Migraines, Anxiety, and Busyness: My Frightening Wake-Up Call

Article by Cathy at Working Mommy Life Blog

What happens when you haven’t been feeling well for a while now?

What happens when you feel sicker and sicker all the time, more and more tired, less and less like yourself.

You know there’s a new you, you’re a mom now, so nothing will ever be the same again, as it once was, but it’s something else too.

You can’t put your finger on it.

Everything makes you anxious, stressed, under pressure. This new you, just simply isn’t you anymore.

You wake up at night and struggle to fall back asleep, despite exhaustion.

You have so many To-Do lists, that you have lists consolidating all the lists!

The busyness has become unbearable, not an exciting hustle to brag about. It’s not fun, it’s not exciting, it’s hurting you, it’s hurting those around you and you’re scared. You’re waking up each day trying to be happy, but not quite feeling it all the way through.

How do we cope in this too fast, too busy, too non-stop world? How do we do it all, have it all, smile the smile, keep up with the Jones’s, meet the deadlines, answer every message, email and letter on time, meet every deadline without fail, make no mistakes, ever – it’s just not tolerated anymore. Mistakes are for those who are not hustling enough. ‘Hustle’… I dislike the word, a lot. Whatever happened to words like, calm, peace, centered, enjoyment, happiness, slow, easy; and statements like, family first, friends first, when you can, take your time, I understand, have faith, just have a good cry, you are enough, you’ve done your best, it’s all ok, believe, take a break, you’re only human, we all make mistakes, don’t worry you don’t have to reply till you have the time…

I will tell you what happens when you get on that hamster wheel and year after year you run and you run and you run. No matter the strain, no matter the warning signs, no matter the collateral damage along the way. You have to keep running. Everyone else is. Right? Those who aren’t, are being left behind, or so you are told. Right? If you get off, you will also be left behind…

I will tell you what happens if you don’t get off, that neverending, turning, spinning, out of control wheel – you end up like me, waking up at 2:30am in the morning this week, Thursday morning to be exact…

I sat bolt upright with such severe pain
in my neck I thought I would throw up at
the same time. I slowly moved my legs
over the edge of the bed.

Sparks flashed in front of my eyes. I leaned forward and grabbed onto the windowsill next to my bed. I tried to breathe in the cool night air, but it wasn’t helping. The pain by now was so bad I was trying not to topple off the bed onto the floor and hit my head on the wall in front of me. I whispered “Skattie” into the dim light. Nothing. I took another deep breath and wondered if I could make it to the closest bathroom. My neck felt as if it had concertinaed into my spine and my head was now one with the top of my shoulders. “Skattie”, I said again, a little louder. Danie stirred and turned over.

He was disorientated and didn’t know what I was doing sitting in the dark calling him. I managed to get out “I’m in so much pain” before my head slumped forward again and the tears started streaming down my face. At some point, after this, he jumped up and came to help me. He tried to get me to walk, but I suddenly felt numb in my legs.

He put his arms around me and half carried,
half dragged me to the bathroom.

I collapsed onto the floor.
I was sitting up, sort of.
Slouched over more.

My legs apart in front of me so that I could kind of keep my balance, my hands pressed to the ground in front of me, between my legs. My head hanging, lolling in between. I sagged against the vanity cupboard. By now Danie was sensing things were not ok at all. He kept asking me what was wrong, what was I feeling, could I get up and move, could I move to the other bedroom further away from the kids.

I have vague memories of things starting to blur.
My eyes were partially open,
but my consciousness was slipping.

The pain was extreme. My arms and legs were going from numb to pin and needles everywhere. Tears were running down my face, but I wasn’t really crying anymore. I was aware of mucous hanging from my nose, and saliva dripping from my mouth. I wanted to wipe my face, but my hands had seized up. I looked at them, they were a funny shape. Curled and tight, my fingers in strange contortions, all pulling inwards. My face continued to stream. Mucous everywhere. Danie continued to question me and try to help me, gently wiping my face. Holding a paper bag over my mouth to try to slow my breathing.

Then, I could no longer speak.

It was as if my body was giving up
one part at a time.

My tongue seemed to fill my entire mouth. My teeth ached and my jaws wouldn’t open. I made grunting sounds, trying to answer him “yes” or “no”. I couldn’t shake my head either, my neck was like cement by now.

My poor husband, he has seen so much, it is not fair. Between what we went through with Jackson for more than two years and my ongoing ‘stuff’ – let’s call it that for now – it is a lot that he has taken on. He tried to keep the kids in their bedrooms. They were by now both awake. He called hospitals, ambulances over and over, where were they!! Why in times of trauma and urgency are emergency people so seemingly deadly slow?

I started to fall back against the bath. I wasn’t thinking clearly, but I did think I must be stroking. After decades of compounded stress, which I have not dealt with properly or straight away, or even at all, it had now all caught up with me. 39 years old. Didn’t even make my 40th, just around the corner I thought. I carried on groaning, trying to ask what was going on, trying to ask for help, trying to just say a word.

The paramedics had arrived, from what I can remember, they were truly amazing! They spoke calmly and clearly, they hooked me up to machines immediately. I could hear from the questions and answers going back and forth over my head that they needed to get me to the hospital right away. They tried to clean my face. They were so kind.

A stretcher was brought into our dining room, they carried me under my arms and under my knees down the passage and into the dining room. I was still groaning, my entire body was wracked with spasms. I was in agony. They tried to get me onto the stretcher, but none of my limbs would lie flat or still, they hooked me up to a drip and even semi-conscious I panicked as soon as I heard they were putting a needle into my hand. I writhed and moaned and wished it would all just end.

