Nails – A Tribute : 30 Days of Truth

Day 13 : A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough days. (write a letter.)

Trent Reznor receiving an award for truly remarkable music.

Preface: In the liner notes of Pretty Hate Machine, the first studio album by Nine Inch Nails, there is a statement that says, “Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor.” Indeed, it is. This is why I address this letter as such, though I would like to include every person that ever had a hand in his projects. They were also important in making his music happen.

Dear Trent Reznor,

Yes, I am indeed very young to be following your career. I ask you to dismiss any immediate notions of some kid fan looking to “find a voice” or “find an image to latch on to”. Fifteen years ago, that may have appeared to be the case. However, I advised any who made the accusation that it wasn’t a phase, and in my age group, it certainly wasn’t a fad. The music spoke to me, and I took a lot of shit to pride myself as a fan in my peer group. It wasn’t about a popular song, attraction, lifestyle, or any of that bullshit nonsense. It was the lyrics and the music, not the man or the movement.

I sincerely doubt that you will ever personally read this letter. It’s not a matter of dismissal, or anything of the like. I realize the intense focus, schedule, and deadlines that must accompany such incredible success. However, I’d like to assure you this isn’t one of those stalker letters, but only a fan tribute. And, of course, an exercise of prompt response to a blog project. If it wasn’t for this prompt, I may have never written this at all. That is, despite the fact that there is much in my personal life that I can attribute to the music.

Today, I am a part-time music teacher at a local inner city youth program here in Pittsburgh, PA. I am aware that you are local to the area, which is another reason the music is personal to me. You grew up in the area, therefore you were aware of the lifestyle and culture of the region and how it affects a person. But, that wasn’t the only personal connection. In the seventh grade, though music had been a lifelong passion, I became symptomatic with a mood disorder. A deep depression was ravaging through my life, taking each passion away from me. It took one man, my band instructor Warren Sullivan, to convince me otherwise.

One day, he took the class to the Piano Graveyard, a hallway behind the auditorium where old, detuned and broken pianos went to die. He wanted us to experiment with sound, though most of us had never touched a piano in our lives. I sat at a piano bench, disinterested in just about everything, including that exercise. Others plucked at sour keys, and some just pounded the pianos in the effort to make as much noise as possible. Mr. Sullivan sat down beside me, clearly as downtrodden as I was. I looked up at him and noticed this awful look of defeat and resignation.

We didn’t speak for a few moments, just poked at keys together. And this was the first time a teacher had addressed me personally, as an equal. He said, “Have you ever had anything really bad happen to you?” I nodded. He asked, “So bad that it changed your entire life?” Again, I nodded. He told me a story, a secret as to why he would be unlikely to return the following year. I liked the guy, and it was difficult to swallow.

And he said to me, “Did you know that I knew Trent?”

It took me aback. “Really?”

“Yeah, we were in a college band together,” he replied.

“So, what happened?” I eagerly inquired.

Mr. Sullivan look uncomfortable for a moment, but continued timidly, “We had creative differences.”

I noted, “I could see that.”

We were quiet again for a moment, and he admitted, “Do you know what the last thing I ever said to Trent was?”

“What?”

“Trent Reznor, you will never amount to anything!” He paused, then continued, “I guess I was mistaken. And that’s something I live with every time I hit a bad spot in my career.”

“Wow,” I breathed. It was really powerful. But, it taught me a valuable lesson. Go with what feels right and where my heart takes me. Never try to take anyone else down to get a leg up. And, it kept me in band, even with the terror of a director that took over. I withstood her for five years and five more instruments, just so I could get as much music under my belt as possible. I was inspired to move to tenor sax, which opened up the door to all woodwinds. Today, I have an alto on my wall, only because I can’t find a reasonably priced tenor sax. Imagine me, all of 4’11” with a tenor sax strapped to my neck. The thing went down to my knees! It was worth it.

Anyhow, returning to the music itself. I started off with the album “The Downward Spiral”, which could not have been more appropriate for the life changes I was going through.  To this day, I have owned four physical copies, because I would wear them out so badly, and one digital copy, all legal.  It was at that point in my life that I became symptomatic with Bipolar Disorder.  “The Downward Spiral” was my mainstay.  I knew in my bones that I was different somehow, and that the deep depressions were abnormal for a young adolescent.  But, the album in it’s entirety showed that what I was going through, particularly the self-loathing, suicidal ideation, self-injury, questions of faith and religion, disdain and disillusionment with the world, and dysfunctional relationships were not uncommon events.  I had figured that if these things were inspiration for an adult, why couldn’t they be my inspiration, with the music being my solace.

As I grew into adulthood, the music came with me.  “Pretty Hate Machine” and “Broken” lent me music that resonated with me.  In a way, these albums aided me in support of developing my identity apart from parental and societal expectations.  I realized that I wasn’t like the others, and I could never be.  Instead of fretting about it, and making futile attempts to conform, I fought for the freedom of expression.

The music and lyrics tapped at something deep inside myself.  It found the part of me that conflicted and the dissonance touched.  It found the fundamental contradictions that created so much confusion and made it flow.  I identify with the complex and unique chord structures.  They are beautiful, yet eerie, and have so much tension in them.  My ear can identify them in music I wasn’t aware that you had a hand in, not because of the musical familiarity, but because of the way it touches me.

I could go on identifying each album, with various songs that have colored my life.  But, I find it unnecessary.  The message is this.  Each album contained a number of songs that had personal meaning.  Most were very fitting for the time period of my life, whether it was touching upon symptoms of my progressing disorder, dysfunctional and abusive relationships, general discord with life, or absolute disgust with society and the people that run it.  And in those songs, I found the music and lyrics to tell me the most important thing I needed to know in my life.  I am not alone.

So, today, I share my passion for music with kids, and help them find their sound.  I do that as part of my passion, and as my day job.  As a person who suffers from mood disorder, you could probably appreciate the following.  I spend most of my time putting the same message out there through creative mediums.  If you are suffering, you are not doing it alone.  I know how you feel.  I was granted the gift of music and writing to share my story and give a certain gift of companionship to those in need.  And, I feel as if you had a hand in aiding that.

