I hate calling doctor offices

One of the things i can’t stand is when they ask what the problem is. I hate that especially because

1) if I knew what the problem was I probably wouldn’t need a doctor, I’d just tell you what I needed
2) whatever the problem is, that’s really between me and the doctor
3) when I tell them what I think the problem is, they always say “what makes you think you have that problem?” or “you have this problem or you THINK you have this problem?”

Fucking hell, I wish doctors would just stop telling their office people to ask that. Or if they insist on having some forewarning, at least tell your office folk not to answer it. Just say “okay” and be done.

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Pain Internal Chatter

Adult: See? I told you! This is real. This hurts. Stop pretending it isn’t going to happen.

Inner Child: But I don’ yike it. It make bad sad time to need pills.

Shitty Committee: We just want to say that clearly this happens because you’re a lazy weak shameless addict who lies about needing medicaiton just so she can get happy pills

Adult: Shitty Committee is overruled. They have things entirely backwards and besides since when is it a bad thing to want to be happy?

Body: Shitty Committee is going to be ignored today. We’ve been sending out pain alerts for a while now and getting no answer. Without alternate solutions, we will continue sending out messages until we are heard.

Shitty Committee: See? You are whining for pills like a damned addict

Body: WE WILL DROWN YOU OUT IF YOU DON”T SHUT UP

Adult: omg everyone please stop. there are things that have to be done

Inner Child: I don’ wanna do nuffin. hurts.

Adult: there is a child needing to be attended to today. Body will ratchet down a notch at least when child is present

Inner Child: Really?

Adult: Not talking about you. Go take a nap

Inner Child: Don’ wanna

Shitty Committee: You negotiate with Inner Child? Ugh, you are so lame and stupid. Can’t even take control when its called for.

Body: WE WILL SHOUT LOUDER THAN YOU

Adult: Shitty Committee WILL shut up or body will just send more urgent messages… you guys are locked in a vicious cycle. Somebody step away!

Inner Child: alcohol will shut them both up

Body: Message reprint: ad infinitum until resolution, that is all

Adult: Alcohol is a bad idea, we need to be alert and in charge today

Inner Child: but Whyyyyyyyy?

Adult: omg go have a candy bar. will that make you happy?

Inner Child: maybe… let’s try a couple and see

Body: No, it won’t make us happy at all

Adult: wasn’t talking to you.

Body: message reprint

Adult and Inner Child and Shitty Committee: YES WE KNOW

Body: okay okay everybody take a break

Adult: *sigh* finally!

Inner Child: Where’s my candy bar?

Shitty Commmittee: …can’t even get a candy bar? You’re so

Adult: OMG SHUT UP BOTH OF YOU

Body: break’s over.

Adult: i’m geting a candy bar and some chai

Inner Child: that’ll work

Shitty COmmmittee: *omph glomph nom nom*

Body: Flood of confidence complete.Shitty Commmittee silenced temporarily

Adult: thanks

Inner Child: I need another candy bar

Adult: no problem

Body: commencing reprint of messages

Adult: oy vey

Letter To Me

Dear immune system,

I know I don’t treat you right and for that I’m so sorry. I think part of it is that I never really had much role modelling about how to treat my body and instead inherited a very strict work ethic and ego-destroying philosophy. On the whole, I’m okay with that (I get stuff done! I’m responsible! I’m humble! I mean, I think I’m humble, maybe I’m not?) but I do recognize, at the fresh young age of 47, that I am probably making things harder than they have to be. I have friends and I have seen them do strange things like stay in bed all day because they are sick. This used to baffle me because the only thing that would make me stay in bed all day is broken legs or being in a hospital bed (even then, I’d probably be getting up and trying to vacuum the floor or something)
Its the incessant work ethic in me. The incredible self-denial legacy my father handed down from his Buddhist belief system. Thanks dad, I learned that my own desires are no reason to do anything. Everything must be decided upon by how it affects everything outside of me, but MY desires? Inconsequential.
Now I know my dad doesn’t really believe that so strictly as I learned it but it’s kind of too late: his experiment to raise a self-denying child kind of worked. I have managed in all these years to learn to embrace and love my desires but for some reason, health just hasn’t really been included in that quest. Frankly, I think that’s your fault, immune system. Maybe if you didn’t work quite so well I’d be more inclined to give in to occasional lassez-faire.

Anyway, I’m getting away from the point here. I’m trying to explain, dear immune system, how sorry I am that I treat you so bad. Granted, we both know that I actually eat pretty good; I’m not a packaged food kind of person and I really don’t like fast food. I love treats but I don’t eat them every day. I triumphed over my eating disorder many years ago (and what a battle that was, right?) and I don’t fret over my weight too much. So we both know its not diet that’s the problem here. I’ve even been exercising again (taking a while to get back up to speed but we’ll get there)

Its the sleep and the work, isn’t it?

I know, I know, I hate to “rest”. I hate to stop doing things and go lie down. Hell I have a hard time watching the few TV shows and movies I like, don’t I? I can’t even play a game for more than an hour before I”m ready to jump up and go do something “more productive”

And now you’re compromised often because of some stupid disease I contracted in some mysterious way a decade ago. I’m real sorry about that. It was not my intention to saddle you with little parasites you are forever fending off. I know it sucks to be invaded and now live under military threat all the time but its already done, they aren’t leaving any time soon so we both might as well move past apologies and entrench ourselves for the long haul.

