Surviving holidays without family + Q for readers

Thanksgiving is upon us in the United States, a holiday of deeply controversial origins but good in theory: Announced as a national holiday in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln(1), the intention of the holiday is to reflect on our gratitude and share our good fortunes. I don’t think I have to tell anyone reading this blog how different expressed intention and actual impact are (especially in the context of politics) however, but this isn’t what this entry is about today. It’s knowing what to celebrate when you are alone on a day that is supposed to be set aside for celebrating how alone you are not.

Gratitude is often a sensitive subject for those who have not begun healing from the traumas and pain they have endured in life. Telling someone to be glad they have a roof over their heads when they’re afraid to go home is seldom ever effective in encouraging recovery. Instead, it often perpetuates feelings of shame or indignation. I am grateful to have a roof over my head even when I’m still sometimes scared to go home, but I’m in a position where I am actively working to change that. I know, for the most part, how to keep myself safe from what used to be my self-damaging responses to trauma and pain, and I am not in immediate physical danger here. I am grateful to be so far in the journey of emotional healing, especially in only my 20s. For all that I’ve endured, it’s impressive; but I got to this point because I’ve been afforded resources, services, and people who have substantially helped me along the way. One story is not all stories.

It’s Okay to be “Salty”

I was telling a fellow sufferer of endometriosis not to be too hard on herself for being salty or for taking some time to feel bad for herself. While ruminating on how bad things are can trap a person in an unhelpful cycle, proactive assessment can only come from comprehensive acknowledgment. In other words, if you don’t see what’s wrong, you’re unlikely to apply the right tools to manage it. I know from dealing with intrusive thinking and rumination during PTSD flares that putting a timeblock on sadness and anger and other painful feelings isn’t natural or easy. It takes practice to change lanes, but it’s necessary to move forward. Acknowledging what’s wrong in your life is actually an act of self-compassion when you supplement it with helpful thoughts and the implementation of coping skills. In the worst of times, the invasive thoughts feel impossible to change or get rid of, and psychologists advise not to tell yourself to stop thinking them or they will only get worse. For me, a balance of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy with a heavy focus on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques are most effective. The balance can change given what state or circumstances I’m in: DBT, which focuses on mindfulness, freeing thoughts and feelings from self-imposed judgments, and sensory techniques is more helpful for me for short-term crisis stabilization. I often seek DBT implementation when I am feeling dramatically overwhelmed, and I am already suffering noticeably apparent physical symptoms of a C-PTSD flare. Upon calming, CBT techniques can help me get back to a healthy, mindful baseline.

Continue reading “Surviving holidays without family + Q for readers”

My Endo Story, Pt II: Surgery was a success. Now, to live life.

Knowing your real worth, understanding you have a right to receive informed and compassionate care, and actively learning about and speaking up about your illness(es) and essential rights are integral to your survival.

And not just yours.

Note: Some of the links go to specific cases and while my intention is compassionate, I understand if you want the links to you or your loved ones’ cases removed and will do so at your request.

On the 25 of July, 2018, I under went a laparoscopy accompanied by excision surgery. I had a complete hysterectomy, meaning that while thankfully both ovaries were kept, everything else was removed – the tubes, cervix, and uterus. This was done because adenomyosis was confirmed, as well as endometriosis, which can cause ovarian cancer[1] in the long-term. Most ovarian cancer, the name being a misnomer (as the term for many women’s issues are due to lack of research and concern), at the root, has been shown to begin in the tubes.[2] Consensus is that taking the ovaries create unnecessary risks, and since endometriosis grows its own estrogen — something most gynecologists don’t know (and often don’t care to find out) — the ovaries have really nothing to do with its recurrence[3] – any endo (a single cell) that is left is what causes symptomatic recurrence. The lead surgeon, among the best in the world, assured me that all of the endo was almost definitely excised. I believe it. Because since the surgery, the only pain and discomfort I have had can be traced to normal post-op reactions. Up until surgery, I was having many endometriosis symptoms (not just pain) constantly — that means without interruption, not just monthly, weekly or daily — for almost a year. Prior to that year, I still was experiencing three or more symptoms at any given time since I was, at the oldest, five years old. There are a ton of symptoms that widely vary, including with which type, but given repeated sexual trauma as a toddler, it is likely that this is why I started showing symptoms prior to puberty. My case substantially supports part of Meyer’s theory over the two others in terms of the pathogenesis of the disease.[5]

 

My appendix was removed also due to endometrial involvement, and as I suspected (because I could literally feel it internally), there was a concentration of endometriosis under my left ovary.

Luckily, I did not have to have a bowel resection and only stayed one night in the hospital.

