Why Stay Calm, When You Can Really Panic???!!!

Keep Calm and Carry On might work well if you’re a rock or the proverbial brick. However, if your passions are somewhat more easily aroused and your blood starts to boil and explode despite going to your happy place or bathing in the Pool of Siloam, welcome to the club. Feeling rather aroused, agitated and more of an Incredible Hulk than a Bruce Banner, I have tried going to my happy place of calm. Indeed, I’ve tried locking myself inside and throwing away the key. However, I keep returning to turbulent seas, which are much better depicted by  Munch’s The Scream. Indeed, if only I could scream, I’d feel better.

The reason I’m feeling all wound up and tense is that our daughter will be having tests next week to investigate some issues with reflux and being underweight. She will be having a barium meal and endoscopy to check things out. These tests aren’t difficult, traumatic or life-threatening and neither are the potential issues we’re investigating. Miss is largely well and energetic but she barely eats and is about half the size of many of her average-sized peers. If this is who she’s meant to be, that’s great. I would love to be almost that lean and she can be the real fashionista. However, there are a few ripples that concern me…as well as my gut intuition.

Dr Suess

All the same, I’m still wound up and agitated about it all and feel like something sinister is running after me and I just want to whack it on the head and destroy it completely…a bit like Basil the Rat in the final episode of Fawlty Towers.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mv0onXhyLlE

I'd love to put an ad in paper and get rid of my health issues.

I’d love to put an ad in paper and get rid of my health issues.

Where is a good cannon when you need it?

Of course, it didn’t help when the doctor’s secretary called out of the blue offering me an appointment “tomorrow” and then the doctor telling me he can do the endoscopy next week. I know I said it was urgent before Christmas but after being in the deep freeze for so long and not thinking about it, suddenly it’s all systems go and I’m struggling to defrost. Despite my best efforts to self-calm, I am well and truly freaking out!!

You would probably imagine that after all my medical issues and treatments, that our daughter’s tests would be a walk in the park. I’ve had brain surgery twice, chemo, an arterial blood test. I have lung function tests where they even block off my breathing for a second or two. Hey, I’ve even given birth to two children, albeit via the zip. I also had blood transfusions every 3 weeks for 5 years where they probed around through dry river beds and often had a few jabs before they found a decent vein…ouch! I also had my teeth cleaned at the dentist lately, which was probably more painful than any of this. My teeth, like the rest of me, are over-sensitive.

Oh yes! When it comes to medical trials, I’ve definitely earned my stripes. I am very, very resilient!!

However, there’s a huge difference between being the patient and being the patient’s Mum.

No parent likes seeing their child experience any kind of discomfort or pain but for me, there’s also this sense of responsibility. An awful, sinking feeling that I’m leading my precious, baby lamb to the slaughterhouse, especially as we’re not even 100% sure that there’s a problem. Of course, that would be the ideal outcome. We don’t want them to find anything. However, that also raises the question of whether the tests were needed in the first place and whether I’m putting her through all of this for nothing.

If only I could add this to the barium meal, Miss might drink it.

If only I could add this to the barium meal, Miss might drink it.

I mean getting a child to swallow the barium meal when she’s been known to refuse to chocolate cake is going to be no mean feat. Indeed, Dad will be coming with us for moral support. It reminds me of an old ad for Quik we had as a child: “Drink it Freddy! Drink it!” www.youtube.com/watch?v=-P-OFW3ZDB4

Am I just being an overstressed, over-anxious Mum? Am I so used to being overweight that seeing ribs on someone else seems odd and verging on starvation just because I’m so well padded?

Moreover, while we’re on the subject of overly anxious parents, Munchausen by proxy syndrome (MBPS) comes to mind. MBPS, which is also known as “medical child abuse,” involves the exaggeration or fabrication of illnesses or symptoms by a primary caretaker. It was named after Baron von Munchausen, an 18th-century German dignitary known for making up stories about his travels and experiences in order to get attention. “By proxy” indicates that a parent or other adult is fabricating or exaggerating symptoms in a child, not in himself or herself.

