NOTE: Originally written April 3, 2016. I just forgot to publish it.
Apologies for suddenly going AWOL – things got interesting and time consuming and frustrating and all sorts of other things. So guess what I’m talking about today!
Last I wrote, I had ended up back in the doctor’s office. I was just not getting better. I still had a fever, still had an infection, and was still in a lot of pain. We decided to attack with antibiotics (again) and go from there. Fast forward a week and I was no better. CT scan time!
Because of my varied health issues, I’m very very familiar with CT scans (and MRIs and X-Rays, and just getting pictures taken of my insides in general). This was the first time that I’ve ever had to drink something lovely called “contrast solution.” No big deal, right? Just drink down a glass of it two hours pre-scan and one hour pre-scan and then flush my system with lots and lots of water…pretty easy. And, to be honest, it was. The solution came in little packets that were mixed with 16 oz of cold water. I was advised to chug.
Again, thanks to varying health problems, I’m familiar with how medication tastes – usually anything that’s not in capsule form (I’m looking at you, ciprofloxin) falls somewhere between “I can get this down if I don’t think too hard about it” and “dear god, pass the bucket NOW” when it comes to taste. The contrast solution was on the low end of the scale – it tasted like what an orange-creamsicle would vomit after an especially crazy bachelorette party. Essentially, it was something that would be more fitting coming up than going down, but holding one’s nose and chugging milkshakes of yuck can be a very good way to get through the unpleasantness. It was surprisingly thick, though. Given it was a small packet of powder, I didn’t expect it to turn two cups of water into something that reminded me of Thanksgiving gravy gone cold. I had trouble getting it through the straw.
The CT scan also involved a contrast injection. No big deal. I have an incredibly high pain tolerance (chronic kidney problems and endometriosis do have some silver linings), so digging around with a 18g cathater covered needle for one of my tiny veins (no joke, they’ve made seasoned phlebotomists cry) is no biggie. I’ve had the contrast injections before and knew what to expect: a very pleasant warmness spreading through-out my entire body culminating in the feeling that I’d wet myself (side-effects can never just be good, they always have to come with something unpleasant).
The scan just involves holding your breath for a few seconds and staying very still. It doesn’t take more than fifteen minutes or so. Since it was an abdominal and pelvic scan, I never was fully in the machine, so no claustrophobia to worry about either.
The results were back in a day – the scan showed nothing that would point to anything seriously wrong. The abscess had even shrunk to almost nothing. Good news and bad news – we know that it’s nothing internal, but we still didn’t know what was wrong. I was advised to rest, wait, and monitor. We think that the infection had just slowed down healing and I might have been impeding it by doing too much too soon. Turns out that was exactly it. A week of what was essentially bed rest has me feeling like I’m almost back to normal.
As for the suspension…well, it came out fairly easily. I drank a MASSIVE amount of water, felt like there was metal in my colon (due to heaviness), and literally shit white for a couple of days, but that was it. In light of the rest of the process, this was nothing.
My apologies for the silence – the last month has been a bit of a whirlwind.
The quick overview: my infection finally started clearing, my graduate application to UND was accepted, and I was able to receive a refund for the classes I had to drop this semester. I’ll be taking one class this summer (starting next week) and graduating just in time to start my GTA.
I didn’t want to write for a couple of reasons: first, I was unmotivated (sorry) and second, I didn’t want this to become an online diary. Things have an emotional roller-coaster, what with dropping out and then getting into grad school. Some of my friendships have gotten a bit complicated. Family matters have been taking a bunch of time (and that’s all I can say about that). Don’t even get me started on dating (even my gynecologist thinks my love life is…complicated).
Things are a little more stable now – or, I’m at least being more of an adult about it and dealing with the ambiguity that is life. I’ve been working on my three-tiered plan – things are going much better now that I can move around without my abdomen screaming at me.
Which brings me ’round to the “plan.” I’ve modified a bit, as I expected to. I’m shooting for running three times a week rather than every day – something a bit more realistic for someone like me. As for yoga, I’d underestimated how much my abdominal muscles were affected by the surgery. I’m fat, but under my blubber I have muscle, and quite a bit of it. It seems that there’s a lot less now in my abdomen (I wish I could say the same for the fat). I can’t get through 30 minutes even the most basic of yoga workouts (yes, I know there’s more to yoga than the physical health benefits, but right now I’m focusing on the physical…we’ll talk spirit later). I like the kind of yoga that leaves me utterly exhausted – I find my meditations are much clearer after that kind of yoga versus a few sun salutations. Maybe it’s a spiritual shortcut I shouldn’t be taking, but I still don’t feel “right” unless I leave my mat sweating through my bra, shirt, and pants.
The other night, I started trying to work my abdominals back into some semblance of shape. Ironically, I’ve been doing kegals ever since I could tighten my pelvic floor without screaming in pain. It didn’t occur to me that I should be doing the same with my abs, especially considering they’re so well hidden (’cause pelvic floor muscles are so easy to see).
