Thursday, May 26, 2011

The 7 Stages of Grief

I recently talked to my grandmother on the phone, I hadn't heard from her in awhile and I wanted to see how her and my grandfather were doing.  She explained that one of my cousins had died on my grandfather’s side, and that someone else in her family had passed away that she was very close with.  I thought to myself this may be why I haven't heard from her for awhile, maybe she was in the process of grieving.  I realized that thinking about the seven steps of grieving and how they apply could be broadened to more than just death.  I realized that we process the steps of grief for many things that happen in our lives; a breakup, a job loss, being fired, an illness, etc... I wanted to make sure to express that these steps are a normal process and that sometimes we stay stuck in one step or the other for an undetermined period of time, and this is ok, this is part of the process. I talked to a very dear childhood friend of mine today, he was very upset because he had just been dumped, I felt so bad for him.  Just by talking to him I could identify right away he was in the early stage between Pain and Guilt and Anger and Bargaining, and I was trying to be supportive and help him through this process.  I think these phases are only natural and can easily be identified through observing our own and others processing of grief.

 Here is a link to a great site that describes the Seven Stages of Grief:

The link explains that people who are not aware of the stages of grief may have the attitude that you should just get over it, and that things aren't that bad, this is an outsider’s point of view and not a very helpful one.  I find that there is no timetable for healing, and that thing we may have thought we are well past can spring back up at anytime and it can feel as if the event is happening all over again.  There are not any specific rules to grieving and its process, and why should there be, pain is pain and only the person going through it can truly understand what they feel.   

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Symptoms and Misdiagnosis of Endometriosis

Here are a list of some common symptoms of Endometriosis and the Misdiagnosis that accompany them. 

Common Symptoms: 
  • Menstrual Cramping (can be moderate to severe)
  • Back Pain normally lower back pain
  • Heavy Bleeding during Menstruation
  •  Leg pains like aching or sometimes described as shooting pains
  • Diarrhea
  • Painful urination or bowel movements  
  • Pain before and during periods
  • Pain with intercourse
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
Other symptoms which may or may not be related but are frequently reported:
Low grade fever, depression, anxiety, Hypoglycemia, headaches/migraines, frequent infections. 
Common Misdiagnosis:
·         Clinical Depression
·         Ovarian Cysts
·         Irritable Bowel Syndrome
·         Chronic Fatigue
·         Ovarian Cancer
·         Ectopic Pregnancy
·         Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
·         STD’s
·         Fibroid Tumors
·         Appendicitis
·         Colon Cancer
·         ME Hypothyroidism
·         Fibromyalgia
·         Rheumatoid Arthritis
·         Menopause

Addressing Your Own Reality

I have been reading a wonderfully inspiring book by Ashley Judd called, "All That is Bitter and Sweet," and I wanted to share some of the realizations that I have come to experience while reading her book.  First thing I noticed is that when her sister Wynonna is in therapy there is a healing process that the therapy center uses, and it is about addressing reality.  What this means is that the person in therapy or who is in the healing process is able to address their own reality of situations they have experienced in their lives that led to their addictions, or whatever they are being treated for.  The person who is in treatment explains their reality in a safe place where no one can contradict them or tell them they are wrong, or that it didn't happen that way.  I find this process one that I would like to explore in my own life, that has so much value to it.  There are so many different reality's of a situation depending on who you talk to that was involved in them.  This process is so important, because like myself and many others we feel that is it hard to speak up against what has been done to us, because we are frequently invalidated when we express our reality to the ones who have hurt us.  I know when I have brought up certain situations with my family, certain family members immediately argue with me and question my reality, especially if they feel that I am pointing out something they have done wrong.  I find the idea of allowing someone to have their own reality so freeing, and that others can realize that everyone's reality is different but that's ok, we are all entitled to our perceptions it's what is so genius about being human, we are not meant to be the same.

One example of a hurtful situation is one that happened when I was a teenager.  When I was in High School I didn't eat right, I have been a very picky eater my whole life, also I worked at Dairy Queen and ate alot of crap from there.  Also in being picky I did not eat alot of the meals my mother or step-mother made for me, I ate other food instead, and I was constantly criticized about my weight and what I ate.  I was not a fat teenager I was actually very, very, skinny, so I couldn't understand this abuse.  I began to eat in my room alot away from the criticism of my family and away from anyone who would look at what I was eating.  I also ate alot, but I was always very skinny.  Then I began to feel hurt by my friends who would approach my husband and even my family, including some of my best of friends who would ask if I had an eating disorder, or whether I was on drugs????? because I was very, very, skinny.   This has really hurt me to this day, I have always wondered where this attitude came from, was it jealousy? worry? or both??  I never really have addressed this issue with any of the people who have thought this knowing that they really didn't know me well enough to begin with to assume I must have something wrong with me.  What hurt me most in this was that no one could just ask me to my face, and then when they were told I didn't have an eating disorder, and no I wasn't on drugs they still couldn't believe it.  It also made me feel bad about myself when I was constantly criticized for what I ate, and my weight, I used to think I was chubby in high school and it made me feel fat, even though I was a size 00-2.  I am thankful that this criticism and abuse didn't ever change my eating habits or make me obsessed with my weight because so many women out there go to dangerous lengths to be skinny.  It also made me feel worse that anyone would wish I had something that seriously wrong with me. I hope one day I can say to those people that their actions have hurt me and caused me pain, only then will I be able to find my voice.

