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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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.

The Lupron Diaries: Dealing with Negative Emotions

The Lupron Diaries- (1)

I’ve definitely felt like the Lupron is beating me these past few days.  I didn’t stop to think that perhaps the side effects would compound as the shots went on, but that seems to be what’s happening.  It feels like I’m constantly surrounded by the crappy version of Snow White’s seven dwarfs…”weepy,” “grumpy,” “overwhelmed,” “frustrated,” “stressed,” “bitchy,” and “anxious.”  For the most part, I’m able to keep perspective and remind myself that it’s the Lupron messing with my head, but there are plenty of times that these terrible emotions surface, and I’m left curled up in the recliner crying over some stupid viral story I read on the internet or griping all over Joey for no apparent reason.

However, I’ve figured out some ways to deal with this side effect; hopefully my coping mechanisms will help you as well (also, I’m not a doctor, just a grumpy layperson.  Don’t take my advice to the detriment of your health…if you’ve got problems, consult a professional).

  • Pray.  If you’re not a person of faith, you’ll have to humor me here, but I am a Christian, and I am constantly having to remind myself that God is in control of all of this and He will get me through it.  And I’m not just talking about “pious, churchy” prayers, either.  I gripe at God. Sometimes I yell at Him.  Most of the time I’m contrite and pitiful, but honestly, He knows what you’re thinking anyway, so you may as well be honest and tell Him.  I think God appreciates honesty, even when it’s ugly.  And sometimes, that’s exactly what I need to talk my way through a piss-poor mood.
  • Establish and maintain routinesimageI know this sounds both elementary and
    boring, but it’s true. Routines are comforting, and when you’re struggling with a barrage of uncertainty and stress, you need comfort and stability in every way possible.  I have set times to wake up every day, and I try not to vary from them.  I have set days to run (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday), and a set day for a long walk or other activity (Sunday).  We have set activities on Wednesday night, Thursday night, and Sunday morning.  Open space (on your schedule) can be overwhelming, so having an established routine can keep you from freaking out.
  • Exercise.  imageSorry…you’re not going to get around this.  There’s a reason it’s suggested in almost any article about mental wellness.  Studies have shown time and time again that exercise boosts endorphins in the brain and is a highly effective remedy against depression and anxiety.  Additionally, since weight gain is another side effect of the Lupron,exercising will help keep that one at bay, too.  I run/walk three days a week, do a long walk (or hike) on
    Sundays, and I’m working on getting strength routines together for Monday and/or Friday.  It also helps to have something to train for.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been caught in negative thoughts and I’ve gotten out and run or hiked, envisioning myself crossing the finish line at a 5K or summiting Mt. Mitchell, and I’ve finished that workout feeling like I kicked ass and was ready to take on the world.  You don’t have to run.  Find an activity that you like to do and push yourself.  Sweat therapy is a real thing.
  • Find a stress-relieving hobby (and do it as often as you can).
    When I discovered adult coloring books, my world instantly became more calm. image
    Mandalas are my favorite things to color for their balance and symmetry.  I love the methodical nature of the process…selecting a few colors and setting their pattern, finishing with each color one at a time.  And the finished projects are so gratifying!  Find something that you can focus on that’ll take your mind off negative emotions; reading, scrapbooking, drawing, crossword puzzles…whatever works for you.
  • Give yourself a break.  I’ve had to lower my expectations of myself since I’m overwhelmed more easily and get frustrated much more quickly.  I can’t handle doing something every Saturday or having more than one or two commitments during a week.  I can’t agree to many last-minute or spontaneous requests.  I can’t do as many “favors” for people.  Being realistic about your limits and operating within them will lessen the sense of being overwhelmed by having added yet another thing to your list of responsibilities.
  • Avoid your triggers.  I don’t watch tv shows about obese people.  I don’t read stories about animals (unless I can tell from the headline that it’s silly and cute).  I avoid movies that I know will make me cry.  For a normal person, a good cry can be cathartic, but for someone dealing with Lupron weepiness, it may start a flood that won’t stop easily.  If it looks like it might throw you off and you can avoid it, by all means, steer yourself the other way.
  • Be honest with your family, friends, and partner.  If I’m “Lupron grumpy,” I tell them.  If I don’t want to go out because I need to curl up in the recliner and cry, I tell them.  They need to know if you’re going to be snippy for no reason so they don’t think they’ve hurt you. And they need to know when to try to pull you out of a bad place.
  • Sometimes, just eat the damn ice cream.  You’re not going to win every battle. Sometimes, you’re going to want to pile up on the couch and eat cheetos and watch six hours of Deadliest Catch.  And sometimes, it’s okay to do that.  Don’t do it often, but sometimes, it’ll just have to do.  Pick yourself up tomorrow and move on.

