Loving Yourself – It’s Not Easy to Learn

Backstory: I know a lot about dysfunction.

That’s pretty much the most important part of the backstory. I don’t have a real decent track record when it comes to knowing how to be loved. It’s one of those things that I see other people just instinctively know how to react to, but I never really have. I married the first guy who told me he loved me. I was 15 when he told me he loved me, and 20 when we got married. I should also mention that I blurted it out first, not thinking, but definitely meaning the words. He quickly followed up with, “I love you, too,” to which I shouted, “No!” and then dramatically burst into tears.

I told you, I’m pretty f*cked up.

After that there wasn’t another relationship where love was really even talked about. There was a guy I fell in love with who was about to say something along the lines of stepping up things with us, so I quickly sunk that ship faster than the Titanic in an iceberg storm. Nope. Wasn’t going through that hassle again. I went back to my abusive spouse, and just stuck with what I knew.

The last thing he ever told me was that nobody would ever love a sick girl like me.

I talk about it, and it’s always in a way that mentions how painful the words were, while also playing up my determination to prove the words wrong. The thing is…I don’t know if I ever will, at least not when it comes to me and romance with someone. I don’t know if anyone will want to love someone who may not be able to have children, at least not conventionally. I don’t know if anyone will want to love someone who has to rely on IVIG to stay alive. I don’t know if anyone who ever knows the extent of my disease, will be willing to take a chance on a forever with a question mark hanging over all of it. I do know I want more than anything to start chasing down bucket list items, ideally with someone who loves me as much as I love them…

Then I realized that I don’t love myself. 

It was a shockwave because I’ve always talked about my low self-esteem. Seriously. I take baths with hand towels over my stomach so I don’t have to see my livedo reticularis, or my chubby areas. Usual I try and obscure other areas I’m uncomfortable with, but I can’t because of the port. I’ve been back in San Diego for almost three years, and I’ve been to the beach a handful of times, and worn a swimsuit maybe 10 times total, but only 2 times without cover on. It’s just not something I’m comfortable with. I’ve never felt attractive, and it isn’t even a weight thing. When I’m heavy, I feel too heavy, and when I’m thin, I feel too thin. There is just this inherent wrongness that plagues me. Even when I have to do my makeup, I try and rush, and I never focus on my full face. Photos are a nightmare.

Personality wise, I know I’m a good person, but I’m not as able bodied as other good people, so I don’t feel as though I am a valuable person. That reduces my ability to love myself. Tomorrow I have nutrition, and I’m going to talk with her about how we can handle some of these things, including working with the therapist at the practice. My current diet isn’t helping, because I’m living in a constant sugar crash, or feeling like I’m going to be sick because I’ve tried the wrong combination of foods.

I need to embrace my reality, I am a spoonie, I am a sick chick, I won’t get better but I can manage better. I also need to learn to love myself despite all of this.

Maybe someone will tell me they love me, and mean it, and be there through the ups and downs, because it would be amazing to have someone to share this life of mine with.

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Loving Yourself – It’s Not Easy to Learn

Chronic Illness is Not Enviable or “Cool”, And Gastroparesis is NOT an Eating Disorder

A few years back, a seemingly healthy friend of mine, expressed jealousy over the fact that I could have my dog in apartments that were, otherwise, not pet friendly. I explained that he had been an emotional support animal, before I realized he could sense my seizures and heart rate changes. At that point he was trained to be both a medical alert dog, as well as a psychiatric service dog. (Back then I was struggling with some major side effects from PTSD. Today they’re under control, though I do still appreciate my dogs waking me up if I do have a night terror.)

She would, eventually, announce that she had PTSD as well, and promptly run out and adopt a “service dog” of her own. All of it was whatever, until she started trying to convince folks with very little, or even no, trauma, that they too, could have PTSD. Ever feel anxious in social situations? You probably have PTSD. It was absurd, and I told her as much. It was suddenly this popular thing. Emotional support animals were getting scrutinized, but psychiatric service dogs became a loophole. They’re totally legitimate, but seem to be easier for some folks to sneak through the system, which is just sad.

The breaking point came when my struggles with gastroparesis became extreme. This was prior to chemotherapy, when I was really thin. My frailness, something that prevented me from going out and enjoying life, became this enviable thing. Someone with an eating disorder clung to it, and decided that they could eat whatever they’d like, vomit, blame it on gastroparesis, and gain sympathy.

It worked.