Medically cleared recovery after a surgery like this generally requires a full two months. Until mid-September, I am medically advised not to lift more than 10 lbs (much to my furbaby Oskar’s dismay – or rather mine, I guess – he tolerates being picked up but isn’t a huge fan of it), am discouraged to work my core a lot, and of course, cardio like HIIT, jumprope, and running are out of the question right now. Due to the removal of my cervix, I can’t swim, either, (which sucks, but it’s a small price to pay for my intestines not falling out or not getting infections). Thanks to medicine, I got through a clinic independent of the horror show network of doctors and hospitals I’d been previously saddled with, and I was starting to get into yoga, which I plan to return to with modifications. Thankfully, I rarely need the medicine – or any – now, although not completely (yet). I am continuing to take certain supplements, as even though it was very likely the endo depleting my vitamin B[6] and D3[7] stores, those are crucial for well-being, and it will take some time anyway for me to become nutritionally whole. I will also finish my bottle of turmeric (and may continue taking this supplement as well) and while I won’t be extremely restrictive with my diet, I am going to continue deeply limiting my refined sugar intake (a known inflammatory) and dairy. The doctor, while a lead surgeon in this field, is fallible like the rest of us, and being cautious will also slow the chance of recurrence if there is any endo left. Refined sugar is also, simply, not healthy regardless, and the benefit vs cost of dairy is arguable, not just in terms of individual health but global and environmental, too. Beef is another thing I’m not keen on consuming any more of, for both reasons as well.[8] However, as noted in the important sequel to the aforementioned article, one should also note that certain alternatives  (e.g. milk from almonds which uses a ton of water and land or milk from cashews which can easily burn – and mar – the hands of workers[9]) or strict veganism aren’t necessarily the best options, either.[10]

Continue reading “My Endo Story, Pt II: Surgery was a success. Now, to live life.”

On body positivity & awareness

When someone ties their physical form to their integrity or character value, that is when they have an increased likelihood of intentionally harming their body, and devastatingly, society encourages this connection all the time. You can want to lose weight to improve your health – or gain weight to improve your health, build muscle to improve your health, etc. But when you do it in pursuit of becoming a person of “value” or increasing your worth as a human being, that is when you are really hurt inside, and you need to begin healing yourself.

I am 162 lbs now, when I was ~195 in mid-April. While to most people this sounds like a cause for celebration because society sees fat as so “unattractive” (and yes, unhealthy but that’s often secondary to the main message and for awful reasons), losing this much so soon is not healthy either, especially because of how I lost it – being unable to properly take in and digest food. I want to take this time to especially send my love to those with illnesses – of any kind, whether it be endometriosis, cancer, Chron’s, EDNOS, etc – who are overweight, lose weight then because of the illness they’re suffering from, only to then get congratulated on their weight loss when they actually feel like they are (or actually are) dying inside. It is devaluing, dehumanizing, and invalidating, and for those with eating disorders and associated thoughts and behaviors, those experiences significantly encourage the chance of related fatality. That being said, eating disorders have reportedly the highest fatality rate of any mental illness, and there are plenty of people who start out as “heavy” before literally overexercising, starving, or purging (including vomiting and/or excessive laxative use) themselves to death.

 

Note: Because of the tragic self-violence of disordered eating, I refuse to more “gracefully” word that.

 

While many people who have lost a great deal of weight are happy to have lost it, feel good about having lost it, and have lost it under medical supervision and/or through a healthy way, please always consider the possible ramifications of telling someone “Wow, you look so good after all that weight loss!” or tbh, commenting on people’s weights at all.

 

For me, today someone close to me commented in a way that was actually very considerate and was not at all hurtful to me (but validating instead). She had noticed the rapid weight loss and was concerned for me, knowing why it has been happening, and she treated it compassionately.

 

But I can’t tell you how many people have seen me in the past month and told me, “Wow, you look great now! Look at how much weight you’ve lost!” to which I must stifle a frustrated “I’ve lost weight because my body literally won’t allow me to eat and drink due to medical problems and I am so hungry and thirsty and miserable.”

 

The fact that I haven’t been able to leave the house much and so I haven’t seen many people is a true testament to how painfully common this response is.

Continue reading “On body positivity & awareness”

Finding strength in your “weakness”

Reducing the impact of a vice isn’t necessarily trying to eliminate it. We will probably always have at least a fraction of our childhood vices still in us. Instead, try to funnel it into something good, utilizing it differently to accentuate its potentially positive reciprocal.

Couldn’t sleep at all due to the endo pain but was able to fill eight pages in a random notebook with this before typing it up. Help me sleep. Please.

I have long maintained that many beautiful concepts have deep tragedies to them. I see, acknowledge, and appreciate the oft-ignored nooks and crannies of experience and of being, a strong witness to their darknesses, shadows, and the gems enveloped (or even later produced) by them. I’ve come to believe it’s part of the INFJ type, and perhaps among the reasons we are nicknamed “the Mystic” is because we are likelier to be privvy to the otherwise lost or forgotten gifts of deeper universal significance.

