Saturday, April 29, 2017

That one time when my lung collapsed, then collapsed again, then I quit my job, then I lived in China for a month...

As you can maybe tell from the title of this post, a few major life events have happened since my last post over a year ago.

Actually, all of the above-mentioned events have been squeezed into a very intense past six months, beginning in November 2016.  The rest of 2016 was kind of an "eh" year - not bad, but certainly not great health-wise.  I continued to love my position at Legal Aid, and I was able to grow leaps and bounds in my career as a family law attorney, but it was at the cost of excessively high levels of stress pretty much 24/7, which eventually took a clear toll on my health.  I was in the hospital three times in 2016, plus an additional course of at-home IV antibiotics in early 2017, which added an additional layer of stress to an already stressful job.  There were some wonderful things, too, of course - my husband and I took a lovely vacation last April, and we bought a beautiful new house that we intend to be our "forever home."  Also, our family that lives in China came back to the US to visit for six months, so we got lots of time to visit with my in-laws and our little nieces, which was special.  But all-in-all, 2016 is not going down in the books as one of my better years.

The events that earned a place in the title of this post are each too detailed to group into one post, so my plan is to come back and do them justice by doing a separate blog post on each topic over the next few weeks.  For now, though, here is an overview of the craziness that has been my life over the past few months:

In November 2016, my lung collapsed not once but twice (actually, technically I think it was three or four times, but everything is kind of grouped together into two major lung-collapse episodes in my head).  The first time was relatively minor, and having never had a pneumothorax before, I actually walked around with the collapsed lung for about 5 days, completely clueless.  That first collapse healed relatively quickly and with minimally invasive procedures once the issue was diagnosed and I was admitted to the hospital for treatment.  The second collapse a few days later was way more intense and scary and took almost two weeks to fully resolve.  The second round was terrifying and painful and has left me with a level of anxiety and mistrust of doctors that has been a real challenge to overcome.  As each day, week, month goes by since the pneumothorax (pneumothoraces?), I can feel the various physical and emotional wounds healing, but I'd be lying if I said the whole experience didn't change me in a very fundamental way.  But more on that in the next post... 😉

After the pneumothorax episodes, I headed back to work.  I was weakened, though.  Being a family law attorney for clients who are domestic abuse survivors is extremely rewarding, but can also be unbelievably draining.  I'd always struggled with leaving my job at the office, and in this line of work, constantly bringing work problems home with you will wear you down FAST.  I was stressed about keeping my clients and their kids safe, I was stressed from feeling behind after missing 3+ weeks of work, and I was stressed about how big I'd allowed my caseload to become.  On top of that, balancing  my health needs and depleted sick leave left me feeling like I was constantly treading water, barely keeping my head above the surface - I'd earn some sick and vacation leave, and immediately need to use it for doctor appointments or actual sick days.  Around Christmastime, my husband and I started seriously discussing the option of quitting my job.  A whopper cold I caught in early January knocked me down even further and sealed the deal that it was time to leave my beloved job.  It was an extremely difficult decision to make, but ultimately I knew it was for the best, and the timing was as good as it would ever be.  I put in my 30-day notice, and wrapped up my short but wonderful career at Legal Aid at the end of February to focus on healing and gaining back my health.

The improvement I felt upon leaving my job was almost instantaneous.  I caught up on much-needed rest.  I went to non-pulmonary-related doctor visits I'd been putting off for months because I hadn't had the time.  I no longer woke up in the middle of the night, every night, stressed about work that needed to be done or decisions that needed to be made in my cases.  I cleaned my house.  I organized my closet.  I had another sinus-clean-out surgery to get me in tip-top shape.  I spent time with my grandmother, who passed away shortly thereafter.  I helped with funeral arrangements and spent quality time with other grieving family members.  My lung function never shot up, but it did seem to be improving gradually.  I felt stronger and much happier.

Then the opportunity of a lifetime popped up - my husband had to go to China for two weeks on a business trip, and afterward he hoped to stay a little longer to go visit his brother and family who live there.....and I wasn't working.....and I was feeling stronger and healthier every day....see where this was leading?

I'll include more detail about the ridiculous back-and-forth of making the decision to go or not to go in a dedicated China post- but, as you can tell from my post title, ultimately I DID go...and it was frickin awesome.  Was it sometimes uncomfortable?  Yes.  Were there times I was a little terrified something might happen and I would die in the middle of the Chinese rainforest?  Of course.  Was the experience of going to Asia and visiting a new country and spending time with my sweet little nieces worth a little discomfort and practice controlling my new-found anxieties?  Absolutely.  I can't wait to tell you more about the trip in a later post.  😀

So that's about all for now.  Thanks for sticking with me to the end of this post - I look forward to writing more in the coming weeks and months about the craziness of life these past few months, and hopefully about the not-so-craziness of the months to come.  I'm glad to be back.

Much love!