It’s time

It’s been three months.

Life is starting to feel normal again. Not normal as in things are the same as they were before… But this new life that had to be forged… it feels normal now. The pain is mostly gone. The depression is out of the severe category. And to borrow a phrase from a show I’ve been marathoning, I’ve come to accept some of my “dark and twitsty”-ness of myself. I guess you can say I stopped mourning my former life, my former friends…

Therapy is helping. A lot. Medication is helping. A lot. I forced myself to move on with my life, and that, too, is helping. A lot. My family is helping, my cohorts at school are helping, my mentors, my cats, my friends… I survived this, but I didn’t get through it alone even if it felt that way sometimes.

These last few months I:

– (re)learned to forgive myself.

– unplugged from a lot of things, including also my gaming PC. I turned it off completely in December and it’s sat untouched since then. I’ve been using the time to focus on my wellbeing and also to focus on school. It was the best decision I’ve made lately.

– agreed to co-lead a panel and present at an academic conference this spring. The hotel is booked, travel authorization is requested, and transportation is sorted out. My paper, however… yeah… I really need to start that. (Whoops? I’ve got til late April. I’ll be ok. I have to be ok.)

– started reading my tarot cards again. I bought them over a year ago, but never made it a habit. It’s still not really, but that’s because for three weeks straight they gave me the same message. So I gave them a break so I could actually work on that item. I use tarot as a form of self reflection. And my deck is absolutely beautiful. The bigger problem is I’ve found a couple more beautiful decks and now I want them too.

– discovered a new hobby: jewelry making. This one is super recent. Like, yesterday. It’s taking a lot of restraint to not go out and buy more supplies and just make more necklaces for the rest of my waking hours.

– got to spend some quality time with family. We had a delayed holiday with my dad and sisters, but it was good getting to see everyone. It’s not easy trying to schedule 9 people to get together (not including those 12 and under, of which there are 4 now).

Other things that happened include trading my car in. I was hoping to sell the convertible this summer, but my mom found a Jeep she loves and so we used it as part of her downpayment for that, and I got her old car! It’s got more miles, but overall it’ll be a nice change and something to tide me over until I graduate (when I can get my own new car). On top of that I hit 30lbs lost since my surgery. Yes, just under half of that was from the depression when I stopped eating/was puking all the time, but you know what, I’m eating again and the weight continued to steadily go down — at a reasonable rate this time. And lastly, I’m doing really good work at my job. Tooting my own horn, it feels pretty great that things are going well there. That I made a good decision in this massive career-slash-life change.

It’s been three months.

It’s time. Time to continue moving forward.

Becoming the Monster

Life happens.

The last few months have been pretty damn shitty. I’m essentially only surviving on antidepressants, beta blockers to calm down my heart rate, and a whole heaping dose of escapism. In December, I lost 15+ lbs because I stopped eating. I was puking nearly every day from the reflux my anxiety was maxing out. I couldn’t leave my bedroom for a long time. I’m actually really surprised I finished out the semester.

I did this to myself.

I hurt my friends. One, especially. I lost a lot of my friends. Which saying “lost” makes it sound like we just got separated somewhere or I misplaced them… They lost their trust in me. I made mistakes. I was too blind to see the pain I was causing them. It hurts that some of them see me as this monster. But at the same time, I won’t deny their truths — their feelings are theirs and they feel them for reasons. I hurt them. And it destroys me.

I can’t say how sorry I am. I can’t fight for the relationships that are now gone. I can’t fight against some of the accusations they made. The hope I had that maybe everything would work itself out, that maybe they could forgive me… it’s gone.

I’ve only been on the antidepressants for a month. Just picked up my first refill. I think they’re working though. I’m not thinking that I don’t want to exist as much any more. I don’t want to die. I’m not suicidal. I just don’t want to exist. But as I said, I’m doing better on that front. It may seem crazy, but one of the things helping me get through is hygge. It’s the Danish concept of coziness and being content in the moment. I’ve been using it as a sort of self-healing aid. Rather than focusing on the pain or the overwhelming sadness, I try to focus on finding something good just in that moment. Sometimes that’s just sitting on the couch under the softest blanket in the house, watching silly movies, cuddling with the happiest, purring-iest cat. That moment? Yeah that moment makes me ok with existing.

I don’t know that things are going to get better. People always say that it will. Nothing really prepares you for this. You never think that you are the monster. That you can be capable of hurting the people you care most about. That to others, you are manipulative and abusive. And you will never know how all of that will absolutely destroy you. Shatter you. Knowing that you caused someone else that kind of pain. It’s my fault. And I have to live with that.