I am still a fan and a listener.  I am greatly enjoying the long rumored, “How to Destroy Angels” project.  I appreciate how the music was able to evolve with me.  Or, it’s possible that I was just able to put it into a different context.  Either way, I am grateful to have had such an inspiration and support in my life.  Many thanks for following your passion, and not letting Warren take you down.

All the Best,

Lulu Stark

A Proper Name

I have never fancied myself a writer.  This is much the same as I have never imagined myself a musician, a vocalist, and many other things that I have come to find as truth in my life.  In all honesty, I’ve considered myself to be a dabbler, more of a Jack-of-all-Tradesmaster of none.  Yes, there is an emphasis.  This is not because I’m getting down on myself.

No, the focus of the emphasis is not on what I can’t do, but more of what I haven’t done.  I have dabbled in so many disciplines, some would think it akin to something attention deficit.  I have dedicated my focus, energy, and time (and sometimes some money) to the following:

  • Musical instruments
  • Music composition
  • Vocals
  • Music Education
  • Creative writing
  • Poetry
  • Prose
  • Essays
  • Informational writing and advocacy
  • Crocheting
  • Crafting
  • Eco-friendly and Green Crafting
  • Mental Health Advocacy
  • Community programs
  • Sewing
  • Musical theater directing and production
  • Autism Advocacy
  • Psychology
  • Human Development
  • Human Behavior
  • Computers
  • Networking
  • Computer Programming
  • Computer Forensics
  • RPG’s / Gaming
  • Technology
  • Graphic Art
  • Photography
  • Running
  • Collecting
  • Blogging

Perhaps it’s some serendipitous byproduct of Bipolar Disorder, or just who I am.  I would be lying if I denied having the habit of starting things and not finishing them.  There are a great deal of factors that go into that: lack of focus, growing disinterest, a block of some sort, lack of motivation, and lack of enthusiasm at times.  It has given me a wealth of experience in many areas.  However, the steep downside is that I have not remained consistent enough with any of the aforementioned activities to develop a solid level of mastery.

But to me, they are hobbies.  Why would I need mastery in a hobby?  It doesn’t bring me any fortune, it is not my job , was not a keystone of a career.  What is the point of having the hobby if I have completely mastered it?  There is no joy, because there is no dabbling.  There is no sense of discovery.  The hobby becomes laborious, like a job.  A hobby is certainly what I would consider to be the opposite of a job.  Although I am one of those lucky people who took a hobby, a talent, a skill, and was able to turn it into gainful employment.

Back to my point.  Today, I received an email from an eager non-profit organization that was looking for me to assist in promoting their organization’s activities for mental health advocacy.  I thought to myself, “I did it.  I finally did it.  I found my way into the door of being a mental health advocate and coming out of this wardrobe.”  I reviewed the email several times to make sure I had the details right.  And I realized how it was addressed.  Dear Mrs. Lulu Sunshine,

I’ve been writing under the pseudonym “LunaSunshine” for awhile now.  Most have come to know me as Lulu, just a cute nickname that seems to fit perfectly, as if it were meant to personify me in realm.  It was worked out fine until this moment.  I have realized that if I want to get serious in the world of mental health advocacy through my writing, then I had better get a decent pseudonym that allows me to be professional.

Therefore, after much consideration, I am changing my pseudonym to something proper enough to be seen on a website or book.

I have decided on Tallulah “Lulu” Stark.

Lulu Stark - the new avatar

I have origins for this.  The name Tallulah has Native American origins in Georgia.  As do I.  The translation means leaping water, perfect for describing my own nature as fluid, changing states and shapes.  Tallulah is also of Gaelic origin, as am I.  The translation in Gaelic is abundance, princess, lady. I am no princess, for sure.  But, I am a woman with an abundance of emotion, that carries a wealth of experience.

Stark has a few meanings.  It can mean grim, representing depressive states.  It can be beyond reasonable limits, extreme, and the perfect representation of the hypomania.  And of course, it’s a play on the cliched phrase, “stark raving mad”.

There will be a few changes.  My email will change to reflect the new pseudonym.  tallulahlulustark@gmail.com is the new address.  Until everyone is used to the new address, I will have the old one forward into the new one.

My facebook is changed as well.  I will move Pendulum’s page over there tomorrow.  For now, add me on Facebook.

I will wait awhile to change the avatar.  To allow for the transition.  Please, continue calling me Lulu.  Nothing has changed in that realm.  I wanted to put the word out there.

My Liebster Blog Award

The insightful and talented fracturedangel, who writes The Mirth of Despair, has generously nominated me for the Liebster Blog Award!

What does “Liebster” mean?

Liebster is a German word that literally translates to “dearest”, “favorite”, and “beloved”.  By giving this award, one blogger says to another, “This is a favorite and beloved blog.”  I am honored to receive it, knowing that I am “dear”, “favored”, and “loved” by other bloggers.  (At least one other!).  Also, it is only awarded to blogs with under 200 subscribers.  I refuse to throw numbers, but I assure you that I am eligible.

I have seen others receive this award, and was elated with their success. It really is an incredible privilege to be among the others that proudly display this badge.

The rules of this award are more simple than others.

  • Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog. “done”
    Link back to the blogger who awarded you.
  • Pick (up to) 5 other blogs who fit within the award parameters (less than 200 followers).
  • Inform them that you have chosen them by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Post the award on your blog.

Now, (insert fanfare), I’d like to introduce a few older and newer blogs that I enjoy.

A Taxi Dog Diary
TD, as I affectionately refer to him, writes about his life after stroke, aphasia, bipolar disorder, politics, marriage, and a variety of other topics. He always has interesting topics and incredible ideas, though he is challenged with the act of writing. His struggle is admirable, and his words are often thought provoking. He is more than deserving of this award.

