Taking the Bullet

I went to the dreaded LEEP surgery consultation, as first mentioned in Leep-Into-Cin – Part III, and more recently in  A Peach and A Catalyst.

Dodging Bullets
Honestly, I’ve been dodging this since I received word in May that my Pap came back bad again.  I put off the colposcopy until July, as I mentioned in All the Pretty Things.  The results of the colposcopy were among many things that triggered my breakdown in August, most noted in Meet Me in the Magnolia Tree.  I was informed at that point that I would need the surgery.  And I failed to go to both my August consultation and my September consultation.  I couldn’t face what I knew she was going to say to me.  I couldn’t hear that I may never be able to have more children.  And after the debacle from my last surgery, mentioned in Leep-Into-Cin – Part II, I couldn’t fathom the idea of having to go through another one.

The Reader’s Digest Version
It’s a lot of history to take in all at once.  I understand.  So, for those of you that really don’t have the time, or simply don’t want to sift through all of it, I will provide the abbreviated version.  I was diagnosed with HPV in August 2007 and had cervical dysplasia as a result.  At the time, I was in my early 20’s and the doctors all insisted that it would clear up on it’s own.  I got pregnant at the beginning of 2008 with T.D. and it only got worse.  In fact, so bad that I had to have the worst colposcopy of my life when I was 34 weeks pregnant.

Due to some insurance problems, I wasn’t able to get another colposcopy until May 2009, when it was discovered I had CIN-II and III in some places.  Essentially, I had the worst precancer before it became real cancer.  I had a very traumatic cryosurgery done in June 2009, and that was that.  For then.

Here we are, two years later.

My Worst Fears Realized / Speculated and More
From the moment I got the call, I’ve done my research.  I knew the words that were going to come out of her mouth.  And, I had face it alone.  C.S. and I decided that it would be better to save that 1/2 day off, in case I need it after the surgery.  Not that emotionally agree with the decision.  I see the logic.  But, I knew I’d need him there.  In a way, I am hurt that he doesn’t consider my health more important than his work.  I know he is only trying to make things stretch.  But, I feel like if he cared enough, he would have been there.

Like I already knew, I risk cervical stenosis, scarring of the cervix and cervical canal, that may make natural conception impossible.  I am at a higher risk for cervical incompetance, which may make carrying a child to term impossible.  I risk infection, hemmorage, etc.  But here’s what I didn’t know.  I risk damaging other organs in the vicinity, such as the vaginal walls, colon, bowel, etc.  And that made the whole ordeal so much worse.

All my doctor could say was, “The risks and complications are a possibilty.  I can tell you that these risks are small, but I can’t make any guarentees about what’s going to happen.”

On the subject of future children, “Cervical stenosis isn’t as much of a concern as cervical incompetance.  It depends on how much we have to remove.  We can only determine that when you’ve healed.  I’ll check at the 2 week follow-up and we’ll have a better idea then.”

My Aching Heart
I cannot get my mind away from the possibility that I will be incapable of having anymore children.  I wanted one, maybe two more if I feel my biological clock start to tick later on.  I cannot fathom the idea.  It breaks my heart to think about.  I may never have another child, ever again.  I could end up barren with the thoughts of the child that I could never have.  The child that would have been a sibling to T.D. and a child to C.S. and I.

Worse, is the possibilty of having multiple miscarriages.  I had one, and I know it was my fault.  I didn’t know I was pregnant until I miscarried at about 10-12 weeks.  I was drinking heavily at the time.  And that likely did it.  If that child had lived, he / she would be 9 in January.  It took me a long time to accept the truth about it.  But, I knew it wasn’t meant to be.  The day after I conceived, my boyfriend broke up with me.  I told him a year later about what happened.  His response was, “It was better this way.  I wouldn’t have left her (his girlfriend) anyway.  Now, we can all get on with our lives.”

It was cold-hearted, but he was right.  I was in no position to be a mother.  I was too young, with no college education, no income, and hardly a stable place to live.  The child would have had a deadbeat dad, and I would’ve been outcasted by my family.  This is not to mention that I was not yet diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  That baby has a better home in the life beyond.

Will I have to go through the unimaginable pain of losing a child?  Losing multiple children because my body just can’t do it?  I’m terrified at the idea.  I cry when I hear about it.  How could I even begin to handle that?

My doctor tried to be reassuring and said, “Most of my patients who have undergone one LEEP have gone on to have successful, complication free pregnancies.” Most.  Not all.  This is my second surgery.  I don’t know exactly what I will have left when all of this is said and done with.

The Worst Case Scenario of Them All
What if this LEEP doesn’t do it? What happens if the dysplasia grows back. I only have so much cervix. Do I have to face another LEEP? And if I do, that will destroy all hopes of another child. Beyond that, we’re looking at a hysterectomy. I’m too young to have my uterus removed. So what then? Hormone replacement therapy for the next 10 – 15 years? Or will I just have to bear early menopause?

That is honestly the worst of it all. Not being able to have children and having to go through menopause.

The Only Good News
The actual surgery isn’t nearly as bad as cryosurgery. I will have a cervical block, as well as IV sedation. Instead of being in the office, I will be at the hospital. The procedure is supposed to be painless, and afterward, I should sufffer no symptoms worse than a light menstration.

The after care is much like having a colposcopy, and heaven knows I’ve had enough of those.  Literally, I’ve had four or five.  With the last one, I wasn’t doing great the same day.  But, within a few days, I was back to my regular self.  I should be healed enough to resume normal activity within two weeks (like aerobic activity), with the exception that I’ll have a lifting restriction for a month.

The Plan
The date of the surgery – November 10th or 11th.  I have off on the 11th, so I tried to schedule it for then.  But, I can take the 10th off, if needed.  My doctor specializes in treatment for woman cancer.  I trust her and really like her.  She reminds me of the wonderful OB that delivered T.D., except she’s a little more forthcoming.  She’s the only doctor that has sent my specimens to an oncologist for review.  She is the only doctor that has been extremely proactive about this.  And she is the only doctor that hasn’t treated me like I’m a case, or I’m insane, or anything else.  She’s regarded me as a person every time.

