Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Time Has Come, the Walrus Said...

I apologize sincerely if you, too, will now have that poem stuck in your head for three days.  In case you're being driven mad by the fact that you can't remember the next four lines, here they are:

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings  --
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

If you're really interested, you can see the entire poem here.  How cool am I that I already Googled it for you?

Anyways, down to business.  Buckle your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen, because it's a long one. (But please read it through to the end.  It's also an important one.)

If any of you read my most recent post about my depression and anxiety, you might remember that I cryptically referred to some "serious and time-consuming shit going on in my personal life."  I apologize for the cryptic-ness, but I just wasn't ready to talk about it yet.  Roughly five people in my life (other than my husband) knew what was going on at the time, and I just wasn't ready to share. (If you're one of those five people, you can feel free just to skip this entire post, because you've already been hearing me bitch for six months, and I greatly appreciate you all not knocking me unconscious every time I opened my mouth.)

I'm not really ready to share now either, but the time has come.

So the first giant revalation that I'm going to throw at you: Jimmy and I are actively trying to have a baby.  We've been actively trying, and obviously failing, since June of this year. 

Can I tell you something?  Trying to have a baby is stressful as shit.  There are charts, and special thermometers, a lot of new acronyms, and things you have to learn about your body that you will wish you didn't have to know.  Let me lay down some other facts for you.

1. It can take the average, healthy couple up to a year to get pregnant.
2. The average, healthy woman only has a 20% chance of getting pregnant each month, and that's only if she has sex while she's ovulating.
3. This shit is nothing like what they told us about in high school health class.  They lie to us about how easy it is to get pregnant.  I am looking at you, Mr. Koehne.

Six months ago, this was all brand-new to me.  I never really thought about having to try to get pregnant.  Every woman I know in my personal life that has a kid got them by accident.  So this shit should not be difficult, right? 


Now, six months is nothing in the world of fertility.  A reproductive endocrinologist (fertility specialist) won't even see you to check you out for potential problems until you've been actively trying for a full twelve months.  That is a lot of charting your fertility signs and peeing on sticks, my friends.  So six months is only HALF the time many women try. I now know several women who have tried to conceive for over two years with no success. 

Now, I have another giant revelation: my uterus is broken.  Not, like, permanently, entirely, forever broken.  My friend Alicia says part of it is just "on vacation."  I'll explain.  Get out your notebooks, because it's time for an anatomy lesson.

I've been tentatively diagnosed with something called endometriosis.  Basically, this means that my endometrial tissue (the tissue that lines your uterus to prepare it to house a baby, which is the stuff that you shed during menstruation), grows in places other than inside my uterus where it belongs. (This would be the stuff that's "on vacation.") The ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, spleen, and intestines are all hot vacation spots if you have endo, but my doctor told me it's been known to grow as far away from the pelvic area as the lungs.

This sounds like a fairly simple condition, but unfortunately, it's not.  Endo is very difficult to diagnose for a variety of reasons.  Already, I've had two gynecological exams and two ultrasounds, and the diagnosis is still not confirmed.  Technically, endometriosis can only be diagnosed surgically. A doctor has to cut you open, remove endometrial tissue from somewhere outside the uterus, and have it confirmed in a lab as endometrial tissue before your diagnosis is complete.  Also, endo is often misdiagnosed as a variety of other disorders, including Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. 

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this yet, but endometriosis is also a very painful disease.  The most common symptoms are as follows:
  • extremely painful periods. Like, WAY above and beyond regular cramps.  Since I am currently personally laid up in bed with a heating pad, I can tell you from personal experience that it kind of feels like someone is stabbing me in the ovaries with a white hot fireplace poker.  This is what it feels like all the time for the first three days of my period.  During those three days, I also have waves of worse pain, which are so painful I cannot walk or talk through them, that last between thirty seconds to a minute, when it feels like my ovaries and uterus may be exploding.  I wish I were exaggerating. I've been told by women who have experienced both that these waves of pain are equal in intensity and pain level to labor contractions.
  • pain with intercourse.  I can't describe this one to you, because fortunately for me, this is one symptom I was not blessed with.
  • pain with bowel movements or urination.  Among women with endo, ending up crying while trying to go to the bathroom is not uncommon.
  • excessive bleeding, during or between periods.  This one explains itself.
  • Infertility or sub-fertility.  The most common statistic I could find is that women with endometriosis only have about a 30% chance of getting pregnant on their own.  Most of the women I've connected with have only had successful pregnancies through invirtro fertilization. In fact, many women are only properly diagnosed with endo when they are seeking help for infertility.
  • a variety of other symptoms, including rectal pain, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or bloating.  Most symptoms occur during menstrual periods, but they can occur at any time of the month.
There aren't a lot of good treatments for endometriosis.  The progress of the disease is usually stopped or slowed by hormonal birth control (and, ironically, pregnancy.)  I had no idea until we started trying to conceive and I went off birth control that anything was wrong.  As a result, birth control is the most common treatment for endo. 