I also hope anyone who reads this finds their voice to tell someone they know about an incident that hurt them, and to express their own reality because it is in fact our world that shapes who we are and others who can choose to hurt or heal us. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Undoing the Undone

I recently have been thinking about a certain situation in my life, one that evokes a sense of shame and a deep hurt but is just as important to me just the same.  I am the type of person who if I let you in and share deeply about my life, this is a special gift because this does not happen very often.  Those who know me know I am a very, very, very, private person; I do not like to put my business out there, or to be told what to do, or how to live my life, unless I trust you completely.  However others know me as exactly the person who would write this Blog because I must admit I like to shock people just to see their reactions, and also because my Endo book encouraged me to write about what has happened to help me heal. Just when anyone thinks they know me the picture changes and I cease to be what they pinpointed me to be.  Confused yet?  Well that's ok I don't like to be pinned down as one thing or the other, I am very two sided like a coin (not two faced, two sided).  I can see everything from multiple points of views, just like most people cannot empathize with a criminal, I know that most serial killers have had traumatic childhoods, not like this is an excuse for them to kill, don't get me wrong!! But that the trauma they experienced changes them and turns them into monsters because of some monster in their lives.  Let's face it we all have monsters.

My moment as a monster occurred in 2006 when I announced I was getting engaged, my best friend at the time got very excited and immediately made it clear that she would not wear an ugly bridesmaid dress.  Innocently enough she told the whole world we were getting married before I had a chance to tell them myself.  Anyhow at one point she was very angry that I didn't ask her to be my maid of honor because I had asked one of my other best friends to be.  It blew up out of proportion with threatening voicemails made to my phone by her and harsh words exchanged. Being young at the time and very different than I am now I was torn, and I did not handle it well.  My best friend’s family was very close to me and we had known each other since we were like 8 or 9 years old so they were like my second family, I called to invite them to my wedding while insinuating that my best friend was not invited, and then switched over to the other line that my husband was on and started bad mouthing my best friend.  I don't recall all of what was said but I know it was horrible, I made comments about her being Bi-Polar and very harmful things that I never would have said had I not been angry and felt threatened by her voicemails.  Needless to say my whole conversation was recorded on the answering machine because that line pulled over into my call waiting.  I was very ashamed at this behavior on my part especially because I have family members that are Bi-Polar and lots of friends and no matter how angry I was I should not have said the things I said, especially because I truly did not mean any of them. 

It was too late the damage was done and I lost a whole family over this incident, now I know I was suffering from PMDD which meant when I got mad I would become upset more than usual over small things, lash out harsher than before and completely hang on to any and all anger.  I was impulsive and reckless and could not control my emotions around the time of my period, and with all the hormone problems I had it made me a horrible person at times. 

Now I don't want anyone feeling sorry for me because I did this, but this is a prime example of what a disease can do to your life it can take a wrecking ball and leave wreckage behind that is irreparable.  Every day I wish I had not said what I said, however at the same time I felt abandoned by a family I really loved, and I began to question how much they really loved me to not accept my apology and to realize that I had made a mistake and wasn't perfect???? But there was no undoing what had been done.

Babies and other Musings

So it is official my husband and I are trying not to have/have a baby!!! Basically since I know it could be tough for us trying to have a child with the Endometriosis I have decided not trying is the best thing for us.  I really don't want to be the kind of couple that schedules sex, and having to take my temperature, or use an ovulation stick etc.... I have no desire to do anything stressful in creating our wonderful family.  Now I know that this situation may change if we don't have any luck conceiving but I have made my peace if I am unable to have my own children, and I may look into adoption as an alternative, and hopefully adopt later on in life.  I love my life with my husband just the two of us and our 4 kitties so if it is just us, I am ok with this too.  I have such a big heart and there are so many children out there that need good homes and you don't have to go to other countries to find them, we need to take care of our own children here in the United States first, at least that's how I see it.