I just want to get this all behind me.  I want to be able to deal with the aftermath as soon as I can.  And, I need to make the attempt to get pregnant as soon as I can afterward.  Because, if I have to face another LEEP or hysterectomy, I’ll be damned if I don’t at least try to have another baby before we come to that.

Debt of Explanation

What do I say now?

I’ve written and rewritten and edited this draft for the last three days.

It originally started out with a rationalization:

Lamictal and hormonal birth control don’t play nice. When I first started Lamictal, I would take the bc placebos for that week and start exhibiting symptoms of PMDD. My Pdoc recommended that my OB/Gyn consider putting me on a continuous cycle for three packs and then have the off week. And I’ve been doing that for almost 2 years.

I have that liberty to schedule when Aunt Dot comes to visit. Risking a complete mental break down every 63 days was better than having to do it every 21. In the last year, the last couple had been pretty mild. I thought I was in the clear.

I lost track and went 5 months this time.

What person with bipolar disorder wouldn’t want to be able to blame conditions that are within their control?  I was telling myself that Monday would come, I would be back on the BC and all would be right with the world.  In the meantime, I adjusted my dosages – with no effect.  I did that a couple of days ago thinking I could put a bandaid on the situation until there was a real fix, meaning I straightened my meds out and all of this moody woman bullshit was over with.

PMS was a word invented by men to explain women’s emotional behavior.  (No offense intended to my male readers).  My husband discovered my self-inflicted injuries today.  Actually, more like he discovered the band-aid that I’ve been hiding under layers of bracelets all week.  He said, “What’s that?”  I answered in a low voice, with T.D. on my lap, “Nothing.”  I won’t lie.  I’m sick and tired of cowering in fear for someone else’s approval.  I didn’t lie to him.  It means nothing to him, but it will stay with me for a long time.

He asked again, “What is it?” And once again I replied in a murmur, “It’s nothing.”

“Every time you get your f***ing period, you have to go and cut yourself!!!”

I don’t recall being afflicted with such in my very first post, “To See If I Still Feel”. And I can honestly say that was the very last time I engaged in self-injurous behavior.

I’m starting to suspect it isn’t completely me.

Originally, I wrote:

My marriage has been on the rocks lately. My kid is raising hell. I have the crushing weight of being solely responsible for T.D., anything domestic, and work. I am expected to have time for everything. I am also expected to take all kinds of crap from everyone when something goes wrong. That is, surprisingly, with the exception of my boss and co-workers.

I have dealt with be mistreated and disrespected in my home. I have endured vicious criticism and blame. I am overwhelmed and over burdened. And anytime I speak up, not only am I wrong, I am intentionally starting trouble. Suddenly, my condition becomes a reality because it’s convenient to blame me “being a bitch” on having bipolar disorder.

I am falling apart and it’s not even at the seams. It’s from consistent strain and wear on my fabric. And when someone I let close enough to me starts taking swipes… it’s enough. It’s more than enough to come undone.

I wrote to a dear friend that I used to be able to depend on C.S.  I described all of the wonderful things he had been to me.  But now, I feel like I’m being pushed off the ledge and then kicked in the face when I finally hit the bottom.

Each morning, when I awake, I have been telling my dearest friends here that I’m doing better.  And each afternoon, I’m doing worse than the day before.  After that comment, “Every time you get your f***ing period, you have to go and cut yourself!!!”, I’m about to give it up.  I was mistaken when I said to my dear friend that I wasn’t sure that he was even aware of what he was doing to me.

We don’t get to choose our family.  Sometimes, we can’t choose who we fall in love with.  But we always have the choice to make the decision to devote ourself to each other through marriage.  How could someone who chose me, who is supposed to love me, be causing me so much hurt?

I’m Going to Die in the Walmart Parking Lot

This is installment one of “The 99 quirks of Lulu”.

I’m know these are not at BP related. Some of them are anxiety related. Others stem from life experiences. And the rest, well, I don’t know.

