Struggling With My Health Continues

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After having the second set of nerve block test injections, (yes these two sets were only tests to see how much relief I would get from the numbing agent used) I received a letter from my health insurance company saying they denied the actual, final nerve block injections, seeing as how I determined I only had between 60 – 70% relief from the last test injections.

Asking me to put a percentage of relief on my pain after the test injections is craziness, who knows how to rate it? The first set I estimated 80% relief, the second set, less because I had to ride the bus home for nearly 2 hours, which directly goes against the directions post injection to move around, don’t sit or lie down, etc. Extenuating circumstances, I think.

I called my doctor and told them I was denied. They contacted the pain management doctor and coordinated an appeal with my insurance. The pain management doctor asked me to come in for a consult. I went, we talked about the ridiculousness of the situation, that he filed an appeal and was hopeful they would approve the injections.

He sat down and went over my MRI with my husband and I, then we talked about my knee pain and he explained he can do the same thing for my knees and showed us my most recent knee x-ray.

He showed us how my disk spaces in my spine are narrowing, the disks are drying up and deteriorating, like my disk at L5 did years ago. He showed us how my spinal canal is narrowing and my spinal cord and sciatic nerve is being pinched. He explained about the fusing of L3, L4 and L5 by the bone spurs and spondylosis, stenosis.

My husband said he understood better about why I’m having so much more pain now.

After all of that, I spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday doing a lot of housework, cooking for a friend who came to visit for dinner on Sunday. My husband sat on his recliner, allowing me to do all the housework, laundry, etc., all weekend. I was in so much pain. He walked our pup for me over the weekend, but other than transferring one load of wet laundry into the dryer he did little to nothing to help me out.

When I asked him if understanding my pain and why I’m having so much pain helped him at all to understand what I’ve been living with he said it did, but when I asked him why he didn’t help me with anything all weekend his response stunned me. “I think inactivity isn’t a good thing either.”

So apparently, he’s justified in not contributing at home, not helping out with chores and housework, because if he helps me I’m being inactive… and therefore can disregard that I have to push myself hard and endure a great deal of pain to complete all the housework by myself. Apparently he sees this as an all or nothing situation. Either I do everything myself without help to be ‘active’ or I get some help and I’m being ‘inactive.’ Convenient how he’s worked that out for himself.

I’m really to the point where I feel I just have to accept this level of pain, I just have to learn to cope, this is my life, it’s what I have to look forward to and I’m on my own in this.

I’m Afraid to Ask What Else Could Happen 2

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On January 2, 2020 I spent the morning carefully taking down Christmas decorations. My husband walked our dog. I began to un-decorate the tree, shortly after he came home from their walk, I felt a burning pinch in my groin, not unlike the one I’d felt in the hospital after the catheterization procedure. I asked my husband to check the hematoma, he did and immediately said, “honey we need to go right now.” He thought the lump was significantly bigger.

I called my doctor’s office, as I had an appointment later that day, to see if I could get in earlier to see her. I was put on hold multiple times while the receptionist tried to find someone to talk to. The third time she came back on the line without any information I told her I’d just go to the ER, as the cardiologist told me to either see my doctor or go to the ER, just in case.

We went to the ER. While sitting in the triage area my doctor’s office called me back to ask if I was going to cancel my appointment later, I told her no, I wanted to try to make it but it depended on how long I was in the ER, I had something like 4 hours before my appointment. She then asked me to let her know as soon as possible if I was canceling, so they could get someone else in. Nice… can’t make an arrangement for me to get in in an emergency, but want my appointment for someone else.

While in the ER a nurse looked at the hematoma and told me the doctor would likely need blood work and probably order an ultrasound to see what was going on under the skin. She left, a phlebotomist came in to try to draw blood. I showed her my bruised arms and explained how they told me the week before that my veins were blowing out and collapsing. She tried anyway, only to get nothing. Two more phlebotomists tried, with no result. One of them didn’t even realize she’d put a tourniquet on my arm and was looking for another to use when she realized she already had one on. She looked at me and said, “that doesn’t inspire confidence, does it?” Um… No!

A woman with a clipboard came in the room asking me my name, contact info, etc., saying she was with ‘patient registration.’ She then told me she had to “pick an insurance.” I said I was just admitted last week, all my information is in the system and up to date, no changes. She insisted she had to “pick an insurance.” I said no you don’t. She said “you know what I mean.” I said no actually I don’t. She said on the computer a drop down list comes up and they have to pick an insurance. I said my insurance card has multiple names on it, Coventry, Advantra, Aetna… take your pick! She left in a huff.

