Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thoughts on Motherhood : The Burden of Responsibility (this is a long post but one that needed to be written))

Lets' face it, as a mom I put myself last all the time. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of self neglect when I am wrapped up in mothering my children. I hate to admit this but until recently I hadn't been to the dentist in a hundred years. Somehow, I just fell of my own radar. Shameful, I know.

So when I read an article that linked heart disease to tooth decay, I foolishly decided to research the symptoms of heart disease on the Internet. Just the day before I had pinched a nerve in my shoulder when I was dragging the trash can down the driveway and carrying Koen on my hip. I bent over to grab the trash and felt my shoulder, left peck muscle, and arm strain to hold my big boy's weight.

You can imagine my shock to see that pain in the shoulder and arm is one of the symptoms of heart disease. At that moment, I decided that my heart was in trouble. It is so unfortunate that the symptoms of a panic attack are so similar to a heart attack because I worked myself up into quite a tizzy time and time again. Heart racing, head pounding, short of breath, pain in the arm, chest heaving, panic induced moments. My mind wandered to unsafe places late at night, where my children were left confused and motherless.

I eventually couldn't take the worry and went to the dentist and the doctor to get checked out. There was good news at the dentist, only a good peridontal cleaning would be needed to get my mouth back in shape. The doctor visit went well too. My heart was healthy and my shoulder pain was due to my pinched nerve. She referred me to a physical therapist and told me to quit searching the Internet to self diagnose.

She also said that it is really common for mothers of young children to fall victim to the burden of responsibility of raising kids. There is more to live for and more to lose than ever before and so the worry creeps in that maybe one day, you won't be there for your kids. I wasn't crazy or dying, I had just allowed myself to go to that scary place.

I wish that my story ended here, happy and with a healthy heart but a whole new set of problems manifested after my trip to the dentist. I had been prescribed Lortab for pain after my deep cleaning and it inflamed what I thought was my spleen. The pain started out subtle and I'll spare you the gross details but I had some serious digestive issues.

I just couldn't resist doing a little research on WebMD even though I knew better. All kinds of dangerous diseases could be found there that matched my symptoms. Pancreatitis , cancer, leukaemia, irritable bowel syndrome, gall stones, the possibilities were endless. I laid in bed at night and worried as my tummy churned.

4 months went by as I struggled with my digestive issues. I tried cutting out all kinds of things from my diet. Bye bye alcohol, caffeine, sodas, and fried foods. I drank a ton of water and I did yoga. Nothing helped. In an act of desperation I said a prayer late one night.

"Dear God,
Please take away my spirit of worry and give me clarity."

After my prayer, one word popped into my mind loud and clear. It was as if God sent an angel to whisper comfort and the truth into my ear. "Gluten" was the word that I heard.

The next day, I had a follow up visit with my dentist and the conversation came around to my phantom terminal illness. She listened intently and told me that she thought that it sounded like I had a gluten intolerance because she had been diagnosed and had some of the same symptoms.

I rushed home and made an appointment with my doctor to discuss this possibility. I felt calm and peaceful for the first time in months. After we talked, she agreed and I am going on a Gluten free diet. I feel so relieved to know what has been happening to my body. I am on day 3 of my new Gluten free life and although I still have some healing to do, I feel much better already.

So, I am not dying from a horrible disease. My back is strong and healthy after completing my physical therapy. The panic attacks are gone. My head feels like a fog is slowly lifting. I can't believe how worried I've been about myself. Now that the burden is lifted, I have to promise to not let myself go to that worry place again.

I am strong.
I am healthy.

I feel like I'm coming home to myself.


Sue said...

It's so important for mothers to take time for themselves. I'm glad you are doing that, Leigh.

I hope health surrounds and embraces you.


angel shrout said...

I am the world's worst when it comes to my own health. I have spent more then my fair share in ERs and hospitals with my boys and my mom until her death. We won't even talk about my teeth, all I can say is thanks Dad. Oh BTW did you see the article that said that there may not be a link to tooth decay and heart disease. There is not enough research to prove the theory.. but I am glad that it got you to take care of you and find out it was something simple.

Katherine said...

I don't often think of it, but when I do, I realize that between my job and my family, I rarely take time for myself, especially on important things, like health.

But I agree with your doctor - using the internet to diagnosis yourself is dangerous, and always ends with me thinking I'm going to die.

Lichen said...

Your post had me thinking about what a difference just going lighter on gluten might make in one's life. So I went to the grocery intending to buy some gluten free versions of what I normally would buy -WHOLLY COW I can't afford to be gluten free!. $2 for bagels, vs $5.49

Linda D. said...

Yes.. we've all allowed ourselves to get into a cycle of health worries that end up with imaginations about horrible diseases and outcomes! But, the good news is that going to the doc and changing diet and make huge improvements and make our lives rosey again! A good lesson for us all! Thanks for sharing and feel better.

Caroline said...

Leigh, I am so glad that you (and the doctors) were able to figure that out! That is no joke! My neighbor is a celiac (did I say that right? Isn't that what people who are allergic to gluten are called?) and she gets joint pain, digestive troubles and on and on if she has gluten.

I don't take nearly as much care of myself as I should. There is always so much to do and it seems like we Mamas are always up for the task. Last comes ourselves when really, as the experts always say, we should come first so we can care for our crew.

Anyway, sending love to you friend and I'm glad your feeling better!