Five Months Later…

Today officially marks five months since my hysterectomy.

It’s been a little weird reflecting back on it. On one hand, it’s kind of amazing how different my life is from before the surgery, how much better I feel. But then again, there’s also this sameness. Occasionally I forget that I was ever so sick. It kind of makes me laugh that I can actually forget just how much my endo wrecked and controlled my life. “Healthy” was not something I could easily fathom. But here I am. Healthy.

Mostly, at least.

I keep forgetting that it’s only been five months. A little thing called fatigue likes to sneak up on me and remind me, though. The past couple weeks I’ve had some on and off crampy pain. It freaked me out a little, mild as it was — what if my endo was coming back? While I haven’t seen a specialist yet, I’m pretty sure a lot of this is just my body reminding me that we’re not quite healed yet and I need to (big shocker here) slow down.

Feeling so good, I thought I was ready to jump back into too many things. I spent most of Fall Break walking — 7.5 miles just on the last day. All those doctors and the women who’d had hysterectomies telling me it’d take 6-8 months just to feel normal again, and up to a year before the fatigue fully goes away… I didn’t listen. As great as I feel, my body is still recovery inside. I’m not really surprised, though, that I pushed too hard. If I was doing too much two weeks after surgery, of course I’d still be doing a bit too much five months later. (What can I say, this disease had taken about a decade from me.)

Outside of the fatigue, the hardest thing that I’ve still been struggling with are the lingering emotions regarding the implications of having a hysterectomy. I don’t regret the decision. It had gotten to the point where I wasn’t sure how I could live with this disease for 25-30 more years… To live with that much pain, struggling just to get through a day, unable to hold a job, and at my worst level of feeling unworthy of love. I wasn’t suicidal, I just didn’t want to be in pain any more. But at the same time I was planning this surgery with my doctors and my family… one of my younger sisters had just had her first child with her husband. Here was this person — my own blood — who’d married her college boyfriend, who was starting a family… Someone who had gotten everything I thought I wanted. And here I was, in pain every day, no job or school, extremely single, getting ready to remove the option of ever getting pregnant.

I had told myself for a couple years that I was ok with this. It’s sort of a testament to where I was emotionally and mentally, that I had just sort of settled in to this idea that I’d just be single forever. I had started becoming ok with the idea of adopting and being a single mom. Between the disease and emotional abuse from my past, I couldn’t fathom anyone wanting to be with someone so broken. But I wanted a family, so I would just do it myself. My biggest fear, though? That maybe, maybe, there would be someone who would see the real me and be like “yes! I choose her!” but because I had the hysterectomy wouldn’t give me a chance. … And everyone says, oh but this won’t really matter when it comes down to it… When people hear “hysterectomy” they assume everything is completely gone and biological kids are no longer an option. Which, for a total hysterectomy, that’s true. I still have my ovaries. I can have biological kids, I just can’t carry or give birth to them. It does make the whole having kids thing a little more complicated, with needing to plan for a surrogate, but it was important to me to keep my ovaries for that reason. I’m ok with adopting, but I didn’t necessarily want to force that on a partner as the only option.

This idea that I’m not whole, that I’m broken and unworthy, took root years ago. It wasn’t until a few years ago I really, and truly, began accepting and loving myself as I was — even if I felt that person was broken. I was ok with me. And I wasn’t going to let those feelings hold me back from a full life. These past five months I’ve gotten to feel like myself again, my true self. Despite the fears, the fatigue, the worries, my past… Despite all of that, I feel like I’ve been in a really good place. My body is finally starting to match my soul. And though they both might have scars, there’s a wholeness in that which is indescribable.

I just want to run, full speed with arms wide open. Metaphorically, for now, of course.

Back at it.

We are two weeks into this new academic year, and let me tell you, it has been a little bit of a whirlwind.

Coming back after taking a semester off provided a lot of challenges. We discovered issues in my financial aid (being over-awarded a couple years ago in my post-bacc work and only now having that be brought up). Having a lot of input regarding my course schedule from my professors. Getting a new advisor, who happens to be our new department chair. And the simple fact that it has only been three — three — months since I had major surgery. (Hi. I’m kind of exhausted.)

Oh. And yeah. The big one: we changed my entire thesis focus on the second day of the semester.