  1. I can only wear found or gifted jewelry. If I wear jewelry that I bought for myself, it always either breaks or gets lost.
  2. When sitting in a public place, I try to position myself so it would be difficult for a person to come up from behind me. We’s don’t want no surprises. No, seriously though. I’m pretty paranoid.
  3. I can’t make eye contact when I’m telling a story. It’s not symptomatic of anything. I just can’t take in any visual information when I’m trying to give out verbal information.
  4. I have to have a minimal amount of background noise when I’m working on something. The more tedious and repetitive the task is, the more sound I require.
  5. I have serious claustrophobia. I hate elevators. I will walk six flights of stairs to avoid it (I’ve done it). I have nightmares about getting trapped in a tiny space. No matter how badly I want to get home, I’ll let a crowded bus pass to get on a later, less crowded one.
  6. I am obsessed with office supplies. I cannot resist a sale. I hoard them.
  7. I am so particular about my pens that I will only use specific brands, with gel ink, and only in 0.7 tip.
  8. I have been wearing the same Capricorn pendant for 10 years. C.S. bought me a Taurus pendant at a craft sale 4 years ago and I haven’t taken it off since. I’m very superstitious about it. Every time I forgot to put it back on, something bad has happened. Last time was C.S.’s car accident.
  9. I practice natal astrology. It can peg a person every time.
  10. I put my hand in front of my mouth a lot. Ethology would call me a liar. But really, I’m just trying to hide.
  11. I have a really difficult time lying. It produces an intolerable physical response, so I don’t do it unless I really have to protect myself.
  12. I’ve bitten my bottom lip since I had teeth. I have pictures to prove it.
  13. I am so particular about shoes that I only buy tennis shoes every three years. And that’s after they start taking on water. This is partially because my feet are abnormally wide, although they’re not very big. It takes a lot to find a comfortable, stylish shoe.
  14. I honestly believe I’m going to die in some ridiculous, unbelievable accident or situation. I have this scenario about how I’m going to die in the Walmart parking lot. If you want to hear about it, ask in the comment section.
  15. The numbers 1, 5, and 14 follow me everywhere. The bus number I’m on – 5157. I’m on a bus everyday that starts with 51. My birthday 1/14. My husband’s birthday 5/14. Just strange as hell. Coincidentally, no lie, this just happened to be 15!
  16. I am a camel. I can hold it for hours on end. Longest held? 16 hours. I was 13, and stuck in a car with my parents on the way to Florida who refused to stop until we got there. By Virginia, everything below my waist was numb.
  17. I have always had a problem regulating body functions. I can’t fall asleep, and then I can’t wake up. I am always thirsty, but I have difficulty knowing when I’m hungry. Sometimes, if I’m busy enough, I’ll forget to eat until I have hunger pains.
  18. I have an incredible internal clock. I always know what time it is. Or maybe I’m just very observant of the position of the sun.
  19. I yell at inanimate objects.
  20. I can get a vibe from someone and know instantly if we’re incompatible. I don’t discriminate. I can be on the phone or over the internet and know. It is in the way a person addresses me.
  21. I am the only person that does the dishes and folds the laundry. It has to be done in a certain way. My clothes have to be sorted by graphic tee’s, solid tees, and color. My jeans are assorted by thickness.
  22. I have twilight blindness. I can’t see things correctly during that time of day.
  23. I carry my person journal on my person at all times.  You never know when you’ll be inspired.  You also never know when someone wants to take a peek at your dirty little secrets.
  24. I used to make wishes.  My wishes have always come true, but in a Twilight Zone kind of way.  There was always some kind of catch that ruined it all.  Remember the episode about the man who just wanted to be left alone to read his books?  And he got his wish, but then his glasses broke and he was all alone.  It’s a lot like that.  So I don’t anymore because I know there will be consequences.
  25. I have a cat that wipes my tears away when I cry.  He paws my face without claws.
  26. I think it’s ridiculous to give a kid a weird first name.  So, in case my kid want a weird name, I gave him a weird middle name.
  27. I think the most random thoughts.  For instance, my husband and I were once talking about daily activities that burn calories.  I asked him, “How many calories do you think a seizure burns?”  Today, we were talking about how we were going to manage to find a girlfriend for another friend.  He’s kind of nerdy, so I said, “Maybe I should start telling these girls he has money?  Do you think that would help?  It worked for Bill Gates!  How much money does someone have to have before they stop being a nerd?”  Honestly, I want to know these things.
  28. Flashing lights drive me nuts.  Imagine me verses a strobe light.  I have a message indicator that is driving me crazy on my voicemail right now.  But I just don’t feel like listening to it.
  29. I have to sleep with my feet outside of the covers.  My feet are my temperature control.  If they’re too hot, then I’m too hot.
  30. I am almost always barefoot when I can help it.  You see, my depth perception is terrible.  In order to not trip and fall all of the time, I use the sensations in my feet to guide me.
  31. I count stairs.  I can tell you the amount of stairs that are on every stairwell that I encounter frequently.  13 in my house.  14 in my parent’s basement and 16 to the upstairs.  And 10 each going up each floor at work, with eight leading into the building.
  32. Every clock I have that isn’t set to a satelight is set randomly ahead.  I don’t know the real time, so I have to assume that what I’m looking at is the real time.  This is how I trick myself into being early.
  33. I am an organizational freak, not a neat freak.  Everything in it’s right place.  I want to know where I can find anything on a moments notice.
  34. I am extremely scheduled.  I have to do things at certain times or else my day isn’t going to go right.
  35. I am obsessed with the weather.  Especially during hurricane season.  It is absolutely fascinating.
  36. I collect odd things from places I travel to.  In fact, I have sand from Myrtle Beach in a baby food jar with a little ceramic turtle with a little straw hat sitting on my desk.  I went to a theme park in California that was selling as many rocks as you could fit in a tiny bag with a drawstring.  I have a collection of decorative boxes from various places.
  37. Old world maps tickle my fancy.  It’s amazing to see how differently people viewed the world in those days.
  38. I believe in the power of hematite.  Hematite supposedly absorbs negative energy.  To clear the energy from the hematite, you bury it in the ground for several days to return it back to the earth.  I actually had a hematite ring shatter once.  I was going through a really bad time.
  39. I cannot spill a drink without freaking out about it.
  40. I hate the smell of raw onions.  It is intolerable.
  41. Perfume is my best friend.  I have this fear that I smell bad.  So everything I use is scented.  Lotion, bodywash, shampoo, deodorant, body spray, perfume, anything you can name.
  42. I don’t like wearing jeans.  I prefer skirts and what would be considered a house dress.  But, I live in Pennsylvania and we have two seasons here.  Winter and construction, also known as summer.  Jeans are required dress.
  43. I cannot stand getting my face went unless I’m fully submerged.  That means, I hate any kind of precipitation, with the exception of a good summer downpour.  Now that’s a way to get wet!
  44. I can’t stand when my husband uses my toothbrush or razor.  So I intentionally buy pink colored items so he doesn’t use them.  It’s not manly.
  45. Everytime I dye my hair, I always have to do a trim.  So, I take a sample of the hair and I keep it in a ziplock with the date on it.  That way, I can always keep an assessment of my hair color at any period of time.
  46. I like having certain imperfections.  My hair is cut choppy and asymmetrical with a weird part for a reason.  I love the scars that I didn’t inflict upon myself.  I have stretch marks all over my body for various reasons (growth spurts, pregnancy, etc).  I love when my dark blonde roots come in against my white blonde hair.  And I especially love my eyes.  They are each split in half in color.  One part is green-gold and the other part is blue grey.  Maybe people think I look like a mess, but I think I look real.
  47. The noise of someone biting their nails is like nails on a chalkboard to me.  Ugh.
  48. I can predict the weather based on previous injuries.  When my hips and knees hurt, a serious storm is coming.  I’ve never been wrong.
I imagine you have quirks too.  Maybe you identify with some of mine.  So tell me, what are yours?

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.

