Tag Archives: doctor

A Good Therapy Check In (or Focus On The Good)

I had an appointment with my therapist this week. Since I’m only seeing him every 6 months now, there have been a lot of things that I figured we would discuss. Obviously, we would be discussing my recovery but I knew there would be so much more to talk about in the appointment.

When I got called back, my therapist asked how I had been. My first response was to ask if he had seen my regular medical record because if he hadn’t there was a lot to update him on. He mentioned that he had seen some of it, but asked me to fill him in. So I gave him the story about the tumors in my liver and all of that stuff. It’s a lot to take in and I’m sure it sounds super overwhelming for someone who hasn’t heard it before. But to me, it’s not a huge deal and I can almost tell the entire story in a single breath. I’m wondering if it will seem like a bigger deal to me the closer to surgery I get, but for now I’m not thinking too much about it.

My therapist asked me how I was feeling about the tumors and if I was letting that affect my recovery, and I let him know that I was working on focusing on the positives as much as possible. Negative thinking isn’t going to change my situation, so I don’t see the point in wasting time on doing that. I’m going to have surgery and I’m trying to plan on making it as positive of an experience as possible (including telling all my friends that they have to come visit me when I’m in the hospital).

We also discussed the issues that I’m having right now with food. I’m worried a lot of the issues are related to hormones (or lack of synthetic hormones) and I just need to learn how to deal with this because this will be my reality for the rest of my life. I’m having more bad days than I would like right now, but I know that this is an adjustment period and it will get better. It’s unfortunate I have to deal with it, but again, thinking negatively isn’t going to help me at all.

My Vyvanse dosage was also discussed at the appointment. I’m getting close to having been on the medication for 2 years and I think we are finally at a good dose for me. I think it could work better if I was on a slightly higher dose, but I want to wait a bit to see if that is how I feel in another 6 months. I don’t want to keep increasing the dosage because there is a limit to how high the dose can be and I don’t want to keep increasing it until I get to that point. I’d rather be on the conservative side of things and increase them later.

We really didn’t have a ton to go over in the appointment. I am doing pretty great even though sometimes I don’t feel like that. My therapist feels that I’ve shown a ton of improvement over the time that I’ve been seeing him and he thinks that things are just going to get better and better. He said a lot of that has to do with me taking responsibility for bettering myself and not trying to depend on medication only. The fact that I’ve been doing monthly challenges are impressive to him and I think he’s still surprised that I’ve been keeping up with my happiness checklist.

But the thing that my therapist feels has been the most beneficial to my recovery so far has been my positive attitude. I rarely put myself in a victim mentality and I believe in the power of positive thought. Even though there isn’t any scientific evidence to prove this, positive thinking can do wonders for a person. You can do things that others may have thought to be impossible. I’m hoping that positive thinking will help my liver tumors shrink before my next MRI so that my surgery will be easier than expected. And in a few months I will hopefully see the results from that.

The positive thinking to get into recovery may take longer, but my therapist and I agree that those results will come for me one day. I just have to be patient and willing to wait it out until things get better. I’m happy to do that because I know it is in my future, but I do wish the timeline would speed up a bit!

The ending point of my therapy appointment was that I just need to continue doing what I’m doing. Thinking positively and looking at the good in situations is working for me and it will continue to work for me as long as I keep working at it. My next appointment with my therapist will be in 6 months, so that should be after my liver surgery. I hope that I will be able to update him that the positive thinking did a great job with getting my body ready for surgery!

And after all that discussion about positivity and good out there, I walked out of my appointment to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I had seen in a long time.

I’m taking that as a sign that good things are coming my way!

An IUD Experience (or I Wish I Knew It Could Be This Easy)

Warning for my readers (especially the guy readers): This post is about my experience getting an IUD. I’m not shy describing stuff so just know that if you read today’s post.

With the liver tumors, there isn’t much for me to do between now and my next MRI in the spring. I just have to hope that my body will decide the tumors should shrink so things will be easier. I don’t have to change pretty much anything in my life because of them with one exception. I had to stop taking my birth control pills.

I’ve been on the pill since I was 18 and it was weird to stop taking them. But knowing that the hormones in them were what caused the tumors (literally a one in a million complication) made it a non-negotiable thing for me to stop. Ironically, I had to stop hormonal birth control but right now pregnancy could be extremely dangerous. I needed something to make sure I won’t get pregnant before my surgery (even though that is not really a concern for me), and non-hormonal options are pretty limited. But since hormonal options will be out of the picture for me for the rest of my life, I figured now is the best time to figure out what I want to do.

I have a very open relationship with my family. It helps that my dad was an OB/GYN and there is no shame or embarrassment to discuss things with him or anyone in my family. And everyone in my family agreed that I should get an IUD. Several women in my family have them and love them.  And since there is a non-hormonal option (the copper Paragard), my OB/GYN agreed and scheduled me a time to come in and get one. While getting an IUD was something I thought about doing for a few years, I wasn’t too happy about having to get one. This wasn’t totally my choice, but I knew it was the best thing for me.

