The Depo Darkness

I often hear men and women alike joke about women’s hormones. She’s angry, so she must have PMS. That’s hilarious, right?

It’s not often lately that I get really bad PMS, mostly I just get extra jittery and anxious. But now and then it really hits me, and I spend the better part of a day crying or just feeling really low. I don’t really see that as funny. Emotions are all valid regardless of the cause. More than anything, it makes me really feel for the women that deal with that monthly, or the women suffering through menopause.

That brings me to my Depo Provera disaster.

Approximately 5 years ago I was prescribed a treatment for Endometriosis after a surgery, in the form of a Depo Provera injection. This is a reasonably common form of birth control that get’s injected into your butt cheek (hehe), and lasts for 3 months. The main ingredient of this injection is Progestin, which effectively stops ovulation. This in turn also prevents Endometriosis from growing outside your uterine wall.

However, what my gynecologist at the time forgot to take into consideration was my sensitivity to medications, especially the hormonal kind. Within a week of getting this injection, I was too depressed to even make it into work. And guess what… There are no medications to counteract an injection that stays in your body for at least 3 months.

I proceeded to spend the next few months with severe insomnia – sleeping a maximum of 2 hours a night. Spending the rest of the night either tossing and turning or simply crying and wondering how I was going to get through this. Of course, I didn’t actually realise at first that it was this injection causing my sudden depression, no one had explained to me that it was a possible side effect. I was only 6 months into dating my boyfriend, Aiden, and we both started to believe that it was my relationship with him that was giving me grief. This caused a tremendous strain on our new relationship, and left a few of his friends that I’d just met thinking I was an emotional wreck, and rightly so! Let’s face it, that’s exactly what I was.

So what happened after 3 months? Well… turns out that emotional side effects caused by this injection actually get worse before they get better. And so, I spent the better part of a year severely depressed . Not even being able to work most of the time – and when I did work I spend most of the day counting the minutes until I could curl up in bed and hide again.

I kept everyone in that dark about all of this. My parents saw the severe anxiety and panic attacks it caused in the beginning, but no one knew the true extent of my depression until I broke down crying in front of my mum in a cafe.

I would like to take a second to point out that I very rarely cry, and I basically never cry in front of anyone else. It’s not because I’m emotionally unstable, it’s just generally not what I do. So my mum seeing me cry for the first time in probably 15 years… Well it really kind of freaked her out, to say the least. She finally saw what I was going through. But despite that, I still felt embarrassed to share this with anyone else. I often laid awake and cried while Aiden slept without saying a word to him about it, and I never let my friends in on the whole truth. No one saw the real darkness that was caused by one simple hormonal ‘treatment’.

Do you still think it’s funny when a woman is being hormonal?

Mental illness is no joke. When it’s caused by or coupled with hormones, to put it plainly, you feel like you’re losing your god damn mind! Imagine feeling perfectly fine one day, and losing all control of your emotions the next. This is a lot more prominent in women with conditions such as Endometriosis or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, but no one seems to talk about it. It’s a very real side effect, especially to so many of the treatments for these conditions. Do you see why I can’t see the funny side to that?

I’m not laughing, and neither should you. The seriousness of this needs to be recognised. Next time a woman is “just being hormonal,” stop and think for a second. That thought, that realisation, could save your wife’s, sister’s, mother’s or daughter’s life.

To all the women out there struggling, please believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. Speak out, get help and support. It’s 100% okay to need that 💙

Puppy Love

This one hurts to write. As I sit here in the sunny (vaguely windy) Fiji, I find my mind constantly wandering back to this one consuming thought… When we return home, our beloved Husky will have to be put to rest.

On our first day in Fiji we learnt that she had a malignant tumor growing, the kind that even treatment can’t help. She’s only 6 years old.

This breaks my heart for many reasons. The main one being that I have never met such a beautiful soul before. She found a place in my heart the moment I met her. But also for another reason… She has been my constant comfort and companion through all my battles with my health.

So many Saturday night’s in I’ve spent with her snuggled up to me, because I’m simply too unwell to go anywhere. I’d feel lonely and guilty for not being able to go out with my friends or boyfriend – not being able to party like I used to love. But there was one comfort… I wasn’t alone, not while I had her asleep beside me.

The sad fact is, loneliness is a huge factor in illness – mental and physical illness alike. It’s a very personal battle that no one else can relate to, because all our battles are different. But I always found one light in that darkness, and that was Tikaani. When I was sick or in pain (which, let’s face it, is daily) she was there right by my side. I know some people don’t think dogs can sense those things, but she sure could.

