Category Archives: Discoveries

One Year After Mirena

I’ve noticed this summer that when I log onto my WordPress site, previous posts about my experience with the Mirena IUD receive more traffic than most of my other posts.  Actually, to be honest, there doesn’t seem to be any other interest in my other topics, but people are concerned about the Mirena, and some readers have reached out to me.  It occurred to me that I haven’t written a follow-up describing how my health has changed in the year since having my Mirena removed.  I’ve put it off long enough, and now it’s time to share.

This sculpture reminds me of the struggle I've overcome. Sometimes we just have pick up the pieces.

This sculpture reminds me of the struggle I’ve overcome. Sometimes we just have to pick up the pieces.

Last March I had my IUD removed after using it the full five years prescribed. By that time, I had all the symptoms of what is referred to as the ‘Mirena Crash’: persistent fatigue, bloating, abdominal cramps, headaches, confusion, irritability, limb numbness, back pain, and more, all to the extreme.  At that time, I didn’t know anything about Mirena’s side effects, but suspected it was the culprit.  When I reached out to my doctor at the VA, I did not receive the kind of help that I expected or believed that I deserved.  Instead of being supported by the medical community, I was left to my own devices, and I became very scared and angry.  I had to figure out how to heal on my own, and it has taken me the at least a year to heal not only physically but mentally as well.  The trauma caused by getting “sick” from the Mirena left me feeling isolated, crazy, untrustworthy, and unable to trust medical professionals.

My emotions, however justified, were part of the myriad of symptoms from my reaction to the IUD.  Even after the device’s removal, toxins from the Mirena continued to circulate through my system, and my hormones could be best described as defunct.  I was a mess!  I felt as though I had been poisoned, and in a sense, I had. It was extremely difficult to drudge through the day pretending to be a “normal” person while my body purged the bad hormones and toxic build up.  I felt like I was on a bad drug trip for months, yet I was in for a much longer ride.

It has now been about eighteen months since my Mirena was removed, since I was very ill, and I am so happy to say that I am not the same person.  I am in extraordinary physical shape (comparatively), I feel confident about how I look, I have boundless energy, and I don’t suffer from as many aches and pains.  I love to wake up in the morning and be active all day, because I know I will not become exhausted like before.  I don’t feel emotionally sabotaged and my hormones are finally in balance for the first time since I started using the Mirena.  Best of all, I never have to go back to IUDs, because better options are at my disposal.

But you are probably wondering what exactly I did to take care of myself and conquer the nightmare that left me so miserable, right?  First, remember that there is no magical equation to follow in order to become well after the Mirena Crash.  Your personal definition of well is not going to be identical to mine, and your biology, cultural and familial background, lifestyle, preferences, and external influences are not the same as mine either.  So you must determine which plan is best on your road to recovery.

This is how I did it.

I. First I made a commitment — to myself.  I committed to follow a strict diet and exercise plan to get my health back on track.  I carefully considered how to reach my goals.  This commitment was important because it was an investment in myself.

2.  I took up an exercise routine (kickboxing) that helped me develop confidence as well as muscle tone.  My routine became a catalyst in ridding my body of toxins and excess body fat, both of which had accumulated while I was using the Mirena.  Bonus:  I made new friends at the kickboxing studio!

3.  I tweaked my diet as needed.  For example, when I realized I was not eating enough protein to support my newly active lifestyle, I changed the diet to reflect my needs.  This was critical in healing because the body has to be able to flush out toxins and regenerate new, healthy cells!

*I used the Standard Process products recommended by Dr. J (see the link to his site below) but only as long as I felt that I needed them.  I used an extremely healthy diet to clean out my system because I believe that food is medicine, not the other way around.

4. I made time for myself every day to pursue a hobby, something just for me, and I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt.   Sometimes I just took ten minutes to read a magazine and drink tea; other days I painted or caught up with a friend over coffee.  Very beneficial to my soul!

5. I talked to my friends and family about my struggle and listened to the wisdom that they had to share.  Their love and support helped me feel strong enough to move past my anger and frustration over the situation.

6. I let go.  I acknowledged that there was really no one to blame in this situation — not me, not any of the doctors, and no one else.  But I especially stopped blaming myself in hindsight.  It’s a waste of energy.

I like to think that the last year and a half is a chapter in my life that I can close, and now it is time to look forward, move forward, and anticipate what lies in the future.  I sometimes think that my Mirena robbed me of five years of good living, but that is not true.  It was a minor setback, and if anything, I learned to take better care of myself, to be more kind, and to forgive the faults that we all cannot help but possess.