Of course, I reached out to all the friends and family I know who have an IUD to ask them about their experience. Mainly, I was terrified about the pain I might have with the insertion. I’ve read it can be very painful when you haven’t had a baby yet and I’m not a fan of pain. But since my OB/GYN knew how scared I was, she prescribed me some things to make it easier. I already have prescription motrin for my hip, but she also wrote a prescription for 1 dose of Valium to keep me calm and 2 doses of Codeine to help with the pain before and after.

Since I was going to be pretty loopy going to my appointment (I had never taken Valium before so I had no clue how I’d react), I had a friend who has an IUD drive me. I knew she’d be able to help keep me calm and would be a good person to have with me after if I was in a lot of pain. So this week, I had my appointment and I wanted to share my experience because I think it is important for people to know what it is like.

I took the painkillers about an hour before my appointment and felt fine with them. I’ve taken those painkiller before and knew I wouldn’t have any weird reactions. But when I took the Valium, I got loopy right away. I was shocked how fast it got into my system but was grateful that it did calm me down significantly. But when my friend picked me up, I knew I was acting weird. My brain and mouth felt disconnected and I couldn’t get out what I wanted to say. I was slurring (my friend said I sounded drunk or someone who was in the middle of dental work) and I couldn’t think of words that I wanted to use. I don’t like being out of control like that, but I knew it was for the best.

I was still nervous when I got to the appointment, but fortunately my OB/GYN is a family friend and was willing to work on making this as easy as possible. After doing a pregnancy test (they are required to do it even though I knew there was no risk of me being pregnant), my OB/GYN decided that the best option would be for me to get a shot of lidocaine. Most OB/GYNs don’t do this because getting a shot in your cervix can be very painful and can be worse than the IUD insertion. But for me, I didn’t really feel the shots. I didn’t know she did the first one and for the second one I didn’t feel pain but did feel a slow mild shock going up one side of my abdomen (it was on the side that the shot was going in on my cervix).

After the shot, we had to wait about 5 minutes for it to take effect, so we were just chatting and catching up on random things. I also told my doctor that I was totally going to be blogging about this so she took the IUD out of the box so I could get a picture of it before it went inside me.

You can see that the IUD is pretty small. The device it is in is the thing that is used to put it in your uterus (the arms get folded down before insertion, but I wanted the picture of it before it got folded down). Even though I knew IUDs are small, seeing it before the insertion did make me feel better. I don’t know why I needed more reassurance, but knowing that it was tiny and the device to insert it is smaller than a straw was good.

After I was numb, the next step was to measure my uterus so my doctor knew how far to insert the IUD. They used a device to hold my cervix open, but I didn’t feel it at all. I thought I might feel some pain or pressure, but when my doctor told me it was on there I was shocked because I had no idea. When she used the sounding device to measure my cervix, I felt that a bit. But I only felt it when it hit the top of my uterus and it was a little pinch (less than a shot or needle stick for an IV). I jumped a bit when that happened, but again it was significantly less than I thought it would be.

Finally, it was time to get my IUD. The IUD is loaded up in the insertion device and then it was placed in my uterus. I didn’t feel it at first, but as my doctor was placing it and getting the arms to pop out that was a weird sensation. I don’t know how to describe it. It wasn’t painful but it was odd. It almost felt like something was trying to pull my insides out of my body. It lasted maybe 3 seconds and then it was done. Then my doctor trimmed the strings of the IUD (I felt nothing) and the worst was over.

The final step was having an ultrasound to make sure the placement looked good. My doctor turned the screen so I could look at it too and she pointed out where the IUD is and where my uterus and ovaries are. It’s not easy to see in the image, but the long straight line in the center is the IUD.

The placement looked good to my doctor and we were done! If you don’t count the 5 minutes we waited for the lidocaine to take effect, the entire thing was probably less than 3 minutes. And I’m aware I had more painkillers than most people and I got the lidocaine shot too, but this entire process was pretty close to painless. Getting an IV for my liver MRIs were more painful than this process.

I have to go back to my OB/GYN in 6 weeks to have the placement checked again, but if everything looks good I’m protected against pregnancy for 10 years! There are no hormones in the copper IUD so it won’t affect the tumors at all. And if I want to have kids within the next decade, it’s pretty easy to have this removed.

I know that most people have much more difficult experiences than what I had. Even after the lidocaine wore off, I wasn’t in much pain. I have a small cramp in my lower abdomen, but it’s a pretty dull pain. I am still taking motrin as a precaution and after getting the IUD in I used a heating pad that night. But this was not unbearable at all. I know this could get worse later, but I’m not too worried about that. The thing that scared me the most was the insertion and I was laughing after it was done about how easy it was. If I had known that before, I probably would have gotten this years ago.

While I still wished that this was more of my choice and not something that was my only option, I’m glad I did it. I’m glad that I was able to manage the pain with the options I was given and that the experience was easy. All of the stress and worry I had before was so much worse than anything I experienced in the appointment.

