Attention to anyone that can’t deal with talking/ranting about girly issues, please move on…
I related a story a few weeks ago about my first period. How I was thoroughly unprepared for what was happening, I was wearing a white dress, I bled all over the church pew, and how the deacon’s wife was so nasty about the whole thing.
It never really got better beyond that point.
A few months after I started, it became obvious that things were not normal. I was bleeding for 3-4 weeks at a time. It would stop for a couple days and then start all over again. Mom took me to the gynecologist. He was a nice old man that worked in the same office as my pediatrician. I was alone, scared, and embarrassed and stuck in a room with an old man asking me if I was sexually active and telling me to take my clothes off. I cried. I was 12 years old and had no real understanding of menstrual cycles or gynecologists.
I tried brand after brand of birth control pills to try to get this under control. All it did was cause me to vomit all the time. So I was still having these awful periods and bleeding through my clothes frequently. But my school also reported me as a bulimic. I wasn’t. It was the medicine. They put me on the depo shot and I had 1 magical year of no periods. However, my father was very concerned about my ability to have children after exposure to the depo so he forced Mom to make them take me off it.
From 17 to 19, I dealt with the same bullshit all over again. Constant bleeding. Never ending bleeding. At 19, I decided I could make my own medical decisions and I went back on the shot. It was another 2 years of glory. Except this time, it came at a price. I gained 50 pounds in 1 year. Now, I know my weight is partially due to poor diet and lack of exercise. And somewhat due to heredity. I’m not blaming medication for all of it. But it did not help. With that, I started getting headaches right about the time that I should have been getting a normal period. My new doctor promised me when I was older, I could have a surgery that would take care of these issues.
At 22, I had to go see another new doctor because the doctor I was using at 19-22 sold his practice and it became a Medicaid/Medicare-only office and they weren’t allowed to do sliding scale cash patients anymore. I ended up having to go to the health department instead. Not a big deal even though I wasn’t fond of the doctor. She was too rough during exams, had no bedside manner, and spoke down to me a lot. According to her, all young 20-somethings are promiscuous so by me saying I wasn’t, I was also a liar. *sigh* I only had to see her once a year and otherwise got my shots from a nurse practitioner so I let it go and continued getting the shot there.
9 months into getting these shots at the health department, they overdosed me on the medicine. Or gave me something else entirely. A nurse came in and gave me a shot. She said the doctor would be in to see me. Odd, as it wasn’t time to see the doctor, but okay. A few minutes later, another nurse comes in and says she’s giving me a shot. Um… a shot of what? Cue a lot of nurses running around and no one having a clue who the other nurse was or what shot she gave me. Ultimately, that not-nice doctor ended deciding that I was lying since their inventory of depo shots was not missing a shot, there was no other nurse and I was just making stuff up. She bullied and harassed me and I ended up letting them give me another shot.
I was deathly ill for 6 months. Like 104 degree fever off and on, hallucinating, I lost 50 pounds, have entire weeks that I could not remember what I did from black outs, etc. I don’t know what that other “nurse” gave me but it wasn’t good. I had missed two depo appointments and faced the choice of either starting over with the shots or just coming off it completely. After how sick I had been, I opted to go off it.
Which led to a completely new issue. I didn’t have a period from age 22 to age 26. At all. It wasn’t normal. And the new gynecologist at the school health center was utterly stumped as to why. She told me (to my face) that she didn’t believe my story about what happened at the health department but she couldn’t explain why I suddenly had amenoreah without a medical, medication, or athletic reason. I went to several different doctors during this time to try to figure out what was wrong with me.
My period eventually came back. I was teaching in the front of a classroom of 7th graders and wearing khakis. It was my nightmare all over again. Within a few months, it came back full force. 28 days at a time. Heavy. Headaches. Now with massive clotting and cramps that I hadn’t really had before. And then diarrhea. Yeah.
I lived with it at that point. My entire wardrobe changed to black pants. I bought pads and tampons in bulk. I also bought panties in bulk because I could only wash the blood out of them so many times before they were just beyond salvaging. I spent more money on dealing with my period issues each month than I did on my electric bill.
Eventually, I stopped teaching. I moved home to take care of Mom. Gran offered to pay for me to see the doctor if I would get whatever prescription he wrote. I was terrified of going back but I knew I couldn’t keep going like I was. I went and he immediately wanted to put me back on the depo. I balked. I told him what happened. Surprisingly, he actually listened. He did a more in depth exam and found a mass in my uterus. It ended up being that my uterus was absolutely full of polyps. I had a mass of them fused together that resembled a large tumor on ultrasound. He did a DNC to remove the polyps and was certain that would fix my period issue as “those have been growing in there for years!” He told me then that I was the perfect candidate for an ablation (where they scar the uterine lining, usually beyond repair, to stop abnormal bleeding) but that I was too young for him to do it at 29 years old with me not having had children yet. He would do it when I turned 35 and said I would be much happier with the ablation compared to having a partial or full hysterectomy as I wouldn’t go through the change of life.
