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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Caution! Doctors May be Dangerous to Your Health

Disclaimer:  If you are at all squeamish about the physiological workings of a woman’s body, you might want to leave the room.

This post sprang from one published by Katie Gates a few weeks ago.   Please click on her name to read it.  Katie, you are not alone!

I had my first menstrual period when I was 12.  It woke me in the night with hard cramping in my lower abdomen and back.  I was spending the night with Randy Fite, and I was wearing a pair of her pajamas. I was horrified, more by the fact that I had stained her pajamas than by the pain.  
When I got home, I sat down with my mother and told her I was having my period.  What I failed to tell her, because I didn’t know better, was that my flow was not bright red but a muddy chocolate color.  We had never really talked about menstruation, and to this day, I believe she never considered the fact that I would grow up and actually have periods. 
Mother didn’t seem to think that my pain was serious.  She believed that I was just frightened by the whole process, which could have been true if I hadn’t learned about periods in school.  I grew to accept that, once a month, I would have two days of excruciating pain when my period arrived.
When I was 14, Mother finally took me to a gynecologist.  The doctor put me on Enovid, a hormone therapy which was in use at that time for menstrual disorders.  It would become the first pill categorized as a birth control pill.  The dose was 10 mg!  That means it contained a ton of hormones, both estrogen and progestin. 
My cramps went away, but what the doctor failed to tell my mother was that the high dosage could lead to numerous reactions, such as blurred vision, nausea, weight gain, bloating, depression, blood clots, and strokes. 
Remember that I was 14 years old.  Within two months, I had gained 20 pounds, my self-image was in the toilet, and I had taken to having crying spells for no reason.  My breasts were huge and embarrassing.  My doctor blew off the depression as a normal reaction to the weight gain, and she put me on a diet of only vegetables and lean meat or fish. Carbohydrates were forbidden.  While my friends were eating pizza as an after school snack, I was eating green beans out of a can.  When I went to sleepovers, I took my canned vegetables to eat while my friends were munching on chips and cookies.  My mother allowed me one cheeseburger a week.
I lost the 20 pounds and more, but the depression lingered.  Always an eager learner who made excellent grades, I lost interest in school.  I lost interest in boys.  Despite the weight loss, I always saw a fat girl in the mirror.  That would lead to anorexia in my 20’s and 30’s.
Then we moved back to our home town, and my spirits improved.  We had been living in Florida when I went on the pill, and I missed my old friends.  
I subsisted on a diet of grapefruit juice and protein for the most part, but my weight stabilized.  Then I saw another gynecologist, who reduced the dosage of Enovid.  My cramps returned, but they were not as bad, and I only missed one day of school each month, lying on the sofa with a heating pad on my stomach and popping Eskatrol, a popular diet pill, which had anecdotally been shown to make cramps more bearable.
There I was, a high school student, on hormone therapy that was not really effective and taking speed to make it through the pain.  Never once did I question my doctor, but neither did my mother.  
Fortunately for me, I was one of those kids who follow the rules, because the doctor prescribed endless supplies of Eskatrol, and if I had abused it, I would have become a speed freak.  When I was on it, I couldn’t sleep, and I took it for two days every month.  My mind was crystal clear, and I threw myself into my school work, writing papers and studying for exams while under its influence.  
This pattern continued through my high school years and into college, when I never missed class because of my period because I had my speed to get me through.  I changed gynecologists a couple of times, but no one had anything new for me.  One doctor offered me a presacral neurectomy, the surgical removal of the presacral plexus, the group of nerves that conducts the pain signal from the uterus to the brain.  At the time it was a major abdominal operation that certainly was inappropriate for a young woman in her 20's who had never been pregnant.  I did have enough sense challenge him and refuse the surgery.  I never saw that man again.  

