Category Archives: Life As I Know It

What I’ve Learned After Ten Years of Marriage…

…Or my tips for success.

Aren't we adorable?

Aren’t we adorable?

This week Van and I celebrated ten years of marriage, the accomplishment being even more sweet because the week was an absolutely insane carnival of mishaps, chaos, and confusion, and the fact that we both survived was an unprecedented miracle. We’ve all had weeks like this: a kind of demented Butterfly Effect where one fucked up event creates opportunity for another, until you find yourself hitting new lows.  “Inconspicuously” changing your clothes in your car because you no longer have time to practice appropriate hygiene in between all the obligations you’ve signed on for.  Being mean to the children of people who you barely know (in my defense, the little bastard was trying to take my last potato chip).  Questioning the inner workings of the universe while cleaning elephantine piles of dog shit off the living room carpet.  This was my week.

On Monday evening after a lovely turkey dinner, Van had some kind of mysterious reaction to something.  I suspected the eggnog immediately because eggnog is a disgusting mixture of two things that I cannot digest properly: milk and raw eggs.  Even though he was clearly having a reaction to something, he continued to drink the eggnog until the rash that started on his face had spread to his chest, arms, and back.  At that point he wanted to go to the hospital.  My next door neighbor, an absolute angel, told me to leave the kids with her overnight.  We laughed a little on the drive to the Emergency Room “Ha ha!  What a funny way to spend our tenth anniversary!”  We weren’t terribly concerned about the reaction, and our anniversary wasn’t actually until the Tuesday, so there would be plenty of time to get the rash cleared up and be on our way for some merrymaking.

Once he got checked into the ER, the full effects of Van’s decision to seek medical attention set in.  He started complaining that he didn’t want to be there because it might take several hours.   “Well what did you expect?”  I asked.  “If it’s an allergic reaction, we need to get it treated.”  When the triage nurse saw us, Van went all out, claiming that I had sexually assaulted him on multiple occasions, and when he was asked about mental problems he stated, “You should probably ask my wife; she will give you a better answer.”  She looked at me with something like sympathy and I said “Just check the mental problems box, but NOT the sexual assault box.”  I kind of wanted to slap him but reminded myself why we were there.  We were ushered back to the waiting room, where one T.V. was blaring Fox News and the other was blaring Disney Junior.  Oh good, the inner circle of hell.  Luckily,  I had brought along my copy of Les Miserables so at least I had something to do.  Van had nothing to keep himself occupied, so he wandered around talking to the young mothers with tiny babies.  I’m sure the last thing they wanted was a bright red lobster man looming over their babies, asking questions about eating habits.

Before long, we were taken to an exam room.  I wondered if it had something to do with my husband complaining a swelling feeling his throat, but I didn’t know if he was just saying that to get through the exam and treatment process faster, or if he really was having trouble breathing.  Either way, we were in and there was no backing out. The room was small, and I had nowhere to sit except for an uncomfortable molded plastic chair shoved up against a scary garbage can used by everyone who came into the room.  The entire process took around five hours, with various medical staff coming in to perform diagnostics. Van remained in character, harassing everyone within ten feet of his bed.  He wasn’t going down without a fight, anyhow.  The doctor determined that he absolutely needed an Epi Pen injection with a steroid chaser, and some monitoring afterward.  I was tempted to ask if I could do the honors and re-enact the Pulp Fiction scene where Uma gets the adrenaline shot in the heart, but held my tongue because Van was being obnoxious enough for the two of us and I didn’t need to start doing or saying anything to keep us there longer.

The shot went, disappointingly, into his arm, and within a few minutes, his face looked clearer and he was actually dozing off.  Go figure!  While I sat in the uncomfortable chair, my legs and ass going numb, Van snored very loudly for about two hours.  Towards the end I passed out across the garbage can (gross) which is probably why I am sick with a mystery virus now.  When the doctor came back to check his vitals, Van said that he could breathe much better, which convinced us both that coming to the ER was the right decision.  We were told to never second guess an allergic reaction, since it’s difficult to know if and when it could cause the throat or tongue to swell.

So you are probably wondering what any of this has to do with marriage, right?  Van and I both woke up right after midnight on Tuesday.  I smiled at him across the room and said “Hey, it’s our anniversary!  We made it!”  Van smiled and asked, “Do you want your present?”  I looked at him, a bit bewildered, and said, “Well I kind of feel like I deserve one after what you just put me through.”  Van said, I’ve got your present right here; do you want it or not?”  So I said okay, yeah, I wanted it.  And do you know what he did?  He stuck his tongue out at me!  So I flipped him off.  But then he pulled a little ring box out of his pocket, and popped it open to reveal a gorgeous Black Hills Gold ring.  I was more than just a little surprised.  Van had that ring in his pocket, and at some point during the jackassery he thought to himself “Hey, I can give Georgeann a ring right here in the Emergency Room!”