There’s just one little issue I really want to bring up here. You fight too much. There are times, dear immune system, when you aren’t really going to win this battle right away. There are times you need to wait for reinforcements. But you keep slogging away, at half-capacity. This is not cool: I wish you’d just either do your job or take a break. My problems with allowing myself some relaxation and recuperation aren’t going to get any better when you fight with dying breath. I can’t decide “its time to take some time off” and do the right honorable thing like “I’m sick, I need to take it easy” when you keep the sickness barely at bay. I mean, its obvious I’m “getting” sick but I never seem to ACTUALLY get sick here. Just a kind of almost-miserable sort-of sick. Never enough to justify being laid up but never quite leaving me alone either.

Please, just make up your mind: do you want to eradicate the invaders or do you want to wait for back up? Cuz I can tell you right now, either method would probably be more effective and less time-consuming than what you’re doing right now.

Whatever you want me to change, I’ll change, I swear. I am sworn to start really taking good care of all of us around here but its really hard to do that when you make me too miserable to do important helpful things (shopping and cooking, exercising) but too functional to just hang it all for a few days.

I’m not mad, lord knows you do an amazing job! but dang I am getting frustrated. Like I said, I see my friends do this amazing thing called “days off” and I’d really like to give that a try… I hear staying in bed is the way to do it right but the last time i ever did that I was so doped up from surgery I couldn’t even begin to remember what it was like. As I understand it, resting is something that is really beneficial when you get sick. I’d like to give it a try. I can’t do that if you won’t work with me here.

Let’s do this together, shall we?

Love,
Me

The Horror of Beauty

I have had four children. I am also under five feet tall. I have an “orphan disease” called Jarcho-Levin AKA spondylocostal dysostosis. (I’ve written about that a couple of times) which means rather than having a long torso and short limbs like most “classic” dwarves, I have a short torso and long limbs. So you can imagine how confounding it was for my body to fit a baby in there.

Strangely enough, my first child was my largest and the only one I gave birth to naturally. The other three were in transverse presentation which just means they lay sideways inside me and refused to turn upside down like a good baby should. Babies can’t be birthed sideways. So I had three C-sections.

Now, imagine if you will, a torso about 7″ long being stretched out to accommodate a series of creatures from 21-23.5″ long. Yeah that doesn’t work so good. I was already pretty stretched out after my firstborn (9lbs and 24″) but with exercise, extended nursing and a healthy diet, my tummy receded. Mostly. I had the classic “pooch” with massive stretch marks. I didn’t care, of course, because I was so thrilled to have a baby. I was in my late 20s and assumed I’d “snap back” at some point.
Well five years and two more babies I sure as hell didn’t “snap back” at all. I got worse, of course.

Mostly I didn’t mind. It was annoying to have a flap of flesh hanging down but I kept believing it would shrink back… after all, the doctor said my hips would shrink back, right?

My hips did shrink back. My tummy skin did not. The hip shrinkage made the tummy non-shrinkage look worse, in fact. Chee thanks, nature.

By the time I had my fourth and final child, at age 41, it was pretty damned obvious that my tummy pooch was not ever going to shrink or otherwise stop annoying me. By the time I recuperated from the last C-sec my tummy pooch was a hideous foul thing. It hung a full FIVE inches below my pelvis. It obscured my precious parts from sight. It was bulgey and ugly and so deeply wrinkled that my navel appeared to be a cavern and I worried ridiculously about hygiene, afraid one day I’d be navel-cleaning and discover a nest of small mammals residing in it.

The worst part though, was the “flap”
I’m not talking about the piece of flesh itself, I’m talking about the SOUND it made when I moved. It made a very audible noise when I moved if I did not clothe myself carefully.
When I say “clothe myself carefully” I am being coy. Clothing myself with the pooch in mind was a process in and of itself. There needed to be cloth underneath the fold to muffle the sound it made and absorb sweat plus there needed to be cloth on top of it to help buffer the movement AND there needed to be tight cloth over the whole thing to try to tamp it down and smooth the surface appearance. After all that, I usually needed a nice loose layer to go over everything. Buying clothes was a depressing event because this flap basically added about three inches to my tummy area. If I bought high-rise pants to go over the whole thing I had to get a size 14 (42″) but if I got low-rise pants to go under the flap, my butt would sag like a gangsta wanna-be. And I don’t have a lot of butt to begin with. Short shirts were out of the question. Forget something like a halter top or bikini. HAHAHA. I wore man’s size large shirts which went to my knees and just left it like that. I looked like I was wearing my night clothes every time I went anywhere. Lets not even get into wearing a dress. I could sort of get it all under control by wearing underwear and super-tight pantyhose or tights. But dresses aren’t made to fit me anyway so to find one that was nice looking but didn’t accentuate the weird bulgey thing in my midsection was just an exercise in futility. So slovenly was my usual couture. I preferred to wear elastic band skirts with tights under and a long shirt on top. Even so, it was a production just to choose my clothes every day. Heaven forfend I went anywhere that required excessive walking. And by “excessive” I mean more than the steps it takes to get from the car to the nearest doorway. When confronted with stairs in public I nearly cried. If I was dealing with a baby and thus without any attendant hands to hold over my gut, the “flap” was thunderous to me and I often toyed with the idea of hurling myself over the stairwell just so I could break my ankle and have an excuse to NOT climb any stairs for a while. This was not a happy time for me. Moving about outside of my own house was a prospect that gave me pause more than once. Vanity? Don’t talk to me about vanity! I could have been walking around with legs like redwoods and a face only a monkey could love, and I would have been less self-conscious than having to hear that GDmnd “flap” sound every time I took a step. Oy and Vey. There were times when I chose to sit immobile just to avoid hearing it one more moment. And everyone who knows me IRL knows I hate to sit down (I’m too short, can’t see anyone, I prefer to stand) I sometimes wondered if I could get away with just using a kitchen knife and then rushing to the ER where they’d be forced to finish the job for me? Of course not, but damned if I didn’t think about it at least glibly. I wasn’t sure the requisite psychiatric brouhaha that would ensue would be worth it.