Best of luck to those fighting their battles.

~G

 

 

The link to Dr. J’s site, where you can find his take on the Mirena Crash:

http://www.drjnutrition.com/

 

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So…Turns Out My Spirit Animal is a Witch

Lately my priorities have involved self reflection and goal setting.  And just in time for Halloween, I discovered that the path to my good mental health meant allowing my inner bitch to have some breathing room.  She is part of me after all!

Are you sure my spirit animal is a witch?

Are you absolutely sure my spirit animal is a witch?

I’m just a Wicked Witch trying to get by as a Dorothy in this Land of Oz.  Of course I want to be nice, and people are always telling me that I’m too nice — ugh, typical Dorothy behavior.  But it’s not healthy to suppress my inner bitch when she’s trying to look out for my best interests.  The truth is, I have a terrible time saying no.  It isn’t that I can’t ever say no; after I do manage to say no once in a while, I make a concerted effort to feel guilty for as long as possible.  I have also spent much of my adult life making important decisions based on the input of others who feel compelled to tell me what I should do (like they know anything).  I tell you, that makes it quite difficult for a gal’s agenda to progress, whether it’s raising a family or training an army of vicious flying monkeys (practically the same thing, by the way).

I have lost the ability over time to listen to my own voice and make decisions with a clear conscience.  Guilty feelings about saying no to people who have certain expectations only feeds anxiety and self doubt.  In order to get true respect from the world, I must first respect and love myself, delightful flaws and all.  This is where being a bit of a witch really pays off!  I decided that the best way to amend my problems is to reconnect with my inner bitch and allow her some breathing room.   Since she is part of who I am, perhaps she could teach me how to reclaim my true identity and learn to listen to that identity with a clear mind.  I did have to be careful when unleashing this powerful force.  Honestly identifying my feelings and personal goals rather than fixating on distractions made me feel courageous and motivated.   There is a difference between expressing oneself with emotion and just fighting dirty.  For me, progress isn’t about executing a vengeful agenda to get a higher foothold on the ladder of life.  The inner bitch is simply there to remind me of who I am and who I can be, if I focus on what is really important.

It wasn’t long before my confidence was put to the test.  While attending a harvest festival at the local dairy farm, I ran into a friend from the school where I used to work.  She asked if I would be coming back.  “No,” I said simply, and smiled.  “But we really miss you there!”  The guilt started to creep in, and part of me wanted to make promises to appease her expectations, but I stood my ground.  “I don’t know what to say, other than I’m not planning to come back.”   No longer a Dorothy, I was free of the guilt and broke the cycle of letting other people make my decisions for me – finally.   I would run into more friends and former co-workers from the school throughout the month of October.  It was very nice to see them again, but they did not change my decisions.

For Halloween I followed my daughters’ advice and dressed as a witch.  After my adventure of self discovery, why not?  I was originally going to be Dr. Who (the Matt Smith version) but the girls convinced me to throw on a black dress with some witch-y looking black boots, and my husband helped me find an amazing red hat with feathers and black veil.  I painted my lips ruby red, practiced my witch cackle, then sat on the front steps in the freezing cold for two hours welcoming a steady parade of children dressed in an array of colorful costumes.  The highlight of the evening was a visit from an eight year old Dr. Who (Matt Smith version), and his costume was much better than mine would have been.

I am glad that I finally identified with my inner bitch and understood how she fits into my personality.  I can pretend I am a Dorothy all day, but I AM a Wicked.  Instead of skipping down the yellow brick road with random maniacs who pop out of the hedges, I would rather shutter the windows, light some candles, shove gingerbread men into the oven, and watch extra dark episodes of ‘The X Files’.  And I will continue to consult my inner bitch for purposes of self empowerment, if not for evil (although that can be tempting!).  Without her, I wouldn’t be me.

~G

 

My skin has been breaking out in swathes of pimples and streaks of rashes, thanks to my ongoing Mirena cleansing process.  With buckets of toxins and bad hormones oozing from every pore, hair and skin has taken the worst beating.  Coarse and wild, my hair resembles a horse’s uncombed tail.  But my face!  Oh, the horror.  I used to look in the mirror and say “Hey, not bad.  I can leave the house without makeup”.  Now I resemble someone slapped across the cheeks with a hot waffle iron and then squirted with olive oil for good measure.  Yuck.  I pamper my skin, but lately every well intended product just scatters more red welts across my cheeks.  Even the most gentle of moisturizers has left my face dry, itchy, and pitted, with pores large enough for someone to dive into.  Gross.  I couldn’t wear makeup, much less wash my face, without inducing yet another flare-up.  My skin has never been so sensitive or so irritated!  What to do?!