I want to thank everyone who shared their stories of getting an IUD with me when I reached out for advice. You were all right that it wasn’t bad and that I was worrying more about it than I needed to. And if you are considering an IUD, know that while it can be painful that pain is usually over pretty quick. And maybe you will be lucky like I was and have an almost pain-free experience. Feel free to reach out to me through the comments or the contact form if you have questions or want to contact me about this. Obviously I’m an open book and happy to share whatever I can with you all.

Meeting A Surgeon (or Working On My Liver)

After I found out that there might be a cyst on my liver, there have been a couple of different medical tests I’ve had to do. I had to do another MRI with contrast and some more blood work (both things involved needles) so that the doctors could figure out what was going on. I knew that there was something wrong (I didn’t believe that the situation could just be one big mistake), but until this week I really didn’t know exactly what was happening. I just knew that something didn’t look normal but nothing looked so horrible that I had to rush to get tests done.

I tried to avoid looking things up online because if there was a cyst there are so many types of cysts that I don’t know what to look for. And if it wasn’t a cyst, I had no clue what it could be so trying to research things was pretty pointless. I figured that when I met with the surgeon I had to meet I could ask him all my questions and try to understand what was going on. I made a decent list of questions to ask him and went to my first consultation with this surgeon this past Monday.

The first thing that I learned was that I don’t have a cyst in my liver. I actually have a benign (non-cancerous) tumor in there. I know that the word tumor sounds bad, but this may actually be better than having a cyst in my liver. The tumor is both inside and on the outside of my liver and it’s pretty large (not as large as they thought, but still close to half the size of my liver). This is not an urgent situation and I’m not in any pain, so there’s no need for me to panic.

This tumor is likely one of two types of tumor. One type doesn’t have to be removed and is a relatively common type of benign liver tumor. The other type is a rare type of liver tumor that is almost only seen in women around my age who take birth control. The tumor is a side effect of the birth control hormones (but a very rare side effect) and it would need to be removed. Because the tumor doesn’t present like how either of those types of tumors look, I have to do some more medical testing. But I did get a good laugh out of the fact that my tumor is not typical since it seems like all my medical issues present as atypical and I’d expect nothing less from this.

The surgeon I met with was really amazing. He was fine answering all my crazy questions I had and let me take pictures of the MRI images so that I could show them to my family. And he was explaining as much as possible about the tumor to me. It’s tough to explain it when he’s not sure what type of tumor it is, but he did his best. I’m really happy that this is the surgeon that I randomly got paired with to work with on this. Some doctors don’t understand my need to understand things as detailed as I do, but he was almost happy to find out that I want to know things and make educated decisions.

While I was hoping that at this appointment I would get a proper diagnosis, plan, and find out if I need surgery; I’m ok with this just being the first step in whatever this journey ends up being. It’s going to either be something to monitor for the rest of my life or be a surgery sometime next year so I’m not in a rush. I want to make sure everything is understood before decisions are made and that’s what’s happening. I’m hoping I’ll have the additional testing (which will be another MRI and possibly one more test) in the next week so that I can have some better answers by Thanksgiving. That way I can discuss things with my parents in person (they help me make all major medical decisions since they worked in that field).

No matter what type of tumor this ends up being, I’m going to be fine. There is no reason anyone should worry about me. I’m not in any pain (my stomach pain had nothing to do with this and was possibly a really severe stomach flu) and there are no restrictions on my lifestyle right now. I can do everything I’ve been doing and I don’t need to worry about this hurting me or causing major issues right now. While it’s not great to have something in your body that isn’t supposed to be there, this isn’t a huge deal and whatever ends up being the plan will be just fine. I promise to keep you all updated as I have more information!

MRI Again (or Hoping For Some Answers)

When I did my breast MRI to check for breast cancer, I assumed that the next MRI that I would need would be whenever I get another one on my hips. Since I’ve had very limited MRIs (just my original hip one and the breast one), there was no reason I would think I’d be getting another one soon. But after my stomach issues, I was told I needed an MRI to figure out what was going on.

I ended up getting one scheduled earlier this week. I wanted to do it on a day that I didn’t have to work because I knew they would need to put an IV in me for contrast. I had the IV and contrast in the breast MRI and didn’t enjoy it too much, so I was prepared for the worst but hoped for the best. When I arrived at Kaiser, they were running about 45 minutes behind, so I sat in the waiting area reading a book and trying not to think too much about what was coming up.

When I was taken back to the MRI area, I was expecting to be led into a changing area where I would have to take off any clothing that had metal and I assumed I would also need to be either nude or down to underwear only under a hospital gown (that’s what the other MRIs were like). But to my surprise, the only thing required was to remove any clothing that had metal in it! If I had known that, I would have worn a sports bra so I wouldn’t have had to change. I didn’t get a fun hospital gown selfie, but I did take a quick photo of my MRI outfit before going into the machine.

mri

Once I was brought into the room, I laid down on the table that goes into the machine. The techs tried to get me comfortable with pillows and settled before putting the IV in me. I had warned them about my needle issues but said that since I was laying down that if I fainted it wouldn’t be a big deal. I didn’t faint (yay me!) but I did have a brief moment where I blacked out but could still hear everything around me. It wasn’t too bad and I was glad the IV was in and done.