The doctor finally came in and had a look, about an hour after I arrived. He and another nurse looked at the lump in my groin, he hedged a bit, finally settled on asking someone from the dept. where the procedure had been done to come down and look at it, reason being they made prefer certain tests be done, rather than him ordering things that served no real purpose.

He left the room and two more phlebotomists came in with the nurse who informed me they were starting an IV because the Doctor ordered a CT scan with contrast dye and blood work. I told her no. He just left and told me he wasn’t going to do a bunch of tests that might not need done, seeing as how he didn’t know if there were specific tests that might be better at diagnosing what was happening in my groin, if anything. I asked them how they were going to start an IV when they couldn’t take any blood? They stuck me again and again to no avail. I asked why they weren’t doing the ultrasound the first nurse said was likely and the nurse agreed it made more sense.

The ultrasound tech came in and looked at everything, did an extensive scan and when I asked her if it could tell if I was bleeding into my groin she said no, the only thing it could tell them was if there was an aneurysm on the artery (a balloon off the artery with blood was circulating through it), after the test she assured me she saw nor heard anything out of the ordinary, to her everything looked fine.

The phlebotomists returned and told me if they couldn’t find a vein, there were two tests the doctor wanted, a blood count and another. They could “milk” my finger into a small tube and hopefully get enough blood to test. They spent about 20 minutes doing this and left.

I had to call and cancel my doctor appointment. Rescheduled for the next day.

After 5 hours the doctor finally came back in, and told me he was discharging me, that the blood work looked good, the ultrasound looked clear, that the lump was likely going to change shape and size as I moved around, pushing the coagulated blood around in the tissue. I told him I’d deduced that it wasn’t life threatening by the fact none of them exhibited any sense of urgency, that no one from the other dept. ever came to look at it, that none of them ever came back to have a second look to see if there was any change since I arrived at the ER. Had I been bleeding into my groin I’d have likely died.

As soon as he left a nurse came in saying “I’m here to redraw blood because one of your samples couldn’t be tested.” I said, no you’re not.” My husband told her no, the doctor was just here and told her he’s discharging her. A phlebotomist came in behind her saying the same thing that she was there to redraw.

After waiting another hour to get discharge paperwork, threatening to walk out, they finally discharged me. 6 hours in the ER and no one ever came to take a second look at the hematoma. As we left there were people lying on gurneys in the halls along the walls.

No one in the ER that day had any idea what anyone else was doing, it was complete chaos.

I saw my doctor who was apologetic, she took me off the medication I’d over taken. My blood pressure was good; my heart was healthy and in great shape. She wanted me to continue taking it easy, to start walking again, but short distances. She told me to keep the appointment with pain management. She didn’t put me back on any blood thinner (only a baby aspirin) as the blood thinner the cardiologist has put me on had made me terribly sick and they’d stopped it.

I went to pain management on the 10th and had the first set of nerve block injections. I showed them the insurance paperwork I’d received saying both levels of injections, 1 and 2 had to be completely between Dec. 12 and Jan. 11. The second level was scheduled for Jan. 15 because the doctor was booked. They’d said they had to be done within a week of each other.

After the first set the pain came roaring back worse than it had been before the injections. They’d told me they would contact the insurance company and get the approval sorted out. They hadn’t told me what to expect when the medication wore off, but they did tell me the blocks had nothing to do with pain in my leg, only my back, completely contradictory of the Orthopedic doctor’s description of how it would work.

On the 15th I went for the second set of injections, my husband took time off work to take me. I asked when we got there if they had the insurance approval figured out and was told they did. I was taken back, prepped and then quite a bit of time passed. The doctor and a nurse came in and asked me if I changed insurance. I told them no, but last week there had been a problem with the timeline on the approval that they told me they fixed. They informed me it hadn’t been fixed and they couldn’t do the injections.

They scheduled for this week. I asked how they could do that if they had to be done within a week of each other, they said they didn’t have to be done that way. Nice, more misinformation.

I saw my doctor again, I’d lost a total of 4 lbs. BP was 122/80, everything looked good. We talked about the pain level being so bad I wasn’t sleeping, could hardly get out of bed. She prescribed the medication we’d stopped in gel form to apply directly to the sites of the pain. She told me she’d coordinate between pain management and the ortho to make sure everyone was on the same page.