Somatopsychic

Definition of PSYCHOSOMATIC

  1. 1: of, relating to, concerned with, or involving both mind and body <the psychosomatic nature of man — Herbert Ratner>
  2. 2: of, relating to, involving, or concerned with bodily symptoms caused by mental or emotional disturbance <psychosomatic symptoms> <psychosomatic medicine>

We hear it so often, especially when relating to depressive symptoms.  Depression hurts.  Ever heard that expression?  Probably.  That is, after years and years of being called a hypochondriac, lazy, dodging responsibilities, neglectful, irresponsible, neurotic, uncaring, inattentive, a complainer, and a flat out liar.  You might still be getting flack for that, right?  I sure am.

We’ve touched upon the issue of bipolar depression and it’s limitations at Dailystrength.org’s Bipolar Support Group and again in Blogging Beepers throughout various posts.  Bipolar depression literally destroys us both mentally and physically.  It’s a proven fact that bipolar depression and hypochondria  have nothing to do with one another.  The aches and pains are real.  The exhaustion and fatigue are too real for words.  The headaches are blinding and are just as real to us as they are to you “norms’.  Depression causes a variety of symptoms that aren’t just made up in our heads.  And they sure as hell aren’t made up because we’re too apathetic toward our own lives.

I’m a control freak, much like Mwam who writes “I Was Just Thinking…”.  I cannot stand the idea of someone else having to take the reigns of my life.  It is my body; it is my mind – I can do, say, think, whatever the hell I want.  Except when I cannot physically or mentally do the things that I think and want.  I don’t put the responsibility on anyone else.  I don’t throw my kid at the nearest person because I’m having a breakdown.  I don’t let the bills go unpaid and I don’t let my house get to the point where it would likely be condemned.  I wear my stylish clothes, dash on that makeup, and I don the smile that you trolls love so much.  I keep on moving at MY pace, where the “norms” like it, or not.

Which brings me to Monday.  I noticed that I had been losing pace unusually fast, and my physical health had turned for the very worst.  Unusually so.  I had made a recent, but passing mention of a physical illness in, “When it Rains, It Bleeping Hurricanes”.  And since “To See If I Still Feel”, I’ve been making multiple mentions of a lingering depressive episode.

I bring you a surprising answer.

Definition of SOMATOPSYCHIC
: of or relating to the body and the mind; especially : of, relating to, or concerned with mental symptoms caused by bodily illness >

Shortly after the accident, I contracted what I thought to be influenza.  It happens biannually.  This year, it was the stomach flu at Christmas, and the body flu in the summer.  The year before it was H1N1 (or Swine Flu) over Halloween and “viral syndrome” (AKA summer flu in doctor-speak because, they don’t seem to think anyone can catch the flu outside of flu season).  I hate it, but that seems to be the rhythm of circulating illness.

Anyhow, during this June influenza, I developed laryngitis, and as a music teacher, this is bad, bad, bad news.  As a wife of a man who has diagnosed hearing loss but is too vain for hearing aids, it was the most aggravating thing to ever happen to me.  99.9% of As the Pendulum Swings readers have never met me, seen my face, or heard my voice.  I am very careful to preserve anonymity.  (Yeah, come find me among the 1,223,348 people that live in Allegheny County, PA!)  I’ll tell you this.  I am a 5 foot 1 inch powerhouse of sound.  If I were a stereo, my speakers would be larger than I stand.  I don’t need a microphone in assembly halls, cafeterias, stages, or theaters.  Literally.  So having the mother of all sore throats that preventing me from speaking at all was a challenge.

But this continued for over a month.  I didn’t want to see a doctor because I knew I would get all fired up when they told me it was something stupid like allergies, asthma, cold, etc that could not account for these symptoms.  But they would.  Because I’m a big flippin’ hypochondriac.  And I would’ve been a whining drama-queen who blew my symptoms out of proportion just so I could go on being lazy.  Over the last week, though, I noticed that I started to lose a lot of traction.  My throat felt like there was glass in it, I had a half an octave surrounding my speaking voice, I was intermittently running a low grade fever, and I had a super sensitivity to changes in temperature.  I noticed my behavior changing.  I started letting go.  I let my kids in my classes have free periods.  I couldn’t go three hours with the dire need to sleep.  I let my kid destroy the house and hardly said a word to him.  I couldn’t.  My throat hurt so bad that I would only talk when it was absolutely necessary.  But when the shortness of breath came, I knew that wasn’t anxiety or any other psychosomatic symptom.  I literally wasn’t getting enough oxygen into my body.  And I started to feel it – HARD.

My husband pretty much reluctantly took me to the local urgent care after he got home from work yesterday.  He kept saying, “It’s up to you, it’s up to you.”  Manslation – I will take me if you tell me that I have to.  It turns out, I have (drum roll please!):

Walking Pneumonia!

Walking pneumonia with acute bronchitis complicated by history of asthma, as a secondary infection to influenza.  And do you know who invited this illness into my ecosystem?  It wasn’t the children.  It was the dirtiest, nastiest, smelliest, most abominable creature I have ever encountered – Rs (we’ll call him).  Rs is my husband’s estranged best friend who recently made reconciliation.  When this guy comes around, it never fails that someone becomes deathly ill.  One year, we thought he gave C.S. SARS because they both had respiratory infections so badly.  (Neither confirmed, nor denied.  No one had health insurance).  C.S. was almost too sick for our first Valentine’s Day.  The only person in my family Rs hasn’t gotten sick yet is T.D.  And if T.D. ends up in the hospital because of that misogynistic germ breeder, there will be hell to pay.

As my doctor is giving me this information, the light bulb goes off in C.S.’s head.  “Oh yeah, Rs had that about a month ago!”  Smooth operator there, Einstein.  You could’ve killed your wife who seemed like the only person susceptible to this illness!  And speaking of, how was I the only one who got any of these illnesses in the first place?  Oh yeah, because I don’t have an air conditioned bedroom, I sleep next to the fan, I spend at least two hours a day in the elements in my commute, I don’t sit at a desk all day to do my job, and I chase after a hyperactive toddler all day.

