I am a Survivor

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic Violence isn’t just black eyes, or bruises. It is also emotional abuse, financial control, misusing technology, threatening words or actions, intimidation, pet abuse, and sexual coercion.

Now, you may wonder why i’m writing about this. Well, perhaps it’s time I share my story, as a domestic abuse survivor.

Years ago I found myself in a relationship with what I thought was a great guy. He stepped up when my son’s father left. We were friends for a while, and eventually our relationship became more. Things were good, then the drinking started. He became mean, really mean. Made comments about my weight, my body, just essentially tearing me down.

“You’re used goods.”

“Lose weight and maybe we’ll get married.”

“No one would want you.”

Those were just a few of what I heard on a daily basis. He once called me a trailer trash whore when I was wearing a dress, knee length for a work christmas party. He’d sober up, and apologize the next day. Eventually we decided to move to another state. Promises of change, and better things to come. I was cautious but excited. So we moved. In our new town, I had no one. All my family was where we’d just moved from. It was a huge adjustment. Little did I know what was to come.

In 2010, we faced economic hardships. Somehow it was my fault he had no money. In time our finances improved. In 2011, I worked full time. Made decent money, however he made nearly 3 times what I did a month. Yet he wanted to split everything 50/50. His drinking didn’t let up. Every Sunday and Monday for football, he’d drink a 12-18 pack by himself. That’s absolutely absurd. He refused to give it up. Absolutely refused.

The comments got worse after we moved. They started happening even when he was sober. I was fat, stupid, useless, a b***h, horrible things. He loved to remind me how I’d never find anyone else. He constantly accused me of cheating. Yet he kept in close contact with an ex. The drinking continued. He was still financially crippling me. Then, then things got worse. If I needed help financially, he’d try to control me through sex. He used sex as a weapon, as a tool to control me. Simply because he felt he could.

As things worsened, I knew I needed out. I called my dad, and we made a plan. A plan for me to get out. He took over my car payments, which allowed me to hide that money every month. I walked on eggshells. I was scared for the moment it would turn physical, for it came close a few times. Though, you know what? The emotional scars are far worse. It took me months to save to get out. My boss gave me a huge christmas bonus. With that I was finally able to get out. Living together when the relationship had ended months before was weird. However, on December 31, 2011, I left while he was at work. Friends helped me to get my things out before he got home. He showed up just as I was leaving. He looked at me with shock. I simply told him I was done, that I deserved to be treated better. I walked out. I got out. But the scars, the damage from nearly 3 years of being told I was nothing, that I was useless, that no one would ever love me, that I was fat. Those scars have stayed with me for 9 years. Those scars aren’t so easy to heal.

I got out! Great right? It was, for years! Then, in 2017, I started seeing someone. A few people close to him warned me. I’d seen some concerning things after he proposed, but I ignored them. I ignored the red flags. I wish I hadn’t. I noticed he had a temper. A really bad temper. Again, little did I know the hell that would become my life. I saw the signs. I saw the issues with mental health. I just didn’t know what to do, or how to get out.

He was really good at gaslighting me. Really good. Really good at playing victim. He let others have such an affect on his life, it was disturbing. If someone said something mean or against something he said on facebook, it completely ruined his day. Losing in a video game would set off fits of rage. Rage. Rage like i’d never seen before. How bad was the rage?

Well, here’s a list:

  • Snapped a tablet in half
  • snapped a laptop in half
  • put a mouse through his monitor… twice
  • Destroyed his kitchen, broke dishes.
  • Ripped a door clean off a travel trailer
  • Would send death threats and hate messages to people on PS4, and Facebook

He would gaslight, and then turn the entire conversation around to make me the villain. He’d accuse me of cheating. He’d be angry and cry if I didn’t answer my phone when he called. He made suicidal threats, suicidal ideation. Anytime he’d get angry, he’d say, “no one cares, so i’m going to kill myself.” It was an all the time statement. I tried to convince him to get help. I tried to help. I tried, but walking on eggshells gets old. Being cussed at, screamed at, and pushed in a rage became too much.

He came at me physically twice. That was it for me. Absolutely never acceptable.How do you live like that? How can you marry someone like that?? His dad was abusive towards his mother. He swore he’d never hit me, but honestly, it was a matter of time, that was evident. He lived on the west coast, while I lived on the east. It made distancing myself easy. Unfortunately I was not prepared for the hell that was about to be unleashed upon me or my family.

My March 2018, I was done. I didn’t want to marry, I didn’t want to be together. I expressed my concerns, and told him he needed mental health help. He said ok, but never made any effort. In August 2018, something happened as a result of something HE did. He called me, cussing me out, blaming me, calling me an idiot, useless, all sorts of names, namely C**t. That was his favorite thing to call me. Again, instead of taking responsibility, he played victim. I was done. I wanted out, so I told him I was done. I was done with the suicide ideation, anger, with the temper issues, with having to walk on eggshells so I didn’t set him off. I was tired of living in fear. I’d never in my life been afraid of a man, but him, I feared him. I feared him because I knew his temper and rage, I knew what he was capable of. I still underestimated him and the hell that would arise.

I was done with the suicide ideation, and threats. Now this may sound heartless. I lost a close friend to suicide in August 2018. So his constant threats, and comments were draining. They were too much. In September 2018, I officially ended things. I couldn’t live like that anymore. The walking on eggshells every day, it was just too much.

To say he didn’t take it well is an understatement. It set off a chain of events none of which I was prepared for. Upon ending things, all the feelings of love from him became hatred. He hated me, and he was vocal about it. I was called horrible vile names. “C**t, “F*****g W***r, B***h, and so on. Every day. He threatened to kill me, threatened my family members. He created fake accounts on various social media to contact me threatening me. He was extremely vocal about his hatred of me on facebook, yet facebook not once took down his page. It was infuriating. I had to make screenshots of everything he sent me. It wasn’t easy, but I had to. Eventually we had to call the police both in my town and his. He literally laughed in the officer’s face. It became so much worse.