My new advisor was concerned with my schedule, and a lot of professors had opinions on which courses I should be taking and what was deemed a good use of my time. I respect their opinions tremendously, but I was starting to get overwhelmed. It seemed like everyone wanted me to drop one of the classes I really wanted to take. At the time, this course had nothing to do with my thesis topic, so I can see exactly where they were coming from. But I was stubborn. A month or so earlier I was having to justify the importance of my internship, and here I was defending a methods course for pretty much the same reason: to prepare me for a job, not a PhD. So after talking with my advisor, she pointed out that it seems pretty obvious that museum and museum related things are my passion — so why was that not my thesis focus?

Our department had essentially got rid of our museum program, so I was always just told we don’t do museum studies here. And we still technically don’t. But I had to make a choice: food studies or museums. When I finally was honest with myself, the answer was easy. It was my love of museums that brought me to this field, and as fun as a PhD sounds, I was always looking at museum jobs first.

We’re still working on the specifics of my research focus, but it’s coming together. It’s been this huge relief. As my mentor puts it, I’ve got a new old thesis now.

It’s good to be back on campus, even despite any frustrations because honestly they’re small and inconsequential. I’m excited about getting started on my new thesis work. I’m loving my internship. It’s great being back with my professors, and my new advisor is just a good fit for me. The faculty, department staff, and even the campus administration have all just been so supportive and helpful in my return. I’m ready to get this done. I’m not going to let anyone or anything derail me from this.

Kind of crazy to believe that at this point next year I should have that fancy piece of paper in my hands and be headed towards a new career.

Currently…

Feeling: Super tired and a little sick. Ate something that didn’t agree or some sort of weird summer stomach bug hit me… But other than that… I’ve hit 2-months post-hysterectomy. And in that regard? I. feel. amazing. No endo pain for 2 months? What’s that? I’d love it if the fatigue would go away for good. It’s a holdover from the surgery. But it’ll still another 4 months, at least, until my body is completely recovered from all of this. Between the surgery and just years and years of endo, there’s been a lot of trauma in my body. I just have to be patient with it while I heal.

Watching: On Netflix – Father Brown. On Hulu – Miranda. And of course, to no one’s surprise, I’m still spending most of my day on Twitch with friends. One friend streams about 10 hours a day on most weekdays, so I’m there a lot. Then I’ve got my Canadian friends who stream intermittently. My west coast dear friend, who keeps me up late at night so I can hangout with her. And then just a handful of other awesome people and friends that I try to catch whenever I can. There have definitely been times where I’ve had 4-5 different streams open at one. (Thank you, multi-twitch sites, for existing.)

Playing: I’ve been trying to save Breath of the Wild for streams, but I’m still going pretty decently at it. Also doing a lot of Stardew Valley now. I’m in my second year, have 4 chickens, 4 cows… and I’ve named them all for Twitch friends. We’re also doing some Golf With Friends in the evenings every so often. It’s a lot of yelling and chaos and I love every minute.

Listening To: Ok, so ignore the title… but the “In need of a hug” station on Google Play Music. Was kind of feeling meh one night, and gave it a go (remembering that I’d listened to it a long time ago and seemed to like it then)… and yeah, I just really like the artists they have on there. I do end up getting a lot of repetition on this playlist, but for now I’m ok with that.

Reading: Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong. Thanks to Kate, I signed up for Book of the Month Club… and so far I’m loving my picks. This one is broken up into small journal entries, so it really fits into my life right now. (And yes, that is a referral link so we both get goodies when you sign up.)

Working on: papers that should have been done a while ago. It’s been kind of hard getting myself to sit and work on them. I think half the issue is I’ve been stuck in my apartment since February… so this is not a place of focus or productivity. Now that my car’s working again (which also was down since February), I can head out and maybe get some work done elsewhere… However, my budget is a little borked because of my fall roommate changing her move in date twice now. (I get things come up, I don’t fault her for that… but now I have 2 months where I was expecting to split rent that I’ve had to pay for by myself.)

Thinking about: all the things I want to do with my stream!* Pre-my roommate changing her move-in date again, I bought an elgato game capture and a second monitor for my laptop. I love having the extra screen space. It’s definitely helping for a lot of things. However, now I want yet another monitor, another camera, a nice mic, new headphones, a better desk chair, and of course, a dedicated streaming/gaming PC. (Honestly, the PC would be top priority, but holy crap those things cost even more than my Mac did!)

Craving: motivation. I need to get some stuff done. But yeah. No can focus.

Looking forward to: getting my office set up on campus. Also working on events with some Twitch friends. Little over a week ago a friend and I hosted a Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds tournament. It was a little stressful at times, but it was so much fun. Now we’re looking at doing more events and I’m excited to where that’s going.