I still didn’t really think much about it at the time, or even now, because we all have our own battles. What I did think about, and what I still become aggravated with, is this idea that gastroparesis is an eating disorder. After years of being accused of anorexia or bulimia, finding myself in that viewfinder again, was beyond aggravating. I wanted to eat, desperately, and I wanted to drink even more, but I simply couldn’t overcome the nausea. It wasn’t worth eating just to be sick. Some people with GP, will eat, and get sick, either because they want to attempt to eat, or they miss the taste of food, and a small percent I’m sure, do have true eating disorders on top of the GP. Eating disorders can also cause GP, but it can be reversible in some cases.

I am not in the reversible category, and I need people to accept that.

I have good days and bad days with gastroparesis, but it never goes away. A good day can actually cause a string of bad days if I’m not fully aware of what I’m consuming. My behavior may look eating disorder like, but the reality is I can’t digest as much as I may want. A good day means I’m not as nauseas, or I may even have an increase of collateral blood flow, letting me digest…but my GP doesn’t go away.

There is a condition called median arcuate ligament syndrome, or MALS. With MALS, the arcuate ligament runs in an odd manner, and causes impingement of the celiac artery. This results in a lack of blood flow to the stomach, liver, and some other stuff in that area. It can also cause compression of nerves. In a nutshell, you get abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, and all that fun stuff. Surgery helps some patients, but not all patients, and the theory behind this statistic is that patients who have nerve damage, will have continued pain.

I don’t have MALS…but I do have significant celiac artery stenosis. They can’t stent it, they don’t know what causes it, and it’s significant enough, that spasms from my vasculitis, could cause it to close off completely, worsening the pain, and gastroparesis episodes.

Except of course, doctors don’t love that conversation, because having your celiac artery narrowed to about 90%, like mine is, when you don’t have atherosclerosis, is weird. Also, even with atherosclerosis, the celiac artery would be an odd point of discovery. Some doctors agree, my celiac artery is the cause of the gastroparesis and other upper GI issues, especially when combined with my chronic gastritis. Other doctors refuse to even approach the subject. When MALS is understood, accepted, and still debated, being that one random patient with a bum celiac artery, tends to sort of become something that your doctors ignore.

I won’t wake up one day and be able to eat normally. I always have pain when I eat…always. Even friends who get excited to see me eat a meal, don’t understand the effort. I will have pain. I will have nausea. I may actually need to sit a certain way, use a hot pack, something, to alleviate the discomfort. Once we hit my intestines it’s really a toss up as to how that will go. There is always some pain due to dehydration, and the stool softeners and laxatives I’m required to take. Some sections don’t always work. Other sections are sometimes ulcered. It’s a fun time down there.

So when someone tells me that I will “heal” my gut as I move through my “eating disorder” like they did, I want to scream. 

Being sick is not something that gets you the kind of attention you might think you’ll get. I want love. I want to build a career and a life. Spending time in infusion chairs, ERs, doctors’ offices, it’s all just a lot of stuff that gets in the way of living life. Yeah, my wheelchair helps me get around, but now that I don’t live downtown, where will I go? You can’t put it in a car, so it leaves me stranded unless I take the bus, something I’ve yet to attempt.

I may start a day feeling good, go to an event, and end up with legs that won’t work. It’s funny how the people who seem to be disability envious, who suddenly find themselves with the same conditions, only have issues when they’re home alone, or want to hang out with friends who seem to have plans that they don’t have the ability to participate in for some reason other than their health. If you always feel healthy enough for parties, concerts, and other leisure activities, but suddenly seem violently ill to avoid obligations, or garner attention, I’m going to question your sincerity. I’m not talking about a recovery day (or week) because I know that one good day for me, when pushed to far, can definitely screw me up. It’s the people who seem to cling to the fringes of the disabled or “spoonie” communities, join somehow, but always seem to have luck when it comes to when their condition will flare up.

Today is a hard day, because I find myself bitter. I want this life I cannot have. This isn’t something positive thinking can fix. Most of the time I do accept my circumstances, and I work to find things that can make me just as happy, if not happier, than my original plans. It doesn’t mean I don’t get angry sometimes. When someone gleefully jumps into the sick people community, only to have oddly good luck in terms of when they’re actually sick, and when they’re not, I struggle to bite my tongue.

Be interested, be included, but don’t lie. Even a small illness deserves support. Hell, all people deserve support. You don’t have to fake being seriously ill to get it.

