Connecting the Dots: My Continual Ache Defined


It’s been awhile, and although I do share tidbits extra often on social media and by way of my e-newsletter, I wished to do a full write up of what has been happening. I haven’t revealed a weblog submit since April, so this can be a lengthy overdue replace. It shares some thrilling skilled information, but additionally the private because it pertains to my well being.

This group has been an enormous a part of what has stored me afloat throughout the previous couple of, troublesome years. With my restricted bandwidth because of the ongoing spinal cerebrospinal (CSF) leak, I’ve needed to minimize out a number of the work I wish to do. The weblog was placed on hiatus first, as a result of updating on social media (primarily Instagram) is faster and fewer labour intensive.

However whereas I’ve not been placing out new posts right here, I’ve spent many hours updating the backend of the web site, and dealing on a variety of different issues that I wished to share. I’ve additionally seen specialists and discovered extra about my physique, sufficient that that info sheds a really completely different gentle on the a few years of continual ache I endured previous to my CSF leak.

It has taken time to course of the thread that now connects dots I by no means thought to attach, and I wished to maintain my group up to date.

Private Updates

A number of updates about how I’m feeling, these linked dots, and the place I’m dwelling.

Transferring to Gatineau, Quebec and Dwelling Semi-Independently

Since Might, I’ve been dwelling in Gatineau, throughout the river from Ottawa. My brother lives in Ottawa, and my plan is to finally transfer there as properly. For now, although, Gatineau has been a stunning center floor. I received to spend a summer time wandering right down to the water, seeing my household, and studying learn how to reside largely alone, with a leak.

Gatineau Quebec
Unfiltered / unedited picture from a sundown over the Ottawa River, taken from the Gatineau facet.

My brother and his companion come over as soon as per week to assist with issues I can not do, like getting groceries for me, and doing my laundry and my vacuuming. I’m fortunate that I’ve them to choose up the slack that my leak steals away, and I’ll by no means complain about getting extra time with folks I like a lot.

At first, adjusting to the condo felt actually deflating. There have been many issues that I couldn’t attain, or use. The mattress was too low and really painful to get out and in of. The freezer was a drawer below the fridge, so I couldn’t open it with out making my CSF leak worse. The dishes and pots have been too heavy for me to clean myself, or use comfortably. The checklist went on.

These are fixable issues, after all. I received a mattress pad, a tiny freezer, and new light-weight dishes and a small pot to make use of, thanks in no small half to the Amazon present playing cards you bought me for my birthday.

However the preliminary weeks right here felt actually deflating. As people we’re so good at adjusting. Typically too good, and we overlook the place we actually are. The attitude I misplaced was that I’m truly extra disabled than I remembered, one thing that hit me arduous after I moved into this condo.

Like anything, adjusting to this new life has its ups and downs, and finally I received previous the frustration and began strategizing methods to repair the issues I used to be dealing with. I additionally received a kitchen rolling cart, numerous canvas storage bins since the whole lot has to sit down on counters to be reachable for me, and some different issues that make the place extra snug.

I used to be by no means certain if I’d even have the ability to reside independently once more. So whereas there’s a lot I want I might do, I’m very grateful that I’m able to have extra autonomy after years of being so depending on others for each little factor.

jodi ettenberg gatineau quebec
It’s 3.5 km to the Ottawa River and again, and I’m past grateful that I’m able to stroll there when my physique permits.

Spinal CSF Leak Standing

As I discussed, my spinal CSF leak continues to be lively. However my physique both appears to have produced extra CSF, giving me some extra “uptime”, or it has gotten barely higher. I did have a whopper of a setback earlier than my birthday in August, however finally I’ve come again to baseline once more. That baseline now could be higher than it was final 12 months right now. I get round 5-6 hours of standing time a day, with many breaks to lie down in between.

The online of that uptime is that I’m able to put some further work in, and I’ve thus divvied up my hours towards a number of the initiatives under. I’ve additionally been in a position to deal with longer walks, which at all times helps raise the spirits.

A share of that uptime goes towards the requirements of life, since I’m dwelling alone. Doing my very own dishes, making ready my very own meals—all of it takes effort and time, and ache. But it surely’s been great, and peaceable, and like rediscovering myself once more.