“This bleeper is going to get an eyeful when I get my phone back.”  Yes, I was sick enough to leave my Blackberry, which is normally an electronic appendage, at home on the desk.  The text message conversation looked a little like this:

So it turns out that for all of this time, this entire month, I have not been having an episode.  My psych meds were ineffective because they aren’t made to treat somatopsychic illnesses, like pneumonia caught by a music teacher who just so happens to have bipolar disorder.  Only the Z-pak, 60mg of prednizone, and sucking an albuterol four times a day is going to cure that.

I will never let anyone call me a hypochondriac again.  Eff you “norms”.

Riding in Cars with Boys

When I was a little girl, my parents would often fight in the car with both my brother and I in it.  It was always the most distressing experience.  My father would fly off the hook about something, and my mother would beg him to stop screaming in the car and driving like a maniac because we would get into an accident.  My brother has autism, and as a little boy, he would hit whoever was closest to him – hard.  If he hit my dad, he would freak out even more.  If he hit my mom, she would just go silent.  And if he hit me, I would cry, and it would largely go unnoticed because of the bigger problems at hand.

Anyway, it was a disastrous event, every time it occurred.

Eventually, I became old enough to decline invitations to go places and was happy to do so.  My domestic life was dramatic enough without having to take it on the road.  My mother explained to me that my father did this to her on purpose.  Because she was so passive, he would trap her in the car so that she couldn’t avoid the ensuing argument.  Not a bad plan, other than the whole prospect of getting into an accident.  (Which we never did, by the way.  My father, at 61, still has yet to get into an accident that he caused.)

I have found myself in similar situations throughout my years of being a passenger in a car with a significant other.  I had one ex who found the car was the only place he wanted to fight.  He would dodge everything until the key was in the ignition.  And for maximum results, he would take a crowded highway.

I am not my mother’s child.  I am my father’s child in every way, minus most of my physical appearance.  I am not passive, although I can be passive-aggressive.  I have fought to get this far, and I’m not going to lie down anytime soon.  I am highly reactive (probably a product of bipolar), and can take a hint better than most.  I am an empath.  I can feel what’s going on around me, even without words.  So if someone is going to take a stab at me, they better hope they don’t miss.  Because, I’ll be back with chainsaw.  On a non-deep-down-dark-depressive day.

 

Back to the chronological narrative.  After my husband witnessed all of the direct deposits being dumped into the account on Friday, all was well in the world again.  At least his.  I don’t get over things easily.  It’s hard for me to forgive, and I will NEVER forget.  But when he became a little more easy-going and wanted to actually spend time with his family, I started to feel a little better.  We had friends over on both Thursday and Friday after the recent disasters.  C.S. puts on a fantastic show.  It’s like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe, truly a dinner theater-type show to behold.  I am less inclined to play pretend when I feel it’s too much of a farce.

Saturday morning came and he was springing to life with ambition for family time.  He was intent upon taking our son (I’ll start referring to him as T.D.) to the museum.  Outings are always a to-do and stressful to get out the door.  Yes, with the man who is perpetually late.  When I die, this man will be late to my funeral, if he makes it at all.  His man will be late to getting to the pearly gates before closing time for the day, and he’ll stand there and sweet-talk Saint Peter into at least sneaking him in the backdoor, while also taking some money off of the cover charge.  That is C.S. in all of his glory.  But when it’s something that wants to do, he’ll be flying us out the door.

“Check the mail.”  Always an obsession with the mail.  You know, there is nothing ever in there but junk mail, bills, and boasting / nagging letters from his annoying, pompous bitch aunt.   (There, I said a swear.  She’s a bitch.)  But no matter.  I grabbed the mail and knew by the scrawl on the front that this was the results from T.D.’s evaluation, addressed: To the parents of T.D., Pittsburgh, blah, blah.  I told C.S. what the contents were and was about to throw it inside.  But I knew that it would gnaw at me until I returned to find it there.

“I have to read it now,” I thought.  So I dropped it in my purse and hauled it off to the car with the rest of the 50 pounds of supplies and junk we need to go five feet from our house.  My doing, mostly, I’ll admit.

As we drove through our town, headed for the gas station, I opened the letter.  I scanned through the first few pages, because I had seen them before.  My husband started hounding me for information and I started to give it to him as I was reading it.  When I got to “The mother filled out a questionnaire to assess Autism Spectrum Disorder…” he went off like a firecracker.  “How could you fill those out… I’m his father too… he  act autistic like what you say… you just said those things to make it seem worse… I should have a say… You aren’t allowed to fill out any of those questionnaires again…”

We pulled into the gas station and I fired back, “Is it going to be like this the whole trip?  I will get out of the car right now and walk myself back home.”  He refused to answer.  “I had to fill those questionnaires out.  It’s part of the evaluation.  I’m doing what is right or our son.”  He growled, “We won’t talk about this here.”

I don’t think so!  Absolutely no one on this planet will ever silence me.  I don’t care if that person is the President, or even the Pope.  No one has the right to take away what I want to say and where I want to say it.  Second, you don’t start an argument with me and then attempt to silence me!  If you started it, I will be sure as hell to finish it.  And third, no one, and I mean, NO ONE on this planet, father or not, will tell me what I’m doing with MY son.  I carried that little boy inside of me for a grueling 38 weeks.  I spent 13 and a half hours in agonizing labor (is there really any other kind?) to bring him into this world.  I bear the physical scars of motherhood on my stomach and other lady parts.  And I have spent the majority of his life raising him practically alone.  I believe that I have earned the right, even if it wasn’t given to me the moment I saw that digital pregnancy test light up as “pregnant”, to do what is needed and best for my son’s health and well-being.