I Was Just Thinking…
Written by Ruby Tuesday, who has become a wonderful friend to me. Ruby shares her experience with a variety of mental health challenges insightfully and eloquently. Her words are powerful, and emotionally riveting. She and her blog are possibly the most deserving of this award!

Manic Monday
Manic Monday focuses on life in the professional world with bipolar disorder and physical maladies. She documents her struggle and her experience with work, surgeries, and mental health. (Among other things). Manic Monday is one of the few blogs that explore life in the work place with special mental and physical health concerns.

A Canvas of Minds
This blog is a collaborative for mental health bloggers to address disorder, how disorder affects our lives, symptoms, and treatments. It promotes honesty, mental health education and awareness, and advocacy in the effort to reduce and / or eliminate stigma. The efforts alone are worth the award.

Ending the Stigma
Ending the Stigma is also a collaborative blog aimed at dialogue about mental health topics, focused into exploring mental health topics to use a collective voice in helps of ending the stigma. I commend this group of bloggers for their dedication to the cause and the mental health community at large.

I am thrilled and flattered by this award. I hope that I can inspire the same emotions in others by showing them that are beloved by me. Don’t fret if you were not included on this list. I am limited by five. Believe me, I could go on all day!

Again, thank you, fracturedangel!

I Ain’t Afraid of No SOPA

Emblazoned on the frontpage of Wikipedia:

Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge

It didn’t take a lot of imagination yesterday. When you went to Google, there is a giant black censor block. I logged onto WordPress, and found myself staring at a page filled with censored blogs, where there should have been featured blogs. Upon clicking, this headline sits before me:

You may not be aware of the pending legislation called SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act).  It sounds good in theory.  I would know, because Representative Tim Murphy from Pennsylvania got to me first.  He declared it to be in our best interest to stop cyber terrorism.  This legislation is heralded as the great protector of our sensitive information in banks, hospitals, etc.  After I had several fraudulent charges on my joint bank account within two days of each other, two sliced and diced debit cards and no way for easy access to my money, I considered this a great thing!

Until yesterday, January 18th, 2012.  Until I was forced to open my eyes and do my civic duty by actually reading what these bills are all about.  (Thank you, President Obama for the Freedom of Information Act).

As usual, we’ve been duped.  Essentially, these bills equate to the US Patriot Act, in a manner of speaking.  The US Patriot Act is there to deny civil liberties guaranteed by our Amendments, if they suspect you as a terrorist.  They’ve set it up so that if you speak out, it can be very easy for you to disappear.

This is another step toward totalitarianism.  SOPA and PIPA seek to criminalize our freedom for information.  By doing that, they also grossly violate our First Amendment rights to write, create, and pass on information as we wish.  It grants permission to Internet Service Providers to block any information they wish.

Doesn’t this seem suspicious that these were pushed on the dawn of the Occupy Movement?  The Occupy Movement consists of local grassroots organizations that rely on the internet to make international connections between them.  What happens to all of the grassroots organizations, such as Occupy and Blog for Mental Health 2012, when our voice is stifled?

And that’s what Pendulum would look like if certain politicians had their way.  It is bad enough that many of the mental health bloggers feel the societal pressure to take refuge behind glowing monitors and clever pseudonyms.  Now, our medium and content are being threatened.  Extreme discrimination could take place.  If one party, just one, find our content to be vile, disturbing, irresponsible, or amoral, then we are likely to get shut down.

I won’t stand for that.  Personally, I want to stop this thing dead in it’s tracks.  This is my own forum to discuss mental health.  In the days of old, families would lock up their “insane” in basements, cellars, and attics.  What we would experience would be the modern equivalent.  I was tired of hiding and being disguised.  That’s why, exactly seven months ago today, I came here to be on display for all of the world to see.

It saved my life.  And, I wouldn’t know what to do without it.

If you feel that your civil liberties to talk about your mental health and special concerns are in danger of being violated, take a stand.  Do it now before it’s too late.

Google wants you to take action.

Even certain parties in the White House want you to take action.

Around the world, in the UK, individuals are taking action.

And millions of others all want you to take action against SOPA and PIPA.

Every signature on every petition counts.  Shout it out, loud and clear!

SOPA WON’T SILENCE ME!

Blog for Mental Health 2012

Blog for Mental Health 2012 Project
Clearly, I am a mental health blogger. I have been dedicated to sharing my experiences with bipolar disorder for nearly seven months now. That is my primary focus, though I have a tendency to get a little off topic from time to time.  Not only is this therapeutic for me, but I hope that is can be an inspiration for others who suffer with mental health issues.  This is especially the ones who do so in silence.  Every voice is important, as it collects and makes our community’s voice stronger.

This is the premise for Pendulum, as written in the About This Blog page:

Many people suffering from Bipolar Disorder do so in silence. Prior to this blog, I could have included myself. This blog is meant for others to experience living with this disorder the way I, and many others, do. It is also for others to find their voice here and to know that they are not alone in their struggle. Lastly, it is to encourage dialogue and community between bipolar bloggers.

Sometimes it’s interesting. Sometimes it’s sad and at other times it sounds crazy. Grab the pendulum, and hold on for dear life. Otherwise, you just might end up in the pit.

This morning, I found myself interested in an official blogging project to raise awareness for mental health education. I sifted through Google for awhile, unable to find anything like it. And I thought, “Why don’t I start one?” It would be easy! All I would need to do is produce a graphic and some instructions.

The badge above is featured on Pendulum’s homepage, because I am dedicated to continue blogging throughout 2012 for mental health. So, here are the rules.

1.) Take the pledge by copy and pasting the following into a post featuring “Blog for Mental Health 2012”.

I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2012 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

2.) Link back to the person who pledged you.

3.) Write a short biography of your mental health, and what this means to you.

I have been symptomatic of Bipolar Disorder and Anxiety for most of my life. I was incorrectly diagnosed with MDD in my teens, and suffered in silence. After my son was born in 2008, I went on to experience a severe relapse in symptoms considered to be postpartum psychosis. Several months later, I sought treatment and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder II.

