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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