benjamin

It has been so long, I can’t even remember the year. We were just kids when you emigrated with your family, and when Facebook first cropped up way back when, you were one of the first people that I searched for. Finally, in late 2007/early 2008 I found you, and we reconnected. Over the years there’s been the odd message here and there, but you’ve never been far from my thoughts. I even wanted to name my son Benjamin, which ironically enough is also a name from the husband’s side of the family, but he decided differently.

Whilst we have have never been “BEST FRIENDS”, we have always been close. We just ‘clicked’ in primary school. I don’t know what it was, kindred spirits or just 2 naughty little shits that never got caught getting up to the shenanigans that we got up to. But there is a bond between us that not time nor the ocean has ever changed, and for that I am so grateful.

I posted a very personal blog post last week, and whilst I appreciated all of the messages of support and love, your messages to me stood out. You pretty much gave me a virtual bitch slap through the interwebs. Thank-you. Not only did you tell me that you supported me and loved me, but you also pretty much told me to pull myself towards myself and get my shit together. In a very loving, yet stern way. And quite honestly, after reading your second message to me, it really did help me start to come out of my sadness.

Last week was very difficult for me; I spent most of it subdued and down, my brain adjusting to medication that I had never been on before, fighting off side-effects and my inner demons, all whilst trying to function at work and at home. I think the work bit I pulled off; home was touch and go. This week has so far been better; I don’t know if it’s a combination of the medication or you or my support system or what, but this week I’m ok.

As I have said in so many of my other posts, I live my life 1 day at a time. That could not be more pertinent right now, at this very point in my life. I cannot think about tomorrow, or next week. Right now my goal is to get through today in 1 piece, both mentally and physically. And tomorrow, that will be my goal as well. That will be my daily goal until I get to the point where I don’t worry about what each day will bring, and I start looking forward to planning ahead, to what the future has to offer to and for me.

So my friend; my no-nonsense talking, hard-arsed, virtual-bitch-slapping friend of friends, thank-you. Thank-you for being there for me in 1 of my darkest hours. Thank-you for taking the time to write the message that you did.

I don’t think you’ll ever know just what you did for me.

G

i broke

I have never viewed myself as a strong person. Physically, yes. Ask anyone in my family, especially my husband who I just sit on when we play wrestle and he just lies there, stuck. I suppose that does have something to do with the fact that I am almost 20kg heavier than him, but I digress. Emotionally, I have always been weak. Perhaps strong looking on the outside, but on the inside, dying. From a young age I have cried at almost everything. I remember coming across school reports from pre-school; “G is s a well-mannered, happy little girl who is still very emotionally immature, and cries very easily when upset”. Things like that. It honestly hasn’t changed much as I’ve gotten older, I’ve just found ways to hide my emotions a little better, behind anger and sometimes even rage, and even the odd bedroom door. I find my release in putting on Eminem as loud as my little car speakers can handle the bass, and screaming his lyrics all the way home or to work, all whilst sobbing my heart out. Then I open the door, wipe my face, and carry on as if I don’t have a care in the world.

This last month has been extremely taxing on me, emotionally and spiritually. Unless you’re very close to me, you won’t really know what I’m on about, but it has ended with my husband now unemployed, him being in and out of 3 different hospitals in the space of 4 weeks, and just nastiness. Nastiness and bullying and cruelty. And there I was, in the middle of it, defending a man that I love with all of my heart and soul, because not only was it the right thing to do as his wife, but it was the right thing to do, because of who he is. He is a man of honour, integrity, honesty and loyalty, and the awful, despicable, allegations brought against him could have broken him. Could have broken us. But they didn’t. Or so I thought.

Two Tuesday’s ago, the world stopped for me. The husband was discharged from hospital number 3, and my brain just separated from the rest of me. I was there, but not there. My father-in-law dropped my husband at home, and we arrived at the same time, and whilst all I wanted to do was run up to him and hug and kiss him and just hold him, I couldn’t. I was numb. My legs were 2 lead weights. I offered my father-in-law coffee which he declined, thanked him for collecting and then dropping off the husband, and then he left. And I didn’t know what to do. I had been practically on my own for almost 4 weeks; the husband had been there on and off in-between hospital stays, but he was so drugged out on different medications, that he too was there but not there. I quite honestly do not remember much about that afternoon, but I do remember him looking over at me with hurt in his eyes, and asking me:

Are you even happy that I’m home?

