the baddest days

These days, I am extremely fragile. Free from madness for over a decade, I’ve somehow failed to find new trust in my unstable mind. Memories of the Bad Years haunt me, a tiny voice whispers at me, “Remember who you are.” A skinny beauty, weak and occasionally violent towards myself, arms dripping blood as reality swirled around me, dizzy from the pictures and screaming that I would be the one to rescue the latest band of medics from the end of days. A filthy-faced girl huddled in a cupboard as disembodied voices screamed at me that my mom would kill me if she had a chance, unrelenting paranoia and hallucinations, emerging only occasionally to see my caseworker, who sat my psychotic ass down in a ramshackle building downtown and grew impatient as she tried for the hundredth time to explain what a Medicaid spenddown was to a girl not even aware she was on a different plane …

Besides being a broke(n) infertile woman, I also have a psychotic disorder. I am bipolar I, and I hear voices whether I’m in the grips of a mood episode or not, making me schizoaffective, bipolar type. Does that frighten you? I’ve heard them all my life; I can’t imagine what it feels like to live in quiet like most of you. I function despite the noise, although within gentle parameters. I cannot hold a job without the madness creeping in, I have to avoid stress whenever possible. But now, with medication and unending talk therapy (which I am fortunate to have access too, and am fortunate that medication works for me because it doesn’t always help everybody), you’d probably not peg me a a psychotic woman. High strung, fuck yeah. You may see I lack basic social skills, I have a difficult time making meaningful friendships or maintaining them–I often disappear for years. But today, at thirty-nine, you’d see my anxiety and maybe witness a panic attack and see me cry, but you would not see a girl who used to get handcuffed by police and dragged off to the Crisis Unit in the ER of our local charity hospital…

She’s still in there but for now is quiet. I remember the perinatologist explaining Molly’s defects to us as I tearfully clutched my stomach. I thought it would break me, that maybe my brain would need a vacation from the incredible pain and the people that weren’t real would come back and whisk me off to madness again. I imagined my frantic husband waking to find me gone, getting in the car only to find me on a street corner shouting that I was chosen to save all of you from eternal damnation and then I’d maybe black out and find myself in four point restraints in some hospital and I’d be sick, really sick, and Geoff would go away forever. 

None of that happened. I’m not sleeping, leaving my house, or answering my phone but reality is intact even if it’s not good enough right now…mostly, I am very sad and angry, but I am right here.

And I am okay.

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throwing the towel way the fuck in…maybe.

I’m not sure where to go from here but I know I can’t stay in this place forever. I’ve been breathing ttc for years now, the cycle of hope and disappointment holding me captive as I barreled towards my own destruction. And I sit at home quietly, afternoons spent with hungry arms wrapped around my little cat, burying my face in his feathery fur and sobbing.

I have fought; I have been brave and proud. I am exhausted and I can’t bear this horrible addiction to hope any longer. The only hope that remains is scant and unreliable but I still chase that dragon.

I second guess myself. Maybe I should try to increase my dose of Femara, give it one last hurrah. Ovulation week was a total loveless disaster this month; I can’t do that again. I’ve reached out, listened to the dull sounds of the words “self-care” being bandied about and felt myself recoiling because “self” is my actual problem — I am the problem, with my self-centeredness and self-obsession. I cannot trust a self that is sent reeling into panic if my phone rings or I have to face a simple obligation. My self is sick, and I’m bumfuzzled on how to treat it.

And I have such terrible nightmares, such terrible memories. And the rain gushes like waterfalls down my bedroom window; I cannot heed the sudden call to hit the streets, to move, to get out and leave this place so far behind…

Freedom.

randomness and existential crisis

The rain is back and resolve stiffens my spine — I will not let another summer fall into the sucking hole in my life that is infertility, not when summer days in the PNW are so few and precious. I still dream of life elsewhere, somewhere sunny and warm and closer to family, but I lack confidence as I face the looming threat of slashes to Medicare funding. We continue on here, broken and isolated and desperate for healing.

What is healing, what does it look like when you’re as sick as I am? 

