the bad past, the uncertain future

Each morning I tell myself I’m okay, that I’ve averted crisis, that I’m going to live through this latest miscarriage and someday I’ll feel better again. But when night falls, I’m not sure if that’s true. I close my eyes and see lights spinning, I hear sirens slicing through the cool air and inevitable rainfall, and I remember being an eighteen year old kid who swallowed a bottle of Tylenol and called for help three days later from a phone booth in the dorms at Oberlin College in Ohio. Am I still that grieving young girl stranded and terrified in an unfamiliar town, so far from my sister’s fresh grave and anyone that gave a shit about her? It seems impossible most of the time.

“I was on the liver transplant list,” I remind myself, trying to remember living through the grave consequences of my first psychotic break.

I remember being twenty-three, a very skinny young woman with too much black eye makeup, folded up under the sink in the visitors’ restroom in 1-South at St. Peter’s Hospital in Olympia, WA while my therapist (the one I still see every week) made soothing small talk while perched on the edge of the toilet. I’m not sure how I got there, if I was even sober — I was in the partial hospitalization program, probably the sickest one there. Eventually, I came out on my own accord, blinking in the harsh fluorescent lights in the hospital corridor, returning to group as the other patients stared.

This is all supposed to be behind me now. My moods are for the most part controlled and I am back on planet earth. No one can promise me I won’t get sick again. But when I lost Molly, I was convinced I’d snap and I didn’t. It’s been almost three years, I’ve had three miscarriages, and here I am. Maybe I’m not as fragile as I see myself as being.

My online therapist contacted me again. “Sorry for the delay in response,” she wrote, “Have you tried journaling?”

The “delay” was 51 hours. And c’mon, I’ve been in therapy since I was a kid. “Journaling” is not a new and novel concept for me; plus, it’s 2018 and I write here instead (well, except for my infertility notebook where I carefully and obsessively tape my opks and positive hpts to monitor progression, and occasionally write down frustrations and draw pictures). She waited 51 hours to suggest that? Pffffff. At this point, she’s written 4 sentences to me. I cancelled my subscription to the service. My righteous indignation reassures me…I’m still in normal mode, not sick yet.

The future looks awfully bleak though. I wonder how I’ll survive. I’ve consciously decided to resume Femara, despite knowing it depresses my mood and there’s no guarantee that it will even work. I’ve deliberated, and I am choosing to suffer for awhile. I worry that my self-preservation instinct is malfunctioning. Remember how bad you get, I keep thinking to myself.

I don’t know the answers, the right thing to do. I’m in free fall and the stars are whizzing by. Despite constantly questioning the wisdom of my decisions, I’ve decided. And I don’t think wild horses could stop me.

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unicorns and psychotherapy

I still, apparently, have a unicorn. Scruffy is dusting himself off after his nine week meth binge, vomiting rainbows into his golden toilet, and getting ready for work. I’ll need to comb my expensive salon brand argan oil hair serum into his tangled mane and tail, hose him down with seltzer (he likes that), curry comb him and buff him out until he gleams like new again. It’s been a long time, Scruffy. I give him a swig of bourbon to take the edge off; we split a ciggie in the trailer and sally forth into the cruel bright world.

I did something fairly silly this past weekend. I signed up for online therapy. Yes, I have an in-person therapist I love, but lately we have a thing where we slip away from my current misery and slide into discussing how unhappy we are with the Trump administration. Since I am constantly panicking about my Social Security and Medicare, and I live in terror of war with North Korea and what that would mean for Korean Americans (our president ran on a platform of hate and is sustained by racism and misogyny, methinks, and I worry things will get scary for us kimchees), we aren’t veering too far away from the topic of what I am feeling today, but I have so many late night fears about impending childlessness…ugh. I wanted an avenue to process that stuff on my own time and I had forgotten that I tend to chew Master’s level psychotherapists up and spit them in my kitchen sink, so I took a free trial at BetterHelp.com. I’m not sure if they get better once you start paying, so take this all with a grain of salt. Anyway, after much ado, a therapist contacted me, asking me to summarize my “pregnancy journey”. I complied, and she responded, “How will you cope when* this doesn’t work out?”