I didn’t really do any research about abdominal MRIs before going in, but I assumed I’d be laying on my back and just be put into the machine. But they actually had to put this plastic and foam cage type thing around my stomach first and then I was strapped down to the table (I’ve never been strapped down for an MRI before). I wasn’t able to move at all, and it really sucked when they pushed me into the machine and all of a sudden my nose was itching like crazy and I couldn’t scratch!

I’ve got some issues with claustrophobia and this really tested me. I was completely in the machine and my nose was pretty close to touching the top of the tube. My arms were pressed against the sides and I did feel a bit trapped between the closeness of the machine and the straps holding me down. Fortunately, I could tilt my head back a bit and see a bit of the room behind me. So whenever I felt like I was going to panic I did that and tried to focus on my breathing.

The contrast in my IV hurt like it did last time, but it hurt much less than it did before. I’m thinking that is because my IV was placed in a better spot this time where my body wasn’t as crunched up. But they still removed the IV from me once the contrast was done so I didn’t have to deal with it anymore.

The entire MRI time was under 30 minutes and while I had moments of panic in the machine it did go by quickly. I tried to talk to myself in my head and recite lines from scripts I know or plots from books to distract me and help pass the time. Once it was done, I was finally able to relax and only then did I realize that I was pretty tensed up the entire time inside the machine. It’s wasn’t too bad, but some of my muscles felt sore like I had done a workout.

While I’m not happy I’m going through this medical unknown right now, I’m working on thinking of the positives. I’ve had more opportunities to work on my issues with needles and I feel like it is getting better. I’m hopeful that maybe in a few years I won’t have even the little blackouts with needles. I also was able to test my claustrophobia and panic disorder and had to force myself to settle those issues without medication or any distractions.

I haven’t heard anything about the MRI since going in, but that’s a good sign. I have an appointment to discuss what’s happening and what the plan is with a surgeon next week, and if I heard something sooner that would only mean something really bad and urgent is wrong with me. I’m very hopeful that this is going be a situation that will just be something that needs to be monitored from time to time and not something that will require surgery soon. But no matter what the plan and situation is, I know that it will be fine and I will be ok.

MRI Time (or Another Type Of Cancer Screening)

Because I’m considered high risk for getting breast cancer since my mom had it, I do cancer screenings a lot earlier than most people do them. For the past 2 years, I’ve done mammograms. They aren’t fun to do, but I know I need to do them. There is a chance that I might not be doing them every year for the next few years, but that’s not yet decided.

But because my mom’s type of breast cancer wasn’t caught on a mammogram, there was some discussion that I would need to get a breast MRI in the near future. I got a letter from my mom’s geneticist that explained that a baseline test for me would be a good idea, and my doctor sent that to a geneticist at my hospital. And after my last appointment with my doctor, it was decided that getting a baseline MRI would be my cancer screening this year (it was instead of getting another mammogram).

I’ve had a MRI before for my hip. That wasn’t a great experience for me because I didn’t realize how loud the machine would be and how long I would be stuck in there. I also went into that MRI knowing that if my pain went away or decreased after the solution they used was injected into my hip, that was a clear sign that my cartilage was damaged and I would need surgery (the MRI was before I had a full diagnosis or treatment plan). I was out of pain within minutes of the injection, so I spent the entire MRI knowing that I would need surgery and that freaked me out a bit.

This time, things were very different for me. First of all, this MRI couldn’t be done at my hospital. Because breast MRIs require special equipment and they aren’t done that often, there is an imagining center that my hospital outsources them to. I’ve never had to do any procedures or appointments outside of the hospital that I go to, but I tried to think about it as a new adventure. I was able to get a Saturday appointment, so I went right after work this past weekend.

When I got to my appointment, I had a dozen or so papers I had to fill out. Most of them were pretty basic, but there were a few things that I had to think about (such as the dates of my mammograms and the date of my previous MRI). I was trying not to be nervous while filling out the forms, but I’ll admit that I was a bit shaky as I was trying to write.

After my forms were filled out, I waited for a bit for my name to be called, and then the tech that I was going to be working with brought me back to the changing area. For my last MRI, I had to be naked under the gown (they needed full access to my hip for the injection) so I just assumed this would be the same. I didn’t realize that if I had worn pants with no metal I could have kept them on. I should have worn yoga pants so I could have done that, but I wore jeans so I had to just wear the gown. Not a big deal, but something to keep in mind if any of you are going to get a breast MRI.