I remember seeing my first therapist; I must’ve been in the third grade or something. My mom arranged to have my best friend’s older sister watch my younger sister, so the whole school ended up knowing there was something wrong with me — I was crazy under my mask of timidity and fearfulness. My moods and tantrums baffled my parents and I never slept, and I had an overactive imagination to explain the fact that sometimes I heard and saw things that no one else could see or hear. I was only vaguely aware that there was something different about me, I was doing well in school.  It was the eighties and childhood onset mental illness wasn’t a thing that was recognized by mental health professionals. They said I had abandonment issues because I was adopted. Even I believed them. My poor mother was permanently traumatized, to this day convinced that this is all her fault.

There was a lot stacked against me, and things got worse after my sister died. I struggled with addiction, I went on meds. Therapists paraded through my life, both caring providers and toxic wannabe do-gooders that should have never been allowed to practice, until finally I found someone that could help me. I was so unhinged but I fought like hell, found people to connect with in a meaningful fashion, and got my disease into remission in my late twenties. I thought I, too, could have a normal life, the sort of life I believe most people deserve. Then I met Geoff, who is amazing, and we lost Molly and spiralled into grief. And then the sickness came back. And I don’t know what to do.

It’s different now. My brain isn’t cycling through moods, my psychosis is as controlled as it can be. But here I am, shellshocked not just from my pregnancy termination, miscarriages, and infertility but from life and its infinite randomness, by the knowledge that lightning can strike arbitrarily and there’s nothing you can do to prepare for it. Children can be stricken with severe mental illness or they can die of cancer, babies can have their chromosomes put together all wrong, and the ones they leave as living witnesses will suffer. So I live my days in terror. I pray to no one that I’m wrong about the nonexistence of God. I do anything I can to ward off bad luck. And I never leave my house.

.

.

me right now and I’m adorable.

CD 16, so not in the mood. Overslept, missed my chance with Geoff. UGH.

thirty-nine years and three months 

Do I look hopeless? 

The soft light washes away the fine lines around my mouth. My hair has gone long from three years on prenatal vitamins, still black as ever with no help from Clairol. I still blush when strangers speak with me. I like to think I don’t look old and crazy.

Inside though…

An East coast neurosis simmers in my belly and I always feel a sense of urgency. I try not to do crazy things or inadvertently send out cries for help, but with my bipolar in check all that remains are the powerful vibrations of an anxiety that stands solid in the face of yoga, herbal teas, unending meditation classes. Yeah, I’ve always been high strung but since things started to go wrong in reproductive land I find myself struggling to make meaningful connections for fear of something, anything, setting me off in an all-too-frequent full blown panic attack. I battle with narcissism; no, not clinical, but a sudden dangerous obsession with both how I present to people and why I do certain crazy things. I talk too much, I don’t ask people how they feel. 

The real world calls, and I’m so lonely and broken. High school wasn’t bad for me; I had friends, albeit cruel ones, I never sat home alone in weekends. How did I end up trapped in solitude?

CD 15 and we’re barely moving…

Oh, the things that stand between me and the world: an unrelenting grieving process, regularly occurring psychotic symptoms, withered old ovaries and an empty pocketbook. If I can have a baby, will the world take me back? 

almost ready

I suspect my little cat peed on a small pile of clothing I carelessly tossed on the floor of my second bedroom, the one I still refer to in my head as Molly’s room. I am having trouble gathering my resolve to go in there and deal with it, as disgusting as it may sound to put off the odious task. I stood in the doorway for maybe a minute, contemplating the pink owl print I hung on the wall in an unhinged moment, feeling so desperately sad that my legs felt like jelly. Collapsing into my own bed, defeated again by grief. Story of my days as an agoraphobe. 

The inexorable pressure and anxiety of ovulation week. CD 14, it really starts to count today but my heart’s not in it. We barely eked out our monthly deposit this morning and I’m not tracking my cycle anyway…I usually ovulate on CD 16 – 18. All of our plans are dying in ten car roadwrecks*. The hopelessness of depression is a familiar friend, albeit one I have not seen in a while. I wonder briefly if I should cancel my therapy tomorrow. I can’t be hearing the insensitive comments but on this late a cancellation my Freudian shrink will charge me anyway.. 