Making me happy: boys. lol. I mean, it’s more than that. But I just have to giggle that not really giving any time or all that much thought or interest in a particular person for like 3-5 years**, I now have two crushes. One of them knows. We talked recently and discussed how much we enjoy flirting with each other, but yeah, I really don’t think anything is actually going to come of any of this. There’s just a lot of other factors involved, and yeah, as much as any of that could be fun… realistically we’ll probably just stay friends who flirt a lot. Frankly it’s been a nice distraction from every thing else. As for the other one? Not sure if he knows. I’ve just sort of been letting that one happen slowly. If an occasion comes up where it would feel ok to just say “hey, I like you,” then maybe I will. But for now, I’m ok with him just being an attractive friend. They’re both great guys.

And quite honestly, as much as the crushes amuse me… It’s my Twitch Fam that’s really been making me happy. After 20SB died out — and ok, yeah, I withdrew before it actually closed — I’d been kind of sad about not having my community. I tried other blogger groups and stuff, but nothing really clicked as much as I wanted. But my twitch group? Those are my people. My core group is small, but I’m ok with that. They are people I care about, and people who care about me. A few of us have been talking about doing some trips together. There’s talks of hockey games, airsoft weekends, and even Vegas.

How’s summer going for everyone so far?

*I made Twitch Affiliate a few weeks ago. I would really love to find a way to increase the amount of streams I do, but I’m a little nervous about that with school coming up. I just need to figure out my schedule and try to stick with that.
**For real though, yeah.. it’s been a real long time before I’ve actually gotten excited about a guy. And to suddenly be excited about two different guys? Yeah… thanks universe. But yay for having decent AND attractive guys in my life?

On fragility, abuse, and trying to let go

Last night I had my first real big ugly cry since before my surgery. And it had absolutely nothing to do with the surgery or anything that comes with not having a uterus any more.

Ok, maybe a tiny little bit did, but only a tiny bit.

It’s all because I like a guy and I let some bad stuff from my past seep in and take root in my head.

I haven’t had a crush in a long while. Not like, a crush crush. It’s one of those things where I’ve kind of always found this guy friend attractive, and then the more I got to know him, the more I liked him. I’m trying to be logical through the whole thing — he’s one of my online friends, so we haven’t even met in person, nor do I even know how he feels about me or anything if he’s even thought about me that way… just because I like him doesn’t mean he likes me.

But you really can’t logic your way out of a crush.

My last relationships/attempt at a relationship/whatever it was, was not healthy. I had gotten involved with one of my guy friends, and developed major feelings for him. He would go from telling me how beautiful I was to saying that we couldn’t date because we both sort of worked together. He would wrap his arms around me and tell me how lucky he was that I chose him, to telling me he was never once attracted to me. We’d hook up, to him majorly going after another girl right in front of me. He drank. A lot. At least once while he was driving. Somehow despite all that terrible shit, I still thought maybe I’d be enough for him and that he’d choose me, and only me. Then he got this other girl that he had started seeing, like actually dating, pregnant. He’s apparently cleaned up his life a lot since then… but… the damage he did to me was done.

So I spent the wee hours of last night sobbing because I’m afraid to let myself like someone again. Crying out because I just want someone who will find me beautiful as I am* — someone who will choose me.

I hate that this asshole from my past got in my head. That someone who I have moved on from still has an affect on me. While I’ve found some great happiness in myself since then, and I’m excited about where my life is going… I’d be lying if I said a little part of me didn’t want someone to share that with. I’m enjoying getting to know this guy. And yes, the logical part of me is and will be find that nothing is likely to come of this… It’s just that crush part which is all “I want to kiss his face.” Sigh. And logic side can’t argue because, hey, he is cute.

BLERGH. Why are crushes in your 30s still a thing.

A lot of this is holdover stuff from my endometriosis. The medicine I was on caused me to gain weight, and as I’ve talked about a few times, endo is the type of disease that sort of makes you feel broken as a woman. I had the same hold ups when choosing to have a hysterectomy as a single woman. I know there is no perfect weight or size, and that my body just is my body how it is in the moment.

Recovery Updates: Or, how I ended up in emergency surgery last week…

Guys. … I suck at recovery.

I thought I was doing all right. I thought I had slowed down, cut back on doing everything and stopped bending as much… I got a big shot of reality and NOPE last week, however.