Threat after threat. Fake profiles to harass me, using his mom’s phone, and facebook to harass me. Using any means necessary. Through all this one thing remained. I escaped this. I escaped the escalation. I escaped the fists, the black eyes, the bruises. I got out. He did this for over a year. A year.. A FREAKING YEAR he did this. I had to hide and lock all social media, change my number, hide my address on local pages. I had to go into hiding so he couldn’t find me to threaten me even more. It’s been over a year since he last messaged me. A year of peace. A year of working on myself, repairing the scars from the abuse. Not just from him, but from before him. The emotional scars are the worst. Healing from that level of abuse is not easy. Learning my self worth, and confidence has been a slow progress. Learning to love myself is a slow slow progress. Learning to know and remember that I AM WORTHY is the hardest. Counseling has helped.

I don’t talk about this much. It’s hard. It’s hard to acknowledge that I was in not one, but two abusive relationships. It’s hard to come to terms with it, but I am. I got out. I got out alive. Before it escalated to physical abuse. I’m one of the lucky ones in that sense, however the emotional scars are still healing. The pain is still there. Sometimes I get scared he’ll find me. Sometimes I feel stupid for even thinking that, but it’s a real thought as a survivor. I’m a survivor of mental/emotional abuse, intimidation, physical abuse, and more. I’m a survivor of domestic violence. This is my story. This is my strength. This is me. This is me, a survivor, rising from the ashes.

October is…dysautonomia

Dysautonomia awareness month! What does this mean to me? It means i try to raise awareness for dysautonomia. Educate, and share my journey.

In 2013, I was diagnosed with dysautonomia. Now, there’s 15 different forms. I have THREE! Three different forms. 8 years ago it was so bad I couldn’t stand up without fainting. It was terrifying. I had to give my dreams of getting a Masters in Psychology. I was angry, scared, unsure of what the future was. All while being a mom to my son, a single mom at that. I’m immensely grateful for the support and help of my family during that time.

I didn’t drive for over 6 months. In 2012, I had to have a cardiac ablation due to a rare form of SVT. This led to my needing a pacemaker. My electrophysiologist decided on the Biotronik Evia DR-T. This pacemkaer is unique in that it has a special programming feature specifically for Vasovagal syncope, which i had. This has been an absolute godsend for me. My fainting has dramatically reduced, actually i haven’t fully fainted in years.

Adjusting to life with a pacemaker was overwhelming. Learning my do’s and don’ts. Come to find out, i’m hypersenstive to certain things and could actually feel when my ventricle lead was working. Unfortunately this meant that lead couldn’t be on, or it had to be set very very low. I’ve learned in recent years, this pacemaker has become key for alot of dysautonomia patients to regain some quality of life.

Post op I developed complications. I couldn’t walk. I nearly lost complete use of my legs. I had to use a walker to get around, even in my house. Wheelchair rentals when going somewhere. I started physical therapy but no one had any clue what was going on. It seemed to come in waves. I’d be fine for a few weeks, then “relapse” worse than the last time. Through a lot of hard work, and physical therapy my gait has improved. I still tire easily and now use a cane. Though, we are awaiting a wheelchair for bad days and long walking days.

I dealt with temperature regulation issues, GI issues, heart rate issues, headaches, fatigue. Oh man was the fatigue horrible. Doctor after doctor. Treatment trial after trial. It was overwhelming, seemed never ending. Eventually i’d had enough. The medication side effects were worse than the disease symptoms. After much discussion with my medical team, we decided to stop the medications, and trial IV fluids. My EP in Virginia had success with other patients doing this, so we gave it a try. Well what do you know, it was like a battery charger for me! I wasn’t as fatigued, heart rate wasn’t as erratic and my blood pressure stayed stable. This was amazing!!! So, it was decided to place a central line so i’d have constant access for fluids.

So fluids was my magic elixir! A picc line was decided. We placed it in spring 2014. It was honestly a horrible experience. in August 2014, I became very ill. Incredibly ill. Vomiting for hours, fever that reached 104.9. I was scared, and out of it. I don’t recall much of that particular night. My dad rushed me to the hospital. My primary doctor met me there. Labs taken, cultures done.. Picc line removed. I remember waking up the next morning. Apparently my team did not expect me to make it through the night. How terrifying is that to hear? It’s really hard. It turned out I had a septic infection. Dangerous and potentially life threatening. I’m immensely lucky we caught it early on. What caused this? Honestly, I feel it was the lack of proper protocol by home health. I am now a stickler for protocol. If you do’t know it, or can’t follow it, I will NOT allow you to touch my central line. This is non negotiable to me.

So here we are, it’s 2020. How am I? I have good days, and bad days. Every day I strive to make it a good day. To make memories with my son. I strive to live. By learning my triggers, by learning my limitations I was able to adapt my life and still live! Yes you read that right. I adapted to my limitations and still live. I choose to not allow dysautonomia to take my goals, hopes and dreams from me. I don’t want you to do that either. Yes dysautonomia is life changing, but it doesn’t have to be life ending. With treatment catered to you, learning your safe activities, you can still live. I want you to live. I want you to believe. I believe in you.

Stay true to who you are. Stay true to your goals, hopes and dreams. Please never give up.

Covid, TPN and Autism…

Covid has changed life as we know it. Honestly it’s made things so much more complicated. It’s affected mental health, which is devastating. More importantly, this has affected our kids. Our kids are suffering so much. It’s heartbreaking.