 

Chronic Illness is Not Enviable or “Cool”, And Gastroparesis is NOT an Eating Disorder

Port Placement and Panic

On the 11th I had my port placed. It’s funny, I’d spent months wanting it, but when the time came, I totally panicked. The idea of a catheter, just hanging out that close to my heart, suddenly had me second guessing my decision. The fact that some doctors were on board with the decision, while the others weren’t, didn’t help matters. In pre-op, the nurses couldn’t get a vein, so they called the IV team, they used an ultrasound, numbed up my arm, and went after a deep vein. The nurse told me that my veins are really small, and apologized for having to work hard to get into the vein. She also said I would be happy with my port.

I had to be at the hospital at 6am…but when I arrived, I wasn’t on the schedule. I hadn’t really slept the night before, so I ended up falling asleep and was taken to the pre-op area at around 7am. I still wasn’t on the schedule, but they said I’d go back by 9:30. 9:30 came and went, and at this point my anxiety is screwing up my vitals. The lowest my heart rate got was 99 bpm. My blood pressure was a mess, too. I didn’t end up going back until 1:30. By then, I was a mess. I’m begging for the versed, and worried that I’m going to just back out of the entire thing. There was a miscommunication between the nursing staff and myself. Basically I hate pain killers. They make me vomit, and I just don’t like the feeling as they wear off. Throwing up, shaking, cold sweats, it’s a disaster.

For some reason the nurses wrote down that I had a low tolerance to both pain killers, and versed. 

After several syringes, the frustrated nurse told me that I had a really high tolerance to versed, not a low one. I told her that I knew that. That’s when I found out, basically, that I hadn’t been given enough of either drug. I was a bit loopy, but totally coherent. The doctor started, and I hadn’t been told we were starting, and I felt pressure and blood.

It isn’t pleasant to feel your blood trickling down your neck.

The procedure went well, thankfully, and I went home, but panic was immediate. Every move that I made caused my neck or chest to twinge. I kept worrying that the catheter was going to stab my heart. I kept worrying that I was going to get a blood clot and die. I still am worried about the port, especially the blood clot issue, but I’m realizing how necessary it is. I haven’t had my infusion of fluids and vitamins in over a month. I am going in on Monday. It’s still scary to think about my port being accessed, but I need to get used to it.

I think part of the stress of the port, is feeling like I’m more sick. The port is going to improve my quality of life, but having it makes me feel like I have, “sick girl,” stamped on my forehead. If my gut wasn’t messed up, I wouldn’t need it. Well, I’d probably need it eventually for IVIG, but I’d have a while at least. Nobody will see it once the wound heals, unless I have it accessed, but it’s just a stressful situation for me personally.

I’ve met people online who seem to want to be sicker. They want the feeding tubes, the ports, the wheelchairs, and I just don’t get it. I’d love to fade into normalcy. I want a job. I want to drive. I want to go to a restaurant and eat something. I want my dogs to just be dogs, not dogs with jobs. At the end of the day, I can get back to most things. I may never be able to eat normally, but that’s okay, that I can work around. I would love to get IV fluids regularly.

Maybe it isn’t about getting back to how I felt before getting sick, but about learning to find ways to enjoy life and be happy with the life I’m living now. 

Port Placement and Panic

When You Just Can’t

THERE WILL BE A TRIGGER WARNING ABOUT 1000 WORDS IN. PLEASE, IF TALK OF SELF HARM OR OTHER RELATED BEHAVIORS TRIGGERS YOU, DISCONTINUE THE READING AT THAT POINT. THANK YOU AND KIND THOUGHTS ❤ 

Today I’m somehow depressed, but more positive. I don’t know if that makes any sense. The best way I can describe it is chemical versus rational. Chemically I’m out of whack, but that makes sense. I haven’t been taking in a ton of calories, which led to me almost getting a period. Let me explain…

Your average female who menstruates, thinks that underrating results in losing your period…and it does. There is also a reverse mechanism though. TMI alert…I have an IUD. When I first got it I was not pleased, I basically spotted for a month, had terrible cramps, and wanted to punch my gynecologist in the face. (For starters, he gave me a generic version of Mirena only approved for 3 years, not 5, but told me he was putting in Mirena. It was super fun finding out that I got something else after it had been inserted. (Bonus points for the fact that he had opened my cervix, realized he forgot something, and had to open my cervix a second time. Don’t worry, he’s not my doctor anymore.) After a month though, my periods stopped.

This was 2.5 years ago. Since then I haven’t really had a period, which given my brutal periods, was a good thing. When I started getting really sick, right before starting Cytoxan, I hemorrhaged. I brushed it off as a really bad sudden period, but when it happened a few more times, I went into my gynecologist. At this point in time I was around 120 pounds, and I’m 5’10”. I went in, and the first thing my gynecologist told me was that I had lost weight and I looked good.

