PTSD

So, here’s the thing.  I’ve got a lot of crazy swirling around in my brain right now.  And, what makes it an even crazier brand of crazy that just your normal, run-of-the-mill crazy is that I don’t even know if this crazy is justified.  I vacillate between thinking I’m one small step away from totally losing it, and getting terribly, horribly angry that my totally justified fears and concerns aren’t being heard.

Ok, to back up.  Yesterday was my regular 6-month follow-up with my thyroid doc.  Let’s call him Dr. Useless.  (I much prefer his PA, Mr. Has-a-Heart, but neither one holds a candle to my old practice back in the days I lived in civilization.)

Though I was discouraged to be seeing Dr. Useless, I was anxiously awaiting the appointment.  See, things have been weird with me lately.  Where to begin?

  • I lightly bumped my knee on a chair during the last week of July.  The next morning I had a bruise the size of a refrigerator.  The bruise got bigger and badder and more painful for weeks.  It was throbby and purple well into August and now, the last few days of September, it’s shadowy remains are still visible.  This caused me to notice that I was bruising A LOT and healing at a glacial pace.  That time N clung to my arm at daycare dropoff?  Yea, did more than hurt my soul – I’m still carrying around a baby thumbprint bruise on my upper arm 3 weeks later.
  • Now, my office at the job-from-hell is inhumanely cold.  (Like averages 60 on a good day cold.)  But, even still, fingers shouldn’t go blue this easily.  Especially not when accompanied with pins and needles and numbness.  And not when it happens in a comfortable living room nearly as often.
  • My head pounds.  A lot.  Have I got stress?  You betcha.  But enough to make my ears ring and vision go wonky?  I don’t think so.  At least, I don’t get why it’d be that bad now.  I mean, dad’s dead, estate taxes filed, things are actually, gulp, calming?  Har har.
  • Oh, and my weight.  I’m 40lbs heavier than when I started my successful IVF cycle and a good 10lbs heavier than the day my water broke.  Yes, that’s super duper discouraging.  But, then again, I’m still not at my all-time heaviest pre-thyroid diagnosis.  These things come and go, no?

I enter the appointment armed with my list, in exactly the above order.  Well, if you were on Twitter yesterday you probably saw the fallout.  I’ll provide the Cliff’s notes version:

Apparently I'm a fat ass

Yes, I’m bruising, I’m turning blue and tingly, and have regular severe headaches.  Add this to already diagnosed Hashimoto’s, PCOS, antiphospholipid antibodies, and endometriosis.  And a diagnosis history that saw my Hashi’s get off the charts severe before it ever was detected.  My instinct was that yes, of course, we’d discuss my weight.  I mean, I have a mirror and an awareness that I’ve gone back to the potato sack section of my closet.  But, call me silly for thinking that we’d discuss weight in the larger context of a whole host of other unresolved questions.

Nope.  Do you want to see what my visit summary says.  (Reminder: This was a prescheduled, regular 6-month followup for a diagnosed and historically difficult to control case of Hashi’s.):

follow-up summary

Uhhh, alright then.

So, as I sat listening to the “small risk” of suicidal ideation or severe depression or risk of seizures (“Oh, you don’t have a history of seizures, do you?  No?  Great!”) that accompanied the weight loss pills Dr. Useless wanted to prescribe me, I got angry.

On the drive home, that anger turned into deep, deep sadness.  Today, I’m verging on profound hysteria?  Paranoia?  Reasonable dismay?

My mom died of gall bladder cancer at 48.  She lived for years with pain and was told to lose weight, find a hobby, and see a counselor.  She was diagnosed on my 18th birthday.  She died a few months after my 19th.

My aunt was visiting her sister, my mother, in the oncology ward.  A nurse noticed a nasty burn that really refused to heal.  She recommended she see her PCP for some testing.  A few months before she buried her only sister, my aunt was diagnosed with leukemia.  She was 50.  After years of experimental treatments – some of which made her so miserable she begged for death – she’s in remission.  For now.

My grandfather died at 62.  Heart attack.  My mom found him dead in his chair.  He’d been there all night with my grandmother, his wife, calling down for him from the bedroom.