It would be years before I was diagnosed with endometriosis, which I apparently had from the age of 12 and was the cause of all the pain and the abnormal flow.  I was fortunate to have gotten pregnant once and had a healthy baby, but I was never able to get pregnant again.  
A hysterectomy at age 31 was the only answer for me.  It’s no one’s fault that I had endometriosis.  That was Mother Nature’s call, but the treatment I received over the years and the attitudes of my doctors amounted to malpractice.  It is sheer luck that I was not permanently harmed. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lies, All Lies

I began a post on Seasonal Affect Disorder, but before I would write more than a few paragraphs, I had to stop and write this down.  What follows will surely color my post on SAD, but it is only part of a large and complex dynamic in which I am enmeshed.  
None of it was true.  It was a calculated, carefully planned series of lies that began the very day Parrish arrived in Florida. I was so desperate to believe he was finally on the way to making some sense of his life, I did not challenge him.  The lies were so good, rang so true, that I felt I had no reason to doubt what he said. I was so desperate to believe he was finally on the right track that I took him at his word.  He is a master liar, a genius at it.
It was easier, safer to think that all was well, so I chose not to question him.  It made life much less stressful for me to think he was getting help and embracing it.  I didn’t want to worry about him.  I wanted to pretend everything was fine.
Today, Angela, the administrator of the assisted living facility (ALF) where Parrish lives, phoned me.  She wanted to know if I had heard from him because he had been missing for over 24 hours.  I remember thinking to myself over the last three days that when I don’t hear from Parrish, the news is never good.  I should have listened to that voice in my head, but I chose not to deal with it. 
Angela and I talked for a while, and she told me about Parrish’s behavior of late.  All along, his story was that he needed money for transportation down to Miami so he could attend a program at Jackson Memorial Hospital where he was referred when he left the hospital in Augusta on the October 5.  Angela was shocked, saying Parrish had never been to Jackson.  He has been enrolled in a program in Broward County which provides free transportation.  Again, he has proved to me that he does not want to get better.  Again, he has taken money from me under false pretenses, and I call that stealing.  There is no telling how many other lies he told.  
There's more.  There's always more.  During his absence, Parrish was in jail, collared for disturbing the peace while out with his druggy girlfriend, a woman who had been asked to leave the ALF because of her drug use.  Angela was suspicious that he was using with the woman and there was gossip from other residents that Parrish was seeing her and that they were getting high together.  She planned to call me even before he went missing.
I felt strangely detached, shed not a tear.  I realized I didn't care where he was.  I just didn't want him around me, digging into my heart and breaking it.  I did not feel brokenhearted at all.  I felt tired, fatigued to my bones from these recurring episodes, but the last time something like this happened, I saved a corner of my heart for me, a place where he could not go.  That place began to swell, telling me that this could not hurt me unless I allowed it to.  I listened.  I gave away my unearned guilt, flung it far, relinquished all sense of responsibility for Parrish's actions and began to believe that I cannot save him.  He is a lost to me as though he were dead.  I will grieve, in fact have been grieving his loss for many years.  All I can give him is my prayers. 
December 5
Parrish called me from the ALF last evening, sounding as a drunk as a Lord, demanding that I do something because the staff wouldn’t not give him his medicine.  I assured him that he would get his medicine when the time was right.  He angrily hung up in my face.  (I learned today that when he placed the first call, his pills had already been dispensed).
Thirty minutes later, he rang me back, having no memory of the first call.  He was all “I love you” and “I can’t wait to see you.”  A total crock of horse shit.  No hint of his foray into the criminal justice system.
Last night, I took a sedative when I went to bed so I could get some quality sleep, and it worked. I woke feeling rested and a little bit more brave.
Angela said yesterday that she wanted to get Parrish in her office today so they could call me, put me on speaker and have a three way discussion about what’s been going on.  He flatly refused, saying I would abandon him emotionally and financially if I knew the truth.  He begged Angela not to tell me anything about him.
He knows of what he speaks.  I cancelled my travel plans to visit him later this month.  I have authorized Angela to give him $5 every Monday, and I am not taking his calls.
No, I’m not whining.  I am relieved.  I want all of you out there who care about me to know I am wearing my big girl panties.  Not only can I not deal with this during the “holidays,” I’m not willing to try.