 

2014-07-03 09.28.42Fortunately, I remembered a special purchase during my recent trip to South Dakota.  I visited Prairie Edge, one of my favorite shops, in Downtown Rapid City.  Tourist attraction, souvenir/gift shop, Sioux trading post, history center and art museum rolled into one gorgeous historical landmark, Prairie Edge is nestled on the corner of Main Street and 6th.  The best is the Sioux trading post.  While my rowdy children fingered sumptuous fox tails and exclaimed loudly over the price of bison sinews and leather pieces (and I pretended they weren’t my offspring) I stared at the herbs and prairie plants.  One whole corner was dedicated to medicinal plants and herbs used by the Lakota.  Sage, the predominant healing herb, took up much space, but many other fascinating products caught my eye.  One was a small tub of salve labeled Ha Pejuta, or Skin Medicine in Lakota.  The ingredients are natural — wild bergamot, arnica, calendula, lavender, garlic, tea tree oil, olive oil, grape seed oil, and locally sourced beeswax — no chemicals.  The label states “This salve stimulates circulation and heals”.  I purchased it and a bottle of sweetgrass hydrosol, a distilled liquid smelling of the delicious water grass.

On the first night using the salve, my skin was so sensitive I could hardly cleanse without crying!  Gently dabbing the sweetgrass hydrosol over my face with a large cotton ball cooled the irritation.  Next came a few drops of tea tree oil on my T-Zone, then I rubbed a little Ha Pejuta over my face.  My skin was still very sensitive and at first the salve stung, but within a few minutes my face felt warm — the salve was living up to its claim!  The next morning my face looked clearer.  Cleansing still proved uncomfortable, but I followed the same pattern; soap for sensitive skin (the only part of the routine that included any chemicals), sweetgrass toner, tea tree oil, and Ha Pejuta salve.  I then added a dab of moisturizer with sunblock.  The salve created a barrier over my skin so I could add sunblock or moisturizers without causing further irritation.

For one week I followed the same regimen and tried not to wear makeup if possible.  The dryness and oiliness has resolved and my pores have shrunk.  The raised red areas smoothed out and disappeared.  My skin has even started to glow again!  I also made my own facial mask: a cherry tomato plucked from the garden, a dash of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of rolled oats, all pulverized in the blender with a bit of water.  I spread the mixture on my face and let it set up for 5 minutes, just enough for my skin to feel tight.  I will continue to use my Ha Pejuta salve to protect and heal my skin, and keep my fingers crossed for better facial health this summer!

2014-07-03 09.23.58

Just pulse in blender or food processor with a few drops of water and you have a homemade facial mask!

Update: After going back to my former skincare routine, my face started to look kind of blah again.  My chin broke out and I noticed dryness as well as oiliness on my nose and forehead.  So I believe the Ha Pejuta salve made an improvement.  Not wearing makeup for several days also didn’t hurt.  If you need a facial overhaul, you don’t have to buy Ha Pejuta, but try tea tree oil and a salve based on natural ingredients and try to avoid products with chemicals.  See if it helps.

— G

 

First Mirena Detox: Wrapping It Up

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My vibrant purple detox smoothie. Secret ingredient? Red cabbage!

I had promised to keep better notes for the remainder of my Mirena detox, but I failed to do so (life and all…) However, I did make observations that may be beneficial to others thinking of doing a detox, for whatever the reason.  Here is what I learned while doing my first detox.

  1.  A high quality detox is what your body deserves.  Do research and planning, make broad as well as specific goals for yourself, and be willing to invest in the best possible plan for you.  Mine was expensive, but overall I am happy with the results and plan to detox again.
  2. Don’t beat yourself up if something goes wrong during the detox process.  Case in point: during mine, I spent a week with severe stomach flu and then ended up with bronchitis! Getting my body to simply accept Pedialyte  and rice became the highest priority for several days, so I had to put detoxing on hold.  Be flexible with the process; it is all about listening to your body.
  3. Get the most out of it.  You are going to spend money (presumably) on this, so don’t counteract the positive effects by eating double bacon cheeseburgers and fried pickles the whole time.  It doesn’t work that way!  DO treat yourself to the best fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates.  Your body will respond.
  4. Get plenty of rest, drink a lot of water, stay active, and do things to reward yourself.  I like to make homemade cinnamon rice tea and stir fried vegetables to treat myself after a long day.
  5. Listen to your body during the process!  As toxins are released and the healing process accelerates, your body may begin to send more signals to indicate what it needs from you.  Go with it. Take naps, go for gentle walks, start doing yoga, try new and healthy foods for dinner.  Be open to the detox process and keep notes if you want to remember specific circumstances.  Above all, be patient and accept the fact that detoxing can take time and effort.