I was so malnourished at this point, my hair was falling out, I was growing white fuzz on my body, and I was literally incapable of warming my feet and hands. I looked like I was dying, and I felt like I was dying, and yet this doctor had the nerve to say I looked good. What the…

As we have established, he’s not my doctor anymore. What he told me made sense though. I can’t have estrogen containing birth control because of a family history of blood clots. With my one artery being potential impacted by Behcet’s, there was also an increased worry over whether or not I was personally at additional risk from the Behcet’s. I was informed that my body was suddenly producing extra estrogen in an attempt to instigate hunger, because I wasn’t taking in enough calories. These bursts of estrogen were causing intense bleeding. Fair enough, but still aggravating. Plus…if I looked so great, why was my body willing to risk bleeding like that in order to cause hunger pangs?

I really should have reported him. We all have different preferences and visions of beauty, but as a medical professional your focus should be making sure your patient is healthy. I had lost a significant amount of weight, and was no longer at a safe weight for my height. Perhaps my slender frame was normal in his life, but it was something that warranted investigation as my physician. 

I’m lucky right now. My doctors noted the 30 pounds I lost, because while it was fine to lose it, and while I’m still in a healthy weight range, and could even lose more weight, the quickness with which that weight came off was NOT healthy. 30 pounds in 30 days is not a goal.

So tomorrow my wheelchair comes. Today I did nothing. Every time I stood up, I got shooting pains in my head, neck, and lower back. They have never found the source, and have suggested dehydration each and every time. Given that I haven’t gotten my infusions in a while, that’s 110% true. I am dehydrated. Still, these headaches and related back pains, just murder me in terms of movement. I’ve also just been weak. As embarrassed as I am by the thought of the chair, I know that I’ll be able to go get things for myself again, decreasing days like this were I’m struggling. (I can’t afford delivery of groceries right now, and I can’t tolerate water no matter how hard I try.) I wanted to go see people today, but I was stuck inside. I struggled to even take my dog out. Thankfully my roommate took him out just now so I don’t have to attempt to navigate the streets tonight.

Chronic illness is a lot of fighting, but it’s a lot of acceptance, too. When I started the signs of bleeding today, I faced the fact that, even though I wanted fries, one sleeve of fries and two pieces of toast in an entire day, is just not enough to live on. I forced myself to eat maple syrup today even though I desperately didn’t want it, because I knew it was calorie dense, and liquid. I put it on toast as a sort of pseudo french toast.

Again, it wasn’t good, and I don’t recommend it as a fun treat. It did what it needed to do, and that was the point. Gastroparesis changes how you see food. It’s fuel, but it’s also something you kind of chase impulsively. If I know something won’t make me vomit, or writhe around in horrid pain, I’m going to eat it. 

My failure to get out and do anything today, the pain, the fatigue, the anxiety over the chair, I logically worked through each thing…but my brain chemistry felt like it still need to give me a little shove via depression. I have depression and anxiety because of my PTSD, but I suffer because of the major depression from my Keppra. How do I know? The symptoms are so different. With things relating to my PTSD, talk therapy, thinking through the situation, finding routines, they all help with the symptoms. Plus the symptoms are less life limiting. Sure, I’m startled easily, hyper vigilant, and can’t handle some situations, but I’ve come a long way via cognitive behavioral therapy, and conventional talk therapy.

Major depressive disorder doesn’t care how much you talk…

Trigger Warning: Below there is talk of self harm and suicide. If you are triggered by discussion of this subject please discontinue reading this blog. If you or someone you know is thinking of suicide, please call, text or message, the suicide hotline (in the United States. I apologize as I don’t have information in other countries. I do believe 999 is emergency services in the UK, and 000 is Australia.)

Suicide Hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255, Available 24 hours everyday, there website is https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

 

______________

One thing my major depressive disorder causes, that my PTSD and related anxiety/depression never caused, is really obsessive suicidal and self-harm thoughts. I have had thoughts of both in the past as a result of my PTSD, and medication decreased those thoughts, but they were never as intense as they are with the major depressive disorder. I will become immobile, just stuck in bed. Then I’ll drag myself to the shower, and just climb in wearing my clothes. I would look around and just see items I could hurt myself with, or even kill myself with. Living 24 floors up when your meds aren’t sorted out, is a real test of self-control. Thankfully I talked with my doctors, and we began a treatment plan.