Fuck me gently with a chainsaw.

This single statement precipitated a state of total despair. See, I don’t know how I’ll cope if this doesn’t work out. I still feel like I have a shot, but I don’t think Scruffy is going to be prancing around forever. I have no contingency plan, I don’t have the money to adopt, do donor eggs, nothing.

“I think you need to learn acceptance,” she said. It was only the third statement she’d ever made to me. Then I never heard from her again.

My instinct is to issue a hearty fuck you to anyone who dares oppose Scruffy. Can’t you see he’s not well? Can’t you see that I’m in terrible pain all the fucking time and I’m not ready for this? I remember all the terrible therapists I’ve had in my lifetime. The one who came to my house and crushed up all my Paxil, instructing me to mix a bit in with my Emergen-C and drink it every time I felt depressed (she was not medically trained, even, and later I found out was unlicensed). The one who called me, as a surly teenager, a little cunt. The one who told me my anxiety disorder was a result of being raised by Asians, who put so much pressure on their kids to excel that it made her sick (when I clarified, ignoring the racism in her comment, that I was adopted and my parents were white, she didn’t believe me). And the one therapist I must not have been paying enough, because she’d regularly knock on my door to bum cigarettes and change. All of these things have actually happened to me. I don’t think the online therapist was that bad, but I should know that a counselor’s words are not gospel, they have no real authority over me, that I need to brush this off or I won’t be okay.

Please let me be okay. I went in to regular therapy this morning, breathing a sigh of relief when she told me I didn’t have to give up hope…yet.

“My world is just so fucking fragile,” I said aloud, “and I can’t even fathom feeling any worse. If I stop now, I will feel worse.”

“You can let go of hope if the time comes,” she told me, “but don’t let someone else take it away.”

She reminded me that while I could be difficult, therapists should be able to deal with difficult patients. This is why I’ve stayed with her for fifteen years.

So I came home, peed on a Wondfo opk (negative AF), and laid down on the couch. This is where I am right now, I said to myself. And I’ll stay here until I can’t.

* emphasis mine.

monday morning reflections

I have days like this, when my only ambition is to get out of bed and move into the living room. The couch is basically a satellite bed, and I will probably be here all day. My hair desperately needs washing but that may be too lofty a goal with my nerves so raw and the neurons in my brain popping. I have a couple of books I want to start too, but my heart is full of fear — I mean, who lives like this? I can’t relax and read because the stories may elicit emotions that could set me off in a spate of ugly crying, and I’ve done enough of that lately. I begin to feel sorry for myself, not a good place to be at in my head.

I try to peruse today’s headlines, find myself getting upset. Our democracy is being chipped away at, methodically dismantled. Everything good in this country is going away while I sit in my apartment immobilized.

I try to breathe; I should take one of my tranks. I glance at the clock, decide to wait. I hear my little cat jingling his collar bell. He’ll soon come out to beg for his breakfast, and I have to think about eating too. I am bothered by my inability to take care of myself, I thought I’d recovered from living this way when I finally got my diagnosis of mental illness in my early twenties and started taking antipsychotics. I built a semi-normal life for myself.

I haven’t felt okay in a very long time, it seems now, and this thought makes me tear up. I remember carrying Molly, knowing she was doomed but loving her anyway. They said her diagnosis was a fluke, that my age was no problem. I hate them for their lies — false hope is brutal, and today I abhor it but it keeps me going on this path. I have the sneaking suspicion that an outsider would see me as hell-bent on self destruction, foolish, irresponsible. I can’t prove that wrong. We’ll just have to see.

My little cat folds himself up to sit on my lap. I bury my face in his soft fur, scratch him under his chin. I often wonder how he’d behave around a baby, but there’s an awfully good chance I’ll never find out.

I didn’t have nightmares last night. I should be feeling better this morning, but I’m still lethargic and my muscles feel weak. I go over to the patio door, throw nuts and seeds for the squirrels and birds. I feed the wildlife indiscriminately now, hoping to rack up good karma. You are crazy, I tell myself. There are, like, five squirrels, chasing each other around and goosing each other. The weekend was bad. We had planned to bring a meal over to Don and his grandson, but while the food was still cooking, Don fell and Geoff had to rush over to pick him up off the floor. I don’t want to do this; this was the second time this week. We love Don, but we can’t be constantly dropping everything to go help him with everything that we have going on. I am developing a resentment at his grandson for putting us in this position. Don is ninety. He needs better care.