That was almost three years ago now. Today, I am experiencing the longest stable state I’ve ever had, going on three months now. I am still hesitant to say that I am in remission.

This pledge is my opportunity to commit to mental health awareness. I can publicly display this badge to instantly tell my audience what this is all about. And, I can encourage others within the mental health community that have a Dx to do the same.

4.) Pledge five others.

I am pledging give of my fellow bloggers who have stood with me, and have proven their medal in my eyes as mental health bloggers.

  1. Ruby – I Was Just Thinking…
  2. FracturedAngel – The Mirth of Despair
  3. Monday – Manic Monday
  4. Vivien – Manic Muses
  5. Sarah – bi[polar] Curious

If you happen upon this without being pledged, I still pledge you. Feel free to take the pledge! Promote awareness!

Silence in Disillusionment

I’ve attempted to write this post about a dozen times now.  Maybe more.  I don’t know.  The words aren’t coming out right.  It feels like there is nothing to write and everything to pour out, all at once.  There’s this battle going on inside myself between what I want to write, what I should write, and how to convey all of these thoughts.

I’m just going to blurt it out.  My blog, my rules.

This has started at work and with blogging lately.  For some unknown reason, I’ve been getting the feeling that I’ve been talking about myself too much lately.  I’m not self-absorbed, at least not in the way that my interests and motives orbit my being.  People seem to give me these blank stares of intense disinterest when I’m relating a situation to them.  The objective is to relate to someone else, not grant my pity.  I feel strongly against pitying people.  It’s insulting to some and enabling to others.

This has been the case with my blog, I’m sure.  I don’t often look at my stats, and when I do, it’s only to see what topics are the most popular.  If I’ve run a topic out, say about my upcoming surgery, then I’m done with it.  There is all that is to be said on that front, and I move along.  My stats are consistant with days that I write, and there is no immediate drop off.

However, there is no dialogue.  This is not incinuating that every post sparks something within each reader that makes it relevant and interesting.  If there is nothing to be said, then so be it.  But, I’m not running a blog to whine about my life.  It was never my intent to create a blog that dissects every situation and magnifies it to intensely overdramatic levels.  My objective was to become relatable in my trials and tribulations.  That does not to seem to be the case.  At least, not to me.

It seems that my comments and insights into other blogs are not enjoyed and in certain occasions, seem less than welcome.  It was my assumption that I was among a community of bipolar bloggers, to say the least.  I’m sure there is a mishmash of alphabet soup among us, and I can accomodate that.  Perhaps, I was mistaken in certain aspects of how these relationships work.

My goals were simple.  First and foremost, write a blog for me.  As my reader base increased, I had decided to narrow it down to important topics in my life.  As the community grew, I attempted to welcome everyone with open arms.  I was pretty sure everyone started their own blog with similar objectives, so my next goal was to provide insight and occasionally suggestions to other writers.  And finally, to bring our community closer together.

Maybe I was wrong, and I’ve failed in some fashion.  Or, I’m delusional with depression.

That’s what I wanted to write, sort of.  I wanted to include something to the effect of my suspicions of an on-coming depression, that is coloring this entire ordeal in my mind.  But, that can wait.  It’s not something I’m considering dissecting at the moment.  I am too disillusioned to be remotely objective.

I’ll write when I’m ready.  Whenever that is.

Leep-Into-Cin – Part III

Warning: The following content can be considered graphical in nature.  It may contain material that may not be appropriate for certain audiences.  Children under the age of 18, those of the male gender, and others faint of heart may want to take extra care while viewing this.  Use your own discretion.

Bringing in the Big Guns

After the experience where I was left stranded on an operating table, I had grown animosity toward that doctor that performed my surgery.  I refused to see her, and I refused to go through any more procedures.  It didn’t matter.  I had lost my insurance again and there was nothing I could possibly do.  The only other option was to return to the clinic so that they could slowly kill me with their negligence.

I did break down and go to the clinic, but only for a required Pap to receive birth control.  I took the call when it came.  ASCUS, same news, different month.  I couldn’t face it.  I didn’t want to do it all over again.  But as usual, Planned Parenthood didn’t really take this news seriously.  I didn’t plan on going back anyhow.  The nurse practitioner butchered me during that routine exam and left me bleeding for a week afterward.

Finally, I had good health insurance and went to Magee Hospital Womancare.  By chance, I was given to a doctor that specialized in woman specific cancers.  Upon our first meeting, I didn’t care for her.  She was cold, calculating, and blunt.  She reviewed my records, took a pap, and sent my samples off to an Oncologist – the first time a real cancer doctor had ever seen my file.  I was relieved, but I couldn’t stand her bedside manner.  Her words were few and her work was rough and quick.  At least it was quick.

I got the good news of my first negative pap in years!  I celebrated!  The dysplasia was gone!  I rejoiced at having that burden lifted from me.  No more would I worry about growing more cancerous cells, as day after day passed.  I could live without constant concern of death.

Until April 2011.

I had neglected to get my six month pap and was coming upon my yearly pap.  The office tried to contact me and I missed several appointments.  I was very busy now.  I had just been accepted into my first teaching job and was responsible in the spring musical as the Music Director.  The very night of the show, Womancare tracked me down.  I paced backstage and scheduled my appointment for spring break.  I realized the urgency and knew I was running out of birth control anyway.

The pap was bad.  ASCUS, again.  There was no infection or alternative explanation.  Another colposcopy had to be done to confirm all of our fears.  I scheduled it for the first week in June 2011.  I knew I would be laid off by then and would have plenty of time for recovery.  But, as you know from previous posts, I had developed the flu which turned into pneumonia.  I missed the appointment, and rescheduled for July 15, previously noted in “All the Pretty Things”.