Today, physically, has been hell on earth. I’m used to being able to whip out literally hundreds of crunches, no issue (again, yes, even with the flabby tummy). I couldn’t do that last night…but I tried. I shouldn’t have tried. There’s a difference between general muscle-soreness (like the kind I get after trying to shave time off of my runs) and surgery-healing pain (like the kind that you get when you’ve had your abdomen cut open so an organ could be removed). I had trouble sleeping last night due to pain. I’m actually thinking I might have to break into the stash of big pain killers that I have left over from recovery in order to get a good night’s sleep tonight. I could barely play in lessons (and yes, violin does involve abdominal muscles). Oddly enough, running wasn’t an issue, though. I’m planning on cutting back on the crunches and upping the planks.
Spiritually, I’m still researching. I’ve talked with people who I respect about their spirituality (yes, I know how to go about this without prying or overstepping my bounds) and have complied a bit of a list of what spiritual health means – at least to me. I want to give back to the community somehow. I’m thinking volunteering as a coach for youth volleyball or softball, but that’s not something that I can do until I’m 100% again. I don’t like the idea of donating money, food, or clothes mostly because that doesn’t really do anything in the long run (unless it’s money for research, in which case I’ll empty my pockets). Please don’t misunderstand – I still donate clothes and food too, but I want to do more than just give out the canned goods I’m not going to use and clothes I don’t wear anymore. There’s more I can do than just that.
However, something that came up repeatedly when discussing spiritual wellness was the idea of living for yourself versus living for others. I’ve always thought that putting yourself first automatically put me in the “living for myself” category – and I don’t want that. However, what happens when I get sick? You can’t pour from an empty cup, right? I’m struggling to find a balance giving while maintaining an equilibrium. It’s a work in progress, for sure, and definitely something I’ll keep wrestling with.
As for the third tier, mental health, I’m starting to get some more concrete goals set. I know that I want to learn how to handle schedule-upsets better – it’s a pretty good starting point. I’m also working on being better at recognizing panic attacks when they’re happening in order to better recognize triggers. Panic attacks are funny that way; they’re not just hyperventilating while in fetal position. Sometimes they are a suffocating numbness that utterly blinds you. Other times my mind goes on a flight of fancy while my body goes into autopilot. I’ve gotten so used to working through them (which, to be honest, didn’t work) that I’ve gotten really bad about identifying them when they start. I’ve already come far enough to recognize when they’re over or happening, I just need to do the work that will help recognize them in time to stop the panic.
I’m also starting to focus more on my love life. Though part of this is probably the increased sex drive, another, bigger part comes from the fact that I rarely, if ever, actually go for what I want. I made strides last summer that I cannot forget, and I’m glad I took those steps – they’ll help me on the long road ahead. I’ve learned that it’s not only okay to ask for what I want, but beneficial in the long run. What’s bigger is that I’ve gotten a bit more used to the idea that I deserve to be happy (just like everyone else does). I’ve never, ever had any doubt that my loved ones deserved happiness, but for some reason I could never let myself be okay taking steps to make myself happy. Something in me felt like I didn’t deserve it – and I’d be lying if I said that something isn’t screaming at me right now to stop talking and go make myself throw-up (I know, I’m so healthy).
Ultimately, this surgery is something that has worked in all of the ways that I hoped it would. I haven’t had a single smidge of an endo flair. My kidneys haven’t been doing anything they shouldn’t and, since all the endo around my ureters has been burned out. Things are really, really good right now, and looking to stay that way. Now is the time for me to take my life and turn it into a life rather than just a fight to try and reach “normal.”
NOTE: This was going to be published on May 11, but I got lazy and then anxious and put it off until now. Click here for featured image.
I’ll have another blog up relating to hysterectomy stuff soon – I’m wanting to blog about the CT scan and so on and so forth.
However, today personal life and recovery are going to be the focus (again). Today has probably been the most emotionally trying day of recovery. I finally made the hard decision to withdraw from school this semester. I’m hoping to get at least some of my tuition back, but since I had to make a special circumstances withdrawal two years ago for a case of pneumonia that nearly killed me might affect the Dean’s choice.
This means I won’t graduate this semester. For my degree, I need one of the classes that I was taking, and this class is only offered in the spring. This will be my seventh year as an undergrad. I can’t keep this up, financially or mentally. I have to move on, one way or another.
Part of my plan, pre-complications, was grad school. Today, I found out that I’m on the waiting list. Overall, this is not bad news. I’m not the best candidate for many reasons, but I’m also a great candidate for other reasons. I can be okay with this decision. I can’t say I’m happy with it though. I have this feeling of being able to do better work and not being able to because of physical limitations. To put it another way, I know I can do good work, but something keeps preventing me from doing so (and sometimes that something is myself).
So, I’m taking the rest of this semester and summer as an opportunity. I need to “get healthy” (more on that later) before I can devote myself completely to anything scholarly. I need to get to the bottom of why I’m constantly getting infections. I need to work on coping with upsets in plans. As my posts from my recovery start to die down, I plan on blogging about what I’m doing to improve myself.
I realize the goal of “get healthy” is probably one of the shittiest goals out there. It’s not specific, there’s not a step by step plan. As everyone says during New Years, resolutions need to be specific.
