The Burden of Social Consumption (aka: Why I am Ditching Facebook (for Now at Least) and I’m Back!)

I let the blog go for a very long time this time between posts. I hate that; it just seemed that, every time I wanted to write, I felt overwhelmed by the blank page, or like I didn’t want to add more to the already loud world of the internet. But here I am, back in this space of mine, and I think I’d like to ponder a bit about social media and the reasons I’m returning to blogging.

Joey and I are in the midst of what’s probably the most stressful couple of years in our lives. Last year, we took over duties as caregivers for his terminally ill aunt, all while working through the process of getting ready for an adoption. We honestly thought we may be parents by the end of the year, but such is not the case. She passed at the end of last year, and through her generosity, we now own her home. It is an amazing gift, but one that came at the cost of a great deal of sanity, as managing someone’s palliative care in-home is overwhelming.

“Overwhelming” has been the theme of the last 18 months, it seems. Between life stress and job stress, I’ve found myself withdrawing from friends, picking at my arms more, and spending waaaay more time in front of the tv and on social media than is probably healthy. And it all came to a head a couple of nights ago.

I was plagued by insomnia, talking to the Lord and trying to hash out some things with Him and plead for some answers, and I got up to go to the bathroom, taking my phone with me as usual (TMI, but there’s a point). It’s quarter after midnight, and I check Facebook (as we all do while on the throne, right?)….and see that I missed my cousin’s birthday. I’d failed to write “Happy Birthday” on her wall, and I was disappointed in myself, and all of the sudden overwhelmed when I realized I’d been forgetting a lot of “Happy Birthday” posts lately.

I finally made it to sleep around 3 am and was back up at 5 for work, and once I got to my desk, in the silence of the office, I was struck by the insanity of it all. Why should something I voluntarily use for entertainment cause me such stress? Why am I liking people’s status updates just because I believe I should; why do I think people need to know if I’m currently watching American Ninja Warrior?

Over the last few months, I’ve found myself typing a status, only to delete it, either because I came to my senses and realized it was something inane, something passive aggressive, or an opinion that may be inflammatory when I simply don’t have the energy to argue with people about it. And I’ve found myself irritated by posts about religion or politics, and began to wonder if I would feel less antagonistic toward those people (who I generally like) if I were not subjected to their inflammatory posts. I found myself feeling increasingly dissatisfied with my own life with every view of others’ carefully curated “social media lives.” In short, I was beginning to find Facebook completely overwhelming rather than fun.

Later that day, I was catching up on Tammy Strobel’s blog (Rowdy Kittens), and worked my way back to her post on breaking up with social media (sorry Tammy! I didn’t realize Feedly didn’t update to your new Squarespace feed!). And I realized it was time to let Facebook go.

What if this season of writers’ block is largely due to my consumption of social media without leaving myself enough blank space to think…and actually write? It’s easier to flip over to Facebook and see who’s up to what or read some ridiculous clickbait article with the same pictures I’ve seen a hundred times. It wasn’t making me happy.

Now, a few things, just to be transparent. I’m not judging anyone; plenty of people genuinely enjoy Facebook without negative ramifications. I’m not being sanctimonious, and I don’t have privacy concerns; we have no privacy on the web, and our conscious decision to use social media means we’re willingly giving that away. I’m also not against social media in general; I’m staying on Instagram (for now, at least), as it doesn’t leave me with the same level of stress. I’m not deactivating my Facebook, and my photos and blog links will continue to share over there. But I won’t be there.

Instead, I’ll be taking advantage of the freedom of not being overwhelmed by every missed birthday, every happy picture of a lifestyle I can’t have right now, every angry political rant I don’t agree with. I’ll be using that “free space” to learn more about being a better horseback rider, to exercise more, to plan more epic hikes, to work on hand-lettering (something I’ve wanted to learn for a while), to talk to the Lord, and to WRITE. To create more than consume.

Life is stressful enough. We shouldn’t be needlessly making it even more stressful for ourselves.