My doctor asked me to hang in there until after the second set of nerve blocks to see if they are going to help, before wanting to look at different options. She’s hoping the gel medication will help with pain management.

Again, I hate to think about what else could happen. It doesn’t inspire confidence in these different doctors that they can’t seem to get their act together, can’t coordinate care, or even follow through on procedures for the same reasons.

I’m Afraid to Ask What Else Could Happen

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On Monday, December 23, 2019, while out walking our dog with my husband I started to sweat so badly it felt like water was pouring off my head. I was about a block and a half away from home when I started to get some pressure on my chest. A half block from home I started to experience terrible pain in my neck and my whole jaw (from ear to ear).

I got to our backyard and sat down on the swing. I took a few deep breaths and explained to my husband what I was feeling. I told him I thought I was having a heart attack. He was trained in first aid at work and assured me I was probably having severe acid reflux, as he’d experienced that once himself. We came inside and he gave me an omeprezole tablet and within 20 min. I was feeling much better.

The next morning I called my doctor’s office, just to be on the safe side, as I’d taken too much of one of my pain medications the previous week. For four days I’d taken twice the dosage of Diclofenac by mistake, thinking I’d put one of my other medicines that looks similar in my pill box, I’d actually put two of that medication in instead and taken it for four days before catching the mistake. I had terrible dizziness, headache, nausea all week.

My doctor wasn’t in, since it was Christmas Eve day, but they asked me about my symptoms and told me neck and jaw pain are common signs of heart attack, I should go to the ER and get testing to see if I’d had a heart attack or not, so that’s what we did.

The blood tests showed increased heart enzymes that indicate damage to the heart. My EKG looked good, oxygenation was good, blood pressure was a little elevated. They did an ECG and the cardiologist discovered I have a bicuspid heart valve (two of the flaps of the valve are fused together and probably have been since I was born) which caused a slight murmur and leak. He said it wasn’t anything to worry about, but he felt sure I had a heart attack.

They wanted to do an arterial catheterization right away. They prepped me for the procedure and went into my wrist, only able to access one side of my heart. They then went in through my groin to access the other side of the heart. They only found a tiny bit of calcium, no plaque or blockage of any kind. They put a “plug” in the femoral artery and sent me to a room.

I had to lie on my back, flat, for 3 hours after so I wouldn’t hemorrhage. Because of my spinal and nerve issues my back hurt so bad the nurse tried to prop up one hip to alleviate the pain and the “plug” came out causing a bleed out into my groin. A lump the size of a baseball formed in my groin, filled with blood.

Nurses (male and female) took turns applying pressure which caused so much pain I crashed. I had no blood pressure, they had to apply pressure for nearly 30 min. and moved me into the ICU.

I spent the night in the ICU getting fluids, to flush the dye out of my kidneys, being watched closely, vitals being monitored every 15 minutes. They watched for bleeding in my groin, monitored urine output, pain level, etc.

By the afternoon on Christmas day I was able to come home. The doctor that did the catheterization told me that she thought the contributing factors to having the heart attack were the extra doses of the pain medication and stress. She assured me my heart looked good and while there was a chance I could have another heart attack, I should be fine.

I have to follow up with my Doctor on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, but I had to call the hospital and discharging physician Saturday because the blood thinner they put me on caused terrible neck and head aches, dizziness within 20 minutes of taking it. They took me off of it until I see my doctor.

I don’t know if I’m still going to have the back injections or not, won’t know until I see my doctor on Thursday.

Needless to say I’m struggling with how hard I’ve tried to get healthy, how the effort has caused deterioration on my joints and increased nerve damage and now I’ve had a heart attack. I’m really questioning whether my efforts have been worth it, or whether they only made things worse.

 

When the Health Profession Hurts

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Back in 1994 I was diagnosed with Degenerative Joint and Disk diseases. At 30 years of age I was plagued by diseases that usually strike people of a more advanced age. I had serious nerve pain and my joints made grinding sounds, popping and cracking as I lost the cushioning material in my joints and I experienced more and more bone on bone deterioration.

In 2005 an MRI identified a number of issues in my lumbar spine, as I’ve outlined in previous blogs, 2 bulging disks at L3 and L4, 1 disk at L5 that was completely gone, a synovial cyst at L3 and L4 in my spinal canal, lumber spinal stenosis and lumber spinal spondylosis. I understood that these diagnoses had also caused nerve root damage of my sciatic nerve.