Next, the tech took me into the MRI room. They were able to arrange for me to have an open MRI machine since I do have issues with claustrophobia and I was grateful for that. The tech had me lay down face up on the bed for the machine so she could put the IV in my hand. I’ve said how much I hate needles and IVs are the same problem. I told the tech my issues and she was seriously amazing! She asked me if I knew any good or bad veins, and I showed her the vein that was used for both surgeries I’ve had before. She was able to get the IV in with one stick, and then she got ready to prep me for everything else.

For most MRIs, you lay on your back on a table that slides into the machine. For breast MRIs, you lay on your stomach on a ledge that is on top of the table. There are holes in the ledge for your boobs to go into (they want to keep the tissue separate from your body) and you have your arms out in front of you. It took a few tries for me to lay properly so that everything lined up ok, but the tech was really great again and helped me get into the position that was going to get the best images in the machine.

Right before I went into the MRI machine, I got my earplugs (you totally need those for MRIs) and the tech hooked up my IV to a machine. For the first part of the MRI, there would be some saline going into the IV. But about 2/3rds of the way though, there would be contrast going through my IV to get a different type of images. I tried not to think about the IV too much and was slid into the machine.

While I was face down, my face was close to the front of the room so I could see light. And they had a fan at the front and the back of the machine so there was air always moving around me. Some of the images took 5 minutes and some were shorter. Each time, the tech warned me how long the session would be and I tried to stay distracted or count down the time. It’s extremely loud inside of the machine, and since my hip MRI had my head out of the machine I didn’t realize it would be quite as loud as it ended up being. It wasn’t too bad (the sound was very muffled with the ear plugs) and I tried to use the variety of noises to distract me.

Then it was time for the contrast to go into my IV. My mom had warned me that the contrast sometimes hurts, but it was more uncomfortable than I expected. The contrast is a thicker liquid than the saline so it feels weird. It wasn’t unbearable or anything, but I think the shock of the feeling made it feel worse to me than it really was. As soon as the contrast was all injected into my IV (it was done by a machine and not the tech), the tech ran into the room and disconnected my IV so that I didn’t get anything else into my vein. That made the discomfort go away almost right away.

After the contrast went in, there were only a few more minutes inside of the MRI machine. And before I knew it, it was all done and the tech was pulling the table out of the machine so I could get up. She first had to remove the IV from my hand and bandage it up, but I was able to sit up within a few minutes of being done. My body didn’t hurt too much, but my abs were a bit sore because I think I was tensing my body up from time to time and that gave my core a bit of a workout.

I didn’t get any pictures of the MRI process. I was so tempted to ask the tech to take one while I was in the machine, but I didn’t want to distract her from her work or make her run behind with other patients. But I did take a picture in the dressing room after everything was done.

after-mri

I felt really great after the MRI was done. I was so nervous about the IV and I made it through that. I was nervous what the MRI would be like or if I would have any issues, and fortunately I didn’t really have any problems. I haven’t gotten my results back yet, but I’m not too worried. This is just a baseline MRI so that future MRIs can be compared to it. I also know that MRIs (just like being young and getting mammograms) can have false positive results, so if I do hear back that there was something suspicious I’m not super concerned. There is no reason for me to believe that there is anything wrong with me and that’s the mindset I’m sticking with.

I know that having cancer screenings can be scary. You are terrified that they will find something and that’s why many people don’t do them. I totally understand that feeling, but I also know how important it is for me to be on top of my health and this is just a part of life for me now. I don’t know if I will be doing any more cancer screenings before I’m 40 (that will be up to my doctor and the geneticist to decide), but whichever way it goes I trust my doctors and that they are looking out for me.

Staying Healthy (or 2 Needles in 30 Minutes)

I’m usually pretty on top of my health. I have to be since I have some on-going medical issues, but it’s easy to let some of the regular stuff slide from time to time. Recently, I had my annual appointment with my doctor and she mentioned that it would be time for me to get blood work done again since it’s been a few years since everything has been checked. I know this is necessary, but I hate doing it.

And in the same conversation, she mentioned that flu shots were available and that I could get one while in the office that day. I turned down the flu shot then (I was still over getting sick and didn’t want to risk feeling off after the shot), but I promised her that I would be getting my flu shot soon. I don’t want to get the flu, but I do miss when they offered the nasal spray vaccine since I didn’t have to deal with a shot then.

While I wanted to put off the blood work and the shot, I had to get my blood work done sooner rather than later. I have to do a MRI cancer screening (more on that after I do it) and part of the stuff I had to do before the MRI was a blood test. So I had to get in and get it done so I went on my day off this week.

I was more than prepared to be at the hospital for a few hours. The blood work area can be super crowded and I’ve waited a while there before. And for my flu shot, I would have to go to urgent care because being a faint risk means I don’t want to sit in a chair for my shot (I’ve fallen out of chairs before and it’s not fun). So when I went to the hospital, I had my book and my phone to entertain me and I tried to keep my heart rate down and my breath steady.

