Friday, December 11, 2015

Obsessed and Compulsive

In the spirit of trying to be open with medical issues (something I espoused in the last few blog posts), I feel the need to write about this. Not in a "search for reassurance or comments of comfort" way necessarily, but more for myself. Writing is not only cathartic for me, but it makes it real. It helps me focus my thoughts and explain, even if only to myself. But it is still hard sometimes.

I have OCD. Not like, "I keep things so clean OCD" OCD. Like, I have a mental condition that has begun to take over my life and I feel like I can't even control my own behavior sometimes. Like, I will be washing my hands while saying in my head "I hate myself" OCD. Like, my hands look like they belong to an 85 year old and almost hurt while I am typing because of the washing and cleaning and hand sanitizing OCD.

There are so many feelings I have and things I want to say about it, things I am ashamed about and things I wish my family and I didn't have to go through every day. Yesterday I stood in my kitchen and thought something like, "I didn't want my life to be like this." I don't want to be someone who cries at the kitchen table and whose kids ask "what is wrong, why are you sad?" I don't want my kids to have complexes about whether or not they wiped their bottoms "enough" or washed their hands every time they touch their noses, mouths, or bums. I shouldn't not want to hug my children when they are sick or worry that they will contaminate the house, the couch, or my clothes.

When did my life become something I don't look forward to living? When did each day become something to fear and endure? When did I lose joy? What is joy? Where is it? When did I become scared of myself and scared of living?

I am grateful to the gospel, though, for instilling in me a sense of duty and obligation to my family and my life. Though, to be honest, sometimes I feel like I am scarring my children more than helping them at this point, which is partly why I let Jamund "force" me into getting help, finally. I say finally because I realized that I have been dealing with OCD for probably about 10 years, though I didn't really make the connection until this last week or so. I thought it was just anxiety or scrupulosity initially, but going to group therapy last week and hearing others share their stories helped me realize that those things I did (or do) or thoughts I have had (or still have) were part of this disorder. It isn't always just cut-and-dry hand washing or counting things or checking door locks. It can be a wide variety of actions or thoughts.

Realizing this was both eye opening and terrifying. I have started going to a psychologist who is qualified to help people with OCD, and I am grateful and terrified of that as well. Even just driving there (he is in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle) challenges some of my anxiety and fears. I am worried that I won't let myself be helped, that it will be too difficult for me to follow through with the assignments he will give. It's like I've become a slave to this rogue part of my brain. I feel like I am the OCD and if that goes away, who will I be? I feel like a shell.

Jamund and I were talking recently that it's almost like I have no agency anymore and without that, I cannot feel joy. (see 2 Nephi 2) And I am almost afraid to have them (the agency and the joy) back--but maybe I am more afraid that I can't have them back, like I don't have enough power on my own to fight the very real power that is my OCD. It feels like a real entity, and that is what makes it so difficult--it's like it's me but not me, and it morphs and changes and finds new things for me to worry about, obsess over, and do.

Reading the talk from Elder Holland, "Like a Broken Vessel" helped me (though I have to admit, the title didn't make me feel so awesome). I wish I didn't feel that there is a stigma to admitting you have a mental illness and getting help for it. I wish no one felt that. I think the getting help part can be so hard. I know it was for me. It felt like admitting defeat, like I couldn't handle my life on my own. But living with OCD has become debilitating and I don't want it to harm my family and my life (and my body!) any more than it has.

I found this article by Sarah Schuster and I loved her point in #5. Even if we have a mental illness, we are people. All of us. And we shouldn't be ashamed of what we go through or afraid of getting help. And if you don't have a mental illness, please try not to trivialize it or the people living with it. (And if you don't really have experience with OCD,  watch that movie that should be at the bottom of that article if you want to get a really good glimpse into what it can be like).

Friday, October 9, 2015

Missed

Since I had my surgery in March for endometriosis, I have tried to have a policy of being more open with medical issues. A lot of times women don't mention or discuss gynecological problems in particular, and though I do appreciate discretion and modesty and am not advocating shouting out all of our problems on social media, I do feel like we sometimes keep our worries, issues, and heartaches too close.

