It Only Took 22 years, but I Finally Slayed That Demon.

Excuse that dramatic title, but I honestly have no idea how to start this first post back from hiatus. The truth is that I had a complete bilateral salpingo/oopho/hysterectomy and it has changed my whole life, mental state, and sense of self, but that doesn’t work so well as a title… it doesn’t even work that great as this second line in an intro but here we are.

Anyway, I’m cured. Finally. I’m mentally better than I ever have been. I feel like a filter has been taken off my brain and new energy has been dumped into my body and all the clouds have parted and I’m just a regular person again with a normal range of emotions and grip on reality. I’ve been praying and wishing and meditating and performing sacred rituals for a solution for more than two thirds of my life and I finally have it, consistently, calmly, comfortably. And all it took was me finally listening to my inner voice, telling a bunch of doctors they were wrong and didn’t know what the fuck they were talking about, and doing more medical research than any liberal arts student with just a BA English should ever have completed.

These last 6 months have been a ride. To make this as short as possible: After suffering hormone/PMS-based depression/anxiety/suicidal ideation since I was 11-12-ish, (and spending 12 years in cognitive behavioral therapy and seeing no less than 6 psychiatrists including the two I was treated by while at two separate inpatient facilities only to be driven to psychosis by misdiagnoses and over-medication), I quit my meds and started focusing on my hormones in ’14 while begging my OB/GYN to just let me get a hysterectomy and “sweep the leg” on this whole thing. It took three years of me lying around my house in a holding pattern, only really able to get out of bed two weeks every month and struggling to hold down very basic part-time gigs for me to realize nothing was getting any better and my sense of stagnation was killing my soul even more than the suicidal ideation. So last summer, I found a laproscopic surgeon who took me seriously and we started prepping to – in the brilliant euphemism of my husband – “tear down the gymnasium but leave the breezeway.”

I won’t go into all the medical parts of it here, but it worked. It worked immediately. The minute my body stopped undergoing the monthly hormonal fluctuations that cause a 4-week menstrual cycle, I was consistent and optimistic and driven and joyful and balanced the way I’d been when I was a kid. It was like magic.

(Sidebar: To be completely honest here, I didn’t realize how bad I’d gotten until recently when I’ve started feeling better. Although these last three pharm-free years have been an improvement over the decade I was having medication-induced impulses, rage, psychotic breaks and manic episodes, I wasn’t really living in any sustainable way. I don’t know why I let it go on so long. I shouldn’t have waited so damn long to find a surgeon.)

The surgery happened in early November and, while I’ve been putting my body back together, I’ve also been getting to know New Me a little in that time. And you guys, New Me is fucking aaawesome, which is a relief because I had some doubts. Here’s some stuff I’ve learned about her!

New Me
– Literally never thinks about hurting/offing herself. Ever. The compulsion of self-harm isn’t even on her radar anymore, even when she’s really sad about something.
– Completes task lists (mental, physical, or otherwise) without the crushing dread of imminent, inevitable disappointment.
– Stays out of bed ALL DAY. Even on weekends! (Last weekend was my birthday and I woke up a 7 a.m. without an alarm clock to go take pictures of abandoned buildings and take a hike through the snow.)
–  Has gotten into new music again.
– …But also listens to Harry Belafonte sometimes. On purpose.
– Can say “You know, I’m not gonna drink/overeat/over-spend tonight” and actually stick to that.
– Has actually been sober now for more than 100 days without feeling like she’s white-knuckling it.
– Can park in a giant, crowded parking lot and enter a crowded grocery store without locking up from anxiety.
– Answers emails! Within 24 hours! Sometimes immediately!
– Doesn’t cancel 95% of her plans with friends! (Now I bail on about 5% of our plans like regular people do!)
– Gets out of the house every single day!
– Doesn’t have to be reminded to bathe!
– Moves her body daily and it makes her feel happy and not at all like she’s torturing herself with even the most minor gestures!
– Is able to take the initiative to learn new little skills instead of seeing new opportunities and feeling overwhelmed with terror about her inability to absorb new knowledge!
– Can absorb new knowledge!!
FINISHES things shortly after starting them! From little things like new books to major projects, I’ve been staying on-task and consistent and focused until completion! I can even MULTITASK. I haven’t successfully done that since junior high!
– Can somehow magically listen to music and read/write at the same time for the first time everinherwholeentirelife!
– Can plan a week’s worth of meals AND THEN FOLLOW THROUGH ON MAKING THEM. Like, at least 5 nights per week! And I’m meal-prepping lunches and breakfasts now!
~ Oh, OH! AND she’s got the energy to seek out new recipes and cook something different all the time!
~ AAAND she’s not overeating constantly anymore (because depression causes carb cravings in order to produce more serotonin #funfact) and sometimes she doesn’t even clean her plate! #DIGNITY
– Isn’t overwhelmed with dread and anxiety after two shots of espresso.
– Can have bad/sad/mad feelings and magically push them to the side without letting them cloud her mind and wreck the day.
~ Is living out dreams in small steps. (I finally started grad school last semester, and I may’ve signed up to perform at an amateur drag show in a couple days. I also answered a few model casting calls and I’m sitting for a clay sculpting class at a local university this semester, so I’m glad to be getting back into that side groove.)
~ Doesn’t involuntarily obsess about bad things/people that happened in the distant past when she doesn’t get enough sleep.
~…in fact, she doesn’t have any obsessive cycles (songs repeating, words, invasive thought/memories) when she doesn’t get enough sleep.
~ Doesn’t routinely think about abandoning her family out of guilt and shame for burdening them with her presence.
~ Reacts to life’s setbacks or disappointments with the normal amount of anger/sadness/whathaveyou.
~ Is optimistic in the mornings instead of being disappointed she didn’t die in her sleep somehow. (Y’all, it got dark for awhile.)
~ Is kind of impressed with herself that she somehow made it this far, to be honest.
And more than a little proud.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though. As the novelty of feeling brand new/not in crisis mode all the time wears off, I’m realizing how frustrated I am(/have been) that I’ve been just sitting here waiting to get better for such a tremendous chunk of my youngest years. I’ve always struggled with FOMO as I’ve watched my peers really getting into their careers or post-grad work and I’m frustrated that my personal work has stalled out for so long because of this ridiculous health saga. I’m working really hard to focus on enjoying my life now instead of “should”ing all over myself, but there is something incredibly demoralizing in working so hard and for so long only to be normal. For a majority of these last years, “getting me better” has honestly been my full-time job; it’s humbling to not have something more to show for it than an average 35 year old white lady. But then, maybe all these years of struggle and research was “The Work” and I just don’t know it yet. I’m open to that idea.

Still though, I’m better and I’m riding high on the relief and joy of being unburdened from my mental demons finally. It feels surreal.

“It’s another day, another chance. I wake up, I wanna dance/ So as long as I got my friiieends, I’m better, I’m better, I’m better.”

Adventure

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