Today was just one of those weird days where the meds worked, but not well enough. I felt worthless all day. Financial struggles caused me anxiety, but the inability to socialize was the worst. I’m generally okay with being introverted, but when my medical issues make it impossible for me to go out, it creates a small crack for the botched chemistry to spill out of. There is something so bizarre about feeling utterly worthless, feeling like you should just run into the woods and never talk to anyone again, but also recognizing the irrationality of that thought process.

Thank you biochemistry for the gloriously f*cked up mess, that is my brain on Keppra.

To be totally fair it wasn’t normal before the anticonvulsant came into my life, but it was manageable without medication. I am not embarrassed that I need medication to keep myself safe. There was a time when I was ashamed of my thoughts. I didn’t want anyone knowing how violent and real they were. Now I realize the importance of recognizing the severity of that thought process, and the need to ask for help.

Chronic illness warriors, spoonies, sick people, whatever label those of us choose to use, tend not to be folks who really love asking for help. We’ve been in the hospital. We’ve had to call nurses every single time we had to go to the bathroom. We’ve eaten bad hospital food. We’ve gone through painful procedures.

We are conditioned to prove our independence…so if we ask for help, we probably need it badly.

That was today. I don’t feel well, but I’m also oddly at peace with it in a rational sense. I can tell you why my stomach is messed up. I can tell you why my asthma is flaring. I can’t tell you what this headache combination is, but I can tell you that it’s probably related to the fact I haven’t had enough to drink today. Now I’m going to take a nice bath since last night’s bath was ruined by a lack of hot water.

If you are reading this, and you’re realizing that you have a logical side of your brain that shouts over that illogical biochemistry induced portion, I’m sending you a gentle hug via our phone/tablet/computer/whatever. You’re not alone. Focus on that little rational voice shooting from the back, it’ll guide you on the right path. 

When You Just Can’t

ER Drama

My flare reached new levels, and once I realized I couldn’t eat or drink enough to prevent passing out, I went to the ER. Actually, I went to the ER because of that, and some persistent lower left quadrant pain and bleeding. (I also spiked a fever which was present at my doctor’s office, but ran away in time for ER arrival. Thanks.)

The first ER I went to on Tuesday. They treated me like absolute garbage. I was accused of being a drug addict even though I explained my bad veins were the result of my Behcet’s and repeated sticks and infusions. Despite them having my chart, including an admission to their affiliated hospital a little over a year ago, I was repeatedly asked what drugs I inject.

Thank for making me feel worse about myself, and for avoiding the actual reason I’m in your damn ER.

So I wait, and wait, and they put in an IV but don’t flush it…like ever…which for me means it’s borderline useless. I’m in the waiting room, with at least 40 people, and the room is made for at least half that number. People are crying, coughing, the whole plethora of possibilities. For better or worse, I’m in and out of it because I’m just so dizzy. I want IV fluids more than I’ve ever wanted them before in my life. Then, I realize I’m going to faint. I’d been waiting for over two hours at this point, I’ve asked for zofran, but wasn’t given any. I had a partial seizure, and then another, and I realize I need to tell someone, but the triage nurse keeps disappearing into the back leaving all of us sick folks to fend for ourselves (unless you’re mobile which I wasn’t).

I manage to show him the word “epilepsy” on my emergency application on my phone. (During partial seizures I often know what I want to say, but I lose the ability to say it.) He understands me, but then does nothing.

Yes folks, I tell this man via pointing that I’m going to seize, and he just sort of acknowledges me, then walks away. Thanks.

The partial intensifies and now the whole room looks funky, and I’m overcome with this sense of fear I’ve never experienced. Usually I kind of just let go and let my brain and body do what they have to do, there isn’t a point in fighting the inevitable, but this time I really fought it. Perhaps not the best idea. I wake up in the back, and I can’t get nurses and doctors back on track. I get it, I had a seizure, but I don’t remember any of it. I offer to go wait in the waiting room again. I literally was like, “Hey, I know you’re busy, I’m still woozy, but I’m not here for this, so can we just get me back to waiting for my turn?”

I ended up leaving after six hours, with no fluids, no medications other than seizure drugs, and no answers.

Wednesday rolls around and I’m sent to another ER. This time they were much nicer, but things still got shady. My lab work was normal, but per my PCM’s instructions, I got steroids. Beyond grateful! There were some hiccups, namely they were out of small IV bags so they had to push reglan slow through my IV. Between the steroids and the reglan, I got massive jitters. I was told I was being admitted and that I’d be meeting with the rheumatology team at that hospital the following day. Then things got sketchy.

