The Day I Learned That I Was Really Important, Just Not in The Way I Thought

The past week or so has been tough! Blog subject, or maybe book subject tough. On Tuesday I picked up a full mug of coffee and felt a familiar dull ache. This ache sent a panicked message to my brain. Oh crap! I’m getting a flare.

My "tell" that a fibro flare is coming is this dull achy hand and wrist pain. So uncomfortable that I can’t wrap my fingers around a glass or even hold my phone without making it worse. I quickly calmed myself with the reminder that I hadn’t had a flare up that lasted more than a few days in over three years. Whatever I was doing, meds, supplements, diet, exercise-ish (being honest here), was keeping my symptoms at bay! For the rest of the day I took it easy on my joints and tried my best to stay calm.

Later that my evening my shoulders and neck started to ache but again I reminded myself that it should all be over soon. I thought about how lucky I was to be taking vacation days right now over my kids’ winter break, and enjoyed some Netflix and a book, being careful to take breaks from holding my Hindle when it triggered pain in my hand.

The next morning I woke up feeling a bit worse, but figured “Hey it’s the grand finale! I’ll be better by tomorrow.” When I woke up on day three with more symptoms, now feeling exactly like I had the flu, I got a bit concerned. Because we are currently living in a pandemic and Omicron symptoms are constantly swirling in my head I pulled out my sacred stash of at-home Covid tests. Thankfully it was negative.

Living with a chronic illness, especially one with vague symptoms and a reality that waking up feeling 85% healthy was a "good day" did not help my pandemic anxiety nor my susceptibility to illness anxiety. If you google Fibromyalgia symptoms, and I strongly suggest you don't, you will find hundreds of them. This is not, however, a blog post about living through a pandemic with an anxiety disorder and a predisposition for hypochondria, though I'm now realizing that one of those will be coming soon.

What I really want to talk about here is the inflated sense of importance we as moms use as an excuse to not take care of ourselves even when we are struggling with our own physical or mental health. Because mental health is health.

During these first few days of my flare up, lines from Camille Pagan's essay, "While I Was Sleeping," part of Zibby Owen's brilliant new anthology, Moms Don't Have Time To Have Kids ( started to pop into my brain. In this relatable essay Pagan writes about her experience having Covid and having to isolate from her family for ten days. In the first moment, before she takes the time to worry about her own health, she panics at the thought of how her family will survive without her for such an extended time. Bullseye! Any time I have even a sniffle, I tell myself to be strong and soldier on, because just like Zibby would say "Mom's Don't Have Time to Be Sick." This is such a universal mom fear that Zibby dedicated a whole section in her latest anthology to discuss this phenomenon.

Monday finally came around and the kids finally got out of my personal space and went to school. This was a joyous occasion because as you all know I love my kids but don't always like them and it was time to get back to our normal programing. I reviewed my calendar for the week and it was jam packed, as expected after two weeks off.

During my second week of time off I had made a decision to start to carefully schedule in an hour or two of breaks throughout my long work days that often stretched from 8 am to 8 pm (stepping away here or there to taxi a child somewhere, though that doesn't count as time off). I pre-scheduled these breaks as a preventative measure so I didn't revisit the burn out depressive haze I found myself in mid-December. I was trying to make "boundaries" the magic word for 2022.

I took my break time early that day. When my mind and body slowed down I noticed that my achiness was much more pronounced, my tonsils felt swollen, my head was pounding and I was pretty sure I had a fever. I ended up taking more than a 2 hour break that day. I asked my husband to drive the kids to activities and to pick up my oldest from an after-school meeting. I bravely ignored his moaning and under his breath protests when he reluctantly said yes. I mention this not to give Jeff a hard time. It's totally normal and even expected to moan when your day implodes on you due to illness and you have to quickly shuffle meetings around. I’m including this because I was proud of myself. In the past I would interpret that moan or two as evidence that he was mad at me. Then I would think, maybe he should be mad at me, I'm supposed to take care of the kids at all cost... and thus would start a cycle of resentment and burn out. Instead, I ignored these expected protests and rested while Jeff played taxi driver for the afternoon. Strangely, when I looked at Jeff and the children at dinner no one appeared harmed by my extra day off. I went to bed early, proud of myself for prioritizing my health, confident that this difficult step would assure that I felt good as new the next day.

The next day I woke up worse. My thermometer confirmed that I indeed had a fever. I hadn't had a fever since I was a kid, and I found myself unsure what to do next. I adjusted my zoom lighting and fancy webcam lens so I looked healthy and alert and had an important meeting with a potential client that I spent months securing and wouldn't have entertained the thought of cancelling. I then took my break and once again this scheduled hour morphed into a two- then a three- and then a four-hour pause. I justified this (yes I felt the need to justify resting with a fever) with the fact that my school semester didn't start for another week and therefore I was lucky to have extra space in my day.

Later that afternoon I had four therapy patients scheduled. I would have never considered altering these appointments, due to the fact that I had just been out of the office for two weeks. I treated some high needs individuals and most of them came to me weekly for therapy. Setting the boundary of two weeks with no available appointments, so that my time off could align with the kids' break, was already a major win for me and I felt that cancelling and skipping a third week of treatment could have been considered unethical. So