We’re not exactly sure what happened. I was watching netflix, stood up, and (ok maybe it starts getting TMI), but it felt like I peed myself. So I went to the bathroom, maybe I just wasn’t listening to my bladder and it was fuller than I thought. However… that wasn’t the case. (If pee wasn’t TMI for you before, this next part might be. And I get that, and I’m 100% ok if you’d rather just check out the TMI;DR insta version or even just this video of kittens.)

It was blood.

This wasn’t just typical healing up spotting like to be expected. It was nonstop, with clots. I called my mom, explained that I needed to go to the ER, then went to find new clothes to wear. I had almost filled an entire pad in that time, so decided to spend the rest of the time waiting for my mom on the toilet. It wasn’t painful, but it wasn’t necessarily comfortable either. And I’m pretty sure I was in shock a little, because I was way calmer than I probably should have been.

The ER was busy — as, sadly, our local ER tends to be when you actually need it. As we sat and waited, we overheard that people had been waiting hours. I was actively bleeding, worse when I was standing, and already starting to feel a little light headed at times. Thankfully (for me), I jumped the line and got in somewhat quickly given how busy they were. I kind of felt bad for everyone else waiting — like the pregnant lady who had a small metal splinter in her foot. Anyway. I got in, a nurse checked in on me, then a medical assistant. The room was badly laid out and didn’t have a stirrup bed, so my exam was painful and awkward. More so given the still constant bleeding and clotting.

My doctor was out, so they had to call in the on-call OBGYN specialist from his office. She got me on a stirrup bed and confirmed what the MA thought — I had ripped/popped a suture from my hysterectomy. They removed several golf ball sized clots. It was a mess and just gross. There were two options: try to stitch me up right there in the room, or send me to emergency surgery. Because of the amount of blood — my new doctor called it a “waterfall” of blood — stitching up in the room was not an option. (Which, so grateful because that did not sound appealing at all.)

From the time I started bleeding until I got into the OR, it had been about 4 hours. Four hours of actively bleeding and going through 3-4 or more pads an hour (though we eventually gave up changing them). The surgery was about maybe 2 hours. At least from when I went in until I woke up in recovery. While I woke up easier this time, but was in a lot of pain. However, like last time, I had to pee like crazy. But this time they had taken out my catheter. No matter how I tried, I could not pee. Finally in my observation room, my nurse set me up enough that I could. But I was still calling her every 10-20 minutes. So we ditched the bedpans and I have never been that happy to see or use a real toilet. After that and losing the packing, I was actually feeling pretty good given everything that had just happened.

Since getting home, most of my pain has been muscle and joint pain. Felt like I got hit by a bus. I also had (and still have) a sore throat from having to have a breathing tube again. Since this surgery was unplanned, it meant no prep — I had food in my system from lunch… They had to apply a little pressure to my throat to keep me from essentially getting food in my lungs. It’s one of the last things I remember before the anesthesia knocked me out.

I wish I could say everything has been going peachy since then. I came home very “no bending, no doing thing” … and then just days later I’m back doing things like before I ripped my stitches. Rather than trying to decide on something else to eat, I still reach for the pan in dishwasher I’m not supposed to be reaching for. Rather than just letting things wait, I reorganized the linen closet to make room for all the stuff from the bathroom that no longer has a place thanks to getting a newer (and bigger) water heater in the bathroom closet. “It’s just plastic shopping bags,” I told myself. But it was a whole trash bag full of shopping bags and that’s a lot of bending. The hardest thing is the cats. The roommates were never perfect about remembering to check their bowls, or understanding the nuances of my cats not liking crumbs and thus thinking a bowl is empty even when it doesn’t appear to be. Maybe I could let the other things go, but it’s hard making my cats wait until I could ask for help getting them fed.

It’s sort of this combination of pride and distrust. I can’t bring myself to just ask someone else to keep doing all this stuff for me day in and day out. This feeling of things out of place has such a hold on me that I can’t just let things wait until I’m healed or even ask if someone else can take care of it… And I want to trust that my roommate (I’ve only got one now), would help me with anything I ask… But… She’s busy and has her own things going on, too… And maybe I’m just out of sorts with anxiety, but after a while the joking sighs or “fine/whatever/I guess I’ll help”-s… well.. I start worrying that maybe she is tired of helping. I don’t want to be a burden. But I also know I just should — can’t — be doing stuff like this. If I keep this up, I’m going to end up hurting myself or ripping my stitches again.

I just wish the risk of that was enough to get myself out of my own head and just stop for the next few weeks. No matter how much I tell myself to stop doing things… it’s like I can’t. But I’m going to have to… somehow… I’ve got to let myself heal.