This summer at Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, South Dakota.

This summer at Porter Sculpture Park in Montrose, South Dakota.

So, this event set the stage for one of the weirdest weeks I can remember.  Van is okay.  We never found out what he is actually allergic to (which makes life even more mysterious and exciting).  Despite the strange week and all the challenges, we have been very close as a couple, which has led me to want to share my advice to couples who don’t yet know what ten years of marriage looks like, as well as to those lucky ones who do.

1.  First of all, it takes work.  Van and I didn’t get to this point without romantically pursuing each other constantly, appreciating each other’s qualities, and maintaining a special friendship.  Anyone who says marriage is easy is full of shit.

2.  Next, be patient with your partner.  So many times at the ER, I had to draw on my reserves of patience, and I am glad I did (I got a ring out of it!).  I didn’t feel great that night, and had been looking forward to a bubble bath and an early bed time.  No such luck, but that is part of a relationship.  We often have to put our needs on hold and be patient because our partner might need our understanding, and that becomes the priority at the moment.  It all evens out, so don’t keep score.

3. Don’t be afraid to have fun.  Van and I had to take a hard look at our resources, goals, and limitations this week, and reframe the definition of “fun” because it turns out that the fancy anniversary dinner we had planned for this weekend isn’t quite so practical for us right now.  We are still exhausted from Monday’s trip to the ER.  And cleaning up dog poop off the carpet on Tuesday.  And decorating for an office Christmas party on Wednesday.  And attending said Christmas party on Thursday…and, well, you get the picture.  What is more practical and within our capabilities right now is a pizza and movie night at the house. One of the best gifts I could give my husband this year was this statement: “I don’t need to have fancy steak dinners or big gifts as proof that we love each other.  I just want more time with you, and I will never outgrow that selfish desire.”  This was actually before he gave me the ring, so try not to find hypocrisy in this.  A solid relationship requires an investment of time, not money, and fun doesn’t have to be expensive!

4.  Say please, thank you, and I love you.  A lot!  Couples forget to say these phrases.  I feel spoiled because I have a husband who says these things many times a day, and on top of this, he does little helpful things for me, which makes me even more eager to reciprocate.  Let me tell you, nothing made me feel better than waking up this morning to a clean kitchen with loaded dishwasher full of clean and dry dishes, and neatly lined up CLEAN pots and pans, ready for cooking!  It allowed me to sit and write this post.  So when he wakes up, I will be in such a good mood and feel like helping him with a project.  Provided the dog doesn’t poop on the floor or the kids don’t flood the downstairs bathroom…

5.  Learn how to communicate.  This really ties into to my first piece of advice.  Van and I went through a long spell where we really weren’t communicating but we didn’t realize it.   I tend to use a passive aggressive tone, and he got to the point where it was just easier to tune me out.  So it took a lot of courage for us both to decide to develop better communication skills.  It has worked wonders for our relationship in just a few months.

6. Spend time together, but be individuals.  Van and I like to do things together.  We hunt, work in our garden together and sometimes we cook together.  We also have individual hobbies that allow us to have circles of friends who offer us support and advice to bring back to the relationship.

7. Last, because I like the number 7, but also because this is a very important tip, take care of yourself.  If you don’t practice good self maintenance, how are you going to take care of your partner and family?  This includes being your own best friend, caring for your needs and learning how to make yourself a consistent priority so that you feel taken care of.  Even if it means locking yourself in your bathroom so you can take a bubble bath without being interrupted by the entire neighborhood (which is my problem when I want to use the bathroom), it’s worth the effort to find time for yourself each day.  Doing so will create more energy for you to be open and loving toward your partner.

The Red Hammer sign next to a sculpture at Porter Sculpture Park reminds me of our marriage.

The Red Hammer sign next to a sculpture at Porter Sculpture Park reminds me of our marriage.

Last night we had a little dinner and some friends came over.  We cracked open a bottle of wine that was part of a case given to us ten years ago when we got married.  The first bottles were consumed years ago, with the last one drunk at our five year anniversary — and it was still good then.  We were not sure how the wine would taste last night, and when we took a sip we discovered that another five years of Army moves, bad storage choices, and general abuse had turned it into weird funky grape juice.  We laughed about it.  After our guests left Van hugged me and said “We outlasted the wine!  Should we keep the bottle as a souvenir?”  I said “Yes, let’s.”  Van gave me a kiss and said “You know, we still have one bottle of that stuff left.  We need to keep it and open it in ten more years.”  I giggled “It’s a date!”