Still, it was an ever-present part of my life, this pooch. The size of it, the look of it and the sound of it were inescapable. Reminders that my body was used up, broken and worthless as an object of admiration forevermore. Which was a crying shame because at this time of my life, I was oddly more conscious of the fact that the REST of me was pretty damned awesome. It was just this horrid horrid fleshy bit that wouldn’t stop haunting me.

So, to sum it all up: the pooch had to go.

Let’s jump ahead through various and painful, related but ultimately inconsequential anecdotes about finances and just say, I got the money. Six Thousand dollars. Maybe not a princely sum to many people but it might as well have been six million for all the money I had. But fear not, I found a way to get the money. Namely, my (ex)husband got a medical loan. i would have signed away the next five years of my life to get rid of the pooch by then. Despite still having student loans and a barely treading water income, we took on a loan to pay for it. It was that important to me.

I did research and found a very highly regarded doctor who had all the certifications and stamps of approval and high reviews etc etc. He actually charged a fair price – some were jacking it to $8-10K. And I liked him too. Which is always a good thing.

So I had the surgery. Yeah of course I was scared. Surgery is scary stuff. You get put under. Someone is cutting you open. It’s a scary thought. The surgeon told me it would take anywhere from 4-8 hours. Dear gawd.

I woke up and… I really don’t remember. At all. I’m sure I was wheeled out at some point and taken home. I think I was allowed to stay at the recovery place for a day? I don’t remember. I really really don’t.
I was completely doped out of my mind. Thank goodness.
About two days later (?) I remember waking up for the gazillionth time in horrible pain. It was the day I was supposed to stop lying in bed and start moving around. I knew how important that was because I’ve had three c-secs. You need to move around as soon as possible so your blood doesn’t pool up, start forming clots, traveling to your lungs and/or heart and kill you. oR worse, clog your brain and make you a cretin for life. Yeah, so I got up.

Let me tell you… when they say abdominal lacerations are the most painful thing going, they are not kidding around.

Let me detail some things for you first.

A tummy tuck generally requires two main incisions: one straight down the middle and one horizontal, curved to your pelvis. The perpendicular incision usually goes around your navel which is removed for repositioning. The cuts do NOT go through your muscles but your muscles are rearranged to go back to your midsection (where they were before you got pregnant and had an alien try to split you in two) The abdominal muscles are then stitched together tightly in order to stay in place while you heal. The flesh is cut according to the pre-op drawing they do on your belly (yes they actually draw it on you first. With a sharpie), the navel is then fit back into the new cuts. Liposuction is applied in certain areas to flatten it smooth and the fascia is rigged into place (might be sewn, might just be pushed and held in place by overskin) then the skin is sewn back together. In layers. The inside is sewn with individual sutures and the outside is stapled. Then more liposuction to finish the ‘sculpting” and they start covering everything up with massive amounts of bandages and tape.
Unfortunately the curved pelvis cut is right on top of your pelvic bone so the tape is afixed on top of the pubic hair that is right at the top. Myep. WOW does that hurt.
Anyway, while they are sewing your midsection, you may (I opted for it and paid extra) get a lidocaine drip inside. And by “inside” I mean a loooooooooong tube about the size of an old fashioned stereo speaker wire is left inside you alongside the midsection cut. There is a tube on each side of the cut. There are holes all along the tube. The tubes are connected to a lidocaine drip “machine”. I say that in quotes because when we examined it, it turned out to work solely on the principle of vacuum. The tubes are connected to a large hospital-grade plastic bulb of lidocaine housed in a small box. The ‘caine hangs around your neck and using vacuum pressure it leaks slowly out. There’s nothing mechanical about it but it’s kind of nifty. It ekes ‘caine inside you right next to your incision.
Because incision pain is no freakin joke, yo. How do I know this? Because despite having this wondrous “machine”, I still was in horrible horrendous pain. I could still feel the incision, just in a muted kind of way. But trust me, its bad enough there’s probably not enough painkiller in the world that would make that go away without death. It actually felt like someone was still slicing me open down the middle, just in a slightly softened, muted kind of way.

So I woke up with my entire midsection bandaged heavily and tape tugging on my pubic hair and a weird thingie hanging off my neck and a catheter in my urethra and two tubes attached to bulbs one on each side of me to catch internal fluids. But I was supposed to “move around”

Myep.

