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HomeTravelConnecting the Dots: My Persistent Ache Defined

Connecting the Dots: My Persistent Ache Defined


It’s been awhile, and although I do share tidbits extra steadily on social media and by way of my e-newsletter, I needed to do a full write up of what has been occurring. I haven’t printed a weblog put up since April, so it is a lengthy overdue replace. It shares some thrilling skilled information, but additionally the non-public because it pertains to my well being.

This neighborhood has been an enormous a part of what has saved me afloat throughout the previous couple of, tough years. With my restricted bandwidth because of the ongoing spinal cerebrospinal (CSF) leak, I’ve needed to minimize out a few 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 plenty of different issues that I needed to share. I’ve additionally seen specialists and discovered extra about my physique, sufficient that that data sheds a really completely different gentle on the a few years of persistent 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 needed to maintain my neighborhood up to date.

Private Updates

Just a few updates about how I’m feeling, these linked dots, and the place I’m residing.

Transferring to Gatineau, Quebec and Dwelling Semi-Independently

Since Might, I’ve been residing 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 beautiful center floor. I acquired to spend a summer season wandering right down to the water, seeing my household, and studying stay largely alone, with a leak.

Gatineau Quebec
Unfiltered / unedited photograph from a sundown over the Ottawa River, taken from the Gatineau aspect.

My brother and his companion come over as soon as per week to assist with issues I can’t 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 really like a lot.

At first, adjusting to the condominium 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 underneath 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 scrub myself, or use comfortably. The record went on.

These are fixable issues, in fact. I acquired 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 reward 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. Generally too good, and we neglect the place we actually are. The attitude I misplaced was that I’m really extra disabled than I remembered, one thing that hit me laborious once I moved into this condominium.

Like anything, adjusting to this new life has its ups and downs, and finally I acquired previous the frustration and began strategizing methods to repair the issues I used to be going through. I additionally acquired a kitchen rolling cart, plenty of canvas storage bins since every little thing has to sit down on counters to be reachable for me, and some different issues that make the place extra comfy.

I used to be by no means positive if I’d even be capable of stay independently once more. So whereas there’s a lot I want I may 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 further “uptime”, or it has gotten barely higher. I did have a whopper of a setback earlier than my birthday in August, however in the end I’ve come again to baseline once more. That baseline now could be higher than it was final yr at the moment. 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 additional work in, and I’ve thus divvied up my hours towards a few of the initiatives beneath. I’ve additionally been in a position to deal with longer walks, which all the time helps carry the spirits.

A share of that uptime goes towards the requirements of life, since I’m residing 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 once I go for a barely longer stroll than traditional, or make some progress in different methods. Like final month, once 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 guide, nevertheless it stays greater than I assumed I’d be capable of 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.

Offended Mast Cells

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

mast cell activation syndrome symptoms and treatment
Mast cells!

Lots of you know the way robust the final years have been by way of reactivity to meals, environments, and different unusual new triggers—like daylight. A few of these points began after I acquired sick in 2013, however I really had a few years as a baby the place I might cough and itch whereas attempting to sleep. This went away once 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 complicated instances additionally appeared to have this challenge. It was a fellow leaker who recommended 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 known as resident immune cells as a result of they reside in tissues and never in our bloodstream. And so they reside in tissues all around the physique, from the connective tissue, to the endothelial cells, to the epithelial cells, and even within the mind.

Over time, I saved 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 outdoors of Canada (fortunately my international 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, in reality, 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 avenue meals and touring the world, to going into anaphylaxis with sure smells, meals, or insect stings.

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

As well as, the prevalence of long-covid throughout the pandemic is related. Anecdotally, a lot of you wrote in to say that you just’ve been identified with a mast cell dysfunction following a COVID-19 an infection. This matches a few 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 acquired sick in 2013.

Given these numbers, I needed to verify 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 have a look at the scads of very contradictory data 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 known as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), of which there are completely different subtypes. In response to the geneticist I noticed, I’ve the hypermobile sort (known as hEDS), the subtype the place the gene has not but been discovered. Prognosis is thus made primarily based on scientific findings.

Method again once I began writing about this spinal faucet and what occurred thereafter, I stated 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 persistent ache since I acquired 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 amazing one. For starters, she was stunned by the pressure of what I put my physique by way of throughout my a few years of journey. She informed me she was stunned it took so lengthy for every little thing to essentially collapse. She confirmed that in a few of her sufferers, getting a nasty virus can worsen the underlying collagen points, which dovetails with the adjustments in my physique and pores and skin after I acquired sick in 2013.

However even earlier than then, there have been so many unusual quirks that ran in elements of my household however didn’t appear to have an effect on my mates. These included how my ligaments simply tore, how I had delayed wound therapeutic, how my pores and skin was delicate 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 issues I raised to medical doctors 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 widespread. Says geneticist Dr. Clair Francomano,

“Lots of people hear that it’s all of their head, and that there is no such thing as a physiologic foundation for his or her signs,” Francomano stated. “Significantly in the event that they’re healthy-looking younger girls, sadly there’s a tendency to dismiss their expertise.”

Through 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 situations related to EDS, and the affiliation was a lot stronger than in controls. And a special 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 steadily, even with surgical procedure. This data is a part of why I’ve been so conservative about pursuing additional procedures.

The prognosis additionally hit me laborious for an additional purpose: 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 elements 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 way of a lot. I pushed myself to the brink many occasions. I stubbornly saved touring even once I acquired steadily sick. Even once I handled years of persistent 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 all the time get damage? Or sick? Or exhausted?

Now I’ve my reply. All these years once 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 number of the initiatives I’ve been engaged on within the months since I final printed.

