Tuesday, April 20, 2010

health problems... and learning to look after myself

Well, in a few hours my niece goes in to have brain surgery at the Royal Children's Hospital. She collapsed from a brain bleed after an AVM in her brain ruptured. I'm thinking of her and getting as close as I get to praying (sending silent pleas out to the universe to keep her safe. I think of them as being waves of emotion being sent out, probably useless but even if the only effect is to make me feel better then I guess it could be seen as worth it). Anyway, I'm hoping she pulls through it ok, she's only 12 and has her whole life ahead of her. I love her a lot, she's a great kid.

It's been a bad time lately health wise for my nearest and dearest. My grandfather is sick with cancer at the moment and went in to the hospital yesterday with breathing trouble.

And I've been experiencing seizures. About four in eight days. I had a CT scan and it came back clear (a huge relief as there was a possiblity of secondaries of my cancer showing up in my head, or a lesion of some sort). I'm having an EEG to check for epilepsy in a few weeks too.

I'm considering the possibility that they're stress related, too. I haven't had one for about five or six days now so I'm not sure what that means. I was trying to think of what was different in the week I had them, and I couldn't think of anything. Then Bertie pointed out that it was in that week that we'd been visiting the children's a lot. Once I stopped visiting so much (due to a combination of full time work and a throat/ear infection that I couldn't pass on to Ebony), I stopped having them. It could just be a coincidence, the seizures could happen again at any time according to the doctor, but I do remember that every time I came into the childrens hospital it brought back traumatic memories. The triggers for those memories weren't spectacular, in fact they were quite mundane - the artwork on the wall was the same, the food outlets were the same, the elevators were painted the same colour, the same statue was in the foyer... in fifteen years it seemed to be the same hospital that I had basically lived in during the time of the cancer/amputation. Also, seeing my niece at 12 (I had been 9/10) in the bed in the hospital made me experience my cancer from the perspective of a visitor/adult, with all the worries and fears for a helpless child before my eyes. I do wonder if the hospital triggered the seizures, or at least triggered stress in me that could have triggered seizures...

I noticed too in the MRI that as I went into the tunnel (a tunnel I found scary and upsetting as a child), tears started pouring out of my eyes and I couldn't stop shaking. I had to have the nurse come and comfort me and move my head back in to position, and I was very embarassed and surprised by my reaction. The nurse reminded me that having been through this before as a child with cancer, the reaction was in fact very natural and understandable. Once she had given me permission to feel what I was feeling, I just tried to acknowledge the stress and then calm myself. I realised that I was thinking 'not again, not again, not again', and that the possiblity of having cancer in my head was being linked to the experience of having cancer in my leg. I don't feel that I'm that traumatised by what I went through, but obviously deep in my mind - and in connection, my body - I have some buried emotions and memories that are coming back.

It's interesting, because part of the reason I started therapy was because I was having dreams and flashbacks about the cancer/hospital experience, so I am wondering if these seizures are just another manifestation of that stress that I have buried - in my therapy I never got around to tlaking about the leg and the hospital (did I purposely avoid it?). I ended up talking about things that were bothering me about life right now, mainly. I ended the sessions because I had run out of the government subsidised sessions and I couldn't afford more. It might be time to reconsider that and make room in my budget for it. I ended my time with the psychologist by simply never calling up to make my next appointment, so I feel a bit uncomfortable about that. Still, she was very good and if she'll have me back I think I'll go and see her again.

I know that stress is sometimes a trigger for Bertie's IBS symptoms - I was skeptical at first but over the years I've had to accept that stress is very closely linked to our body's physical health, and that it's important to acknowledge and deal with stress in your life.

As well as considering returning to therapy to try and deal specifically with issues relating to the experience of cancer/amputation/hospital, I'm also considering taking up yoga, tai chi, meditation, massage... I'll even give things like hypnotherapy and acupuncture a go. I just want to get rid of my stress so I can prevent health problems from happening instead of dealing with them when they hit.

I want to look at other preventative health measures in my life too - mainly diet and sleep. I have been noticing over my last thirteen months of insomnia that my sleep levels are directly linked to my mood for the day:

Three-four hours equals: I can function but i'm going to be on edge all day and then crash, usually accompanied by huge mood swings and emotional outbursts. I will be sick by the end of the day and end up taking a day or two off each week.

Four-five hours equals: I can function but I'm going to be on edge all day and then crash, usually accompanied by huge mood swings and emotional outbursts.

Six-seven hours equals: I can function but I'll feel tired and grouchy during the day, and will not feel motivated to go out at night, or in fact do anything at all after work hours.

Eight-nine hours equals: I can not only function but I feel capable of doing something in the afternoon too, whether it be cleaning the house or cooking a nutritious meal or catching up with a friend or going to a singing lesson etc

These are all variable of course, depending on how i've slept in the nights previous, what my diet has been like previous, and what is happening in my life. But basically, if I get the sleep it's easier to eat well and to feel positive about what's happening in my life... so it seems like a great first frontier.

Now that Bertie's back from work interstate, I seem to be sleeping just fine. So it seems a great time to start ensuring i get eight to nine hours of sleep a night. It's hard though, because my mind is so active at night and it's when I most want to read/play computer/have a conversation/do exercise/watch a bit of telly, etc... still, worth it if I can feel happier and more able to deal with life each day!

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