So far, I’ve divided health up into three categories: physical, mental, and spiritual.
Physically, I want to get back to running every day like I was during the summer and fall (turns out I actually have come to like running thanks to the Zombies!Run app). I also want to do yoga at least a few times a week (and this crosses over into spiritual). I don’t look at weight as a goal, losing or gaining. I’ve had eating disorders in the past and would like to avoid falling into that hole again. I want to be able to play a game of soccer with my friends without feeling like I should be the ball rather than a player, or sweating a large amount, or wheezing. That’s how I’m measuring my success here – in how I feel. Not how I look, not what I weigh, but what I can do.
Mentally, I want to develop coping mechanisms for when things go to shit. I do well with schedules. For example, at the beginning of the semester, I was up every morning at five and doing an hour of yoga. I ate a homemade, healthy breakfast. I went to class. Grabbed lunch (usually a salad from the Student Union) and did homework. Went to my afternoon classes. Lessons in the evenings brought in a (admittedly small) paycheck. I worked out a few time a week in the evenings and even had time to game, draw, and chill in general. Weekends were wonderful since I usually had my homework done before going home.
That’s how it always starts – I’m doing well, really well. And then something throws me for a loop: surgical complications, pneumonia, a PTSD flare…I can’t get my train back on the tracks. I need to learn how to cope and how to fix it. Hello therapy!
Spiritual wellness is probably hardest for me to define since I don’t really align myself with any particular religion. I find Buddhism and Hinduism line up with my values and beliefs fairly well, but I’m reluctant to actually call myself either. I definitely believe in the “Do unto others” that Christianity preaches, but I’ve had so many negative experiences in the church that I want to continue to distance myself from Christianity.
As for the spiritual goals, I want to meditate every night. I want to learn more about both Buddhism and Hinduism. Again, I want to do yoga at least three times a week (it makes meditation better). I also want to start giving back to the community, but I don’t know how to start doing that. Some folks I know would argue that community theater counts, but I disagree. Same thing with donating used clothes – it isn’t coming from a desire to help, but to clear out my closet. I’m think about checking out a few of the food pantries around and seeing what they offer in terms of volunteering.
I still need to refine these, as well as prioritize them and my hobbies. How much do I want to write this summer (I have at least two people who have threatened bodily harm if I don’t finish the draft of the book I’m working on soon)? How much do I want to sketch? Paint? Sculpt? And there’s the huge amount of time I want to spend with my friends…And the need for another job.
I guess the overall conclusion I can come to is that I have some time to figure it out. I’m both not starting and starting tomorrow. I’m not somewhere where it’s a good idea to run five miles every morning, but maybe I can do some situps and pushups tonight. I’m taking the necessary steps to start working on coping mechanisms already.
Mostly, I’m impatient. I want to be able to start NOW. Full throttle. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead…but my body isn’t allowing me to do that, or at least not in that way. I’ll have to settle for starting slow. It’s better than not starting at all.
On the tenth, I saw my gynecologist again for my month post-op check-up. Turns out the stitch at the top of my vagina where my cervix used to be is infected, like I suspected. I curse that idiot NP who thought everything was “normal.” She didn’t even do a visual exam…my doc was not pleased to hear this.
Once again, if you’re a parent, teacher, or someone who doesn’t want to hear the minutiae of my sex life and drive, you might want to skip this one. You’ve been warned. Seriously- I talk about masturbation.
Now that those who need to step out have stepped out (or ran out, depending…I debated going for something much worse for that image, but decided not to be mean), back to the exam.
Although I’m glad he did it, the actual exam hurt like hell. The speculum hit me in all the wrong places (around the wound and on the abcess) and even the exam without the speculum caused me to see stars, and not the kind you want to see when someone has their finger in your vagina. My lady-bits are closed for business until I get the all clear from my doc. That said, as the inscision is weeping pus, I can’t imagine anyone would actually want to put a their penis near it – even though it’s impossible to see without the proper equipment. A note to those with vaginas: puss looks rather similar to the discharge that can come with a yeast infection, but thinner. You see this in your panties, go to your doc ASAP. Another way to identify it – you know the stuff that comes out when you pop a pimple? There’s the hard core and the off-white fluid? Imagine that fluid, but enough to necessitate a pad. Again, if you see that GO TO YOUR DOCTOR. It’s not smelly (thus why I didn’t think much of it until I was told what it was) and it can be missed if you aren’t paying close attention. I’m currently sitting at panty-liner level of discharge. That said, I’ve started seeing blood in it again and will, again, be calling my doc in the morning. I’m so sexy right now.
This infection makes me very glad that I don’t have a boyfriend or husband. I’ve not been allowed sexual activity for the last for weeks, for understandable reasons. Up until the last two, I wouldn’t have been able to help satisfy any needs thanks to exhaustion. Now, I just found out that there will be two more weeks of “nothing in your vagina.” This is why I don’t currently have a Tinder profile. As for an actual boyfriend, well, I’d imagine blow jobs get old after a while.
