from the medical
Well, it took my GP seven months before she said “oh, that
shaking is still going on is it?”, so that should give you some idea.
The Pain Clinic I was referred to discharged me after I had
a seizure during acupuncture and ended up in A&E. They said anything else
they could try would probably cause me more seizures and they weren’t willing to
take the risk.
My Neurologist gave up after seeing me twice (and I had to
badger my GP and the Neurologist directly to get a second appointment). She
referred me to the specialist ME/CFS Clinic.
After meeting me for less than 5 minutes they stated that they
were not willing to help me because “we’re not trained to deal with people with
your level of anxiety”. WTF!!??
I was referred to a physiotherapist and it took over a year
to get an appointment. After 20 minutes of me explaining everything that has
ever happened to me, the physio said there was not much she can do for me and I
should just try to keep doing the little bits of exercise I manage to do now.
Then she said I could go … and I promptly keeled over on my way out of the
therapy unit as my legs buckled under me :-)
Finally I’ve been sent to a psychiatrist because it’s
obviously all in my head. She listened to me for nearly 2 hours. She sent an
initial report to my GP and copied it to me … half the information was
But she did refer me to the sleep clinic and that seems to
be pulling some of the threads together. So I’m hoping this will bear some
What about you Samantha - Do you feel like your husband
has had support from the medical professionals?
I would say no. I actually think it’s disgusting how my
husband has been kicked from pillar to post. I am going to contact PALS about
how the so called specialists have only seen him once and decided to refer him
to another one and then another. This is basically what happened for most of
last year. Even the so-called specialist ME/CFS Clinic wouldn’t help him,
because of his mental health problems – caused by his ME!
How supportive have your family been?
They’re really great. My parents live at far ends of the
country, but we talk on the phone and via Skype and emails. It’s not all about
physically being there to help.
People under estimate how important emotional support is. My
parents and their partners are always there for both of us whenever we need to
talk. I get depressed and have suicidal thoughts; I struggle most days to see
any kind of light at the end of a never ending tunnel of pain. And then there’s
the stress and anxiety caused by the DWP about my ESA, DLA, Sam’s Carer’s
Allowance. It’s never ending and I really just feel that it would be better for
everyone if I just disappeared.
But Mum and Dad pull me out of it time and again. We don’t
always talk about anything specific - just talking to them about what’s going
on today, or how bad my Dad’s internet connection is, makes me keep pushing
But they’ve also both helped us out when we’ve been
struggling with money for food and other things too.
I can honestly tell you here and now that if I didn’t have
my wife, I’d be dead. If I didn’t have my Mum and Dad, I’d be dead. If I didn’t
have my brothers – even though one of them is in Canada – I’d be dead.
I’m really lucky to have them all and I know so many people
online that either have nobody or their families simply don’t understand or
even believe they’re ill. My heart goes out to all of those people, because I
know I couldn’t cope without my family.
What about you, Samantha?
My family are not around and haven’t been in contact with me
for a few years now, so I have no support from them at all. I’ve tried writing
and ringing the numbers I have for them, but never with any answer.
However, I have an amazing mother-in-law who has been very
supportive. We have a really good relationship, so I find it easy to talk to
her if I need to. The trouble with me though is I will listen to everybody
else’s problems, but don’t like to talk about my problems if I need to.
My father-in-law is the same really; very easy to talk to
and both his partner and my mother in-law’s partner are also there for us.
I worry that they all think they are not helping, but just
knowing they are there if we need them, even just to talk, makes such a
When my husband had his lumbar puncture appointment his
mother and partner came down and drove us to the appointment. And when that
appointment was re-scheduled after we waited for 3 hours (!), they stayed with
us for an extra week. They also helped us buy a replacement car (!), one that’s
better for hubby and small enough for me to learn to drive in.
My father in-law has bailed us out at the bank when our
benefits have been late and we need to pay gas/electric bills, he replaced our
laptop so we can stay in touch with people online and he has also offered to
pay for my driving lessons when I start them.
Our friend T as also helped with driving us to appointments
and just coming over to see us, which is a great help to us both. He’s been a
really good friend and also given me some good advice.
I also can’t forget my husband. Even though he’s the one
who’s ill, he’s always been there for me. He will hate me saying it, but he
really is a special person.
To my husband’s family, our friend T and my husband, I would
like to let you all know I love you all and am thankful to know you all. To
anyone I’ve forgotten - sorry! :-)
How has your declining health affected your life? How
different is your life from say, 5 years ago?