What I didn’t mention was the nervous bus ride into the city.  Nor did I mention the walk alone through Downtown, only mitigated by my bravery to do it alone after C.S. once again failed to attend at the last minute and serenity found at the fountain.  I laid on the table in the familiar position – feet in stirrups, staring at the ceiling.  I felt the vinegar sting the tissue inside of me.  I sighed.  Then, there was a feeling of a stab, twice that of a shot, and enough for me to lose my breath.  I heard the doctor say, “That’s not enough of a sample.” and then came another unbelievable stab that had me seeing stars.  I cried out in pain.  Just keep breathing, keep breathing.  The tears flooded to my eyes and another slice that felt like a twisting knife in my insides.  Breathe.  Keep breathing.  I told myself over and over, but I was choked with tears from the incredible amount of pain.

The doctor was uncharacteristically sympathetic.  She asked me questions, but I could not speak.  I could not catch my breath to tell her that I just needed a moment.  She offered me a cool towel and I declined.  She offered me a cool drink and I accepted.  I tried to get up, but she insisted that I lie back down for awhile.  I needed time for the apoxy to take hold to cover the internal wound.  I needed time for the cramping to go away before I should move.  She knew more than anyone else in my life that all I needed was some time.  I sipped the water, caught my air, and said to her, “I don’t remember it being quite that painful.  Then again, I don’t remember it being quite that fast either!”  I was trying to save face, but it didn’t matter.  She had seen the twisted look on my face with my eyes squeezed shut.  She asked about my condition and I told her I was OK and that I still needed to catch my breath.

I was still choking back tears.  I was ashamed that I couldn’t handle the pain and cried.  I was so alone.  I was furious that C.S. had not made more of an attempt to be with me.  But more than anything, I was sad that I had been let down again.  And I knew I would have to drag all of that physical and emotional pain down the streets of Pittsburgh, back home with me, and into my home to face my son alone.

All alone.

The Anticipated Call

The office assured me that we would have a result by Friday.  I knew what they were going to say.  I had hoped that they would say that it was CIN I, and we could wait.  But I knew it wasn’t.  Just like I knew in the beginning that I would be in the 10% where this doesn’t resolve on it’s own.  Just like I knew after the cryosurgery that this wasn’t the end of it.  I wanted to believe differently, but in my bones, I knew better.

Friday morning, I took the call.  I was in my mother’s kitchen while T.D. was downstairs watching Spongebob for the gazillionth time.  CIN II.  This time they wanted to perform LEEP because of my advancing age, history with this disease, and my current grade of dysplasia.  Seemingly, it was progressing faster this time.  Or else, the cryosurgery just didn’t take.  I knew all of these things, because I often have the power of foresight.  At least when it comes to my body and my mind.  But, there is nothing that can actually prepare you for the news.  There is also nothing that can prepare you for what you are facing.

The nurse I spoke to wanted to schedule a surgical consult before we proceed.  I was puzzled and felt some looming threat.  I had never been offered a surgical consult before.  Apparently, the doctor and I have a lot to converse about.  In the meantime, I am left my with racing thoughts and full internet access.

A Rock and a Hard Place

Each surgery presents the problem with damaging the cervix with scar tissue.  If enough is amassed, that may pose problems for future fertility.  The statistics say that cervical stenosis, the narrowing of the cervical canal, is about a chance of 1-2%.  But the statistics are a little more unclear when it comes to cervical competency to bring a fetus to full term.  The more they take of the cervix to remove affected cells, the thinner the cervix becomes, which destroys its integrity.  In summation: If I have this procedure, can I have the second child that I’ve been trying to plan for?

But what are the chances if I wait to have the procedure until after my second child is born?  Will I develop invasive cancer in the meantime?  Will they have to take my uterus if I decide to wait?  What is the risk?

It would break my heart to lose the second child I so desperately want.  But it would destroy my body if I were to have a hysterectomy, or worse, to face death due to cancer.

Another waiting game lies ahead.  I do not have my consult until August so I cannot have any of my questions definitiely answered until then.

The sword of Damocles hangs over my head.

All because of two complete assholes that I trusted and loved.

To be continued . . .

Leep-Into-Cin II – Part II

Warning: The following content can be considered graphical in nature.  It may contain material that may not be appropriate for certain audiences.  Children under the age of 18, those of the male gender, and others faint of heart may want to take extra care while viewing this.  Use your own discretion.

July 19, 2007

C.S. and I walked through the neighborhood in the early morning hours.  The air was thick and heavy like wet cotton, but a chilled wind passed every few moments, carrying with it the scent of midsummer rain.  Our discourse was just as thick, but much more warm.  It was like other evenings, but with an electric charge of an impending thunderstorm in the air.  We walked the desolate backstreets with a course for a local convenience store.  Everything was quiet, with the exception of our conversation and the light patter of rain beginning to fall.

Mid-sentence, underneath a huge tree of which the limbs spread high into the sky and over the alley, C.S. grabbed me by the shoulders.  He put his hands to my face and breathed, “I have always loved you.”  With those words, he kissed me deeply and jump started a heart and soul that were long dormant.  I caught my breath and my words, then asked, “Is this true?”  He answered without hesitation, “Yes.  I knew since the night that we painted.  You made me a mural of the stars that I stared at each night for years.”

That had been almost four years prior.

C.S. knows all of my darkest secrets.  At that point, we had been friends for five years.  C.S also knew all of the darkest secrets of Avi and Beck.  C.S. was kind, but he did not hold back when revealing  the ugly truth that were the skeletons in those men’s closets.  I had never been so betrayed and disgusted with others.  C.S. had no hand in it.  He was an innocent bystander, only collecting secrets like a Pandora’s box.  Now the box had opened, and I was dealing with the tremendous reality of it.

The First Blow – ASCUS

After all had been revealed, I decided it in our best interest to see a gynecologist.  I had seen a gynecologist a year before, and six months before that.  It was always unremarkable and a necessary discomfort in order to get birth control.  That was the primary concern.  I was not about to start a relationship by getting pregnant.  It had never happened before, and I wasn’t about to begin then.

A month had passed since my Pap smear, and it was already late August.  C.S. and I were at home, enjoying a day off together.  In fact, we had taken our first hooky day off together so we could continue to enjoy each others company for a long weekend.  I had received a call from the clinic and was perplexed.  They had never called me before.  I took the call and had to move to the balcony for a better signal on my cell phone.  In these days, network in my area was limited.

