You never expect it, yet for some reason you have known for a while that something wasn’t right. For me the day came when something as simple as holding a pen brought my world crashing down. I have been having horrible pain in my hands for years, but back then it was manageable. Now it’s unbearable even with the pain killers. I’m going to start with that day. My job then was a supervisor in a patisserie, but mostly I worked on the coffee machine. I loved it, the smell, the speed and making the best coffee in town. After a while of being the main barista, it takes its toll on your hands with the constant pulling, pushing and banging out coffee. The repetitive strain is eye-watering at times. But I carried on because I knew if I didn’t I couldn’t feed my family. Any time off sick was a strain I couldn’t bear with, the thought of letting work down and my family. The thought of being sick was distressing alone. If I’m sick, who is going to pay the bills? If those bills don’t get paid what will happen then? I’m gonna lose my home as we can’t pay the rent. How, what, where, when and who are the constant questions of anxiety when it comes to money. It made me feel ill at the thought of being ill. So I worked and worked and worked.
Of course, all this working takes it out of family life too, I would snap at the kids for the littlest things. That horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach with the voice in your head: “You’re a terrible mother, and you know it.”
The day I did become permanently sick came. I went to work as normal, opened up, cashed in the till, slight pain in hands, served customers. Pain worsens, boss comes in, make ourselves coffee, pain more unbearable. I’d thought if I started to do the stock lists it wouldn’t be as painful as making coffee. I started the usual writing in the figures from that morning’s delivery, slowly checking, making sure everything was inputted correctly, hands are burning with pain by the end of the first line. I stop and try to stretch my fingers out hoping it’ll ease up a bit. I carry on with the next line. By halfway through this line I’m in tears and the numbers are looking like a four-year-old has written them. I stop. That voice is back: “You’ve failed now! Bye bye, job and everything else!”
I sit there in front of the counter, head in hands, bawling my eyes out in silence. My boss looks over at me with such concern it’s unbearable. She knows as well as I do, I can’t work any more. I just broke, the world under my feet slips away. She tells me that this has been coming for a long time, but she wasn’t talking about my hands, but my mental wellbeing. The stress of family life, a partner that isn’t in work and being a full-time working mum that barely sleeps has finally gotten to me. My hands just happen to be that deal breaker. This is how it all ends.
I was advised to call my GP. I do and I have the appointment that day. I leave work crying and shaking with all the ‘what ifs’ flying around. I’m lost. I find out later I have carpel tunnel syndrome, the chronic pain in my hands now has a name. From all this I’m now off on sick leave. I’m now left with my thoughts and sickening worry of how on Earth are we going to cope? Of course, my partner tells me, “We’ll be ok,” but it certainly doesn’t feel like it to me.
Fast-forward a couple of weeks. I have a driving test. The night before I could barely sleep, I couldn’t calm down enough to relax. I’ve already had two driving tests before and failed. I was determined not to fail again, but I need rest. Eventually I sleep but not for long, as the youngest wakes up far too early and so I’m up too along with the anxiety to boot. The test happens, it starts off fine even though I’m stressing and panicking like mad, as I have told my examiner I have carpel tunnel and it does hurt. Thankfully she is so lovely and nice she puts me at ease a little. Please don’t give me a reverse park. The examiner tells me to do a reverse park. I start off well. I start to straighten up then – bump I’d thought I hit the kerb. Damn, I failed again! The examiner gives me a chance as I didn’t realise I had hit a pothole not the kerb. I try my best to straighten up still, but by this point the panic has already set in too much. The breakdown and the fear kick in, it’s too much. I’m asked to pull over and can’t drive any more. She tells me I’ve failed. This confirms it I’ve failed, I’m a failure.
The anxiety didn’t stop there that day. My mum calls later as she had found out my test didn’t end well. She then tells me my nana has dementia. Not what I needed to hear at this time of stress. Again, I’ve failed family. But how was this my fault? And yet somehow I felt that it was.
The next day I’m talking to my sister, she tells me to call my health visitor. I do and let everything out. I tell the lady at the end of the phone that I’ve tried to tell my GP on different occasions that I’m not happy, I’m constantly worried, stressed and anxious but no one is listening. The lady gets me another appointment with yet another doctor. She listens to me and is very sympathetic to me. I tell her I’m on very strong pain killers for my hands already as I’m suffering from this chronic pain. I get prescribed some tablets and start taking them for the next three days. I meet my friend with her child as we took them and my youngest to the local soft-play centre. This is when the phonic tics started. At first it was just me ‘beeping’ and whistling. Every time I’d tried to stop them, they got worse. Then the sshhhing started. And then anything I saw became vocal, mainly car brands, and I shouted them out like my kids would do in the car: “Mini!” – “Skoda!”
The stress and frustration of it all had me in tears. It was too late to phone my doc, so I phoned 111 instead. The first medical professional I spoke to about this was a paramedic. He was very calm and soothing and waited for each episode to slow down before talking to me. He was baffled. His first thought was I’m having a stroke. But because I was answering his questions he was happy, as was I, to wait for an appointment the next day. He was just as confused as me as to what was happening, but I was stressed and scared.
I go to the hospital the next day for yet another general appointment. The doctor was amazed at what he was seeing. Apart from the anxiety, depression and carpel tunnel, he was looking at a healthy 33-year-old woman that has suddenly developed phonic tics for what seems like no reason at all! He asks if I’m taking any medication, and I reply with pain medications and Sertraline. He tells me to come off the Sertraline to see if that stops the tics. Thankfully they do stop over a couple of days – such a relief! Just walking through town shouting at random people for no reason was stressful. But now I have no medication to help. I still have this pain in my hands, I’m still anxious and stressing out. I still feel I have let everyone down.
I’m trying to keep myself busy, but this pain stops me from doing most things. Some days are so bad I just want to take a knife and cut my wrists open to fix the pain, but I won’t. The thought of my kids stop me from that. The pain of losing someone to depression is hard on anyone. I should know as I lost a friend to suicide due to depression nearly three years ago. That still hurts even now, I miss her so much, but now I understand why she did what she did. I am getting help every day in some way or another. It is a struggle, but I muddle through, until my first operation happens in May to fix my right hand. Of course I’m having nightmares about it and how it’s going to go wrong. I just want the pain to stop, all of the pain – physical and mental.
If you enjoyed this article please share it using the buttons below…