I used a power wheel chair from 2006 until 2015 when it broke down and I could not get it repaired. At that same time I had begun to see a new doctor who gave me a diabetic diet to follow and wanted to work on weight loss. The new doctor insisted that I had to get up and walk, I had to push through the pain, otherwise I was going to have a stroke or heart attack within the year, as I’d gained an enormous amount of weight. I weighed 472 lbs. I had weight related asthma, edema, high blood pressure, etc.

I did as she instructed, I started pushing my manual wheel chair around the neighborhood, using it for support, but also to sit when I was out of breath, the pain was too much to withstand. Over time I progressed to using a rollator ( a walker with 4 wheels and a seat ) and eventually, I walked unassisted.

The pain hadn’t waned during that time. I kept communicating to my doctor that I was struggling with the pain, that the pain medication she’d given me wasn’t helping. She dismissed the pain, saying everyone has a little degenerative joint disease as they age. The pain will diminish as I lost more and more weight because the stress on my joints would lessen. I Just had to push through.

My doctor was willing to try injections in my knees to address some of the pain I was experiencing, but after a number of injections over a year’s time, they weren’t helping so she stopped offering them. I asked, as I had been consistently, for a stronger pain medication to address how uncomfortable I was becoming. She refused.

The last appointment I had with her she finally acknowledged how much pain I was in. I’d been limping for quite some time as the pain in my left knee, down my calf, into my ankle and the top of my foot had become so bad I’d tried arthritis ointments, braces, etc. to no avail.

We talked about my previous diagnoses and for the first time in 4 years of treatment with her she acknowledged to me that she didn’t have a record of my 2005 MRI or the report issued with it, nor did she have the report from my visit with the neurosurgeon at the time. So, all this time, had she just not believed me when I explained to her what had been found? Was she dismissing my pain and what I was telling her because she didn’t believe me? Did she think, as many physicians do, that if you’re obese it’s because you’re lazy and unwilling to exercise, rather than having a justifying reason for lack of mobility? Did she think I was making up diagnoses to make excuses for not getting up and moving more?

She decided to prescribe a stronger pain medication and to have my knee and hips x-rayed again and ordered an MRI of my lumbar spine, as she wanted me to go to Physical Therapy and then to an Orthopedic doctor because she wanted him to make a determination about knee injections, or possible back injections. She thought my “fibular head” was deteriorated causing pain in my knee and that it was likely my sciatic nerve causing the pain down my leg and into my foot.

Last Friday I had the MRI, this past Tuesday I saw the Orthopedic doctor. He did additional x-rays of my lumbar spine, saying an MRI wouldn’t have shown him what these particular x-rays did. He showed me the pictures and used his pen to highlight what he was describing. Yes, my L5 disk is gone, all of my lumbar disks are deteriorating and considerably narrowed. My vertebrae have developed bone spurs that have effectively “self-fused” my vertebrae and, as I’d been told in 2005, I had been weight bearing on the small facets on the back of each vertebrae, rather than the large blocks of my spine and over time, from excessive exercise (excessive for my condition), the facets had been completely ground off. They are gone.

He referred me to Pain Management (imagine that?) and a doctor who is going to administer nerve block injections the beginning of December. Why, in all this time, since 1994 had I never been referred to pain management? Why had I not ever been taken seriously regarding the pain I’ve been living with?

When I met with my family physician, when she finally acknowledged my pain level, I explained to her again that the neurosurgeon had told me in 2005 not to participate in any percussive activity. She looked at me and said, “and you’ve been walking.”

Basically, without corroborating test results to back up what I’d been telling her, she had told me to push through the pain, that the pain would diminish with the weight loss, had actually instructed me to do exactly what I’d been warned against doing, had instructed me to do activity that actually significantly progressed the damage to my spine, creating more pain.

Now, my spine and disks are irrevocably deteriorated, sustained damage that will impact me for the remainder of my life. I now have to limit the amount I’m walking, stop doing things like raking, shoveling, lifting, etc. I am using a heating pad multiple times a day currently to get some relief. The stronger pain medication she finally gave me is causing debilitating side effects… light headedness, nausea, a feeling of motion sickness.

I wonder if I’d have been a thin person reporting the same symptoms if I’d have been taken more seriously? The disabling conditions had caused the weight gain, not the other way around. The only person who’d ever been fully supportive of me had been a chiropractor who’d told me in 2005 that he’d seen young people with the same diagnoses as I’d been given, that they were not overweight, they had early on-set degenerative disease.