The words came at me faster than my brain could handle.  My Pap smear result showed “atypical cells of undetermined significance” or ASCUS for short.  My heart raced.  What the hell did that mean?  In short, it meant that I likely had cervical dysplasia, but that could only be determined by a colposcopyAnd what the hell did THAT mean?  Cervical dysplasia refers to cellular changes in the cervix causing precancerous lesions and a colposcopy is a procedure where the doctor determines the grade of these lesiosn.  What causes that?  Human papillomavirus (HPV).

That Son-of-a-Bitch

I couldn’t understand and I couldn’t get any definitive answers.  Who gave this to me?  All of my exams had been clean.  Only a year had passed between, and one of us was supposedly monogamous.  I knew my mistake, but I was very careful to use protection!  It had come down between Avi, who had claimed to have been faithful with the exception of that one indiscretion two years prior, and Beck, that dog of a man, with whom I had only had sexual contact for a few seconds with a condom.  There was never a way to determine which one was at fault.  Neither would confess, especially under the circumstances.  The two men in my life that had used, abused, and thrown me away contended to give their last blow to me.

The First of Many

In September 2007, I had my first colposcopy.  I was scared out of my mind.  Never in my life had I experienced any significant medical problems outside of pesky asthma and painful tendonitis of the knee (later diagnosed as a result of Genu valgum, or knock-knee syndrome).  Sure, I had taken a few blows to the head that resulted in concussions, but they were very mild and never required anything more than a shining light in my eyes and a couple of stitches to my head.  C.S. went with me that day, but he wasn’t allowed in the room because we were not yet married, only engaged.

The procedure is absolutely underestimated in the eyes of practitioners.  It is considered to be routine, and is in nature.  But they failed to notify me that a biopsy was involved.  This is significant information.  They failed to tell me that they were cutting a piece of my flesh from my body!  I laid there, my feet in stirrups, in a silent room as metal scuffed about on the trays and tables.  And then there was an unbelievable pain without any warning.  I clenched my teeth and dug my brand new garnet engagement ring into my palm with all of my might.  It was the only thing I could do not to scream.
I’m a Whore

I got what I deserved.  The one time in my life that I had cheated and this was my punishment.  Painful gynecological procedure for flapping my wares about.  I’m a whore.  How could C.S. go on loving a whore, knowingly?  I’m dirty, I’m diseased.  And I know I gave it to him.  I passed this vile thing onto the one person I’ve ever cared about this deeply.  I’ve done harm to someone who has given me nothing but love and kindness.  I am tainted.

It plagued me.  But C.S. stood in his position – I didn’t know.  I couldn’t have known any better.  He didn’t care what had happened before.  He only wanted me to be healthy and live a long life with him.  I was so happy to hear this.  So we continued to plan for our wedding to start our long, happy, healthy lives together in the eyes of the law.  We had started living together as roomates before we were ever romantically involved.

A Doctor’s Assurance, a Beautiful Lie

Another month passed before I had my result.  You know, Planned Parenthood works pretty slowly.  It was October at this time, and we had just booked our reception hall for April 26, 2008.  Our wedding had a date now.  The nurse reported that I had CIN I, indicating mild cervical dysplasia.  She also reported that on account of my age and the statistics that “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 90 percent of HPV infections are “cleared” by the body within two years.”, the doctor advised that we repeat the Pap in six months to monitor changes.

Four months later, I had become pregnant with T.D.  By the time I had my first Obstetrician appointment, it was time to repeat my Pap.  I reported to the OB that I had CIN I and he scoffed at me.  “Oh the dreaded dysplasia!  Don’t worry, in most cases it resolves itself within a year.  It won’t affect your pregnancy at all.”  What a lie!  My pap came back bad again.  But there was nothing else we could do.  Colposcopies are not recommended for pregnant women.  It had become a waiting game.

Warning Flags

During my pregnancy, my medical insurance change and I thankfully changed OB’s.  I had reported everything to the new OB and was shocked when he became worried about my situation.  He demanded that he receive all of my gynecological records since I began seeing one.  Planned Parenthood works slowly and it took him six months to get the complete documents, after several threats.  But once he had those records in his hands, he was gravely concerned.  We scheduled a colposcopy for my 36th week of pregnancy to avoid preterm labor.

Up until my impending labor, this had been the most painful experience of my life.  The pain of the biopsy is a thousand times more pronounced in pregnancy.  Essentially, they are cutting into a cervix that has thinned in preparation for labor, and is inflamed by the hormones of pregnancy.  The cramps were not just uterine cramps, they were contractions.  I cried, and held C.S.’s hand tight.  At the very least, he stood by my side this time.

The result was CIN II, and I thankfully went full term.  Although we had this result, it was still more of the waiting game.  The situation was becoming more dire.  In a years time, the dysplasia had progressed a full stage.  However, we would have to wait until T.D. was born, and I was completely healed afterward.

I lost my insurance after T.D. was born, and sat in the dark about the dysplasia for eight months.  By the next pap, and the following colposcopy, I had progressed to CIN III.  At this point, I had a new gynecologist because my OB had left the practice a month after T.D. was born.  We were unfamiliar with each other, but she urged that I have cryosurgery as soon as possible.  I saw the urgency because the next step was carcinoma-in-situ, sitting cancer on my cervix.  It had only been less than two years since my original diagnosis and I was already at this point.

Cryosurgery – Alone

I scheduled my cryosurgery for the next available appointment, which was a month later in July 2009.  C.S. promised to go with me.  I looked to him to do so.  I couldn’t go through this alone.  I had suffered so much in the last year.  I had the colposcopy, a month long prelabor, and gone through childbirth through induction.  After another painful colposopy, I just couldn’t go through it by myself.  The thought alone was too much for me.

But, as was becoming the norm, C.S. had something come up at work at the last minute.  My mother cared for T.D. when I was at appointments.  I had to be strong, and I had to go alone.  I was a mother now.  If I can handle labor, I can handle surgery.

