I may have trusted my doctors, but the situation was starting to make me anxious, and when I lost the ability to turn my head side to side due to neck stiffness on 9/6, only 4 days after my jaw problems cleared up, I began wondering what I was going to do to get through this semester. The neck stiffness and pain developed until the point where I could not lift my children, and I still had not submitted that conference paper. We were leaving in about two weeks for a trip to Europe which I would happily have canceled had it not involved our children’s first ever visit with the Swiss side of my family. Worse yet, my husband would be going to Australia for work reasons two weeks the day after we returned from Europe. How would I cope if I could not lift the children, needed extra sleep, and had more work to do than could reasonably be done in my reduced work hours? By now I figured I was losing 10-15 hours of work per week to extra sleep, and I clearly saw just how overloaded this semester would be with two courses.
Then the bomb dropped — we discovered that my husband’s parents (who normally help care for the kids when we’re at work) would not be returning from their own vacation until 24+ hours after he left. Who would help me during the day everyone was gone, a day in which I had to lecture in one of my classes and might not be able to turn my head or lift my children? I had what can best be described as a panic attack. My closest friend had moved 40 minutes outside of the city and everyone else I could think of with young kids also worked. I called my brother to see if he could come visit and help, and before I could even talk burst into tears. So much for presenting this as a casual, no pressure possibility. Luckily I have the most amazing family ever, and he agreed immediately to fly out even though he would be leaving for Antarctica for two months just a week later.
I called my MD/homeopath and took her suggested medication for the neck (which started to improve within 24 hours and was cleared up by 9/10 or 9/11). I also began telling my colleagues at work how sick I was and adjusted both my expectations and theirs for the semester. After my trip, I would stop doing all research and just do the work required to get through my teaching while my husband was gone. I would see how that went and then seriously consider whether (a) to take a leave of absence from work for the semester or (b) take a week off and just recuperate.
Hard to imagine, but despite all of this, I still had not called my doctors and insisted that they figure out what was wrong with me. In fact, I hadn’t even taken the time yet myself to investigate, despite the advice of a sage and caring colleague who pointed out that the best way to figure out a situation like this is to diagnose yourself and then see the appropriate specialist to get a confirmation.