To be honest I am terrified of motherhood mainly because it is the one thing that no matter what you do to plan for it, it cannot be planned completely.  There are no guarantees you or I will be good parents, or are good parents, or that we can do it all right.  This is what scares me the most since I am a perfectionist, doing it perfect, and  being the perfect mother are what I will strive to be.  I know that striving to be perfect is not something that is necessarily a good quality, and I know it is also one that is unrealistic, but I tend to think if you set the bar high then when you get even close to reaching it then you have done a good job, and the best you can do, is all we as humans can give.  Failure for me is not an option. 

I plan on being in school finishing my Bachelors in Criminology and Criminal Justice, which I have about a year and a half to go, and being a mother, and working full time, but maybe going to work part time if I can.   I cannot wait to move back home to Colorado and be around everyone who knows me, really knows me.  I miss that feeling when I am around my best friend when we can just have long conversations about everything under the world while sitting on the side of a mountain taking the view in, just being one with nature.  I miss my family being able to be apart of their growth and experience.  I also like the fact that we are missed when we are gone, that when my husband and I aren't around it really gives everyone time to reflect on how we touch their lives and it is good to be missed. So wish us luck on our baby journey, we are having fun so far making one :)   

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

So after the surgery I was in recovery mode and ready to start healing.  On the first day after, I began to get really sick from the Darvocet they had me on, and I couldn't keep anything down, in spite of this I felt great.  As the weeks progressed my stomach started to shrink but it actually moved, it had been years since my stomach moved freely without my abdomen moving with it.  However the surgery had released my abdomen from my stomach and it still is not back to its original shape, I can also feel scar tissue underneath my belly button which makes my stomach potrude more.  Besides that I have taken charge of my Endometriosis and I really want to make all women out there aware of this disease, I don't want anyone to ever have to go through what I have been going through since I was 16.  I found a book called The Endometriosis Sourcebook by Mary Lou Ballweg and the Endometriosis Association, it has so much great information on how to deal with Endo, support groups that are out there, and most of all treatments available. Another great site I use where I have published my Endo story is:  If someone you know is suffering there is help available out there and you are not alone, which is the most important part. 

Also I want to share what treatment plan worked best for me and how I went about it:

So after the surgery my hormones started going nuts, I was hungry all day long and I know this is gross but I was burping constantly, like the acids in my stomach had somehow changed.  I began to have hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, insomnia, and my nausea was back full force and worse when I would take my birth control, and really bad when my blood sugar would plummet.  What relieved the nausea was Pepto-Bismol or if I snacked or ate something this normally leveled me out.  I then began to look into homeopathic remedies for my period pain which was 50% better but it was still pretty bad at times, some periods were worse than others. I found on the Endo-resolved site that Arnica gel can help this type of pain so I stocked up and it has helped some of my pain.  Also by accident I got a severe sinus infection and my doctor prescribed me Naproxen for my bruxism pain and my sinus pain/pressure, because it is an anti-inflammatory.  Naproxen helped my pain relief so much that I switched to Aleve which has Naproxen in it from the Advil gel caps I was taking.  I also learned that certain foods can make the Endo act up and that it is not the same for everyone, so far my biggest culprits are Soy and red meat.  I have found that organic is best for all of the food that I can tolerate and it is heathier for you anyways.

The hormone problems were a whole nother issue, I saw my gynecologist and she diagnosed me with PMDD on top of the Endo (PMDD is an extreme form of PMS) and she put me on Progesterone cream, not over the counter or yam based but an actual compound.  I am on one ml of Progesterone cream every night before bedtime on the 13th day of my menstrual cycle up to the day my period starts.  I cannot say enough good things about how this has changed my life, normally around a week before my period I want to fight about everything, and nothing, things that don't matter to me normally, and I feel like a mean crazy monster takes over me and I cannot stop being irrational and mean.  The Progesterone cream has stabilized my moods, my anxiety is completely gone, I can finally sleep at night, and my hot flashes and nausea have dissapeared. 

I finally feel like I am on the right track with my life and my health is in my hands, and I will not let PMDD or Endo run me, I run them.

Endometriosis the Real Story

So as most of you know I was diagnosed with Endometriosis in 2009 after laparoscopic surgery.  Endometriosis is a complicated and severely misunderstood disease that is estimated to affect 70 million women.  Endometriosis is a ongoing, progressive disease, it happens when the Endometrial lining of the womb, which are made of cells, slough off with every period and are rid from the body.  With Endometriosis this is not the case, these cells/particles migrate outside of the uterine cavity and every month during menstruation they swell, and bleed but they have nowhere to go, building inside the body.  This is very painful; they compare the pain of endo to right there with the pain of labor.  I can remember talking to the anesthesiologist right before he gives me the anesthesia and apparently I had everyone rolling with laughter after I was given the lovely drugs.  I felt relieved as they wheeled me in for surgery, closing my eyes to fall asleep and let the anesthesia take over, I was tired anyways since it was 7am.  When I opened my eyes I saw Monty, my husband, sitting in the little open recovery room with me, he walked over and I asked him, "Do I have it, did they find it?"  He said yes, my doctor explained that he had removed implants of tissue from my left ovary, my bladder (which is very uncommon), and the front and back of my uterus.  Immediately I began to cry, it was a cry of relief and devastation, I knew what this meant, it meant that this horrid pain of this disease is not curable; it meant that I might have a harder time having children, and it meant that I was right all along, I had Endometriosis.