I did the blood work first (that one is the worst one so I wanted to get it over with) and as expected the waiting area was really crowded. The way they do blood work at the hospital is that you grab a number, check in at the desk, and then you wait for your number to be called. I grabbed my number and waited to check in, and I noticed that they were on number 220 so I figured I had a while to wait.

blood-work

To my surprise, as soon as I was checked in my number was called before I could even sit and relax. I have no idea why I was next when there were plenty of other people waiting before I got there, but I went back to get it done.

Fortunately, the woman taking my blood was very understanding and didn’t make me feel bad for shaking or crying (yes, I was crying as soon as I sat in the recliner where they take your blood). She was very calm and was telling me step by step what she was doing and warned me before she stuck me. I was grateful for that because some people try to surprise me thinking it will make it easier, but that’s when I usually faint.

It seemed like it took forever (they needed 5 vials of blood) and my vision was getting dark and blurry from time to time. But I never fully passed out and that is a big accomplishment to me! I still hated the process, but since my MRI will involve an IV I’m glad that this longish needle time went better than I expected.

As soon as the needle was out of my arm, I took some time to calm down and wipe my face (I’m so glad I don’t wear makeup when I go to do blood work) and then made my way over to urgent care for the second needle.

Again, I was expecting to wait a while. I’ve been to urgent care several times and usually there is at least a 30 minute wait. And when I was checking in, the person next to me asked the receptionist how long the wait was and she was told 90 minutes. So I figured it would have some time to calm down and read while waiting.

Nope! Within a few minutes a nurse called me back so I could get my flu shot on an exam table (this is not normal, but I’m glad they allowed me to do it). The nurse was very nice and he understood my issues with needles. And he also told me when he was going to give me the shot so I wasn’t surprised. I’m not sure if my body was still in shock from the blood draw, but I didn’t feel the needle and I didn’t feel like I was going to faint.

By the time I was walking back to my car, I realized that only 32 minutes had passed since getting the parking ticket for the parking lot. I survived 2 needle encounters within 30 minutes and there was no fainting! This was a victory in my mind, but I know I’m not totally over my needle issues yet. But hopefully this will be like the dentist where it gets easier each time I go in.

My arm still hurts from the flu shot and I have a pretty decent bruise from the blood draw, but I’m glad I decided to do both my needle things in one day and was able to get it over with quickly and without too much drama. And in case anyone is wondering, my blood work came back with everything looking good!

Being Sick (or Feeling Off)

As I mentioned in Monday’s post, I was having some trouble with my workouts because I was feeling off one day and sick another day. Fortunately, I’m finally feeling more like myself now but this bug that I caught just took it out of me like I wasn’t expecting.

This all started on Wednesday when I was feeling fine except for a weird sensation in my throat. It’s almost like a feeling of insatiable thirst. Whenever I get this, I’m usually about to get sick so I was trying my best to take care of myself. I was drinking lots of water, eating as healthy as I could, and making sure I got extra sleep.

Thursday morning, I woke up at 4am feeling like I had daggers in my throat. That’s never a good feeling and I was on my phone right away to see how early urgent care opened at Kaiser (urgent care is a $45 co-pay for me but the ER is a $500 co-pay). It wasn’t going to open until an hour before I had to start working and I didn’t want to ask for time off, so I decided I was going to make it through the work day the best I could.

I did let my manager know that I was feeling sick, but since it was only my throat hurting and no other symptoms, I was guessing that I had strep throat and figured I would go straight to urgent care after work and get whatever prescription I needed. My throat continued to feel worse and worse as I worked and I finally asked my manager if I could end work an hour early to get to the hospital. I promised I’d make up the hour and she let me log out.

I had an interesting adventure at Kaiser. I was starting to feel a bit more sick than before and I got really confused on where to go to check in for urgent care. Somehow, I ended up signing up for a nurse’s visit to get a strep test without confirming that I didn’t need a regular appointment. It was all corrected in the end, but I was so confused and my head was starting to hurt.

Before I had my tonsils out almost 8 years ago, I got strep throat pretty regularly. I was used to doing throat cultures and just assumed things would be easy for me this time as well.

kaiser

It wasn’t easy this time and it hurt so much that I almost punched the nurse helping me! I felt so horrible after that and kept apologizing, but she was really nice about it all and said that it happens all the time.

After being at urgent care for almost 3 hours, it was figured out that I didn’t have strep and was sent home with instructions to get rest and drink plenty of fluids. I thought maybe I’d only have a really bad sore throat for a few days and would be done with it.

Turns out, I was pretty sick with a cold. The entire weekend was spent on my couch trying to catch up on sleep (since I wasn’t sleeping well at night), drinking lots of water, taking decongestants, and just getting through the day. I hate being sick like this because I really wanted to get stuff done and was supposed to be working over the weekend. But the best thing for me was to lay low and just let this bug get out of me.

Even though I’m finally feeling a bit better now, I’m still feeling off. Being sick with a cold is usually a longer recovery process than any of us would like to put up with and I’m trying to be patient with my body. I know that I might not be totally better for another week or so and I’m trying to be easy on myself. Sleeping is getting better so my mornings are better than they were over the weekend, but I’m still getting really exhausted by the end of the day.