So. My life became a dull hazy repetition of movement and pain. I was lying in an armchair (you can’t lie down flat because getting up and laying down requires bending at the waist, which you can’t do because of all the bandaging. and it hurts like hell. Like pass-out kind of hurt) with my feet up in compression stockings wearing the skankiest, most People-of-Wal-mart kind of dressing “gown” with a box of ‘caine hanging off my neck and two plastic bulbs of bloody fluid pinned to each side of my gown. I am a classy kinda gal you betcha.
The catheter, luckily, was taken out on the second? third? day. taking it out kind of hurts but hell you time those pain meds right and who cares, amirite? I would get up whenever I was cognizant enough to remember it and start shuffling around. I’d usually shuffle to the bathroom whereupon I would start the procedure to sit on the toilet.

Unsnap gown. Unpin bulbs of bloody fluid. Put each bulb in a pocket. Pull spanx down (you have to wear spanx to help compress against the massive inflammation. more on that in a minute) partway. Take each BoBF and gently, carefully, duck it under the spanx to get the tube free and put it back in the pocket. Finish pulling down spanx. Shift ‘caine box to the side so it doesn’t bang into the toilet during the next move. Brace one hand under, on the toilet seat and one hand against he wall (pain meds make you kind of unsteady). using all the strength in your arms, lower self as SLOWLY as possible with back as straight as possible, down to the toilet until backside makes contact. it helps to lean to the side. Do business while trying not to cry out in agony. Rest a second or two. Do the wiping. Brace arms again for rising up. ONce upright, pull spanx partly up. Duck BoBF back under spanx so tubes are coming out from bottom of underwear. Pin each BoBF to the gown again. Snap gown. Swing ‘caine box back around to front (this is important step to remember otherwise the box is likely to swing unexpectedly and either clock you in the chest or catch on something like a doorknob while exiting the bathroom)Exit bathroom. Check BoBF to see if they need emptying. They always do. Follow procedure to empty BoBF. Try not to gag on the smell of bloody fluid. Put bulbs back on tubes with severe suction such that you can feel it pulling the fluids out of you. Shuffle back to the chair of doom. Repeat variation of toilet maneuver in order to rest in armchair. yay. I moved around.

So there’s these bulbs of bloody fluid. They are the drains coming out of your incision. They allow the body to release inflammation liquid without making your sutures pop from the pressure. It’s T-cell white cell interferon I don’t fucking know what the hell it is: its bloody, it smells gag-alicious and you have to not just empty it periodically, you have to measure the fluid, sanitize it all down with rubbing alcohol and write down the fluid volume on a chart. yeah. Fun times, my friends.

Let us not forget: you also have to get a shot of blood thinner in your thigh every day. Since this is an intra-muscular shot, the needle is pretty effing big. Like “don’t look at it” kinda big. The shot itself is pretty big too. I know because I had to get that shot for ten days in a row and the shots came in a box which was about 6″ tall. So it wasn’t like a little prick, it actually took a couple of seconds to push it in. You may not think a couple of seconds is much but when someone is forcing burning liquid into your thigh muscle slowly, you perception of time changes. Hurt like a mofo to get it every damned day. We wouldn’t let Lil Miss into the room because I didn’t want her traumatized by seeing me get that shot. I know my husband was not exactly loving having to give it to me when I’d cry out during the giving. Who likes hurting someone who’s already suffering? Nobody human.

So that was my basic daily routine for ten days. I shuffled and drained and toileted and sat and popped pain meds and shuffled and slept and hurt and hurt and hurt.
Somewhere around the fifth, sixth? Day I began to actually feel some differentiation in my hurt. I will share them all with you!

Of course the incision hurts. Its the first thing to hurt and the pain of it is bright, sharp and slicing. Imagine a paper cut across your midsection and pelvis. Now spray some of that green throat stuff on it. That’s what it felt like. It pretty much drowned out the pain of everything else. But somewhere before the first week was up, the pain of that receded just the tiniest bit and I noticed the myriad other pains.

Muscle pain. You think you know muscle pain? You work out or you sprained your ankle or you tore a ligament? Yeah, that’s pain. But you don’t KNOW pain until you’ve had abdominal surgery that causes the muscles to cramp up over and over which pulls against internal stitching at the same time.
I’ve been in labor and it hurts, I will not lie. This pain was verrrry similar but guess what? It was way worse.
Uterine contractions are cramps, yes. You can feel them when they happen. The uterus is large and cramping against a solid object inside of it so it’s essentially trying to squeeze the object out like closing a fist around a bar of half-used soap. But the muscle cramps of the tummy tuck are amazing breath-taking cramps that made me do nothing but sob. And that’s WITH high-dosage lortab. Those cramps were so hard (you could feel them, hell you could SEE them from the outside) that more than once I actually wondered if my body was going to tear something of its own accord. The cramps were so hard that it actually restricted my breathing. At one point I was sobbing and shuffling half-bent to the bathroom where I got a towel, put it under the hot tap until steam was rising from it and slapped it on my belly. My skin turned bright red and my husband said something about burning myself but I could not hear anything. Those cramps put childbirth to SHAME. The saddest part of it was that nobody, not the doctor, the nurse, the PA, the office girls, not even the literature had mentioned anything about muscle cramping. I had NO idea this was going to happen. I do believe the first time it happened I called the surgeon’s office terrified and of course they told me it was perfectly normal.
If I forget everything else about my tummy tuck, I’m sure the only way I could forget the abdominal muscle cramps is if I suffered brain damage.
And those cramps went on for longer than a week.

