Just a little setback, nothing to see here

It seems appropriate to me the only room they have available for the ultrasound of my heart is in pediatrics.

I feel so much like a little girl.

I follow the woman with my paperwork down the hall and into the elevator. She has kind eyes and blond hair. Her shirt is colorful and I want to hold her hand.

I change into my gown, open in the front, and lay on the table. My aunt is with me and we are talking, keeping the mood light and airy.

The gel, heated for the little ones, feels warm on my skin. There are colorful projections of planets and a smiling moon moving across the ceiling.

As I lay there, occasionally hearing my heart on the monitor, all I could think about are the ultrasounds I had with my babies.

I talk to the nurse about my children and my births. She tells me her son’s birth story. We laugh and make a connection while I ignore the nagging fear and reason I am here.

Something is wrong.

My heart started a few weeks ago fluttering madly in my chest. I ignored it at first, but the feeling persisted and got worse. It started to make it hard to breathe.

I tried to tell myself it was just stress, but fear grabbed a hold and wouldn’t let go.

I drink more coffee than water.

I’ve put on a bunch of weight.

I barely move my body.

I eat too much sugar.

I drink too much alcohol.

Ticking off the ways in which I have neglected myself fed my fear.

It grew and grew until it was a mothering-fucking monster.

What if there is something really wrong with me and I don’t go to the doctor? I might die of a heart attack at 38 years old, my children finding me on the floor. The scars of my death will forever be etched into who they are.

What if it is chemical? Maybe my depression and anxiety are worsening and the time for natural remedies and therapy have past. I have seen how hard it is to get the right treatment and I fear I’m not strong enough.

So I called the doctor and the testing began.

Blood work.

EKG.

Ultrasound.

heartYesterday they attached a monitor to me that I have to wear for 24-hours. It will monitor my heart and give them a clearer understanding of what is going on.

I’m not going to lie.

I’m scared.

I keep telling myself to stay calm and wait for answers. So many people have gone through this and it ends up being nothing. Or it ends up being something and you fight it and get better. Or you don’t get better, but you keep fighting anyway.

I’m in no way unique or special. My very best friend has been dealt the medical roulette of health issues, adding Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fibromyalgia to the list just yesterday. My young sister-in-law faces a hysterectomy and a future without the kids she wants. Another friend is fighting breast cancer, unable to walk from the treatments.

I know all this, yet I am still terrified.

I am the only mother to my children and this all feels heavy and scary.

I want someone to hold me. I want to cry.

School starts tomorrow and it feels like a new year, a new beginning. I always make promises to myself this time of year. I will use the time the kids are in school to exercise, finally tackle my messy house and maybe even keep up on my writing without staying up all night.

All these promises I make, as readily and as fervently as any New Year’s Resolution. They are just as carelessly discarded when they get hard or no longer suit me. Distraction and obligation keep me busy.

Yet, here I sit with this heart monitor and immense fear. Both are screaming to me that I need to make the time for me now.

I need to stop worrying what others think of me, or if I am doing enough.

It is time for me to be strong.

I am not a little girl.

Advertisements

Sometimes you really do have to clean the bathroom

“I had some trouble with the bathroom,” my daughter’s friend tells me.

“OK,” I answer in a whisper from my place on the couch.

She stomps upstairs and I hear the girls playing again. They are not having a fabulous time and I feel guilty and angry. This was not the plan.

I watch the clock. My fever is gone, but the headache is so bad that I can barely lift my head without feeling sick.

I close my eyes and I hear a knock at the door. The play date is over and her dad is here. I make small talk as sweat pours off me.

“You need help with anything?” the father asks.

I assure him that I am fine as feelings of nausea sweep over me and I clutch the side of the couch to avoid falling.

“Call me if you need anything,” he says.

The second the door closes I collapse on the couch.

I hate feeling weak.

My mind yells at me that I’m worthless and pathetic.

Get up.

Push through it.

Knock it off.

My daughter brings me an ice pack for my head and I try really hard not to cry.

A few hours later my husband arrives. I’ve made it.

“What’s the deal with the bathroom,” he says.

“What?” I answer.

“It’s completely flooded,” he says.

Oh. That’s what she was telling me. I don’t get up. He brings me some medicine and forces me to drink some water. An hour later he and my daughter leave to go get food.

The medicine has made the headache a bit more manageable, so I will myself to look at the bathroom.

It’s gross.

Super gross.

That’s when some switch clicks and I go into full cleaning mode.

I go upstairs and grab towels to soak up the water. Then I go into the garage to get the mop and bucket and I wash the floor, the toilet and the hall. I’m dizzy and sweating, but I push past it.

My husband comes home just as I’m finishing up.

“I was going to do that later,” he says.

I don’t believe him.

It’s my responsibility and I push myself harder. I clean the guinea pig cages, because they are disgusting and they need it. I see tons more that needs to be done, but my body has had it.

I go to bed and collapse feeling satisfied that I did something.

See. I’m not worthless.

***

This is not an isolated episode in my life.

Whenever I feel the absolute worse, I feel compelled to push myself as hard as I can.

Some might call it being a martyr.

“Look at how hard I can work even when I’m sick.”

Maybe it is that.

It feels very primal to me.

“Please don’t give up on me, I can still be useful.”

For years I have seen this trait in myself as self-destructive and negative. I saw it as a result of not feeling cared for and loved by others. Not being able to ask for or receive help.

It’s probably all of that.

But I’m starting to see there is something else there too.

Something good.

There is a drive in me to do hard things. To push myself even when I don’t want to do something. To prove that I can do things even when it seems impossible.

It’s strength.

I am strong.

Being sick is just when it’s most noticeable, but I am strong all the time.

When I am at my lowest, I still push past those feelings of defeat and get up. Every day I fight my insecurities and move forward.

Even as I write that I think about how hard other people have it and I’m nervous to even call myself strong. I feel that if I say that, it will illuminate my flaws for all to see.

Others have struggles so much more than me. I know those fighting cancer, depression, bi-polar, divorce and daily physical pain so intense that they have to live on drugs.

Yet I call myself strong.

But I have to stop doing that. It’s not a competition of pain or struggle. It’s OK to think I’m strong and to be proud of the steps I’m taking.

Proud of how far I’ve come.

I’ve started tracking my food again and caring about what I put in my body.

I’ve started running again and signed up to run in a relay in December. I’ll run 6 miles.

I’ve made adventurous summer plans that push me to be active and around people.

All this terrifies me.

But I’m going to do it anyway. I’m going to demand more from myself and I’m going to start seeing myself as the person I am.

I. Am. Strong.