Virtual learning was a complete bust for us. It was a nightmare. Trying to keep him on task was such a challenge. His ADHD makes it nearly impossible. I have so much respect for his teachers. They were amazing in finding ways to get him engaged and his work done. We did some online, and some in packets. It worked for us. In the midst of all this, I got a phone call about Mathew. See, we’d been on a wait list for an autism assessment since June 2019. It was a long wait. The facility that does his OT called and said they had an opening. Did we want it? YES! YES! We were able to get his autism assessment done in May. I was such a nervous wreck. I had all my papers, checklists i’d done, notes with my concerns. Now, they told me this test was about 2 hours long. He was done in under an hour. I felt defeated. I waited 3 long weeks for the results. Finally i get the call to schedule an appointment for the results. The day comes. I’m on edge.. She looks at me and says “Well Mama, you were right. He has autism.” Not only does he have autism, but he has major sensory issues along with it, and pica. To finally be heard after years of advocating. I cried. I cried that I had finally been heard and I could finally get the help for him! Resources were now available. Knowing this, that he’s autistic changes absolutely nothing. My son is such an amazing child. He’s so joyful, so kind, he’s just an amazing kid. For 6th grade we decided to homeschool him. It was not an easy decision, but it was the right one for him. So we found our curriculum and started! He wants to share our journey. He wants to give a glimpse of him, autism and raise awareness. So, we created an instagram account. Check it out!

So…. in April I was placed on TPN. It was a mess. I wasn’t tolerating my J feeds hardly at all. My labs were getting a bit worrisome. This caused my team to decide i needed temporary TPN. This would help stabilize my nutrition and hopefully stabilize my weight. This was important because i had lost about 40lbs to September to April. It was bad. My nutrition was so unstable. I left me weak. Unfortunately we learned pretty quickly that 2200mL of TPN 7 days a week, isn’t going to work for me. My kidney couldn’t handle it and caused some problems. We settled at 1700 ml. I tried TPN 3 nights a week, and enteral the remaining nights. I am unfortunately still struggling to get adequate nutrition. Eventually we’ll get it.

Now, I know things are stressful. Things are different, It’s scary, frustrating. I know dealing with all the changes is difficult. Please don’t let it overcome you. If you are affected mentally, please seek help. We all need help sometimes. You are loved, worthy and important.

Tired…end the stigma

“I’m fine.” ” I don’t want to bother you.” “Do you still love me?” ” I don’t mean to bother you.” “I’m spiraling”….

These phrases.. There are what i call my alert flags. These phrases can typically alert those closest to me that i’m not ok. Emotionally, mentally. These are my warnings i’m spiraling into depression.

While i’m lucky i can feel myself essentially sinking, there’s nothing i can do. Thinking positive isn’t going to help. Pretending i’m ok isn’t going to help. I’ll need reassurances from those closest to me. Especially my boyfriend. Repeatedly. I’ll be insecure, scared, worried. He’ll be patient, understanding and reassuring.

My mom will do her best to help me. To let me have my space, but be close enough if i need her. My son will want snuggles. He will cling to me and want to spend time together. He can sense the shift, and he becomes clingy.

I don’t drink. I haven’t drank in 12 years. I was heading towards the wrong path, and i luckily had friends and family that gave me a wake up call. I haven’t touched alcohol since. The consequences aren’t worth it. However, I wish people understood that it’s a conscious choice for those recovering.. EVERY DAY. I never speak about this. I’ve never publicly spoken about it. Perhaps it’s time. 12 years sober. It’s an amazing accomplishment.. It’s also at times a struggle. It’s one i’ll battle all my life. I will not fall, I will not quit. Too much to lose.

This… this is depression. This face hides pain, fear, insecurities, sadness, anger.. I pretend things are ok, until i can’t anymore. It’s so tiring to pretend. I’m tired of pretending. Why do I have to? Why do i feel the need to hide that which i struggle with:?? Stigma, that’s why.. I’m so tired of the stigma. I’m so tired of pretending. I’m tired of feeling embarrassed of it, tired of feeling like i’m not enough.

Depression sucks. It’s soul sucking. When my spiral starts i can feel if it’ll be mild, short, long, bad. I haven’t hit a dark spiral in years, however i feel it.

What triggered this you ask??? Possible Infertility. See I’ve been battling endometriosis since i was 15.. I’m now 34… That’s a long time. 6 surgeries, including an salpingo-oophorectomy. Which means my right ovary and tube were removed. Well in the last year my pain has worsened. The treatment? Lupron Injections or Hysterectomy. If i do lupron, this buys be time. Then, maybe in the future I can do IVF. Devastation. Anger, grief, despair. This is what i felt listening to my doctor telling me this. What if i miscarry? What if no IVF cycles work? What if I can’t safely carry? What if it’s twins? Can i cope emotionally if i miscarry. Those closest to me don’t think I could.. I don’t think i could. This is heartbreaking. Infertility is heartbreaking. No one discusses the emotional aspect of infertility or even endometriosis.. Why???

Why is mental health not talked about? Why is it so taboo? Why do we suffer in silence or alone? Why can’t we be honest? Why can’t we have a squad we can turn to? Why do we not do better? Do you check on your friends? Do you know them well enough to know if somethings wrong, despite them saying everything is fine?

Check on each other. Build a community. You matter. I see you.

Freedom in Body Acceptance

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Body Positivity, Self Worth, Depression, Insecurities, Counseling.. Why are these words, these phrases so taboo in the chronic illness community. Why are these barely talked about? Is it supposed to help us by not acknowledging these happen? That these can affect us? It doesn’t. It actually hurts us. Positivity in general seems to be ridiculed in our community. Why? 

I’m in my 30s, I struggle with insecurities and body image issues. I’ve been very vocal about my struggle. Yet so many still hide theirs. So many still don’t acknowledge it. Some ignore it or think they’re taboo to talk about. I have struggled tremendously for the last year. Since getting my feeding tube, i’ve struggled to accept my body as it is. Scars, tubes and all. So many others have tubes, central lines, ostomies, scars, medical devices. So many others struggle with insecurities, yet it’s rarely ever discussed? Why? Why is this so taboo? Why is there not more of a network, more of a community lifting each other up? 