Sharing Sources about Ache on Patreon

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

The unhappy actuality is that almost all of us are in a type of two classes.

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

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

From suggestions to date, these have been actually helpful. I stay up for sharing extra.

Additionally, I’m now a Patreon ambassador! I acquired an e mail from them in the summertime, asking if I’d be involved in making use of for an ambassadorship programme they have been constructing. I’m one in all 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 beautiful to satisfy some actually attention-grabbing, tremendous creative folks. The ambassadorship is unpaid, however options workshop—I’ve attended a couple of to date—and rewarding breakout rooms with others within the programme to share methods and issues/successes. Different perks embody 1:1 product help, social media options, enjoyable swag for my Patreon neighborhood, in addition to paid alternatives to take part in issues like product focus teams or artistic collaborations with their crew.

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 wanting ahead to collaborating! Provided that it was all of you who requested me to start out a Patreon, I’ve this neighborhood to thank!

When you’re involved in becoming a member of the Patreon neighborhood, you are able to do so right here.

A One-Time Assist Possibility

Once I launched my Patreon, I obtained messages from readers who needed to contribute and/or help 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 things E-newsletter

Regardless of all this pleasure of shifting to a brand new place, I’ve managed to maintain my e-newsletter operating. I’ve been enjoying round with format (and emojis, I can’t assist myself), and primarily spotlighting a couple of essential reads every month, together with extra enjoyable photo-essays and quirky items I discover. I generally embody private updates, however the focus of the e-newsletter is on proficient and/or essential writing price 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 help system for my earnings, alongside celiac playing cards and the meals maps store. The e-newsletter I plan to maintain free.

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

You possibly can join beneath if you’re involved in receiving it.

A Large Piece about Psychological Mindset (Coming Quickly)

I had a put up known as Easy methods to Get By Horrible Occasions that I had on this website, 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 an enormous outlet, who commissioned a chunk about how I discovered pleasure once more regardless of my restricted life.

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

Redesign of Authorized Nomads:

You could have seen that the location is a little bit completely different!

Arthur the raven, my mascot, could be very distinguished. Ravens are such extremely curious birds, and I selected one as my website’s throughline with a view 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 every little thing. I’m now not telling tales by way of 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 all the time was: somebody who needed to study as a lot as attainable.

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

I’ve added well being and persistent ache to the primary 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 needed, in order with the final redesign to the location I offered 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 improvement. The belongings have been inked by my artist-in-Authorized-Nomadsness Ella F. Sanders. The redesign was performed by an internet developer who works for fellow journey blogger Mike’s net improvement firm. Whereas her work was paid, he donated his personal time professional bono to assist supervise the mission.

Put up Overhauls and Web page Updates:

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

This has allowed me to slowly replace pages and posts over time, and hold 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 mirror restaurant closures and a few newcomers to the scene which are 100% gluten free.
  • I added a historical past of Belize part, and a “the place is Belize situated” part, as a result of imagine it or not that’s the commonest search time period for this put up. It’s additionally acquired COVID-19 guidelines for visiting, for those who have been selecting to danger going now.
  • I up to date the Vietnamese Egg Espresso Recipe with locations to get it in North America, and new items and movies in regards to the candy deal with.
  • I up to date my piece on sleep points and jet lag with details about sleep higher, and new research about chronomedicine and Covid-19.
  • I up to date my Vipassana Meditation retreat expertise with some new knowledge in regards to the risks of these sorts of retreats, and the way in some instances they’ll result in a psychological break.
  • The Various Careers for Legal professionals web page has been up to date to incorporate pandemic data, the rise of consultants within the authorized subject, and a extra clear breakdown of go about shifting careers whenever you really feel overwhelmed desirous about how to take action.
  • In November 2021, I up to date my historical past of chili peppers put up to incorporate the 2021 Nobel Prize successful 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 stated that they have been performed supporting that possibility. So I had to determine what service to make use of with a view to get these folks their emails. (Since I barely write right here, I had plenty of time to do that!)

For these of you who opted to obtain Authorized Nomads updates by way of e mail, new posts might be despatched by an organization known 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 buddy Nathan began the corporate and is a extremely beautiful human being; I’d a lot quite give my cash to proficient mates than strangers!

When you’re not getting Authorized Nomads by way of e mail, you may join by way of the shape beneath. That is only for LN posts (about each six months, by way of publishing schedule lately!). My month-to-month e-newsletter above is separate.

When you have been already subscribed to get Authorized Nomads posts by e mail, you do not want to do something. I needed to clarify why the emails look completely different, and let everybody know they’ll additionally join that approach 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 few of the greatest in years. I might not be 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 diseases 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 obtained a couple of messages saying I’m fortunate to stay in Canada as a result of I may simply see specialists. Sure, I really like Canada, however that isn’t what occurred. Canada’s system is nice when you may have a standard, costly illness. You’ll not go bankrupt as a consequence of medical care when getting remedy for most cancers, for instance. However entry to specialist care, particularly for uncommon illnesses, could be very tough. I’ve additionally been in Quebec for a very long time and nonetheless don’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 the intention to see these specialists, together with throughout my time at Duke, I needed to struggle laborious to get care. I feel a few of the expertise you study touring long run apply right here, too; when a path to getting from A to B is now not attainable, you begin to search for different, artistic connections between them.

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

The medical methods in each nations have their issues, and their advantages. I discovered it tough to navigate as I sought out these solutions, nevertheless it took my determining that these situations matched what was occurring, then attending to specialists to see if these theories have been appropriate. I in any other case wouldn’t have gotten care.




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