I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s turned our lives
It’s not the days when I’m in such extreme pain I can’t get
out of bed, or my body is so exhausted and my mind I so tired I can barely
move. It’s the days when I feel not too bad that are worse.
On those days I can almost convince myself that my life will
suddenly go back to normal … then I’ll probably fall over for one of the
million reasons I go down; a dizzy spell, that weird neurological thing I have,
my back giving out, my knees giving out, my ME causing my muscles to just stop
working or something just really boring like the side effects of my pills (all
of which cause “dizziness”).
These are the only days I get the chance to go out of the
house … and of course that’s when we get the funny looks from everyone. “A 40
year old, with a stick? A disabled Blue Badge for one stick? You don’t look
disabled, you are obviously one of those shirkers and scroungers that the
system is “rife” with!”, (ah yes, the MASSIVE 0.8% of the entire benefit
5 years ago I was a successful wedding,
photographer. I’d do shoots in all sorts of locations, organise and sometimes
entertain hundreds of people, shoot models in the street – and I mean busy
places like London – or on busy beaches like in Egypt!
I’d run studio photoshoots with loads of people; models,
artistic directors, makeup artists. I’d be running around all day long lugging
gear, setting up lights, climbing ladders or crawling around on floors –
whatever it took to get the shot.
Now the thought of going outside gives me panic attacks. If
there are more than 5 people in a room I’ll start to freak, hyperventilating
and panicking. I jump when there’s a knock on the door and I’m terrified of the
phone. My wife takes 20 minutes to calm me down just so we can go to the
And when we do go out I can barely make it from the car to
whatever shop we’re going to and then I have to get in the dreaded wheelchair
and be pushed around like an invalid … you may have noticed I hate my
If I exert myself too much one day, I’ll be paying for it
not just the next day, but also the two day after that as well. I’ll go from
getting 3hrs sleep one night to sleeping 14hrs straight a few days later.
I do often wonder why I even bother; it’s not really the
kind of life I would wish on my worst enemy.
It’s really soul destroying when I’m feeling great and say
“I’m just popping upstairs” and only make it half way before collapsing and
having a seizure while I slowly slide back down the steps and my wife
desperately tries to stop me smacking my head and get me up the stairs to the
bed (she’s a slim 5’3”. I’m 5’8” and weight over 16st!!).
And the most depressing thing? This is the good stuff! I’m
41 this year and I’m just at the beginning of all this. The
problems are just going to get worse and worse from here. I honestly don’t
think I could live with another 30 years of this.
How do you feel about someone else having to take care of
Look at my last answer. How would you feel about it? How can
I expect my wife to deal with all of this when I can barely deal with it
myself? Why should she have to give up her life? She’s not a trained carer or
And for myself, I hate having to be reliant on someone else.
I used to ride motorbikes and jump out of aeroplanes. As a teen I played rugby,
weight trained and did martial arts and as a designer I used to control
construction teams and be responsible for multi-million pound contracts. I’ve
always thought of myself as mentally strong … even though the exercise slipped
and the love of great food took hold, hence the 16st :-) … so having to ask for
help for anything is really difficult. I feel like it makes me something less
in the eyes of those I love.
My Dad is 70 this year. He’s got his health problems, but
even though he’s 30 years older than me, he’d run rings around me.
His Mum, my Grandma Jeanie, is 92 this year! She still looks
after kids after school, runs around all over the place and on the rare
occasions we get to see her, she’s the one that runs about making us tea,
coffee, food, etc.
Having to be looked after by other people, especially at my
age and with my background, is depressing and totally demoralising.
Samantha how is being a carer affecting you and your relationship with your
Good question and it’s a hard one to answer … but I will try
my best, so here goes.
My husband and I have always had a very close relationship
and are very much in love … soppy I know, but it’s true.
But even with our relationship being so strong, caring for
him can have a strain on it. I know he resents the fact that he needs help and
I sometimes wish he were back to his normal self before he got ill. Since my
husband has become ill he has changed as a person and this is the thing I find
most difficult to deal with.I do get
glimpses of the man I fell in love with and that is one of the main reasons I
We still have a romantic relationship, but it is different.
I can’t explain it, but it’s just different. I don’t know if that’s how it is
for my husband, but that’s how it is for me.
Some days it’s like living with a friend rather than a
husband, especially when he is having an extremely bad day. Sometimes I think
maybe I should not be his carer because I am so protective of him and so close
to him. But on the other hand, maybe I am the best person to take care of him because
I know him so well and I do and will notice changes in him. This is not to say
that some days I don’t just want to walk away and not come back. I think it’s
quite natural for anyone forced into this sort of situation to feel like that.