~ G

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Ten Years a Veteran

Last week was special for my husband and for me.  To us, Veteran’s Day is as festive as Christmas, Easter, our wedding anniversary, and various family members’ birthdays.  I have now been a veteran for ten years, a little longer than I’ve been married, making this a milestone year in many ways.  I’ve always been reluctant to bask in the adoration of well wishers on Veteran’s Day, but my husband loves free lunches, so he was impatient to get me out of the house.

“Are you ready to go?”  he shouted into the bathroom while I was still shampooing my hair in the shower.

“Absolutely.” I yelled back.   “I think I’ll just go like this.  Naked and sopping wet.”

“Okay, I’m in the truck then.”

We were going to hike in a beautiful state park, eat a picnic lunch, and talk about sentimental things (my idea), but the weather intervened.  The temperature dropped, the wind picked up, and a hike no longer sounded remotely fun.  Van suggested we get as many freebies as possible and take advantage of the Veteran’s Day sales with some early Christmas shopping.  It turned out to be a fantastic day, and tagging along with him, doing everything that made him happy, made me happy.

Photo credits: Stacy Pearsall, Veterans Portrait Project.  I retain no rights.

Photo credits: Stacy Pearsall, Veterans Portrait Project, 2014. I retain no rights.

I haven’t always been able to relate to my veteran status.    When I returned from deployment in 2004, I just wanted to scrub everything about the Army off of me and be a civilian again.  I bought girly clothes, high heels, and lots of new makeup.  I dated a couple guys, one who was also a veteran and actually remembered seeing me working in the chow hall at my camp in Baghdad!  I got a job as a receptionist and shopped at Wal-Mart in the middle of the night when I was really bored.  I didn’t spend much time thinking or talking about my deployment experience.

Five years later, it was time to celebrate five years of marriage to a soldier, and the Army life had become a steady reality.  I’d traded in camouflage and combat boots for formal ball gowns and impossibly tiny handbags that nothing fits inside.  Now here I am again, another five years later.  I wear fewer dresses and more denim.  People tend identify me as an Army spouse rather than a veteran, and that is okay because that is my more active role.  The old guys at the VFW will need a bit more time to process that I earned my veteran status before my husband did, but eventually they will catch on.  I do talk about my service more, but it still isn’t a comfortable topic.  It’s taken time, but I can accept praise, even though, as my sister claims, I am still terribly humble.

My son, the original reason why I went to Iraq: a better future for him.

My son, the original reason why I went to Iraq: a better future for him.

I’ve also become accustomed to the reality that not everyone loves a veteran.  This Veteran’s Day, a man gained national attention after posting a harsh anti veteran statement on his Facebook page.  The rant went viral and incited angry responses, phone calls, and even death threats. It was sad to see, on a day when we veterans should be celebrating our roll as protectors and peacekeepers, so many were caught up in one person’s ignorant outburst.  It’s no fun to read something nasty pointed in one’s general direction, but receiving insults simply for ‘being something’ should never deter us from continuing to be good people, and veterans are the best.   I hope that this man, and others who deeply dislike veterans, could see through our eyes for one day, and look at the world from a warrior’s perspective.

Sharing MREs with a breathtaking view  in one of Saddam's palaces.

Sharing MREs above a breathtaking view in one of Saddam’s palaces.

Although it has been difficult to feel as though I deserve the title ‘veteran’, after ten years I am now proud and grateful to count myself among the courageous and loyal.   If I hadn’t joined the National Guard and deployed to a combat zone, I might not have learned the most important lessons for life. First of all, people in a war zone take care of others before taking care of themselves.  I don’t see that happen very often in the civilian world, but I see it all the time among veterans and military families.  It’s called Selfless Service, and it is one of the Army Values.  While deployed, I also witnessed many acts of kindness and courage that resulted in lives being saved.  Some of these incidents involved soldiers saving the lives of Iraqis, with no forethought to their own personal safety or profit.

In the combat zone, generosity was another lesson learned.  Every day I witnessed soldiers showing generosity to each other and to Iraqi children, often giving away their only blanket or last ration of food or water without complaint.  No questions were asked, but if a need was identified, it was filled immediately.  Soldiers also cultivated deeply loyal friendships with each other, and would do anything to support and uplift their friends.  Ask any veteran if he or she has a lifelong friend from war time, and odds are that veteran will have a very interesting story to tell.  Personal sacrifices every day become commonplace habits for soldiers who work closely together, and selfishness fails to exist.  But perhaps those who go to war are the only people who really understand this system of camaraderie.

A little girl who tugged at my heartstrings, and continues to do so.

A little girl who tugged at my heartstrings, and continues to do so.