— G

 

Becoming a ‘Contributing Member’ to Society

Young Housewife, Oil on canvas. The Russian Mu...

Young Housewife, Oil on canvas. The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, this past week I was employed full time (WITH PAY — that is the important part for a long time stay at home mom) for the first time since — drum roll please — 2004!  Actually, it was rather anticlimactic and not nearly as exhausting as I imagined it might be.  This is probably because for the last two years I have been working with children — other peoples’ children, that is — and have developed a high threshold for noise, weirdness, grossness, and just plain kidness.  After discovering that I can truly work a full week of real adult type work without dying, I want to keep doing it.  It is immensely more fun that folding laundry, scrubbing floors, vacuuming the hall repeatedly to get the scruffy over-traveled strands to stand back up, and loading/unloading the dishwasher.  Also, I get paid real money that is money I earned for doing real work that I did!  I know, that last sentence didn’t make sense to anyone, except perhaps other stay at homes.  The important thing is that I am contributing to the household, and to society, in a way that I haven’t been able to in years, and it feels great!

Anyway, after becoming a ‘Contributing Member’ again, I did discover one tiny flaw in my brilliant plan to be a breadwinner.  When I come home after a semi-grueling day of work (at the school it’s always a crap shoot how much the kids will torture me) I look around the messy house and say “Eww, I don’t wanna do any domestic work! It’s almost dinner time, and I’m starving!  Oh crap, no one made dinner!”   Yeah, reality check.  Luckily I have a very supportive hubby who has been helping me with a lot more around the house, even before the transition to my new job.  And with summer right around the corner, I just have to hang in there for a handful of weeks, to see whether or not I’m cut out to be a full time employee at the school.  It’s almost like a test drive for a job.  Of course, since I get so attached to ‘my kids’ at the school, I have a feeling that I won’t want to quit working full time, not even on bad days, not even when I am tired, discouraged, frustrated, and downright flustered.  Hmm.  maybe I am on to something here.

— G

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A (Not so Ordinary) Day in The Life of an Education Professional

education

(Photo credit: Sean MacEntee) I reserve no rights.

The other day began with my frenzied attempt at getting my children ready for school as I prepared myself for work.  I still had a naked face (no makeup) while dropping them off, but a phone call from the school office soon had me scrambling to finish my morning routine.  I was requested to fill in all day for another paraprofessional.  This would mean a little extra bounce in next month’s paycheck, a modest amount to save for a rainy day.  And honesty, I felt like getting out of the house for a few extra hours.  I hurried back to the house, slapped on makeup, packed a little picnic style lunch, and returned to the school.

I didn’t fully understand what educators really do until I started working at the school.  People working in professions where frequent breaks are normal might imagine that education professionals would receive the same types of breaks.  This really isn’t the case due to the nature of working with children.  It isn’t practical to leave a busy classroom every time one needs a break; children always come first.  At the school, our breaks are scheduled at intervals throughout the day to create fluidity of motion where educators are constantly passing in the halls on the way to the next task.  After watching classroom teachers patiently guide boisterous children through their lessons, I have tremendous respect for their dedication and leadership abilities.  Naturally, I enjoy being part of the positive energy of turning rambunctious youngsters into eager scholars.

I started the workday in my favorite classroom, watching a substitute teacher introduce a lesson in map reading.   We learned that Canada has a whole bunch of islands to the north, and Cuba is not part of Florida.  Next, a trip to a classroom full of youngsters working on complex mathematics.  I had not worked with this grade — or class — before and felt out of my element, but my para training reminded me to follow the teacher’s lead.  I found myself entranced by the new style math strategies — a different yet simple system for calculating problems that seems to go against every rule my generation learned.  As the teacher explained how to calculate the problem using the technique, my brain both embraced and fought the “new math”, ultimately submitting happily to the foreign concept.  Now I can finally help my own children complete their homework assignments!

Shortly thereafter, I was hunted down for a yearbook photo.  I had successfully avoided this dubious task for the past two years, but the meticulous secretary tracked me down, even though on this day I was hiding far off my regular beaten path!  After clocking out for a hasty lunch (at 10:15 a.m) I had to clock back in as a lunch aide.  Back to the same old grind — telling children to line up, stop talking, eat lunch quietly.  Before I knew it, I was switching back to my paraprofessional duties for the remainder of the day.  I had the distinguished honor of escorting one child to the nurse’s office after she fled from the classroom to vomit — always a pleasure.  I nipped a few tantrums in the bud, then had one backfire in a rather ugly manner.  It’s hard to predict these tiny tempests sometimes.  I spent much of my day imparting disapproving looks upon children acting naughty (something I have become very good at).  I also was delighted to dish out many compliments, my favorite thing to do at the school.