But it also felt almost natural for me to become my
husband’s carer. I’m told I have a caring nature to me anyway, but I never
thought I would end up being an actual carer. Being a carer has affected me in
so many ways; some good and some are bad.
It has shown me that I am a strong person and I am capable
of dealing with certain situations, like when my husband is having a seizure.
Sometimes when I read through my blog, I almost forget it’s me and think “how
does that poor woman cope with all that going on?” and then realize it’s me!
But on a more negative note, my husband’s health and the
fact that I’m his carer has taken its emotional toll on me. I have always
suffered with depression and seeing my husband’s health get worse and just
having to process everything has done my head in a bit.
In June I was prescribed Sertaline for anxiety and
depression after hubby had been telling me for over a year that I needed to get
some sort of help. It was about time too because I got a wake up call a few
weeks later when I collapsed in our bedroom. I’ve not felt 100% right since.
I have had MRI and EEG, which were both normal, and I had to
wait until October to see a neurologist. He just told me it was all stress
related. He also told me that my migraines were because of the extra stress I
was going through. He prescribed Pregabalin for them and they have helped a
bit. I’m certainly not getting my migraines as frequently!
I don’t want any of you to read this and feel sorry for me.
Yes, I had little choice at first in becoming my husband’s carer, but I have
chosen to stay his carer.
What frustrates you most?
Easy – the uncertainty of it all. What will it be today? This afternoon? 10 minutes from now? We can never plan anything or live any kind of normal life anymore.
There are a lot of things that frustrate me about what is happening with my husband. I’m very frustrated with how he’s been treated by the medical professionals. There has been no consistency with his care and know one has given him any real answers.
Any last words for my blog followers?
Yes, if any of the answers here have offended anyone …. Tough! Lol. Seriously though, everyone has to learn to deal with things in their own way. We use honesty and humour because if we didn’t laugh, we’d cry.
Also, if anyone has any other questions they’d like to ask me they can just tweet me or post here on the blog. I’m more than happy to talk to anyone. This year I will hopefully finally get around to starting my YouTube page, The Ross Rants. I’ll being doing short videos of coping with all this crap and also bitching about everything from bad drivers, this murderous government and cooking, to reality TV and the weather. Basically being a grumpy old git 30 years early :-)
Remember to take care of each other and watch something that makes you laugh, I recommend Family Guy.
head doctor recently referred him to a sleep clinic after hearing that he has
had sleep problems for most of his adult life (he’s 41 this year).
we received the letter it stated that he would have to be on his own(!).
Obviously, with his anxiety issues, agoraphobia, seizures and panic attacks, I
was not happy about this. Neither was hubby! And after several emails and phone
calls, we eventually got to speak to someone at the sleep
clinic, which was at papworth
said they had not been made aware of any of hubby’s problems or even that he
had a carer. After some discussion of what really happens to hubby, they agreed
to put us into a side room off the ward and brought in a fold up bed so that I
could stay with him.
don’t know about you guys but I hate hospitals. So, as you can imagine, I was
anxious about having to spend a night in one. But I am hubby’s carer and there
is no one else able to go with him or care for him. So it’s left to me and I
have to put hubby 1st, which is sometimes hard to do. Seriously
though, I really do hate going to hospitals. It’s bad enough when hubby has to
go to hospital for various different appointments, but I’ve been to hospital a
few times for my own health problems since I was a kid.
rant over :-)
January was the date of the sleep clinic and I think I was more anxious than
hubby. When we got to the hospital there was nowhere to park. It was so bloody
busy and typical we had left the wheelchair at home (hubby hates it). We
eventually found a temporary parking space and made our way to the main
reception and checked in. We asked the receptionist about parking nearer the
ward and she said it was because of the time of day.
drove over to the ward … 3 disabled space, all taken … then over to the nearest
car park … nothing! We eventually found a “parking space” (basically a gap
between a parked car and a barrier) barely wide enough for the car (never mind
opening the doors) but was fairly close to where we needed to go. Hubby was
gasping for breath and nearly collapsed when we got to the ward desk and we had
to check in again. While we were waiting I could see that hubby was getting
anxious and needed to sit down. The receptionist noticed this too and got us to
go to the day room and wait in there for someone to show us to our room. It’s
very rare for other people to notice when hubby is having a spell and it’s nice
when people do. It makes my job a bit easier! :-)
we waited in the day room for what seemed like forever - especially when hubby
started to have a panic attack! I did what I normally do and told him to focus
a hospital porter came and showed us to our room, which to my horror looked
just like a normal hospital room and there was only one single bed in there. The
room was tiny and the bedding on hubby’s bed was really not fit for purpose. Oh
well, that’s the NHS for you. That said, at least we HAVE an NHS, not like any
other country in the world … but for how long.
