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.”

Authenticity: Its meaning & benefit

Authenticity may hurt you, but major parts of it are accountability and self-knowledge, both of which are vital to personal, individual healing. And contributing to healing beyond your own universe, too.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

Paraphrased from Aristotle, this concept has been key, above all others, to my personal development. For me, it is not just about identifying what you do and why you do it, but also what you can do, as an individual, to strengthen positive behaviors and reduce negative ones. Self-knowledge is not armor; in fact, it is far from it. It is not a shield or a helmet. It is calcium to edify our bones. Its purpose is to grow and strengthen in that growth; to identify and take accountability; to have compassion and respect for ourselves and not enable our vices in pursuit of doing so. True self-knowledge is the first tool in countering stunting and regression. I read an article once claiming that “know thyself” is a dangerous maxim because it indicates some kind of permanence, or “being stuck.” The article implied that this could happen because if a person has identified their values and circumstances change that contend with those values, that person will refuse to adapt because it “feels unlike” their interpretation of themselves. That is not self-knowledge. Our values, circumstances, feelings, and ideas are impermanent. As human beings, we are the most adaptable animal in the world. We are nearly limitless and have evolved for ultimate survival, even in our clawless, fangless bodies. It then makes sense that the human mind, the most significant key to our advancement, is also the most significant to our downfall.

Continue reading “Authenticity: Its meaning & benefit”