Granted, I’ve gotten clearance to do other stuff, whether with a partner or by myself. Just, and my doc couldn’t emphasize this enough, NOTHING IN THE VAGINA!! After we chatted briefly about it, my doc was relieved to learn that I actually know what a vagina is. Apparently it’s a common issue. Time for some education, folks.
The vagina is not the visible part of the female genitalia. That (the lips/labia, clitoris, vaginal opening, urethral opening, perineum) is the vulva. That’s where most of the stimulation during sex comes from for most people with vaginas (we’re not going into the G-Spot here). The vagina itself is the tube connecting the cervix to the outside world – it’s where the penis goes when sex happens. It is internal. Yes, I know that probably blew a few minds. If you’re still lost, here’s a helpful diagram:
The above is what you see when you go down under. To see the actual vagina, you need a speculum and a flashlight. Before you grab a handmirror and start looking around down there, a note – each vulva is a little different. Some have really long inner vaginal lips, some have barely any to speak of. Vulvas come in all sorts of colors, shapes, and colors. However, if you have concerns, talk to your doctor. Believe me, they’ve heard it before. I’m not a doc, but if you have basic questions about female anatomy, I’m even willing to answer them (or tell you that I can’t and direct you to someone who can – the internet is a wonderful place). I’ve done this for both male and female friends who are curious about their or their partner’s anatomy (because asking the virgin is exactly what you should do when you’re worried about pleasing someone else). Now, let’s discuss the vagina and the parts around it.
See? The vagina is a tube that is inside the body. Still need more perspective? Here you go:
Still with me? Basically, when she gasps “Oh, baby, I need you inside of me right now!” she means it literally.
Okay, time to get back to where this is relevant in what’s happening right now. Vaginal stuff is off the table. Instead of a cervix (don’t know what that is? Go back to the diagrams – that’s why they’re there), I now have an incision. That incision is currently weeping pus and blood – fun, right? And for those of you wondering what I look like inside, I would have a diagram, but I’m having trouble finding one. Every image of a total hysterectomy I can find has the tubes intact – mine are gone. Basically, subtract the uterus, erase the Fallopian tubes (but not the ovaries), get rid of the cervix, and just close the top of my vagina. From the outside, I still look more or less like the diagram of the vulva.
So, no dildos, no fingers, nothing inside at all. My vagina is healing so that it can be of fun use in a few weeks/months. But nothing was done to my vulva so…can I masturbate yet?
My doc said yes, by all means yes. If you’ve been following my blog, you know my sex drive has gone through the roof since the hysterectomy, leaving me more than a little frustrated. I finally tried to take care of some of that pressure the other night.
Well, there was success…but holy hell did it hurt – and not in a good way. First, some of my muscles are still really weak from surgery. Second, when aroused, the vagina produces fluid. This natural lube got on my infected incision…ow. Really ow. I had to cancel plans with Ed the next day (sorry I lied to you about the reason, Ed) because of the pain and the exhaustion from the resulting pain. From here on in, I think I’ll just take a cold shower when needed, at least until I’m completely healed. The pain makes sense, and I didn’t break any rules, but it wasn’t worth the orgasm.
I don’t often share my tattoos online. Even when I got my first, I didn’t take any good photos. They are all originals – my artist is amazing at taking my words and turning it into something beautiful. Each one is entwined with layers upon layers of meaning for me and are, to my knowledge, unique (yes, even the Harry Potter one on my foot, if you look closely).
Today has been the roughest day yet in my hysterectomy recovery. I was expecting to return to school this week. I have a major paper due on Thursday, a major exam on Thursday, and major edits on another paper due on Friday…and those are just the assignments that I know about. Next week is spring break.
I’ve already been out longer than I’d anticipated – though some of that is probably due to my anticipation that I’d be able to bounce back quicker because I’m young (and arrogant). I returned to my lessons on Thursday and they wore me out so much I was scared to drive home. I had one lesson Saturday and picked up some Gatorade to combat some hydration issues I’ve been having (it’s hard to drink plenty of water when you’re only awake for 5-10 hours a day). My WBC count is higher than it was before the antibiotics, but the NP (not my doc) isn’t concerned and I’m left feeling ignored seeing how I still have a fever and my pain got bad enough today that I was swearing uncontrollably when I took the painkiller (maybe I hurt something carrying the six-pack of Gatorade…or my cat jumped on me wrong or something). Today, I’m feeling pretty down in the dumps. I’m not mourning my uterus or anything, just upset that I’m not back on my feet and have been hit with unexpected complications.
This brings me back to my tattoo. If you’ve done the math, you’ll notice it’s taking a hell of a lot longer for me to complete my BA than expected. If everything goes as planned and I graduate at the end of this semester, I’ll have spent seven years as an undergrad – a fact that I am ashamed of, even if circumstances do say I have every right to be perfectly okay with the extra time. Being out of school this long and, worse, falling behind while I’m out makes me seriously concerned for my future. Yeah, I’ve got backup plans upon backup plans, but they aren’t what I’m aiming for. I feel as if my life is sitting on a point, ready to tip one way or another and I have little to no influence on which way it goes. In a way, I feel dead,* as if my body is sitting stagnant while my soul tries to flit off to another place.