Remember, what you’re going through is tough.  Lupron treatment ain’t for sissies. You are an EndoWarrior, and you can beat the negative emotions (most of the time)!

Vacation Fail and Feeling Stuck…

I let a couple of weeks go by without blogging; it’s okay…it happens. Vacation came and went, and unfortunately, it wasn’t the time of relaxation I’d hoped it would be. It started on a good note; we got $158 for our dishes, which was about what I’d expected, so I’m satisfied with that. It’s also good to have them gone, even though the cabinets are still in dire need of both purging and rearranging. That’ll come at some point.

I think the vacation was doomed to start. I really wanted a big trip like we had last year where we went to different attractions, museums, and tours. I didn’t communicate that well, so we ended up in a cabin in Asheville.
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It was a gorgeous cabin right on the French Broad River, but part of the withdrawal symptoms from going off this Celexa (I’ll do a post specifically on that in the future) is his terrible feeling of malaise and irritability, and having too much downtime lets my mind just sit in that place and the depression snowballs on itself and gets worse. That ended up being exactly what happened.

That’s not to say that there weren’t bright spots, though! We had campfires the first two nights.

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And steak and eggs for breakfast Tuesday (steak cooked over the fire)!

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We went to the Museum of Cherokee History.

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It rained all day Wednesday, and then I woke up Thursday with a cold. I swear, this is the fourth vacation where I’ve gotten sick. We ended up leaving Thursday instead of Friday so I could be sick at home. The last year is the sickest I’ve ever been, honestly.

I’ve been struggling with feeling “stuck” lately. We’ve reached a bit of a crossroads in our lives right now and are trying to figure out where to go from here, and that’s been challenging. I haven’t been praying or reading the Bible like I should; I know that’ll give us clarity and probably show us what to do but, for whatever reason, it’s proven to be easier said than done.

It’ll all make sense in due time, I’m sure.

Why You Should Wear a Little Makeup…but not too much.

Makeup, Self Care, Bare Minerals

I went through a year or two in my adult life where I quit wearing make up.  It may have started out during one of those “you’re beautiful without makeup/love your face” movements…I don’t remember exactly, but it morphed into, “I don’t give a rip how my face looks and I’m just too lazy to spend any time on it.”  Don’t mistake me: if you’re not wearing makeup out of some feeling of self-empowerment or feminism, or as some social statement, I’m not telling you to do it anyway or implying that you’re lazy; I think you’ll get the underlying point and can apply it in some other way.

The problem with what happened to me was that I quit caring altogether.  I mean, it’s hard not to; when you gain a bunch of weight and spend 11 hours (including your commute) at a place and doing something that doesn’t exactly thrill you, it’s easy to start feeling like you don’t matter.  And sometimes, that manifests itself in a physical way.  For me, it was to quit everything that had to do with taking care of my skin and face.  I quit washing my face before bed, quit using moisturizer, and quit wearing makeup except on Sundays (because I still cared just enough to not want to look slovenly on local public-access television). I don’t think I even plucked my eyebrows for months (hellooooooo Frida Kahlo).

Here’s the thing, though:  it wasn’t about the makeup.  It was about feeling like I wasn’t worth enough to spend a little time taking care of myself.  Over the course of just a few years, I’d put on 80 pounds, and I found myself in a job/industry far from what I’d studied to do, and my life not looking at all like I’d hoped led me to decide that it wasn’t worth it to “waste” the time to do a few little things to make me feel a little prettier…a little better about myself.

So I started putting on a little makeup.  Not a ton.  Just the below few items (although I do add a little sparkly eyeshadow, mascara, and tinted lip balm on Sundays).

Bare Minerals Makeup

Just Bare Minerals Foundation (in Fairly Light because I’m basically Casper), Bare Minerals “Warmth” as blush and eyeshadow, and a little eyeliner.  It literally takes me three minutes.  I even take it with me and put it on as soon as I get to the office so I don’t waste any time at home that I would otherwise spend drinking coffee before I leave for work.