Some of these conditions, when shared appropriately, could help others-- whether that means comforting others who also have gone or are going through the problem or helping them diagnosis similar issues. I feel like I could have found out about endometriosis sooner if others had been more open with their own experiences with it and recommended to me that I check out that possibility.

That being said, I took a pregnancy test near the end of September and saw that second faint line. We originally hadn't planned to get pregnant right now but ended up changing our mind and tried (not very hard) to do so. And it looked like it worked! However, I had some uneasiness and anxiety, as well as some feeling some "heaviness" off and on.

Well, on the afternoon of October 3, I started spotting. The spotting continued on Sunday and the bleeding started in earnest that night. Saturday night/Sunday/ and the next few days were extremely hard emotionally and physically. I had not been through a miscarriage before, and I never fully understood the emotional strain and pain that you feel when you have one. For me, in addition to the sorrow, confusion, and sadness, it felt like a lack. Though I was only about 6 weeks pregnant, I still felt some sort of relationship with that tiny "child"/fetus/embryo. I had plans in my head. I was thinking of the nursery in our new house and how we would all fit in our current house. It was like the possibility and potential of all of that—of a whole person—died, disappeared, and was taken without my having any say in it. That loss and emptiness struck me in waves, bringing me to prayer and tears over and over again.

I was grateful for General Conference occurring as I was dealing with this experience. I especially valued the reminder from Elder Bednar of dear Elder Wirthlin's talk, "Come What May, and Love It." How could I accept this miscarriage and love it? Maybe "loving it" isn't exactly what Elder Wirthlin had in mind for tragic situations. Maybe he meant that we need to see the positive, or at least accept the trials in our lives and try to make the best of them. I can use my experience to relate to others, to allow others to help me, and to rely more closely on the Lord.

I think it was on Monday that I did my "regular" scripture study and happened to be reading 3 Nephi 22. Reading the first verse, I thought it was a cruel joke the universe was playing on me, as it says "break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child." But I kept reading and found the comfort I needed:

verse 6-7: "For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee."

I kept reading and also especially loved verse 16: "Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work...", which I took to mean that the Lord molds us through trials and adversity in order to make us tools in His hands. Without the hard things that we go through, we wouldn't be able to properly do His work. We need those trials to strengthen and shape us.

I drove yesterday to Tacoma to go to the OBGYN, and the beauty I saw driving there and back home felt like another blessing. I felt almost sad for those who don't get to live where we do and experience the peace and beauty of the water, the trees, the fog, and finally the sunlight that eventually broke through. Because it does. The light may not come immediately, but it does.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Surgery Recap

It's almost been a week since my laparoscopic surgery. Rather than being overly anxious or nervous about the surgery and recovery, I was more nervous that the doctor wouldn't find any endometriosis. I was worried about the embarrassment of having him tell me that nothing was obviously wrong. I didn't want to have wasted the time, money, and effort for nothing.

My mom came into town on Wednesday to help out with the kids. I had a doctor's appointment that afternoon and then got pain and nausea prescriptions filled before coming home and beginning the bowel cleanse. That in itself was anti-climatic until I took the suppository at night... phew. Anyway.

We went to the hospital the next morning and the pre-op nurses got me ready for surgery. I got to wear sweet socks and a gown that had holes where they inserted what appeared to be a hose that had warm air pumping through it. They gave me a bunch of pills, an IV, and otherwise got me ready for surgery.

Eventually I said goodbye to Jamund and was wheeled into the operating room. I slid from my bed on to the bed/table in the OR, Doctor Cook arrived, and I remember the anesthesiologist putting the gas mask on my face... and then I woke up in the recovery room. After hanging out there for awhile, they moved me up to the hospital room.



Luckily I had a catheter in because getting out of bed that day would have been quite a task between the IV, the morphine drip, the nose/mouth thing that helped me breath and also made sure that I was breathing enough (needed thanks to the morphine), the leg wraps that squeezed my calves to help prevent blood clots, and the eventual wrap around one of my fingers that checked my pulse. I was basically a prisoner in my bed, haha. I slept on and off, and I had a pleasant visit with my friend Katie (who brought me lovely flowers!) and a nighttime visit from Jamund. Poor Jamund, though! I was basically falling asleep and loopy the whole time he was there. He read to me and attempted to play a card game with me, bless him.