My grandmother was in that bedroom after suffering a debilitating stroke at 61.  She lived into her 70s, but spent my entire life in a nursing home.

My dad lived longer than I can ever hope to.  He made it to 73.  We blamed his confusion on his alcoholism.  But still, he went from a little confused to softball sized brain tumor to dead in about 9 months.

Family medical history isn’t a promise.  I know that.  I truly do.  But, it does matter.  And, that history above was a small part of what drove me to find answers in my 20s to my own medical complaints.  Overcoming infertility was priority number 1, but living a better, longer, healthier life – whether with or without children – was also always in the mix.  So, I made finding answers, getting the good doctors, and securing the most effective treatments a full-time occupation.  I researched, I wrote, I questioned, I pushed, I educated myself which turned into educating others, I embraced being “that patient.”

It was utterly exhausting.  And, to be totally truthful, I never really achieved a feeling of true health and well-being until I was pregnant.  Pregnancy was awesome.  Aside from my body doing that totally average task of growing another human, it also just. plain. worked.  Like, for the first time.  Ever.  I joked with my maternal fetal medicine doctors and nurses that I would happily go through labor every 9 months for the rest of my life if it meant I could feel like I felt then.  And, now on the other side of an unmedicated, natural laboring experience, I would still say the exact same thing.

So, now I feel like I’m circling back down the drain again, but it’s even worse this time.  See, now I have the the knowledge that even an immense amount of time and effort (and, let’s be honest, time and effort I don’t really have with an adorable and mischievous 15 month old in my life) still probably won’t result in me feeling as good as I’d hope to feel.  It’s hard not to feel like well-being is always going to be elusive.

And, that fatalism mixes with the knowledge of my family’s mortality and leaves me fearful.

I don’t want to die.

Melodramatic much?  But, yea, welcome to my current headspace.

I know what I should do.  I mean, I just need to heed my own words.  Find the right doctors.  Do my own homework.  Be relentless.  But I’m just so very, very tired.  And I can’t believe I’m back here.  You know that feeling you get when your computer crashes and you lose all your work after pulling an all-nighter right before a deadline?  Yea, that.  Except I’m the computer, the operator, and the deadline all wrapped up in one.

Loving your work or working near loved ones?

What matters more?  Loving your work or working near loved ones?  I fall asleep thinking about this, I wake up thinking about this.  It’s on my mind in the shower, in the car, and in endless meetings.

I hate my job.  Original, right?  Certain policies of my employer reek of ickiness, I have little to no respect for my immediate bosses, and, most problematically, I’m not doing the job I was promised I’d be doing.  But, I get paid very well to under-deliver on my education and experience.  It was a bait and switch that landed me in a pair of golden handcuffs.  Amidst a group of stellar individuals who feel much the same.

I’m seeing concerning things from my profession.  Yes, a growing few are touching upon the issues of privilege that pervade our paths to professional posts; a vocal cohort are calling for reenvisioned roles for ourselves and the work we do; and I’m proud of those individuals and organizations that consistently reinforce the worthiness of what I thought would be my life’s calling.  Yet, I still work in academia in the time of “quit lit”.  And, just because every argument, every comment, every new piece in the genre is predictable, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t ring true.  I now leave professional meetings more cynical than hopeful.  Perhaps, in part, because my iPad has learned to autocorrect words and phrases like “buy-in,” and “advocacy,” and “deliverables,” and “lean times,” and “do more with less.”

But, I still truly, deeply love what I do.  It’s just that I don’t often get to do it.  And I had to move my family to the middle of nowhere to not do what I do.

So, given the birth and death and post-death fallout of the last year I thought I’d try and see whether I could do what I love near the remaining family I’ve got left.  We inherited a house, Obamacare’s got my back, the husband’s employable, the cost of living is low-ish there, no more need for over-priced, full-time daycare… it wouldn’t have to be a good job.  Just a job.  To reconnect me to the work I love.  To reinvigorate me.