How are birthdays supposed to go again?

Do I blog birthdays? How is this all supposed to go again? Does this mean I’m getting old?

Tuesday was my birthday, and to celebrate turning 33… I did pretty much nothing.

Ok, that’s not 100% true, but still. This was pretty much one of the most low-key (ie, kind of boring) birthdays I’ve had in recent memory. So, yeah, the “not good luck” with birthdays thing is one thing… This wasn’t that. We just didn’t really plan anything this year. I got texts or calls from all of my parents, and all but one of my siblings. I spent the day on Twitch watching video games, watched the Nintendo E3 spotlight, and then ended the night ordering a pizza. I got the typical facebook messages, and a few gaming friends sent some games. Went to bed and that was it.

The Saturday before, though, my dad, stepmom, brother & his girlfriend, three nieces, and three of my four sisters took me out to eat. (And if you’re counting, including myself, that’s 11 people.) Nothing fancy, and we didn’t even bug the waitstaff to get me a free dessert at the cost of mildly embarrassing singing. Afterward we all came back to my apartment, to my roommates’ surprise. My dad and brother fixed my vaccuum. The twins (3 1/2 years old) bombarded my roommates. And my cats hid the entire time.

And that’s been it in regards to any “celebrating.” My gram sent over a cake — a cherry & pineapple cake with walnuts and coconut (tasted good, but… not my thing). Both of my roommates forgot until sometime late in the evening — prompted mainly because I was getting a lot of texts and phone calls. “Wow, you’re popular tonight.” “Yeah, I wonder why…” 

My mom and I will still go out to eat, maybe tonight or tomorrow. And that’ll basically conclude any attempts at “birthday-ing.” The last two years, I’ve gone out to my favorite Chinese place for dumplings. First with my family, then the next year with friends from school. Not sure if I’ll get dumplings this year — though, boy do I love them! But if it’s just going to be my mom and I? I might go for steak maybe. Or maybe the good Thai place. Regardless, I want to stop by the local bakery and get myself either a massive cupcake or a maple bacon donut.

Because no matter how low-key a birthday is… you need some sort of pastry to celebrate for it to be official.

* I also got some Halo Top birthday cake ice cream. Which was just ok. Didn’t get a big cake-y taste… also, is it supposed to have sprinkles or something in it? I’ve seen 2.

** Also, with this being a Recovery Birthday, the low-key thing isn’t really a surprise. But yeah. Still kind of boring.

How to Survive a Hysterectomy

Important disclaimer and such: I am in no way a medical professional and none of this should ever replace actual medical information. Pretty sure you all already know that, but just putting it out there.

One week ago today, I was rolled into an operating room and woke up with one less internal organ than I’d been born with. As you know, I’ve been dealing with endometriosis for at least 7 years now… Likely longer given that the average time for diagnosis from onset of symptoms is about a decade. Medications and lifestyle changes weren’t really working, and I was sort of running out of options there. (The next level of medication would likely be Lupron, which induces a false menopause. No thank you.) Oh. And also there’s the little matter that my uterus itself was glued* via adhesions to my intestines. So that’s a fun little complication. Given everything going on, something had to go. #GoodbyeUterus 

I had what is called a LAVH — or where they inflate your belly to a giant beach ball, put a few holes in it*, then still pull your baby cooker out through your lady bits and sew everything up. Except the holes, those get glue. It went successfully. There were “extensive” adhesions between the uterus and colon, and apparently also some adhesions between the uterus and the bladder. I got to keep my ovaries and tubes — which as a still young 30-something, neither my doctor nor I were interested in putting me through menopause yet.

Now that I’m a week out of all of this, I’ve got some thoughts/tips on dealing with a situation such as this…

Pre-Op

» The anxiety really is one of the worst parts. For me, getting as much information as I could helped. As well as completely distracting myself (hello 90 hours of Breath of the Wild!).

» Join Hystersisters. While the forum design reminds me of early 2000s with the glitter emotes and all, it is a very good resource for information. Of course, take it all with a little caution, these aren’t medical professionals, just a massive community of thousands of women who’ve had all types of hysterectomies for any and all reasons. I did not find “my tribe” or make any new BFFs from the site, but have appreciated the support. Just be prepared for some women to come off all “well, I’ve had this and now I’m the expert.” I had someone try to educate me on endometriosis despite the fact that she’s never had it.