It’s been almost a year since I was sick like this. If I get sick once a year, that’s not too bad. And once I’m feeling better, I’ll be getting my flu shot so I can do my best not to catch the flu this year. Hopefully I won’t have to be doing another sick day post for another year and I can remind myself that sometimes we don’t get to control how we feel and we just have to get through it.

Seeing My Therapist (or Building Habits)

I saw my therapist earlier this week. This was the first time that I had seen him in 6 months because he has been feeling like I’ve been doing a pretty good job lately. So he trusted me to be ok with a 6 month gap between appointments but let me know that if anything changed I could see him sooner if I needed to.

I had been feeling pretty good about this appointment lately. After my interview for the audition recently, I have really realized how much progress has been made and I knew that my appointment would be filled with positive news.

I had brought a couple of things with me to my appointment. Usually, I bring my happiness checklist, but I’m now using an app to track that so I made sure my phone was charged so I could show him if he wanted to see it. I also brought my Spark Planner with me. I’ve been tracking so much stuff in there lately and I wanted it to remind myself of anything as well as proof to show him if he wanted to see it.

The first thing discussed in my appointment was how I was feeling about Vyvanse. I think I’m doing pretty well on it and there was only one minor concern about things. I’ve been taking my larger dose in the morning and smaller dose at lunch, but I feel like maybe those should be switched. There is more time between lunch and bedtime than there is between breakfast and lunch. And since I’m not having sleeping issues with Vyvanse, I’m not worried about a slightly larger dose at lunchtime. My therapist agreed with me completely and my new prescription bottles will reflect that (for now, I just take the afternoon medication in the morning and visa versa until I’m using my refill).

After that check in, we discussed how I’ve been doing with my happiness checklist and other things. I told him how I had been using an app for the checklist since it’s easier and I always have it with me, and I think his biggest surprise is that I’ve continued to keep it up. He wrote down the name of the app (HabitBull) so he can tell other patients as well, so that made me feel pretty awesome.

And then we talked about my Spark Planner. I told him how I had been tracking a lot of stuff in there this year and I was showing off the various sections of it. I showed him where I can track my annual goals, monthly goals, and weekly goals and I think he was impressed that there is such a big focus on goal setting. It’s good for me to have goals to reach toward, so the more I can focus and have to think about my goals the better.

But what my therapist was most impressed with were the monthly challenges that are within the Spark Planner.

30 Day Challenges

I showed him the monthly challenges I’ve been doing and let him know that I’ve basically had 100% success with keeping up each challenge even beyond the month that I set the challenge for (the only one that hasn’t been 100% has been weighing myself in because I can only do that at home and I was in Santa Barbara for Rayshell’s wedding without my scale). And I know that I can’t do 100% perfection with all challenges for the rest of my life, but even if I only keep them up part-time these are all good habits that I’ve been building and that’s just awesome.

And habit building is exactly what my therapist wants me to focus on over these next 6 months. The more I build positive habits in my life, the more likely that recovery from my eating disorder will become a positive habit eventually. While the individual habits are sometimes recovery related, even the non-recovery ones are helping me get into a better space in my life and to build my habit building muscles up so that I can use them for whatever I need to.

I knew when I bought my Spark Planner that it was going to be a good thing for me, but to know that my therapist thinks that this is what will help me get to recovery one day is amazing. I’m still figuring out what recovery really means to me (and that’s something I did discuss with my therapist), but I’m feeling even better that recovery is in my future one day.

At the end of my appointment, I felt incredible and on cloud 9. My therapist even said that in some ways, I’m doing better than he is and he needs to get better and doing some things like I’m doing now. For me, so much of my habit work is having something to remind me to do it. I have so many alarms/reminders set on my phone so I know to do something. If I didn’t have that, I would easily forget and that’s what life was like before. There’s no shame in needing to be reminded to do something, but for some reason I was not willing to do that before.

But now that I’m fine with the dozens of alarms on my phone, I’m making sure I’m getting my new habits done and I’m excited to see how I’ll be doing in 6 months when I see my therapist again.

“BLUE” (or Supporting A Friend’s Film)

This past weekend, I got to attend the premiere of my friend Robert’s film. This was something that I know he had been working really hard on, and I was so excited to see the finished product. So I had been counting down the days to the screening!

Robert worked with Marie and Chris (the epic party throwers) on this project, so a lot of people attending the screening were the same people who I see at lots of parties throughout the year. That made the event even more fun and I think everyone shared my excitement about it!

The film that Robert and Chris did is called “BLUE” and it is a very personal story for Robert. It shows people what it is like living with depression and how it can rule your life even if you are doing something fun or that you love. Depression in the film was represented by Blue, a puppet, and I think it was a really great way to show people what mental illness is like.

Blue

Technically, I was diagnosed with depression when I was younger, but the more I’ve learned about mental illness and depression I believe that I was actually misdiagnosed. I think my depression was a side effect of my panic/anxiety disorder. The panic attacks made me sad and I didn’t know how to make things better. That depression is very different from when people are diagnosed with depression, but I can still relate to the concept of the film.