Connections also form between soldiers and civilians in occupied regions, even if this is not popularized or publicized.   I was told a story by a weary young soldier who tried everything to save an Iraqi girl suffocating from an asthma attack.  Seeing that he was a medic, the girl’s father thrust her into the soldier’s arms and begged for help.   Unfortunately, the unit had no medicine for asthma, and the girl perished as the soldier held her.  Another young soldier single handedly arranged a massive humanitarian mission to donate school supplies to refurbished Iraqi primary schools in the Baghdad area.  Her mission was so successful it enabled Iraqi children to return to school with the kinds of supplies American children take for granted.  Another soldier tried to adopt an Iraqi toddler when her parents insisted she take the girl so that at least one of their children would “have a rich and safe life in America.”  The soldier pursued adoption through Army legal channels, but was informed that it would be impossible.  She was too young, too poor, unmarried, and Iraq had no political infrastructure for her to make a legal adoption.  To this day she remains brokenhearted over what she views as her failure.

When I deployed ten years ago, I didn’t realize that people who despise veterans actually exist, or that I would be accused of being some type of soulless, mindless government robot trained to create carnage and desolation.  I want to encourage other veterans to remember this: Your service is not defined by what someone thinks of you, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation.   I didn’t serve in the capacity or manner that anyone else can imagine, and  my character isn’t defined by my service or by a stranger’s opinion of me.  I endeavored to serve mostly as a humanitarian, holding my hand out to the downtrodden.  And I continue to do so.  That is the role that I believe every veteran is responsible to uphold throughout life.

The last time I kind of looked bad ass.

The last time I kind of looked bad ass.

One last story, told to me recently by my husband.  This is the kind of behavior demonstrated all the time by soldiers and veterans in my life (and after being around such positive energy, why take any haters seriously?).  A soldier new to my husband’s unit was in a minor auto accident and needed medical attention.  Another soldier saw the accident and could have just driven away in the dark; instead she reported the accident and insisted on driving the injured soldier to the hospital.  She then sat with the soldier until my husband arrived.  She had no obligation to do so, but she put the needs of a fallen teammate first, sacrificed her time and requirements, and acted in the truest form of kindness by saying “Put some of that burden on me”.

Ten years from now I hope that she looks back at her time in service and feels good, the way I feel good, about being a veteran.

~G

Flying Lessons

last summer my children played a made up game they called Flying Lessons. My son would lift the girls in his arms as high as possible, spin them around, let them go, and whatever happened next was their problem. They loved it, no one got hurt, nothing got broken (that I knew of) and they laughed themselves silly. Our flight to San Antonio to visit relatives this week reminded me of the game, only the stakes were a bit higher.

2014-07-11 10.42.14We stumbled into the Kansas City International Airport at 5:00 a.m., bleary-eyed and as cranky as everyone else. It was a madhouse, even that early, with people racing across the ticketing area, pushing and pulling overloaded suitcases and duffel bags. Ticket agents shouted “next!” over the din of fussing babies, tussling siblings, and griping adults.  There was a constant crush of bodies moving to the next point of interest.  Our family got separated briefly when an impatient man pushed in front of my children, who were trying to follow my husband to the ticket counter.  That was when reality hit: no one else cares if my children get lost in this airport.

We were to go through TSA Precheck, an accelerated checkpoint for anyone with a Known Passenger Number, including military and dependents with DOD ID numbers and their children under age thirteen.  This year our whole family would be eligible, if for only one last time! An unpleasant airport employee stopped us at the Precheck line and harassed me because my DOD number had failed to print on my ticket.  Refusing to even look at my military ID, she told me I didn’t have an eligible ID for Precheck, and I must go through regular security.  She spoke to me as though I had done something unseemly.  In no mood to be trifled with, I called her bluff: “I called Southwest two days ago and requested that my number be printed on this ticket.”

“But you don’t have an ID!” she insisted, still looking at me as though I had crawled out of a gutter next to a neon encapsulated whorehouse.

“Yes I do, it’s right here!  This is my DOD number.” I attempted to point it out.

“I’m not going to stand here and argue with you” she snarled, “Go with your family, and see what they have to say at Precheck!”

The TSA officer didn’t give me any static; I didn’t see him even check for a DOD number!  I wanted to go back to the nasty old lady and contemptuously stick out my tongue at her.  But deciding to be humble in my victory, I continued onward.  The Precheck looked easy, too easy, so we must have done something wrong — too many somethings — because we presented as “potentially threatening” and a tall tan middle aged man with his TSA shirt tucked in tight shouted “RANDOM CHECK!” before half my family made it through the machine.  My son had a mostly empty water bottle in his back back, so it was ripped open to reveal other dangers to the nation’s safety.  Like Beanie Babies, packs of gum, and a book about werewolves.  Yes, very dangerous indeed!