If we as grown women struggle, what is this doing to our young women in these communities? What is it doing to them to see absolutely no one speaking about these struggles? Seeing no one like them out there blasting beauty standards to raise awareness and empower others? Why is there really NO ONE out there doing these things? Showing their body acceptance, showing their vulnerability? I’m not sure why, but it’s motivated me and empowered me to be that someone. Someone has to speak out. Someone has to start something to show body acceptance and positivity. Someone has to show body positivity to these young women, young men, anyone struggling that feels alone in their fight. 

 

There seems to be a struggle with body positivity. We are letting others define us, define beauty, define our worth. We are letting our diagnoses, tubes, ostomies define us. Letting them define us as unworthy, unattractive. Body positivity is so important. It’s so important to lift each other up. It’s so important to acknowledge these topics, these struggles and discuss them. We have let what society has deemed “beautiful” affect us in such a negative way. We have let others decide whether we fit into a mold or not. Guess what, we don’t. That’s ok! We don’t have to. We’re not made to. Our beauty and worth shouldn’t be based on what fits a mold. Let’s break that mold. 

I’ve struggled with this so much. It affected me deeply, it affected my relationship immensely. Counseling helped, friends helped. What really helped was someone told me: “Who cares what others say is attractive? Who CARES?! If you feel it, then you feel it! Stop trying to fit into society. Stand out. Stand up for yourself.” I remember sitting there, taken aback. Then i thought about it. They were right. I had let others’ words, others’ views affect me so much, I couldn’t see my own beauty, my own worth. My self esteem didn’t improve overnight. Goodness no. It took months of work. Months of positive self affirmations. Months of talking about my insecurities to really start to shed them. Start to being the key word. It’s a process, and ongoing process. Every day is a small step forward. 

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Depression is also another struggle. I have struggled with depression for a while. Sometimes it goes hand in hand with my insecurities. However, this isn’t discussed much in support groups. It’s almost like we should be ashamed of it. Absolutely NOT! Never be ashamed of your story. Never be ashamed of your struggle. I refuse to be ashamed of it. I refuse to hide it, ignore it, or pretend it doesn’t exist. I can’t. Why lie? Why is this such an issue to discuss? I don’t understand it. Depression happens, it happens when dealing with chronic illness. How could it not? It’s hard to adjust from one life, to this “new” life. It’s like grieving. You’ve lost who you were, now you’re struggling to find who you are, and who you’ll become. It’s ok to be angry, hurt, upset, depressed. It’s ok to feel emotions. My only advice, don’t let them control you. Don’t get so lost in them you give up living. Please, if you feel that anger, that hurt, that overwhelming sadness, reach out to someone. Reach out to me. I’ll listen as you vent.  Reach out to others, reach out. Just know there’s someone struggling similarly. 

 

It’s become my mission, my motivation to help others. To empower others to see their beauty, their worth. I’ve posted several blogs on this. I took it a step further and have participated in photoshoots. Creating powerful images that show my strength, my motivation, my beauty. These photos weren’t easy to do, it was scary and nerve wracking. What kept me going and motivated was that I was determined to LOVE MYSELF. I was determined to see MY worth, my beauty. My tubes don’t take away from it, they don’t take away from my strength, from my worth or my beauty. They do not change who I am at a fundamental level. What they’ve done is give me strength I didn’t know I had. They gave me courage. They gave me passion, and desire to help others. They gave me purpose. They have motivated and empowered me to do that for others. To show others their beauty, their worth. My tubes in a way gave me freedom. Freedom to knock down beauty standards and create my own. Freedom to strive for goals, freedom to find my passion and help make changes. Freedom to love me.

These “taboo” topics need to not be so taboo. These topics need to be discussed, need to be acknowledged. We as a community deserve more. We deserve love, happiness, goals, hopes and dreams. We are worthy. We are absolutely beautiful. You are warriors, you are fighters. Never give up. If you feel like giving up, know you have a community of warriors behind you to lift you up, to lend you strength. We won’t let you feel alone in this battle.

This post was also published on The Mighty: What Helps Me Overcome My Insecurities as Someone With Chronic Illness

 

Let’s Talk Endometriosis..

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March is Endometriosis Awareness Month.. So let’s talk about it. What Exactly is it?

Endometriosis is an often painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis most commonly involves your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis.  Mayo Clinic- Endometriosis

Now that we know what it is, let’s talk about it. I was diagnosed with it at 15/16. I was told I would probably never have kids. I remember sitting in the doctors office, the doctor telling me at 16, I’d probably never have children. I remember feeling so heartbroken, angry and confused. Why? Why was this being told to me. I didn’t understand at the time. No one really explained any of this to me. Soon i’d find out just what it all meant.

I had been rushed into emergency surgery in 2003, I was 17 years old. I had an ovarian cyst that had ruptured. While in surgery they removed my appendix, since most doctors were dismissing my pain as appendicitis. This surgery started what would become the “norm” for me. Another surgery revealed I was at Stage 4 at 18 yrs old. Unfortunately this wasn’t documented well by the doctor then. All we knew was that it was “everywhere”. We tried Lupron Depot, birth control. Various treatments to manage my symptoms and pain. Which just seemed to worsen each month. Lupron depot made it so I no longer had a menstrual cycle. This way they could manage the pain a bit better, unfortunately this led to other side effects from this medication, which is actually classified as a Chemotherapy medication. Here I was 18-20 and in menopause, on “chemo”. My life consisted of painful periods and doctors appointments.

My mom and I began to research. We found an amazing team of doctors in Atlanta at the Center for Endometriosis. I submitted a lot of medical records, and received word I would be taken as a patient. So off we went. Another appointment. Another doctor. This time though, we had hope. I was going to the best of the best. Little did we know just how things would go.

