Uterine Fibroids

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    Gains and Losses With Electroconvulsive Therapy For Depression

    I had my first electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatment in the first week of October in 2018. I had my final treatment on October 1, 2020. Over the course of those two years, I underwent almost 70 treatments in total. Those two years were some of the scariest, most unstable times of my life. I had four inpatient stays on the psychiatric unit and participated in two different intensive outpatient groups. In December of 2019, I attempted suicide and was in intensive care on a ventilator for two days before I could breathe on my own again. There were also moments of discovery and profound joy. I learned several valuable lessons and met people who would change my life. It was a time of transition, brought about through my decision to undergo electroconvulsive therapy. In the 20 years leading up to my starting electroconvulsive therapy, I was prescribed virtually every anti-depressant medication in existence. Not a single one of them had a positive effect on my mental health and well-being. I suffered intense side effects from most of the medications I tried. Akathisia, extreme weight loss/weight gain and tardive dyskinesia were the worst ones. In early October of 2018, I confessed to my primary care physician that I was suicidal, was then transferred to an inpatient psychiatric hospital and placed on a psychiatric hold. The doctor who did my initial psychiatric evaluation, Dr. K, confirmed my previous diagnosis of depression and recommended a course of electroconvulsive therapy due to the “treatment-resistant” nature of my depression. After years and years of living in the darkness, I was desperate for help and so I agreed, despite my intense fear and mistrust of doctors and medical settings. I was told that memory loss is the most common side effects of electroconvulsive therapy. My memory loss was severe, much more than the average ECT patient experiences. I have very few memories at all of that initial hospitalization and the earliest treatments. When I first started electroconvulsive therapy, I could not read because I could not hold the beginning of a sentence in my mind long enough to reach the end. As an avid reader, I struggled with this inability to engage in my passion. I lost so many memories from the years preceding the treatments as well. I remember my friends and family, but so many specific memories of time spent with them are gone and, even more than a year after my last treatment, have not returned to me. My grief over those lost memories is profound. I earned a master’s degree in 2016, but that statement feels dishonest because my memory of much of the content of my degree is gone now. I do have scattered memories of the two years of electroconvulsive therapy and I can read again now, though I still struggle to retain information in a way that I didn’t before ECT. I continued ECT with Dr. K for two years, despite its effects on my memory, because it was effective. At least, it was effective so long as I continued the treatments. After my initial treatments, I felt better than I had in years, despite my struggle with the memory loss and intense emotions surrounding that new reality. My inpatient stays on the psychiatric unit came when I tried to stop or, at the very least, put more time in between the treatments. Eventually, Dr. K (who I had learned to trust, despite my fear of doctors) began recommending outpatient programs that were offered through the hospital. He was concerned about my memory loss as well and, having gotten to know me quite well, knew I needed more than his electroconvulsive therapy treatments could provide. I did a general mental health outpatient program and then, when I began to struggle again, a program focused specifically on dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). The DBT group turned out to be exactly what I needed. The skills taught in DBT are invaluable to me. In addition, I began working one-on-one with one of the therapists who ran the group. The impact of her guidance and support cannot be overstated. It was with this therapist’s help that I was finally able to stop electroconvulsive therapy treatments. Working with Dr. K was, at first, incredibly challenging and scary. Due to past trauma, I have a hard time trusting men and doctors. Dr. K was both. Against all odds, I learned to trust Dr. K and that has been hugely significant for me as I work through my past trauma. After stopping ECT, I was, with the help of my amazing therapist, able to work through my fears and seek treatment for a physical health issue that plagued me for years: uterine fibroids, endometriosis and adenomyosis. I underwent a hysterectomy, performed by a male OB-GYN. Having that surgery has dramatically increased my quality of life. I no longer struggle with chronic pain. Without my experiences of learning to trust Dr. K and the experience of the ECT treatments, I would not have been able to deal with my physical health problems. It has been over a year since my last treatment and I will probably always feel conflicted about my experiences undergoing the procedure. But still… if I could go back in time and advise my younger self about the decision to start electroconvulsive therapy, I think I would hug her tightly and tell her to sign that consent form to begin the treatments. I would warn her that this decision will change almost everything and there will be a lot of difficulty to come. The memory loss will be traumatic and, likely, a lifelong struggle. The mental health issues that brought her to this place will not, ultimately, be resolved through ECT. It is nevertheless through these treatments that relief from the darkness of mental illness will be found. I would promise the scared, desperate version of me that it truly does get better and electroconvulsive therapy is a step on that path.