We fought for 10.4 miles.  I google mapped it.  It was this awful back and forth.  C.S. insisted that he be present at every evaluations and that an evaluation couldn’t be done without him.  I bitterly asked him what was the sudden change of heart after he failed to be at every other evaluation.  It was my mother and me, his two primary caretakers and the only two people in T.D.’s life that are well-versed in developmental disorder and mental illness.  “What gives you the right now, after all of this time? Out of the 14 awake hours T.D. has, I care for him 6 hours of that solo and another 3 with you lingering around.  The other five belong to mom, who watches him so I can close the hole in our finances.”  He gets on the defense about how that isn’t his choice and how someone has to work.

I wanted to scream at him that is was his choice.  I was working and all of a sudden, he decided after 8 months of being laid off that he wanted to go back at any cost.  And I still worked after that.  The only time I didn’t spend working at least 15 hours a week was during a portion of my pregnancy when I wasn’t doing well enough to work, and then I became to pregnant for anyone to hire me.  And after I had T.D., when I was very sick from what if physically and emotionally took to bring him into this world.  Now, I can’t work more than I do because someone, meaning me, has to be at home to take T.D. back and forth to therapies, special schools, and be at home for in-home services.  I have done nothing but devote nearly every available waking moment to T.D.  He wasn’t interested before, and I had resigned myself to being a single parent inside of a marriage.  (And believe me, there ain’t a lot of outside help to us married gals, even the ones with bipolar who have children with special needs).  Why now?  You know, all of a sudden when someone wanted to slap a label on him.

I went on to tell him about the rest of the contents of the letter.  He was very silent for a moment and all he had to say for himself was, “Oh.  You didn’t say that before.”  {Insert insane cursing here}.  How could I have possibly been able to do so, when the first three lines that came out of my mouth were met with such a colossal storm of rage, berating, (because that’s his favorite), and threats?

I gave him the points that I couldn’t make before.  This diagnosis opens up the doorway to treatments and funding that T.D. would not have otherwise qualified for.  We are both agreed that he needs extra help, and that even if they go overboard, it can’t hurt him.  Labels don’t carry the weight that they did when we were kids.  In fact, when we register T.D. for school, no one will even have to know about this.  Legally, no one has to know.  We don’t have to tell anyone.  Not our friends, not our family.  We don’t even have to tell his pediatrician if we don’t want to.  (And largely, no one does know.  Two close friends, his therapists, and our parents).  There doesn’t have to be a stigma, and there is so much awareness now that there isn’t one.  This diagnosis, this label, does NOT make T.D. any different than he was yesterday or the day before that.

He was relieved and the conflict was resolved.  For now.  I find it disturbing that the only thing my husband seemed to care about was the social stigma that could result from carrying a PDD-NOS / ASD diagnosis.  But then again…

Who’s Afraid of ‘Gina Wolfe, ‘Gina Wolfe, ‘Gina Wolfe?

(NOT I).

What Bender?

I don’t work Fridays.  Which meant that my Fourth of July weekend probably started earlier than others.

Can We Start, Start Over?

But my husband works Fridays, like normal folks with office jobs.  We had worked it out with my MIL to take our son for the evening so we could spend some quality time together.  When she offered to take him for the night, I was overjoyed.  I thought, “What a relaxing time we could have!  Just the two of us!”  I looked forward to it all week!

I should have gotten the point when I tried to send him cute emails from work that went unanswered an mostly unread.  It should have been pretty blunt when he started to go through all of the excuses that he could manage all week to get out of it.  But I was trying.  That was the point.  I guess I thought that if I really made the effort to be nice and romantic that we could rekindle our marriage.

I have never been so wrong.

Our son wasn’t even gone 30 minutes before my husband went into how we didn’t have any money for a date.  I said, “Remember when we were first together and very poor?  We took the neighborhood tour, sat by the trestle with a bottle of Old Crow, frequented parks and cemeteries after dark.”  It wasn’t enough.  He went into the hundreds of reasons why he didn’t want our son staying with his mother.  And I gave up.  It was clear.  He didn’t want to be alone with me.  I wasn’t going to force it.  I was done trying – I was met with too much opposition.

The Bender – Day 1

After the retrieval of our son, after dinner, after bedtime for toddlers, after dark, I took my journal and a drink out on the balcony.  I hadn’t done this in over four years; not since I was in an abusive relationship with my ex-fiance and had succumbed to alcoholism.  The plan was to get wasted.  I didn’t want to feel anymore.  My heart was broken, my illusions were shattered, and my hope was gone.  I wanted to erase everything.

It went largely unnoticed.  Not as if I was seeking the attention.  Mostly, I wanted him to leave me alone.  I wanted everyone to leave me alone.  Because “If I must be lonely, I think I’d rather be alone.”

I took precautions not to be hungover the next day.  As a previous alcoholic, I knew how to be a functional alcoholic.  Two ibuprofen, two Gatorades, and a slice of pizza always does the trick.  On the day of the second, I went about my business as usual.  Except, there was a great deal of Ativan involved.

The Bender – Day 2

The plan for this evening wasn’t to get wasted.  That wasn’t my intention.  I just wanted enough alcohol to sleep.  I couldn’t stand being conscious anymore.  But the later it got, the more I thought I needed.  Before I knew it, I was trashed.  Again.  I didn’t care.  I didn’t feel anything.  And I didn’t want to.  Not anymore.

The Bender – Day 3

More Ativan throughout the day.  More alcohol at night.  I hadn’t had a bender in over 4 years.  And I was losing control.  For once, it felt good.  No more control freak.  No more worry about things I couldn’t control.  I still cared for my son in the day.  I could function just fine.  I just didn’t care about the sham of a life I was living.  I didn’t care that my marriage was falling apart.  I stopped hating myself.  I stopped blaming myself, and mostly, I just stopped thinking.

The Bender – Day 4

By this time, it was Monday, July 4th.  More of the same.  Only this time, it was a work night.  I kept going.  I couldn’t stand it.  I couldn’t stand the idea of sobriety and finally having to face myself and what I had done and not done.  I wanted to keep living my life in a haze.  I wanted to keep the numbness going as long as I could.  Because I knew that this was the end of it.  In the morning, I’d have to return to my normal life.  I was like Cinderella and the midnight clause.  Except, it lasted until 2 am.

Returning to Normality?