I vividly remember her walking slowly and gently beside me as I trudged up the stairs after an Endometriosis surgery, and how she carefully laid down next to me on the bed, careful not to touch me. Or when muscle aches in my legs were so bad one night that I couldn’t lay still, she laid on my legs which miraculously helped the pain and I fell back asleep shortly after. That one moment convinced me to invest in a weighted blanket* which has been amazing in preventing that pain and restlessness getting too bad at night.

What will I do without that? It really is a scary thought. One I’m struggling to think about. The comfort pets can bring people with chronic physical and mental illness has suddenly become very clear to me. Something I didn’t quite appreciate sooner. That loss will be absolutely profound.

Even as I sit here typing this, I still find myself unable to fully comprehend this fact, and I strongly feel for all those who have had to suffer similar situations. I would like to show appreciation for all those beautiful animals that give love and comfort in times of pain and illness, and who never fail to be by our side when needed.

Here’s to Tikaani – the beautiful, kind, and loving soul I was lucky to have in my life for what felt like the briefest of moments ❤

*Note – I strongly recommend weighted blankets for chronic pain and restless leg syndrome, even insomnia. Happy to recommend a certain type or answer any questions. Simply contact me at contactlaura@laurainreallife.blog.

Waiting Room

I’m sitting here waiting to see yet another specialist. What number is this? Probably at least my tenth since last year. These days, doctor shopping is necessary. After all, they’re only human, they can’t know it all!

As I sit here waiting, I feel a few things. One is exhaustion – I had a horrible sleep last night as usual from pain and anxiety about today’s pending appointment. Which brings me to the next thing I’m feeling – anxious. Every time I sit in a waiting room my palms sweat, my heart races, and I get lightheaded. I feel pure dread for what’s to come. Answering the same questions over and over again, explaining my symptoms to yet another doctor that may not have any answers, that may send me on my merry way with a good old “sorry I couldn’t help. Hope you feel better soon!”…Really?!

Dismissal – it’s not something any of us like to feel. Let alone those of us who are chronically ill and seeking help from the only people in the world with the ability to do so… And quite often even they can’t do that.

So how do we deal with this time and time again? It’s simple – we just do. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but it takes a hell of a lot of strength to do this over and over again on your own, and I say that for everyone who’s been through this. To be rejected so many times. To be made to feel crazy simply because they can’t explain your mystery illness and symptoms. I don’t fit into the text book definition of anything, and that’s the unfortunate truth for so many others.

I’m scared and exhausted from this entire process. And yet, that final thing I always feel while sitting here in the waiting room, is hope. Hope that this doctor will be the one that can crack the mystery, that can confidently say they’ve seen this before and know exactly what’s going on and how to help me.

Now from my point of view, I think I have it pretty easy compared to so many others. And I have to say, I admire all of you who are struggling through, so so much! You deserve all the credit in the world, and more.

Another day, another waiting room. Keep fighting peeps, we’re with you.

Dear Doctor

Dear Doctor,

Two years ago I came to you for help. I sat in front of you, a desperate and broken woman in unbearable pain, and you broke me down further. You hammered me into the ground until I truly doubted myself. Am I crazy? Is this all in my head?

When I saw you that day, my UTI had gotten so bad that I was peeing straight blood. I was ill, I was hurting, and I knew in my gut exactly what was going on… My Endometriosis has returned only one year after you performed your last surgery. You believed in your own skills so much that you didn’t believe me. You took my concerns about my health as a swift kick to your balls, because somehow this was about you.

You sat there and laughed at me. You told me it was most likely psychological because I was just ‘used to’ being in pain. You told me I probably had back problems. You were grasping at straws for any explanations that weren’t that my body was growing Endometriosis at an insane rate, because that simply didn’t fit in with your text book information.

But in the end, you knew that I wasn’t leaving that office until you agreed to perform surgery the next week. I wasn’t going anywhere until I got help, even if it was from someone like you.

The day I had surgery, you still tried to convince me that you wouldn’t find anything. That there wouldn’t be Endometriosis on my bladder like I suspected, because it’s “SO rare” that it causes UTI’s, almost impossible. You smiled condescendingly at me while you patted my hand and told me this was all pointless.

You made me feel like I was being violated, because you had become the last person in the world I trusted to perform my surgery. But I was desperate, I knew in my heart that I needed surgery, and I needed it now.

When I woke up in my hospital bed, you visited me. And with a polite smile you said that you had found small amounts of Endometriosis throughout my pelvic region, as well as on my bladder. Dear Doctor, am I allowed to say I told you so?