While I don’t deal with my panic/anxiety on a daily basis, I do live in fear for when the next attack will be. Fortunately, they are getting better now so I’m not in as much fear as I was before. But I’m still wondering when the bubble will burst and I’ll have a horrible panic attack that causes me to not be able to do anything for a day or so. That feeling is similar to what some people with depression feels when they wonder when their next down time will hit them.

I loved this movie! It’s short, but the message is very effective and clear. I think it’s a great way to show others what mental illness can feel like and how we can feel crazy when we can’t just forget about it. And I think that everyone else who viewed it felt the same way because everyone was just so touched after the end credits were done.

And because my friends Robert and Chris are so amazing, they have posted the movie on YouTube for everyone to see and share.

(if you can’t see the video above, click on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rk_D9x5BeRI)

I hope that you all take a few minutes to watch this movie and to share with everyone you know. Let your friends who have a mental illness know that you are trying to understand them. And let your friends without mental illness know that they should watch this so that they can try to understand their friends who battle this every day.

After the screening, Robert had arranged for a photographer (Adam, who did my last headshots!) to take photos of us with the puppet who was in the movie. I love photo booth set ups and this one was so much fun! And of course, taking photos with a puppet is a pretty awesome thing too.

Me and Blue

Adam also took some fun candid shots before and after the screening. Most of them haven’t been posted yet, but I love this one of a bunch of us in the backyard before the screening started.

Party

After the screening and photos, most of us hung out in the backyard just chatting like normal. But it wasn’t like normal because everyone was more open than I think we’ve ever been before. We were discussing some more serious things than we normally do and there was no shame in what anyone had to say. This movie really did bring us all closer together even though we were already pretty close to begin with. I think anything that helps to remove the shame from any mental illness is such a gift and I’m so glad that Robert and Chris did this so we could feel more open with each other.

If you deal with depression or mental illness, please know that you aren’t alone. There are so many of us out there who know exactly what you are going through and maybe not everyone is ready to share that with the world. By being willing to share, you might inspire others to share and be open too (I experienced that with this blog).

And if you are dealing with mental illness and want help, please get it. There is no shame in needing someone to talk to or medication to make things better in your life. You may find a way to live a fuller life by getting help, and that is something you don’t want to miss out on.

I’ve Made Progress (or I Think My Therapist Will Be Proud)

Yesterday, I had a phone interview/audition for a commercial about people who have binge eating disorder. I actually had auditioned for this commercial last year when it was slightly different, but when I saw they were shooting again I submitted myself.

Typically for auditions you don’t have a phone interview, but since for this project you have to prove that you have been diagnosed with BED by a doctor and meet other requirements that aren’t normally an issue with commercials, the phone interview is the first step.

I’ll start by saying that I’m not going to get the audition for this because they need to fit certain age and size requirements right now, and I’m not a match for that. It’s not a big deal and I’m totally ok with not being able to audition because I got so much out of this phone interview.

The woman I spoke with yesterday was actually the same woman who I spoke to last year for the phone interview and audition I had. It was nice to catch up quickly with her and she was excited that I had submitted myself again for the project (I was afraid that they wouldn’t want me to since I didn’t get it last year, but I figured it was better to try than not to).

The phone interview first covered a lot of technically stuff. You do agree that you are willing to share medical information with the production team (if you got the commercial, it wouldn’t be public so your privacy is protected) and you have to agree that you are ok with sharing the fact that you do have binge eating disorder. Since I share that on here, I have no issues with saying that in a commercial. I think that most people aren’t as comfortable being public with things as I am, and I understand why the casting team wants to check with the people they are talking with to make sure they know how public it will be.

After going over that I was diagnosed by a doctor, we went over what treatments I’m doing for my eating disorder. I mentioned that I’m still taking Vyvanse and that I’ve finally been seeing some progress with it. I think a lot of the progress is due to some personal development I’ve been doing along with the monthly challenges in my Spark Planner. But to be honest, until I had to share what things were like before versus what they are like now, I didn’t realize how much progress I’ve made.

My eating disorder is not gone (I still wish it was and I know that it is not a totally realistic goal to have), but my episodes are less frequent. The reduction has not been as much as I would have liked it to be, but anything is better than nothing. I’ve also had more clarity lately about things. I’m not letting myself stay down about stuff as long as I would have in the past. If I have a bad meal or bad day, I’m getting back on track a lot faster than I would have before. I’m not waiting until the next week to fix things.

I haven’t seen my therapist is almost 6 months now. When I last saw him, the plan was to go 6 months and to see what that brings. Of course, if I felt like I needed to see him sooner I could have made an appointment. But the past few months have been pretty awesome for me. And when I see my therapist again next week, I think he is going to be pretty happy with the progress I’ve made and hopefully he can help me plan out how to not just continue with what I’m doing but to continue making steps toward whatever recovery will end up being for me.