But I’m not dead – I’m dormant. Today was the first day in a while that I had to dip into the Vicodin to manage the pain, so I’m pretty loopy. I was lying in bed (with Sophie and Dinah curled up by my legs) and looking at my arm. I was disappointed in myself; why wasn’t I living I kept asking. And then it hit me. I am alive, but dormant. This is not a time for me to display flowers or to bear fruit. My leaves have fallen off and I am covered in a blanket of snow. My tattoo has come to my aide again. Sure, I have some dead branches I’ll need to clear out (things like not being able to use stairs again and not carrying something bigger than a gallon of milk), but I’m alive. This isn’t the time to be spreading my branches wide, but rather to shed and to rest.
Part of why I’m writing this blog, it occurs to me, is because it gives me something to do. I don’t have the energy to translate medieval Latin poetry. I don’t have the energy to do an in-depth critical analysis of anything; I can barely read for pleasure, let alone for academic pursuits. Blogging is by far and large not academic writing. It’s not writing in a diary (what I find to be the “easiest” writing), but it’s not an 8 page analysis of a single stanza of Steven’s “The Man with the Blue Guitar” either. Also, have you tried reading metaphysical poetry while one painkillers? It’s not much for academic extraction, but I can’t deny that it wasn’t an experience either.
So, no, I haven’t seen “Deadpool” yet. I’ve missed productions my friends are in that I really wanted to go to. I’ve been spending what most people would consider, under normal circumstances, an unhealthy amount of time with my cats. I’ve fallen behind in my classes. This does not make me dead though. If I were to stop trying to get better, stop trying to create things (like this blog), stop making to-do lists that get just a tiny bit longer everyday so I can get a tiny bit stronger, then and only then will I stop being wick.
*Please note, this is NOT depression nor am I suicidal or crying out for help. I WANT to be back in the real world and am doing everything I can to get back. I want to get BACK to living.
I went to Target the other night! I bought cat food! I am a single, 25 year old with a hysterectomy and two cats! I am the coolest.
Joking aside, I have been doing more and more lately. The frustrating part comes from the baby steps I have to take. That little trip to Target was all the energy I had in me that day. I’m still sleeping a huge amount (15-20hrs total a day according to my fitbit) and still have a little bit of pain, but I feel better every day.
My incisions are completely closed, no sign of infection. I did get a little worried about one, but my doc assured me it’s just scar tissue. The internal infection seems to be gone as well, thank god.
I’m officially fully in recovery. I’m more concerned with getting well from surgery rather than fixing complications. It took a hell of a lot longer than I thought it would.
I’m still not back in school (c’mon Monday!!), but I’m shooting for one little thing every day. Today, I resuming teaching lessons. The total time given my current schedule will be just a bit longer than one of my longest classes, so it’ll be a good endurance test. Also, now that I’m off painkillers, I’m not worried about what might come out of my mouth around my younger students (the parents want me to teach violin, not Swearing 101). It’ll be a really good test for school too.
Part of the reason I haven’t been back comes from the level of energy I’ve been at – roughly that of a hibernating bear. I don’t get much choice when I sleep – it sort of just happens. It’s a problem
My days aren’t hard at school (this is not talking about the course work), but they are long. I’m taking a full load this semester and still planning on graduating at the end of it. I’ve got a parking pass from my doc to get me as close to my building as possible, but there are still stairs to worry about and backpacks to carry. Though my classes don’t require much movement, they do require books – and a bunch of them. I’m stuck trying to decide if carrying my books with me is the safer option energy-wise than swapping them out in my car. It’s not a fun place to be.
The other reason comes from the fact that I need to catch up. I was doing really well staying up to speed until about a week ago when the exhaustion hit. If I were to show up in class today, I would not be able to contribute anything. Also, I’d have to choose between my classes and my students. Normally school takes precedence over work, but a test of my strength will be more useful if it’s less likely to set me back even further.
This brings me to where am: scared. I have the tendency to push myself way too hard. This is not a humblebrag, but rather a real problem. I push myself to the point of exhaustion – true exhaustion, the kind that people end up in the hospital for. My goal for this semester (even before I knew I’d be having a hysterectomy) was to continue working on giving an healthy amount of energy and time to school. If I push myself too hard after a surgery like this, the consequences will be far greater than when I’m (relatively) healthy. In other words, I could take a day off today and tomorrow and return with energy for next week or I could push myself and end up hurting myself. It’s a fear I have, and a well-founded one. It may have led to a bit of over-caution on my part this time around, but I’m really not sure. My Target run had me back in pain strong enough to need to good painkillers. I had a doctor’s appointment two days ago and was down for the count the rest of the day. Maybe I’m not being over-cautious, but paranoid.
This past week or so hasn’t been all rainy days, though. One day, I got to go and visit my friend Ed (name has been changed) who has been wonderful through all of this. He’s given me the space I need to heal while still making sure I’m not falling into a post-hysterectomy depression.
