In my last "Catching Up" post, I left off at the birth of our youngest princess, Liberty. I have been sick for nearly all of the last two weeks, as you may have noticed from my near entire blackout on social media for the last bit. Too sick to even think about posting or trying to write on either here or Instagram. But, I am better now - nearly 100% - and ready to go again...
This post is a little different, as you will see. I have struggled with writing it. Not knowing what to share, what to keep under wraps...because it is all a part of my story. And, it plays a lot into where I am today - now. So, after several starts, stops, erases...I decided to just type, and whatever comes out will be the parts of this story I was meant to tell at this time.
I went back to work when she was four months old - something I never thought I would have ever done. I had always dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom, and I had been happy to stay home for the past several years with the older two. I had never dreamed of going back to work, but I was struggling. Our time in Florida had been devastating to my self-esteem and self-image. Couple that with some past traumatic experiences, health difficulties, and the stress of caring for a handicapped child. I was pretty much broken, but refused to accept it. With the emotional and mental turmoil that I was still under, I sought out ways to help me feel like I was still whole, still worthy of love, still good enough, still "worth it". Worth living even. Nursing was one of those ways. The need was strong enough to make me leave my babies and go back into the workforce. You see, I excelled at nursing. Always. The things that I accomplished, and was capable of, when I was in a pair of scrubs, surrounding by the machines, wires, and tubes of a trauma ICU were something that I was gifted with. Undeniably, from God. Along with that gift came recognition, praise, a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose. I mattered. My husband would brag about me...when I was a nurse. The amount of money I could bring in because of my experience and ability...was ridiculous...and made him happy and proud. But, as I would learn over and over again - because I am way too hard-headed to listen the first time - my worth does not come from someone else. My. Worth. Does. Not. Come. From. ANYONE. Else. But. ME.
I lasted right around six months at work.
It started with dramatically increased fatigue, which I initially shrugged off as due to working 13-14 hours and coming home to take care of two toddlers and and infant all night, before going back to work again in the morning. Increased pain and joint stiffness. Numbness in my fingers. Forgetfulness. Tremors in my arms and legs. Severe spine and neck pain. I ignored it, at first, and kept pushing through. I did what I could to mask the symptoms at work. I had already moved into a supervisory position, so I was able to delegate some things that I was losing my ability to do - like start IVs...because I had lost sensation in my fingers and could not palpate a vein, not to mention the tremors made it impossible to hold the needle steady. I could tell something was wrong with my memory, and my ability to intake and process information was rapidly declining. My brain that used to be able to hold and multitask a multitude of information in a split second, couldn't recall a physician's order given to me verbally at the bedside five seconds earlier. I would have to follow them from the room to the desk, and ask for clarification while I wrote it down. I had lists everywhere. I began to work off of a list for everything, because I was terrified I would forget something. Terrified.
I did not know what was wrong. I was worried. But, I kept going, because...stubborn...and because I NEEDED this...or so I thought. My work began to slow dramatically, because I literally could not process the info. I was continually staying late to check and double check and triple check my work and documentation to make sure I had not forgotten anything or made a mistake. I was sick ALOT. Like really sick. In the bed sick. Towards the end, I was dropping things continually, because I was losing the feeling in my hands and forearms, or because I would have tremors and voluntary muscle movements. I would stumble often, catching myself before I fell. I was stressed because I knew I was not performing at the level I always had, and I physically could not. Something was wrong, and I knew I needed to get it looked into. But, I was scared, so I kept going. I had an amazing unit manager that I had a wonderful relationship with. I kept an open line of communication going, and she was gracious enough to work with me through these difficulties. Even in the supervisory position, as my symptoms continued to progress, I could not handle the work load. Mostly due to whatever was crippling my brain at the time, the intense amount of pain I was constantly in, and my loss of coordination and motor function.
In February 2016, in a heart-to-heart discussion with my favorite boss, I sobbed and told her I felt like I was no longer able to safely perform my role as a nurse in any capacity. And, that I was terrified that my physical and neurological dysfunction was going to unknowingly cause harm. That I was trying, but between the continued loss of motor function and rapidly declining neurological function, the right thing for me to do would be to resign. She suggested we try a medical leave of absence to give me some time to investigate with my physician what on earth was going on. I agreed, and saw my doctor that week.
Three weeks and $2500 later, I had the beginnings of an answer...finally...after eight, long years. I tested positive for Lyme Disease, as well as three other tick-borne diseases. I cannot explain to you how it felt to receive that diagnosis, except it was relief at having SOMETHING to work against, absolute terror at the thought that this was what had been flourishing in my body unchecked and untreated for EIGHT YEARS, and intense anger at all of the medical providers that had suggested I just take some antidepressants and/or pain medication and "get over it". I cried. A lot. I was blessed to have access to a Integrative and Functional Medicine physician. BLESSED. She told me the journey to healing would be long and rough, and get worse long before it got better. I would not be where I am today functionally, if I had not had her guidance and her willingness to think outside the box and look for new and innovative treatment therapies. She and I have been through SO much together. I taught her a lot about Lyme disease and autoimmune disorders. She tells me that every time I see her, and thanks me for allowing her to learn and experiment with new therapies. This was the beginning of my long road of treatments, therapies, alternative healing, and a LOT of well-spent money out of pocket. I can look back now, and say, "THANKFUL".
Now, let me spam you with some photos from early 2016 of our precious girls!