6 months after the surgery, I was polyp free but bleeding and cramping again. He pushed for the implant this time. I pushed back even harder. I know my body and I know I wouldn’t take to an implant. I know this for certain. Absolutely not. So he went back to the depo. I finally relented and went back on it.
I have been on it for 3+ years this time around. Once again, I’m dealing with all of the lovely side effects. Bloating, cramping, headaches, nausea, chronic diarrhea, joint paint, depression, and weight gain. Oh and completely eradicated sex drive this time. Like, none. Since going back on the shot, I’ve put on another 40 pounds. Once again, I’m not blaming just the shot. I am now on gynecologist #5 at this particular practice. They have a revolving door. That, or it is a teaching clinic of which I am unaware. It is a new face every time I go in.
And here starts my rant. I went in for my yearly exam Monday morning. I turn 33 in a little over a week. I felt it was time to start getting real about having an ablation done in 2 years. I assume this is not something my insurance will cover as it isn’t a “medical necessity” so I want to start planning long-term for the financial impact of paying out of pocket. In walked a doctor I have never seen. Yet again. She’s nice enough but I already assume she isn’t going to be a sympathetic ear. The female gynecologists have never been sympathetic. Or listeners. The males might not have the best bedside manner but at least they don’t treat me like I’m over-reacting to something that has literally derailed my life.
So I explained my medical history. I let the whole overdose thing go because its been a decade ago at this point. I tell her the psychological impact that my periods have on me. I wear nothing but black. I can’t swim. I avoid social interactions that might keep me more than 3 feet away from a bathroom. Physical activity is out because I’m exhausted. Sexual activity is out because I am not having sex while on my period (yup, prude moment but /barf). I won’t even date. Try explaining this to a date: “Well I can’t have children while I’m on this medicine but it kills my sex drive and makes me 0% interested in being naked with you. But if I come off this medicine, I will bleed constantly and won’t have sex with you while bleeding because that is gross.” I ended up on anti-depressants the last time I was doing the whole period nonsense because I couldn’t cope with the anxiety and depression it caused. Everything hurts. I’m constantly tired. I get sick a lot easier. The whole deal.
Then I told her I am looking at having an ablation when I turn 35 because I don’t want to be on this shot for the rest of my life but I can’t deal with the periods either. She stared at me and then asks “Well, the depo shot seems to be working for you. Why do you want to go off it?” I go over the laundry list of side effects. She nodded and said “uh-huh” through it. Then she responded “I hardly think that is a reason to go off the medicine, considering the alternative is dealing with your periods.” She frowned and said “Your periods really sound abnormally bad.”
Then she went off on some tangent about how my bleeding issues just goes to prove how strong women are and how we can handle so much. o.0
I was confused. I explained that I didn’t want to go off the depo until I had the ablation and Doctor So-and-so from 3 years ago said that I could do it once I turned 35. Hence why were are talking about it now so that I can start the financial planning for an expensive surgery that my insurance will probably not cover much of, if at all.
You know what she said? “Well, as you know, women are having children much later in life. Our medical board has re-certified the guidelines and we cannot do that kind of surgery on women that haven’t had children before they are 40 now.”
You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.
I have been banking on getting this over with at 35. No more period. No more depo side effects. Maybe then I can rebuild my social life and go on a date every once in a while. And now I have to wait 7 more years?!
And then she rubbed salt in the wounds. “Aside from your age and not having a child already, you are the perfect candidate for ablation.”
I was furious. I got to my car and cried for 30 minutes before I could get myself together. I went to work in a red haze. I did my job, had conversations, and made it home. And then I sat here Monday night just kind of staring into space. I couldn’t cry. I didn’t want to upset Mom or the kids. I couldn’t yell or hit things like I really wanted to do. All my energy was being diverted to not crying. I held it together until everyone went to bed and then cried myself to sleep.
I am calmer now. I’ve had a couple days to process. I’m still highly pissed off, but I’m not constantly on the verge of tears. Well, I got teary eyed a few times writing this, not going to lie. But I’m trying to focus on other things. I’ve written a few light blog posts. I’ve been doing that whole “positive thoughts” thing. Mom and the kids are healthy. Other than this issue, I’m relatively healthy too. I have a great job. I have a roof over my head and a mostly-reliable vehicle. We have food to eat and clothes to wear. We have luxuries. I’m going on vacation in 9 weeks to places that are expensive but I can afford them with planning. There are so many people out there that have much worse going on with them than what I’m dealing with.
I can suck it up and start trying to figure out if there is a loop hole. But I’m still mad, dammit.