It just seems to me that suffering lasts for a predetermined amount of time. I see other infertile woman hit rock bottom before being surprised by a second line on their Wondfo at their hour of greatest need. My bottoms keep on going, and yeah, I’ve reached a couple of low points and been joyously jolted out of my head with a second line, only to experience another miscarriage that drops me lower. I don’t think I can survive a new, lower bottom than the one I am currently wallowing in. I feel like I’m done with the universe’s dumb pranks. I want out of the game but since I figure I’ll still be damaged — just one more old-fashioned way cycle…because I’m still not sure i know how to stop.

* Hopeless by The Future Bible Heroes 

ghosts

My uterus is full of ghosts. Sometimes I still wake up feeling flutters thinking Molly is still within. I couldn’t save her, but I will never forget. She touched my life so briefly that my mind is boggled by the impermanence. In my dreams, I never see her face.

The world spins on its axis, inevitably circling a sun that never warms me. I find myself shivering cold and impassive, an automaton seeking blood. I stumble through interminable days as the seasons change, inexorable and relentless. My hair covers my face, hanging down in greasy tangles; impatiently, I toss it back over my aching shoulders and try to go through the motions of living. How long has it been since I’ve sat sipping cola on the beaches near my distant home? How many summers will pass by unnoticed as I lay tangled in blankets with the shades drawn, no sunlight, no escape from my self-imposed prison? 

CD 13, a day that counts insofar as I might be in my not-so-fertile window (RE says I have less than a 2% chance of conceiving a chromosomally normal baby the old-fashioned way). I continue to troll infertility forums and fuck, wondering if my sins are revisiting me because this is a special region of hell that I never dreamed of when I married my loving husband five years back. Perusing my wedding album is like being stabbed in the heart, me in my black thrifted dress smiling at friends that have all but disappeared leaving me to wonder how things took such a turn for the worse.

Fuck infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. The anger is the worst, the thing that drives me to perdition and forces me to dig an alligator filled moat around the squishy core of my being just to keep love out because I’m sick of everyone’s disappointed stares and radio silence when I pathetically rest my hands on my now-empty womb and keep them there until the sorrow spreads to my eyes. 

And I remember all the saddest things…
 

i’m in a pickle and it’s a pretty fucking big one.

CD 10 and Geoff and I are back at it the old fashioned way with low expectations of success. Well, I have low expectations of success (I could say I have no expectations of success), I’m not sure how he feels. I feel a horrible sense of panic wrapping around me, relentless and perhaps easily avoidable, if I could only stop the madness…there is no miracle on the sunlit horizon that promises me a healthy, breathing infant, there are no kind and soft women waiting in the wings to say, I did this too, I survived it, and you are going to be okay. No matter which direction I choose, I move forward with only my for-some-reason devoted husband by my side.

I think of all the things I’ve done in life because I just couldn’t handle doing otherwise. When my sister was dying, I didn’t go to the hospital in the city every day to see her because I just couldn’t handle it, not on top of going to high school and volunteering everywhere and riding horses and filling out applications for colleges I wasn’t interested in attending and dealing with the early stages of my schizoaffective disorder. Forgivable under the circumstances, maybe, but the price was a lifetime of regret. If I cry uncle and stop trying to have a baby, would the price be the same? I’m a severely mentally ill alcoholic/addict in recovery, is honoring that side of me, that fundamental flaw in me, a sufficient reason to take opportunity away from myself and Geoff, who has waited two times in tears in sterile lobbies while I had his babies scraped from my insides and who has squeezed my hand so tightly and wept as I bled out a third?

And I have a terrible confession that might make you hate me. I’ve been sober off drugs and alcohol since I was twenty-five (13 years), but if I choose to give up trying to have a baby, I could soften the blow so easily with pills and cigarettes and a couple of shots of whiskey upon awakening. Fuck, right now I could get dressed, walk a block down the road and purchase fucking weed at a weed store because it’s currently legal here and all of this could go away. I hate the smell of grass, but these days I hear there are delicious baked goods that a person can just buy and consume and it makes them stoned. I know from experience that for me, substance abuse is extremely effective at driving off the demons that assail me. No, if I am to let this go, I have to know I can do it clean because as much as this path beckons me with promises of ultimate comfort, I owe this much to Geoff and my family and yes, to my broken and battered self. But let me tell you, these thoughts are real to me because through and through, I am and always will be an addict that just can’t handle feeling scared. Btw, if I do continue trying, I couldn’t soften the blow of that choice and I’d stay off the bad shit because as selfish and terrible as I am, I would never do that to my child and I know this in the core of my being.

