That title? That’s what I’m putting on my gravestone, because that phrase, “what the heck?” seems to follow me wherever I go. I should come with a disclaimer, “please disregard everything you ever thought you knew and get your learning pants on, because I’m about to be the exception.”
I know it’s been awhile since I posted, and I’m sorry about that, but Mirena broke me. Hard.
Let me start at the beginning. Or at least, just after the point we left off in the Great Junk Adventure of ’13. If you’re new to this whole saga, start here (then go here, then here, and finally here, which is the same as the first link in this paragraph in case you’re totally confused).
So. April was surgery, May was recovery. Late May was my first period since my teens that involved having to use maxi-pads, which totally sucked because it was at the same time as our beach vacation and totally derailed our plans and they leaked over all of my clothes. But it was also amazingly, profoundly, mercifully short, so that was nice. In early June I went in to get Mirena installed (I know that makes it sound weirdly like it’s cable or a new phone line, but it actually is surprisingly like that: they put in a sort of antenna thing and then you don’t have babies or new polyps and maybe your fibroid shrinks. Would that Comcast could offer so much for eight hundred dollars). I didn’t blog about it because things got busy: Jim’s birthday, end of the school year, busy garden season, deciding whether the Philly School budget crisis is bad enough that I need to find someplace else for Corinne to finish high school since now they have neither an assistant principal, a guidance counselor, or extracurricular activities. And a thousand other little things that keep life whirring past and your to-do list from ever. ending. Also, I kind of got cripplingly depressed.
But so I went, and it was pretty quick. It was funny in the way that anything having to do with me and trying to do anything normal is funny. In that she couldn’t get my cervix open for anything. “I think your cervix is mad at me,” she informed me, before grabbing the end of it with a hook and trying to squeeze in the tiniest of dilation rods. Still, she finally managed to pry me open and get the hormone-infused plastic T inserted. She also cut the string super-short so it wouldn’t stab Jim, which is really nice of her, I guess. Though it implies that most men get stabbed repeatedly in the penis by their partners’ IUDs, which is sort of not what I had in mind when they talked about 99% efficacy in preventing pregnancy. Although in my case, preventing pregnancy was more of a happy side effect to the whole not-having-more-pelvic-surgery primary purpose.
OH, and also my friend Susie did me the huge favor of calling me during the insertion so I got to answer the phone and say, “sorry, I can’t talk now, I’m getting my IUD in. Can I call you back?” which was SO awesome, and maybe one of the nicest gifts anyone has ever accidentally given me. My doctor is an excellent sport, though I’m pretty sure we’ve already established that.
Where was I? Oh right: not being stabbed in the penis = good.
Less good was the part where she told me not to have sex for two weeks, and I was all “c’mon, please?! His birthday is Saturday and that would totally suck.” (no. that fruit is hanging far too low for someone with your level of dignity to pick, so you just let it lie). To my surprise, she relented, which makes me doubt forever the veracity of her sex moratoriums (moratoria? Spellcheck says no. But it also says no to “spellcheck,” so there’s no point in trusting a program having an existential crisis). It’s good that she did, because it would turn out that Saturday would be the last time I felt normal for a very long time.
It started out subtly. I would wake up before dawn with my mind racing, struggling to get back to sleep. Sometimes it would take hours. This is not normal for me. When I was younger, I trained my brain to shut off in bed. I have a word, and when I start repeating it in my mind, instant unconsciousness happens. That I could spend hours attempting to repeat it only to start obsessing over imaginary scenarios from years past and future is just not how my brain goes. I don’t know why it wasn’t a huge red flag, but I convinced myself my brain just wanted me to stop sleeping so late.
Next came the sensitivity. I felt like a huge carpet burn; like the layers of protection I used to have around conflict with people just rubbed off in one bad bout of friction and suddenly everything was awful. Any tiny criticism was a wholesale condemnation of my failure as a human being. Either I would burst into tears or erupt into rage. I was, needless to say, a tad irritable. I forgot how to feel joy and pleasure. It was like someone cut the top off of my emotional body; I could feel all the stuff below the line: sadness, rage, frustration, anxiety – just nothing positive. And you can forget about sex; I sure have. I called my primary to tell him my antidepressants weren’t working. His office sucks and he never got back to me.