I could.  The surgery itself wasn’t bad and the doctor talked me through it.  There was very uncomfortable cramping nearly to the point of pain, but not quite.  It came in short bursts as they touched the cold probe to my cervix.  I was optimistic about it.  If I can get through this, it will be over forever.  That was until the doctor instructed me to lie on the table, alone in the room.  After five minutes, I could get up, dress, and leave.  It sounded simple enough.

But when I tried to lift myself to sitting, it was a painful struggle.  I gushed a clear liquid tinged with blood.  I panicked.  No one told me that this would happen.  I was weak from the procedure and nearly fell off of the table while getting down.  Standing was painful, and moving was worse.  Everything from my waist to my mid-thigh viciously ached.  Dressing was complicated and I was distressed.  All I wanted to do was go home.  Really, I thought, “I wish C.S. was with me.” and I became furious with him.  How could he?!  I could hardly move and was expected to take care of a 9 month old when I got home.  How could he leave me stuck like this?!  That was the very first time I felt he had failed me.  I resented him for it.  And maybe I still do.

In the Clear?

My next pap came back bad.  They said that could happen while I was still healing.  The cervix, after any kind of trauma, isn’t completely healed for upwards of six months after.  They assured me that the next one would be fine.  I believed them.

I really did.

Leep-Into-Cin II – Part I

Warning: The following content can be considered graphical in nature.  It may contain material that may not be appropriate for certain audiences.  Children under the age of 18, those of the male gender, and others faint of heart may want to take extra care while viewing this.  Use your own discretion.

One Bad Apple . . .
Twelve years ago, almost to the day, the relationship with my first love started.  We had gone circles for over six months.  He eyed me, and I fancied him.  We spoke almost daily and we had become great friends.  There were many late night conversations, spilling out our hopes, dreams, fears…  But, he was forbidden fruit, the tastiest of them all.  He was my best friend’s boyfriend.  After over a month of clandestine meetings, secret phone conversations, secrets, and lies, I came clean.  And within six months after that, we were no longer friends at all.

That is not to say that my relationship with this boy (because that’s what he was at the time), didn’t continue.  It did.  And it thrived.  We were a blissful couple, filled with promise and hope for our future.  We planned to attend college together and marry young.  We’d start our lives together the minute we were adults in the eyes of the law.  It was he and I against the world, against our parents, against everything.  And the only thing that mattered was that we loved each other and love was enough to keep us together forever.

If you call three months shy of four years together forever, then sure, we were together forever.  But, we didn’t love each other and love was not enough.  Not to him, especially.  He was cunning with a tongue of silver and a touch of gold.  And when I took off those rose colored glasses many, many years later, I saw everything for what it was.  Us, huddled together for warmth the February afternoon – him laying me down on a dirty mattress, in an abandoned house to fuck me for thirty awkward and unsatisfactory seconds.  Two lovers kept at a great distance across the city – a conveniently placed “long distance” relationship so he could screw around with any girl who looked at him sideways.  Tender words to a broken soul – patronizing speeches for manipulation of the body attached to the desperate ear.  Long, painful separations due to family obligations and travel – paid time off from the relationship.

Everything looks better at a distance.
His final, parting words to me after we made love only twelve hours earlier were, “I will always be you friend.”  It wasn’t until I discovered the Manslator (every woman has one, some women call it their bullshit radar), many years later, that I realized this heartfelt and endearing sentence had a word missing.  I will always be your fuck friend.  And he meant it.

Plus Another Bad Apple. . .

Off an on for a year after that, “Beck” had me on a string.  I was young and naive.  I can actually thank him for emotionally abusing the nativity out of me.  And that he did.  He would build me up to be the one he almost let get away, and then condemn me for being his greatest mistake.  It was a painful game of cat and mouse, only with emotions.  This all went with the waxing and waning of women and genitals that came in and out of his bedroom – and life.  Of course, I didn’t know this.  I still had the antiquated idea that relationships were exclusive and monogamous!  I was his only girl . . . that night.

Eventually, I wised up a little and walked away from that madness.  I was an adult now, and I didn’t have to take shit from anyone.  After that relationship, I wasn’t about to.  I dated around, and discovered what I considered to be a diamond in the rough while I was in college.

“Avi” was not a sensitive soul with a delicate touch and soothing words.  Avi was a man.  A real man, by any standard I’d ever seen.  He was tough, muscular and stoic.  It seemed as if he were all but impenetrable.  With the exception that he had a soft spot for me.  He reeled with laughter and curiosity about me.  “I’ve never met a girl like you, ever before.  You’re so different.’  I was different.  I was a tomboy by male standards.  I spat, drank, swore, and cut-up with the rest of the men-folk.  I was tough and gave it right back to them.  I didn’t let anyone step on me and I didn’t let anyone stand in my way.  I had to be.  No one nurtured me into adulthood.   I used my nails to dig into the earth and crawl on my belly out into the world.  And I got a lot of hard-knocks on my way in and through.

Avi and I were on our own plane of existence for about six months.  We never fought, and always found each other fascinating.  I had never encountered a man like him, nor had he encountered a woman like me.  In the quiet, behind closed doors, in the dead of night, he would whisper beautiful things to me in my sleep.  He stroked my back and hair when no one was looking.  He was a gentleman who held doors, offered coats, and paid for everything, despite my pitiful attempts at declining.  I was a wild woman to him.  I could care less what anyone thought of my physical being.  I had thoughts and opinions that would not be silenced.  I feared nothing.  Both farces disintegrated quickly.  A year into our relationship, despite the fact that things were clearly falling apart, Avi and I were ready to start a life together and signed a lease on an apartment.

You never really know someone until you have lived with them.

