Jan 2024 Update

Talk about a dramatic start to the year!

It’s been less than a month into the new year and so much has already happened. I’m re-reading my 2023 recap now and once again, I am struck by the irony of it all.

When I said that “I was concerned about the other shoe dropping”, gosh, I certainly didn’t realise it would be my own Ferragamo that would drop.

On 3rd Jan evening, I noticed a dark shadow in my left eye. It only appeared when I looked in a certain direction. By the next morning, it had assumed a permanent position and my peripheral vision was starting to get blurry.

For the first time in my life, I took a health matter seriously; well, I could literally see a problem. I hotfooted it to the eye doctor, he saw that the optic nerve (the nerve that links the eye to the brain) was inflamed and made me do a Brain MRI.

On 5th Jan, he gave me the shocking news that a Neurologist had to be roped in and that I needed to be admitted for an emergency lumbar puncture and to start IV drip steroid treatment that same evening to prevent my eyesight from worsening.

In front of the doctor, I was calm. Different story outside the room. My hands shook violently as I signed papers, I kept bursting into tears, wondering how did I go from a “normal” start to the year to being emergency admitted and having to do what sounded like a terribly scary procedure… and, by the way, am I going blind???

Well, the spinal tap wasn’t that bad. In fact, the insertion of the canula for the IV drip and the endless vials of blood drawing was worse. Perhaps, it is because the Neuro to whom the Eye doc had referred me is a really great doc. He shares info freely and really listens.

The Walking Dead.

I was in hospital for 3 nights, and the days following the discharge at home, under insomnia-inducing steroids, I was like a zombie. A menopausal zombie at that. My head felt like splitting at the slightest stressful thought.

It was starting to finally hit me that my poor brain had had enough of the stress of being the sibling of a mentally ill person. The daily and constant anxiety and worry.

“My mind was constantly on them. Most times, they were the first thing I thought of when I woke up. If I had managed to sleep, in the first place.”

Little did I know that this casually-written statement from my 2023 recap would, just a few days later, turn out to be the most important thing I had to change. If I didn’t want to ruin myself, that is.

“I don’t want to deal with them anymore!”

On my 2nd night at home, post-discharge, after yet another night of insomnia, I had a breakdown. I had spent the night waiting for my husband to wake up, until around 5am when I couldn’t take it anymore, I covered my mouth and let out a muffled groan.

It wasn’t loud, it wasn’t a scream but it pierced through my brain. It felt like knives stabbing me all over the head and it hurt so bad that I started crying.

That woke my husband, who immediately sat up, asking what was wrong.

What was my reply?

“I don’t want to deal with them anymore, I don’t want to deal with them anymore, I don’t want to deal with them anymore!” I repeated while sobbing, alternating between holding my heavy head and repeatedly punching the mattress.

Think about that for a moment. There I was, just discharged from an emergency admission for a shocking event, facing vision issues, feeling exhausted due to a lack of sleep, and the first thing that I said was about them?

Not my splitting head, not my eye, but that I don’t want to deal with them anymore? It really shows what is the biggest cause of my stress.

Connecting the dots between chronic mental stress and our bodies.

To be accurate, I have always known the cause of my stress but that night, I finally saw the link between the chronic mental stress of dealing with them and all my illnesses.

For decades, I battled with Endometriosis (another inflammation-related disease) which caused my infertility and now, my vision? Enough was enough. This was the final warning my body was giving me.

For the first time, I asked for my husband’s help in sharing with my mother what I had been going through growing up in a household with mental illness.

I write about it on this blog, she is aware that I sought professional therapy in 2020 but I have never been able to talk to her about how it has been for me. It is difficult when there is always some issue or other happening with her or my brother, and it just never seems possible for me to share my concerns.

After I expressed myself to my husband, and he said he had been thinking about speaking with my mother as well, I felt better.

How did the conversation go? It went well, he tells me. He said she listened, and he managed to explain just how much stress I had been feeling, what causes it and what must be done about this. Mostly, okay? We cannot expect decades of unseen pain to be shared and understood in an hour. Still, progress.

Is this what will give me peace?

In the 2023 post, I had also mentioned that helping my mother to figure out my brother’s future care was something I needed to do because “the fact that my mother has not planned for my brother’s future is a huge source of stress and worry for me”. And that, no matter how much I would like to just forget him, I know that I will not be able to just “dump” him somewhere and lead a peaceful life.

I seemed to be so certain that being involved {read: micro-managing, in my case} in his future care planning was the key to my peace. A week later, my brain showed me otherwise.

Looking at those words again through the lens of what I had just endured, I see a sibling who has spent her life trying to do the “right” thing but who had never found the peace that she craved.

So now, while I am still going to check-in occasionally with my mother on her progress with his situation, I am not going to take the bull by its horns anymore and drag it to the finish line. I’m a consultant, a nudger, someone who can advise, a supporting player.

Freedom in sickness.

I told my friend the other day: “You know, when I was at my most ill, when just reading a simple email header about a stressful topic would cause my head to split, that was also the time I felt the most free. Isn’t it ironic?”

I felt that I didn’t have to care about anything or anyone. Whatever was happening with them, I literally couldn’t care because my head was hurting at the slightest stressful thought.

That sense of freedom was amazing. I felt like I finally had a valid licence to not think about them. That any naysayers would have to temper their expectations of what kind of daughter or sister I should be.

Of course, as soon as I started feeling better, my mind went back to putting pressure and expectations on myself. The unwarranted guilt threatens to rear its head often, but really, I am working on slaying that dragon.

Believe it or not, I am grateful.

When I think about this whole health scare, I only see the positives. Yes, I am still seeing through a light grey shadow in the inner corner of my left eye, and it’s annoying, but, there are some big wins here.

For one, my mother (and whoever else) seeing just how stressful it has been for me that even my body was paying the price. And that, therefore, to understand why I do or do not do certain things that people hope/expect I would.

Secondly, me telling myself not to think about them all the time, to live more mindfully and to take things easier. And this time, really believing and doing all this.

So, while I am hoping that the grey shadow will resolve itself one day, I cannot help but feel grateful that this incident has given me a serious wake-up call and brought along with it, I hope, more understanding of my situation.

That’s how my January has been. How has yours been?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top