Food Cravings and Mental Breakdowns

After typing up my last journal entry, I went searching through my blog for mention of peri-menopause. I had enough entries on it over the last four years that I’d actually created a category for it. Totally forgot I did that.

August, 2012: noticed my period went from 25 day cycle to 28+ day cycle.

May, 2013: I had a period, then 11 days after it ended, another full period.
October, 2013: skipped period entirely.

January, 2014: my period went back to 25 day cycle.
May, 2014: period ended and then the next day started up again.

April, 2015: I started my period again after it had just ended.
May, 2015: diagnosed with fibroids. I started my period again after it had just ended.
September, 2015: bled for 12 straight days.

So…I have had up to five years to “enter peri-menopause gracefully”.
But in August, 2012, my world ended when I discovered my spouse cheating on me with the woman I babysat for. That threw my cycle and everything into hormonal whack. My world never fully recovered.

I spent over a year and a half in MAJOR depression and on psych meds.

Then I met someone new and began a relationship, which went through such HORRIBLY INTENSE bullshit that I am surprised I stayed with the person at all. It got pretty bad.
At the same time, my job went from bad to unbearable, and I finally left it in August, 2017, only to be picked up by a monumentally worse job. I’ve only been there for just under 3 months, and it feels like I’ve been there for as long as I was at the other dysfunctional job.

So there was no going gracefully into this, because I have been in a constant state of stress hormone release for the past five years.

On Friday, November 3, after another bad day at work, I came home and had a full scale emotional breakdown, complete with sobbing, screaming, hyperventilating, and rambling incoherently.
I haven’t been the same since Friday. I feel like I did when I just got out of the psych ward in 2012. Everything has me jumpy and ready to scream & jump out of my skin. I’ve been taking more of my anti-anxiety medication.

And the food cravings. Holy shit, the food cravings. It’s probably a combination of being stressed the fuck out and hormonal whack going on, but I have never eaten so much peanut butter in my life. Same with ice cream. I have to have ice cream EVERY DAY for like, the past two months.

I texted my Ma yesterday about it, since I read that daughters may likely follow their mothers in menopausal onset and symptoms. My Ma started peri-menopause when she was about 43 or 44 years old. She had really bad mood swings. I don’t recall her food cravings, so I asked. She said she ate A LOT of ice cream, and that it helped with her hot flashes.
I told her I’d had some night sweats back in March. but nothing since then.

Then of course, because I HAD to have mentioned it, I had hot flashes all last night, which made it difficult to sleep. It mostly affected my lower body from the waist down my legs to my feet. Burning hot. Dry hot. I wished for a cooling pad. If this keeps up, I will order cool gel pillows and pads.

Life Update

It has been 16 months, or nearly a year and a half since my last blog entry. I became disillusioned with life with endometriosis.

Starting around March 2017, at the age of 45, my periods started becoming irregular.
I would stop bleeding, then a day or two later, start bleeding again for a few days.
Or I would bleed for eleven days in a row.

I skipped a period from April to May 2017, going 36 days. BUT I spent most of May with cramps above level 6 on the pain scale.

I had a new ultrasound in May 2017, but the GYN said everything looked good; my ovaries showed no cysts and my uterus looked smaller. However, several intramural fibroids and a subserosal fundal fibroid was noted. The GYN told me that it shouldn’t be causing the elevated pain and weird cycles I was experiencing, to which of course I called bullshit.

I skipped a period again between July and August 2017, going 44 days between periods.

August to September 2017 was 36 days, and I spent most of September with cramps above level 6 on the pain scale.

I had two periods in the month of October 2017, with most of the month yet again cramping.

I’m back to having roughly one good week a month without cramps.

I should also note that for about a month (from March to April?), I experienced serious night sweats and hot flashes. Though they abated, I know it was just a taste of what’s to come. Though they abated, my core body temp has been elevated, and I’ve been running more warm to actual HOT since Springtime.