The consultation was overwhelming. I was basically informed i’d need another surgery. We prepared, we made plans. Traveling back and forth from South Florida to Atlanta wasn’t easy, but my mom made it happen. I was 20 years old, supposed to be in college and my periods were so bad I couldn’t function during that time. I remember my mom and I having the discussion. Me saying, “don’t let them take everything. I want a chance to have a baby later in life.” We expressed this to my doctors, Dr. Sinervo and Dr. Albee. They were aware of my fears, my anxieties, my desire to be a mom. They assured me they would do all they could. That day… that day is forever etched in my mind. Waking up in my hospital room. My mom sitting there, waiting for me to come out of the anesthesia. I looked at her, saw that she’d been crying. I asked her, “I lost them didn’t I? You took them out?”. I screamed, yelled and cried. Not only out of pain but heartbreak. She held me as I cried, as I mourned the loss. It may sound silly to some, but to me it was heartbreaking. She told me my entire right side was covered in endometriosis. The worst case they’d seen in someone my age. I had it on my right ovary, fallopian tube, intestines, pelvic wall. It was in a sense everywhere in my pelvic area. My mom had to make the decision for me, she had to make the decision to remove organs. Make the decision for her 20 year old daughter about her future. She agreed with my surgeons, remove the right side. So at 20 years old I had a unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. This means, my right ovary and fallopian tube were removed. They did this to remove the endometriosis, to buy me time.

I then had to have a LEEP procedure due to pre-cancer cells found on my cervix.. Then.. then a miracle happens.. I end up pregnant in 2008. It was a shock, lots of crying. For 9 months there was no endo pain. No hellish periods.. It was glorious!

My son is now 10, he’ll be 11 in April. I’m 33 and I still battle endometriosis. I’ve battled it for 18 years, I’ve had 6 surgeries in total for it. My last one was in May 2018. They found two endometriomas in my left ovary. Once again my doctor did all he could to give me a chance to have another child. I’m once again at Stage 3. We’re considering reaching back out to the Center for Endometriosis Care. I need another surgery, however after 8 abdominal surgeries, they’re waiting until it’s absolute necessity.  I’ve had severe scar tissue. Scar tissue and adhesions on various organs, in various places. Scar tissue that made placing my feeding tubes, very difficult. It turns out the severity of my endometriosis has created quite the problems in my pelvic area. Intestines are fused together, bowel issues, bladder issues. Things you wouldn’t think about endometriosis affecting, but it has far reaching consequences. Even with my J tube, there’s damage from my endometriosis. They’re saying “frozen pelvis”. It’s horrific to realize just how damaging endometriosis is, and how little it’s explained.

I’m in pelvic floor physical therapy to help with various symptoms from my endo. I have trouble going to the bathroom, both #1 and #2. This is being attributed in part to my endo. Horrific menstrual cycle pain. Every month i’m out of commission for a few days. I’ve tried birth control, sadly they just make my cycle last for weeks, which I can’t cope with. Pain with intercourse, pain with bowel movement, pain with movement in general at times.. These are things rarely discussed or acknowledged by some doctors. Things that are often dismissed. I’m hopeful that Pelvic Floor PT can help, if anything, may be it can help with going to the bathroom. Or help with the pain. Even in some small way would be appreciated.

Knowing i’m running out of time, knowing that each month my pain and periods are absolutely horrendous, knowing I need more surgeries for my endometriosis, it gets to me. Sometimes I debate if it’s time for a hysterectomy. I begin to accept that fate, then it becomes too overwhelming for me. Too much, too soon. I know that’s my eventuality. I know that is what I will end up needing, but how do you mentally prepare for that? How do you mentally prepare for no longer being able to conceive? It’s not easy. In 2019 it was discovered I have a hydrosalpinx. Meaning my only remaining tube is blocked. I have to see a fertility specialist to see just how blocked. I haven’t prepared myself for that yet. I can’t determine which would be easier, just doing the hysterectomy and giving up, or trying with the fertility doctor, and having hope. How do you make that decision? It’s incredibly difficult to make.

The emotional damage from my salpingo-oophorectomy was immense.  I felt like less of a woman. I felt broken, damaged. I wanted to be a mother, and here i’m facing that I would probably never be a mom by natural ways. Depression, anxiety it was there. I had to work through the pain, not just physically, but emotionally as well. That’s what no one tells you about endometriosis. Yes physically the pain is unbearable, but emotionally, it’s unbearable at times. No one talks about the mental and emotional aspect of living with endometriosis. I’m not sure why, is it taboo? It needs to NOT be. It needs to be discussed. Women struggle with both aspects of pain. Let’s be there for them. Endometriosis is hell. It’s physically and emotionally painful. It robs women of their joy, their lives, even motherhood.. their hopes of motherhood are dashed at times due to their pain, or severity.  It can affect relationships. It can damage them. We feel inadequate. We wonder why our partner stays, we wonder how a new partner will feel when they find out you may not be able to conceive. Don’t push your partner away. Communicate your feelings, your fears with them. Lean on them. Let them help you face this.

The feeling of being unworthy due to being infertile, or due to the struggle and pain with your endo. The feeling can be so overwhelming, so soul crushing you can’t breathe. You scream; “Why”, you beg and plead. You try to grasp this, try to grasp how this happened. You feel alone, broken, scared, angry. I assure you, you’re not alone. You’re not broken. You’re not less than, you’re not inadequate. You’re not unworthy. It’s ok to be angry, it’s ok to be scared. You’re worthy of love. So damn worthy. Just know you have a community of women behind you lifting you up in your time of pain. We are here, we will help you shoulder this. We are a sisterhood. We are a community. We are fighters with hope for a cure.

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Anemia, And Hearing Loss you say?

Happy-December-7

I survived Thanksgiving! This year was my first year with my tubes!! It was hard, but we kept it small this year, just my mom, my son and I. My mom made a crustless pumpkin pie for me, which was great. Keeping it small really meant alot. I was invited to spend it with my dad and his girlfriend, but I didn’t want to spend it trying to navigate eating or not eating in a group of people. Hopefully next year I’ll be pretty well adjusted!