    How My Hysterectomy Helped Affirm My Gender Identity

    I have always felt like I didn’t fit with other girls. I never felt like I quite belonged. In the inevitable “girls versus boys” competitions in elementary school, I was never comfortable on the girls’ side even though that’s where, biologically at least, I belonged. Growing up, I felt uncomfortable in my female body. It never fit as it should, but I didn’t have words to describe that feeling, let alone know what to do about it. I came out as gay in my mid-20s and was, for the most part, accepted by my loved ones. Still… I felt uncomfortable. I was living in a female body and felt attracted to women. So, I identified myself as a lesbian and tried to push away the discomfort with my body. I have a history of eating disorders and sexual trauma, so I didn’t exactly have experience feeling safe in my physical self. I assumed that’s what I was experiencing. When I moved to a different state from my parents to attend grad school, I gained valuable distance and space to learn more about my sexuality and my body. After talking to a dear friend and trying to explain my physical discomfort, I bought my first chest binder. I loved it. I immediately felt more comfortable in my body. However, it was not a perfect solution. A chest binder cannot be worn all the time, but I was not ready to pursue anything further. Throughout all of these experiences, I was living a nightmare with the most female part of my physical self. I experienced excruciating pain and extremely heavy bleeding with every menstrual period. I was prescribed hormonal birth control in an attempt to manage my brutal periods. It didn’t help much. I spent years just living with the pain. I have a fear of doctors and, I realize looking back now, I did not want to face this “female” problem. The chronic pain dominated my existence and I did not want to continue living like that. I decided to seek further help. After working with a couple of different doctors, I was diagnosed with uterine fibroids and endometriosis. My doctor also suspected adenomyosis. I opted to undergo a total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingectomy to treat these reproductive issues. I would keep my ovaries, but my uterus (including the cervix) and fallopian tubes would be removed. This decision was one of the best I’ve made in my life, for so many reasons. First, I was free from the pain that I’d been living with since I was a teenager. After I recovered from the surgery, I felt freedom like I’d never known. Part of this was being free from pain, but it was also a new freedom to understand my gender identity. Because I don’t have a uterus, I no longer menstruate and this side effect from the surgery turned out to be critical to understanding myself. I was never meant to have periods because I am not a woman. I am genderqueer. There is a feminine side to me, but my physical body is not where that manifests for me. I recently bought another chest binder and have begun wearing it more regularly, even around my family. I have not brought up my gender identity to them yet, but it’s a step that will happen soon now that I have it figured out for myself. I’m thinking about top surgery as well. I would not have found this clarity in my identity without the hysterectomy. That surgery and the ending of my menstrual periods was the key to unlocking my gender identity. I am proud to be genderqueer and I am so grateful to have discovered this understanding of myself.

    Community Voices

    The Power of Vulnerability (by Brené Brown)

    <p>The Power of Vulnerability (by Brené Brown)</p>
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    Community Voices

    If your body is a temple, mine must be dedicated to some dark, sadistic god of chaos and destruction

    With long standing diagnoses of fibromyalgia, PCOS, fibroids, IBS, a pinched nerve at C4/5, PTSD, depression, and eczema. A more recent diagnosis of ME/CFS. A pending diagnosis of degenerative disk disease (awaiting MRI). And an upcoming visit to a genetic counselor, for screening purposes due to my sister's recent cancer diagnosis and extensive family history of cancer. I had an adventure yesterday evening:

    Insert long story about symptoms (symptoms my doctor dismissed not two weeks ago) and feeling unwell here, followed by a call in to Telehealth an ambulance was sent out to my apartment. Three lovely paramedics showed up. Hooking me up to their ECG machine they detected regular PVCs. My other vitals were good and the PVCs weren't frequent enough to be life threatening. Not wanting to drastically increase my exposure to Covid I opted not to be taken to the hospital, on the understanding that I would continue to monitor my vitals and call back if there were any changes.

    Today I need to follow up on the second part of my decision not to go to hospital: call my doctor's office and arrange for blood tests, an ECG, Holter monitor, and referral to a cardiologist. Such fun!

    I am not looking forward to having to follow up on yet another health issue when it's hard enough to pursue care for the others!

    #ChronicIllness #Fibromyalgia #MyalgicEncephalomyelitis #IrritableBowelSyndromeIBS #PolycysticOvarySyndrome #UterineFibroids #PTSD #Depression #DegenerativeDiscDisease #PVCs

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    Community Voices

    I Wish Only Good Things For Whoever Created This App

    Thank you.

    Living in a country that has no access to proper health care, least of all mental health care, this app has been a blessing. Just knowing that there are other people who’ve been through what I’ve been through and won’t judge me is a blessing. #TheMighty #TheMightyTakeaway #MentalHealth #scapegoated #raped #gaslightnarcissticabusesurvivor #SexualAbuseSurvivors #ChildhoodTraumaSurvivors #Survivor #Scoliosis #Schwannoma #Schwannomatosis #UterineFibroids #Aspergers #AspergersSyndrome #genius

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    I needed to have fibroid surgery...again...the fibroids have gotten very large and I’m in a lot of pain. My fibroid surgery had to be put off because of a need for neck surgery that my insurance company has declined because of a fall that happened at my job. I’m in an appeals process, but as I wait, I’m hurting. I’m very scared about why I have so much pelvic pain and no real way to manage it. This has just been a very hard mental health week. #ChronicIllness #ChronicPain #PsoriaticArthritis #UterineFibroids #PolycysticOvarySyndrome #Endometriosis #CrohnsDisease

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