Also since Springtime, I have been experiencing hormonal rage, the likes of which I have not experienced since I was a teenager. It’s the exact same ragey feelings I had when I was in my teen years, only now I’m not screaming at my loved ones in public. Though I have lost my shit several times at my partner, and had to apologise.
That said, I feel like I may snap at any second.

Since early 2017, I have been trying to find a talk therapist to no avail, because Kaiser outsourced all of their psychological treatment to an already inundated program. I even tried calling Gaylesta and local community psychiatry, but everyone was overwhelmed with people calling for help. This is because of the political crisis people in the United States have been experiencing since November 2016 when The Orange Troll was installed into the White House and began systematically rolling back civil rights for everyone and everything.

On September 16, 2017, I was t-boned, and my car totaled. This, on top of a year of dealing with an epileptic dog, a Troll in the White House, a former friend/housemate shitting all over me and then crying to other people about how mean I am when I begged her to repair the damage she’d done to the room she’d rented, and me ending 8 years at one employer, hoping to switch careers, only to be scooped up again by another even more dysfunctional employer in the same industry.
So I’ve been suffering anxiety/panic attacks the likes of which I have not seen since my mid-to-late twenties.

I have been on a thin edge of sanity for the entire year of 2017, and I think I have an idea of what is happening to me, along with all the above-mentioned life stress:

I have entered peri-menopause.

WOOOHOOOO!!!!!!!

I’m that much closer to the end of my period, and hopefully the end of bedridden horrific bloody cramps.

HOWEVER, I’m gonna be honest here and say that I had it in my head that I would have this sort of magickal timeframe to start preparing for peri-menopause before it actually hit. You know, time for me to enroll in yoga class, meditation classes and a stress-management program…so I could go into peri-menopause gracefully.

My body took one look at that idea and threw its head back, laughing maniacally.

That moment last Spring when I thought to myself, “Hmmm, could the is be peri?” It was already too late. The hormones were already going sideways, plotting to take me down hard.
Nope, no mindful meditation and graceful for you, buttercup.
HIT THE FUCKING DECK!!!!

So, from here on out, this endometriosis blog is ALSO my peri-menopause blog. Because, you know, I STILL Will Not Suffer In Silence.

Peri-menopause and Menopause are just as taboo as Endometriosis. So I will still be here, tellin it like it is.

Oh, one last thing before I conclude this journal entry:
PERI-MENOPAUSAL CRAVINGS ARE A THING.

I have never eaten so much peanut butter IN MY LIFE.

Actual peanut butter. Reeses peanut butter cups. Ben & Jerry’s “Everything But The…” ice cream.
Peanut butter cookies.

Don’t ask why. I don’t know. This at least is the only thing about peri-menopause so far that has me giggling.

Kaiser Permanente can die in a fire.

At this point, why do I bother continuing to go to the doctor, especially now that I’m stuck with Kaiser HMO insurance.

Firstly, let me tell you the difference between HMO and PPO insurance in the United States:
HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) is cheap-o basic health care coverage, with the main goal of being a preventative health care system. That is to say, they don’t want you to get sick. Patients must have a Primary Care Physician, who is in control of referring the patient to specialists as he/she sees fit.

PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) is pricey-yet-comprehensive health care coverage, with the selling point being to manage long-term illnesses and conditions. Patients can self-refer to specialists.

Now, here’s what’s going on with me:
Yesterday and today, I had debilitating fatigue.
Last night, my period started up again after I thought I was finished and was barely spotting. After intimacy last night, I noticed bright red spotting.
This morning, I woke to bright red flow.

I have a rapport with my boss, whose daughter also has endometriosis. When I told her what was going on, and that I’d be dashing off to an appointment after work, she told me that she remembered this happening to me before. I told her I did not recall, but I do have excellent record-keeping on my computer. We talked about whether I could be perimenopausal or not. More on this convo later.

So I called Kaiser to make an appointment.

The person I got on the phone told me she also has endometriosis, and immediately I rolled my eyes, because I knew what would happen next. She asked me if I’d tried hormonal treatments. I told her no, and she launched into the whole, “well, you know that hormonal suppression is one way to stop the pain…” So I told her I tried hormones and they made me suicidal, so I refused to try further hormonal experimentation. She then asked about Lupron. NO, I have not tried it. She then asked me if I’d considered hysterectomy. Yes, I have, and I have decided against it. She then had the audacity to ask me if I had been surgically diagnosed with endometriosis. YES, I HAVE. TWICE.