Visiting Ed was my “thing of the day” in terms of energy and involved a little driving on my part (sober, no painkillers, I’m not an idiot) and sitting at his place talking. We chilled for only a couple of hours, but that’s all I had in me.
Something to understand about Ed and and about me: I love giving gifts to people. I really do. Handmade, bought, whatever, when I find something I know a friend will like, I want them to have it in their lives.
Ed is a little more… particular. He doesn’t give gifts, he gives fucking experiences. When he decides to give someone something, he goes all out. If I were to give Ed a book, I’d wrap it, maybe write a note in it, and then focus more on time with him. When he gives a book, he doesn’t wrap it but places it in a box covered in hysterectomy jokes that he wrote himself, writes a paragraph on the cover as to why this specific book was chosen, and makes sure to hit every single inside joke we’ve ever had. No one outgifts Ed.
I don’t want to go into too much detail over what was all in Ed’s gift to me since a lot of it was stuff that is just between him and me and should (and shall) stay that way. What I will say is that it meant so much to me that, if I weren’t so exhausted, I’d have bawled all over his hard work. I’m currently trying to figure out where to put the box itself (it’s a work of art that started as a shoebox) and the contents inside. They deserve a place of honor.
Visiting Ed was also useful. He’s the first person I’ve seen since surgery who’s not family (maybe, I think a friend who works in the hospital visited me while I was recovering, but I’m not sure if that was real or a hallucination…I should probably ask since he deserves thanks, as if it was real it meant a lot to me that he spent his lunch break with looped-out me and my mother). My mother brought up concerns about depression a few days ago. I have a history with it, but my mental health is far more plagued by anxiety than the non-feeling pit that is depression. She was worried that the reason I hadn’t been back to school yet wasn’t recovery-related, but a return of depression.
Her fears are not unfounded. Personal history aside, many women report depression after a hysterectomy, especially young women. It is life-changing – and not always in a good way. The society I live in places a huge amount of pressure on young women to marry and have kids, possibly more pressure on the latter. It’s not something that surfaces much until a woman says she doesn’t want kids. I’ve seen the backlash when friends and colleagues mention this and have experienced it myself. People expect me to be upset, sad, emotionally unstable. It’s even more frustrating because I do want to adopt someday, but there is this weird emphasis on being a biological mother to a child.
Thing is, I’m not. I haven’t had a single moment of regret since the surgery. The fear and sadness I felt prior to the yank has completely dissolved. I haven’t felt any mourning over my uterus either, something that is apparently common. I’m just relieved it’s gone.
However, again given my personal history, I thought it best to check and make sure. I took a couple of tests and scored incredibly low. I looked at what I was doing when I was awake and found that, if anything, I’ve returned to the things I love rather than withdrawn from them. I’m eager to rejoin the world. Heck, I’m even a little impatient to get back to therapy for my anxiety and my PTSD (seriously, folks, therapy and psychiatry helps more than I can properly say). Though I’m still a bit concerned about the amount of sleeping I’m doing (anesthesia side-effects according to my doc, even this far out), I feel emotionally fine. Hell, the fact that I’m feeling at all is a sign that I’m not depressed. My anxiety might be a little up, but not enough for me to be concerned.
Ed was the one who really confirmed my confidence in this. I was able to ask him if I seemed depressed. He has an acute understanding of psychology and would know if I were “falling into old patterns” as my mother put it. He gave me the green light…for now.
He made a point that what my mother said was probably said too soon. This isn’t a red flag, but it should be enough for me to keep an slightly closer eye on myself than usual. The fight I had with my mother and the talk I had with Ed cemented that I’m doing things correctly. I’m being careful, but I am getting out there. I am pushing to get myself back to normal activities, but I’m not pushing too hard either. It’s a balancing act that I’m trying to get used to.
Before we get to the dirty stuff, here’re the things that have been happening. The infection returned with a vengeance and I’m still out of commission. I’ve not been blogging because I’ve been sleeping. Nothing with the surgery went wrong – this isn’t anybody’s fault. I just have bad luck and a bad immune system. However, I’m noticing improvement every time I’m awake, so I’m optimistic about rejoining the world next week.
Keeping up with the world at large had been tougher this week than the last two because of how much sleeping I’m doing (and how stung-out painkillers make me…more on that in a bit). Writing, which used to take about half a spoon (more if academic), now saps me of energy. Reading is tough too, since the painkillers blur my vision and make my usual logical self start wondering if butterflies in any way or form relate to classic Latin.
So, that’s where I’m at. If you’re a parent, grandparent, teacher, or anyone else who doesn’t want to hear about my sex life, sexual history, and so on: stop reading. Seriously. I promised I wouldn’t be holding back in this blog and, given the nature of this surgery, sex is kind of integral to not only healing, but the decision to even have a hysterectomy at the fresh age of 25. So, like I said, if you’re not comfortable hearing about the nitty-gritty (or should it be wet and slippery?) parts of my sexuality and sex life, stop reading. And yes, it’s NSFW.