I’m not telling you to spend hours on yourself…that’s why I included the caveat, “but not too much.”  It can be easy to get too caught up in appearances, or to become so insecure that you feel that spending lots of time trying to perfectly craft your appearance/persona is necessary (this is true with more than just makeup, too…social media jealousy, anyone?).  It’s not.  What’s necessary is to find a sense of worth outside of what you look like or what you do.  For me, it was realizing that I have a husband who loves me, family who loves me, and I serve a God who doesn’t care what I look like, but also doesn’t want me to not take care of myself.  And that, in light of those things, I should take a little time and do a few things to remind myself that I’m worth it.

I encourage you to remember that, and to carve out a little time for yourself and to find a way to treat yourself well.

**this post contains affiliate links**

My Adrenals are Worn Out and Dried Up…

I really don’t know whether to be hopeful that the second half of the year will be better than the first or not.  After two months of the severe mood swings and general depression/hopelessness, I’m starting to fee at home being in a funk.  At this point, I’m not sure I’d even know what to do if I did feel normal.  One of the girls I work with last week commented that she couldn’t believe that I was feeling the way I am.  I asked her what she expected me to do?  It’s not like I can cease to function at my job…I’ve got to keep doing a good job at work.  It’s not like the world is going to quit spinning on my account.  I tried to explain to her how I do my best to get through the workday and then I’m basically nonfunctional once I get home.  It mystified her.  I guess that’s a good thing.

Anyway, I’ve been reading Tired of Being Tired, a book about adrenal fatigue and burnout (Amazon Link–not an affiliate link).  According to their test, I’m at the point of “losing it,” which is just a category away from burnout.  After you assess your own level of burnout, the author (an MD) offers ten lifestyle changes that will help your adrenal glands recover and function normally again.  Her theory is that our increasingly fast-paced lifestyles take a toll on our adrenal glands that, historically, would have been limited to immediate physical threat (read:  being chased by a large predator).  While I’m usually leery of “Lose Weight and Feel GREAT” books, this one caught my eye because part of my anxiety diagnosis is PTSD and the fact that I’m constantly functioning in fight-or-flight mode.  My adrenals have been totally shot for quite some time, and while I’m a huge fan of prescription treatment for mental health issues, I also look for every holistic and natural method to help the meds do their job.

Nothing that I’ve read thus far as been earth-shattering; I do think it’s interesting that the author promotes a low-carbohydrate diet.  While she doesn’t promote a paleo- or primal-type diet, she does recommend that those at the highest levels of adrenal fatigue/burnout stick right around 65 grams of carbs per day (three meals and 2-3 snacks).  Surprisingly, she also recommends that those at highest level of burnout not engage in any incredibly strenuous exercise program (so, my plans to start Insanity again are on hold for a little while), but to engage in moderate activity every day.  In light of that, I’m going to develop a routine on the Wii that matches her recommendations and stick with that every day.

The toughest parts?  8 hours of sleep and giving up caffeine:(.  I really suck at getting enough sleep.  It is what it is.  I don’t like going to bed (mostly because, these days, I just really don’t want it to be “tomorrow,” and I seem to have this twisted belief that, if I stay up as late as possible, then it’ll stay “today”), but I have to get up at 5:30 every day, to head into an extremely high-stress environment, for which I really should have had a full night’s sleep.  So, bleh.  And I love my caffeine:(…at least she says that I shouldn’t go cold-turkey and can wean down.

Anyway, I’ll keep updating you about what I’m learning and how it’s going.  I did manage to make a meal plan for the week and we got some groceries today (Joey’ll have to get the rest tomorrow), so this week will be much better in terms of real, balanced meals.  I’ll let you know about the rest.

Also, please send prayers and good thoughts out for my friend Phil.  He was supposed to have surgery to remove the cancer (on the pancreas) this past Thursday, but a pre-op CAT scan revealed some changes and now they’re not exactly sure how they’re going to be able to tackle the treatment/surgery.  He means so much to me…he changed my life seven years ago, and I don’t know where I’d be without him.

Phil’s on my right.  I totally stole this picture from my church’s website, and when I went back today to find it so I could link to the source, they’ve started updating the website and I can’t find it anymore, so if you visit FBCIT.org and find some pictures, it’ll probably be in there somewhere.

When Did Napping Become So Fun? And a Milestone in my Depression/Anxiety Journey

It goes without saying that Shelli thinks naps are awesome.  She’s a cat, so she spends somewhere between eighteen and twenty hours doing it.  And, since we keep it so cold in the house to save heating costs, she’s practically hibernating anyway.  But, to be honest, I’ve never been very big on naps.  I used to take them every now and then when I was in high school after I got home from school.  Until the past few years, though, Joey would be the napper and I’d stay up and watch tv or read or surf the web.  There’s so much going on these days, though, that I’m really starting to appreciate the joy of the nap…today, I slept for two hours and was so groggy when I woke up.  I hate being groggy in the afternoon, though.