Here’s the thing. I’m trying to make a fucking appointment with a GYN TODAY. That’s all. Just do your job as customer service intake or whatever the hell your job is, and find me a fucking appointment.

This woman doesn’t have any right to be asking me these questions. The only questions she should be asking me are the ones on her fucking script, which are:

  • When was the first day of your last period?
  • Are you experiencing any pain and where?
  • Are you experiencing nausea or vomiting?
  • What have you taken for the pain today?
  • Do you think you could be pregnant?

 
Based upon the answers I give, she enters the responses into her computer, and it tells her whether I am eligible for an appointment TODAY.

All these other questions, I know she’s only asking because 1) she has endometriosis 2) she is a nurse, so she thinks she knows better than I do about myself, so 3) she feels entitled to give me a what-for.

Here’s a tip: just because you have the same illness as me, bitch, doesn’t mean you get to tell me what is best for me.

No, I have not tried Lupron. No I have not opted for hysterectomy. Yes, I have been surgically diagnosed and don’t fucking patronize me when I tell you I’ve had two surgeries and you say “yes, but where they diagnostic?” What the hell kind of question is that? Yes, of fucking course they were diagnostic.

There is a rampant mentality among women with endometriosis: many of these women tell other women that if they are not surgically diagnosed, then they have no right to complain about the pain of endometriosis, because it might not be endo. It’s like a fucking sorority club: you don’t get to talk about your pain unless OFFICIALLY diagnosed with endo. Then POOF! You’re in the clique. You get full title to wail and gnash your teeth about your pain, AND BE BELIEVED by the endo sister community. That is some serious bullshit right there.

I remember being belittled like that. I knew I had Endo, but I still had to fight for 11 years to get it proven surgically. Now that I’m diagnosed, I have to always be ready to show my fucking papers whenever the medical community or SOME women with endo ask me if I REALLY have endo. YES BITCHES, I DO.

And you’d think my bad experience would have ended there – that was just the nurse line to get an appointment for today. Oh no, it got worse.

My assigned GYN is not in the office until Monday, so they just gave me the first available doctor for the time frame I could manage. When I got to my appointment, I was a little miffed that nobody told me that my gynecologist for today would be male. Apparently there is no communication between the intake nurse and the GYN on staff, or else he can’t be arsed to read the intake report before seeing his patients. He asked me the same questions. When I told him no I have not had Lupron, he said “Why not?” in a patronizing voice. I told him with pursed lips, “because it’s my decision”.
I am tired of explaining to these motherfuckers the multitude of problems associated with going on Lupron.
Lupron is a male prostate cancer drug being used on women when doctors don’t know what the fuck else to do. We get bone loss, we get deepening voices and hair on our chests and faces. We get worsening pain. We get permanent debilitating joint pain.
I am not going to be your fucking guinea pig to end up with even worse problems than I am already dealing with. And yet, these motherfuckers keep pushing the goddamn Lupron on us!

But no, all I tell this doctor is, “because it’s my decision”. You are lucky I spared your fucking head today, sir.

He thinks out loud: I could be perimenopausal. He might recommend an endometrial biopsy.
He opted to do a pelvic exam, which I granted. He told me I am not currently bleeding, which is a pile of shit. He pulled out the speculum and told me that there is barely any blood on it. I told him I have been bleeding bright red all day, so if he is unsure, he can wait…there’ll be more. He inserted his fingers and asked me where I felt any discomfort, pressure or outright pain. He described my bladder and I told him it was uncomfortable, bordering on painful. He then told me that he really doesn’t see a problem internally as far as endo goes, but the bladder sensitivity could be something else. I know what this means and NO, I DO NOT HAVE A URINARY TRACT INFECTION. I’ll bitch more about that in a minute.