And then there was Annie, my eight year old daughter, who was swabbed for bomb residue.  My eight year old daughter.  Bomb residue.  Total nonsense.  It’s hard enough getting my irate husband through security checks.  He gets searched.  EVERY.  DAMN.  TIME.  Don’t tell me it’s random.  Imagine the level of Zen I had to achieve by that point just to usher my angry, now burgeoning-on-threatening family to a wall to squat in the overfull terminal.  I walked my youngest daughter to the Starbucks to get Husband some coffee.  While standing in the slowly snaking line, I posted “Dear TSA, I think you suck” on my Facebook status and silently fumed over x-ray machines and bomb residue swabs.  By the time we got back with the coffee (just in time to board the plane) everyone had calmed down enough to enjoy the flight.

My children insisted on each bringing a big fuzzy fleece blanket on the flight.  I told them, “You can bring a blanket, but you have to carry it, and as hot as it is here in Kansas, add ten degrees. That will be the temperature in Texas.”  When we settled into our seats, and I was sending up a prayer of thanks that we had made it safely onto the plane with no catastrophic mishaps, it occurred to me that the blankets were security items.  Sources of warmth, easily transportable, and reminiscent of home, what better items for the kids to bring along on a trip full of unknowns?  Much like Arthur Dent’s highly functional towel in ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy‘, they served a purpose beyond that of a mere fuzzy blanket.

2014-07-11 10.43.54We all require specific security items for a successful flight. I brought my favorite flannel shirt and a small bottle of peppermint oil.  The shirt became an impromptu pillow; the peppermint oil kept airsickness at bay.  The peppermint oil came in a glass bottle, so I was relieved that it was not “found out” and taken away by TSA.  During our long layover in Dallas I watched people and tried to figure out their security items. One man sat reading a book with Japanese writing on the cover.  He pulled what looked like a passport from a small knapsack and scrutinized a paper tucked inside.  A handsome but smarmy man in a gray suit (clearly his item) leaned against a wall conspicuously and made intense duck faces, as if auditioning for a modeling job.  Many very well dressed women clutched at large Tory Burch handbags protectively and sipped Starbucks drinks.  I tried to imagine if they had anything more interesting in their bags than what I had in mine.  Probably not.

It’s sad that we — our bodies, items, and lives — must be thoroughly searched and picked over in order to fly.  Sitting in an airport terminal playing a guessing game that involves people-watching and being mildly nosy towards perfect strangers is one thing.  It’s quite another to have your personal life publicly violated by a team of ethically dubious busy bodies in police-y looking uniforms.

2014-07-11 10.45.34Allowing the kids to have their security blankets made the flights — and the entire trip — more pleasant.  Still so innocent and clueless about how big and bad the world can be, they need a way to wrap up in something that feels safe when strange things are happening around them.  I think about the game they played last summer.  Now the girls are too big for my son to spin them around and send them flying across the room.  Now they are big enough to go out into the real world and face real problems, like pushy, rude adults who could care less if their actions cause children to get lost in an enormous airport.  Or insensitive TSA officers who rip into personal belongings and treat military families like potential terror threats.  It’s not easy to watch my kids grow up, but it is a necessary part of life.  One thing we can do is provide them with tools to cope with stressful situations and teach them how to reach for those security items that give them the confidence they need to come out of even the most unpleasant situations with minimal bumps and bruises.

Don’t Panic and Carry a Towel (or Blanket)!

— G

Blessed 4th of July

Last week I had the honor of meeting with photographer and fellow veteran Stacy Pearsall at the Junction City USAA for a portrait session through her Veterans Portrait Project. It was an incredible experience. Persall, an Air Force veteran, is an energetic woman with eyes that reflect  a kind heart. She guided me onto the stool and helped me find a comfortable pose. Often shy in front of the camera, I end up looking stiff and imperious, so she asked questions about my tour of duty while placing my hands in a natural positions and turning me toward the camera.

 

Photo credits: Stacy Pearsall, Veterans Portrait Project.  I retain no rights.

Photo credits: Stacy Pearsall, Veterans Portrait Project. I retain no rights.

She asked one of those typical questions that I love to hear — so, deployment/family?  And I blurted “Oh, going to war is great practice for raising a family.  Dealing with children is similar to dealing with terrorists, and vice versa!” and her lighting assistant gave a belly laugh.  After that I felt more at ease and tried to charm the camera.  It was a fun session, and having my portrait taken this way was extremely special.  I often don’t give myself credit for my work in Iraq; I step back and let better veterans, more deserving veterans, take credit.  And I’m okay with that.  But on this day, it was about me, and it was nice.