Believe it or not, the bandages and tape hurt. Some of it was because the tape went over my pubic hair as I mentioned, but some of it was actually because my skin was reacting to the tape or the glue in the tape. At some point I could not stand the feel of it in one little area – about 2×2″- and began to prise some of the tape off. I ended up cutting some of the bandaging away from that area. There was no stitching or incision in that area so I figured it was reasonably safe to do so. But the affected spot was seriously inflamed. Angry red and starting to weep. I smeared it with antibacterial ointment and tried to keep it untouched. Then there was the pubic hair tape. I ended up prising some of that loose as well. Because, as is typical, the top of my mons was shaved to facilitate the surgery and when the hair started growing back, it was underneath a ton of surgical tape. This is not a recipe for happiness. So I prised the edges of that off and retaped it with store-brand bandage tape in a looser way. Lil better. My hair follicles were not amused.

I could feel some pain around the incisions, as noted, but it was muted and weird. Partly because of the ‘caine drip but also because the surgery had cut many nerves which were now “dead”. So the incision area had a lot of numbness in it but there were plenty of nerves that had *not* been severed so there was also plenty of feeling. Combo: deadened-but-really-painful.

Because narcotic pain killers don’t confuse the brain enough, yanno?

But I have not said anything about pain killers here.
Yes, I had a nice big scrip for narcotic pain killers. I also had a prior scrip for lower-dosage pain killers from a previous condition.
The problem was that, as nice as lortab is (and it IS, I loves my lortab) it barely covered the pain I was feeling. At least for the first two weeks.
Part of the problem is dosage: generally everyone is allowed to have ONE pill every 6 hours. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, how your body metabolizes food, how your body processes medicine, or how high your pain level is. You get one pill every six hours. So that is what we stuck to.
As many pain sufferers know, that *might* have worked for some people, but it didn’t work for me.
I’d get about 2-4 decent hours of pain killing with that dosage. In those 2-4 hours, I’d have about one hour of blissful COMPLETELY pain-free time which I would use to recline and sleep. The other 1-3 hours, I’d just feel slightly unhinged from mild pain. But it was enough panacea to keep me moving and do a little socializing with my family. The last 2 hours of every dose was hell. I’d feel every single incision, bruise, irritation and cramp in my entire surgical area. And there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t do the internet, I couldn’t do much of anything worth a damned in those 2 hours. Just sit dully waiting for my next dose and hope that maybe I could sleep the two hours away. I cried, I whimpered, I gulped a lot and I shuffled around trying to stay distracted. But those 2 hours… I hated my body and I hated the world.

So, to sum it up: the first ten days of recovery were Dante-style hell. I actually remember it in a sort of hazy blur of pain and bathroom trips swirling around that green chair I lived in.

Ten days out, I got my bandages removed completely. and the staples along my midsection were removed. My midsection incision was actually healing really nicely. It was weird as could be to see my navel as a puzzle piece fitted into my body but it was heartening to see my navel as an actual bellybutton instead of a miniature spelunker’s paradise. My pelvic incision was not looking so hot. Of course, this is where all the fluid collects (yay gravity) and where most of the bruising occurs as well. My incision was not healing uniformly either. But I knew that was “normal” from my last c-sec. I no longer needed the drains and so they were removed.

Let me tell you something: having someone pull long thin tubes out of your abdomen is a very weird experience.
I had no idea those tubes were so long. I’d guess about 2-3 feet. So now perhaps you can see that having someone pull them out of you is a bit on the surreal side of life.
How do they do it? By fooling you!
I was lying down on the exam table, they had just taken out my staple and checked everything over (including that raw reactive area I told you about earlier which they wanted me to keep putting antibiotic ointment on it)
Then the PA says to me “look in the other direction. Great, now I’m going to count to three. When I get to three I want you to take a deep breath and hold it.Then I’ll pull the tubes out. Okay?”
I was ready.
“one”
“two”
AND SHE PULLED THEM OUT AS I WAS SUCKING MY BREATH IN
I can only guess this was done to keep me from screaming.
I’ll be honest, it didn’t hurt very much but it was so squick-inducingly weird that I probably would have cried out in some form if she had not surprised me like that.
Now of course that only works once. And there’s two tubes. But I played along anyway.

After the Bulbs of Bloody Fluid were gone, I had to make sure the open holes they formerly occupied were kept clean and dry. One side closed up almost immediately. The other side didn’t. For almost another week. Another call the to surgeon’s office. Not totally “normal” I’m told but not to worry about unless it starts seeming infected. Hokay.

Next up on the “things to get a little anxious about” was the pelvic incision itself. It wasn’t completely closed when they took all the staples out either but they didn’t seem too concerned about that. It was closed on the inside and I remembered from my last c-sec that that was okay. The outside would close later so long as I kept it as clean and dry as possible. I was told I could debride it occasionally but not to go too crazy with that. Debriding is when you swipe an astringent on an open wound. Its a little squicky but it doesn’t generally hurt and it appeals to the germ-worrier in me.
So two weeks after the surgery and I still had the ‘caine box and an incision that was partially open and weeping as well as a hole in one side that was also open and weeping.