Avi was charming to my friends.  He held a good job and kept up on his classwork.  We held the most outrageous, hilarious, and fun parties.  But behind those closed doors now, he was a madman, and I was a child.  Any mistakes were venomously criticized.  I was berated for the smallest things.  Our disagreements would blow up into full on screaming matches.  He would leave without saying a word, especially when he knew he was losing.  And I, being the child that I was, would chase him down.  And apologize.  And beg.  Then he would alienate me, keeping me at an arms length and blaming me for being over dramatic and harmful to our peaceful existence, and forcing me to comply.  He’d intentionally stay late at work.  He would pick up extra hours and be gone more than he was around.  He would stop answering the phone or texts.

Our friends stopped coming around.  One by one, he picked them off, made them the source of our domestic problems, and alienated them.  He couldn’t hold a job for longer than three weeks.  We were drinking, a lot.  And the more we drank, the less I remembered.  He would encourage it too!  Then there was a push, that led to a shove, that led to a slap, that led to punch, that led to him forcing himself on me . . .

I went to the only person left.  The only person who knew me better than anyone else.  I went to Beck.  I called for help, and he came.  He came with the only help he knew how to give – a stiff drink and a limp dick.  It seemed that several years of alcoholism didn’t do Beck very well.  I chugged a bottle of Jack and had three seconds of sex.  The other twenty-six seconds were Beck viciously fucking the carpet on the stairwell to my apartment.  And he was down by a second in his old age, too.  Not only could I be mortified that I had cheated, but I could be dually ashamed that it wasn’t remotely satisfying.  I stood at the top of the stairwell looking down on Beck as he departed.  And I asked him, “Would you at least call?  So I don’t feel like a whore.”  He agreed.  And the only word I received was a Myspace blog post declaring his love for another girl, three days later.

Another year had passed.  I was about to leave Avi.  I really was.  I had thought about it on my long walks through the ice and snow to work.  There was a lot of silence in my head and in that house to fill.  I had planned that we would go to our respective family places for Christmas that year.  And while he was gone, I was going to change the locks, change my phone number, change my address, and leave all of his stuff on the front porch with my father standing by with a shotgun.  I had decided this at Thanksgiving when he was gone.

He always knew.  Every time I had packed a bag in the past, he knew when I was serious.  That’s why most of the time he just sat idly by, calling me a stupid bitch, or a dirty whore while I threw everything I could into some kind of luggage.  But it was by the things that I wasn’t doing that he knew.  When I wasn’t coming home until I thought he would be asleep.  When I wasn’t talking about our relationship and instead about a new friend, especially male ones.  When I wasn’t talking at all.  He knew.

He came home from his family a new man.  There were smiles, hugs, communication, and quality time.  We watched movies together again.  We were sober.  We went on dates and made new friends.  It was like a new lease on our relationship!

Until, he came clean.  All of the time that I thought he held a good job was time he was using to cheat on me.  He held a relationship with another girl we both went to school with.  They had clandestine meetings in places that school that I held sacred to us.  That was the only in discretion that he ever admitted, although I could pin several more on him.  Three of my best friends and my sister all came to me when our relationship was finished to tell their tales.  And the rest ,a server at the restaurant, his boss’ girlfriend, another co-worker, a few more girls from his home town, and a half-a-dozen women from the internet, were all speculation.

It was through C.S.’s love that he gave me the courage of conviction to rid myself of Avi and Beck forever.  He gave me the courage to see the doctor again and get my life straightened out.

Ruins the Whole Bunch.  And Barrel.

It was only when I got those first test results back in July 2007 that I had only begun to know the damage that Beck and Avi had brought to my life.

Pap result – ASCUS.  Probable cause – HPV.

To be continued . . .

The Case of the M&M Interactions

I had a psychiatrist once tell me that the psych meds were all “M&M’s a different color”.  Doctorspeak for, “Same thing, different packaging.”  How refreshing.  At least she was honest about it and didn’t make it seem like one thing was going to be the miracle cure.  That’s now how I refer to my cornucopia of medications.  M&M’s of a different color.  I’ve got my big white ones, little white ones, my shelled white ones, the big bulky blue breathey one, and the mac-daddy of suppliments I take to keep everything else under control.

I’ll take you through a quick run-through of the normal of chronic ailments and then medications.

Bipolar II
Mood Stabilizer:
Lamictal (lamotragine) – 100 mg twice daily = 200 mg

Antidepressant:
Wellbutrin XL (bupropion) – 150 mg once daily

Sleep Aid: (insomnia)
L-Glutithoine (nutraceutical)
L-Theanine (nutraceutical)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Anti-anxiety (benzodiazepine):
Ativan (lorazepam): 1 mg, three times daily = 3 mg

Asthma:
Ventolin (no generic)- 2 puffs every 4 to 6 hours or as needed

Migraines:
Maxalt (no generic)- 5 mg when you feel a migraine coming on

Tendonitis of the Knee and Genu valgum (Knock Knee):
Ibuprofin – 200 mg every 4 to 6 hours or as needed

High Cholesterol:
Garlic (nutraceutical)
Omega3 Fish Oil with DHA and EPA (nutraceutical)
L-carnatine (nutraceutical)

Regular Suppliments
Vitamin C
Vitamin E
Vitamin B-12 with Folic acid
Pantothenic Acid
Bioflaviniod Complex
Bromeline 3000
Ubiqinol (I highly recommend this one for fatigue but it’s pretty expensive)
And probably like 10 others I’m not thinking of right now.

And of course, I am a woman of childbearing age, so throw in an oral, hormonal contraceptive.

Throw in 60 mg of prednizone, and a Z-pak and you’ve got a medicine soup.

Think about all of the doctors we have. Pdoc, PCP, OB/Gyn, Neurologist, Orthapedic, etc. Now, consider that despite the hundreds of times I relay the medications from one doc to another, it probably widens the margin of error.

I’m finishing this on my phone so I have to put the full link on.
http://reference.medscape.com/drug-interactionchecker. This is a comprehensive multi-drug interaction checker. Slap ’em all in there and it’ll tell you. Of course with a little doctorspeak.

Turns out azithromycin (z-pak) doesn’t play well with hormonal bc. Pregnancy risk. Hormonal bc doesn’t play well with lamictal and prednizone by increasing the metabolism rate and having higher concentrations in the blood.

Who knew?