However, if you're trying to have a baby, that's not really an option.  The only other real option besides "here's some Tylenol and a heating pad, good luck," is laprascopic surgery. During the same surgery that will officially diagnose a woman with endometriosis, the surgeon will remove any endometrial tissue, cysts, or other problems that are found.  Basically, five or six slits are made in your stomach, and a surgeon pokes around in there with a camera and a laser and removes all the nasty.  In some cases, this can include removal of organs, including the spleen, appendix, portions of the intestine, ovaries, fallopian tubes, or uterus. The surgery will cause (hopefully) a deep decrease in pain, and an upswing in fertility.  Most women with endometriosis have to have this surgery more than once.  Most of the women I've connected with online have had the surgery at least two or three times.  The thing about endometrial tissue is that it grows back.

"Endometriosis" is a word that I didn't even know three months ago, and since I learned it, it has basically infected my whole world.  Like I said, I never really thought we would have to try overly much to get pregnant.  Reproducing is a biological imperative, right?  So it should be a lot easier than this, one would think.

This, then, has been the main reason for my recent depressive tailspin.  Trying and failing to get pregnant for six months is hard.  Finding out your uterus is broken and you may not be able to have a baby at all is harder.  I love children.  I'm not good at a lot, but I'm great with kids.  I often feel like I was made to be a mom, and it's something I've wanted for a long time.  Since Jimmy and I actively started trying, it's been the thing I've wanted.  

Not to mention, ALL THE PEOPLE are pregnant right now.  It seems like everyone I know is having a baby.  Four friends and family members have announced their pregnancies since we started trying to get pregnant--two of them in the very same week I found out about the endometriosis.  That week was hard. I won't lie to you.  I cried.  A lot.

Please don't misunderstand--I am SO happy for our friends who are pregnant.  They are all such good, sweet, people, and they're going to make amazing parents, and I'll get to snuggle their babies, and I'm weirdly excited about buying their baby shower gifts.  But please also understand that for people having fertility issues, as happy as we are for you, it's hard.  It feels unfair.  And we hate ourselves for feeling like it's unfair, because you're so happy and we're so happy for you.  But at the same time, it's hard, and we struggle, and it hurts.  And not just even when I see pregnant people that I know--every pregnant lady or baby at the supermarket just feels like a kick in the teeth right now.

The reason I'm telling you all this now is because, after many doctors appointments, uncomfortable tests, and a lot of waiting, I finally have a date for my surgery.  I'll be going in for surgery on December 17th.  My wonderful, amazing mother will be coming for a week to take care of me, and then the following week, she and Jimmy and I will be driving back to Illinois for Christmas leave.

Also, I have to add, please don't get offended that I didn't tell you personally.  This is something that is extremely hard for me to talk about.  Before this blog post, five people besides me, my husband, and my doctor knew about this: my mom and dad, my boss, (who was super understanding about me missing work for doctors' appointments), the woman who covered me at work while I was at said appointments, and my friend who is a nurse who let me endlessly pick her brain about medications and symptoms and other medical things. This shit was pretty strictly need-to-know.

In any event, that's the serious and time consuming shit going on in my life.  My surgery will be the morning of December 17th, and if all goes well, I should get to go home that night.  Thoughts and prayers would be appreciated.

Illinois people, I will be spending Christmas at home at my parents' quietly recovering from major abdominal surgery. By all means, please come visit me, and I will make every attempt to come to Christmas dinners and whatnot, but if I can't make it, please understand.

My lovely friends in general, please be gentle with me.  I'm doing my best to cope with all of this and just do my life right now. But if I don't want to talk about it, please try to understand.  If I seem more depressed than usual, please try to understand.  If you catch my crying over a diaper commercial, please try to understand. 