So, I’ll be here more often, hopefully, and I’d still love to interact with you. Drop me a comment, find me on Insta. Send me an email. But also, shut off your phone for a while.

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Our Infertility Story: A New Chapter, A New Dream…

I last left you sounding rather hopeless, which is a bit disingenuous as I wasn’t feeling nearly as dismal as I sounded. However, I did feel as though that part of our journey deserved some closure. It’s weird to feel both sad/wistful and liberated/hopeful at the same time.

I’ve stopped the fertility measures; no more waking at 5 am every day to take my temp, no more endless peeing on sticks to see if there’s some small chance that I’ll actually ovulate on my own. That’s all done. And, much to my surprise, I’ve felt free for the most part. I’m not saying that I’ve accepted the fact that my body is too hostile of an environment to foster life. I’m still a little mad…mad at the endo for robbing me of a normal body, normal cycles, normal biological functions. I’m mad at the PCOS for the insulin resistance, the uncontrollable cravings for sweets, the resulting weight gain. But, for the most part, I’m making peace with it.

I’m not going back on hormonal birth control until the endo pain gets bad enough that it’s necessary. My OBGYN told me that I would eventually need a hysterectomy, but I don’t intend to rush that if possible. And who knows…miracles are possible. It happened to Tedi over at Running With Infertility, and that was even after a couple of failed rounds of IVF. So I know it’s still possible, but I am accepting the fact that, barring some major divine intervention, it’s not going to happen that way.

So, what’s next, then? We’d already talked about adoption here and there over the course of the last year or so, but we really started doing our research about it in January this year. Since January and February were our last chances with the fertility treatments, we knew that, come March or April, we’d have to start taking action if we were going to pursue adoption.

And we are. We’ve begun working with a consultant and are getting ready to start that long, arduous, and expensive process. It’s no less frightening…the stakes are high and the failure has the potential to be devastating. But I do know that Joey and I feel a strong call to be parents, whether that be biologically or otherwise. And through some circumstances lining up perfectly, it looks like we’re in a position right now to make that a reality. And that gives me a new sense of hope.

We would appreciate your prayers. More updates to come.

Featured Image found here

Sometimes the Answer is “No”

I seem to have this nasty habit of falling off the radar. Life just gets so busy and we’re in the middle of a lot of uncertainty, and I get worried that I’ll be too negative and no one will want to read anymore, so I end up piling up in my chair and playing on Facebook instead.

But in all the uncertainty, there’s at least one thing that’s become clear over the last several months: barring a complete and utter miracle, we will not have a biological child. The endometriosis and PCOS have just made my insides too hostile of a place to be able to create and sustain life. How shitty does that sound? My own body is too hostile to foster life.

All of the weight loss, surgery, shots, drugs, more shots, all for naught. All of the awkward scheduling, waking at 5 a.m. to take my temp, and peeing on sticks and managing to keep from getting any on my hand. All of the “taking it easy” for two weeks after the ovulation trigger shot, all of the progesterone cream, all of the pain, the six months of Lupron hell. All of it for naught. All of the prayers, tears, anticipation. All for naught.

I named the first egg after the Lupron was over. Called it “Peanut.” That’s what my grandpa called me when I was a baby. I begged God to let “Peanut” get to where s/he needed to go and to spring to life. I was certain that it would happen, that God would come through, because it always seemed that He had before…sometimes, literally, JUST in time, but in time nonetheless. I never named another one.

There’s no “in time” this time. No more treatments. We’re not doing IVF; we don’t like it on a theological level (no judgment to you if you did it or are considering it, though). We do still feel that we’re called to be parents, but we know that it will not happen biologically.

Sometimes, dreams die all at once…a tragic accident takes a loved one…you’re abruptly laid off from your job…a freak act of nature destroys your home.

Sometimes, though, they die slowly, over time, little by little, each month, each single pink line, marking the passage of time and highlighting a hostile body.