My life does stay very small, and an “thrilling” day for me is after I go for a barely longer stroll than standard, or make some progress in different methods. Like final month, after I was in a position to go and get take-out meals at a restaurant on my own, for the primary time in a few years. It’s not anyplace close to the depth of the life I used to steer, but it surely stays greater than I believed I’d have the ability to claw again.

The little issues are what I now have fun. And I’m fortunate to have others right here to have fun with me.

Indignant Mast Cells

I lately completed a really lengthy mast cell activation dysfunction web page. Nicely, for now it’s completed! I replace it when new research or analysis comes out.

mast cell activation syndrome symptoms and treatment
Mast cells!

A lot of you know the way robust the final years have been when it comes to reactivity to meals, environments, and different unusual new triggers—like daylight. A few of these points began after I received sick in 2013, however I truly had a few years as a toddler the place I’d cough and itch whereas making an attempt to sleep. This went away after I hit puberty, and remained largely in repose till 2013. Then, when a lumbar puncture gave me a CSF leak, the sleeplessness, itchiness, tickling in my throat and extra got here again, along with many new points. This culminated in my going into anaphylaxis on the desk throughout my ultimate spherical of blood patching.

Ever since, I’ve been struggling to stabilize and calm my immune system. I began studying about mast cells as a result of different CSF leakers with advanced circumstances additionally appeared to have this problem. It was a fellow leaker who prompt I look into it initially.

From the web page I wrote:

Mast cells are “sentinels” of the immune system, a sort of white blood cell that helps management the immune processes within the physique. They’re referred to as resident immune cells as a result of they reside in tissues and never in our bloodstream. They usually reside in tissues everywhere in the physique, from the connective tissue, to the endothelial cells, to the epithelial cells, and even within the mind.

Over time, I stored an enormous folder of notes, research, and protocols and whittled down my very own self-experimentation to one thing that has labored. I used to be in a position to self-refer to a specialist exterior of Canada (fortunately my world journey insurance coverage lined the lab work wanted to check for it, however not the specialist appointments themselves), and journey to the USA to do the required testing.

Testing confirmed that I do, actually, have this dysfunction. It’s a doozy, and it impacts each facet of my day-to-day life, along with the leak. I went from consuming tons of road meals and touring the world, to going into anaphylaxis with sure smells, meals, or insect stings.

Given how many individuals have written me over time with unusual reactions, hives, thick sticky blood, bone ache, rashes, itching, complications, and rather more, I wished to share the sources web page as a result of it goes into signs attributable to every of the techniques affected by mast cells when they’re dysfunctional.

As well as, the prevalence of long-covid in the course of the pandemic is related. Anecdotally, lots of you wrote in to say that you simply’ve been identified with a mast cell dysfunction following a COVID-19 an infection. This matches a number of the literature, however analysis is ongoing on this space. A minimum of one mast cell specialist agrees. It’s additionally just like what occurred after I received sick in 2013.

Given these numbers, I wished to ensure I had a useful resource web page for these of you with lengthy covid, too. It has felt so bewildering to handle and sort out this very erratic situation and I understand how exhausting it may be to take a look at the scads of very contradictory info on-line and attempt to make sense of it.

Whereas I’m clearly not a medical physician, nor do I play one on TV, I hope my analysis notes will assist sufferers navigate this difficult illness.

Wonky Connective Tissue

One other thriller solved. It seems that I additionally have a genetic situation that impacts my connective tissue. It’s referred to as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), of which there are completely different subtypes. In keeping with the geneticist I noticed, I’ve the hypermobile kind (referred to as hEDS), the subtype the place the gene has not but been discovered. Prognosis is thus made based mostly on scientific findings.

Approach again after I began writing about this spinal faucet and what occurred thereafter, I mentioned that the sufferers that had connective tissue issues have been those who appeared to have the worst outcomes.

Sadly I’m in that boat.

The geneticist confirmed that disparate points I by no means would have thought to attach all lead again to my collagen synthesis. And that the worsening expression of this situation additionally explains the years of continual ache since I received sick in 2013. (Apparently it’s additionally why I look so younger, although the remainder of my physique feels prefer it’s 90 years previous.)