My personal outlook on this has taken a long time to develop. Aspect I share with others that I saw as valuable, beautiful, or forgiveable in them were not in myself. I couldn’t see my victories — small or big — as events or processes worth celebrating but congratulated others for things they themselves reportedly saw as minute gestures. Much of this stemmed from self-loathing, feelings of worthlessness and futility. I had higher expectations for myself than I had for those around me, marginally so. But I criticized my efforts, thoughts, feelings, and conduct in ways completely counterintuitive and ultimately counterproductive to growth. I was angry at myself for imagined attributes I didn’t really have or attributes I associated to others in completely inaccurate ways. I think it’s pretty normal for children and younger adolescents to make faulty connections like this. Normal but unhealthy and sadly, I’d say unhealthy habits, thought processes, self talk, etc are all extremely normal, even in adults.

Having C-PTSD and growing up with abuse from pretty much all directions however, I took those faulty connections to some pretty devastating extremes. (Trigger warning: Disordered thoughts – eating disorder + c-ptsd & casual descriptions of SI behaviors)

Continue reading “Finding strength in your “weakness””

My Endo Story

This (endometriosis) is what has kept me so absent from this blog. It is time I talk about it in-depth. I am creating a fundraiser to help pay for my treatment. Please read, share, and donate if you can, especially if you want to see this blog get going again. Your support will help greatly in making that happen. Thank you so much.

I have been experiencing 10+ symptoms of endometriosis since my first period at age 11 but have had these problems constantly shrugged off. Often the responses would be “periods are just naturally painful,” “these are regular girl problems,” etc. For this, I was often put on birth control but found it unhelpful. The Ortho Evra patch worsened my acne to extremes to the point where I have scars all over my face despite being careful to never touch my face with my hands, let alone scratch or pick. I often bled on pillows at night because the acne was so bad. In 2017, I was prescribed pure estradiol to combat hot flashes and lactation, but it seemed to just worsen my problems.

 

At 17, I had a full PTSD break when repressed memories that I had long been only somewhat aware of (but were silenced by non-professionals and medical and psychiatric professionals in childhood) brutally resurfaced. Because of this, many of my symptoms have been blamed on PTSD. I am aware there are definitely crossovers, but not all of my symptoms can be only PTSD related.

 

I have begged for a laparoscopy for at least three years, as I have been concerned about endometriosis. I had a tubal ligation at 21 because I knew with my hormonal problems (and the other problems they told me I had but never quite matched up), a pregnancy would send me totally over the edge and thought naively that perhaps maybe a tubal would help manage some of these problems as well.

Continue reading “My Endo Story”

All my plants are dying.

The depression is finally lifting to a tolerable degree. I believe being more honest with myself and others about my health, values, and belief system has helped tremendously. Being authentic has always been very important to me, and when I am less than completely genuine about my identity, my energies become fragmented and chaotic. I start doubting myself, and I denounce my positive traits, most of which come with their own duality of darknesses: I have wisdom because of what I have experienced, and I am loving towards people because of what I have needed to experience and didn’t. I set high standards for myself and demand better of myself because of past sins and mistakes. I create extraordinary things from extraordinary pain. One cannot exist without the other. Yin to yang, I am made of major dualities and opposing intensities, much like my own life and what I have lived through.

But all my plants are dying.

I have not watered them in so long. I have a rose plant and a glass bowl of succulents. They were both beautiful in their prime, and the rose plant even blossomed again this autumn, providing us with two wonderfully scented yellow flowers. I was always very good about watering them. I am a nurturer. It’s in my nature to take care of living entities, whether they be human, feline, or photosynthetic in nature. I have forgotten to give my furbaby Oskar his medicine routinely, as he has a respiratory infection right now. I’ve been giving him enough medicine for it to be clearing up, but I could have helped him heal much faster had I kept up the routine. This depressive episode turned me into someone I’m not.

I guess that’s the modus operandi of mental illness: They try to kill you from the inside out.

Unlike personality disorders, other mental illnesses are less embedded in one’s behavior, character, and system of living. Personality disorders often are developed in response to trauma or something occurring in utero, (e.g. serotonin syndrome), with the addition of witnessing violence at a young age, (which one might call trauma also), etc. But it’s also true that standard mental illnesses affect your behavior, as well. Depression causes fatigue, loss of interest, social withdrawal, negativity, suicidality, all sorts of things that make one a different person than they were. Alternatively, mania causes a spike in energy, impulsivity, hyperfocusing, inflated confidence, and sometimes even dangerous delusions that lead to the person’s suicide.

All my plants are dying, my cat is still sick, all of my art supplies are scattered everywhere and have been untouched for months. I haven’t been making jewelry or papercrafting. I haven’t been shooting at all. I painted two paintings since I can’t even remember when. I have always been severely depressed, and I’ve been chronically suicidal for most of my life. I live with the heaviness and sadness every day of my life. I have learned to cope with it to some degree, but sometimes it gets so heavy, it is suffocating.

I’m going to water my plants and hope they forgive me and hope that Oskar’s next doses will help him kick the infection. I hope the plants overcome the odds and Oskar heals soon. Life is resilient. I’ve learned that. If it can fight, it will fight, whether it wins or loses. Oskar will be fine soon; I know that. He’s almost completely well. But here’s to hoping the plants have a chance. I hope within the next few posts, I can tell you

“My plants are alive again.”