Why do doctors prescribe treatment if they suspect or know they don’t have all the information? I’d told my doctor repeatedly that I’d had an MRI in 2005 following a car accident that had identified all these additional diagnoses. Why didn’t she ever ask me where the MRI had been done, if I could get or had a copy of the report or a CD with the images on?

The idea that losing weight will make everything better, will make the pain decrease was simply not true. Perhaps for some people that is the case, but as a friend of mine recently said, I think the value of exercise is dependent on the conditions the person has and the condition their body is in at the time. It can do more harm than good.

While I’ve managed to lose 200 lbs in 4 years and have only gained back 14 lbs of that weight in all that time is a positive thing, of course, but my doctor hasn’t been able to convince my insurance company to remove the excess skin that causes me to be, for all intents and purposes, “disfigured,” and now to find out that all the walking I’ve been doing has actually caused even more damage to my spine… makes me question whether it was all worth it? Was the trade off worth all the pain, struggle, the negative self-image I struggle with?

I honestly can’t say how I feel about this new information. I’m still trying to fully digest it all and determine how I can adapt to it, that’s really one reason why I decided to write this blog, to see if I could better wrap my head around what I’ve been told.

I think we need to seriously re-evaluate the way the medical profession approaches the treatment of people who are obese. That’s my first and thus far only take away from this… pretty basic, I know.

That’s NOT the Way Life Works

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Over the course of the last couple years I’ve gotten to know a young woman who is the daughter of a long time friend of ours. About a year ago she moved out with her boyfriend, the father of her kids, now her husband, for the first time away from her family,  “on her own.”

Almost immediately upon moving out she started complaining that she was struggling, she had a toddler, was trying to organize her apartment, didn’t have transportation and had to take her toddler everywhere with her because she couldn’t get anyone to babysit. She complained about her siblings excluding her from things, her family ignoring her pleas for help, not coming to visit her, etc.

My husband and I tried to help her out the best we could, gave her a lot of household items, stopped to visit and see her new apartment. I offered to listen, when she needed to vent, tried to be encouraging and to share my life experiences with her, so she understood what she was experiencing was not unique and it was possible to overcome these struggles.

During this time a pattern has presented itself and the nature of her complaints demonstrate a lot of immaturity, a lack of preparedness for what it means to live independently of one’s parents, to take personal responsibility for one’s life.

I see others sharing similar experiences with young people in their lives. A friend of mine has shared with me that her 33 year old son will not talk to the landlord, won’t make calls to make payments, etc. He expects her to do those types of things. He’s not able to be responsible for generic things that need to be taken care of as an adult.

I know a lot of young people who have no idea about budgeting, about prioritizing, about fiscal responsibility. They make bills, debts, and think that the people and companies they owe money to should understand their situation and make exceptions for them, that others should care about their kids, their family issues, rather than payment of their debts.

There are a lot of people who were not, are not prepared to live independently, responsibly as adults.

I don’t generalize all younger people, not a whole generation, because there are very responsible young people who are more mature than some older folks I know, but there definitely are some young folks who do not have the skill set, the maturity to live on their own.

I suspect they’ve been coddled and spoiled by parents who decided it was easier to just do things themselves rather than teach their kids to do them.

This idea that everyone should be understanding of your issues is not how life works. People, businesses, landlords, etc., don’t have a responsibility to accept your excuses, to make you a priority over their needs, your kids are not the concern of people around you. When you move out on your own, you are responsible for your debts, your kids, maintaining employment, transportation, etc., no one else is obligated to take care of those things for you, or to drop everything and come to your aid whenever you stumble.

Dog Training Continued

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Recently I shared a blog about dog training, Dog Training What Methods Are Best? Since writing that blog our pup was spayed and we missed the last class of basic obedience training.

One of the trainers called me to say I was signed up for the advanced class. This class costs $150. I hadn’t signed up for anything and had expressed that we’d need to go back through the basic class again, as our dog really wasn’t able to successfully participate in the last 2 or 3 classes we’d attended. Each time we’d taken her to the church basement where classes were held she’d escalated, jumping on us, biting us, vocalizing loudly. The trainers had taken her from us to work with her, she bit them and acted out.

I suggested that we knew we didn’t pass basic class, but the trainer said we had passed, she had our certificate. I asked her how that was possible. She didn’t really have an answer other than everyone pretty much passes. (She’d previously told us one of her dogs had to go through twice to pass.)