» Prep the house. For real. You can’t do much after the surgery… so make sure your family, friends, roommate, whomever is on board with taking care of everything else for you. My roommates knew before they moved in that this surgery was being planned and they’d have to spend a few weeks doing all the house work and taking care of the cats. But on top of that, get your spaces set up for your recovery. For me, that’s my bed. Make sure you have enough room for all your stuff (I even had a tray table on the bed for the first 4 days so stuff was in easy reach) and you have plenty of pillows and blankets.

» If you don’t have someone to cook for you, start freezing meals for your first week or so of recovery. I made a lot of soups and stews — granted, two of them didn’t survive — and it makes it easier for my roommate to just take something and heat it up for me rather than have to cook something for me. Go light on salt and grease, and watch the gassy foods. Veggie noodle soup was my favorite just coming home.

» Write down any questions you have for your doctor. Also take notes during the pre-op visits.

At the hospital/Observation

» You’ll spend most of your time pre-surgery having various nurses and doctors coming in to ask you questions and take vitals and hook you up to things. Be completely honest with all of them. Before you know it, they’ll wheel you into the OR, hook you up to more things, and then tell you “ok so in 20 seconds this is going to kick in” and everything will go completely black.

» You may do or say weird things as you come out of anesthesia and start to wake up.  One of the first things I asked about was if I could pee or if I was cathed and could pee… Then the next time I woke up I asked it if was all lap or not — since there was a chance they may have had to switch to an abdominal surgery. Then mostly I was just looking back and forth trying to wake myself up. I’m sure I looked strange, but they’ve probably seen and dealt with stranger.

» Your overnight bag. Ok. So some women go home the same day, others, like me, go home the next, and still some stay for a few days. It depends on the type of procedure and the intensity of what’s going on inside you that they need to remove. I way overpacked. I brought a laptop, iPad, chargers, notebooks, slippers, extra sports bras & underwear, toiletries, slippers, a flannel overshirt, a book… All I used was my cell phone and my charger. (And my insurance & ID cards.) My room had a tv and frankly, if I wasn’t watching HGTV marathons I was talking with visiting family or sleeping.

» You may puke. Make sure the vomit bag is within reach. Between the anesthesia, empty stomach, pain killers, and sweet beverages… yeah… I couldn’t keep things down for most of that first day out of surgery. I think I was more bummed about this because I couldn’t have the rest of my cherry Italian ice (which is considered clear liquid diet approved).

» Use that call button. When I could finally have real food, the orderly put it too far away on my table, and so I stupidly reach and pulled for it to be closer. Bad idea.

» The packing (or as my doctor called it, “the 9-foot tampon”) is the worst. The catheter isn’t fun either, but it helps not having to get up all the time to pee. (And yes, you’ll have to pee all the time. You just won’t really notice because of the catheter. I ask my nurse about this, and she looks over and goes “you’re peeing right now.”)

» You’re supposed to be able to pass gas, pee, and walk on your own before they send you home. I made one bathroom trip and the nurse currently on duty started my discharge papers. My dad made a comment that I looked nervous about all this. YEP. I wasn’t sure I was actually ready yet.

Recovery at Home

» FYI: you use your ab muscles for everything. Everything. They just cut into them, so everything is going to hurt now. Try your best to find a comfy spot and stay there.

» That first poop is going to hurt a lot. Some women compare it to child birth. Not even joking. It’ll probably be a day or three before your first BM, so start some stool softeners. TMI? Well, you just had uterus ripped out of you so… Oh. And yeah. Be prepared to just fart a lot. Gas-X will be your friend. Don’t hold them in.

» Ask for help. I did too much the first few days and regret it. Mentally you’ll feel ready to do everything. Heck, you’ll likely be a little bored, too. But don’t. Let someone else. If people offer to help, let them. Especially when it comes to food. It was a little weird having to depend on my 20-something year old roommates to do everything… but we got over it.

» USE YOUR SPIROMETER. It’s this annoying little breathing exercise thing, but it’s super important for helping with all that trapped gas as well as making sure you don’t get pneumonia. If the hospital didn’t give you one, just be sure to take long, deep breaths.

» Have nightgowns/sleep shirts you like. I slept in my jersey cotton dress for the first two days after surgery. Then finally switched to a stretched out tshirt. Finally my mom bought me a Batman night shirt.

» If you don’t get extra mesh underwear from the hospital (or buy some online), be sure to have larger than your normal sized underwear at home. Make sure the band doesn’t rub on your incisions. Also, apparently you can hand-wash the mesh ones they give you, so maybe don’t just throw them away like I did.