My appointment with the geneticist was an awesome one. For starters, she was shocked by the power of what I put my physique by throughout my a few years of journey. She instructed me she was stunned it took so lengthy for the whole lot to essentially collapse. She confirmed that in a few of her sufferers, getting a foul virus can worsen the underlying collagen points, which dovetails with the adjustments in my physique and pores and skin after I received sick in 2013.

However even earlier than then, there have been so many unusual quirks that ran in components of my household however didn’t appear to have an effect on my buddies. These included how my ligaments simply tore, how I had delayed wound therapeutic, how my pores and skin was smooth and velvety and skinny, how versatile I used to be, the truth that native anesthetics don’t work for me—and extra.

This final issue was additionally why my spinal faucet was so excruciatingly painful.

Previous to the lumbar puncture, any considerations I raised to docs about my rising ache ranges or easily-obtained accidents have been merely dismissed as “stress.” This minimization or ignoring of signs isn’t new, however is frequent. Says geneticist Dr. Clair Francomano,

“Lots of people hear that it’s all of their head, and that there isn’t any physiologic foundation for his or her signs,” Francomano mentioned. “Significantly in the event that they’re healthy-looking younger girls, sadly there’s a tendency to dismiss their expertise.”

By way of STAT Journal, “On a regular basis bumps injured her joints, however discovering the explanation took half a century

For me, the prognosis was validating. The stretchy pores and skin and painful joints and a lot extra made sense. As does celiac illness and the mast cell points. A 2021 case management report discovered that celiac illness was one of many commonest gastrointestinal circumstances related to EDS, and the affiliation was a lot stronger than in controls. And a unique 2021 evaluation discovered that in hospitalized sufferers with MCAS, 1 in 3 had a comorbid prognosis of hEDS.

But it surely was additionally deflating. Connective tissue dysfunction sufferers appear to be those the place the leak repairs don’t maintain. In my years within the CSF leak teams, these of us with wonky tissues are those who blow out new leaks and/or have their previous ones re-open often, even with surgical procedure. This info is a part of why I’ve been so conservative about pursuing additional procedures.

The prognosis additionally hit me arduous for an additional cause: all through my life, I joked that I used to be scrappy “despite the fact that my physique hated me”. I’d say issues like, “oh I used to be constructed from the faulty components of different folks!” My ex used to say I used to be constructed with no warranties (sure, as legal professionals we thought this was humorous). However the fact was the alternative. Not figuring out I used to be a canary in a coal mine, I put my physique by a lot. I pushed myself to the brink many occasions. I stubbornly stored touring even after I received often sick. Even after I handled years of continual ache. 

And all through I used to be mad.

Mad at my physique, mad at my exhaustion, mad that I couldn’t be “regular” like everybody else. 

Why did I at all times get harm? Or sick? Or exhausted?

Now I’ve my reply. All these years after I was mad at my physique, I ought to have been happy with it. Regardless of these underlying issues I didn’t know, it allowed me to see the world intensely for a decade. 

Now I do know. 

Enterprise Updates

A few of the initiatives I’ve been engaged on within the months since I final revealed.

Sharing Assets about Ache on Patreon

I created the Patreon as a technique to settle for assist from this group, however it’s slowly morphing into a spot the place I additionally share sources for people who find themselves struggling for continual ache, or those that know somebody who’s in ache.

The unhappy actuality is that the majority of us are in a kind of two classes.

Through the years, I’ve acquired many questions on how I’ve coped with my very own ache ranges. Now, I’m getting questions on how somebody can assist an individual in ache. So the Patreon’s AMAs are a spot the place I reply these questions, and add extra sources.

The posts I’ve shared there additionally go into how I made the condo I’m in accessible, and what adjustments to the setup allowed me to deal with dwelling alone with the disabilities I now have. Most lately, as typically folks really feel unhealthy about asking for assist or accepting assist, somebody requested me to speak about learn how to discuss to somebody in ache to assist them get assist if they’re cussed. (I’ll be answering this within the subsequent AMA).

From suggestions thus far, these have been actually helpful. I stay up for sharing extra.