When he was finished, it appeared as though he was wrapping up our little visit. Oh hell no.
I told him, “This is what I would like you to do. I would like a transvaginal ultrasound ordered.” He looked startled, and said, “ordered?” I replied, “given” as I pointed to myself still in stirrups.
He paused, then told me he was just about to go ahead with that, and he seemed miffed that I would demand something from him. Oh REALLY? I thought you were dismissing me like everyone else. HMO doctors are hateful little creatures.

During this whole visit, his minion kept coming into the room without warning, which invades my privacy as I lay there in stirrups. He sent her out to get the ultrasound equipment as I scrambled to cover myself back up again. She rushed back in and didn’t even close the door as they began setting up for the ultrasound. I stared at her and then finally said, “Close the door.” Both she and the doctor looked at me, then the doctor gave her an impatient look and repeated for her to close the door.
At this point, I was about to lose my shit and set these people on fire.
But I needed answers, so I allowed the ultrasound to begin.

He had a look at my right ovary, which showed a very large black hole. I asked him what it is. “It measures half an inch”, he said. That’s about 1.5cm.

I then told him that I have a history of endometriomas. He replied that it looks like just a follicle to him, but he will mark it. Good. You do that.

At the end of the ultrasound, he reiterated that he does not think anything is wrong “other than normal cramps, not endometriosis pain”.

At this point I could no longer hold back my judgmental glare.
I am surgically diagnosed with endometriosis, and you are telling me that I don’t have endometriosis pain, just normal cramps? WHAT. THE ACTUAL FUCK. IS WRONG. WITH YOU.

But it doesn’t end there.

He then asked me something I knew he was going to ask, because I have had this fucking question asked many times previous to my surgeries.

“Are you sure it’s not a UTI?”

I gave him The Teacher Look.

I told him evenly and firmly, “it’s not”, at which point he put his tail between his legs, and literally held up his palms to me to let me know that I got my point across. He then said he’s not very well versed in knowledge of endometriosis (OH REALLY), and he even went so far as to acknowledge that I might know more than he does on the subject, to which I openly replied, “I do.”

What I don’t have to tell you motherfucker, since you were not interested in reading my surgery reports, is that I have endometriosis on the bladder reflection, which means my bladder is easily irritated when you poke at it with your fingers or with the vaginal ultrasound wand.
So, you might want to check the fucking surgery report before asking me if I have a fucking UTI.

At this point, I was expecting him to ask me another common question:

“Have you ever had an STD?”
If he had asked me that question, I would have leapt up off of the table and murdered him outright.

Instead, he mentioned offhandedly something nearly as infuriating:
He said I should really consider hysterectomy, or pray that menopause does not give me worse problems than the endo already does, because I have refused hormonal treatments, Lupron, and hysterectomy…and opted to just stick with narcotic pain management, which is frowned upon.

TRANSLATION: YOU ARE AN ADDICT.

In general, I am really tired of doctors. I’d really like for that pain transference device to be invented, so I can show these asswipes A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A WOMAN WITH ENDOMETRIOSIS.
And when they are screaming in agony, or literally dying from this pain, I will tell them all of the things they have told me and my endo sisters throughout the years.

I really miss UCSF. I fucking hate Kaiser, I hate starting over, I hate HMOs. The whole reason I am stuck in Third World Healthcare again is because my excellent medical benefits went out the window when my ex-spouse cheated on me and divorced me for the whore.

Now, I have Kaiser through my workplace, which as I mentioned is HMO hell. The exam room I was in today was behind office desks at the back of the building, in what looks like used to be a closet. The furniture in there looked to be at least 25 years old, badly scratched up and in need of paint. Actually, that furniture reminds me of the office furniture aboard the USS Hornet… A WWII vessel.
I would say that the health care provided by Kaiser is roughly similar to WWII healthcare.

Have I mentioned that I miss UCSF?

When I got home, I remembered the convo I’d had with my boss earlier in the day, and so I scoured through my iCal and photos of my whiteboard calendar to see if I could find any easy reference to this in the last few years. I check out my calendar notes first, before going meticulously through my blog entries, because I don’t always know what keywords to look for at first. Looking at patterns in my cycle via the calendar gives faster insight for me, oftentimes.