I stated indignantly that I was, but inside I had no idea. It was like my brain had evaporated from my body, and my body was now trying to figure out what the hell to do without it. I asked him if he would take our nanny home and he said yes, and then the next thing I was in my car getting ready to take her home. He stood at the back door and asked me what I was doing, and I remember telling him that I was going to take T home, because I needed to put petrol in my car as I was running on fumes (what’s new). And so at 17h00 I left to take the nanny home. I got home at 20h30. 3.5 hours of my life, of which I don’t remember about 2 hours of. I know that I was in a dark place; I know that I messaged my husband about an hour after leaving home, and him phoning me over and over again, but I didn’t answer. I couldn’t answer. I had no voice. My words were silent. And so we messaged. He had in the interim phoned my mom, who in turn phoned my best friend. No one knew where I was. I didn’t know where I was, mentally, not physically. Although physically that too is a blur. I remember wanting to go to the beach. I hate the beach. I remember wanting to go and sit on the sand (I hate the sand) and just taking in the salty air, watching the ships on the water, listening to nature around me. I don’t know why I didn’t, maybe because the beach is about 70km away from me, I dunno. But I found myself at a pub down the road, where I had a couple of drinks, and then went home. The look on the husband’s face when I walked through the door, said it all. He just hugged me, and we sat on the couch for about 45mins, whilst I sobbed. Whilst this past month has shown me a strength that I never knew that I had, it has also shown me that I’m weak, and that I too need help at times. I went to work the next day, but left at lunch time as I mentally wasn’t there. I stayed off on Thursday too, as I just couldn’t face the world. In all honesty, I only started feeling ‘ok’ again on Saturday, 4 days after falling apart. And that scared me.

I’ve had moments before; who hasn’t. I’ve had my ups and downs, my moments where I’ve hated my life to such an extent that I just want to leave, and then my moments where I could not imagine myself happier. But this was different. And that scared me. I did not want to go home. I did not see a future for myself beyond that night. I had convinced myself that my children would be better off without me, that they deserved a mother who could function properly, and who could love them in the way that they deserved. I convinced myself that I needed to give my husband the opportunity to find a partner that could support him, love him and be there for him in ways that I couldn’t. A partner who could be strong for him. A partner who wasn’t crumbling into pieces. I kept telling myself that I was so blessed, and that I was so grateful for my 3 beautiful, healthy children, and for my husband who would move the earth for me if I asked. But deep down I was dead. Numb. Empty. I honestly did feel like there was nothing left to live for. Somehow, I still do not know how, I went home. I made the choice to live.

I went and saw a psychologist last Tuesday, a week after all of this happened, and she asked me to go and see a psychiatrist. She used the term “bi-polar”, which whilst I had sort of suspected this for about 2-4 years, still kind of worried me. I was lucky enough to go and get an appointment with an amazing psychiatrist last week Friday, a lady whom I felt 100% comfortable with from the get-go, and I just spoke. And spoke. And spoke. And you know what, it was good. It wasn’t just the stress and frustration and nastiness of the past month that I’ve been internalising; there’s so much more going on in my head, more that I’m not quite ready to share right now. But me being strong for my husband whilst he was so ill over the past month, that just seemed to be the catalyst for me; I simply couldn’t do it anymore. So the psychiatrist gave me a preliminary diagnosis of extreme anxiety and depression, with bi-polar like tendencies. Whilst this is a mild form of bi-polar, she said that if left untreated, it can over time sometimes manifest into either bi-polar 1 or 2, and I most certainly do not want to be afflicted by either of those illnesses.

So I am officially on meds. An anti-depressant, a mood stabiliser, and a tranquiliser. It’s not so much a tranquiliser as it is a calming tablet, but for all intents and purposes, it’s a tranquiliser. Today is day 3 of me taking the meds, and apart from a nasty headache and a rather tender tummy, I seem to be ok. My biggest concern was the nausea that can sometimes be a side effect of the anti-depressant, but the mood stabiliser apparently combats that, so so far so good. No, I do not want to be on pills. No I do not want to be sick. But if these pills are going to help me feel better about me and who I am and what I do have in life, then I have to try them. I have to give them a chance. I have a follow up with the psychiatrist next Tuesday, and from there we’ll determine the treatment for the next 6 months, minimum. That’s a scary thought for me, and I’m nervous and scared.

But I can do this.

I can do this.

G

crumbling foundations

I normally title my blog posts before I start typing them as I normally know what I’m writing about, but today I haven’t done that. I don’t know what to call this post. I’m just writing because if I don’t, I think I might do something stupid, and I don’t want to do that.

