The stress levels in this house have always been high but it's reached optimum peak recently. Stig has been off work for months now. He has had worrying symptoms for years; severe headaches, random pains, numbness, pins and needles, drowsiness, blurred vision, difficulty speaking, and what we now know (after dragging the paramedics out on more than one occasion) to be panic attacks. He has never been that well-adjusted truth be told, but this last year it has escalated to the point of taking over his entire personality.
It's amazing; when you claim to be "stressed" you can almost see what people are thinking: Just get on with it, like everybody else has to. After all; we're all stressed, aren't we? We didn't understand the extent to which a person can be affected by it until recently. Even Stig had trouble believing that all his symptoms are merely down to stress and anxiety. When you consider that he has been back and forward to various specialists and neurologists for the best part of ten years with these mysterious symptoms, it's no wonder. He has undergone a catalogue of tests including MRIs, Electrical Impulse tests, Evoked potential tests, EEGs, ECGs, the list goes on.
He can feel like he's having a heart attack, or be completely numb down one side, or have sudden, sharp shooting pains anywhere in his body without warning. He has fits and passes out when his blood pressure suddenly drops, headaches that are so severe they interfere with his vision and speech; it's both amusing and embarrassing when people think he's pissed. He constantly moans that he is "shaking like a shitting dog". It's rare that there isn't a part of him which isn't tingling, twitching, or numb. Imagine having pins and needles for ten years...
Added to this is the sleep apnoea, which makes him sit bolt upright in the middle of the night, clawing at his chest like a man possessed whilst gasping for breath. The first few times this happened I thought we were being murdered in our bed, and I have the grey hairs to show for it. I'm now used to these histrionics, but trying to hold a serious conversation with someone who's face is doing the highland fling is never straightforward.
There was constant fear in the early years. Brain tumor? MS? Parkinson's? All sorts of theories were mulled over and tested for by the experts. Finally I told him that if he had anything that serious, he'd have dropped dead by now; it's been that long. Then we met his most recent consultant, who is fabulous. Our first appointment with him was such a relief for me. He sat across the desk from us and told me all about my husband. He's impatient, highly strung, can't handle just sitting and doing nothing, remembers about 20% of what has been said to him, always fiddling, can't relax, always thinking etc, etc, it continued. For the first time in ten years, someone who knew exactly what we were dealing with.
I came out of there feeling fantastic because we finally knew what the problem was, and it wasn't going to kill him or turn him into a dribbling, quivering wreck (well actually I may have been wrong about the latter!). Stig, on the other hand, was horrified and thought the man should be struck off for malpractice. He just couldn't accept that all this was down to stress.
That was a year ago. Now he knows, and it has been rough. For a while he was a different person to the lovely, idiot man I married, and not in a good way. But things are coming good, and we're learning to handle it better, he has drugs and therapies, and I have a bit of my Stig back.
I post this not to whinge, but it has struck me that more and more people seem to be suffering in similar ways. Every other person we speak to is or knows someone who is off work, on medication, or completely burnt out. It's been said that one in four people will suffer mental health issues at some time in their life. That seemed to be most likely depression at one time. Now it seems we're all so highly strung and stretched to our limits living modern day life. Maybe we all need to learn new strategies to cope with it.
I can come and write about my family life on my blog, take the mickey out of them when they have narked me, make jokes, and feel better, maybe that's my therapy. We all need something and the journey for us at the moment, is finding out what that something is.