The fact that our dog couldn’t participate with us because she was so overstimulated and acting out, but had passed the class really damaged their credibility for me. There had been other things that had damaged the credibility of individual trainers, as I outlined in the above mentioned blog, ex: trainers telling us our dogs should NEVER be allowed on our beds with us, but a trainer sharing pics with me of her dogs on her bed with her.

During class one evening, when they were explaining “structured walks” to us, I had a discussion with one of the trainers, asking if the organization didn’t support canine enrichment at all. She told me there was no need to allow a dog to put their nose on the ground and sniff while walking, that they could sniff scents without doing that, that they shouldn’t be allowed to stop and evacuate their bladder or bowels whenever they wanted, that the walker should build into their walks times and locations for potty breaks. I told her that goes against everything I’ve ever been taught about walking a dog. She told me it’s all about being in charge, dominating the dog by controlling literally everything they do and can have.

Just recently that same trainer posted on her facebook page an article, Allowing Dogs to Sniff Helps Them Think Positively and even posted a personal message saying “I know I have had the most success with Abby once I stopped caring about a perfect heel and focused on letting her do what she loves- sniffing. It allowed her to make actual dog friends and be less reactive to others.”

These trainers were aggressive about what a perfect heel should look like, would take our dog from us and tell us we were doing it wrong, jerk her around by her neck to make her heel. One of them went so far as to jerk on her collar (they referred to it as “giving the leash a pop”) so hard it straightened out the key ring we used to secure our pup’s tags to her collar and threw the tags all over the floor.

Needless to say we will not be going back, we do not care to have the certificate. I decided to see if my Kodi’s Halti would fit our girl and it does. I started working with her, with a leash on the Halti, one on her prong collar, introducing her to the Halti slowly, communicating with her through the prong until she was accustomed to the Halti. After 3 days of slowly loosening up on the one leash and transferring communication to the Halti leash, she’s been walking on the Halti exclusively. I put the prong collar away. She’d begun to pull on the prong, stand up on her hind feet again, had seemingly become desensitized to it. I hated that thing and didn’t like the idea of having to cause discomfort to get her to comply. I was still struggling to get her to not pull and walk with a loose leash, but since using the Halti… she is walking on loose leash about 85% of the time, only keeping the leash taut when she sees squirrels, sometimes other dogs or people.

Dominance based training has been debunked for some time, positive reinforcement training is what is supported by canine behaviorists. I don’t want my dog to fear me, to comply only because I inflict some sort of discomfort, I want her to want to comply because it’s pleasant for us to be together, because she wants to please.

Women Need To Talk About This More

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For years I joked that I’d throw a party when Menopause arrived. I was so ready for my monthly cycle to be over. I’d been diagnosed, when I was 33, as infertile after 9 months of continually menstruating. I begged the Gynecologist to do a hysterectomy, but he refused, as he explained my organs were healthy, my body didn’t make progesterone.

Since my mother and Aunt had both had hysterectomies in their 30’s, I had no idea what to expect, as far as when the onset of menopause would be. I asked my doctor and she explained that menopause begins later in life. There was a time when women could expect it in their late 40’s, but today, child bearing years begin earlier and last longer, in some cases well into a woman’s 50’s.

I was told in my late 30’s that I’d entered perimenopause, a condition that occurs prior to the onset of menopause, when women begin to experience a drop in estrogen production causing erratic periods, night sweats, hot flashes, etc. My doctor told me this condition can last for as many as 15 years.

Erratic was an understatement… my life became crazy, no such thing as a regular cycle, no way to plan ahead or know what to expect. Hot flashes came on any time of the day, night sweats were a regular occurrence.

At around the age of 52 I started to notice that I was having more memory problems than I had been having, even with a diagnosis of short-term memory loss. I also noticed that my emotions were all over the place, breaking into tears for absolutely no reason, my feelings hurt by the least little thing.

At about 53 I thought several times that I’d reached the promised land, months went by without a “visitor” only to have it return with a vengeance. Talking with my doctor, she informed me that she couldn’t consider me to have reached menopause until I’d not had a cycle for 12 consecutive months. At 54, April seemed to bring an end to things. In December of that year there was spotting, then nothing. Now at 55 I’m in my 9th of those 12 months, hoping that this is it.

Something new has begun, something I had no foreknowledge of. I’m angry, all of the time and I don’t have any idea why. Everything gets under my skin. I catch myself snapping at people, feeling mad for no real reason. I spoke to some other women over 50 who shared that yes, this is normal, it can last a short time, or years, according to their experiences.