My family is in crisis. Without going into any specifics (my social media is being watched *beady eyes*) we are spiraling downwards so fast, and I can’t catch my breath. After the husband’s admission into hospital 2 weeks ago, he was admitted into a different hospital on Monday this week, after blacking out and losing consciousness 3 times last Friday morning. I had never experienced his blackouts to that degree anymore; I was genuinely afraid for his life. For the first time ever I watched him convulse and fit; he’s never done that before. And when he came to, he could barely say his name, let alone mine. And then it happened again. And then again. The only reason he wasn’t admitted on Friday, was because both of the hospitals didn’t have any beds available. He was discharged yesterday, but he’s being admitted into a different facility on Monday next week. A specialised psychiatric clinic.

Specialised psychiatric care. I’m not ashamed of him. I’m not rolling my eyes at him. I’m so proud of him. I just want to hold him and absorb everything that he’s feeling. I just want him better again. I want him strong again. I want him confident again. I want him happy again. He’s willingly going in on Monday, but only because the specialist psychiatrist that saw him yesterday upon the feedback given by the psychologist that saw him the day before, is that he needs this. He needs time to be able to take a step back from everything happening in our lives, and reevaluate. To realise that he is a good, decent, honourable man, who provides for his family. To realise that he is capable of happiness and success. To realise that those who are persecuting us will eventually fade from our lives. To realise that together, we can beat this.

I’ve been holding down the fort for the past 2 weeks, and I can feel my foundations starting to crumble. My foundations are starting to crumble, because he is my foundation. He is my rock. And he’s crumbling right before my eyes.

I have never made fun of or questioned mental illness. I have openly admitted suffering from PPD after the births of all 3 of my children, but this is different. So SO different. Our families have been amazing; I created a whatsapp group as most of his family are in other provinces, and the support shown to him, and how everyone has rallied around him has just been phenomenal, and I’m so damn appreciative. Even a family member that I wouldn’t have thought would have truly been there for him, has. It has opened my eyes to how truly blessed we are. Yes we are going through a bloody awful time right now. Financially, emotionally, spiritually. But the universe in its own small way, is looking out for us. From friends offering professional services, family support, even Morgan-Lee’s teacher has been amazing.

So as I was told 3 week’s ago by one of our persecutors; yes, we will get through this, and we WILL be stronger from it. In that regard, you were so very right.

G

ankylosing spondylitis – try saying that 5 times over

You know, sometimes genetics really deal you an awesome hand. Good looks, sparkling eyes, a fast metabolism… And then sometimes, genetics deal you a pretty crap hand. Case in point, the husband.

I haven’t gone into detail about his hospital admission, because there wasn’t much to go into detail about. The doctor gave a preliminary diagnosis, which he wanted to confirm via the MRI scan. The scan was done yesterday, diagnosis was wrong. Thank God. He was initially diagnosed with CES (Cauda Equina Syndrome), and it’s a nasty bugger. As he presented with 90% of the symptoms, the neurosurgeon gave us this scary preliminary diagnosis:

Cauda equina syndrome is a rare disorder that usually is a surgical emergency. In patients with cauda equina syndrome, something compresses on the spinal nerve roots. You may need fast treatment to prevent lasting damage leading to incontinence and possibly permanent paralysis of the legs.

And so he spent another night in hospital, not actually knowing what was causing the pain and numbness in his groin and inner thighs. When the neurologist came to see him this morning, the husband mentioned that his uncle has a condition known as AS – Ankylosing Spondylitis. It’s a genetic, hereditary, degenerative disease that has no cure or treatment. The doctor ordered blood tests before discharging him, but that was merely to confirm his final diagnosis; he has AS. And the cherry on top; Alex will more than likely develop it as a young adult.

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that affects the spineAnkylosing spondylitis symptoms include pain and stiffness from the neck down to the lower back. The spine‘s bones (vertebrae) may grow or fuse together, resulting in a rigid spine. These changes may be mild or severe, and may lead to a stooped-over posture. Early diagnosis and treatment helps control pain and stiffness and may reduce or prevent significant deformity.

Right now however, I’m not worried about Alex. He’s happy and healthy, and shows no signs of spinal degeneration. When the time calls for it, we’ll have him tested and will take it from there. As there is no cure or real treatment, there is no point worrying about something that we cannot change or do anything constructive about at this point in time.

I’ve known the husband for 13 years this August; he has suffered from back pain since before then. The degeneration has already started; the last time he could touch his toes was about 3 years ago. He can’t now without extreme pain in his back. But he’ll be damned if he doesn’t do it.

Seriously, this man hardly ever gets sick, but when he does, he only but does it properly! He keeps saying that he’s an alien, and seeing as he’s been diagnosed with 2 totally arbitrary diseases in the last 2 years, yeah dude, I gotta go with your alien theory!

But, we’ll work through this, as a family. One day at a time. He’s still very mobile, very active, and he will not let something as ‘silly’ as a little spinal degeneration get in his way of living a full life.