A few months later I went for a follow up appointment, but not with you. I found a new gynecologist down the hall from you, one with more skill, understanding of complex Endometriosis, and above all, empathy. She told me that my surgery with you had absolutely shown substantial amounts of Endometriosis and that, though rare, it definitely could (and in this case did) cause UTI’s. You lied to me to save your pride, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

Dear Doctor, you’re a fantastic surgeon, but your bed side manner sucks to say the least. Next time, with your next patient, do better.

Kind regards,

Your Ex Patient

“Chaos cannot claim everything, you know…”

It’s surprisingly VERY rare that I read a line in a book that speaks to me (especially since I mostly read fantasy novels.) But I finally found one!

“Chaos cannot claim everything, you know – there are always objects and points of stability in the worst of it.”

I think this is an important one to note. Not just for those who suffer from chronic illness, but for everyone. We all have chaos causing havoc in our lives – we all struggle from time to time. But there’s always that point of stability in the worst of it, if you just look in the right places.

My points of stability aren’t hard to find. They’re in my life every single day. Making me smile even when I don’t feel like it, making me laugh, making everything else feel small in comparison. Making life so beautiful despite all the shit in it, in all of our lives.

Like most people, right from the get go things haven’t always been simple for me. I was born with collapsed lungs, so already not off to a great start! I suffered viral meningitis as a young child, needed my first surgery when I was 4 and my second when I was 9. Things steadied out a bit as a teenager, though I did suffer PTSD and anxiety.

It was turning 19 that really started to cause the most health issues, when I had my first ovarian cyst. It was a huge one, causing endless pain until I finally had surgery. After that, at age 21, I had surgery for appendicitis – it was chronic and came on slow, over 2 months. Don’t let them tell you that isn’t possible! Then came my Endometriosis diagnosis at age 23, A very complex form that has required surgery almost every year since. THEN, in 2018, arrived my mystery illness, still undiagnosed but looking more and more like a mild form of Lupus.

Yes, none of that has been easy. But all of that made me who I am, and taught me one vital lesson… Appreciation. Appreciation for every simple and beautiful moment that brings a smile or a sense of peace and hope. Appreciation for every moment I have with those I love. Appreciation for every time a friend checks up on how I am, or my boyfriend cuddles me until I fall asleep when I’m not feeling well.

Just little things – little things that add up to a very full heart and a life full with joy. My people always have been, and always will be, my points of stability.

The Infamous White Coat Syndrome

In 2018 I started suffering severe sudden dizziness, headaches and panic attacks – several a day in fact! A standard visit to my GP’s office showed an abnormally high blood pressure reading, especially for a young woman. This continued to be the case over a few visits.

Despite years of having consistent near perfect blood pressure, most doctors would have just written it off as anxiety. But my GP chose to look into it further and organised a 24 hour blood pressure monitor. This showed consistently high blood pressure. Even while sleeping, my BP was reaching stage 2 – stage 3 hypertension.

A few weeks later this landed me in the emergency room with chest pain and a dangerously high BP. But still no body could explain this sudden and concerning change in my body, except for one genius ER doctor. After talking to me for a few seconds, she casually turned to my father and muttered the six words I’ll never forget…

“Maybe she has White Coat Syndrome.”

Now let me start by saying that I’m generally a very patient person, I’d even go as far as to say I’m very level headed and reasonable in most circumstances. But if looks could kill, this woman would have been dead twenty times over.

Not only was her behaviour completely disrespectful and condescending by talking to my father like I wasn’t there or I was a five year old child, but that one sentence could be so scarring and stop anyone from seeking urgent medical help when they actually need it.

The look on her face when I informed her for the second time that my hypertension had been confirmed by a GP and specialist along with a 24 hour BP monitor was pretty priceless, but still didn’t make me confident that she wouldn’t make that same mistake again.

This really concerns me. Heart health, all health for that matter, is extremely important. And you’re always better off being safe than sorry. Now I completely understand that ER’s have so many people every single day that turn up for simple things that could have been dealt with at a medical center, and are wasting valuable time and resources for those who actually need urgent care. But why should that ruin it for the rest of us? Why should I have been dismissed so quickly?

I’m certainly not a hypochondriac, I’m certainly not a wuss when it comes to sickness or pain, not after years of suffering from Endometriosis before these other health issues popped up. My threshold is higher than you’d think. But how would they know that, they never asked. They just continued to talk at me.

Nevertheless, I think the flaw in our health system lies with not giving someone who walks through those doors the benefit of the doubt. It lies in not seeing everyone as individuals, in lumping us all as the same people who go to the ER for a cold or a hangover.

My second ER visit had medical students on my case, who were much more thorough and caring, and did find some abnormalities in my ECG (what a shocker.) However, having my boyfriend not believe me on that second trip was a whole other scarring experience, but that’s another story for another time 😉

Trust what your body is telling you guys, you are the only person who can fight for it!