Not quite.  By this time, I was in such a haze that I was slow and sluggish.  I wasn’t fatigued.  I was in a fog.  A blissful fog where I couldn’t see the problems.  I couldn’t feel the weight on my back.  And it was blissful, even if it was short lived.  I had a five day vacation from reality.

By Tuesday night, I had returned to my now typical state.  Hopeless, burdened, exhausted… depressed.  I hate even using that word anymore because it’s just so empty for me.  It can’t describe the depth of the sadness, mourning, soul-deadening emotion that I experienced.

At least I can escape at work.  Children hug me.  Adults treat me like I am valuable and human.  Co-workers respect me.  And no one even has a clue about anything underneath the surface.

They never will.

Overdrive Mode

For those of you familiar with the Final Fantasy video game series, then you already get the reference.  Otherwise, I will take a moment to explain it to you.

Overdrive mode is the mode that helps fill the overdrive meter, where when the meter is filled, the character has the ability to perform a special move.  Typically, most players have this function set to stoic, where when their character takes damage, it fills the meter.  The more damage they take, the closer you get to filling your meter and having the ability to use a special move that causes the enemy to take significant damage.

Right now, I’m taking the damage throughout these little earthquakes.  And I’m pretty sure I’ve reached maximum overdrive.  (No reference to the movie.)  However, I haven’t figured out my special move yet.  So, I’m stuck with this overfilled meter and waning HP, (or hit points), and nothing to defend myself.  Either, I need a heal or this player is going down.

Away from metaphors, this has been another one in the series of bad weeks.  I wish I could report something back to readers that is inspiring and uplifting.  Perhaps, the fact that I’m still standing, waking up in the morning, caring for my son, and going to work is enough.

Testing the Teacher

I am a music teacher for a local youth program.  And, as many of you are aware, part-time teachers typically get laid off without pay in the summertime.  Thankfully, I was invited back to teach in the summer program.

This was my second week back with about a 50% population of students that I am unfamiliar with.  The other 50% remembers me from the after school program and of that 50%, probably about 10-20% worked with me on the musical production.  That means, only a select number of students interacted with me daily, and know how I operate.

I am not a strict teacher.  I find that loosening up the rules a little allows children to bring out their best creativity.  But, that also means that children who are unfamiliar with me could come to think that I am a push-over.  I am certainly not.  They still had to push me to my limits this week, which incurred the wrath of Ms. Lulu.  My behavioral management consists of a booming voice, followed by quiet time, and if that doesn’t cut it, then there is writing involved.  Nothing like a good old pain in your hand to remind you to keep in line.

It didn’t come without repercussions.  Did I mention that I contracted some kind of virus at the beginning of the month that produced flu-like symptoms?  It also claimed my voice as a victim.  As a music teacher, this is bad news.  I never had it treated because of the giant discouragement to see a doctor.  Every time I have to raise my voice, it goes away again.  Losing my voice is depressing.  I’ve always enjoyed singing.  Now, I can hardly talk.

Worse, I have managed to make at least one kid cry in every class I’ve had this week.  I had to go as far as to walk one of them to the water fountain down the hall so he could get a drink and calm down before he went to his next class.  The poor kid is only five years old.  Whenever children cry, I cry a little inside.  There’s nothing worse than feeling like you hurt a child.

ASD – What it Means to Me

I’ve always said that nothing in life prepares you to be a parent like being a parent.  Truly.  In my youth, I’ve helped to raise so many people’s babies and toddlers, but it was nothing like becoming a mother myself.  Sure, I had the care basics down, but that’s not even scratching the surface.

So therefore, nothing can prepare you for a professional telling you there is something wrong with your child.  Not even if you suspect it yourself.

My son has been in Early Intervention for about four months or so.  I noticed sometime around 18 months that he wasn’t really progressing like other children.  But, the gap became noticeably wide after his second birthday.  There were peculiar behaviors like refusing to participate in activities unless it was on his own terms, lack of eye contact, hyperactivity, intense temper tantrums, and more than occasional unresponsiveness when his name was called.  At his first evaluation, he scored as almost having a total global delay.  It was heartbreaking, but I wasn’t convinced.  His second evaluation was at the Child Development Unit at our local children’s hospital.  And at that time, the doctor suggested Autism Spectrum Disorder, but he was too young to diagnose.  She wanted to see what his progress was in three months of early intervention, and then she’d make a final determination.

I went into this with some denial.  My brother has autism, and my son and my brother are not the same.  My son’s occupational therapist and developmental therapist suggested that he had Sensory Integration Disorder or, as it is sometimes referred to as, Sensory Processing Disorder.  As time passed, I started to see the things that the therapists and psychologists were seeing.  Repetitive motor behaviors, lack of pointing, sensory seeking and self-stimulation, delayed verbal and nonverbal communication, etc.  I suspected it.  His therapists suspected it.  I thought I prepared myself before I walked into that office.  I mean, my son had come so far in three months!

Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified – she said.  Autism Spectrum Disorder – she said.

WHAT DID I DO WRONG?! – my brain screamed at me.  Did I do anything wrong when I was pregnant?  Did I do something wrong when he was a baby?  Is it my fault?  Maybe it’s because I have Bipolar Disorder – he can’t develop normally because I’m so screwed up.  I’m a terrible parent.

Until Death Do Us Part?

I’ve been married for three years and two months now.  Nine months of that was spectacular.  The other 29 months have been generally rocky.  I blame some of that on untreated, and even treated bipolar disorder.  I blame another part of it on the economic collapse in 2008, which caused chronic layoffs and underemployment in our household for 23 of those months.  But the rest?

Don’t get the wrong idea.  Here’s some backstory to his “love” story.  I met my husband nine years ago when an ex-boyfriend introduced us.  Throughout this nine years, we have been best friends.  My husband saw me through four break-ups, two being engagements, two ex-fiances’ domestically abuse me, my party years, my resulting alcoholism, five years of untreated bipolar disorder, and being a roommate twice before we were even in a relationship.  This man watched me destroy my ex’s bedroom in a drunken rage because someone let it slip at a party that my ex had cheated on me while we were together.  And he even covered it up to make it look like I didn’t do it!  So, I can safely say that he has seen me at my very best, and at my deepest, darkest worst.