Stacy took several silly photos of me with my kids, and then gave me a big hug.  The paperwork to fill out — so the pictures would be sent to me — included a question about what being a veteran meant to me.  I wrote ‘continued support and service to those in the military’.  I love the photos I received.  The images are perfect.  They show a person who isn’t a soldier anymore, but who wants to continue to serve.  And someday I will have them enlarged and framed for each of the kids, not to glorify the fact that I was  on the battlefield, but to convey a message that even though war must split up families, it doesn’t change the fact that love remains.

Have a blessed 4th of July.

 

Please take time to look at these images of the men and women who have served.

http://stacypearsall.photoshelter.com

 

Medical Misfit

Nurse uniform in the 1900's.

Nurse uniform in the 1900’s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday a phone call from an endocrinologist’s office left me seething. An administrator — she didn’t offer a name or title — indicated in a polite but vaguely superior manner that I was not requesting services at the correct clinic.  There was an icy undertone, as if the fact that she had to contact me to explain all this was putting a huge strain on the clinic’s resources.  It took me a good ten minutes of  cajoling, conniving, convincing, and just plain bullshitting to get her to understand that it wouldn’t be a complete waste of the endocrinologist’s precious time for me to come in, but it wasn’t until I uttered the magic word ‘fibromyalgia’ that she granted me status as a legitimate patient.  What is this place, anyway?  Am I creating such an inconvenience that I cannot be seen by this doctor unless I successfully pass vetting by a bureaucratic toady with a list of secret code words?

I was not surprised that the doctor at this clinic was reluctant to take me on as a patient. My referral, sent weeks ago from my PA at Fort Riley, had been rejected on the grounds that  my “specific” needs did not “encompass” the doctor’s specialty.  It was a possibly a coding error made by the insurance company making the authorization for services. The nurse from my referring clinic spent several days making phone calls to the clinic as well as my insurance company on my behalf, smoothing over the misunderstanding and pleading my case. I don’t know if that is even part of her job, but she knows that I am sick. She has seen me too many times over the last few months to not want to help. And she must have deduced from the cryptic, noncommittal responses coming from the endocrinology clinic that I would need a champion.

It’s been difficult to get good medical care in Kansas.  My tiny local Veterans Affairs clinic seems to always be bogged down and overwhelmed; I can’t get in but once or twice a year, and that is just for routine blood tests or ‘Well Woman’ visits.  God forbid anything goes wrong in between!  When I lived in the Black Hills, I had the best VA care.  If a non-emergent matter arose, chances were I could get a same day walk-in appointment, and the staff listened to my needs.  Here the story is different. During a non emergency episode when I needed immediate advice (which happened in between my allotted visits), the local VA staff either misunderstood or misjudged my situation, leaving me to seek medical attention elsewhere.  After the incident I plan not to return to the clinic.  Luckily I can still turn to the clinic at Fort Riley, where I trust my physician and nurse.  The problems arise when they have to refer me to specialists.

I realize that it’s a Me Problem.  It’s not the world that’s strange, it’s me.  I’m the misfit.  I take supplements of turmeric and holy basil and treat hormonal breakouts on my face with a salve made from an old Native American recipe.  I use cabbage poultices and rub herbal oils on my forehead  to fight off migraines.  I am treating my current ailments using natural remedies instead of chemicals and drugs.  I abhor drugs.  I am probably a traditional doctor’s worst nightmare. So if/when I go to a specialist and invariably open my big fat mouth to spout things like “I am researching home remedies and the use of ethnobotany for possibly treating my migraines and hormonal imbalance” or “I really don’t want to take any more pills” I run the risk of being written off as a crazy jackass.  Even the mere mention that I take herbal supplements and seek chiropractic care results in odd looks, as if I am lapsing into an unknown language during the dialogue.

Yet my specialists don’t seem to take the time to actually read the medical records my referring clinic is required to fax to them.  Instead I am interrogated with rapid-fire questions, in a patronizing tone.  If they had read the records, they wouldn’t have to ask me the questions, and we would have time to discuss the most important part of a visit to any doctor: what type of treatment is truly best for the patient?  I am sure these specialists are brilliant, and with limited amounts of time in their work days they have to make quick decisions based on what information they gather from patients.  I probably don’t help with my rambling history of odd symptoms intermingled with home remedies and Native American medicines.  But damn it!  They are supposed to be highly educated professionals with vast stores of knowledge about various types of treatment.  Why are they so single-minded about ramming more pills down my throat?  And when did practicing medicine medicine come to include treating patients, and potential patients, like children, or worse yet, like criminals who have to prove their validity before receiving care?