I was going to be sharing a room. Not the end of the world, but not ideal when you’re immune compromised. We get to the room, and I realize sleeping with the TV on means annoying my bunkmate. I told myself I’d use my phone. As I’m trying to process all of this, I realize that the nurses are confused. The other patient is on precautions! She’s coughing in her sleep, on the other side of a flimsy curtain, and the nurses scan’t sort out why someone on reverse precautions (me) would be in a room with a patient on flu precautions (her).

I am not spending the night in the hospital with normal labs, if it means sharing a room with a flu patient!

This kicks off a debate between me and the nurses. Why am I even taking up bed space? They can’t control my nausea adequately in the hospital because there is a limit on nausea drugs in terms of dosages. I metabolize them fast, and end up constantly nauseas an annoyed by it. I’m going to be sharing a room, while vomiting, with someone who has the flu? No thanks.

To be honest a large part of it was just steroid induced panic. Had they shown up and medicated me, I’d have been okay(ish), but it just didn’t make any sense to me. Why spend the night, try and talk to a whole new rheumatology team in the morning, and expose myself to the flu amongst other nosocomial infections?

I haven’t talked to my doctor since leaving AMA. Yes, folks, I left against medical advice..only not really. The only reason I was admitted was because my PCM was worried, but the labs confirmed I didn’t have sepsis (his worry) and the doctor who was in charge of actually admitting me agreed I was fine to go home. His superior didn’t want to take the risk, hence I had to sign out AMA.

Why would they put a reverse precautions patient in with a patient who was contagious enough that nursing staff had to wear masks around her? I know the hospitals are overrun with flu cases, but that doesn’t mean that chronically ill folks should have to forgo proper care. I do wish I could have seen a rheumatology team and perhaps pushed for quicker treatment via steroids and IVIG, but they wouldn’t have been able to approve the IVIG quickly. Also, three days of high dose steroids, in hospital, while sharing a room with someone highly contagious? That is such a bad idea.

The lesson is go to your usual hospital for these things. My doctor had hoped one of the two big centers could have placed my port, but that wasn’t going to happen either, not unless it was a prolonged admission with the start of IVIG included.

That’s been the last few days! I have phlebitis in my left arm from all the sticking, and I’m still sore overall. I have been able to eat fries and tots for some reason, but only in small amounts. Carbonated water and Sonic slushes have definitely been saving me, too. I said a lot of stuff this past week that I regret, most of it due to lack of usual medication, and the addition of emergency ones. I also couldn’t think clearly because of the lack of nutrition. Now I’m stuck in this place where I regret so much of what I said, but I can’t easily take any of it back.

I wish people understood that not everyone with chronic illnesses handles emergent situations the same way, and even people who seem strong on the outside, can fall apart in strenuous circumstances.

I suppose time will tell if friends forgive me and support me still. All in all it was a really rough week, and I’m glad that it’s over. I’m hoping I’ll get some good news next week, and that I find the forgiveness of my friends, too.

ER Drama

Medical Marijuana Discussions

I live in California, where marijuana is now recreationally legal. Anyone over 21, can go to a dispensary, and buy marijuana. There are regulations on where you can use it if you’re smoking or vaping, but other than that, it’s all fair game. As a teenager and adult, I never had the urge to try marijuana. Yes, I’d heard about it, but with all the medication I was already being put on and taken off of, it just seemed like a risk. Not to mention all the drug testing for school, work, and medical tests. Then the gastroparesis situation got dangerously bad, along with the Behcet’s, and you all know that story.

With the legalization of marijuana I don’t need to renew my medical card at the end of the month, but I likely will if I can find the funds, because it’ll entitle me to certain discounts, and provisions for having more in my possession than a recreational user. Not that I’ll ever have that much in my possession, I’m way too broke to store that much weed, but it’s nice to know that, were I to move somewhere that allowed me to grow some, I could.

Recently I’ve graduated to vaping a few times a day. It isn’t something I particularly enjoy, because for me I’d rather take less medication, including marijuana. I view it as both a recreational option, as well as something that has medicinal benefits. It’s all about how you use it. I would thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to join the recreational trend, and just use it periodically to relax, alone or with friends. Right now, I could theoretically smoke more with friends, or different strains with friends, and feel different than I do when I use it medicinally…but it sort of throws me off mentally.