G

 

why taking care of ourselves as parents should be a priority

I don’t like doctors. I don’t like hospitals. Not because I’ve had a bad experience, I just don’t like a fuss being made over me, especially when it’s something silly like a twisted ankle, or a cold. The husband is the same.

And this is wrong.

4 weeks ago, he started feeling unwell. 4 freaking weeks. He didn’t say a word to me; he just carried on with life as he does. He deals with another medical issue on a daily basis (which he has since 2014, but that’s only when he was diagnosed) and so didn’t think too much of it. He went to our GP yesterday morning, and after failing a number of the neurological tests that the GP performed, he outlined his concerns to the husband, and arranged an appointment with a neurosurgeon at our local hospital for 2 weeks time and to also have an MRI scan. For our GP to be concerned, that concerns me. He is a very chilled doctor, very rarely showing any signs of stress or worry, and has an extremely calming effect. But I could hear the doctor’s worry in the husband’s voice when he phoned me after the appointment; it wasn’t good. Just before 16h00 the husband phoned me; the specialist’s rooms had phoned him, and the doctor wanted to see him in casualty immediately. I almost threw up on the spot. I excused myself from work, phoned my mom, fetched her and raced home. There the husband was waiting calmly, showered and dressed and ready to go. I asked him where his overnight bag was and he looked at me quizzically, and I told him; there is a almost 99% guarantee that you’re being admitted. He very grumpily went and packed his bag, and off we went.

You know it’s pretty serious, that when you walk into casualty, announce who you are and that you’ve been told to see Dr So and So, and you immediately get whisked off to triage. I have never been seen so quickly in casualty before, and I’ve been there a few times with Morgan-Lee. Apparently, the staff were all waiting for us. Again, the need to throw up was strong. They didn’t even bother with the casualty doctor; the specialist neurosurgeon and neurologist came through about 20-30mins after we arrived, assessed Lee and his symptoms, and promptly admitted him into hospital. Strict bed rest. Like only allowed out of bed to go to the bathroom. This, for a man who is active for like 18 hours in a day, can never sit still, is always busy with something, and even when he sleeps he’s active. He complained that he could rest at home, but we both know that he wouldn’t. He just cannot help himself. There was also an issue with beds, so the specialist said that he really would prefer him to be admitted then and there, to avoid any bed issues today. We eventually got up to the ward, I went and got his bag from the car, went and got him some supper from McDonald’s, and then left. It was a lonely, long (in a sense) 25min drive home, my mind racing, tears silently rolling down my cheeks, Eminem blasting in the background.

And the scariest moment of last night? Standing outside before heading into casualty whilst he finished off his cigarette and he looked at me, took a breath and said:

I’m pretty scared hey.

For this man to admit that, I can’t even explain it. This is a man who faces every challenge in his life with a positive outlook, with the belief that it is just another bump in the road. I turn to him when I’m scared, when I feel like the world is crushing me and I can’t breath. He is my strength, my rock, my foundation, and now I’m his. To hear the break in his voice, his eyes flickering, my heart dropped. I just grabbed him in a huge hug and told him that whatever this is, no matter how big or small, we’ll fight it together.

Why is it that when our children are sick, even if it’s just something like a runny nose or a dry cough, that we do whatever we can, will go out of our way to make them feel better, to take away their pain and discomfort. Why do we not do the same for ourselves? I remember being pregnant with Morgan-Lee and going through to see our GP for something and telling our GP and I didn’t really care about myself, as long as the baby was ok. He looked me in the eyes and told me:

My first concern is you. If you aren’t healthy, how can you expect your baby to be healthy?

Last April, in the last week of my maternity leave, I had my appendix and right Fallopian tube removed due to an abscess that had formed about 10 days earlier. I had started complaining of the pain on the previous Thursday or so, and even then I played it down. If it wasn’t for my mother who accompanied me to a visit to the GP for a checkup on the twins mentioning to the doctor that I had a nasty pain in my side, I wouldn’t have said anything, and it then could have been a lot worse, as the infection would have spread, and the risk of sepsis a real threat. A week after mentioning the pain, I had the surgery. I suffered for 10 days in excruciating pain before I did anything about it. But let any one of my kids be unwell, and I jump into action, not stopping until I know they’re ok.

We have a duty not only to our children, but also to ourselves to ensure that we stay healthy. It’s fantastic to have healthy children who are full of life, but if we are their parents do not take care of ourselves, there is a possibility that our beautiful, healthy children might not grow up with us, as we just might not be there.

So, the point of this post? Whilst I sit here at work, my mind racing at what today will bring, at what the MRI will show, I ask that you take your health as seriously as you do your children.

You don’t know when it just might save your life.

G