Maybe I am wasting their time with my herbal supplements and quackery treatments. But it’s my body.  I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want better quality than the living death sentence my very first neurologist prescribed, something to the effect of “take these pills every day  for the rest of your life and pray for early menopause to ease the pain of your migraines”.  The nerve!   Certainly that can’t be the best option, for anyone.  If the care I am receiving here is so laughable, there is at least one thing that I have taken from my experience, and I do consider it a blessing.  I, and only I, am completely and unequivocally responsible for my health.  Doctors don’t know everything.  Medical professionals can and will do their best (I hope) for me, but it is ultimately up to me to take care of myself.  I can make decisions about my body and my health, because sometimes there will be no one else willing to take the steps to ensure my health.  If it takes being a medical misfit, then so be it.

I am my own best doctor, nurse, and patient!

— G

Mirena Detox: Days 4 Through… I Lost Track

 

Dr. Schreiber of San Augustine giving a typhoi...

“At least I don’t have typhoid — yet.”  Dr. Schreiber of San Augustine giving a typhoid innoculation at a rural school, San Augustine County, Texas.Transfer from U.S. Office of War Information, 1944. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first three days of my detox “diet” went well enough, but on Day 4 I managed to contract severe gastroenteritis, or stomach flu, which demanded all my time and attention through Day 11.  I wasn’t able to eat real food, much less do a body flushing detox.  Hell, I was barely able to get any liquids down for most of those days!  Apparently stomach flu is going around along with bronchitis, which I also now have. Great way to start the summer!  So I don’t really know what detox day this is supposed to be.  I consulted with my nutritionist and he encouraged me to get back on the detox horse, but half strength, until I feel fully recovered enough to go full throttle.

I visited my regular physician (again) because I had to get a doctor’s note to go back to work.  I was pretty cranky about having to drive an hour out of my way for permission to go back to work (and, more likely, proof that I was actually sick) when all I really needed was some rest and Pedialyte.  Ah, the bureaucracy of being employed!  I explained to my physician as much, and we had a good laugh.  He was interested to find out how my detox helps in treating and preventing future migraines, so I promised to keep in touch.  If I have to go back in for my bronchitis, it may be some kind of record.  I have visited this guy about five times in as many weeks!

Since I don’t have day to day notes on my detox, I can share a few noticeable changes.  While I am considerably weaker from being sick, I do feel better just from the initial few days of detoxing.  I am not trying to lose weight, but have lost about five pounds.  My hormones seem to be stabilizing and I’m not nearly as, well let’s just say it, bitchy as I was a couple of weeks ago.  My head is clearer, with sharper focus.  One notable disappointment is that I still feel as though I have no energy, even after a great night of sleep.  However, I am hopeful that with the return of my strength, my energy will also return.

The only changes made: starting the detox (clean food based, no chemicals or drugs) and stopping most if not all consumption of OTC drugs for my migraines.  I do still take daily prescriptions and vitamins, but nothing else if at all possible.  While I am not yet ready to sing the praises of this detox program, it would appear that using food to heal my body is beginning to work.  Hopefully I can get back on track with better notes in the weeks to come.  I am supposed to be doing a 21 day detox after all!

—G

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My Mirena Tried to Kill Me!

English: Mirena IntraUterine System Deutsch: M...

English: Mirena IntraUterine System Deutsch: Mirena Hormonspirale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Okay, apology disclaimer right off the bat for any reader — but especially to any males who may have stumbled across this post innocently.  Unless you really want to read about the horrors that I have endured because of an intrauterine contraceptive device that was eh, installed for medicinal purposes, then you may prefer to read something more benign from a happier time in my blogging days.

There is currently a class action lawsuit because the Mirena is a defective and extremely dangerous product.  The company that developed and marketed it allegedly did so knowing that the device would likely cause numerous side effects, many of which that would be detrimental, some that could be fatal.  If you  are using or have used a Mirena, then you very likely have experienced the same ‘illness’ that I am going through.

Now like most women, I trusted my healthcare professional, who probably had every good intentions.  My reason for getting the Mirena was not to prevent pregnancy but to “control my hormones” so that  my migraines would be kept in check for up to five years (since the IUD had to be taken out after five years’ time).  And like most women, for five years I really didn’t think about my IUD because it didn’t seem to be doing anything.  I wasn’t having very many periods, and when I did, they were lighter, less annoying, and more convenient.  Who wouldn’t want that?

