The past two months have definitely been a struggle. When I knew that I would be leaving work and would be on medical leave long-term (and pursuing disability) due to chronic illness, I thought that I would just have this huge load lifted off of my shoulders and things would magically fall into place. I wouldn’t be as stressed. I would have more energy. I would have the freedom and passion to write and I would be on my way to fulfilling my dream of writing a book.
I could not have been more wrong.
I knew the fight for disability would be tough, especially SSI. I thought that my private short-term disability would be smooth, my private long-term disability would be a challenge, and SSI would be a battle. Two things surprised me right out of the gate. The good surprise was finding a lawyer who wanted to represent my case right off the bat. The bad surprise was the unexpected pushback from my short-term policy. i have had this policy for many years and have worked with them on many occasions but have never had any type of difficulties. It is so hard to not completely freak out as it is so overwhelming and is obviously a very big deal. The logical part of me wants to curl up in the corner rocking in the fetal position but the other part of me wants to take a deep breath and trust that God is in control. I knew upfront that the decision to pursue disability was a leap of faith. I felt with everything in me that God was leading me to take that step and I still feel like He is leading the way. Is it incredibly scary? Abso-freaking-lutely. All I can do right now is cling to His promises and know that He is in control and He is faithful to provide.
I also had the understanding that medical leave wouldn’t completely alleviate my symptoms but I had expected a quicker adjustment to being at home. I thought that I would definitely notice a relatively immediate decline in the chronic fatigue that I had been experiencing while I was working. I knew that my pain wouldn’t disappear but maybe it would become a little more manageable. What I wasn’t prepared for was a new diagnosis. Earlier in the year I had been experiencing some numbness and tingling in the outer portions of my hands and feet on occasion. Because it was symmetrical, my rheumatologist concluded that it was likely a manifestation of my fibromyalgia. Right before Abby’s birthday, the numbness and tingling had spread to my entire hands and feet and had definitely begun to interfere with my daily life. When I was driving, I constantly felt like I needed to shake my hands and feet awake. I struggled with typing (which was one of the reasons for my time off from blogging last month) and I had issues with my grip opening doors and jars. It was definitely very alarming. After consulting my pain management doctor and my rheumatologist, I was given the diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy and we started treating it with Cymbalta. Thankfully after four weeks of treatment, I have experienced a significant decline in symptoms. Hallelujah! A treatment that works right off the bat! I was due for one of those! It has also had a positive impact on the joint and muscle pain related to my fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, my pelvic pain and nausea have been crippling but you’ve got to focus on the good things in life right?
Then there is the writing. I’m not sure what is going on there. I thought that once I was home full-time that I would be completely uninhibited and that the words would just flow through my fingers. I have had so many things going through my mind but when I sit down to write, I feel like I just stare endlessly at the blinking cursor on the screen. It is like I have a brick wall in my mind. Words cannot express how ready I am for Type A Conference! Only 112 days! I really need some refreshment and revitalization!
I think the main thing with all of these concerns is the struggle to rediscover my identity in this new chapter in life. I’m no longer a working mom. After our trip to the beach in two weeks, Abby will be with a sitter three days a week through the summer so I am looking forward to (but a little nervous) about taking on a more SAHM role. I’ve never done it so I am a little worried about not being able to fill the shoes I have created for myself. I love Pinterest but man can it put some unrealistic expectations about motherhood in your head. Can I get an amen to that?
There have definitely been a lot of changes in my life and I’m sure there are more to come and while I am a little apprehensive, I am also a little excited. It is an opportunity for discovery and growth as a mom and a wife and more importantly as an individual (which I think sometimes we as women tend to overlook). Here is to discovering a new kind of normal!
I would probably consider this post part III of my Identity Crisis series as being a mom with chronic illnessbut it has taken me so long to get around to it that I chose a different title. I think because I have finally come to the understanding that I don’t have a clue about how to find balance between motherhood and chronic illness when it comes to parenting a toddler!
Abby is now 19 months old and is WIDE OPEN. She tends to start everything a little early so the terrible 2’s are getting a head start in our household! Don’t get me wrong – she is an amazing and loving little girl but she can be so stubborn (like her mama) so it is causing some battles. Lately its seems that as my pain levels go up, my energy levels go down just as her energy stays up all the time!
And in all of her new learning (such as new words and new skills), she is also learning to test limits. I know that when I am flaring my emotions are in hyper-drive and my patience is hard to come by. So how on earth do you find balance? Is it possible? How do you keep a toddler entertained during a flare? How do you disciple with love and patience?
I am by no means an expert and do not claim to be. I am merely a mom with chronic illness learning as I go. So don’t expect to find any miracle cures to all toddler woes here! But what I have learned recently is that in order to take care of her I have to take care of me.
I have really struggled with how Abby will adjust to having a sick mom lately especially since being on temporary disability. Will she grow up thinking resenting it? Will she wish she had a different mommy? I have let this eat at me and I hate it. I have let chronic illness determine what kind of mom I will be and I refuse to let it happen for one more day. Chronic illness will impact every area of my life. There is no denying that. It is a part of who I am but it is not who I am. I am a mom with chronic illness but first and foremost I am a MOM. And that means the world to me.
So as much as I have wrestled the last two weeks being home on temporary medical leave, I have learned that in order to be the best mom I can be for Abby, it starts with taking care of me. The answer isn’t going to come from Happiest Toddler on the Block or Dr. Phil but my taking care of myself and my health, I can then be the best mom I can be for her and in the present, it means taking an absence from work. It means resting when I need to or asking for help for common chores. This allows me to have energy for her when she comes home from daycare. This allows me to respond to her toddler challenges with patience. This allows me to be fully present as much as possible and enjoy our time together so it won’t pass me by.
The toddler stage definitely comes with its challenges (as does every stage) but what I want most is to be able to take it all in – the good and the bad – as I know all too soon it will be over.
Over at the Sisterhood, they do amazing things called Monthly Projects. October’s project is to work on a pledge to love ourselves. Plain and simple. I can think of no better time for this project to occur than at this point in my life. I’ve been doing a series of posts on my identity crisis and learning to accept and love me, chronic illnesses and all, and to realize that I am much more than my illnesses. They may be a part of me but they do not have to define me! Take a few moments to read over this pledge:
The Pledge to Love Myself.
I pledge allegiance, TO MYSELF.
Today I will proclaim it
TALL AND PROUD
I LOVE MYSELF.
From this day forward,
I promise to be nice.
TO myself and ABOUT myself.
I will accept my quirks and I will love my faults.
I will love my shape, whatever it is
My bones, my muscles, my hair and my face.
My body, all of it, inside and out.
Because that is what makes me, ME.
And there is only one of me.
I will finally allow myself
to see what others see.
My kindness, my spirit, my love.
And starting today, I will share some of it,
Because I deserve it.
I will fight for myself, because I’m important.
And I deserve to be everything I am capable of in my life.
I deserve to find my greatness and live my life fully and completely.
With no regrets.
There is so much I want to do in my life,
but first, it begins with “me.”
I LOVE MYSELF.
Today, tomorrow, and every day after that.
I LOVE MYSELF, DAMMIT!
And no one can stop me.
Reading that pledge gets me all stirred up inside! If that doesn’t get your engine going, I don’t know what will. Throughout the month you may see several posts related to this pledge and I encourage you to ask me how I’m doing and I will do the same! So will you join me this month and take the pledge to love yourself alongside me and the Sisters? Visit the pledge page to grab a button and the pledge!