I still have a bottle of Femara on my nightstand. I hate Femara with a passion and really, it promises untold suffering but with a glimmer of hope. There’s always next month, if I can decide…




words i whipped out as my husband cooked me dinner

I walked into my therapist’s office feeling broken, and left feeling pretty much the same way. I don’t know what I was expecting, really. I don’t know why I still seek comfort from a woman that has four grown children and grandchildren. 

“Miscarriages can certainly be disappointing,” said the woman who, over the last fifteen years, has saved my life and my sanity more times than I can count.

Words swirled in my head. “Disappointing”. How about invalidating, minimizing, silencing. You fucking bitch, what’s wrong with you, I’m bleeding??? She hesitantly ceded that yes, my eighteen week pregnancy termination for medical reasons was a traumatic event, and my subsequent nine week miscarriages were “re-traumatizing”. 

I honor the memory of each of my lost children. Molly, yes, Molly was my closest. I wear her name tattooed on my forearm, under the little Moomin tattoo that Geoff and I used without permission on our Xeroxed wedding invitations (once a zinester, always a zinester, I suppose). I felt Molly moving inside me, yes, Auntie, a fetus just shy of nineteen weeks does move and quite certainly is more than a blob of cells “barely the size of the tip of my pinkie with no discernible features whatsoever” (and yes, I believe in abortion nonetheless). 

People talk to me about healing when I reach out in the land of the Interwebs. I have a very strong drive, perhaps a habit formed from years of group therapy for my bipolar/schizo stuff, to find others who have suffered in similar ways that I have. But those women all have rainbows, or rainbows on the way. My search for women who are childless after loss hasn’t unturned much of a support network. There aren’t any therapists specializing in infertility and pregnancy loss in my area, and the pregnancy loss support group here in town is sparsely attended by young women that just want to talk about getting pregnant again (and is run by the chaplain at our local Catholic hospital to boot). I don’t actually want to get a new therapist after cementing a strong therapeutic relationship with my current one–fifteen years is a very long time to be working with someone. I just want to make her see me because I feel invisible. 

What do I do? Where do I go? I’m terrified, being so alienated but I’m even more scared of the insensitive comments, especially from those closest to me. That’s why I don’t leave my house. That’s why I don’t talk to any of my friends.

reprinted from my fb

Hey there Paul Ryan with your smug little grin…fuck you! I understand that abortion is a touchy subject with women experiencing infertility, but if you are not pro-choice, you’ll probably want to unfollow me right now…or else read on and see if my words make sense to you now.

It’s taken me a day to process how I am feeling about the 20 week abortion ban, the Pain Capable Pseudoscience Bullshittery Act, call it what you will. I’d sworn off talking publicly about the second trimester abortion I had on April 7, 2015 because it caused me so much pain — no, I didn’t mind being called a murderer or being compared to Casey Anthony, but apparently it made my friends uncomfortable and Geoff and I experienced a great deal of alienation from even our most liberal friends. It’s been over two years since we decided to terminate our first, meticulously planned and much wanted pregnancy due to our daughter Molly’s fatal chromosomal defects and I am still nearly incapacitated with grief, sorrow, and loneliness. We loved Molly more than anything; she was the product of our love for each other.

I did not choose to abort for shits and giggles. I did not choose termination because we didn’t want our baby, because we were irresponsible. It was not a nbd situation…it nearly destroyed us. And incidentally, we didn’t walk into a rundown clinic past protesters with me visibly pregnant because we didn’t want a disabled child…but I might have (that wasn’t our situation, but had it been I may have chosen to terminate nonetheless…I can’t say).