Geoff told Don about my miscarriages. I stayed quiet, not knowing if Don would understand. He did, or, he seemed to. But I didn’t feel any better. I still feel all alone.

getting closer to the end

Sleep is torturous. I am awake literally every hour, bleary-eyed and slurring my speech, tormented by dead baby dreams that my Restoril can’t seem to eliminate. I’m already on enough Geodon to stun a warthog; there’s got to be something that can help end this misery. My psychiatrist isn’t in until Tuesday; that’s two whole nights away and I’m not sure I can make it without losing my sanity in the meantime.

During the day, my body is lethargic but my mind spins away from me. I am uncomfortable in my skin and desperate for inner quiet. When I take my Restoril, I feel like some approximation of normal, but it doesn’t last long, maybe an hour, and then the memories come back and the panic hits again.

I feel alarmingly agitated when I think of ttc next cycle. They said I could take my Femara but I wonder if I should wait a cycle for my hormones to balance out a bit. I need to resolve my sleep issues if I want to temp, but Femara in the past has eradicated my insomnia so that could kill two birds with one stone. I feel a great deal of apprehension about it working a second time and know it often doesn’t. I fret endlessly about retained tissue after my D&C, and about Asherman’s (scar tissue or adhesions in the uterus) because I wouldn’t be able to afford to have it removed. And let me tell you, almost three years of timed intercourse can really strain one’s sex life. Who am I kidding, though, I’m supposed to be relaxing but I suck at ntnp (not trying not protecting)…I’m noticing my cervical fluid approaching egg white and jumping my husband every other day.

And fuck, am I ready for this sad chapter in my life to be over and behind me. My friendships are all in smoldering ruins, my family is worried about me (my mom even offered to pay for therapy a second time a week), and my illness is threatening to take over once again. I want a baby so fucking bad, but even my daydreams are curbed by some self-protective instinct, I hear voices whispering it’s never going to happen, and inside I’m reverting to childhood and find myself easily wounded and in need of constant reassurances. I try and bargain with the Universe all day, but hear nothing in return. And the days end, and the nights are long and haunted, and I pray to a God I’m not sure I believe in to please, let me win.

post-miscarriage blues

I have started dreading the nights because if the dreams they bring me; although I am sleeping, I’m up every hour haunted by the stories my subconscious crafts in order to process this extended period of mourning I am experiencing. I finally woke around 9am and still feel like I am underwater, senses dulled, reaction time as lengthy as it’s ever been. Geoff is home with me and we’re listening to music that filters slowly through my brain and sounds meaningless, discordant and grating. I try to think of what would make me feel better and come up short.

I’m not tracking my menstrual cycle this month. I wake up confused and forget to take my basal body temperature. I ran out of ovulation prediction kits yesterday and the ones I ordered last week have failed to arrive. In general, my temperature charts on a miscarriage cycles do appear ovulatory, but are ambiguous as to when ovulation could have taken place. I’m not even sure if my hCG has zeroed out (though hpts are negative), so maybe I’ll be waiting a long time for anything to happen. I wish my period would show so that I could start the awfulness of a Femara cycle — at least then I might feel an iota of hope that I could get pregnant again. But that might never happen, or I could decide I cannot handle any more infertility/RPL heartbreak and try to move on. At this moment, however, I would kill for one last chance.

I’ve said it before. Just one more cycle. And then, just one more, this will be the last. But I’m addicted to hope, and right now I can’t even think about getting clean.

This life is torment, unadulterated misery, disappointment after disappointment, with no end in sight. Lately, out of loneliness, I find myself back on infertility forums, forming connections. This is no bueno, I know how it ends. With everyone else finally getting their take home babies while all my babies die. I should have learned my lesson, I should keep to myself. But it’s so lonely.