“It’s just a T-shirt”

I’m not proud of this moment. In fact, I cringe when I think about it. There’s no eloquent way to tell this story, in fact I was told not to tell it because it’s ‘irrelevant’. But I disagree. So I’m going to give it a crack.

Pictured with my sister-in-law and my other brother’s girlfriend, having the best time at the South Coast Food & Wine Festival. I’d been very ill on the Thursday night and Friday morning leading up to it, with a flare up of intense migraine, body pain, muscle weakness and nausea. But despite that, I was determined to make the best of my time at this festival that my family and myself had been so looking forward to.

The day started well, with a quick 2 minute drive to Berry Showgrounds. We all piled into my brother’s car, and with 6 of us we had to stuff my poor boyfriend, Aiden in the boot. At 6ft something, it wasn’t easy or comfortable for the poor bugger, but it made for some real giggles for all of us and my favourite memory of the day. The look on three girls’ faces when we opened the boot and Aiden (not realising that there were people behind the car) had his ass out while yelling out “help me!”… Absolutely priceless! (Where’s a laughing emoji when you need one?!)

As the day went by, I genuinely had a great time. I like to think there’s nothing a glass of wine or seven can’t fix, if only temporarily…

Lingering in the back of my mind was the fatigue that was trying to draw my attention to it. Annoying, but bearable at this point. Until we got back to the house…

I could feel it, my body practically screaming at me to rest. That migraine starting up as a pressure building in my head. My irritation building. That’s when it happened.

My drunk brother chewed on one of those Allen’s pineapple lollies and threw it at my boyfriend (who’s lap I was sitting on.) Aiden then proceeded to grab the lolly and wipe his fingers off on my new t-shirt. *Insert gasp here*

Now while that’s pretty gross, it definitely doesn’t warrant a full on hissy fit. As I type I picture Aiden’s confused face (because I basically never go off at him,) and I think of how ‘crazy’ I sounded. “You owe me $24!!!” Yep… *Face palm*

I’m fully aware that sudden mood change is quite common with an oncoming migraine, and that irritation and mood swings are also common with chronic pain, but I wasn’t exactly feeling rational at the time to be able to put that into perspective. Now, however, I do feel just a tad bit silly, to say the least.

However, humour at my reaction aside, I think these changes are important to note in a person suffering from chronic pain. They may need a little understanding at that moment, a little bit of patience. Basically, both their body and mind are done pushing through for the day.

I share this, so that if you’ve experienced something similar, you don’t stress over it. We’ve all been there, chronically ill or not. It’s not crazy, it’s perfectly normal (albeit embarrassing.) Let us bask in our embarrassing reactions, own it, and move on.

Grueling Peak Hour

Imagine this. You have just worked all day with a growing migraine and your whole body aches like you have the flu, except you don’t. You’d prefer to have the flu, at least that would end at some point!

It’s peak hour. You jump on the train with only room to stand. It’s winter, which means the heater is ramped up on the train and you’re dressed in your winter warmers.

Each stop adds more passengers and it becomes harder to move or breathe. You suffer tachycardia so your heart rate speeds up with the heat and from standing. You’re aware you’re vaguely lightheaded so move closer to the door to gain a few precious seconds of fresh air when the door opens.

But after those doors close, the next few stops are in a tunnel and adding more and more people finishing work. You’re now sweating, shaking, weak and definitely dizzy. But you’re almost there.

You convince yourself only a few more minutes. One more stop. It’s going to be okay. You can do this!

You finally reach your destination to change trains and gratefully jump off. And then you realise… It’s even hotter and even more crowded in the station. You don’t feel any better. You feel worse.

You wait on the platform, feeling weaker by the second. Your illness has caused panic attacks in the past and you feel it coming on.

You just need to get on the next train and sit down. Then you’ll be okay. Just 2 more minutes.

Your train arrives and you grab a seat in the vestibule. Relief, pure relief. You still feel lousy, but it’s more bearable being able to sit and have some water.

Two stops later an elderly lady gets on the train. You realise out of the 6 people sitting in this area, you’re the youngest and everyone is looking at you, expecting you to move.

They have no idea. No idea that simply standing up could leave you unconscious on the floor. What do you do?

I know what I did at this moment. I stayed seated while one of the other worker women stood up and then proceeded to bitch loudly about the fact I didn’t stand up, while everyone else stared at me. Despite the fact that all these other workers had been sitting all day, I’m the youngest so I should be respectful and stand, right?

Wrong. Please don’t judge me if I need a seat on the train. I’m 29, and I look healthy. But I’m not.

Never judge by what you can see, there’s always more to the story…