I could hear Hayden calling me from down the passage.
I couldn’t even respond.
I could just listen… “Mommy… Mommy!!”

A calmness and cloudiness began to settle in. I can’t explain it. I barely remember being wheeled through the house and into the ambulance. I tried to open my eyes to look around, but then I was out. I heard loud noises and talking and what sounded like some sort of radio speaker system. I could hear that Danie couldn’t come with, as he had to stay with the kids. I felt panic again before I blacked out.

It felt like some sort of a trance. I went in and out of consciousness, as they offloaded me at the hospital and wheeled me inside. It was incredibly bright suddenly. Things being shouted about regarding my condition around me. Me being lifted from the stretcher onto a bed. Vials and vials of blood being taken out of my one arm, more drips being hung at the other. My finger being pricked by someone else for yet more blood. All the while I dosed in and out, waiting for Danie, praying he would arrive soon. I always feel so alone in hospitalsI’ve always been so alone in hospitals.

I would be lying if I said I knew exactly what happened next. At some point, Danie arrived with an overnight bag. My parents were apparently at our house with the kids. Doctors and nurses were in and out checking machines and blood pressure, you know, the usual. My blood was sent for testing, forms were signed and a lot of questions were asked about my medical history and the medications I’m on (which I won’t go into here and now). Plus the fact that I’ve started to suffer from migraines again for the first time since having kids. I used to have them about twice a month, for days at a time, for many years. Then I had kids, nothing, they stopped… then all of a sudden last year they started up again. I had one just over a week ago, out for three days. But this, this was something else. No one seemed sure, it could be a number of things… Contributing factors… Nothing concrete…

I was discharged later that morning, as I’ve spent enough time in hospitals in the past already (six operations to date). I wanted my house and my own bed. They took me out in a wheelchair, in my tiny PJ shorts and my white (probably see-through) Hogwarts t-shirt (no bra), hospitals… no dignity.

I don’t remember the drive home.
Between the morphine and whatever else had been fed into my veins, I was barely able to see in front of me.

I got home and slept most of the day (Thursday). Twice I woke up to sip water or go to the bathroom, both times the spasms and pain hit again immediately. Both times Danie had to help me back to bed, whilst I shook and shivered. My teeth chattering like crazy, although I was dripping in sweat. My hands and feet curling again. My breath was ragged and shallow. It took ages each time to calm me down and then I would drop off to sleep again, as if I hadn’t woken in the first place. Danie put a bell and the AngelCare next to my bed and his, it was that scary. (I slept in the other bedroom on my own so the kids wouldn’t wake me.)


That night my parents came over again to help. The kids didn’t know what was going on and had been asking questions at school. Teachers were messaging me – I didn’t check my phone for days. Danie was in the midst of a SARS deadline, and I was useless. I ate a little food with my doggy Jack watching over me very carefully (he more wanted my salad greens than to console me I reckon), but puppy love is puppy love in my book regardless.

I fell into a dead sleep again until Friday morning. Danie had made me an appointment with a Chiro recommended by a friend when I woke up. He had also gone to one of our GP’s for help, absolutely nothing, didn’t even seem to care apparently – good to know for next time I need a GP appointment.

I got ready slowly, hanging onto walls and doors. Feeling faint at every move. We went to the Chiro (my first time), and he instilled confidence. He asked a lot of questions and had a lot of concerns about things he said were causing XY and Z and that he would help. I laid down on his table and he began a series of tests. A couple had negative results. The one test resulted in my spasming again, crying, lying in the fetal position on my lefthand side and being unable to move for minutes on end. He did help to release my neck quite a bit though.

He then sent us off straight away for
a battery of Xrays.

After the Xrays at yet another hospital, we went home. I was finished. I felt like I hadn’t slept in a month. I crawled into bed and slept for the rest of the day and most of last night again too.

Today I’m slowly but surely trying to get back into a bit of housework again. Trying to walk around a bit and get the muscles a bit warmed up. I sat down to type this and to try to remember, but it’s all so blurry – I apologize if this isn’t making much sense, I still feel so dead tired. I replied to some WhatsApp messages too, who knows if they made any sense either.

I’m so blessed it wasn’t a stroke, or worse. I was so terrified that this was the end for me, and in some way it was. It was a warning I’ve needed I guess for about 20 years now. To slow down, to take stock, to do what matters, to live in the moment, to just calm down, no matter what. I’m an extremely anxious person – something people think of as taboo still. It has affected my life in many ways and continues to do so.

I started getting help and making small changes in my life this year, well last year already, but I think its all just too little, too late. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I got my big wake up call because I ignored countless other clues for a very very long time. I tried to do it all. I tried to hustle. I tried to conquer the world in my own little way. I tried to be perfect.

I tried to be everything to everyone and ended up being nothing to anyone, including me, as I slowly but surely just burnt out.

Take what I have gone through as a warning to you if you are feeling the same way in any way. One’s body is precious. We only get one. Once it’s used up, that’s it, it’s done.

How would you best like to use this gift of your body on this earth? What do you most want to be doing, thinking about, spending your time with?

Think about it carefully, don’t let your body tell you when it’s too late. I was fortunate, I’m going to start making changes, starting today.

About the Author

Our baby son suffers from Febrile Seizures.
I love writing, always have and just wish I had more time for it. At the same time it is like my therapy, and I want to do good with it.
At some point during the course of Wednesday this week I realized that I needed to help others with what we are going through. We feel so terribly alone going through this ourselves, no one truly understands the life we are living.
I believe that together, parents must work through these types of things and lift each other up.
Until next time ~ Cathy xxx