How can something I rely on to avoid hospitalizations and severe dehydration, also be something I use for fun

My brain keeps comparing it to opioids because of what a professor said about the legalization of marijuana being a gateway to the legalization of heroin. Obviously he was off base, just based on the reality that heroin doesn’t have a direct medicinal use in it’s abused form…but it is an opiate. Opiates can be prescribed to treat pain. In fact, a lot of heroin users started by abusing pain killers. They switched to heroin because it’s cheaper. So what is it? What defines something as a recreational drug, versus something that is used medicinally?

In the end I think it comes down to how it’s used, and how it’s acquired. Yes, marijuana is legal in my state. If you smoke it until you can’t function, pay your bills, or exist, then you’re an addict akin to an alcoholic. If you use it periodically in a responsible manner, then you’re a recreational user. If you use it as recommended by a physician, then you’re a medicinal user. It seems simple, but people judge you anyhow.

Now that it is legal in California, people view my regular use of Marijuana, as though I’m some stoner who can’t get by without being high. Truth is that I’m rarely high unless I overshoot my intake, or change to a new strain that impacts me in an unexpected manner. 

I need marijuana, but only because Zofran can only do so much. (Not to mention waiting for it to kick in when you have gastroparesis can be excruciating. There’s nothing like taking an antiemetic and knowing you’ll probably throw it up…) If I can get a port, and start getting more IV fluids, then perhaps the nausea will be more manageable. As it is, I’m sort of low on options for treating the nausea. I can’t take any more Zofran than I am, and they would prefer I take less, because apparently there is a link between Zofran and an increased seizure risk. Phenergan increases your risk of developing a movement disorder, which is a problem since I’ve been on it so long. That caused a decrease in my dose, and I’m only supposed to use that as absolutely necessary. I’m allergic to Compazine. I thought I wasn’t because I didn’t have flat out dystonia like I did years ago, but after a few doses it felt like my muscles were on fire, and I was super twitchy.

Today I’ve had a bowl of gluten free macaroni and cheese, and two small rice crispy treats. I feel like I’ve eaten an entire family’s Thanksgiving meal.

This is life with gastroparesis. What I did eat, was courtesy of weed. I’m beyond grateful that I was able to even get that down. I haven’t had water today, just a little gatorade, and yes, I’m bad, I had soda. I’m working on giving it up, but I am addicted to caffeine. I’m also a graduate student with 2 weeks left of class before she starts her thesis, so I mean, it is what it is at this point. (Let’s toss in a personal life in turmoil, and finances in ruins, and I think we can excuse the fact that I consume 1-2 cans of cola a day.) Thankfully, for whatever reason, fizzy beverages are easier on my system than flat ones.

So yes, friends, family, and potential future people that I meet…I use marijuana and it has undoubtedly saved me from hospitalizations, passing out, and at one point, a feeding tube. 

On one side of the page is the list of symptoms relating to chronic illnesses you have, on the other side are the tools you have to deal with those symptoms. Ginger helps with nausea, it’s also totally legal for anyone to buy and consume because they just like ginger. It is possible for something to be enjoyable and fun for one person, while another person uses it for help in dealing with their health.

Medical Marijuana Discussions

Family Planning (NSFW-ish)

Okay folks, there will be some basic biology talk in this post so if you don’t want to read about any of that, I’ll see you next blog 🙂

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Ah yes, birth control. That thing you wanted until you turned 30, then immediately wanted to burn so you could start a family with the guy of your dreams…just kidding, this isn’t a sitcom. I was put on the pill at 16 because I had periods that were brutal. It turned out that I had really bad ovarian cysts. I was on the pill from 2002 until 2014. I wasn’t on anything for a little over a year. Then, after a year and a half (or so), I got an IUD. There is my birth control journey in a nutshell. There were different types of pills involved, but because of my cyst issues (and what turned out to be endometriosis) I needed high dose oral contraceptives. I went off for a little over a year because I wanted to see if cysts were still an issue, and while they were, the endometriosis was really more of an issue than the cysts were. At the time it wasn’t diagnosed, though. Once I kicked the pill, my doctor felt comfortable with the diagnosis. So how does this all fit into Behcet’s?

For starters, there is an awkward give and take with the whole birth control issue. Most of my medications are contraindicated in pregnancy. Some are actually so bad for pregnancy, I had to prove I was taking reliable measures to avoid becoming pregnant. Of course my family history of blood clots, and having vasculitis, meant I was pushing the limits of estrogen containing birth control pills. My doctor had told me that being on birth control pills that contained estrogen, was a surefire way to get a blood clot.

I really didn’t want a blood clot.