In one of my dreams last night, there was a medical breakthrough and they’d figured out how to keep chromosomally abnormal babies alive through adulthood. Only the babies grew into zombies, and the world was battling the zombies, and there was me, searching for my still-loved trisomy children all over the world, in the oceans, in distant lands, wanting to hold and protect them from the battles.

Sometimes I think, well, if a baby is chromosomally abnormal from the moment of conception, is she (I think of all my dead babies as girls because of Molly) even real? But to me, my trisomy children are real. I’m not sure if that’s delusion.

I’ve heard there’s a medication that helps ptsd nightmares. I wonder if my psychiatrist would prescribe it for me, just for a little while, before I start Femara because Femara gives me fucked up dreams too. But I’d revel in just a couple nights of uninterrupted sleep, or even just one. I don’t want to add more meds to my cocktail (currently on Geodon, Trileptal, Paxil and Cogentin), but maybe temporarily. I haven’t decided.

I ask myself every morning, when the fuck will all this end? My timeline is indefinite, but I am pushing 40. I want to win this war so fucking badly but everything is uncertain and scary.

love story

I am still on the couch, listening to Billy Idol and marveling over the fragility of happiness. At my core, I am shattered and subsequently frail; here, with my ubiquitous little cat who seems to have been put on Earth for the sole purpose of helping me through these years of grieving, with my bangs matted against my greasy forehead, teeth unpolished, no makeup on. I am only an observer of life rather than a participant and if I disappeared it would go unnoticed by my anonymous neighbors and absent friends. My legs are pulled up and tucked under me, I wear my coziest cashmere sweater, and the tranquilizer rushing through my hot blood promises sleep that in reality only arrives in short, unpredictable bouts and is tainted with images of death in dreamscapes beyond my ability to comprehend or process.

It is the weekend, and on Sunday I will make my weekly attempt to reintegrate myself into society by bringing our ninety year old friend a square meal and choking down the terror I feel when he starts slipping into confusion. Don, several years ago, told Geoff to ring me and we’ve been inseparable ever since — in contrast, Don’s wife (now deceased) had told me to keep an eye on Geoff but put him off until he attained regular employment. I made the leap anyway, threw my videogame-obsessed dead weight boyfriend out of our apartment and Geoff moved in, eventually landing a job.

I remember fondly when Geoff brought up moving in together, all nervous enthusiasm and boyish trust. And we didn’t really discuss it — suddenly he was just there with me. At our wedding, I said fuck you to tradition and wore a black dress with my long hair unbrushed and unstyled, bright pink lipstick, no flowers. And believe it or not, I was fat then, and still was happy. It didn’t matter. We were in love.

We had no idea how delicate our joy and blissful love was; we honestly expected it to last forever.

I’m still deeply in love with my husband, but we lost our innocence when we found out Molly was sick. We pulled together after a few rocky months of soul-rending arguments inspired by grief, serotonin syndrome, a touch of mania, and hormonal upheaval. When that settled — well, I’ve never felt emotional intimacy like this with anyone else, but although Geoff is my soulmate our initial happiness disappeared with one unknowable phrase uttered by an impassive perinatologist: cystic hygroma. Our carefree world came crashing down in the short time they spent explaining the ramifications of this birth defect. In an instant, the joy of being newlyweds was replaced with sorrow of the purest nature and a festering anger at a God we’re not sure we believe in anymore. I kind of think we don’t.

How quickly the Universe can take everything away, how cold and cruel it can be!

These days are quieter, even throughout my three miscarriages. I am locked in a protracted battle with my illness (schizoaffective, bipolar type along with panic disorder and now PTSD), and Geoff is my quiet caretaker, reminding me to take my medications and eat, and keeping an eye on my sleep patterns. I have zero fears that he will abandon me, and in turn he keeps me tethered to this realm and this reality despite my fervent wish to float away. Life is, quite simply, hard, seemingly insurmountable at times — but I remain resolutely by his side in every capacity I can swing at any given time.

It would be so simple to make us happy. We just want a child, a family of our own, something that seems to happen so naturally for everyone else on the planet. For us, the path is dark and treacherous, with gnarled trees blocking the light and making navigation impossible. Blinded, we grasp each other’s hands tight and push on through the dangerous terrain.