However, when it comes to attracting medical attention, I don’t need anymore.

I don't think hospital was on Dr Suess's list.

I don’t think hospital was on Dr Suess’s list.

Moroever, I’m with Dr Suess. When he wrote: “Oh the places we can go!”, he wasn’t talking about hospitals or doctors’ waiting rooms!

All these things aside, our daughter’s refusal to eat does put quite a lot of added strain on family meals. Under duress, she’ll eat a Weetbix for breakfast. For years, her sandwiches have come home from school untouched, day after day, year after year. She eats an amount of food the equivalent to two match boxes for dinner and often complains about feeling full or sick. Even as a baby, she refused to eat and her weight has hovered around the bottom 5-10% most of her life. The fact that she has remained on the same trajectory and is relatively healthy and active are very encouraging but there’s still this nagging doubt.

I just need to make sure. Know I have covered the bases but not put her through exhaustive, unnecessary testing. Despite my uncertainty, I do think that when you have concerns as a parent and that uneasy feeling in your gut, you need to put some trust in your own judgement and intuition. Investigate. Ask questions. My daughter’s doctor also thought there was enough evidence to take the next step and refer us on. After all, these symptoms are concrete, measurable and aren’t the product of my over-active imagination…the stuff of a medical, fantasy novel published by Hypochondriacs Anonymous. To be honest with you, I’d much rather be a hypochondriac than really be sick.

To some extent my approach, has been informed by my own experience. When I was around 25, I was diagnosed with Dandy Walker Syndrome (DWS), a variation of hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain and had brain surgery to insert a shunt to treat it. Our best guess explanation for DWS was my difficult birth. There were times where I’d had various tests and we came close to working things out but we always missed the next definitive step, which would have given us the answers.

I have often wondered how different my life would have been had the Dandy Walker been diagnosed as a child. Growing up, I always felt “different” and I think I always knew there was something and I really did try to work out what was going on. I turned to psychology to try to unravel these inner mysteries when in fact, the problem was organic, structural and all in the plumbing. I was teased and bullied and all but destroyed at times and it would have been helpful to have understood what was going on. Since I had the surgery, my coordination also improved and I could have been spared a lot of heartache.

On he other hand, I was very independent and  I traveled quite a lot with that harbour in my head. I traveled quite a lot within Australia, usually travelling on my own but meeting up with others on the road. All this travel culminated in a trip to Europe in 1992, after my parents gave me a 12 month open ticket for my 21st birthday. I stayed in Europe for 9 months, mostly living and working with a family in Heidelberg in Germany. To be quite frank, I doubt my parents would have funded that if they’d known about my head.

No! No! No! That would never have happened. I would have been way too precious. Wrapped in more layers of bubble wrap than a fragile porcelain doll, I would have been protected, sheltered and to be honest…as stunted as a bonsai. Not that all parents of children with disabilities closet their kids and when they do, perhaps not without due cause but having a shunt in your brain is a fairly major thing for a kid and they are renowned for blocking and being temperamental…particularly in years gone by. We’re not talking about having a broken toe. Brain stuff is at least potentially major.

I know my life would have been very different.

Perhaps, it is this awareness that even serious medical conditions can bubble along seemingly under the surface for many many years while only causing intermittent trouble, that has caused me to be vigilant with my kids’ health. That’s not to say that intuition is always right and that your worst fears will turn into reality but it is a reminder. Serious health complications can have relatively subtle symptoms (at least at the start) and prevention and early diagnosis can be life-saving.

That said, as I head towards our daughter’s medical tests, I am hoping that it’s all nothing or just something simple and easy to accommodate. I’d much rather be an anxious mother than having a sick child. Wouldn’t you?!!