I was so relieved and frustrated, here I had told everyone I knew including doctors and specialists that I am in a lot of pain with my period, and I miss a lot of work and have lost a few jobs because of how sick I was.  Why had no one taken me seriously?  Doctors have prescribed me everything from muscle relaxers to Vicodin and none of these even touched the pain.  That should explain how serious my situation was, if narcotics didn't even help me.  What was really bad is that after I had an Ovarian cyst in 2006, the specialist I was seeing nonchalantly stated that the only way to find out if anything was seriously wrong with me was surgery. At this point I was seriously skeptical of such an invasive procedure and scared to have surgery so I decided that this was the last option I would consider.  I thought to myself I am strong and I can get through this pain. I realized that after awhile you adapt, we as humans adapt to our situations and we make the best of them, so that is what I did, I adapted and I made the best of it. 

I believe that my life path would take me where I need to go, and I am a strong believer in fate.  So when I met Jennifer after moving to Texas, I felt like this was the biggest blessing ever and fate stepped in.  We were all at game night at Stephen and Jennifer's and I was on my period, I did not feel well my legs ached so bad, my back felt like a 5 ton weight was sitting on the lower part, and I had severe cramping.  Jennifer could see I wasn't feeling well but I was making the best of it, not complaining just wincing lol.  She asked me what was wrong and I told her, and we started sharing stories about pain and she explained that recently she had had her 2nd or 3rd surgery for Endometriosis.  I was so relieved to know finally, there was someone out there who knew what I was feeling!! I was tired of the pity looks, and the way all the women I talked to would complain about their bad periods.  I know they didn't mean to but without really listening to me they were belittling my condition because of the old stigma that, "all women have pain during their periods," is just accepted, and most women do have pain with their period.  However this stigma my friend is only partly true and that is why Endometriosis is misdiagnosed, or missed completely.  In cases of Endo it's not just your run of the mill period pain, it is excruciating, debilitating, and affects your whole life.  Jennifer and I came to the funniest conclusion that Advil gel caps was the only thing that even came close to helping relieve some of the pain, not Tylenol or Ibuprofen, it had to be Advil, and it had to be the gel caps.  So here I was armed with a possible diagnosis, so I scheduled an appointment with a new Gynecologist, who was another specialist.  This time I made sure he actually had performed surgeries on Endometriosis before, and he had, and I was relieved and confident to know this.  We met and he stated, like the specialist before, that the only option was surgery but he was still leery from my symptoms on whether I actually had Endometriosis. So I flat out told him we are doing the surgery and forced the issue, I was not giving up I was going to find out how to fix me. 

Thinking back now I am still so frightened, my friend Jennifer was diagnosed with severe Endometriosis, while I have moderate, she had been trying for 2 1/2 years to have a child unsuccessfully.  I also watch Mystery Diagnosis on the OWN network dvr'ing every show they had on there so far.  One of the cases was a woman in her late 20's who presented with severe nausea, and heavy menstrual periods, and pain with intercourse.  The woman had this nagging feeling that because no one could figure out her condition, she could not have children, so she resigned herself to her problems and began the adoption process.  Eventually after 7 years she found a gynecologist to take her seriously; they opened her up Laproscopically and found her pelvis was frozen!!! Turns out she had Endometriosis so long and so severe it had filled up her whole abdominal cavity!!  They immediately gave her a full hysterectomy.  I began sobbing when I saw her diagnosis, knowing just from her symptoms she had Endo like me.  Just like the woman on TV I have always had this nagging intuitive fear for a very long time that I will not be able to have kids, this devastated me because her fear is my fear, and hers came true. 

I would like to dedicate this blog to Jennifer, who talked to me about what was going on, who understood, and showed me what was happening to my life was not normal. If it had not been for her I would continually be suffering with as much pain as I had before, my life would be in jeopardy with the Endometriosis on my bladder which could have damaged it so badly if it progressed more, that I would have had to have my bladder resected or even worse.  Jennifer you saved my life, and you changed it more than you will ever know and I am so, so, grateful to you.
I also want to dedicate this to Monty my husband who took care of me when I was in pain, rubbing my back and my legs, holding me when I cried, sticking by me through all of the experimental doctors, foods, drugs, pain killers, etc.. and for being so patient you are the light of my life and no one has ever loved me like you.