I apologize to him everyday. While so many spend their twenties forging a life for themselves, creating security and family, maintaining old friendships, I spent my younger days in and out of mental hospitals, using every last resource in my fight for my life and my sanity. If only we’d met when we were both younger, before my fertility declined. And everyday, he brushes off my apologies and tells me he’ll never leave, baby or no.

Love isn’t easy, and often you cannot truly value a marriage unless you have suffered together. Geoff will be home in a half an hour and I am like a child waiting for something amazing, checking the time every minute. I cannot wait to see him, and it’s only been a few hours. I feel unsettled in his absence, although of course I am an adult with my own projects and interests.

So simple are the things we long for; how unfairly unattainable are our little goals. I’m not sure Geoff is aware that I’m making sure to be intimate on an every other day schedule, just in case I ovulate in my post-miscarriage cycle. I’m not tracking ovulation, so this is for just in case. I want to give him a child more than anything. I want us to find peace, to heal our one heart that is so scarred and scabbed, almost pierced beyond repair. He sends a text; he is on his way.

And the neighbor kids are screaming, I’m resisting the urge to gulp down caffeine and refined sugar and maybe I’m fucking crazy but it’s all for Us.

monotony

I still feel paralyzed by depression and grief. It’s my umpteenth day on the couch, with my little cat tucked up behind my knees, wishing that I had someone that understood to stop by unannounced and see if I’m okay. Since I haven’t even told anyone about my latest tragedy this is unlikely, but I wish it anyway. I comb my fingers through my hair, wondering where I’ll get the energy to wash it, and I stare into the candle burning on the coffee table and let the fat tears roll down my face.

I have to call my psychiatrist; I cannot go on like this. You’re all probably sick of my innumerable accounts of depressive episodes, and I need to go on living. I hesitate. I don’t want to mess with antidepressants because I’m scared to get serotonin poisoning again. I don’t want to try new medications because I tend to have extreme reactions, and I don’t want to be on too many different meds because I want to get pregnant again safely. I feel like if I could just sleep better I’d feel better, but my sleep is plagued with nightmares. In short, I am unsure if my psychiatrist can help me, if anyone can help me. I feel un-helpable. And I’m so so lonely and scared.

Rain runs down the window, and time continues to pass. I sip coffee, my last remaining vice, vowing to cut down but knowing I probably won’t. Last night was bad, I was literally up every hour from the dreams. I need to get my shit together. But I can’t.

*****

My current misery reflects the intensity of the joy I felt when I was pregnant, just over two weeks ago. How quickly things can change, how completely can the Universe can take something away. I knew when my OB dragged the portable ultrasound in that it was over — after the scan, she looked me in the eye. You were expecting this, weren’t you? she asked gently. I nodded. Of course I was expecting it. I always know.

If I take the sorrow and anxiety and suffering of that moment, put it next to the pure exhilaration of seeing baby’s heartbeat at 7w1d — was it worth it? Was it worth the pain? Yes.

And I’m terrified of never feeling that happy again. RPL is so fuckingshitass cruel, such a motherfucking mindfuck. And pregnancy is a minefield. But I’m still hooked on hope, even though I may eat my words when I start Femara and the suicidal depression sets in. I have to keep going, and I feel I have no other choice.

I’d never give those brief moments of joy away, those short weeks with my babies. Because love is worth any price.

on breastmilk and triggers

I woke up to a damp t-shirt. My boobs are leaking, and I am desolate. It’s not a shocker; atypical antipsychotic medication can cause milk production even in men, I’ve lactated in the absence of pregnancy or childbirth before, and my miscarriage is probably mucking my hormones up and wreaking havoc. So, I am fretting, trying not to express the milk and thus encourage it. If my prolactin levels are elevated, it could prevent ovulation and I’m trying to get knocked up again, right? At the very least, I’d like to have a period and get back to normal.

