Monthly Archives: January 2010
It has been nearly a year since I last saw you, except for that one brief moment on New Year’s Day where our eyes met as we passed each other.
Memories of dancing with you at weddings and elegant restaurant meals with you seated at the table came rushing back during that quick glance. With all those good memories came all the bad. The kissing of strangers, the nights spent together on the bathroom floor, the mornings after.
I know you must have questions for me, wanting to know how I’m doing a few days short of the anniversary of when we parted ways. I will go ahead and answer the ones I anticipate you asking.
Do I miss you? Sure, when I went to that wedding without you, I shied away from the dancing that I used to love. And there are plenty of times when I wish you had been seated at the table next to me as I experienced the best restaurants that Washington, DC and Boulder and Dallas have to offer.
Does that mean I am better off without you? I learned this year that I can handle social situations without you by my side. It had been several years since I endured the holidays in your absence and it turns out, I don’t really need you around for those either.
Perhaps someday, we’ll cross paths again. But I’m not ready to see you again quite yet and I’m sorry to say that is why I gave you the cold shoulder on New Year’s Day.
I hope you understand and don’t hold it against me should we meet once again.
This is a post I will be submitting to Genie‘s Living Out Loud project for February. The topic? What role alcohol plays in my life. Which is none at all. For now.
I had an entire post written out, entitled “Things that make me pout”. (Yes, I entitle all my posts with a leading capital letter, then all lower case, just in case you were wondering after all this time.)
It was about Whole Foods and their new employee discount plan based on BMI, cholesterol levels, blood pressure levels, and nicotine use.
It was also about how the Travel Channel isn’t offered in HD by Comcast and how I can’t drool over Anthony Bourdain consuming a shellfish tower in Brittany or many variations of lamb in Istanbul in full HD glory.
And finally, I had to include a rant about when the “will he or won’t he?” question about Brett Favre will begin and how I hope the media waits it out until after the Super Bowl because it should be about the Colts and the Saints.
It suddenly seemed rather superficial to me, considering the situation in Haiti. So instead, I went ahead and made a donation to Partners in Health.
Ree has been detailing years of her life as a writing prompt. I knew I could use a writing prompt even though I have plenty to write. See, my mom is visiting and I wanted to be able to rattle off a post rather than put a ton of thought into it. I asked Ree for a year and she picked the year her son was born…so here goes…1990…
Most of the first half of 1990 (and the second half of eighth grade) sucked. Nearly two years after moving from suburban Chicago to semi-rural Wisconsin, I hadn’t made many friends. Most of the other eighteen kids in my grade level had grown up together from kindergarten and I was the last addition to the close-knit group. This called for me being teased at school and harassed in the locker room and at sleepovers. Incredibly bored by most of my classes, I did rather poorly in eighth grade. The only teachers I liked were the ones whose classes in which the other kids misbehaved and disrespected said teachers. And most importantly, this is when I flirted with an eating disorder.
It started with a nasty stomach bug a few days before Christmas 1989. For weeks (or maybe months) afterwards, my stomach stayed in knots during the school day. Always eating breakfast, the rest of the day meant avoiding eating because my stomach hurt so horribly. After a few weeks of this, my mom took me to a new pediatrician who specialized in adolescent medicine. Though Dr. B ran all sorts of blood and stool (yuck!) tests, she was certain it was psychological. And it was.
Eating was one thing I had control over while at school, as I was incredibly miserable throughout each and every school day. And once I got home, I hoped they would notice that something wasn’t right when I picked at my dinner. And they did. I saw a psychologist for awhile, which wasn’t the first time I’d been in counseling.
I won the school spelling bee for the second year in a row that spring, which definitely didn’t win me any fans. However, my brother came to see me participate along with my mom, which made me smile a mile wide. It was the happiest moment of my two year career at that little school.
We went to Boston over Memorial Day weekend to see one of my cousins get married. It was only the second time I’d seen two of my mom’s nephews, including the one who got married – and I haven’t seen them since (though one is a Facebook friend). I caught the bouquet, which wasn’t as cool as it sounded at the age of fourteen. From a picture, I think I was about as thrilled as my brother was when he caught the garter at the same age at our paternal uncle’s wedding.
Since the second half of 1990 went much more smoothly, there is little that I remember other than following two things.
In the summer, my sister moved to Stevens Point from the Chicago suburbs. I didn’t know then that it would be a significant part of my life once I chose to go to the university there four years later. To this day, my sister still lives there.
That fall, everything changed. High school opened up my world to nearly 400 other classmates. I found people who enjoyed my company and didn’t make my life a living hell. School was interesting again, especially Western Civilization with Mr. F and German with Frau R. I took algebra for the second time and aced the class.
Ree, you picked well since my mom is in Colorado right now, even if some of the memories are painful. I can remember how glad and relieved I was to have her at home waiting for me each and every crappy school day in early 1990. And that is what I remember fondly.