Now I’ve had some hearing loss, it’s mixed hearing loss. Meaning both conductive and sensorineural. We have a small idea why i’m losing my hearing, which is from a genetic mutation I have. My ENT is great and is recommending hearing aids at this point, due to struggles i’m having with certain situations. It’s overwhelming. I can say how many take hearing for granted. We never know when or how things can change for us. We always think, “Not me”.. Don’t think that way. Despite it all, and how overwhelmed I have been, I have confidence that it’ll be ok. One way or another.

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Now my tubes have been a bit complicated. It’s been a lot of ER visits. Last week my G tube nearly fell out!!! WHAAAT! Luckily I caught it right before it fell all the way out. I spent hours in the ER making sure it was in the right position (I pushed it back in), and having them secure it until Interventional Radiology could replace it the next day. It seems my balloon popped! Now idea how, and it’s so weird. Luckily IR got me right in the next morning and replace it within 5 mins. YES! IR is the best! I’m finally working my way up to continuous feed. Which means 24/7. I’m hoping to increase my rate so I can disconnect for a few hours a day! Being attached to a feeding pump or iv pump is frustrating, but the alternative is far worse. In time i’ll get back in to a routine. My intestines are being sluggish, which is creating a new set of problems. I’m also now anemic. More bloodwork now to figure out why, and to determine how we fix it. Hopefully it’s an easy fix. We decided if it’s low iron, we’ll do iv iron, so we don’t run the risk of my not absorbing it if taken orally.

We don’t realize just how much is affected by digestion, or lack thereof. Many don’t think of vitamin deficiencies or not absorbing the right amount through eating vitamin rich foods. With my gastroparesis, I have absorption issues, which in turn creates vitamin deficiencies. I’ve been experiencing extreme fatigue, hair loss, pale skin, and horrible freezing cold hands/feet. I’ve tried to eat regular food, it’s left me really sick each time. It’s just not worth it, but how do you give up food? How do you get to the point of accepting this is life? Tube fed, and applesauce and pudding are what you can safely eat? It’s left me angry, but again, in time i’ll adjust and accept it more and more.

Let’s talk beauty. Let’s talk self esteem. You’ve all seen my posts about how i’ve struggled with my insecurities. I currently have a few things in the works behind the scenes. I can’t announce just what yet, but hopefully soon I can! I will say, I aim to inspire, encourage and uplift others. Regardless of what you battle, YOU are beautiful and worthy my dear little warrior! Once my channel and videos are posted, i’ll link it from my site!

Feeling attractive, loved, and worthy is all so hard while battling chronic illness. Battling your body daily just to do simple function leaves you exhausted. Learning to love your body, which sometimes feels like a prison is hard. I urge you to not give up, find what you love about yourself, find your strengths, find you. Never give up. I know at times it feels like you can’t go on, or it’s not worth the fight. It is! You ARE worth it. When people compliment you, don’t question it, don’t scoff or roll your eyes.  Accept it, believe it. If you ever need an ear, shoulder or just someone to vent to, reach out to me. If you feel all alone, reach out. There’s a community behind you, lifting you up.

 

Check-it-outHere’s my latest project! It is now LIVE!!!  Tubie Photoshoot

 

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Post-Op from Hell..But I’m ok

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It’s been an absolutely, ridiculously difficult post op.. The worst ever. Sometimes things just go awry! How can we plan for them? The best we can.

 

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Sloth GP Shirt I made, available in my store.

I had a laparotomy September 19th. I had no real choice. My GJ was failing, I was starving. The plan was simple. Go in, clean scar tissue from my 7 previous laparoscopies, and place my J tube.. The surgery was scheduled for 150 minutes. My mom said I was out in under an hour, and it took an additional TWO hours for me to even wake up from anesthesia… What a complete shit show. It turns out adhesions had formed to my GJ, which I didn’t even know was possible. We’re currently trying to find out why it was cut so short. Which makes me nervous. I was in the hospital for 4 days. The pain was absolutely unbearable at times. Imagine a 4″ incision going down your abdomen that pulls every time you sat up, laid down, or even tried to use the bathroom. It was rough.

I got home September 22. That night. We sent a text to my nurse the next day, as I was supposed to have wound care and my port accessed.. No reply. It turns out I was discharged by my home health agency with no word. No conversation, letter or anything. This set into motion so much stress. I’ve unfortunately had 5 post op ER visits due to possible infection, wound dehiscence, tube dislodged (twice), and pain post tube exchange.

 

I’ve suffered a wound dehiscence, which is when a wound opens up. My entire incision split open, even sections that were already healed. It’s been 6 weeks of strict cleaning, and routine to get it to close back up. 6 weeks of bandages, which sucks when you have an adhesive allergy. It’s finally looking better and like it’ll actually close up soon!!!

So since my agency let me go, it’s been weeks of trying to find a new agency, i’ve and no luck. I now have to travel 45 mins on Mondays to be accessed, so I can run my iv fluids. How utterly ridiculous.

I need things to go a little more smoothly. 🙂 Halloween was fun! We dressed up, took my son trick or treating. Just had a blast. He was a Ninja, I dressed as a devil! lol  I was in pain, but determined to not ruin my son’s Halloween!

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Halloween 2019

So it’s been about 6-6.5 months since I had my GJ placed. I’ve lost nearly 30lbs. We’re trying to stabilize my weight, which hasn’t been easy. I’m supposed to be connected to my pump 24 hours a day, or AT LEAST 18 hours a day. I’m supposed to be getting 1600 calories a day.. I’m barely connected 9 hours a day, and getting maybe 500 calories a day. This isn’t good at all. So I’m working really hard to increase my calorie intake and stabilize my weight. I’m currently about 158lbs now. Went from size 14, to about size 10. While my body looks amazing from the weight loss, I’m exhausted and constantly hungry. All this has left me malnourished, which isn’t helping me heal from surgery.

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Just a small snippet of the significant weight loss.

 

Through all this I’ve battled insecurities, my body, and stress. It’s been really heart wrenching. It’s really hard to go through all this, and not have the one person you want more than anything at your side. If you have someone that loves you flaws and all, don’t lose them. Don’t let your insecurities take over. Don’t lose sight of yourself or your relationship. Communicate your fears and feelings to each other. Don’t lose that.