I don’t understand why women don’t talk to one another about this time of life. Women compare birth experiences, raising kids, talk about their marriages, friendships, but you just don’t hear women talking about the ‘change of life.’

There are lots of jokes about “the change,” but no serious discussion about what to expect. I had no idea that anger was something a lot of women deal with. I’d heard all the cliche symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, forgetfulness and mood swings, but nothing particularly specific about any of that.

I hardly sleep because I’m either outside the covers freezing or under the covers sweat soaking my night clothes. It seems as if every 15 min. or so I’m flipping the covers off, or pulling them back on. I’m sweating so much that I’m sometimes changing my clothes multiple times a day to prevent chaffing from having wet clothing on.

I’m so forgetful that I get up to do something and halfway to my destination I’ve forgotten what I was doing. I forget what I’ve said, not sure if I actually said it or was just thinking about saying it. I’m repeating myself a lot because I don’t remember saying something.

The mood swings are horrible, because I can be laughing and having fun and someone will look at me a certain way, say something with an attitude or tone and suddenly I’m in tears, completely unable to control it. I feel like I’m stuck in a routine where I’m busting my butt to accomplish things, but never see the result, or at least don’t see it for long, before things are destroyed again. Stuck in a rut, droning along, almost on autopilot.

I find myself feeling unappreciated, taken for granted. I’m emotionally miserable. I really wish, knowing I have diagnoses of anxiety, depression and PTSD, my doctor would have prepared me better for what to expect, perhaps made an effort to get out in front of some of these symptoms and head them off.

Please talk to your women friends, don’t be shy about sharing or asking questions, after all we all go through this time of life. We should support one another.

Seasonal Nostalgia

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During most of the year, I’m so busy just living, trying to get through each day, overcome pain and struggles I don’t think too much about much of anything. Time seems to move faster each year, I feel as though I blink my eyes and each day is gone, without much accomplished. I don’t pay much attention to time of day, dates, months as they pass by, until Autumn rolls around.

Autumn is filled with so many sights, sounds, smells, that remind me of good times, some of the only good memories I have of childhood, of a time when life was so much easier, simpler, when responsibilities were fewer, worries much less and happiness could be found on an evening walk, on a cool breeze, in the warm glow of a lighted window, the smell of leaves burning being carried on the crisp air.

Every year at about this time, as temperatures begin to cool, humidity drops, days get shorter, my mind starts to wander back to those days. There isn’t much familiar from those days about this time of year anymore.

We spent hours outside, raking leaves, playing in the piles. We rode our bicycles and played with our friends until the street lights came on and we had to go in. We went for walks in our windbreakers, crunching our feet through fallen leaves, enjoying the aroma of burning leaves in the air, as nearly every block had at least one family burning leaves on the street. Pumpkins adorned nearly every porch, some with crooked smiles carved in them, lights flickering behind their eyes, the smell of jack-o-lantern lids burning. Porches were adorned with scarecrows, windows featured silhouettes of flying witches, black cats, and bats.

The other day on my morning walk I noticed someone had 2 pumpkins on their front porch. That really stirred good feelings, for me. Pumpkin spice foods are in the stores already, as well as scented pine cones and decor.

The last two days, temps have been in the low to mid 70’s, with below 50% humidity, so the air conditioning has been off, windows open, fans running. Love how cool and fresh everything is, even the house right now.

So, my mind has begun seeking out good memories, reminders of a time long ago before life got serious, the weight of responsibility became so heavy. The holidays are approaching. I find myself seeking out symbols of the season past, trying to make memories of the current season.

 

“All You Do Is Complain…”

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I just had a Facebook friend comment on a post I’d made about my four year anniversary of having started my weight loss journey that all I do is complain about everything, my aches and pains, the weather, etc., then this person announced to my friends who read the comments that she was unfriending me because she keeps her grief private. ???

My online ‘presence’ has allowed me to surround myself with a lot of like-minded people, others who have had abusive childhoods, who have PTSD, who have children with special needs, who have disabling conditions, chronic pain, who have similar interests such as photography, crafting, pets, huskies, similar political views, etc. Facebook is my social outlet, as I don’t get out much, don’t get to socialize with other adults. It gives me a place where I can share my thoughts, feelings and interests, find and offer encouragement, have fun and connect with old friends, family, etc.

People get really bent out of shape when you get real, though they complain often that people are too fake, that too many people on Facebook post fairy tale lives that everyone knows aren’t real, to make themselves look good. It’s a no win situation.