There will be a new dream, yes; I know that. But sometimes you need a little time to grieve the one that’s dying today.

One Year Ago Today…

 

One year ago this morning, I woke up at 4. I had to be at the hospital around 5 to have what we now know was a fist-sized endometrioma surgically removed. Pre-op and the surgery itself was a breeze.  Honestly, the first day that I was home was pretty easy. Little did I know that it would get worse from there and, ultimately, it would take three months before I felt some semblance of normalcy. And by then, I’d be a month into Lupron side effects. Actually, I don’t know if I’ve ever known what “normal” felt like, since up until the surgery, I thought that random gut-wrenching cramps  were normal. And I still don’t think I know what it feels like since I went from post-surgery trauma to Lupron trauma and now into various stages of hormone-induced fertility treatment trauma.

People keep telling me how strong I am. I don’t feel all that strong. Mostly, I feel like I’m muddling through, grumping everywhere and annoying people, complaining about not feeling good and then feeling guilty for not feeling good when there are so many people with worse problems.

But that’s the nature of a chronic illness, right? You never feel quite right, but you never quite look sick. So you feel guilty for complaining and you just suck it up and keep moving. A year ago, I had no idea that I had endometriosis. I’m grateful to have an answer. But with that answer has come even more questions. Will we ever have a child? Will I have to have a hysterectomy? How long until my symptoms flare up again? 

Those aren’t things I can know. But I do know that I’ve got a great, great God who does know. And I’ve got a wonderful husband, family, best friends, and a snuggly puppy and kitty to cling to on the bad days.

I’ll leave you with a pic from a year ago today; Joey took photographic evidence that I made it through the surgery to send to our best friends. I’ve censored it a bit. It may also have become a greeting card that my mother sent me for some holiday last year.

A picture of the start of this endometriosis journey.

nevermind the below picture; I just don’t want the thumbnail for this link on facebook to be of me flipping a double bird after surgery.

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17 Hopes and Plans for 2017

It’s been an intensely introspective last couple of weeks with all of the challenges our family and friends have been facing, much of which has turned the upcoming year into one with more uncertainties than we’d ever hoped for. Nonetheless, it’s imprudent to face a new year without some sort of plan for things you want to achieve. In light of that, here are seventeen things I’d like to work toward this year (subject to change, of course, were I to actually get pregnant):

  1. Complete my weight loss journey
  2. Lower my cholesterol naturally
  3. Do one BIG hiking trip that we travel to do
  4. Participate in Reach the Peaks in September (a 12 mile hiking challenge that covers all 5 peaks at Hanging Rock State Park)
  5. Transition back to a mostly vegetarian diet (I’ve been struggling with this for several months now and am mostly only eating poultry and the VERY occasional fish)
  6. Change my workouts to be geared more toward hiking than running, and stay consistent with them.
  7. Find a better-paying writing gig (although I am having fun over at #AmReading)
  8. Knit more
  9. Get back to cooking
  10. PURGE the house and start fixing and upgrading things
  11. Begin pursuing the adoption process and, if that’s the way we are supposed to go, be as far along in it as possible by the end of the year.
  12. Begin cleaning some of my stuff out of Mom and Dad’s (I feel kinda guity for contributing to their clutter in addition to all of my own)
  13. Read a devotional and Scripture and pray every day (I’m currently reading Jesus Calling)
  14. Say “no” more often to things that bring me stress
  15. Read more BOOKS (currently reading: Decision Points by George W. Bush)
  16. Apologize less and work to stop feeling responsible for everyone else’s problems
  17. Stop picking my arms

Some of these will (hopefully) have to be put off until 2018, and if that happens, I will be unbelievably thrilled (and I’ll have a whole new set of goals). I also know they’re a bit nebulous and vague.  What can I say…there’s less chance of missing the mark entirely when the target is so big.

In other news, two years ago (2015), one of my resolutions was to stop biting my nails. Two years later, I think I can say I’ve officially conquered that bad habit.

nails-15-16

And yesterday:

nails-2017

I know, my cuticles need some work.  Small victories.

