My heart was racing, pounding as hard as it could against my chest. I felt the air leave my lungs and I struggled to take another breath. My hand was touching the car door but I couldn’t move. I couldn’t open it. My legs went weak and I stared blankly into the distance. Thought after thought circled through my mind.
“What could happen if I leave him?”
“What if he has a seizure?”
“Why does this keep happening to us?”
“How am I supposed to do my job like this?”
“What if I can’t concentrate?”
“What if I panic in a meeting?”
“What if I can’t stop crying?”
“I can’t do this”
“This is too much”
I ran back inside the house and fell to the ground. Tears streaming down my face. I felt like a failure. I felt defeated. I knew I needed help.
One Week Earlier
Country music played as I groaned, hit the snooze button and pulled the covers back over my head. I used to be much more of a morning person but this weekend had completely wiped me out. Saturday night was spent with my husband in A&E after having two seizures in a row. The first being a rather violent tonic clonic seizure that he was lucky to have been lying down on the bed for when it started. Thankfully, he was given a full check over in A&E and then discharged home once he was a few hours clear of the seizures. As you can imagine though I didn’t sleep well that night. I was so anxious about him seizing again that I woke up regularly and stirred at even the slightest sound.
The alarm sounded again and I knew I couldn’t fight it any longer so I forced myself to get up. I got ready much more slowly than usual. I was so tired and the motivation just wasn’t there. As I was trying to gear myself up to leave the tears came. They wouldn’t stop. I could feel my heart racing and my breathing was erratic. I was in no fit state to get to work. I rang in sick and spent the rest of the day in bed. That week was pretty much a write off. I couldn’t find the motivation to do anything. All I could think about was everything bad that had happened. The stroke, the aphasia, the seizures, the second stroke, the role reversal, the financial problems and having to sell our house. The list goes on.
I had it in my head though that I would be back at work on Monday. All I needed was a bit of rest. So I spent that weekend gearing myself up. Telling myself it would be fine. That I could do it. Work would be a distraction. That’s what I tried to tell myself. It’s what my mother, sister and husband all tried to tell me. I knew it wouldn’t be though. It’s an added pressure. My job is essentially a service manager in the NHS. It’s a busy, stressful but rewarding job that I enjoyed doing. However when you are under pressure all day at work and coming home to a different type of pressure it all becomes too much to cope with.
Monday morning came and I woke with a feeling of sheer dread. I lay in bed feeling like a baby elephant was sitting on my chest. Nevertheless I got up and dressed. I put my make up on and got my bag together for work. I just couldn’t shake the feeling though. Every minute that went by I felt the heaviness worsen. I sat down and cried. Finn sat with me. Holding me but unsure what to say. He got me to try phoning my mum but she was still asleep so we facetimed my sister in New Zealand. She gave me a pep talk and got me to stop crying. Her advice was go to work and if you can’t do it once you’re there just leave. Seemed a reasonable idea. Just take that first step and it will probably be OK. I still felt terrified at the thought of the leaving. I stood looking at the front door for what felt like an eternity before I got up the courage to open it and leave the house. It was as though there was an invisible wall there that I just couldn’t walk though. As I got to my car though that’s when the full blown panic attack hit me. I knew I was in no fit state to work or drive my car. I gave in to the anxiety.
After leaving a message on my manager’s answerphone (for which i only managed one word before the tears came again), I called my GP and was given an appointment that morning. I was started on Citalopram and signed off work for two weeks. Two weeks later my dosage was increased and I was signed off for a further two weeks which then turned into two months. In that time I have made sure I have had time to look after myself. I go to counselling, I meditate and practice mindfulness, I started this blog and I have taken up yoga. Some of those things Finn can participate in too which is great for both of us. My mood has improved significantly, as has the anxiety however I still have my bad days. They just aren’t as intense as they were back at the beginning of December. I know I have triggers but I also know the things I can do to get myself back on track. Even on the days where I just don’t want to get out of bed I make a plan that the next day I will do at least one thing that will help. Like meditation or gentle yoga to start the day right. I tell myself that if I do that one thing and still want to get back in bed then that’s fine. Baby steps and all that. Nine times out of ten though once I get going I don’t stop.
One thing this experience has made me realise though is that my career no longer fits with my circumstances. Having been at home has been the best thing for both me and Finn. Finn has someone to talk to and practice his speech with. While I was working I would leave at 7am and be back home at 7pm. We’d both be tired and neither of us would have the energy for an aphasic conversation. That didn’t benefit anyone. I am therefore seeing this as an opportunity. I have decided to take a break from my career to help and be there for Finn’s recovery and in the meantime I plan to enrol on home study. The aim in the future is to embark on a more flexible career that I can do from home. Wish me luck! 🙂