Additionally, I’m now a Patreon ambassador! I received an e mail from them in the summertime, asking if I’d be eager about making use of for an ambassadorship programme they have been constructing. I’m certainly one of a small group of creators (out of their 200,000 customers) who have been accepted.

It’s nonetheless fairly new, and to this point it’s been pretty to satisfy some actually attention-grabbing, tremendous creative folks. The ambassadorship is unpaid, however options workshop—I’ve attended a couple of thus far—and rewarding breakout rooms with others within the programme to share methods and issues/successes. Different perks embrace 1:1 product assist, social media options, enjoyable swag for my Patreon group, in addition to paid alternatives to take part in issues like product focus teams or inventive collaborations with their group.

I don’t understand how they discovered me, and it’s intimidating as a result of lots of the different creators have upwards of 2000 Patrons, however I’m trying ahead to collaborating! On condition that it was all of you who requested me to start out a Patreon, I’ve this group to thank!

In the event you’re eager about becoming a member of the Patreon group, you are able to do so right here.

A One-Time Assist Choice

After I launched my Patreon, I acquired messages from readers who wished to contribute and/or assist me in my work by way of a one-time fee. I didn’t have that in place, however do now.

The Curious About All the pieces E-newsletter

Regardless of all this pleasure of transferring to a brand new place, I’ve managed to maintain my e-newsletter operating. I’ve been taking part in round with format (and emojis, I can’t assist myself), and primarily spotlighting a couple of necessary reads every month, together with extra enjoyable photo-essays and quirky items I discover. I typically embrace private updates, however the focus of the e-newsletter is on proficient and/or necessary writing value studying.

Whereas it’s on Substack, and plenty of writers have moved to a paid e-newsletter mannequin, I don’t plan to take action. The Patreon is the first assist system for my earnings, alongside celiac playing cards and the meals maps store. The e-newsletter I plan to maintain free.

Even when this web site has been extra dormant than I would really like, I really feel glad that CAE has gone out each month for the final 11 months.

You may enroll under in case you are eager about receiving it.

A Huge Piece about Psychological Mindset (Coming Quickly)

I had a submit referred to as Easy methods to Get Via Horrible Instances that I had on this web site, however I’ve briefly taken it down as I deliberate to publish it individually. But it surely, and Instagram posts about resilience and reframing, caught the eye of an editor at a giant outlet, who commissioned a bit about how I discovered pleasure once more regardless of my restricted life.

I’ve been engaged on this piece over the last whereas and it’s nonetheless in modifying, however I’m excited to share it right here together with the republication of the Horrible Instances piece.

Redesign of Authorized Nomads:

You might have observed that the location is a little bit completely different!

Arthur the raven, my mascot, could be very outstanding. Ravens are such extremely curious birds, and I selected one as my web site’s throughline as a way to spotlight that I nonetheless am too, albeit another way to earlier than.

arthur the raven legal nomads

And, a brand new slogan: interested in the whole lot. I’m not telling tales by meals, in order that slogan needed to go. The brand new emblem displays a divergence from my prior lifetime of journey and meals, but additionally the reality of who I at all times was: somebody who wished to be taught as a lot as doable.

I began to really feel actually dissonant after I appeared on the ‘previous’ Authorized Nomads, so this displays extra of the place I’m in life whereas nonetheless sustaining an identical construction.

I’ve added well being and continual ache to the principle classes on the house web page, too, since they’re now a much bigger a part of what I write about.

I had actually particular concepts of what I wished, in order with the final redesign to the location I supplied the belongings (new logos, Arthur the Raven, and many others.) to an internet developer as an alternative of hiring somebody who did branding in addition to growth. The belongings have been inked by my artist-in-Authorized-Nomadsness Ella F. Sanders. The redesign was accomplished by an internet developer who works for fellow journey blogger Mike’s net growth firm. Whereas her work was paid, he donated his personal time professional bono to assist supervise the venture.

Publish Overhauls and Web page Updates:

My morning routine is to rise up, make espresso, after which do some work on the web site till I must take a break.

This has allowed me to slowly replace pages and posts over time, and maintain Authorized Nomads extra present.