Did I mention that I had to wear spanx during this entire ordeal?
Yes, compression garments are an absolute must. It helps compress the swelling, hold everything in place while you move around and it maintains the integrity of the surgery during healing.
I had never worn spanx in my life. I had no idea what to even buy when we went shopping for them before the surgery. I wish I could remember but I think we got two of a size small and later he had to go back and get me two medium or maybe it was the other way around??
The ones we got originally were so tight, I felt I couldn’t breathe and they left deep purple marks in my waist. So the husband cut a notch in the waistband. It helped tremendously.
Oh remember I said I’d stifle a cry when going to the bathroom? That was because of removing the spanx. Wearing compression on swollen tissue may not feel great but removing said compression during the healing time is a whole new level of agony. Fluids rush in, tissue swells up, gravity feels doubled and everything suddenly is just kicked up a notch or two. That means that when its times to put the compression garment back on, there’s NEW swelling to compress. Which is a refresher course in generalized pain as well. There were a few times I opted to keep the spanx off for a few more minutes just to give my body some time to calm the hell down. It seemed to help actually.

After about twenty days it was time to take the ‘caine tubes out. The bulb was pretty much done dripping. I called the office but it would be a few days before I could get an appointment to get them removed. I didn’t feel very comfortable with the notion of having the tubes sitting around in me no longer fulfilling their purpose so I asked if perhaps we could take them out. The office assured me it was perfectly fine. Just pull them out. I think there were some instructions somewhere… either verbally or in text… but the gist of it was “grab the tubes at the top and pull upwards until they come out”

And I thought the Bulbs of Bloody Fluid tubes were long? Dear gawd.
Because the ‘caine was all done, I could feel those wire-thin tubes snaking their way through me, over my organs, along the front of my stomach muscles and my diaphragm. Yay more squicky. And yes, they were bloody. The holes closed almost immediately. But I noticed the scars of the holes lasted a long time. I can still see them; two tiny spots of white.

So after two weeks, I was finally tube and bulb free but still had a open wound or two to deal with. I could finally move around upright, lie down (carefully) and go to the bathroom without wanting to stab anyone. I still needed my pain meds and I still had some serious issues with how things were looking down there but over all… I was finally recovering.

It took about two months for my incision to totally heal shut and start to scar up. I used special silicone tape that really is amazing. But I used it TOO much and it began to wear away some of my “good” skin. Still, I have almost no scarring along my pelvis. I still have some childbirth stretch marks but I could care less. The surgeon had asked me about them, if I wanted any extra work done for those and I told him “those are nothing to me; they are cosmetic. I Don’t care about cosmetic, I just want to wear regular clothes again”

It took about six months for my bellybutton scars to fade enough that I am not reminiscent of Frankenhooker.

Sadly, I did end up with the dreaded “dog ear” on one side. That is a surgical issue whereby the end of the incision doesn’t close up tightly enough and it hangs forward just a bit, kind of like a flopping dog ear. One side is fine but the other, not so fine. It only bothered me because I could FEEL the skin (barely)touching me in that one spot. The traumatic memories of the pooch probably make me a bit oversensitive about that sort of thing, though. I thought about someday going back to get corrective surgery, because I know it can be done in an office visit under local, but really, it’s not a big deal. Now I’m glad I chose not to worry about it, because it’s been nearly a year since the surgery and I’ve noticed that the “dog ear” has decreased enough to where it doesn’t look like a dog ear anymore… more just a little extra fat now. I think wearing Spanx 3x a week is still helping. Or maybe it’s the increased activity i’ve been doing in the last couple of months.

The appearance of my stomach has changed several times since the surgery. Once the swelling had gone down, while my abdominals were still tight and cramped, I actually had a sort of washboard kind of thing going on. I was tickled because I never looked like that in my life! It was kind of cool. But it didn’t stay that way. Frankly I’m glad: it was odd looking on me and it also restricted my breathing. Once my muscles loosened up and stopped cramping, my stomach became the basic round thing I’d had long before bearing children. This was what I wanted. I had not seen THAT stomach since my 20s and I was very glad to see it again. The “washboard” thing wasn’t me. I thought it was kind of interesting, but it wasn’t me. The lipo that was done is kind of interesting as well because I hadn’t realized that I could have a bit of contour to my stomach either. I suppose it is just age but I dont’ think I ever had those contours. But its subtle and I like it.

The most important thing, however, is the clothes.

I now can shop at a department store for pants and get a size 11. Low rise, medium rise, it doesn’t matter (high rise goes to my ribs) I’m still a size 11 pants. I can wear shirts that fit me now. I have a couple of dresses now and I wear them WITHOUT tights.
I bought shorts.
I bought a sexy slip.
I wear tank tops.
I put on a pair of daisy dukes (although I felt super-silly) and looked at my belly button.

I put on a bikini. And posed for a picture.

And I smiled.

depression

There’s a lot of blogs that talk about depression. A lot of really great writers have posted their journey and expressed how depression “looks” to them. I say “looks” because depression isn’t always something you feel. Sometimes its just a glass you look through. For some people, the glass is distorted and scary. For some people the glass is cloudy and hard to see through at all. For some people the glass is blue and everything seems sad. For some people the glass is grey and everything seems lifeless. For most people, its a combination of views often changing and morphing into other views.

For me, the glass is high-contrast grey – lifeless but painfully clear and sharp enough to hurt sometimes. There’s a dull film of emptiness laying over everything but there’s also an intrusive stab that comes whenever something happens unexpectedly.