::crickets::

I know I shouldn’t be discouraged, and really I’m only a little bit discouraged.  I’m mostly feeling confused and trapped.  We’re not talking hundreds of rejections here – there’s only been six open positions in my field (or closely allied field) in that city since February.  I’ve applied to all, gotten personalized rejection emails/letters from two (which was quite nice in this day and age of unanswered applications), and heard nothing from the rest (expected).  Part of me feels good about the fact that I’m not getting interviews for the mostly entry-level posts that I’m clearly overqualified for, but then the other part of me feels despondent that there aren’t really any mid-level posts for me to apply to.  Which then circles me back to my worries about the profession.  Which then opens the flood gates of doubt and confusion.

The way I see it now, I’ve got two options.  1. Suck it up and stay here, or 2. get any job and move (or move and get any job).  Option 2 sounds better, if I’m totally honest, but I don’t even know how to begin to do it.  I’ve got two graduate degrees – one so academic it makes me qualified for nothing, the other so practical it makes me qualified for only one type of job, the type I can’t seem to get.  Then I get a resurgence of warm and fuzzies about my work and the people I help and the skill set I’ve established and the professional contacts I’ve made and the pride I have for my professional life.  And I don’t pull the trigger.  I make more excuses.

This post has no ending.  It has no real purpose.  I can’t undo what has been done, I can’t make happen those things out of my control.  So, I wait.  And get angry that my life is spent waiting.  That my marriage is weighed down by the waiting.  That my every day is consumed by waiting.  That this waiting is so eerily familiar to an IF survivor.

I’m many things

Should I admit how long it took me to remember how to even log in here?  Well, a while.  But,

1. I’m still here

Still chugging along.  Baby ButIF is now Waddler ButIF (daycare’s terminology, not mine).  He’s, just, so absolutely everything.  And into everything.  And falling on everything.  And eating everything.  Which means that…

2. I’m struggling with the rest

The blog, obviously, but also all other aspects of life.  I know saying it again and again doesn’t resolve it, but birth and death converging in the same 8 month time creates a wake so large I’m not sure when the ripples will cease.  Sometimes it feels like they never will.  And, of course, what gives first is caring for myself.  Not only mentally and spiritually, but also physically.  So now…

3. I’m hurting often

I’ve only recently realized that one thing that infertility gave me was carte-blanche to focus on my health.  It was 5 years of the best sort of self-obsessive, no excuses, endless war to health.  Or at least some sort of odd version of “health” that included drugs, and needles, and miscarriages, and scarred veins.  But, health it was.  When I ached, I went to the doctor.  When I bled, it was meticulously recorded on the calendar.  When I ate, I religiously popped pills with exactly the right dose of water.  When asked of symptoms, I had a list.  When telling my medical history, I brought out my own collated file.  Two years ago this week, we were starting our IVF cycle and I was logging long hours in the car back and forth to the RE.  Now I don’t have a PCP, my glasses are broken, I weigh more than the day I went into labor, I’ve had a suspicious bruise that’s ached for over a month, and I’m too tired to care.  When did it become so easy to stop caring about myself?  Probably about the same time that I realized that…

4. I’m lost and can’t find directions

I hate my job.  I own homes in two states, and am trying my damnedest to pick up everything we’ve made here and move to my childhood home.  My run-down, falling apart childhood home that we can’t even insure until we get a new roof, rip down the swimming pool, spend lots of money.  Money we don’t have thanks to the stock market’s timing, my husband going part-time to return to school, the cost of the tuition for that school, the cost of sending the littlest ButIF to daycare full-time due to inflexible child-care policies at the only daycare in town.  The town we’re trying so hard to leave, the town my husband isn’t in because he’s regularly fleeing to our other uninsured home to meet with contractors to spend money we don’t have.  Is it a home when there’s no family in it?  My marriage is, well, complicated.  But, as with our marriage, more broadly…

5. I’m not giving up

This isn’t a happy post.  An exuberant return.  It’s honest.  And, that makes me feel like I’m letting you down.  Just like I’ve felt like I’m letting so many people in my life down these days, not the least of which the littlest ButIF.  It’ll get better.  I’ll get better.  I feel better now than I did when I set fingers to keys, and I’ll feel better yet when I click “Publish.”  This blog is part of me, and part of me I’m claiming back.  I’m struggling and hurting and lost, but I’m here.