I try not to burden my family with how I’m feeling, so I express myself on social media, which allows me to purge those feelings, to acknowledge them, give voice to them, and hopefully feel better for having done so. I’m not someone who tries to deny how I feel and what’s happening with me, I believe you have to be honest, not only with others but with yourself.

As for the accusation that I complain about my ‘aches and pains’ and the weather, YES I DO. I live with chronic severe pain in my joints causes by bone and joint diseases and yes, the weather has a direct affect on those conditions. These things dramatically impact every aspect of daily living for me, they dictate what I can and cannot do on any given day. Yes, I’m going to share about things that influence who I am, how much I can participate, plan, etc., and if others don’t like it, that speaks volumes about their lack of empathy and their idea of friendship.

So yeah… if you’re my friend, in ‘real life’ or online you’re going to get the real me, all of me, not just the sunshine and lollipops, but the dark and sour too. If you can’t handle who I am, then I wish you well, unfriend me and be on your way, don’t expect me to change who I am to accommodate your fragile feelings and sensibilities.

Let It Be or Seek Closure

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Lately I’ve found myself thinking we (my husband and I) need to tie up loose ends with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law.

I’ve spent a good portion of the 35 years my husband and I have been married seeking acceptance from his mother. In the last 10 years or so, almost all the contact we’ve had with her has been because I suggested my husband maintain contact, help her financially, etc. If left to him, he would have never called, not seen her, not taken her out for mother’s day or her birthday, not shopped for her or given her any money to help her. I’ve been pushing him to maintain contact as the ‘right thing to do.’

After Christmas morning when I reminded him to call her and wish her Merry Christmas, and she started on him about his sister, ending with her suggesting we’ve hurt his sister and him telling her goodbye and hanging up, he’s professed that he’s finished with her, with his sister, with all of them. He’s tired of feeling like he’s forcing a relationship, tired of feeling like he’s got to win her approval, her affection and that his sister is constantly sabotaging his efforts with his mother.

He’s said recently that it feels like his mother has always taken his sister’s side in any disagreement, always listened to her version of events and shut him out, telling him she doesn’t want in the middle, therefore won’t even hear his side of the story, getting only one version and trying to force him into reconciling with his sister, regardless of the pain and drama she’s inflicted on us.

He’s told me he has no intention of helping her financially this December when he gets his bonus. He feels she doesn’t appreciate it when he does help her, as all she can do is speak for his sister, push him to accept more and more abuse from her, keep suggesting he should sacrifice his self-respect so that his sister will have what she wants.

I was thinking it might be wise for us to do something his sister suggested years ago… we should meet (she’d suggested she, he and I should meet with their mother as the mediator, but we knew they’d coordinate and refused to do so). His sister, mother, he and I should meet, at our house, to talk. The purpose would be to put a period on this relationship. To, once and for all, let them know there will be no reconciliation, there will be no further relationship whatsoever.

We should finally let his mother know on no uncertain terms that we will not be manipulated any longer, we will not allow his sister back in our lives to stir up more stress, anxiety and drama, and if his mother wants a relationship with us she must respect our wishes and not speak for his sister any further. If she wants to take the position that she doesn’t want in the middle then that means no longer intervening on behalf of his sister. If she doesn’t want to hear his side of the situation then she needs to remove herself from the conflict, rather than only listening to one side and pressuring him.

We need to let his sister know there is no possibility of reconciling, EVER. Let her know she is not welcome in our lives, will not be included in anything we’re doing, she will not get family portraits, not be told about events in our life, etc. Our business is not hers and she must stop trying to gain information through their mother.

In the car the other day he told me he believes his sister has purposely tried to sabotage our relationship with their mother, my relationship with her daughters (our nieces), with their mother and even my relationship with him. He said he believes she’s tried to and succeeded in creating division within the family out of jealousy, that she’s threatened by me in some way.

An Aunt of my husband’s told us several times that she and his Uncle were treated like black sheep of the family and they believed it was because they were the only couple in the family not married multiple times, that they didn’t drink to excess, until my husband and my marriage.

Whether that is actually true or not remains to be seen, but it certainly seems possible.

My husband says he’s not sure whether having a sit down with them would make any real difference and may very well be opening a can of worms that will just bring about more anxiety and stress. He’s not confident either of them would even be willing to meet since it would challenge their preferred version of the situation.

I really don’t know what to do, so I guess we’ll keep talking it over, considering what options we have, how to handle the relationship (if at all) moving forward.