20140317_155222

Me during one of my MANY visits to the doctor during my hellish Mirena Crash. It’s blurry, but that’s how I feel. Taken By Annie

I started to feel like something was wrong about six months ago, and although I wasn’t sure, I suspected that my hormones were to blame.  We women usually know, right?  I could feel that something was wrong and started to wonder if the Mirena was causing hormonal fluctuations.   Four months from my five-year removal date, I was climbing the walls with uncontrollable migraines and excruciating hormonal mood swings.  By that time I was certain that the Mirena had something to do with my very severe decline in health.  The VA clinic didn’t take me seriously when I called and requested an appointment to have the device removed, which destroyed my already shaky trust in the staff.  Luckily, my physician on the Army base saw me immediately and removed the device as an in-house procedure without giving me any grief.  You see why I left these details out of my previous posts about my migraines?  Too much information, and very traumatic!

I thought my problems were over and that I would start to feel much better in no time.  But I became more sick than I had ever felt in my entire life.   Oh yes, the Mirena Crash!  It is well documented and even has its own special name.  I started doing research online, and the more I discovered about the negative side effects of the device, the more betrayed and  I felt.  My Mirena had caused much more damage than initially realized!  The list of possible offenses to my body went on and on, everything from pseudo-hemorrhaging during periods, to anemia from blood loss, to early menopause, to depression, to liver failure, to various types of cancer.  The list went on, and if that wasn’t bad enough, apparently the Mirena had also leached silicone into my body, essentially poisoning me slowly over time.  SILICONE POISONING.  Are you fucking kidding me?

Angry doesn’t begin to describe my feelings.  At the time I made this unsettling discovery,  I didn’t have anyone to talk to because my healthcare providers either weren’t educated or just plain weren’t sympathetic to what was happening.  My husband has been out of town for several weeks — the worst part of this living hell — and in retrospect that may have been a blessing in disguise — for his safety.  With out of control hormones, I was definitely in a vulnerable state, just hanging on from day-to-day.  I would cry myself to sleep, begging God to make the headaches stop, just for one day, so that I could have some relief.  Then in the morning I would wake up with a worse headache, and cry again while making tea.  I could feel my body shutting down more each day, and it was terrifying.

I still don’t know if this story has a happy ending.  Luckily, through what I can only call Divine Providence combined with my Web surfing abilities (Divine Surfidence?), I found out that there is a nutritionist specializing in treating survivors of the Mirena Crash (the official name given to the specific yet numerous symptoms associated with use of the device) in Great Bend, Kansas, which is really just a two-hour drive from where I live.  I almost couldn’t believe it — maybe this is the real reason we have lived in Kansas all along!  I had been begging God to stop the pain for weeks now, so I took this as an omen that I MUST get in touch with the doctor, who is by happenstance a nutritionist and chiropractor.

Okay, so to wrap up this story, I will skip over our long phone conversation because it turns out I didn’t have to even drive the Great Bend.  He does phone consultations with women from all over the country who are suffering from the side effects of their Mirena IUDs, and are not getting adequate support from healthcare providers.  Hmmm.  Long story short, he recommended a whole foods based detox diet selected  by him, and tweaked over the years to heal the body as much as possible.  The detox is designed to flush five years of toxins out of my body and liver, and hopefully get the liver functioning at full capacity again.  The silicone may or may not flush out.  I am also going to be using a bio identical progesterone oil to ‘reactivate’ my natural progesterone since the Mirena stopped production of my natural hormone.  This should halt the pre-menopausal symptoms I am experiencing (hello, hot flashes!) and hopefully turn back the aging process (I already have a lot of gray hairs!).

It could take months or even years to undo the damage caused by the Mirena.  Right now I am looking at my entire summer as a recovery time, and I may not be able to go back to work at the school.  I am immensely saddened by this turn of events.  Summer was supposed to be fun time with my family, everyone happy while traveling and having adventures.  I am no longer the wife or mother I was six months ago, and it isn’t fair to my family.  I am very angry that a tiny device could make me so sick, and that in five years, NO ONE in my medical community raised a red flag about it.  It goes to show that you and only you must be diligent about your health, because doctors don’t know everything, and pharmaceutical companies don’t want to make you feel better.

On the bright side, today I started my detox.  I took my pills (all food based, no chemicals or toxins) and made my smoothie with the special food powder blend.  It tasted disgusting!  I like my homemade smoothies better, but it is important to follow the plan.  I have to do something, be proactive.  This is the way to get it done.  I feel optimistic knowing that I am using food to heal my body.   And maybe soon I will be who I  used to be.

— G

 

 

Another blogger whose life was affected substantially by Mirena, and who refers to the same nutritionist from Great Bend in her posts:

http://mylifeaftermirena.blogspot.com/

 

Another survivor of the Mirena:

http://mirenaandra.blogspot.com/2013/03/mirena-iud-is-poisonous-hashimoto.html

 

 

 

 

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