So to follow on from my last post, I had a huge health-related wake up call at the beginning of last month. As I mentioned, stress and pressure had been building up for a while now and I could feel it, I just kept pushing on – not realising what it was doing to my body and mind. I couldn’t take any time off work because it was so busy and there were a few family issues ongoing that week that were really upsetting to add to the stress – I think it was the final straw.
I’d taken Tommy to the park one lovely sunny morning and met a few of Mummy friends and their little ones. It was a baking, hot summer day – one of those unexpected heatwave type of days that come out of the blue. Of course I was armed with Factor 50 sun-cream for Tommy which I kept slathering him in (and he was in and out of the water fountains) but I forgot about my own neck, which led to me burning pretty badly (I’m very fair!).
We had a lovely morning and stayed over three hours, much longer than I’d anticipated. When we arrived home, Tommy went down for a long nap and I carried on with chores – hanging the washing out and cleaning the house, Friday’s are always a catch up day with working Monday to Thursday. I had some Coco pops for lunch as I was so hot (not a nutritious choice I know!) and went upstairs to put some washing away. As I stood up I felt really funny, like my heart had skipped a few beats – it then jolted and suddenly start beating furiously out of control, it was terrifying.
I’d had these frightening palpitations in my early twenties when I had been going through some difficult periods, but they’d always only lasted for a few minutes and although I’d been left exhausted, my heart had usually returned back to it’s normal rhythm quite quickly. I hadn’t experienced one of these episodes for over seven years, I tried to calm myself down – I lay on my bed, sat up, stuck my head out of the window, took my clothes off (I felt very hot!) – nothing seemed to work.
I can’t describe how it felt only that something was terribly wrong with my heart and I felt like I needed help, so I called my fiancé and asked him to call me an ambulance. Luckily, my Mum was there but she felt panicked and didn’t know what to do, I called the emergency operator whilst waiting for the ambulance as I felt so scared – I thought I was going to collapse and die.
The emergency operator was amazing and kept on reassuring me, she kept me on the line until the ambulance arrived (some ten minutes later) and my heart returned to it’s normal rhythm just before they arrived. The paramedics were fantastic, they took all of my stats – my blood pressure and blood sugar were high but they thought it was because I was so stressed – and I’d not long eaten a big dose of sugar! They were so calm and reassuring and talked me through what had been going on. They suggested that work pressure, having a young child, an upcoming wedding and being in the middle of a family feud had probably triggered an anxiety attack. Satisfied that I was in no real danger, I was referred to a doctor at a local walk in centre later that day and I wouldn’t need to visit a hospital. The female GP I was at the walk-in centre was very dismissive and unsympathetic and put it down to stress. She suggested it may have been an episode of SVT which can apparently happen out of the blue.
I left not feeling very reassured and the next morning did one of the worse things I could do; I Googled it. Stories of SVT’s and how they’d ruined people’s lives popped up as I read forum after forum. I felt terrible and hopeless, I felt like this thing was going to takeover my life. I should have known better, when I’d suffered an overactive thyroid and was pretty poorly the year before, I’d also found many, many stories about how and overactive thyroid had ruined people’s lives and I’d found myself in despair back then. Once again, my long-suffering fiance had to rationalise and reason with me!
I’m so lucky that I have such a supportive and patient partner, he is very level headed and always helps me to see things from a calm and positive light. I am driven by my emotions which means that being with me can be quite a roller-coaster ride! So once Steven had convinced me that my life wasn’t ruined, I felt a little better but like a very different person. I felt a little emotionally numb, I felt fragile.
I was scared to bend over in the way that has brought the episode on, I felt scared to do exercise, to get too hot – i felt very vulnerable. It was hard; for the past 23 months I’d thought I was invincible. I’d pushed and pushed myself – increasingly so over the past six months or so. I’d taken on so much, multi-tasked – I could do it all, I would have it all. I’d worked hard at an increasingly pressurised marketing job for four days each week alongside a two hour a day commute, I’d looked after our toddler in my free time, tried to do as much as possible with him to make up for my time at work, I’d also ran our household – cleaned, tidied, sorted the washing, the cooking, the shopping, the organisation. I’d single-handedly planned our wedding, tried to fit in playdates where I could, tried to start creative projects, learn new recipes, eat well and squeeze exercise into every other free moment. I had also tried to maintain some sort of social life on top of all that and tried to keep a little bit of my old self.
I had been running myself ragged and my body had found a way to warn me it couldn’t cope it with anymore – physically or emotionally. We know that Mums always know best, my Mum had asked me to slow down a few times, she could see it coming. She told me ‘You’re going to burn yourself out’. I told her I’d be fine; this was the modern day after all and women could have it all. Of course she was right, I did burn out.
The anxiety attack/ heart disorder; whatever it was, scared the life out of me and it was the biggest wake-up call I could possibly have been given. When it was happening I was convinced that I was going to die. All I could think was ‘Thomas is going to grow up without his Mum..’, it broke my heart. Thomas deserves more than that, he deserves a Mum who is well enough to take good care of him, who will swallow her pride and do what is best for him at this important time of his life. After talking to Steven, we decided I would hand my notice in at work the following week. We looked at finances and realised that whilst money would be tight, my health and happiness has to take priority.
I know not all families are lucky enough to be in this position that only one parent needs to work. I would never get caught up in the great Mummy debate – to work or not to work. I hang my hat up to those women who do seem to ‘have it all’ and can successfully balance a career and their family and are genuinely happy to do so. I just know that what I was doing was not right for me. I wasn’t happy. Sure, we have been comfortable and haven’t had to worry about money but no amount of money is worth it if you’re miserable.
I felt a little trapped because I needed to stay in this job in order to afford our wedding. I didn’t know at what cost but at least we’ll be able to have the day we dreamed of and afterwards can look forward to new beginnings. I’m scared, but I’m also excited. ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone’ – this quote has played over in my head recently. My comfort zone is staying within the set-up I know, to work in a comfortable, well-paid job in the knowledge that I can do nice things in my free time with my baby. We could buy a bigger house, have nice cars, big holidays – material things, the things I always aimed to acheive.
But this new start; being a full-time Mum (at least for a short time), this is new territory for me, I’ll need to swallow my pride and embrace it. I’m being true to myself and know that I’m doing what is best for me and my family. Another spanner has been thrown into the works , my partner’s job is no longer secure – it’s an unsettling time. We’ve had our moments of worry but we’re remaining optimistic, a challenge for my over-worrying mind! I’m going to look into more flexible working options for the future; a job with less hours or even working for myself.
I’ve taken a step back now so that I’ll be a more relaxed bride, I may not be as slim or as toned as I’d like to be but I’ll be happy and I’ve realised that’s more important than a false picture of perfection. I despaired that this had all happened at the worse time possible, just before our wedding. I now feel that this was sent to test us and I’m taking my wedding vows as the real me, the vulnerable me that I’ve never really exposed before. The me who admits I’m far from perfect and I don’t have the perfect life, but I’m doing what I can to create the happiest life I can, to stay true to my values. I’ve always cared too much what people think of me, how I look from the outside and that’s something I’m certainly working on caring less about. Life is short and we need to make our time here count for us, I don’t want to look back and realise that I lived a life that looked good on the outside but didn’t feel good on the inside.
And best of all I’m marrying a man who is my rock, who will look after me and our children through all the highs and lows that life throws our way. He’s proved to me that we have a love that is real. This year, he wrote in my Valentines Card, ‘No matter what life throws at us, we’ll get through it together’. I couldn’t agree more.