By the way, thank you so much for listening and I would welcome your thoughts.

xx Rowena

PS I’d like to share Ronovan’s post on boosting your positivity. I need to revisit this myself: https://ronovanwrites.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/positivity-negativity-be-gone/





12 thoughts on “Why Stay Calm, When You Can Really Panic???!!!

  1. merrildsmith

    Oh my! Good luck to your daughter–and you, too. I would definitely be feeling like the person in the famous Munch painting. Points though for working “Fawlty Towers” in, too. 🙂 It is awful to see your child experience any kind of pain or heartbreak. It sounds like you are absolutely right to have your daughter tested, but I hope they find absolutely nothing wrong with her!

  2. lorieb

    best of luck with the testing and dealing with the results, it is very difficult when it is your child that is ill!

  3. roweeee Post author

    Thanks Lorie. Not sure whether she is ill or not at this point but she certainly needs to eat more and put on a bit of weight. Meanwhile, yours truly needs to lose a fair bit. xx Rowena

  4. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Monika. You have those people that go inward and quiet but I’m more the opposite. I need to get expressive. Throw something…not that I do it physically. That’s more of a mental thing but writing certainly helps me and is very cathartic. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers. They are very much appreciated xx Ro

  5. roweeee Post author

    Thanks for the reassurance, Merril. Last night , I had this terrible dream that I let her catch the bus up to the big shopping centre where she’ll be having the Barium meal test on Monday. This shopping centre is not only huge but has a few different buildings and sprawls around and I couldn’t find her. Didn’t have my phone. Didn’t know if she actually caught the bus. It was all the things that nightmares are made of.
    I know myself well enough to know I am a Master of Catastrophisation but I am trying to be calm and level headed. Geoff is coming with us now, which takes off a lot of the pressure. With my own health issues and my small engine, the logistics of things becomes quite stressful. I need quite a lot of rest and a trip to Sydney, particularly under stressful circumstances, is very draining and puts me in bed for 1-2 days. This is our normal so not really a big deal but these complications magnify other issues when they come along.
    As far as Fawlty Towers is concerned, my Dad was a dead ringer for Basil Fawlty back in the day. As a child, I used to get people asking if my Dad was the man from the Nudge Chocolate Bar ad and they would say: “Nudge Nudge Wink Wink say no more” and I had no idea what they were talking about. Ironically, their car number plate at the time was “EGO” and naturally people commented on that as well at the time, which was another mystery to my child brain. My parents’ birthdays are 3 days apart and they will be turning 70 this year so I will have to put all of this together for my speech along with visuals. I’ve also been wanting to get in touch with John Cleese and see if I can get a signed photo. Must get onto that!!That would top off the birthday presentation!!

  6. merrildsmith

    Well, I hope you have funny Monty Pyton/Fawlty Towers dreams tonight instead of anxiety dreams.I’m glad you have something fun to look forward to, and I truly hope the tests go smoothly and the results come back indicating nothing serious is wrong. All best!

  7. roweeee Post author

    Thanks Merril. Yes, I’m back into baking chocolate cakes and I’m sure all those boys will keep me on my toes. We’ll also be going out for dinner with my parents. Have been fielding intermittent questions with caution from the patient and hoping all of this just goes away. You know how it is! I really appreciate your encouragement too. Take care xx Rowena

  8. Amanda

    Medical issues aside, you being different is one of the things I love most about you! Let me know how it all goes regarding Amelia. I would do the same and get it checked if it was one of my girls. Its better to be sure. Coming from a family of skinny minnies, weight is not so much the issue, the lack of eating is what makes it worth while checking. Thinking of you all xx

  9. roweeee Post author

    Thanks Amanda, I am really appreciating the encouragement. I had been feeling quite torn but am now feeling so reassured. Makes such a difference. Will keep you posted. Best wishes, Rowena

  10. Minuscule Moments

    Thinking of you and yes watching our children go through something this challenging is much harder than experiencing it ourselves. We feel so powerless Rowena. I hope everything goes well and quick for you all and you get some solid answers.

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