I finally found it – it was just 11 months ago – my boss was right – this has happened before. In May of 2014, my period stopped and then a day later started up again. I went to Kaiser and got a same-day appointment (at the time, with a new GYN since I was new to Kaiser). A transvaginal ultrasound revealed a 4cm fluid-filled sac. I was in even more pain last year than what I’m going through this year, and of course I was… last year it was a 1.5 inch cyst. This year, it’s a half-inch cyst. Either way, it causes me to bleed outside of my usual cycle.

So I have my answer, and I have a pending complaint against one Dr. Hong Kim, and a further complaint against the Kaiser healthcare system for letting me fall between the cracks when my regularly appointed GYN is out of the office.

And as far as cysts go, all I can do is Wait And See.
Will it reabsorb? Or is it an endometrioma?

And then I’ll take it from there…by going to see Dr. Andrew Cook down in the South Bay. He doesn’t take insurance – it’s out-of-pocket. After all I’ve been through, I’m ready to go this route.

October absentia

I went the entire month of October without a new menstrual cycle. The lengthening in time between my periods over the past year has really been interesting.

I got my period on September 30, and then it didn’t appear again until November 2.
And just like in September, where I had pain a week before my period, it happened again in October. I had moderate pain for one day and then no period until almost two weeks later.

Yesterday was moderate pain. Today was heavy pain. It just kept getting worse. Finally, after work, I broke down and took half a Vicoprofen because I was getting nauseated from the pain. It took about 45 minutes to kick in, and now I’m happily dissociated. I hit 7.5 on the pain scale today.
The blood started off dark brown, then turned to bright red, then tapered and hit a thick dark brown again. That coloration, combined with the nausea, makes me wonder if I’ve got another ovarian cyst. And of course, the intermittent pain I’ve experienced over the past two weeks is on the left side – the same damned ovary that was discovered tied to the back of my uterus twice during surgeries. The damned endo has likely tied up the ovary again.

I haven’t done too well in the past year with documenting my endo flares. I’ve had other things on my mind, like intense grief. But I’m FINALLY getting past it. Finally. You have no idea. I can feel it easing up. Soon, I will be back to paying attention to the endo and modulating treatments and diet accordingly.

My doctor said I could increase the gabapentin during pain flares, so starting today I began taking three gabapentin per day (100mg each) instead of the usual two. Unfortunately, it did not really help with pain relief. I consumed 1,400mg ibuprofen today before taking the vicoprofen, and I’ve had a heating pad on me several times today, even at work.

I’m down to my last two vicoprofen pills. I’m brand new on my school’s health care (Kaiser), so it will take awhile to see the necessary doctors to get a renewed prescription. :/

I wonder if Halloween season had anything to do with the increased pain. My sugar intake has been UP this past month! On the To Do list – cut sugar from the diet again.

So that’s yer update.

Earlier cycle is also more painful

I’m not handling reality well at the moment. I didn’t even mention the pain flare on facebook until today, because I couldn’t convince myself that this is really happening – I’m ten days early – it’s a full menstrual cycle and I’m in Day 3 of it already.

Shit got real today at work, when I hit a 7 on the pain scale.

This is what the pain was like on the Allie Brosh pain scale:

alliebroshpainface6

My GYN office called me back today; they said it *could* be perimenopause, but to continue watching my cycle for the next 3 months before coming in for a consult. I’m to watch for obvious signs like night sweats and hot flashes on top of very early or very delayed periods.

I have taken a half a Tylenol 3 twice today, and I have ingested 1,200mg of Ibuprofen to try to manage the pain. But here’s the thing…

Ever since being prescribed Neurontin, I have started experimenting with forbidden foods, just to see how far the medical benefit goes. Do I remain pain-free for longer periods of time, despite regular caffeine intake? Do I still get immediate pain flares upon ingesting corn syrup?

I have not gone about this in a purely scientific way, mind you. I have been taking more mental notes than anything, really. But I thought it was time to tell you about it, and to start taking down notes.