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Jamund took me home on Friday afternoon and I was in pretty bad pain. Now it comes and goes. For some reason, I anticipated being tired and needing to rest but didn't expect super intense, stabbing pain from the incisions. Thank goodness for pain meds.

I had an appointment with Doctor Cook on Monday, and he went through the pathology report and some photos from the surgery with us. Basically...

1. I had endometriosis! Phew. He cleaned it out and estimated that it was Stage 2 endo.

2. I had a cyst by my right ovary. I asked him how big and he made about/maybe the shape of an egg (?!) with his hand. Good grief! I guess it was just a follicular cyst, though, and I think that he drained it and took a sample for pathology.

3. There were lots of varicose veins in my pelvic region. Apparently he hadn't seen veins as large as mine in the pelvic area in years. He tried to do what he could for them, but I think he was kind of surprised by them. (Although he did say during my ultrasound in February that I had some in my uterus too, I think). Looking it up online, this condition is called "pelvic congestion syndrome" and it basically has similar symptoms to endometriosis. Brutal.

For now I am still in recovery mode and dealing with the pain and tiredness of the surgery, so I guess I won't really know how well the surgery helped out with my pain until I am recovered! I am hopeful, though, and really pleased to finally have a diagnosis!

Friday, February 27, 2015

body talk

Yes it's been awhile, let's not dwell on it... ;)

Mostly, I have been dealing with the kids, my church calling, and mainly my body.

I definitely don't "have" to write about this, but I feel like medical issues are so closely guarded by people that it can almost do more harm than good in many instances. I wish I knew more about my ancestors' and extended family's medical problems because I feel like knowing that information would help and would have helped me so much in dealing with my own problems.

Long story short: I have had issues with the "middle section" of my body for a long time. I thought I was lactose intolerant in high school or maybe had nerves that upset my stomach. I've had bad periods, was diagnosed with IBS, thought that maybe I had anxiety related digestion issues, considered various intolerances/malabsorption problems, have been on herbal supplements for a parasite and digestive problems, done stool testing, had an ultrasound to check for gallstones, a CT scan to check my kidneys (did have some small kidney issues), and have been on birth control to help my periods, etc. 

For the last little while though (like over a year), I have felt like it's gotten a lot worse: sharp pains, nausea, dull pains, flu like symptoms, almost debilitating pain in my abdomen at times, and so forth. I may or may not have become more like a hermit than a real person to deal with it and avoid other people "just in case I'm actually sick." I have an (un)healthy relationship with hand sanitizer. I don't like going shopping because I don't want to touch things. Taking the kids out is hard for me. It's become a problem that seriously affects pretty much my entire life and has ended up costing us a lot of money (see: ultrasound, CT scan, nutritionist, stool tests, herbal supplements, organic food costs, hand sanitizer haha).


But still, despite the treatments I try or foods I eat or don't eat, the pain and nausea have not really subsided. I have been super frustrated about it and finally decided to start writing my symptoms down on a calendar, along with when my period is, etc. I eventually started researching endometriosis

My symptoms seemed to be in line with endo, and my family history did as well. I researched local doctors and found Dr. Cook. He wrote a book about endometriosis (which I read), and I eventually got up the courage to make an appointment. I mean, his office is so close and in my hometown. It seemed fortuitous, right?

At my appointment, he recommended surgery (since I had done so much leg work already with diet/elimination attempts, stool tests, birth control pills, etc.). The thing is, endometriosis can't be 100% diagnosed without surgery, so it's a bit of a risk. He could go in and I could be clean, no endo, and I would be back to square one (besides knowing another thing I don't have). Or he could go in and find endometriosis, clean it out, and hopefully I would feel great afterwards (for hopefully a long time but who knows-- it can come back). 

After much thought, I decided to have the surgery on March 19. I am nervous but hopeful at the same time. I hope that I get answers and would actually love to have a proper diagnosis. Even if I have enodmetriosis, it is better in my mind to know what I have than to always be wondering "if I'm actually sick." (which in my mind meant the flu but I guess having endometriosis is actually being sick too, right?)

I will update after the surgery with the results, but for now: if you are a woman and have abdominal issues that seem to be a mystery or are causing you to have problems living your life, research endometriosis. You never know!