Meanwhile – bear with me, I need to take time to explain why this next part took so long to realize – it’s been hot as hell this summer in New Jersey. Like, Missouri hot. When I was a kid I was pretty well acclimated to 98 degrees and 90% humidity. Even as a fair-skinned ginger who overheats easily, I had my ways of coping. There are many things I miss about Missouri, but those hot, humid summers aren’t one. I have lost my ability to cope with stifling heat, and I feel pretty good about that. I love that I can throw open the windows at night because the temps are in the low 60’s. I love that once the humidity gets over about 55% it’s an abomination. I don’t need callouses like that. But this summer I kind of wish I still had them, because holy shitballs it’s hot. I look at the weather reports in my hometown and many days it’s actually been hotter here in New Jersey. What. The. Hell.
I know that looked like meandering, but my point is this: it’s really hard to notice that you’ve started having hot flashes when it’s already so hot out. It’s really easy to justify your sudden sheen of sweat and desire to hump an air-conditioner or climb into the deep-freeze as a completely normal response to some extremely impolite weather. So I didn’t notice at first. Except eventually I started noticing that I would be the only one sweating profusely in air-conditioned rooms. And I would ask if anyone else was hot, and they would, through blue and chattering lips, stutter out the word “no.”
So nearly a month later, after two therapy sessions devoted entirely to “what the hell is the matter with me? It feels like I’m emotionally 21 all over again” and countless really tense and weepy interactions with Jim, whose patience was running quite thin, I went back in my mind to the last time I felt good and finally put two and two together.
And then I went online and made a discovery: I am not alone. The internet is full of women whose depression and anxiety ramped up when they went on Mirena. And then I learned that in Canada, the literature states that it’s not recommended for women with emotional disturbances, because it can make it worse….AND it’s a severe side effect in up to 15% of the population. How do they even get to leave that out of US literature?!?! What, like that’s only a side effect in Canada, and you cross the border and now *boom* no more crippling depression? If I’m anxious and depressed in the US, does that mean that I need to be diagnosed Canadian?
I immediately called and made an appointment with my Gyn-Onc to get it the hell out of me.
Meanwhile, I had to take Corinne to the primary to do a strep culture. He finally asked me about my phone message and I told him what’s up and that I wanted to go at it with herbs for awhile. Do you know what he suggested as a next step instead? He suggested I get chemically-induced menopause. Do you know what’s a really bad idea? Telling someone who’s more or less going through accidental chemically-induced menopause that intentional chemically-induced menopause is a good idea. Because I then turned the full brilliance of my hormonal madness at him and let fly, much to Corinne’s extreme discomfort and irritation. But seriously? He is SO. Fired. I’m 38 goddamn years old, with a family history of severe osteoporosis (and really severe menopause symptoms). I need menopause like I need a hole in my head – which, considering the osteoporosis, is actually a distinct possibility.
Fast forward to this week. It occurred to me the other day that nobody ever called me back from the Gyn-Onc to confirm my appointment for today (which was totally a squeeze-in so the doctor had to agree) so I called again. Lo, it was not in the system. I had fallen off the radar. I was…a tad devastated. This shit takes three weeks to leave your system entirely, and I am so ready for this to be behind me. Another week of this was really not what I needed right now. But as much fun as it can be, there’s no point in arguing with reality, so I might as well try to figure out how to work with what is, for as long as it takes.
And then, to my groggy surprise, she called me at 7 this morning, fresh out of surgery, asking what’s going on. I explained about the hot flashes and the emotional toplessness and she told me to meet her at her office in an hour. She’s going on vacation and didn’t want me to have to live with this for two more weeks. Bless her. I grabbed my coffee and headed out the door.
I didn’t figure it would come out any easier than it went in, so I told the nurse to get out all the special tools in advance. What I didn’t expect was what actually happened, which just goes to show how pointless worrying actually is. What happened was this: SHE COULDN’T FIND IT. Not that she couldn’t catch it, but she couldn’t feel it at all. Not for lack of trying – she wiggled around in there so deeply it felt like a baby kicking and I could see my stomach move. And then she said unto me those magic words I have become so accustomed to hearing when it comes to my body and my luck in general:
“What the heck?”
And then came the saga of the unexpected ultrasound, which I need a good long break before recounting, but whose moral can be summed up thusly: there is no doctor visit so cut and dried that it cannot be turned into a surprise 7-hour medical marathon, so don’t forget to eat something before you go, and bring a snack just in case. I’ll probably post that part tomorrow.
Continue reading here.