Dairy – seems okay, whether during endo flare or not.
Caffeine – ok unless endo flare, then same old death
Chocolate – ok unless endo flare, then same old death
Corn Syrup products, including Pop – ok unless endo flare, then same old death
Alcohol – seems okay, whether during endo flare or not.

Today I had caffeine, chocolate and corn syrup (Sprite pop) while at work. I hit a 7 on the pain scale, when I normally top out at a 6 on the scale since being on Neurontin, so the message seems clear: continue to avoid the usual suspects during an endo flare.

Here’s hoping tomorrow (Day 4) will be mild, and I’ll definitely be eating better.

This is a weird cycle.

Today is Day 2 of the Very Early Cycle. By now I should be experiencing a very heavy flow, but by noon I was already tapering. I’ve been spotting most of the afternoon and evening, though I have been cramping up to a 5 on the scale for much of the day. Still have the low back pain, too. Lots of debris and at times brown blood. I have consumed 1,200mg Ibuprofen today.

I have placed a call to my GYN, and await her response.

In the meantime, I looked up “perimenopause”.

According to Mayo Clinic, “see your doctor if:

* Bleeding occurs between periods
* Periods regularly occur less than 21 days apart”

Well this is the first time it’s happened, so I guess I’m stuck waiting to see if my periods get any more crazy than they have been. Back in 2011, my period started showing up 3 days late from time to time. By August, 2012, I’d moved from a 25 to a 28+ day cycle.
Last month was 29 days. So to go from that to 19 days is a big deal, and makes me believe I’ve hit perimenopause.

Nothin’ I can do but sit back and keep watching it. If 2 more cycles go by like this, I’ll definitely want to get checked out by my GYN to make sure it’s nothing worse than perimenopause or endo behaviour.

I don’t know yet if this is related, but I have major restless leg issues going on tonight. I’ve eaten a banana and I have taken a calcium pill to no benefit as of yet.

Are you kidding me?

I’m only at 19 days since the last onset of my cycle, and I woke up bleeding! WTF! I’m not supposed to be due for up to ten more days!

First my cycle lengthens from 25 days to 29ish days, and now I’m starting it at 19 days?
Is this the start of peri-menopause?

I had prior warning signs for the last few days, but I mistook it for just being too active on the dance floor. I took half a Tylenol 3 pill after going dancing on Friday, because the lower back and left hip were killing me. The low back pain was a sign of george, though.

The pelvic and low back pain, combined with right hip pain and mild nausea from said pains has led me to take another half Tylenol 3 pill today. I’ve also consumed 1,200mg of Ibuprofen today. The pain of everything has had me constant at about a 6.5 on the pain scale today.

Despite the pain, I still went out and got my hair cut, then met up with two friends I haven’t seen in several months, then did a bit of retail therapy before coming home and setting up this year’s AIDS Walk donation page (I organise a team for the walk every year). I have been hobbling quite a bit today – mostly due to the hip pain – but dammit, I still went and lived my life. I will call the doctor tomorrow about the hip, and I will call my surgeon about the early menstruation. Of course, I should probably read up on peri-menopause again, too. I don’t know if it’s too early for me – I’ll be 42 in September. My Ma entered peri-menopause around this age, so it’s not unheard of.

Tomorrow begins a week of tearing down classrooms and setting up for the Summer session. This past Friday, my head teacher and I successfully graduated 17 first- and second-graders. I made it through an entire school year without missing much work from endo, because I’ve been on Gabapentin. I have seen more money in my paycheck as a result, and have earned my worth with the management, who are finally considering me for a head teaching position. So, I’m still in pain, but I’m no longer averaging an 8 on the pain scale. I modulate the amount of Gabapentin I take during my cycle, so I’m getting 300mg a day instead of 200mg. This helps, but the side effect is that I forget everything. So long as I’m not taking 300mg every day anymore, it’s worth the side effect for now.

We’ll see how this week goes for me…
In the meantime, here’s a pic of my new ‘do!

haircutbystarr06092013sideview