we settled ourselves in and had some hospital food ……….. I’m not going to say
another word about the food, but those of you that have had the pleasure of
hospital food will understand what I’m not saying … lol
we knew it, it was time for hubby to be fitted with some fancy headgear. I’m glad
it wasn’t me that had to wear it and sleep in it. I’ve got to admit, I did find
hubby’s new headgear very funny - so I had to take a picture of it and tweet
it. The face hubby is pulling in the picture is just so funny and says it all.
of the people that was attaching hubby’s headgear said there was a spare bed in
a different part of the hospital if I wanted it. I was puzzled by this because
the whole point of me staying with hubby is because I’m his carer and he needs
me with him. Anyway I explained to them that me being somewhere else would not
make sense at all and defeat the reason I was there………………
left me feeling somewhat angry and puzzled, but maybe they didn’t realize that
just because I’m his wife surely I can’t also be his carer? But they were made
aware of this and the other nurses seemed to know … oh well.
Time For Bed Said Zebedee
time and hubby was all tucked in, video camera running, breathing flow meter
was metering and brain scanning thingy was scanning. Not being tired, hubby got
out his portable DVD player while I lay down to try and sleep … but annoyingly
it chose that exact moment to stop working. He couldn’t read his books on his
phone because it would interfere with the equipment, so he had no choice but to
go to bed early (it was about midnight). Strangely hubby slept well that night,
better than he has in ages. And he fell asleep in 8 minutes according to the
computer. Me on the other hand, I did not. I kept waking up to check on hubby.
I had to sleep in what they call a cot (basically a fold up bed), this could
have been one of the reasons I didn’t sleep at all. I’m so used to being next
to hubby and can usually sense if he’s having some kind of spell.
The Day After The Night Before
me and hubby woke up very early the next morning and I had to get a nurse to
give us some more water as we were both really dehydrated. I asked if they
could get someone to remove hubby’s headgear so he could shower, but the sleep
clinic team/doctors wanted hubby to spend the day doing nap tests.I just wanted to eat and come home(!), but
obviously I also had to stay…………bugger! :-)
whatever reason the women that set up the 1st nap test ordered me
out of the room. She didn’t even give me a chance to explain that I was hubby’s
carer. So I anxiously sat in the day room and went on Twitter and Facebook
and had a bit of a chat with some people. Before I knew it hubby was standing
next to me … and guess what? Yep, he’d had a seizure while he was having his
was the point of me being there in case this sort of thing happened!! Grrrrr
even though it wasn’t my fault that I had to leave hubby alone, I still felt
guilty and could only imagined how scared hubby would have felt :-(
I’m not going to bore you with what happened with the rest of the nap tests,
except that hubby did have a few more seizures.
To Dream A Dream
much as I hated being at the sleep clinic/hospital, it was worthwhile. Hubby
seemed to have stumped the doctor and he will be invited back for further
study. He appears to have some symptoms of narcolepsy,
but some that completely contradict a diagnosis of narcolepsy.
he suffers from severe insomnia
(usually he’s up to 3am, 4am, sometimes he will just stay up all night), but at
the clinic he went to bed at around midnight and fell asleep in 8 minutes. He
slept without waking for 6½ hrs ... but never once reached REM/dream sleep
(the human brain usually runs on a 40 minute-ish sleep cycle - light sleep,
deep sleep, dream sleep and round again every 40 minutes or so).
the nap tests throughout the day, Hubby had to lie down and try to relax/fall
asleep for 20 minutes or so. Normally people don't reach dream/REM sleep while
napping (day dreams don't count). But, just to be different, Hubby jumped
straight into dream sleep all 4 times - without even realising he was asleep!!!
this is not right :-)
also shows signs of cataplexy, which would explain some of his falls. Cataplexy is the sudden loss
of muscle tone in arms and/or legs that causes falling. It can also cause
non-epileptic seizures, which as you all know he’s been getting for a while. It
can also cause loss of muscle tone in the face causing difficulty with speech.
Cataplexy happens in 70% of all cases of narcolepsy and is extremely rare
without it, although it can happen when people come off of/go onto high doses
….. the doctor was very interested and wants to do some follow ups. Trust me to
be married to someone that has strange sleep patterns.