I was able to forgo birth control entirely because I had failed to get control over periods using non-estrogen containing oral contraceptives. They had wanted to use an IUD, but I was super afraid at the time. I also knew that I wanted children in the next five years. At the time I was with someone who had lab work that showed issues, issues that would make conception without intervention highly unlikely. The chances were low enough that, when presented with the numbers, my gynecologist was comfortable enough with me going sans birth control, despite being on medication that usually required me to be on birth control.

Score one for male factor infertility.

I don’t do drama, so for the record, my ex did go on to have an adorable baby boy with his gorgeous girlfriend. While we were together I was informed given the information at my disposal, that we could not have children. Indeed, I was able to stay off of birth control for well over a year, without a pregnancy. 

Now, for so many years the goal of life was to avoid pregnancy. Let’s me honest, for most of us that’s how it goes. We try to avoid pregnancies, until all of a sudden we realize we want kids. Some people are lucky enough to avoid pregnancy, then become pregnant, when they find it convenient. Other people find themselves getting pregnant when they didn’t plan on it, or struggling to get pregnant at all. Then there are the weird sick women out there, who have the added benefit of having to seriously plan out pregnancies because of illnesses and medications.

Doctors have had various recommendations for me. Some have looked at the research and been comfortable with my proclamation that I want children some day. For many women with Behcet’s, pregnancy brings a relief from symptoms. Doctors don’t really know why, but Behcet’s symptoms, and even the disease itself, tend to lessen during pregnancy, and even shortly afterwards. Of course some women have worsening symptoms during pregnancy, and more have issues following the birth of their children, but there was hope.

Other doctors have acted like I’m insane. The medications alone make it a really risky idea. I would have to stop certain medications for a certain period of time, but also be able to start pregnancy safe medications within that time, to keep all my symptoms in check. A seizure during pregnancy would be really bad. Gastroparesis makes me nauseas and struggling to feed myself adequately, how in the world will I be able to nourish a growing baby? They point at the unknowns genetically in terms of how many people in my family have autoimmune ailments. Of course there is no guarantee that I’ll be passing anything along.

The rest fall somewhere in the middle, which I feel is the right place to be. I definitely don’t expect to have an easy go of it, but I would like to have at least one or two children of my own. I would love an adopted child, or a stepchild, just as much, but there is something about a biological child that does call to me. I’ve definitely considered IVF with a surrogate, but that is an expensive route. It’s also the safest in terms of what would be best for the baby. (Think about it, my body does a poor job of keeping me alive, entrusting it with a fetus seems terrifying to me.) A surrogacy would also mean I could stay on a lot of my medications, or at least go back on medications sooner. (Some medications you cannot be taking because they pass along birth defects via the egg, so I would have to stop those prior to egg harvesting.)

Is this a fun read or what…

I know my best chance at having a healthy biological child, is via a surrogate, but it doesn’t make thinking about it any less daunting. I mean, I was married, I’m in the process of getting a divorce, I’ll be 32 in April…and there is a timeline on fertility. I didn’t do myself any favors with the chemo. (I still don’t know if there was damage to my eggs, but again, that’s not something I can really know without specific fertility testing. My insurance only covers fertility tests if you’ve been trying to conceive for a period of time without success.

I’m pretty sure I don’t meet the qualifications of trying for any period of time, given the fact that I’m painfully single.

Another issue for me is that I did have early stage cervical cancer. They removed a pretty decent size of my cervix, and the location has made it more likely for me to experience issues with premature labor. So, you know, as if it weren’t enough to have Behcet’s with heavy GI involvement including gastroparesis…I had to go and get cervical cancer, too. Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond grateful that it was caught early, and that I only needed local surgery instead of a more invasive surgery and chemotherapy. It just would have been nice if I could have avoided cancer all together.

Doing six months of chemotherapy, then getting diagnosed with cancer? Yeah, that’s only something that happens in my life.

This is another rambling blog, but today was infusion day, and I’m in that weird headspace of sleepy, but full of vitamins. I hope I find someone someday who can love me, illnesses and all. I also hope that they want children (or already have children) and are supportive of whatever pathway to parenthood we choose together. It may not be conventional, but that’s okay. Right now I do have an IUD. It was placed before I was diagnosed with cancer, and I’m thrilled with it. It controls my endometriosis issues, and I don’t know it’s even there. There isn’t a worry for me regarding pregnancy, which is important still with all the medications I’m taking. With my nausea issues, vomiting, and malabsorption, it was time to get something that didn’t rely on another pill I would have to remember to take. Plus, no estrogen!

Family Planning (NSFW-ish)