I feel like I can’t handle any more stress…I can’t DO anything. Outside, it is resolutely sunny and bright, but I’m too scared to even step out to get the mail even though I know the cashmere sweater (I am obsessed with cashmere) I ordered off eBay is waiting for me. This is what repeated trauma will do to you. I, quite simply, have learned to expect disasters every time I leave my house. And they keep happening, so I’m never proved wrong. I worry incessantly that I’ve become pitiful.

Just go outside, I tell myself. You’ll feel better. But I’m not sure that I will, and I don’t want to risk feeling worse, i.e., seeing children that aren’t mine, seeing a pregnant woman, seeing any little thing that will bring about the panic attacks and flashbacks. I know my traumas are not as significantly life-threatening as other patients, but they are mine to live with and they just won’t go away.

Making milk for a baby that never came is heartbreaking. And this was only a nine week miscarriage! I was told to expect my milk to come in after my eighteen week termination, but it never did, possibly due to the aforementioned medication (I’ve been on Geodon since it came out in 2001). I’m not engorged, this is just rather alarming and so so sad.

If I could get through a couple hours without being reminded of my losses, I’d be psyched. And now my own body is telling me in no uncertain terms that yes, I just lost my fourth baby.

I curl up under the blanket, rest my head on the pillow and cry.

******

I am scattered today. I wish I could sleep. The nightmares pervade my rest, I often wake Geoff in the middle of the night, wondering all the while why he puts up with me. My neuroses, my obsessive thoughts, my chronic insomnia, my social ineptitude. My inability to pull myself together. He is incredibly patient, always reassuring. We don’t have a family, but infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss have brought us so close together, I sometimes wonder if I could breathe without him.

My dependence on him scares me. He is nine years my senior, getting close to 50. I want him to be here with me forever, but chances are he will cross before me and I will be alone. The thought is untenable, frightening, and very very real. With no children, no soulmate by my side, what will become of me? My family of origin is small, and I am not close to my cousins — my parents are in their 70s, and I have one aunt, one uncle that are getting up there in years as well. I’m sick, I’m mentally ill, and I do need a certain level of care. I do not do well on my own.

These are my deepest fears. I’m not sure I can shake them.

sleepy wednesday

Thanks to everyone who is supporting me here. I feel like I’m taking the negative comments less seriously today and should continue sharing my story. I’m so close to 10k views, so I feel like I should at least hit that target. For now, though…soooo sleepy.

******

I had a wonderful dream this morning. It was a simple scene; me, standing on the dresser for some reason, arms around Geoff. No thoughts of babies, just feeling him pick me up and kiss me as I told him I loved him. I was present in the moment, it was sappy and romantic (not like me at all). And I woke up, and everything hit me like it does every time I wake up: dead babies, surgeries, years of grieving, watching everyone in my world disappear. And I cried because I really believe we deserve to be happy, but the Universe doesn’t give a shit about who deserves what and instead we are suffering and we’ve been suffering for so long…

And I woke Geoff and told him why I was already sad, and he promised we’d be happy again. I want so badly to trust him, to have some faith, but I can’t. He wrapped his arms around me and we rolled over the bed kissing and I fell asleep again (probably wasn’t his intention but hey, I’m getting old).

So we went to my post-d&c follow up, got a script for more Femara and I know there will be nothing but continued suffering for awhile because that stuff makes me feel like shit and I’m already down.

gone

I’m thinking of going on hiatus…the constant well-meaning but insensitive comments are too much to handle on top of raw grief. I delete them, you won’t see them here, so if your comments are showing up I’m not talking about you (I usually try to at least “like” all comments if not write a quick response). I am vehemently pro-choice, judgments about abortion are unnecessary. I don’t believe parents should have a minimum income level to be eligible for children — Geoff and I are capable of providing for our family. I also believe the disabled and mentally ill can be kind and loving parents and raise great kids. Furthermore, yes, I have experience with children, I worked in a day care throughout high school and loved it, and when my husband and I decided we wanted a child it was after years of discussion with the benefit of insight from licensed mental health providers that we trust. This is not a decision we made lightly, it’s not the fantastical whim of someone suffering from distorted thinking. In short, I don’t need my reproductive choices questioned, got it? I’m really hurting today and don’t need this shit

Maybe I’ll feel stronger tomorrow and be back. I don’t know any more.