Hi, all of you who stayed! Welcome to “Talking About Sex with the Sorta-Virgin!” My virginity is questionable (I’m talking strict penis in vagina) thanks to events in my childhood. To be honest, I don’t know if I am or am not a virgin as I’ve blocked most of the abuse out (though most of my memories point to “not a virgin”). A quick aside, I usually just call myself a virgin – I’ve never had consensual sex. I don’t consider rape sex, it’s an act of violence and therefore can’t take what society has defined as “virginity,” but society at large disagrees, so yeah. Just call me the “Sorta-Virgin.”
I’ve done some stuff – I’ve made out with enough guys that I’ve lost count. There’s been a little above the shirt action and above the pants action (though that was me on him, I’m afraid). I’ve experimented enough to know that I’m about as straight as a ruler. Usually by the time I get to the point of kissing a girl, even if I see how she’s attractive, I just don’t feel anything. Sorry ladies.
I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to sex (and arguably still am). My first kiss was at sixteen. It took years for me to get another. I lived in a small community where everyone was related to everyone, so finding a partner involved travel. The dating pool was…small. On top of that, though my thirst for romance developed at a young age (I’m lookin’ at you, Disney) but my sex drive was almost non-existent. I wanted to date, but I wanted nothing to do with penises or vaginas. I masturbated sure, but it wasn’t a thing I needed, more like something to do when I was bored or trying to get some sleep (kind of like reading or drinking a cup of tea). I never understood how people needed sex to the point where someone was willing to shell out $100 for something that goes buzz just to simulate it (granted I’ve seen the light and now have toys of my own). I never got the “Must. Fuck. Now.” urge that I saw my friends going through. I liked the idea of romance, and even used (okay, still use) those free dating sim apps instead of reading smutty novels because they focus more on the relationship than on the sex.
Finally, I got to college and found out that there is something called the “asexual” spectrum. I never came out, but I identified as a grey-ace for a few years. Whether or not this is true is up for debate – I argue that sexuality is fluid and therefore my sexual identity was valid at the time. I also realized that part of the problem came from the abuse I’d experience as a child. Therapy and psychiatry are worth the time and money, folks.
Then it all changed. When I was taken off of birth control, the “sex” part of puberty hit and it hit HARD. I still remember the first time I felt sexually attracted to someone and not just “yeah, I see how that person is attractive.” Holy fuck did it ever floor me. A customer walked into work and it was like a switch flipped. It was all I could do not to grab him (or have him grab me, GOD he had muscles!!) and have my way with him in the back room…or let any of those dirty thoughts show on my face. For the first time, I didn’t care what his personality was like, I didn’t care what his relationship-status was, I wanted him.
Nothing happened (I was at work, remember?), but my eyes had been opened. It took me a while to get a handle of my new sex drive. Remember what high school was like, with all those hormones going crazy and making you want to do everything in sight? Yeah, that hit me in my twenties. I finally understood why people swooned over Tom Hiddleston and Matthew Lewis…and started swooning too.
This added a new dimension to my hysterectomy (betcha thought this was going to all sex-talk, huh?). I was still okay with not having biological children, but I was worried about what would happen to my sex drive afterward. It had taken me so long to get it. Now that I had it, I didn’t want to lose it. My gynecologist and I talk at length about this.
An aside: I remember the appointment when I told my gyno I had a sex drive. He was so happy for me. I never brought it up as an issue before because I didn’t think it was an issue. Even so, he giggled he was so pleased that the animal inside had finally been awakened.
When we scheduled my hysterectomy, I was given about a week and a half to decide what to do with my virginity. I was risking a drop in sex drive (hasn’t happened, more on that later), but it wasn’t nearly as big of a risk as it would have been with going back on birth control. Because my cervix was being removed, I’d heard that sex would feel different. Problem was, I didn’t know how sex was supposed to feel in the first place. I seriously debated going to some of my male friends and asking them to help me out (I KNOW exactly who I would have asked and KNOW that all of them would have said yes after making sure this is what I wanted). I almost went through with it, too. I was ready to send out the text asking friend #1 to sleep with me. I ended up not, though. I’ve never operated that way. I want things to progress naturally; that’s always what’s felt best when it came to making out, so why wouldn’t that logic follow to sex?
So, I went into surgery a virgin. While I’m healing, I’m not allowed anything going up the vagina – not tampons, not penises, not fingers, not things shaped like penises that also buzz. Here’s what I didn’t anticipate: and increase in my sex drive.
Yep. You read that right. My sex drive has shot through the roof. And I still can have intercourse for another 3ish weeks. I can’t even take care of things myself. A couple years ago, this would not have been a problem. Now, I understand why it’s so serious when a couple says “It’s been a month.” Worse, painkillers make me clingy, as in cuddling – clingy. They don’t make me into a horn dog, but I know how one thing leads to another (well, I don’t know, but I understand).
A while back, one of my friends speculated that one of the reasons I haven’t gotten laid yet is because not only was my drive low, but I was missing the signs that people wanted to sleep with me, like the hormones from the birth control were making me blind to the pheromones in the room (I’ve reflected on this and my friend was RIGHT). Not only is my sex drive through the roof, but this thought has been circling around my brain since it was said – how many opportunities have I missed simply because I didn’t see them? Sure, some of them were blessings (thank god I didn’t sleep with that one creep freshman year), but what about the others? I’ve been lucky and have dated pretty attractive people (or at least, I think they’re attractive), so to have their faces swirling in my memory while I can’t relieve the figurative pressure is more than just a little frustrating.
