A Three Part Journey. Part 2: It's Complicated

A short note:  As I was contemplating writing this post, I realized that there was a strong possibility that the post could end up being quite lengthly.  As a result, I decided to tell this story in three parts:
1. The Ego - provides background information on a struggle I recently faced at work. 
2. It's Complicated - a realization that we are human, and being human, stress can affect us in many ways 
3. Lessons Learned - summary of what I learned from the struggle

Hope you enjoy :)

Part 1 set the foundation for the frustrating work situation I was experiencing.  As you'll read in 'Lessons Learned', I'm actually grateful for having to go through that entire experience.  At the same time, I was extremely lucky to be offered a position on another technology development effort and the plan was for me to transition my original role on to one of our younger PMs.  Everyone decided that it would be best to wait to transition that role until our customer situation was in a better position.

The delay of the transition meant continued additional work on top of my already crazy work load.  It also meant that I would be putting more stress on myself - stress that wasn't necessary.  I try to keep a very conscious effort on my work time vs. home time, almost to the point where I lose sight of what I am actually trying to accomplish.

In a typical day, we get up around 5:30 am, eat breakfast and get out the door by 7:00.  By the time drop off occurs, or if we have any morning delays, I usually make it to work between 7:30 and 8:00.  Days filled with meetings leave little time to actually get work done and I'm usually on pick-up duty which means that I need to leave work around 4:30 pm.  By the time we get home, prepare/eat dinner, prepare tomorrow's daycare food, play with Roland and put him to bed, it's close to 8:00 and yes, I'm exhausted. Needless to say, the last thing I feel like doing is logging on to do work at 9:00 at night.  At the same time, my pre-baby work ethic kicks in and I feel guilty about not logging on to do work.  If I could just finish this one report, or review that one financial report.  It's a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' type feeling.  It is a struggle to know when to say enough is enough.  Again, in an ideal world, you would have unlimited time, be able to perfect every report before it goes 'prime time', but...we don't live in an ideal world, so I'm learning to say 'good enough' and go with it.

Until this point in my life, I thought I was invincible.  I would often hear of other people suffering from 'stress-related' or 'stress-induced' illnesses, but I never thought that would happen to me.  Well...

The hubby had jury-duty in a neighboring town, so we all jumped in the car to map out his route.  I was driving and I looked up in the sky and saw a plane which had an extremely bright light.  Instantly I experienced a pain in my eye and then, something just wasn't right.  But what was it?  There's a car in front of me, a car in the right lane but I didn't really notice anything to my left.  We were stopped at a traffic light and there was a construction vehicle one car ahead and to the right with a sign on the door.  "Hey Ro, what does that sign say on his car?"

In an instant, I was immediately frightened.  I couldn't see anything out of my left eye.  I carefully worked my way to the right lane and pulled off the road so we could switch drivers.  My vision started to come back, however I could see an arch shaped illusion in my left eye that started at the bottom of my field of view and worked its way to the top.  When my eye-sight was back to normal (after ~10 minutes) and I got a numbing sensation down my left arm where my thumb and pointer finger went numb.

An hour later, I experienced the most excruciating, horrendous pain in my head.  Yes, I was experiencing my first migraine.  Slightly paranoid from the loss of vision and numbness, we decided to call our friend to watch Roland while the hubby took me to the ER.  Four hours later, with no pain and a lot of medicine, I was released from the hospital with direct instructions to follow-up with a neurologist.

Two days later, I found myself sitting with the neurologist, describing the event in detail.  After an hour and a half in her office, paperwork for blood-work, an MRI/MRA she was ready to give the diagnosis.  "You definitely experienced a migraine, however you have what is called a 'hemiplegic' or complicated migraine. Basically, it's a migraine where you experience stroke-like symptoms with sensory and/or loss of muscles." 

The good news was that all of my symptoms made perfect sense...the blood vessels constricted, stopping the blood flow to the back of my brain causing me to lose vision in my left eye.  When the blood vessels opened, there was a surge of blood, hence the rainbow shaped illusion I saw in my field of view.

The bad news...no wine, no chocolate, no coffee...no stress (ok, so perhaps not 100% bad news).  She was convinced that stress played a big part in the migraine.  Knock on wood, I haven't had a repeat in three weeks, but I have realized how much self induced stress I put on myself.


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  3. Tessa - What an experience. I hope you never have to deal with that again, but it was definitely a lesson learned. I have had similar experiences that put up a red flag for me that I needed to slow down and de-stress and ... step away from the chocolate & coffee! :-) I really liked when you said, " Again, in an ideal world, you would have unlimited time, be able to perfect every report before it goes 'prime time', but...we don't live in an ideal world, so I'm learning to say 'good enough' and go with it."

    Amen to that! It's a hard thing to accept and it takes patience with yourself during the process of learning that lesson, which really helps.