Monday, 7 July 2014

#3 The Effects of Ongoing Stress

Someone once developed a list of stressful life events, and assigned each a numeric value. Accumulating points for stress, sounded like fun, or not. The point of all of this was to recognize that every person deals with stress of some degree throughout their everyday life, but when you add on the big ticket events, the accumulated stress can be detrimental to one’s health and well being. The list included the biggies, death, divorce, disease, but also the everyday stuff, like moving, changing jobs, having a baby, even Christmas was on the list.

I think the point value was 200 in any given year. This was an exercise conducted in some work related workshop I attended, and I never forgot it as my points had been well over the 200 for many years in succession. Was this what finally precipitated my MS? Was the disease there, benign and basically symptom free, until my body couldn’t cope any more?

In March 1988, I moved with the kids to Toronto. I had found a management position at a small nursing home where I worked a regular day shift, had benefits and could avoid the heavy lifting that aggravated my back. We had a nice place to live, in a good neighbourhood, with good schools. Three months later my Dad had a heart attack playing tennis and died.

I had a hard time dealing with all this, but tried to keep working, being there for my Mom and for my kids. Is it any wonder that my first MS symptoms presented in 1989?

Mom moved to Florida in 1990, was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery and radiation therapy. I had started yet another new job, and was dealing with my health issues plus the pressure and the stress of raising two kids in the city.

I saw the neurologist yearly, reporting on symptoms that didn’t seem to change. The numbness in my face came and went, depending on how tired I was, as did the dragging of my foot, the numbness in my hands. Fatigue was an issue, but I was managing, as best I could.

The stress moved in big time, in 1994. I hadn’t gone to Florida for Mom’s first surgery. When she was found to have a metastatic brain tumour the kids and I went south, and I spent my time taking her for daily radiation treatments and to the oncologist while the kids spent the day at the pool. When we saw Mom in July, she was independent and mobile, by the end of the month she was hospitalized, and dying.

I thought I had time, to get things organized at work, to get the kids sorted out and make my way back to Florida. I didn’t make it. I was to leave Wednesday, my flight booked, a rental car waiting, when my brother called, Mom wanted to speak to me. We had a jumbled conversation, she was frail and couldn't say much but that she loved me. Even rushing to get an earlier flight, arriving a day early, I was too late; she was gone when I arrived. My brother was executor, and my sister and I helped him deal with the house and Mom’s belongings.

I returned home, and back to work. Not that I could blame him, my son decided he wanted to live with his Dad full time. He had never liked the city and the time spent at his Dad’s that summer had made that apparent. We rushed to get him signed up for school, packed his stuff and he was gone.

I was accumulating stress points like mad.

Over the next two years my MS symptoms worsened, and I fell into a deep depression.

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