I need to plan our menu for this week so we can go grocery shopping tomorrow.  While I didn’t stick totally to the plan for this week, we have had all of our meals at home and haven’t eaten out or strayed from the budget.  Our final grocery total for the week:  $49.00!  We were at $47, but we might have a guest for dinner tonight and needed to get him a potato.  I’ve done three new recipes this week also(Falafel, whole wheat pizza crust (with no yeast) and spicy baked potatoes).  Building your recipe repertoire is an excellent way to keep yourself from falling into the takeout trap.  Who needs to spend twenty bucks on dinner when you can whip up something pretty tasty in just a few minutes on your own?

Meal planning has also helped me to eat better this week, which will pay off for my weight loss goal.  Rather than hoping that the restaurant didn’t cook the food in tons of oil and knowing that they covered it in a greasy sauce, I know exactly what we put in the food.  And, I’m looking for ways to sneak veggies into everything I make.  My big success this week has been adding tomatoes to my omelets in the morning.  Sprinkle a little parm in there too and add hot sauce and it’s got a good buffalo flavor!

Yesterday was a pretty awesome milestone for me; a year and a half after I began treatment for my depression/anxiety disorder, I was finally able to go see my psychiatrist and tell him that I’m doing great and that I finally feel like I’m at a point where it’s manageable.  He was thrilled and really made me feel like I’d accomplished something huge, which I guess if I really think about it, I have.  So many people either never seek treatment or never follow through with it because it’s hard.  Depression/Anxiety is such a difficult thing to understand…you hate it and wonder why other people are able to cope with life, but it’s also what you are used to; it’s comfortable.  You desperately want to escape from the dwelling, fear, constant replaying of things in your mind, the repetitive negative and fearful thoughts, the hopelessness and worthlessness, but you also worry that, if you seek help, someone’s going to think you’re “crazy.”  You think that you may be blowing things up in your own mind and that everyone goes through this.  You’re afraid that, if you seek help and it starts to work, that it may stop and you can’t live with going back.

It took me years and years and years to finally admit that I probably had a problem that other people don’t have and that I needed to get help for it.  I had gotten to the point where I was asking him whether he thought I had cancer about every five minutes.  Because I work in life insurance, I didn’t want to go to the doctor because I know how much having tons of testing done can screw up your insurance rates (as though I was actually planning to apply any time soon).  I was paralyzed by the fear that every pain or little problem I was having surely must be terminal cancer…I had even gotten to the point that, when trying to make decisions, I would think to myself that it didn’t really matter because I wouldn’t be around to face whatever consequences there were.  And it wouldn’t stop.

The past year and a half have been a tough journey…the meds helped, and then the help would wane.  Once my anxiety was under control, my depression started to get a little out of hand.  But here I am, nineteen months later, at a point where I’m able to cope with the world.  Not only am I free of the constant fear that I have cancer, I also care enough to try to make changes to help prevent preventable illnesses.  I don’t leave a party or a night with friends thinking that I must have said something ridiculous and that they’ll never like me.  I don’t have days of diahrreah before I sing in front of lots of people.  I’m relaxed.  I care less about what people think of me.  I’m brave enough to do things that would have scared me before (firearms training and tattoos).  I finally feel like I’m relatively “normal.” 

I still cry and cry over cruelty to animals, over injustice to people.  I still worry about my parents (although not to a crippling level anymore).  I still get down over stupid things.  But it doesn’t control my life anymore.  So, if you read this and you’re struggling with depression or anxiety:  GET HELP.  NOW.  Don’t think it over.  Find a good psychiatrist.  If you’re a Christian and you’re afraid, don’t be.  My psychiatrist shares my religious beliefs and would never blame my faith for any problems.  Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of well-meaning “Church” people who tell you to pray about it or to trust Jesus more.  That’s a load of bull.  These problems don’t have to do with your faith.  They are PHYSICAL problems that have MENTAL/EMOTIONAL symptoms.  You’re not a bad Christian if you have to have medication to help with that.  And if someone tells you that, then they’re not being a very good Christian.

When I got to the point where I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of having to spend the next sixty years of my life feeling this way, I realized that it was time for action.  Don’t wait that long.  You’re worth more than that.

Ok, enough of that….time to get to the potatoes:).  Have a good night!!