One of the most draining things is making decisions. Did you know that? Think about it…

So stands to reason when one is depressed, making choices and decisions are about the most exhausting things a person can do. Yet I can’t believe how often I’ve encountered the question “so would you like to do ____ or ___?” after I’ve clearly stated I am depressed. Terribly depressed. Incredibly depressed. My brain can’t function very well except for the simplest things and anything external stimuli is excruciating to deal with. The very sound of the birds chirping makes me want to run screaming into a cave. So it stands to reason, when I am depressed, the very worst thing in the world is to have to make decisions and choices of any kind.

Now, my logical facilities are working somewhat. I have an autopilot for most life functions. I can get through just about any situation necessary. Its the unnecessary situations that enrage or drain me. The more trite the decision, the more draining or enraging it will be.

So at this point in time, I am trying to avoid everything that requires excessive attention, focus or decision-making. I can’t do it. This is why in the past month I’ve begun at least five writing pieces and finished none of them. And I don’t mean they aren’t perfect enough. I mean I just drifted off in the middle of them and lost all interest. I know I’ll get back to them and so they are posted privately for me to dive into later.

This was also how I finally realized just how bad this has gotten.

I can’t write.

I go to the doctor tomorrow for a new scrip. Hopefully in a few days I’ll have more coherent things to say.

 

Derma-what?

Lowering my stress is a very big deal, because I am an unfortunate individual: I have three conditions which are heavily influenced by stress. The first is my dermatillomania, the second is my OCD (more on that in a minute) and the third is my meningeal herpes (which I’ve described to a small extent on my bio page)

Stress causes what I call “flare-ups”. Frankly I’ve never really liked that word when it comes to conditions not seen by the naked eye because my first understanding of the phrase has it cemented in my mind that a flare-up is something that burns across your body increasing in intensity like, well like fire. Kid logic, yanno?  Despite that visual association and all its drama, there really isn’t a better word for it so I use “flare-up”. Whenever I’m talking about my meningeal herpes, saying “I am having a flare-up” makes me imagine a whole opera inside my body. See, first there’s all the little herpes virii lining my spinal column and surrounding my meninges like little pudgy trees, waving in the fluid. They suddenly get flooded with …stress hormones (its hormones, right? not neurotransmitter effluvia or something? hell I’m not a virologist, i’ve just yelled at them) and they all say ‘whoopee! party time!” and they start waving about, getting taller and more… tree-like. Maybe they grow extra appendages, maybe they just grow bigger limbs… in any case, the stress… chemicals…. are flooding the pathways and so the herpes know that the immune police won’t be able to rush over like they usually do or maybe they just move really slow, or maybe the stress effluvia (isn’t that a cool-sounding word? for such a nasty idea?) gums up their little immunizing laser beams, but in any case, the herpes know that when the stress goop flows, the party is ON ! So there you are, with a bunch of fluid that’s supposed to maintain a certain level of pressure or maybe the Ph has to be just right or something but the  herpes is making with the disco times and starts taking up more and more space, and now you have the whole system out of whack and the immune police can’t fit their little waahmbulances through the pathways and the herpes know its a Woodstock in my body. That’s what I imagine when I say I am having a “flare-up”. It doesn’t sound as cool as “herpes hippy party” or “viral boink-fest” but I suppose its probably more indicative of the seriousness of the situation. SO I say “flare-up”

Anyway, the point of all that rambling was to give an impression of how stress can cause severe pain in my back and brain. Once it starts, my prophylactic meds (Yes! they really are supposed to prevent little herpes babies! or extra herpes limbs? or mutant herpes? I’m not sure, but they are supposed to suppress…something about growth) won’t really make it go away, they only make it quit getting worse. The virii have to finish their regenerative cycle or something (which as I have learned can go anywhere from two weeks to two months? Egad) so I’m left with just pain meds. Which I just took twenty minutes ago, can you tell? But the point is, the less stress I have, the less I have to deal with in terms of the meningeal herpes clogging up my spine and river-dancing on my brain shell.

I haven’t said anything about the OCD, but I’m going to… right now.

I’ve been off my anti-depressants for about two weeks now. I need to get back on them. This is an issue with the doctors office but I went off of them because I didn’t have the money to get them and I wanted to see the difference without them. I’m under no illusion that I don’t need them, I most certainly do, but ever since returning from the cruise, I’ve really wanted to get more of a handle on my OCD. Up until I started on the anti-depressants (about two years?) I’ve spent my life dealing with OCD mostly by giving into it in the least harmful ways possible. I know I do damaging things because of it but I tend to just brush it off because, hey, I don’t have the dreaded hand-washing version, right? I don’t have ritualistic behaviors, right? So I count my lucky stars and try to downplay the whole thing. My OCD isn’t even really in my cleaning. Cleaning like a maniac is just one of the few behaviors I have that help the URGE go away and make the obsessive thoughts recede for a while. That’s the interesting thing, OCD stands for “obsessive-compulsive disorder” and most of the public is familiar with the “c” part of it – the compulsion – but that’s not really my primary problem. No, my OCD is primarily in my obsessive thoughts. Compulsions I never worried about much because mine are small and not very damaging. Or at least they USED to be not very damaging. (More on that in a minute) My OCD was “accent on the ‘oh'”

If you’re curious, you can read my entry about postpartum depression to get a better idea of what obsessive thinking is like. It really is like it sounds (obsessive) but the part most people aren’t aware of is the TYPE of thoughts that circle round and round the OCDer’s brain. Some are no big deal (earworm? ever get one? annoying, right? Yeah try having FOUR songs taking turns smashing lines and verses so fast you can’t figure out which songs are playing for a couple of hours) and most of them don’t require any kind of action on my part, they just keep. going. on. forever.