So, how is it that he couldn’t accept the bipolar diagnosis when it occurred during our marriage and all of the resulting symptoms that surrounded it?

It doesn’t stop there.  He refused to accept our son’s diagnosis too.

The divorce rate when one person in a marriage has bipolar disorder is cited as being as high as 90% in some studies.

The divorce rate when a couple has a special needs child is cited as being as high as 80% in some studies.

Our marriage isn’t on life support yet.  But it hasn’t left it’s sick bed in awhile.  So where the hell does this leave us?  A 170% chance of divorce?

Anytime there is a hiccup in our life, and there are many, we fight.  Fiercely.  Can’t pay the bills?  Go for the throat.  Someone (usually me) is accused of not carrying their weight in their job / domestic duties / parenting / managing finances / etc?  Rip ’em a new one and make it hurt.  I’m not playing the victim here.  I give it back.  If domestic abuse taught me anything is that you don’t deal with that BS.  But if I start a fire, it’s not like I mean to.  However, that’s not the case with my counterpart, who is perfectly happy to pretend like nothing happened after I’m shredded like paper.  And he’s even more befuddled when I’m hiding, curled up in a ball, sobbing my head off.  The best he could do?  Sigh – Why are you crying, again?

You should know why I’m crying.  Again.

On Board or Not – STOP Rocking the Boat!

After the rant my husband went on about how my son’s psychologist is an idiot, how his therapists are idiots (the same people who have made substantial progress with him), and everyone who even remotely thinks that he has PDD-NOS is a ridiculous moron, I told him this.  You may or may not want to accept his diagnosis, but you can’t focus on the label.  It does not change who he is or the way we feel about him.  The services that they’re offering cannot hurt, even if PDD-NOS ends up being misdiagnosed at the end.  We can agree that he has special needs.  So we can agree that he needs services.

This isn’t about how you feel or what you think.  This is about our son.  Either you’re in, or you’re out.

But what I meant to say more than anything is either you’re in or you’re out – for the both of us.

Adding It Up

The Chicken or The Egg

I’ve had this talk with my psychiatrist before. What begets what, exactly? Does the episode precipitate certain events based on behaviors or does the environment spark the episode?

There’s really no clear cut answer. My largest concern has been what seems like constant fatigue and body aches. Yes, those are symptomatic of a depressive episode, of which I am especially prone to. The doctor asked me, “Well, you tell me that you are a mother, you work, you go to school, you are a wife, and you are responsible for domestic duties. Consider the amount of stress you are under and your lifestyle in general.”

I have considered those things.

Breaking It Down
Let’s take a tour through my average day. I wake up and am solely responsible for getting my son out of bed, dressed, fed, and ready for the day. Three days a week, we have either Occupational Therapy, Developmental Therapy, or Speech Therapy. My son has Sensory Processing Disorder and likely Pervasive Development Disorder. But he’s too young to have a definitive Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.

We do that, get him off to the babysitter, and then I have to make the mad dash to get ready and out the door for the hour commute to work. Then, there’s the whole matter of navigating Port Authority, Pittsburgh’s “premiere” public transportation system. For those of you who live in or near the city, I’m sure you’ve had at least one memorable encounter. Like when the bus was especially early or incredibly late. We all know this doesn’t work when there’s a connection in town. And in most cases, there is. It’s always a nightmare.

Honestly, work is the most enjoyable experience in my day. It’s mostly stress free. There are usually two or three teachers per classroom, which makes behavior management so much easier. Most of my students come in focused, enthusiastic, and ready to learn. And all of them are loving and affectionate toward me, much like I am toward them. My boss is great. She’s a very hands off boss who trusts her employees to run their own classrooms. My co-workers are hilarious and warm. Everything about that place feels like home and family.

This is not to say there aren’t problems. My students still have behavioral difficulties. Sometimes, I do have co-workers that rub me the wrong way or interfere in my lesson more than they should. New policies are implemented that I don’t like. And my boss doesn’t always give me gold stars. It’s just like any other workplace. The only exception is that I like what I do, the people I do it with, and where I do it. Makes it a little easier to bear.

Another hour to an hour and forty-five minutes to get to the babysitter’s. We go home and I get to cleaning and cooking. My husband comes home, we eat, and then the rest of the night, it’s up to me to care for our son.

And that’s my day. I usually have a couple of hours to fight sleep because that is the only time available for me to unwind. Sometimes, I just pass out from exhaustion.

Doesn’t sound like much to some of you, huh? I’m sure there are a decent number of readers that will scoff and say, “I do waaaay more than that in a day.” Yes, you likely do. And that is the core to this.

Adding It Back Up
Bipolar Disorder or too stressful of a lifestyle? Or both? Could it be possible that I take on more than I, personally, can?

Which brings me to the core of this. I get a lot of flack for not living up to expectations, or what others perceive to be “laziness”. And I think to myself, “Why can’t I do it? Why can’t I take on everything without having a breakdown?” Sometimes I can, and sometimes I can’t.

What I exampled above it only scratching the surface. I’m not going to go into a novel sized, pity-party sounding recount of every single snag in my life. Just add in all of the incidentals. A large unexpected bill, a tough toddler day, a rough patch in my marriage, a hard day at work, family troubles, financial difficulty, etc, etc. You can draw from your own experiences and know that there is much, much more.

Honestly, why can’t I perform all of the tasks and duties required of me? It doesn’t sound very complicated. Although, to me, it is. So I push myself harder. I medicate myself more, because I am convinced that my lacking is a result of my dysfunction.

In Reality?
Which is which? Can people without disorder handle everything? Or is this deficit actually a result of dysfunction? And if it is, can medication actually resolve that?

Or is it the reverse? The dysfunction is caused by overload and can only be resolved by reduction in responsibility and stress through delegation. And how do you go about telling people, “I need help. I can’t handle my life.”?