» No matter how much you may want to: do not mess with the surgical glue. I picked off a couple drops that were nowhere near an incision — even the nurses laughed at how messy they were with some of it — but that was it. It’s supposed to dissolve eventually. No scrubbing in the shower either — which is maybe the harder thing to remember.

» If you’re not used to sleeping on your back… Sorry. I’m a side and stomach sleeper. This has not been easy for me. Thankfully I’m too drugged up to care.

» Take and track your pain meds. I’m using an app called Medisafe. It’s not perfect (why I’m not linking them), but it is helping. I want it to be where I just set it to “every X hours” so once I take a pill it’ll let me know when it’s ok to take the next, but I have to set up specific times. Which works ok as long as you’re thinking straight when you set them up.

» Call your doctor’s office if you need to. It’s best they know what’s going on if you have a concern and also they’ll know what to do. Even on weekends, there’s a doctor on call.

» REST. It’s really hard to not do stuff. But your job is to heal. It’s not to worry about the litter box, the trash, the dishes, or the vacuum that someone accidentally broke. REST.

People will think you’re getting so much better before you really are. Which is especially true if you’re like me and don’t always show your physical pain emotionally. One of the roommates commented on day 2 or 3 of my recovery, “Oh, you look like you’re feeling really well!” I laughed. Nope. This hurts. Some of the hyster-sites suggest even when you start to feel a little better, keep dressing like you aren’t — because apparently once you look OK, everyone will treat you like you’re OK.

Most importantly: you don’t have to share any details of this procedure that you don’t want to. Of course, be honest with your doctors and nurses, but you choose to whom and with what information you want to give out. And if you don’t want them to talk about your stuff with others, tell them. There’s nothing wrong or shameful about having a hysterectomy (or any surgery), but it’s your body and your choice.

Overall, the recovery is going well. Yes, I still hurt and get sharp bouts of pain… but overall it’s been well. Especially now that I’m letting myself just rest. Only one incident where one of the cats walked across my incisions, but other than that they, too, have been troopers.

One week down, five more to go.

*My first laparoscopy notes used the words “densely adhered.”
*I was told 3 holes, like my first laparoscopic surgery.. but woke up with 5. The adhesions were a little more intensive than they had first thought.

Grumpy AF

So I hinted at this in my last post, but yeah, I’m maybe not adjusting as well as I would have hoped to having roommates.

A few days ago, I thought I’d try maybe writing down any grievances or annoyances I had, hoping that maybe once I named them I could deal with them logically. I could see that these really aren’t big issues and nothing worth causing drama over. However, the list keeps growing and that’s causing concern.

They really are small things. But they’re adding up. Leaving lights on when they leave rooms. Kitchen cabinets left open. Putting virtually clean dishes in the dishwasher. Running out of things like mugs and spoons and the small plates. Leaving (caffeinated*) coffee grounds in the filter basket. Clutter on public spaces like the dining and coffee tables, as well as the kitchen and bathroom counters. I count no less than 6 pairs of shoes in the living room right now.

Any one or even two of those things alone, and I think I could handle it. But it’s all of these things every single day. (And sadly, this is only the 4th day with all three of us here.) There’s also the giant elephant in the room that is my anxiety. My surgery is in one week from today and while I feel like I’m not really emotional about it — I’m 100% on edge and that’s showing up in all of this. It’s manifesting itself as irritability and sadly, my roommates are taking the brunt of it.

I want to be able to take a deep breath and move on, but I found myself this morning slamming cabinet doors shut and aggressively throwing out yesterday’s used coffee grounds. And pulling out a plate from the dish washer that was only used for a cupcake in a wrapper to sit on. Sigh. I really am trying. But thanks to my health, I spend all day every day in this apartment. Now that I’m sharing it with two other people (who are a decade younger and have their own concerns which don’t really line up with mine), it’s been hard.

I know I can’t just hold this in because that list is only going to get longer and longer. I’m hoping to just pick a couple to address with them — the clutter, the dishes, and leaving things on/open — and then hopefully it’ll allow me to be able to properly deal with the other small frustrations without actually having them feel like giant frustrations. It’s essentially spoon theory: I only have so many spoons each day, and if I use them all up on the small things, I can’t use them on the things I really need them for. Fingers crossed this all goes well, because I’m really struggling guys — and it’s a shame because these actually aren’t terrible roommates.

*My body does not handle caffeine well — pretty much only low doses in chocolates or some teas, and I still can’t consume all I want of those. I don’t get headaches or jittery, either. It causes immense ripping pain in my abdomen. It’s sent me to the ER before. So I don’t risk it.