Amongst them:

  • The gluten free guides are up to date for 2021. They’re right here.
  • The gluten free New York Metropolis information has additionally been up to date to replicate restaurant closures and a few newcomers to the scene which can be 100% gluten free.
  • I added a historical past of Belize part, and a “the place is Belize positioned” part, as a result of imagine it or not that’s the commonest search time period for this submit. It’s additionally received COVID-19 guidelines for visiting, in the event you have been selecting to threat going now.
  • I up to date the Vietnamese Egg Espresso Recipe with locations to get it in North America, and new items and movies concerning the candy deal with.
  • I up to date my piece on sleep points and jet lag with details about learn how to sleep higher, and new research about chronomedicine and Covid-19.
  • I up to date my Vipassana Meditation retreat expertise with some new knowledge concerning the risks of these sorts of retreats, and the way in some circumstances they will result in a psychological break.
  • The Different Careers for Legal professionals web page has been up to date to incorporate pandemic info, the rise of consultants within the authorized subject, and a extra clear breakdown of learn how to go about shifting careers whenever you really feel overwhelmed occupied with how to take action.
  • In November 2021, I up to date my historical past of chili peppers submit to incorporate the 2021 Nobel Prize profitable analysis on capsaicin, somatosensory receptors, and ache.

RSS-to-E-mail Modifications: Feedburner isn’t any extra. RIP Feedburner.

Google has been threatening to chop RSS-to-email choices for Feedburner for a few years. The service was deprecated years in the past, and this July they lastly mentioned that they have been accomplished supporting that possibility. So I had to determine what service to make use of as a way to get these folks their emails. (Since I barely write right here, I had numerous time to do that!)

For these of you who opted to obtain Authorized Nomads updates by way of e mail, new posts will probably be despatched by an organization referred to as ConvertKit. I used to be planning on switching to them proper earlier than my CSF leak occurred, so it solely took me an additional few years. My good friend Nathan began the corporate and is a extremely pretty human being; I’d a lot slightly give my cash to proficient buddies than strangers!

In the event you’re not getting Authorized Nomads by way of e mail, you’ll be able to enroll by way of the shape under. That is only for LN posts (about each six months, when it comes to publishing schedule today!). My month-to-month e-newsletter above is separate.

In the event you have been already subscribed to get Authorized Nomads posts by e mail, you don’t want to do something. I wished to clarify why the emails look completely different, and let everybody know they will additionally enroll that method if they like.

That’s it for now!

Whereas the ache I’m in by no means goes away, these initiatives and my newfound autonomy have helped make these previous few months a number of the greatest in years. I is probably not cellular or touring the world anymore, however I imagine that I’m in a position to assist extra folks than ever earlier than.

Whether or not it’s serving to navigate robust occasions, understanding ache and loss, or simply giving extra context to the sicknesses of family members, this work feels helpful.

And feeling helpful goes a good distance towards life satisfaction for me.

Thanks for permitting me to share this journey with you.

Till subsequent time,

Edited so as to add: I acquired a couple of messages saying I’m fortunate to reside in Canada as a result of I might simply see specialists. Sure, I like Canada, however that isn’t what occurred. Canada’s system is nice when you’ve got a typical, costly illness. You’ll not go bankrupt as a consequence of medical care when getting therapy for most cancers, for instance. However entry to specialist care, particularly for uncommon illnesses, could be very troublesome. I’ve additionally been in Quebec for a very long time and nonetheless shouldn’t have a main care doctor, as a result of the waits are so lengthy. I can thus not get a referral to a specialist.

With a purpose to see these specialists, together with throughout my time at Duke, I needed to struggle arduous to get care. I feel a number of the expertise you be taught touring long run apply right here, too; when a path to getting from A to B is not doable, you begin to search for different, inventive connections between them.

For me, this meant self-referring to the mast cell specialist and to the geneticist, but it surely took a very long time to make it occur. Concurrently, I stored making an attempt to go by way of the traditional route right here in Canada. I’m privileged that my world medical plan I used on my travels lined a few of these appointments.

The medical techniques in each nations have their issues, and their advantages. I discovered it troublesome to navigate as I sought out these solutions, but it surely took my determining that these circumstances matched what was happening, then attending to specialists to see if these theories have been right. I in any other case wouldn’t have gotten care.


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