When I look back at last summer and read the entries of the worst days of my latest episode of depression brought on by tremendous anxiety, I feel relieved that I found the help I needed. Somehow, I managed to work through many issues that were bothering me and escaped much of the seasonal depression I usually experience in winter in spite of a major physical illness.
I recognize that this is time to start thinking of weaning off the anti-depressant she prescribed back in June, though there is still plenty of winter to be had, especially if I listen to the long-term weather forecasts for the Denver area. I feel that I’m in a good place and I’d rather not take yet another pill as part of my daily health care routine.
The thing is, this particular medication has nearly eliminated any emotional symptoms of PMS. I did nothing different after beginning it, no change in diet, no change in exercise, no change in anything. And within a couple months, emotional PMS became non-existent, to the point that I was caught off-guard by the beginning of my period.
My mother will tell you that this emotional PMS dates back to the earliest days of menstruation. At first, it could have been considered adolescent hormones run wild.
But it never stopped. Not when I entered college, not when I went on the birth control pill at twenty, not when I went off the pill at twenty-seven, not with the use of two other anti-depressants, not when my thyroid was finally treated, not when I started exercising regularly and eating healthy as a result of my type 2 diabetes diagnosis. I have had my female hormones checked in the past with no apparent imbalance seen.
The first thing that has helped in twenty-one years of this hormonal journey is the anti-depressant I am currently taking. I don’t have emotional outbursts that alienate friends and family for the week before my period. I don’t cry myself to sleep in distressing insomniac episodes. I feel human all month long.
How do I ensure this continues if I go off the medication? Could it be possible that it is a coincidence and I have outgrown emotional PMS? Is it related to the turmoil that wreaked havoc on my body last month? Nobody wants to take medicine that is no longer necessary, but do I need this to function normally?
Those are all rhetorical questions. I have time to consider them all before my next psychiatrist appointment next month.
Imaginations ran wild after the urgent care visit. A possible ovarian cyst, here’s an injection of painkiller, go to the emergency room if the pain gets worse, see your gynecologist as soon as possible. The symptoms matched the first worst case scenario of ovarian cancer – obvious ovarian pain, constipation, so very bloated, so very tired.
Things settled down after the gynecologist visit. A fibroid, she said, from what I can tell on the office-sized ultrasound. An abdominal ultrasound will show a better picture, she said, over at the hospital.
Roughly thirty-six hours later, all hell broke loose again upon arrival of the on-call gynecologist in the emergency room following a spiked fever and worsening abdominal pain. 4-centimeter dermoid cyst on the left ovary, 10-centimeter abscess in the area of the right ovary and fallopian tube. Total abdominal hysterectomy, he said, is the worst case scenario.
It’s the ovaries. It’s the ovaries I want to keep. Or at least one ovary. I cannot go into menopause at the age of thirty-three. Too many risks with heart disease and breast cancer and osteoporosis. The uterus, is what I have no need for. Not at this point and I don’t foresee a future where I would need it. Correction – we don’t foresee a future where we would want it. I am plenty happy being Aunt Rachel to my nephew and nieces.
A few hours later, and yet another gynecologist. No need for removing the uterus, she said, the infection is likely confined to the outside. It’s the ovaries we worry about, she said. If we have to keep the dermoid cyst in order to keep the left ovary, we will, she said. But we need to get you into surgery with your heart rate and your continued low blood pressure and your increasing white blood cell count. Worst case scenario is that we do not get you there soon enough and you end up in the intensive care unit.
And still. What I had to endure during the recovery from the resulting exploratory laparotomy, where they drained my lower right abdomen of that infectious mass – I would still call that the worst case scenario.
Being ripped open and then stapled from belly button to pubic bone. Catheterized and not allowed out of bed the first twenty-four hours. Unable to get out of bed by myself and unable to shower until the day I was discharged. Being pumped full of powerful antibiotics and narcotic painkillers that made me very sick the third day after surgery. Feeling helpless often as the husband did my household chores and others made life easier for me once I returned home. Elevated blood sugars as I continue to be on exercise restrictions. Not knowing whether I have a right ovary or an appendix, as both went unseen during surgery. Through it all, I was rather strong, I hardly cried, I just went day by day. I accepted my fate.
It’s the psychological issues surrounding this experience that are haunting me. To go from one extreme worst case scenario to another, and then to reality, and not experience depression. That I stared serious illness in the face, then managed to get through the holiday season relatively unscathed by my historically worst time for seasonal affective disorder. After all, I was alive and I had my ovaries and I was on the way back to being healthy. Will I remember this next year when the feeling of sadness hits? Or will it be business as usual?
It’s the spiritual issues surrounding this experience that are also haunting me. I prayed and prayed for it to not be cancer, to make the pain go away, to survive surgery. It is not something that I have done in a very long time. Usually spirituality means meditation and yoga and writing to me. No, it is not that I had a “come-to-Jesus” moment, it is just that I found it okay to pray. I needed to do it. To whom I was praying, I do not know for sure.
No doubt – this experience changed me, physically in the form of the scar that will remain, emotionally in the form of stability, spiritually in the form of hope.