16 Things I Learned in 2016

As I sit here on New Year’s Eve (nursing a cold because, of course this year should kick my arse one more time before it expires), I find myself deeply conflicted over the year that was. It’s been one of the worst years in my adult life, fraught with illness, treatments, side effects, failures, and disappointments. But at the same time, it’s been one of the best years I’ve had as a married person; Joey’s and my relationship has grown by leaps and bounds while trying to make sense of our circumstances. I’ve learned more about myself in these twelve months than I ever knew, and I’ve done things I never thought I’d be able to do.

I also find myself ill-at-ease about what 2017 has in store. I do know that the infertility journey will continue.  Round 3 of the meds/trigger shot didn’t work, so we get one more try with that before we have to make the decision as to whether to visit the infertility clinic or go ahead and start saving money to go toward an adoption. Will 2017 be filled with pregnancy and labor and a baby? Or home studies and paying thousands to an adoption agency, waiting and hoping someone chooses us to give their child to? It’s too overwhelming to think about at this point.

So in light of this time of reflection, here are 16 things I learned this year.

  1. I learned that (non-life-threatening) surgery isn’t as scary as I’d feared. I was pretty terrified the couple of days before my endometrioma removal, but the day of, I was remarkably calm. After an excellent nap, I was back home only six or seven hours after I’d left.
  2. I’ve learned that you should try to avoid opiates as much as possible. I didn’t even take that many of them and STILL ended up with weeks of stomach and (lack of) poop troubles. No way.
  3. I learned what my insides look like.  Gross.
  4. I learned how to tell where your ovaries are on an ultrasound, what cysts and follicles look like (and when they’re big enough).
  5. I learned what endometriosis really is and why I’ve always felt crampy and uncomfortable for most of my adult life.
  6. I learned what menopause feels like (along with bone pain, brain fog, etc).
  7. I learned that walking in the woods and hiking mountains cures most of my anxieties.
  8. I learned that I can do HARD physical things. And I have the journey up Mount Mitchell  and FIVE 5K races to prove it.
  9. I learned that diet and exercise changes really can drastically improve your body in both appearance and lab results.
  10. I learned over and over again, with every small and large gesture, that my husband is one of the best people on the planet and far better than I deserve.
  11. I learned that being responsible for a dog really does make me want to be a better person.
  12. I’ve learned to change my prayer from “God, please let me have ‘x,'” to “God, please help me to accept what You are going to do.” (still working on this, obviously)
  13. I’ve learned to stop clinging so tightly to things I’ve loved in the past but that cause a great deal of stress and anxiety.
  14. I’ve learned that I don’t want to have to hustle to be a freelance writer; I may love to write, but I don’t love the stress of constant pitching to clients. I’ll be okay in my stable, corporate job at this point; I’ll write because I love to and will just wait on God to see what comes.
  15. I’ve learned that adult coloring books are straight out of heaven.
  16. I’m starting to learn that I don’t need to apologize for saying “no” to things sometimes.  It’s not my job to fulfill everyone else’s needs all the time.

I think I’ll be back tomorrow with goals for January. Signing off for now.

My Endo Journey: When Life Kicks You in the Teeth (A.K.A. Good Riddance, 2016)

Well, I let some more time pass, despite my intent to continue to share this endometriosis and infertility journey with you. I’m sorry. Honestly, my high after finishing the Lupron has worn off entirely, and the last few months have been crappier than I could ever have imagined.

First, things did not “start back” in the timeframe that the interwebs led me to believe was normal. Which meant I couldn’t start back up on the fertility meds.  Which also meant I needed to be pumped full of hormones to kick it all back in gear. As you can imagine, a “hormone bomb” like Provera creates a Melanie who cries constantly. I can’t tell you how many times I burst into tears for little reason, sobbing and apologizing to Joey for being ridiculous. He just laughed and soldiered on, as has become his modus opperandi this past year. Someday, I hope I can return the favor by actually taking care of him instead of the reverse. And he’s working three jobs these days, so his stress is already quite high.