I ended up in the gym in the early afternoon, wading through a throng of buzzing students.  There was much excitement over getting out of class for a guest speaker: Miss Kansas.  I’d been on my feet most of the day (another responsibility for education professionals) and my hips hurt.  The food service specialist (a fancy word for what we called the lunch lady when I was a kid) procured chairs for herself and me, and we relaxed our aching joints as Miss Kansas regaled the children with books addressing bullying and the acceptance of those with differences.  After finishing the books, MK asked students to help her make up a story featuring super heroes and bullies.  Things kind of derailed at that point, and she lost control of the room; after several meltdowns from the more high strung students, MK finally gave up.  It isn’t easy to force 400 restless children to sit enthralled for 40 minutes and listen to every thought running through your brain, but then that is why not everyone works with children.

By the time the children had been herded, I mean lovingly guided back to their classrooms, I had one break and one class to attend before the day’s end.  I compared notes with another para about how many children had melted down during the assembly.  I’d wanted to read an article about King Faisal I of Iraq, but the break room is Conversation Central,  and the magazine will be there next time.  My last class was quiet and a bit tedious; I was just counting down the minutes until clocking out.  When school let out I rounded up all my children, a group of five restless souls: my daughters and the neighbor children I watch after school each day.  After returning home, we conducted a very important experiment: is it possible to lick your own elbow?

— G

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Irons In The Fire

January was a busy month.  I have several irons in the fire and never seem to stay still long enough to gather dust.  Besides adding two new job titles — paraprofessional and literacy tutor — to my responsibilities at the school, I’ve been busy with projects at home.  Watermarking my digital photos as an attempt to protect them has become one priority.  I don’t know that my photos are actually worth stealing, but they are mine, I put work into them, they are special to me.  Anyone thinking of snagging them consider this: they are kinda shitty compared to professional photographs.  Bitch please, I’m an amateur photographer.  If you’re going to commit intellectual property theft, you are on the wrong site.

My beautiful picture

I did a round of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer’s Month).  The first time I encountered this on WordPress I thought another blogger was writing about Japanese anime characters so I disregarded.  In late December I received an e-mail from a blog I subscribe to, challenging me to participate in NaNoWriMo for January and write 500 words every day.  There were no strings attached except that participants make a valiant effort to write.  My progress was nothing to brag about, but I did make an effort.  Part of my problem was that I ended up ill for ten days, and during this time I didn’t have the energy to approach my computer, let alone type 500 words a day.  I managed to put extra effort into what I did type, and January writing projects were quite enjoyable.  So, I am happy to report that while I didn’t write a novel (and don’t intend to at this point) I have developed the habit of wanting to type about 500 words each day.  That is a good habit to develop!

I began a new project and a bit of a crash course.  I have had this fantastic book, Will Write for Food, by Dianne Jacob, for two years now, and just cracked the cover this month.  I am nearly halfway through and am learning invaluable information about…drum roll please…food writing!  Before I even considered starting a blog, my husband was encouraging me to write a cookbook featuring old family recipes and “secret” ingredients.  Unsure how prepared I was for such an endeavor, I ordered Jacob’s guide and it sat in a corner for two years.  Now that I (finally) opened it I can say that Will Write for Food is THE quintessential resource for food writers.  I am gaining nothing by making positive statements about this book, I just really think it is wonderfully comprehensive!

Pears5-001

After I finish reading the book, work on the suggested exercises and research areas of interest, I will (hopefully) be a more experienced writer.  In the meantime I am launching an ambitious little blog called Okra Blossom, focused on anything food related.  I took a nap a few days ago, and when I woke up I HAD to start another blog immediately, and I HAD to call it Okra Blossom, because that is my favorite flower.  As impulsive as I can be, this is not without some deep and careful (apparently subconscious) thought (while I was napping?) but I am enthusiastic about the positive repercussions of having a semi-professional food blog.  I will still have my any topic/any time eclectic chaos occurring at Blogging Pioneer.  But Okra Blossom will be more laser focused and (again hopefully) will help me develop a specific skill set as a writer.  If you are interested in reading my food writing, come visit me soon at:

http://okrablossom.com/

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