Thursday, March 12, 2015

Learning to accept that my normal may be different than someone else's normal.

So...  I've never been one to hold back on sharing feelings and thoughts, I'm pretty much an open book, but still, this confession seems harder than normal.  Here goes...

    So, on Tuesday night I started getting a headache, like I normally do.  I get them a lot, sometimes they are so bad that light and sound bother me.  Occasionally, I even feel a little nauseous.  Sounds like migraines, right?  Why don't I just call it a migraine?  I'll explain in a minute, first some background.
   15 years ago, I only got them right before getting sinus infections.  Then, over the years, as I started having kids I began getting them more frequently.  Whenever I would get one, I would immediately think, "when did I last have something to drink?" No, not alcohol, just liquid in general - the answer was usually "yesterday."  Yep, I would forget to drink.  Who forgets to have water?  Me, that's who.  Sometimes there were days (and still are) where the milk in my cereal is the only liquid I have all day until I realize it and have a 1/2 bottle of water at night before bed.  The dehydration headaches I get were bad... REALLY bad.  I am getting better about the drinking to avoid those headaches, but there are still days I don't have more than 16 oz., which isn't a whole lot of liquid.  Lately, I have been getting headaches more frequently and without obvious cause.
   Why not call them migraines?  Because, although I often diagnose myself with the help of the internet, and although I was quite certain that's what they were, migraines are serious and I didn't want to diagnose myself with something that is very serious for some people.  You're thinking this: Diagnose yourself?  Why not see a doctor?  That's the problem with me... I don't like to see doctors because I am afraid that they will either tell me I've got something really wrong or WORSE, say something like, "You came in for that? That's normal for everyone."  Furthermore, seeing a doctor takes time out of my already precious day.  That is why I am pretty sure I have many undiagnosed issues.  But, hey, I can live with them OR I'll die.  Either way, not going to a doctor for it.  That was my philosophy... until yesterday.
  I've been having dizzy spells and they are getting worse.  I have been talking about going to the doctor for the last few weeks but never made that phone call.  Back to Tuesday night, the headache started at 7pm.  I had been drinking water all day, so I was pretty sure that wasn't the problem.  The headache got bad at about 9pm and then tapered off a bit.  I took a Motrin PM so I could sleep.  Woke up on Wednesday and the headache persisted.  I watched Doc McStuffins with my 5 year old and the theme was not to ignore your symptoms.  Then, later there was a commercial that came on and started out with a lady sitting on her couch with large drops of water falling all around her and she just ignored the leaking ceiling as her room filled with water.  The narrator said, "You wouldn't ignore the warning signs of house flood, so, why would you ignore the warning signs from your body?"  Okay, Okay, I get it... I called the doctor.
  The doctor took me seriously.  He knew what questions to ask.  The headache was bad enough at this moment that I couldn't form sentences.  He was very patient as I tried to get my words out.  He would ask how long I had these symptoms, a year, 2 years, I can't remember.  He took my blood pressure.  He told me it was high.  I told him that my blood pressure was very sensitive to the situation.  I was still having a headache and it was likely high because of that.  He had me lay quietly on the examine table for 5 minutes.  He left the room so I could relax and then came back and took my blood pressure again.  It was lower, but still high.  He then asked the million dollar question.  What was my stress level like?
  I don't know.  It was normal.  Just normal.  He probed more... what kinds of things were going on in my life?  You know, the normal things.  I have 4 kids.  My oldest is in his first year of middle school, I just renewed his IEP.  I'm concerned about whether or not all of his needs are being met.  My other 3 kids are all in elementary school.  I have 2 in scouts, 1 in Tae Kwon Do, 2 in dance, 2 in gymnastics, and soccer is getting ready to start.  Because they are all in school this year, I joined the PTA for the first time.  I'm an officer.  I have a dear friend who is in and out of the hospital as she fights cancer, she has a 2 year old.  I help care for and coordinate the care for her little boy.  I worry about her, constantly.  I wish I could do more to help.  I feel guilty that I can't fix it.  I teach Sunday school and prepare a lesson for that every week.  I wonder if I make a difference.  My house is a mess.  I can't fix it.  I try but I'm tired.  Sometimes my husband travels for work, luckily, not as often as he used to.  I have depression that is sneaking it's way back into my life.  I worry about it and wonder if will get too bad.  The doctor stared at me.  He smiled and said, "your plate is very full, my friend."  He then invited me to sit down in a chair, off the exam table, and talk about it.  "Why haven't you seen a doctor until now?"  I didn't have time.  It wasn't a priority.  "You have a classic case of what I call 'Mom Syndrome.'  You put everyone else first and forget to take care of yourself.  I believe your symptoms are caused by your high blood pressure and we will treat that.  First, we'll treat the symptoms to make sure they aren't causing the high blood pressure.  You also have anxiety.  It is possible the anxiety is causing all of this."  I walked out with 4 prescriptions.  So... why can't I handle all of this?  Other people have way more going on than I do.  I don't feel overwhelmed.  I don't feel like I can't handle it, I don't actually feel stressed out.  It doesn't seem like a lot to me.  I should be able to handle this normal amount of life.  Why can't I?  Now I feel a little like a failure.  I already let lots of things go.  I allow myself to watch TV while I eat lunch.  Other people can do all of this, have a wonderfully clean home, and be able to balance all of it, some even have careers on top of all of it.  It feels awful to know that I can't be amazing like EVERY OTHER WOMAN I KNOW.
  But, I NEED to accept that I may not be able to do as much as other people.  I may have to cut back.  I will have to learn to accept that my kids won't have amazing birthday parties, well thought out meals, or fancy things - like walls with decorations.  Learning to accept this is harder than going to the doctor...  baby steps.

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