So, it was back to the Femara (a med like Clomid that stimulates follicle production on your ovaries, thereby increasing the likelihood that you’ll ovulate). This time, though, we added in an Ovidrel “trigger” shot. The shot forces ovulation within 24-36 hours. It is not covered by insurance, and it’s $140 a pop. Now, we’re not destitute or anything, but come on. Still, I found myself excited this time…the endo was under control, ovulation was a sure thing; what could go wrong?

It didn’t work, that’s what. I had my annual checkup with my OBGYN a few days later and she told me not to get discouraged, that it’s fairly common for it to fail on the first try. That lifted my spirits some and we prepared ourselves for Round 2.

On Round 2, I promised myself that I wouldn’t get excited or hopeful this time so I wouldn’t be as disappointed when it didn’t work. And I was successful at that for the first week. But around 8 days post-ovulation, I started feeling “off.” And that led me down the road of symptom-spotting and agonizing over every little twinge. Needless to say, when it became fully evident that Round 2 failed on Saturday, 12/3, I was devastated.

In all honesty, I don’t like Christmas. I don’t like the commercialism. I don’t like the Elf on the Shelf. I don’t like the pressure on parents (self-imposed or otherwise) to create a magical “Santa” experience for their children. I don’t like the obligations, busy-ness, endless presents to buy (the bulk of which to be returned, thrown away, or stashed in some corner somewhere until they’re discarded when eventually rediscovered), social events to attend, weeks and weeks and weeks of extra rehearsals eating up what precious little free time I already have. There’s just too much stress that comes with the month of December, and in my worst moments, I want to run for the hills and return sometime mid-January.

So I didn’t even get a chance to fully grieve the failure of Round 2. I had to go to a six hour dress rehearsal the morning I discovered it. Then I had to sing in a Christmas program the next day. Then my office Christmas party. Then Joey’s office Christmas party. I painted on a fake smile and told everyone that I was doing just fine. We started Round 3.

Then Joey’s uncle died very unexpectedly and suddenly on the 13th. We were all quite close, and Joey was one of the first to arrive at the house, just after the paramedics. Just like that, Uncle Bob was gone and then came the business of trying to make sense of what had happened, settle his affairs, and take care of our newly-widowed aunt. All while in the midst of medications and ultrasounds, scheduling trigger shots, etc. I felt guilty for even worrying about our infertility drama, but just as the world does not stop spinning for death, neither does it stop spinning for the biological clock, so Round 3 had to trudge on whether or not we felt hopeful or had time for it.

And that brings us up to the present. Also, I forgot to mention that I broke my toe two months ago and it’s still healing (it’s hard to heal a toe when you don’t have time to stay off it), and I managed to get pinkeye just a couple of days after Uncle Bob died, and thus had to miss visiting the nursing home and seeing my grandmas for Christmas.

We haven’t been able to hike since Black Friday. And never more have I needed to be out on a trail than this last couple of months. Another reason December bites…we’ve just been too busy. We’re going hiking on Monday (the day after Christmas), and I don’t intend on seeing a car for at least six hours. We’re hiking all of the miles, injured toe and all.

I’m 4 days post-ovulation today. I had two follicles on Monday. I’d think that increases the chances that this round will work, but I’m not about to let myself get my hopes up again. And I’m not about to even think about symptoms. It’s not worth the pain. We get one more shot after this and then my OB wants to refer us to REACH (the infertility clinic). I’m not sure how helpful it’ll be since we don’t intend to do in-vitro, and it’s sketchy whether my insurance will cover any of it. There comes a point where we have to look at the situation logically. We can either shell out money for REACH or save up to begin the adoption process. I’m leaning toward adoption at this point.  We’ll see how it plays out.

So, Merry Freaking Christmas. I hope yours is merry and bright. I just want mine to be over.