As I sit thinking about Bell Let’s Talk Day, two things come to mind. Why do we need an actual day as a reminder to reach out to those around us? Shouldn’t we be doing that all the time regardless? Why do we have to have an actual “label” for our conditions? And why do we have to admit we are “struggling” to have support?
Last year we found out my Mother in Law was diagnosed with incurable cancer. Our family was completely devastated. My MIL tried absolutely everything but ultimately in March she was admitted to hospice for her final days. We had gone out to Kelowna for our 3rd annual ski trip, and I soon realized she wasn’t going to get better. So I decided that I would stay and care for her so we could make the most of her final days on earth. We shared a month together; laughing, crying, sharing stories and building memories. It was definitely a roller coaster ride on my emotions, you can learn more about it here.
However the fall out from being under such a high stress situation and neglecting myself finally caught up to me. The first month home, April I was still in complete shock. Her death hadn’t really set in yet. I was still functioning.
May came and I was completely floored. I was sitting working on my computer one evening. My husband was at the gym. I got up form my computer and collapsed to the floor. I lost my balance and everything was spinning. I completely panicked not understanding what was going on with my body. I started having a panic attack and realized it was only making the spinning worse. So I started deep breathing but the room just kept spinning. So I inch wormed my way to my bedroom and I stayed on the floor until he came home. Google said, it will pass on it’s own. Only thing was the next day I was still spinning. So we went to the walk in clinic where the doctor confirmed it was vertigo and it should pass. He said he had five patients with similar symptoms today and not to worry.
A week went by, I got a referral to a physiotherapist. Who confirmed I had benign paroxysmal positional vertigo caused by an infection in my left ear. It would clear up on it’s own. He gave me a list of exercises to do to re-calibrate and re-train my brain.
A month later I was still struggling and had another major vertigo attack lasting 5 days. I gave in and asked my husband to give me to the ER. What a waste of time that was. Literally waited 5 hours, to find out I would be fine and gave my anti-nausea meds, that they typically they gave cancer patients. Actually this was the same meds my MIL took in her final days… strange right.
At this point I demanded my doctor to run more tests. I needed to know what was causing my vertigo, extreme nausea and now anxiety. I was at this point sick for 3 months unable to work, cook or even look after my family. I felt weak and basically slept most days. Going out in public was extremely exhausting. I talked with my healthcare team to rule out what our next steps would be. I did blood work to check on major organs and to rule out cancer, they all came back fine. I went to an ear nose and throat specialist who ran another batch of tests and they all came back fine. I was grateful that the tests weren’t showing anything serious but I become more and more frustrated. Everyone was completely baffled. I was working with my family doctor and my natural path trying to figure this out. The best they could come up with was a virus. But I felt like there just had to be a label and explanation of my illness. A virus was too broad and there wasn’t enough evidence in my mind. I was determined to figure this out…
But then I remember talking to my physiotherapist. He said, “Why does it matter what the label is. You have symptoms we need to treat regardless of what you want to call it. It can be called “purple xyz” but it doesn’t change the symptoms.” BINGO.
I remember leaving the appointment and just crying. Friends and family would ask , how are you? I struggled to be truthful and say I was still sick and exhausted. 3 months later and everyone expected a diagnosis. But I had nothing to tell them. So without the diagnosis I left unsupported. No one offered to visit or help me.
My body was so worn down; my adrenal glands were completely shot. I was throwing up for close to a month straight so I had also lost close to 15 lbs. The sickness completely took me over. I was scared to leave my house because, I didn’t know what I would do if I got a vertigo attack or heaven forbid threw up. I felt over stimulated all the time; cars driving around me felt like they were going so fast. I felt like people around me were just staring at me. I felt so incredibly alone.
I went back to the doctor and said you have to help me. I feel so incredibly alone. I feel so sad and weak. I’m scared of the vertigo that I am scared to keep on living. She said enough is enough and determined I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This mental health condition is trigged by a terrifying event, aka watching my MIL die before my eyes. I had never gone through this before. But it all started to make sense now.
What I realized during this time was, it was my season to heal. I had to get really authentic with my feelings and be ok with where I was at. I felt guilty having to nap three times a day but that is what my body needed. The guilty feeling didn’t do anything positive for me just made me feel worse. I stopped labeling my negative feelings and started focusing on the positive. I needed to slow down. Society makes us feel like we need to constantly be busy with projects on the go. We are only of value if we are accomplishing tasks.
Well in the 3 months I accomplished very little but I was so grateful when I could take care of myself again. Then I started making lists of all the things I accomplished. My naps decreased and my energy levels have improved. I’m not 100 percent but I am doing a lot better. I also realized that I was always the person that helped other people. When they needed something I was there no questions asked. Then when I got sick I was really shocked who was there for me. Instead of people offering to help I actually had to ask people for their help. That was something I was not use to doing. At first I felt completely guilty but then I shut down my independent voice and said this is your season to heal it is ok to ask for help and remember those who have been around to help you.
So a big thank-you to those who helped me; my husband worked from home when I was too scared to be alone. He surrounded me with love, affection and praise. My mom came and helped me clean my house, make meals and helped with the laundry. My friend (who I didn’t even know all that well at the time, my husbands best friends wife) surrounded me with love, friendship and encouragement. It took a village but I am sooo grateful for my village to get me to where I am today.
This past year taught me…
- To always remain faithful to God. Don’t question him, just trust him.
- To ask for help when I need it. We all need a village of people we can turn to; thick through thin.
- And the boundaries I need to set to protect myself. I only have so much energy, love and support to give. Who best deserves my time and energy.
I share my story today to offer support to all those struggling regardless of “your label” or situation. I have PTSD; it isn’t permanent, life threatening (even thought at times it feels that way) or crushing any of my dreams or accomplishments. I am not letting it control my life any longer, 3 months was long enough. If you choose to judge me based on my label/challenges, that is your decision. But I encourage you to come from a place of love and compassion; not expectations and judgment. Give people a chance, because all they need is just one person to believe in them.
Now is my time to shine and use my God given talents and rediscover my purpose so I am able to fall in love with life again.