I taught myself to convert bags to use for my feeing pump! That’s been fun! Below is a video of the bag I converted!

 

I’m working with a local photographer to get some projects done. I’m excited to show you all the final product! There’s more to come. More to say. More to do.

This post op has been difficult both physically, and mentally. Seeing the changes in my body has been really difficult. Realizing my GI system is slowing and we have no clue why, is scary. Dealing with a chronic illness is hard, dealing with multiple ones is so incredibly difficult. I’ll persevere. You are not your diagnosis. You are not your port, picc, or feeding tube. You are so worthy. You are so worthy of love, happiness and joy. Go after your dreams, most importantly Live… Don’t give up on life.

I’m always here you you guys. Always reach out to me if you need me. Much love to you all..

 

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Insecurities are a real…..

 

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Insecurities are a real bitch. They suck. They suck the love, joy and happiness from you. They can destroy you, your relationship and your happiness. “Just be confident”.. People say.. Don’t you think i’ve tried that?? Do you think I like being this insecure, scared person?? 5 years ago I was so confident. I knew who I was, what I wanted, and I wasn’t holding back. Now, I’m terrified, scared and emotionally fragile.. What happened you ask… well i’ll break it down.

I left someone I loved and whom loved me unconditionally, and wholeheartedly. Simply because I felt I wasn’t worthy. I felt I didn’t deserve this amazing person that loved me so fiercely. I was told i’d be wheelchair bound, I ignored the doctors, I was determined to walk down the aisle to him, come hell or high water. In the end, I left. The fear, the uncertainty, the unworthiness I felt, overpowered his love. At what point would he grow tired and leave? At what point would he finally realize I dragged him down, that I embarrassed him?? So, I left first. Defense Mechanism. I didn’t stop to think what this would do to him, or me in the long run. I didn’t think how this would affect him emotionally. I buried myself. Locked who I am deep inside. I was this vibrant, confident, headstrong, sexual person. I locked her away… I became unsure, quiet, reserved… Why?? Because That me, wasn’t his me… That me, wasn’t the me he brought out and encouraged. If I lost sight of the other me, the real me, it wouldn’t hurt so bad, not being his. This new, reserved me… the repercussions are immense. I lost me. I lost my confidence, my strength, my vibrant self. For what? I lost love, for what? Fear?? It’s bullshit in all honesty.

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One of my good friends tried to tell me, she tried to warn me. I shut her out…. Years later she and I have reconnected, just as He and I have… This fear… I wanted to shed it. I was slowly embracing the real me again. The me I used to be. Loud, vibrant, confident, secure in who she was and in her relationship…… Then it all came crashing down.. So so hard. In March, I had my life rocked. Words spoken by people I trusted, people I leaned on. This had a rippling affect… So many ripples.

This feeding tube.. .this device that is essentially keeping me alive is destroying my confidence. Why?? Why am I letting it?? Why am I losing sight of everything again? Why is the fear so prominent?? Today, today I nearly lost him. Today he told me to have a good life, because he’s obviously not what I want… I screamed, I yelled, I cried. Because for 7 damn years he’s who i’ve loved. He’s who I imagined walking down the aisle to. He has been my cheerleader for years. He has been there for every step along the way, even when we were apart. Just him. He and I are like Yin and Yang… Peanut butter and jelly… We’re Us… We always have been. We’re like Noah and Allie finding our way back to each other…. Today…today was almost the end. Today my best friend Aly tried to soothe me, calm me and reassure me. I couldn’t be soothed. I couldn’t be calmed. I was heartbroken. I think everyone saw the cracks forming. Everyone warned me of what my insecurities would do… That was the one thing he said he couldn’t handle, the constant negative talk about myself… the constant putting myself down… comparing myself to other women… women without tubes, ports, limps… healthy women, pretty women, skinny women… All that I’m not… Would he get tired and want that?? Would he see me and just not want me anymore?? Would he rather one of the “barbies” from before me?

 

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What triggered this spiral… a simple request from him…. Complete and utter trust… Trust with my heart. I trust him with my life.. trusting him with my Heart… Knowing he is the one person that would have all of me, mind, body, heart and soul…The ultimate power to emotionally hurt me..Holding it back, not giving all of it, it protects me. It gives me “control”…Trusting him so completely, trusting him so fully, and immensely with the one treasured thing, my heart. How do I do that? How do I open that up to him? How do I let go of the fear, of the absolute terror? Do I think he’d hurt me? Never, not intentionally. The thought of opening up, of letting him in completely, what if he proves me wrong? That I AM worthy? That I AM deserving?? That I AM this amazingly beautiful and so full of life person?? What if all these things i’ve thought of myself for years are proven wrong?? I’ve spent so much building up and saying what i’m not, that what if I am these things? What if I am this beautiful, and loving person? What if I am this sexy, confident person?? Can I still be that, with my feeding tubes, with my port, with my cane?? The only person saying I can’t, is me… My insecurities.

That’s  my life.. For three days a week, I run IV Fluids for 4 hours, and Every day I run feeds for 16-18 hours… This is Me….This is what I see. This is what he should see, but doesn’t. How can he see all this, and still love me? How can he see it and still think i’m beautiful and sexy? I want to see what he sees. I want to see what everyone else sees.

On the other hand, what if it doesn’t work? The fear, the absolute heartbreak is crushing. Am I so afraid that I can’t trust completely? Am I so scared that i’m willing to lose love? I have a chance at love, a second chance at a really great love. Not everyone gets a chance at love like this, and here I have a second chance… And what am I doing? I’m letting it slip away. I’m slowly losing myself, I’m losing everything. I’m working so hard to stop, i’m trying to rebuild myself. The fear, it’s so there. How can I let it go? How can I love me again. How can I do this??? One day at a time… That’s how. Through the love, support and encouragement of friends, that’s how. I need to see myself as everyone else does. I need to realize my worth, realize how worthy I am of this love. Of all the good in my life.