I appreciate all of you so very much.  If you have questions, ask me!  I also have several resources for you if you're interested:

The Endopaedia

The Center for Endometriosis Care
The Endometriosis Research Center
The CEC Atlanta

Whew.  You can unbuckle now.  Thanks for reading all the way to the end.  That's all from me for now--I'm late for a date with my heating pad.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wrastling; A Super Serious Discussion

In case you haven't noticed, I haven't posted anything in almost a month.  To be perfectly honest, I haven't done much of anything in almost a month.  I've been rather a lot more reluctant than usual.  I look at my crocheting and I go "meh."  I try to clean and I manage maybe six dishes before I'm so overwhelmed that I have to give up.  I sit down to blog and I discover that I have literally nothing interesting to say (this post alone took me nearly three hours).  I haven't even managed to bake.  A box of cookie mix has been sitting on my counter, mocking me, for almost three weeks.  A box of cookie mix.  The kind to which you just add water.  And I haven't been able to put forth the effort to add water and turn it into cookies.  To put it plainly, I've not been well.

In my most recent post on October 8th, I mentioned that it was Mental Health Awareness Week, and touched briefly on the fact that I've been struggling with anxiety and depression since I was a teenager.  This is pretty common knowledge among my family and friends, and it is not something I'm ashamed of.  It's a genetic, biological fact, and I'm no more or less ashamed than I would be if I had come down with the flu.  I don't talk about it very often, because the people closest to me have already heard it all, and people who don't know me well get kind of uncomfortable when I mention that I'm something of an emotional whack-job.  But it's time to tell you all a little about my emotional whacky-ness.

I don't know how many of you suffer from some sort of mental illness. The statistics say at least one in four.   For those of you who are lucky enough to have no experience with depression specifically, let me sum it up for you--it fucking blows.  It sucks every ounce of motivation out of you, convinces you that nothing will ever, ever be better, and leaves you uninterested in doing anything other than climbing into a blanket fort and alternating between sleeping and crying, because you're a shitty person and no one could possibly want to spend any time with you anyways.  Including your dog.

For me, my issues come in spurts and waves.  I'll be going along swimmingly for a while, and then BAM--out of nowhere, and typically (although not always) for no reason, I get so depressed that I have a hard time getting out of bed.  That lasts for however long it lasts, and then I'm okay again for a while.  And then, suddenly, I'm having anxiety attacks over stupid, minor things like whether I left a light on for the dogs or not when I left the house.

Lately, my old frenemy depression has been hanging around a lot.  I'll be perfectly honest, I'm nowhere near as bad off now as I've been at times in the past.  I get my shit together in the morning and go to work.  (Tiny human snuggles are actually a great temporary mood lifter.)  I eat, sleep, and bathe.  There has yet to be a single day when I literally don't get out of bed at all.  Things could be worse. 

Also, this time around, I can pretty much pinpoint the reasons behind the tailspin, which doesn't help much, but it's nice to know why.  I always get a little blue after I visit home, which I did two weeks ago.  I love my husband, and my friends and life in Georgia, but as far as I'm concerned, the light at the end of the Army Wife tunnel is the day we get to move home.  On top of that, it's fall, which means Daylight Savings Time ends, and suddenly it's dark at four in the afternoon, which pretty much anyone who suffers from depression will tell you was the worst fucking idea in history, bar none.  And on top of THAT, I'm going through some pretty serious and time-consuming shit in my personal life, which I'm actually not yet prepared to spew all over the internet.

So, to make a short story very, very long, this is why I've been so scarce this last month.  Other than my trip home, which I'll eventually manage to post about, I haven't really done much of anything worth blogging about.  And even if I had, I probably wouldn't have been able to drum up the effort to write about it.  Sooner or later (hopefully sooner), my brain chemistry will level back out and I'll be my old self again.  But until then, you're all just going to have to bear with me.  I'm chugging along as best I can, and as one of my favorite bloggers would say, I'm trying to wrastle some demons.  So some things, like blog posts and delicious from-scratch baked goods, are falling by the wayside.  I apologize for that, but you've got to do what you've got to do, and I promise I'll be back around eventually.  But for now, I'm taking a break.

To my wonderful, supportive family and friends--I really am okay.  I'll bounce back like I always do.  Thanks for loving me in the meantime.

To all my other readers who've never met me and just read this post that was way too deep for their comfort level--feel free to back away from the crazy woman now.  I won't be offended, I promise.