Stress is one of the biggest problems in today’s world. Of course, we all have to deal with stressful situations at various times in our lives, but continuous stress can impact hugely on our health, as I found out to my cost in 2010.

BACKGROUND

I taught English very happily for 34 years and even though teaching has become more stressful in recent years, I rarely found the classroom stressful.

Yes, preparation and corrections were always time-consuming and I always put myself under pressure to get corrected work back to the pupils as soon as possible. But I loved the actual time in the classroom.

But I took on an extra role of Academic Head and the stress of that eventually made me very ill. I was a perfectionist in my work life and when I had the dual roles, I often worked 12-hour days. I left the house at 6.40 every morning and was home about 7.30pm most days. One day a week I did not get home until 11.00pm.

ILLNESS

Within a few years in my new role, I had reached rock bottom. Though I fell into bed exhausted, I found myself pacing the floor at 2.00am with heart palpitations. Bursting into tears or just crying silently for hours became the norm when I got home from school.

When sores appeared on my thighs and I lost feeling in my legs between my ankles and knees, I headed to the doctor, though I continued to go to school. Blood tests indicated a very low white blood cell count and low neutrophils. My doctor sent me to various consultants. Eventually, I collapsed and could not get out of bed.

COMPLEMENTARY THERAPIES

While waiting for a lumbar puncture (which I never had), I went to Lisa Cassidy, an acupuncturist/complementary practitioner, and cried my way through my appointment.

Lisa told me I had adrenal fatigue, that I was literally running on empty and my lymphatic system was not working properly.  She sent me to Andrew Smith at ‘The Willows Clinic’, who used The Perrin Technique (for people with ME) to help me recover.

I also went to Roisin O’Kelly, naturopath at ‘Breath of Life’, who made me a herbal tonic and immune booster, to aid my recovery.

Following weeks of lymphatic drainage massage, acupuncture and cupping (all part of Lisa’s treatment), the feeling started to return to my legs and I began to feel a little better. Slowly, I started to recover.

LEGACY

Even though I gave up that administrative role and returned to purely teaching, I found the exhaustion was never far away. I needed lots of sleep and rest and frequently went to bed when I got home from school to unwind. It was one of the reasons I took early retirement. I was fortunate in that I realised that the job was literally killing me.

My white blood cell count still remains very low.

Even though I’m retired, I still have bouts of utter exhaustion. I recognise the signs now and seek help before I reach the lows of 2010.

WHAT I LEARNED

  • There is no such person as SUPERWOMAN.
  • I was trying to be all things to all people.
  • Don’t be a ‘PEOPLE PLEASER’.
  • Seek help early.
  • Say NO.

SOME SIGNS OF EXTREME STRESS

1  Disturbed sleep

2  Being over-emotional e.g. crying for no reason

3  Physical signs e.g. headaches/ low energy/ rapid heartbeat

4  Feeling overwhelmed/ depressed

5  Rashes or skin problems

SELF-CARE

My doctor wanted to put me on anti-depressants, but I knew that I did not need them. Conventional medicine did not help me and I was fortunate that I found both the right people and the right treatments in complementary medicine that did.

It has taken me four years of writing the blog before I felt ready to share this. I have been feeling below par recently again and while I am nowhere nearly as bad as before, I have been very tired and realise that I need to take stock and practise SELF-CARE.

So while I was at a lovely lunch (courtesy of Longines) at last Thursday’s Dublin Horse Show (see photo above) I came home early (missing another function) and went to bed. Yes, I am getting sensible in my middle age!

Thanks for reading. I hope sharing my story might help other others to recognise if they are heading down that road and to look for answers from complementary as well as conventional medicine.

Hilda