Insecurities are a bitch. We all have them. We all struggle, just varying degrees of it. Some of us let it control us, let is shape us, affect our relationships. It’s so hard to be strong enough to resist, strong enough to overcome it. Trust.. It’s such a word we toss around, but when it comes down to it, do we have that in our lives? Do we fully trust people? Trust them with all of us?? Do we take that leap? The leap of faith and trust. The trust isn’t given freely, the ultimate trust is treasured. We hold back because we want to protect ourselves. Protect ourselves from potential heartbreak. But what if we didn’t? What if we put our trust in them? What if we took that leap? It could be epic, phenomenal.. Amazing. I know it’s not easy, I know we’re scared, but maybe, just maybe it’ll be worth it. I sit here, tears in my eyes, pouring my heart out. Please, don’t let your insecurities win, please face the fear, please find love and hold on to it. It’s ok to be afraid, it’s ok to be scared, but don’t let it ruin your relationship. I’m trying not to, i’m trying to overcome them.

 

 

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I’m a unicorn…

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It’s summer time!!! Time for heat, beaches and pool! Summer is probably the worst time of the year for me due to the heat. It’s been quite the summer! So much as happened! Who else has a hard time during the summer? Anyone have any special plans this summer?

My son has been battling a post viral rash for the last two months. He actually tested positive for a past Epstein Barr Virus infection. Like Whoa! However, his rash, It’s finally gone!! Yay! Just in time for his surprise vacation! I can’t wait to post pictures from out trip! It’ll be so exciting.

It’s been a rough few months. My feeding tube has been problematic, or more my body has been. I’ve had reactions to the formula, bandages, gauze. It’s just been alot! Finally we’re doing pretty good. I’m still about 800-1000 calories short a day, but i’m slowly improving, however I still keep losing weight. My GI team is fairly positive I also have intestinal-paresis as well. Which just makes things even more fun..Not! Lactulose and I are buddies now! LOL  I got my Mic-Key GJ button last month, it’s been alright, the only thing is, I can’t vent my G-tube. Which really sucks. I’m also pretty much tube fed at this point. My body simply can’t tolerate any foods! I do try to get some ice cream a night though, as it’s one of the only things I can semi handle.

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Mic-Key GJ

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Weight Loss

As you can see, i’ve definitely lost a good amount of weight. I think i’m down 15-20lbs. And sadly still losing it. I’ll get it sorted, i’m determined!

Now, here’s a bit of good news!!! Living With Dys, has been nominated for a WEGO Health Award!! How exciting?! I, myself have been nominated for three, so that makes 4 nominations for me. I’m amazed at it all. I feel so honored and blessed. If you’re interested, check out my nominee page: https://awards.wegohealth.com/nominees/18307. IMG_0738

How great is this? What are your thoughts on it? What would you like to see more of?

I saw my geneticist Wednesday. I was not prepared for the results that I received. We did complete genome testing. It’s been about 5 months waiting for the results. Well, boy was I surprised, well kind of not really. My results showed I have a genetic mutation in the COL4A4 gene, which controls the Collagen Type IV basement membranes. I don’t just have a genetic mutation, I have the ONLY documented case of this variant. Literally the only one. I’m not even a zebra anymore, i’m a darn Unicorn. 246x0w My geneticist point blank told me, as of now, there is NO ONE to help me. No one knows what this mutation can cause, or what it can do. They’ve never seen it before. He’s advised me to seek out Duke and Johns Hopkins Research Department if they’d take me on as a patient. I did reach out to them this morning. It’s terrifying. Being told there’s no way to help you, that we don’t even know what’s going on or what can happen. It’s just overwhelming and so scary. I have low frequency hearing loss, and hearing loss is common with other variants of this gene. I’m being fitted on July 24th for hearing aids. I’m 33 and getting hearing aids… It’s just wow.  My rheumatologist, whom I absolutely adore, felt so bad that there’s nothing he can do to help. He still feels somehow MS is involved, he also mentioned Duke or Johns Hopkins is where I need to go. So if that’s where I have to go, that’s where i’ll go. What’s scarier to me, is it looks like I’m a carrier for this genetic mutation. My first question to my geneticist was,”How does this affect my son?” My son will have to be tested, as does my mom, to see if she has a milder version of a variant, or nothing at all. The change my son has this is overwhelming to me. It’s scary. I’m determined to become the absolute best advocate I can possibly be. I’m going to make noise, and i’m going to be heard. Someone has to be willing to listen and help me! Be ready y’all. It might get loud!

Yes.fit… who’s heard of it? They do virtual races. You do them on your own pace. It’s great. Cycle, walk, swim. Any steps or movement counts! I did one recently, and completed it. It was nerve wracking, and I did it completely at my own pace. We should definitely do one together! Motivate and empower each other! Who’s with me?!

Alright… Now I want to do a few live events, talks or chats. Who would like that?? My etsy store has also expanded. How exciting? New shirts, i’m focusing on empowering and positive messages!

In the midst of all this, I’ve been really struggling with my insecurities. It’s been very hard to see past them, and overcome them. My friends have been os supportive, it’s meant the world to me. My counselor has helped me to focus on positives and do thought stopping exercises. My tube doesn’t define me, it doesn’t change me. I lost sight of that. I’m slowly finding my way again. We often can lose sight of this when struggling, it’s important we focus on ourselves and self care. Feeding tubes, ports, Piccs, mobility aids don’t define us. Using them, having them doesn’t change our identity. Our identity is not rooted in our diagnosis. So many lose sight of that, so many let their diagnosis become their identity. Hope… we’ve lost it, let’s find it! join my facebook group, “Finding Hope”. Let’s lift each other up, and encourage each other!

 

Now my beautiful readers, Go Shine. Don’t let your sparkle dull. Be the absolutely best you, that you can be!!!!