My obsessive thoughts are mostly of the completely irrational scary kinds. The kind that are so irrational and scary that even while my brain won’t stop playing them over and over, I don’t get too uptight about it because I know they aren’t “real”. The problem with the obsessive thoughts is that they just aren’t very convenient. I need to use my brain quite often and when I’m fully engaged, everything is peachy. I have learned throughout my life to keep a tight rein on my thoughts. I learned to meditate and empty my mind when I was 12. It is a handy skill to have. But doing so requires a certain kind of environment and/or a certain kind of focus that I don’t always have at my disposal.

Recently I found out it might not be considered an OCD at all. What I have is called dermatillomania. Which is a fun fancy way of saying when I’m stressed I gouge my skin. Mostly its the skin on my face but over the years this penchant has moved around my body and there are still times I’ll gouge other parts of my skin if I feel its “necessary” Finding out there’s even a name for my condition has been relieving. There’s something about having a label to put on your difficulty that makes you feel like you might be able to control it somehow. That’s kind of misleading actually because without medication, I cannot control it. I can maintain it and damp it down sometimes but I cannot control it. I can’t decide when and how I will or will not engage in my obsession any more than I can decide when and how I will breathe. I can hold it in for a while, but I can’t do that indefinitely. I can focus really hard and maneuver it in specific directions sometimes but I can’t have that kind of focusing ability at the ready 24/7. No its really a matter of working around it. But having a label and some basic medical explanation can help in some ways but its a facade really.

Mostly, my dermatillomania seems to be of a type that is more akin to drug addiction than actual OCD. Which is weird in that I always assumed it WAS my OCD. Realistically, my OCD is comprised primarily of my obsessive thoughts rather than any special behaviors though. Because when I get those obsessions, the dermatillomania doesn’t have any connection at all to them. The thoughts don’t make the dermatillomania rise up nor does engaging in the dermatillomania erase or banish the obsessive thoughts. So in a sense, they aren’t really related. And neither are either of them related to the meningeal herpes.

Except they are all heavily affected by stress.

So here I am with three conditions that have the capacity to make my daily life a living hell with mental, emotional and physical pain: obsessive thoughts, dermatillomania and meningeal herpes. Stress has a very profound effect on all three but in entirely different ways.

Stress lowers my mental acuity and banking my obsessive thoughts gets harder and harder the more stressed I am. I can easily end up in a panic attack just from not being able to make my brain shut up. Of course, panic attacks, as uncomfortable as they are, aren’t the end of the world nor do they do any real damage, but the real problem with obsessive thinking really is that it isn’t just obsessive, its intrusive and dominating. Once my brain gets started on a tack, its very very hard to get much else done. One of my favorite tactics to deal with obsessive thoughts is to engage in something that is either attention-grabbing or unpredictable… preferably both. One of the best defenses? Talking to other people about what is going on with them. Its better than reading or watching videos. In both reading and video there are formulas and tropes that get used and become less helpful in the quest to distract my brain from spiralling into near-madness. Talking with another actual human being, however, does ‘t follow formula or tropes or memes. This is why I sometimes get seized with the desperate urge to talk to someone and have them do all the talking. I need this sometimes to distract and reorient my brain. It works remarkably well. This is also part of the reason I love children; children do not follow formulas of any kind. They may be easy to understand (I said MAY) but they definitely do not follow conventions. Children don’t even KNOW conventions. That’s the beauty of it. So when I seem creepy in my enthusiastic desire to converse and play with children, its really just a point wherein their inane chatter and bizarre social interactions are soothing to my obsessed brain patterns. I cannot maintain obsessive thoughts while I am around children.

Stress also increases my anxiety and mishearing because stress slows neurological transmissions. I start dissociation probably as natural slowing of my thought processes but this is also disorienting and scary – it feels like I am not a part of my surroundings because I can’t understand what is being said to me and I can’t figure it out fast enough. When you “hear” things a half-second after everyone else does, its easy to feel alienated from your party. This starts anxiety and as a result, the dermatillomania pops up. I’m not sure if the dermatillomania is some kind of subconscious urge to wrest control of my body (I kind of doubt it) or if its really just a misfiring in my brain that I usually can keep at bay. Anxiety and tension makes it emerge though, this I know. And I don’t mean anxiety of the kind that brings panic attacks, I mean a general feeling of tension and well stress. When I get angry  or frustrated with no discernable solution or target, I start in on the skin. When I am overly worried about something and I have no idea how things will go, I start touching my skin. When I have a stray thought of something fearful? no. When I’m scared? no. Just when I’m ill-at-ease.

I wish I could say what makes it lessen. So far, the only thing that’s helped is less coffee and anti-depressants. The meds don’t make it go away completely but they do lessen the urge and make it less frequent.

We all know stress lowers the immune system response so its pretty obvious that stress would greatly affect the herpes. I take meds for that but nothings perfect, you know?

So there you are; three conditions that are affected by stress and sadly can create stress which makes it all worse. Yeah you can see why its become my primary objective in life right now to be as stress-free as possible.

So far so good.