Overall though, this makes me excited for rejoining the world at large. Dating is going to be so much different now. I’m not saying I’m going to go jump the first guy I see, but I won’t be holding back as much as I had been prior. I still want a connection with the guy. Tinder isn’t for me, nor is sleeping with a new guy within the first week (that is NOT in any way or form a judgment – you do you and get it!!)…I need a connection and I need security (survivor, remember? I would like to NOT go into a panic attack right in the middle of my first time). But, watch out world. I’ll be coming back with my high heels on.
Okay, not literally because I don’t want to know how that would feel after surgery, but you know what I mean.
Time for me to admit it: I’m not Wonder Woman. I’m sure this comes as no surprise to you, and it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me. I’m a week and a day out of surgery – according to the NP who removed my stitches earlier, most women take four to six weeks off of work. And here I was hoping to max it out at one (so far it’ll be two).
The infection is under control, for the most part. My stomach still hurts, but the abscess is going down (or at least I think it is). Don’t get me started on what using the commode is like in terms of pain. I can do simple things around the house, like making sure that the dishes get to the dishwasher. Vacuuming is still a little out of my reach though.
I thought I’d be back on the scene by now – groovin’ down the collegiate hallways, helping my students figure out the complexities of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” (hey, startin’ ’em out on Mozart!) and cheering my friends on in their shows. But no. I am still on my couch, still playing videogames when I’m awake, and still hurting enough to validate the heavy-duty prescriptions. I think my cats are at least happy to have me around.
It’s been a week and no regrets (yet). I still have no doubt I made the right choice and the pain I’m going through right now is so much less than the pain from the endo was. But this pain is different too, just like stepping on a lego feels different than stubbing a toe. Both hurt, but differently.
Usually, with endo pain, I could grit my teeth and push through it. Movement was only hindered by the amount of pain I was in rather than from making the pain worse. Endo isn’t just pain, but I’d been living with it for over a decade – I could make it work, but I was miserable.
Hysterectomy pain isn’t bad. I have yet to experience levels of pain comparable to my worst flares (and I’m pretty sure I have morphine to thank for that). Every time the pain gets to a point where anyone with decent sense would reach for a percocet, I have to lecture myself into taking it. “I just had a whole organ removed. It’s been a week. Lots of women take four to six weeks off from work, it’s okay to still be hurting.” And yet, every time I so much as pop a Motrin, I’m feeling guilty, weak because I can’t just “push through it.” It’s not a pill thing, either. I have no qualms about taking the antibiotic they prescribed me because that doesn’t make me weak.
But the pain, it’s so different from pain I’ve felt before. It’s an ache that’s always there, even with the medication. It’s my body getting used to there being a little more space inside it. Every thing I do, my abdomen had to readjust to the new sensation. It’s incredibly tiring. Endo was exhausting; I’d get home and be good for nothing else because I’d used all my energy getting through the day without curling up in fetal position on the classroom floor (I don’t know why, but cold felt better than heat – heat made me nauseous).
The hysterectomy – I can’t just push through it. It’s like the pain is slowly sapping each of the spoons that I had put aside for the day. I don’t get a choice on sleeping – I’m out when my body tells me to be out. With endo flares, I’d be giving two spoons where I’d normally only have to give one (multiple chronic illnesses – yay.). This time, it’s as if my spoon-bag has sprung a leak and I can’t fix it. Every time I reach in, there are less there than should be. I can’t gauge how many spoons each task will take since I’m not used to this pain, so I can’t mentally plan my days ahead in accordance with my number of spoons.
Through all of this, I mostly feel like I’ve just been a whiny little brat. I fought for this surgery – I should be able to “handle” the side effects with a smile, right? Yes, I know that logic is screwed up on a lot of levels.
What’s really getting me through, though, is the fact that if I don’t rest, don’t take a painkiller, don’t used the temporary handicap permit when appropriate (my walk to my classes is about a mile), that’s when I’m actually a burden. If I don’t take care of myself, then I really am being a whiny little brat. And on that note, I’m going to go take a painkiller and get some more sleep.
Today sucks. A LOT. I have a fever high enough that I’ll be headed to the ER ASAP. My stomach and abdomen hurt like they’re balloons that just popped.
Something is wrong. Maybe it’s just my paranoia, but something is going on that shouldn’t be. I have laparoscopies before, this is not the kind of pain I usually get.Not to mention my fever is breaking through both acetaminophen and ibuprofen. I hurt. I’ve been in worse pain, but this isn’t a “normal, after surgery pain.”
Now I’m in the ER with my mom. The nurse and her student laughed as the painkillers hit (not unkindly). I’ll keep things updated as I learn more.
Update – it’s an abscess. We’re attacking with antibiotics and rest. It’s going to take a couple of days for us to be sure it won’t get worse, but we’ll have more info Monday. I get to go home though!