Since I was 36 when we conceived Molly, my obstetrician recommended having early genetic screening done at 12 weeks gestation because at my age there is an increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities. We opted to have the Nuchal Translucency scan and we did so without much foresight. I didn’t anticipate bad news, we were arranging to move into a bigger apartment and let me tell you, as a disabled Medicare patient, had I known how much money our out of pocket expense for this scan would end up costing us, I would have skipped it. The level 2 ultrasound showed a 10 mm cystic hygroma and the beginning stages of hydrops fetalis. We were told a perinatologist was driving down to Olympia from Tacoma just to speak to us. After much ado, we were advised to have a CVS done to check for chromosomal abnormalities and we would have done that had they not informed us that our only chance to have this test would be to get to Seattle in 45 minutes…it takes 1.5 hours to get to Seattle!  Remarkably, we were told these defects may very well go away on their own  (we now know this was nothing but false hope). We opted to wait until 16 weeks to have the gold standard test, the amniocentesis (the clock’s ticking down).

I had 4 weeks to wait, 4 weeks to bond with my unborn child. Every day, I listened to her heart beat on my at-home fetal Doppler. For 4 weeks I prayed Molly would be okay.

At 16 weeks and change, we went back to our perinatologist. Level 2 ultrasound showed the large cystic hygroma had grown, and Molly had developed full on hydrops, fluid around her and inside her that left no room for growth, no room for organs like her lungs to develop. She had a severe heart defect, along with a huge list of additionally defects. They could not perform the amnio and suggested we try again in 2 weeks (tick tock).

We opted then to terminate and did so at 18 weeks and change. Our hospital is Catholic, our local clinic did not perform second trimester abortions. We drove to a shabby building in Tacoma, where I met the kindest people in the world. The grief counselor and the doctor performing the dilation and evacuation procedure (which is a 2 day process so brutal and painful I still wake sweating from nightmares about it) held my hands. I’d been administered Valium and anesthesia, both of which cross the placenta, and if she’d been able to feel pain (real science says she could not have)…she would have no awareness when they stopped her heart. I asked them when it would start…they told me it was over. “I am so sorry,” the doctor said softly. They were still holding my hands…I was moved to tears at their compassion at the darkest time of my life.

I came in under 20 weeks. Any more setbacks, a couple moments of very human indecision…the Republican party would love to see me jailed. Geoff and I were both privileged enough to have been raised in solid families. Our value systems would not have allowed us to keep Molly, who, had she survived to viability, would have been born without the ability to draw a single breath. She would have died in front of us and it would have destroyed us all. We could not in good conscience have let that happen to her, to us. My own physical health was at risk as well… mothers with hydrops babies can develop Mirror Syndrome, where fluid builds up in her own body and can threaten her life.

On my road to healing, I have met many other women that have endured the same as Geoff and I, and worse. We are not monsters–we are making painful decisions with our healthcare providers, decisions about our bodies, our families that are well thought out and emotionally devastating. And I’m angry, really fucking angry that at our time of greatest need our rights are being chipped away by who? These fucking clowns that have no fucking clue what it’s like to have a  and deal with the responsibility of carrying a child? These are women’s basic rights…it was my basic right to make the most painful decision I’ve ever been faced with in my life to do the best thing for myself, my baby, and my family. You fucking right-wing nut job Representatives have no business in my body or personal affairs.

And don’t even start in with the thinking I’m an exception. I am proudly pro-abortion even though I myself can’t seem to have the healthy baby I’ve always wanted. I believe that the existence and availability of the abortion procedure is fundamental to allowing women true autonomy over their bodies and thus equal rights in society. Anf if you think you can protect the rights of women in my situation without protecting all women, you have another think coming. Facebook informed me yesterday that it’s been 37 weeks since I last updated my status…almost enough time to carry a baby to term. I return to you in outrage over this blatant attack on reproductive freedom. Please…support abortion rights for women, support organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL and support women like me retain a say in the decisions we make for our own health, well-being, and families.

a desert island with you

I’ve let silence settle in a cumbersome mass around my shoulders and heart. Words are sticky in my throat and I wake from fitful sleep gagging on jumbled mussitation. My mind is clear yet offers no insight. 

My mental health providers would disagree, I’m sure, but I really don’t feel as if I’m experiencing bipolar depression. I don’t lack motivation because I’m too depressed to give a shit, but instead find myself living in terror of random acts of God that will cause me to suffer more. I haven’t stopped walking around the Westside because I lack energy; I’m acutely terrified of being struck by a car, becoming a victim of violent crime, having my feelings hurt when I try to explain to a rogue tweaker that I am not withholding cigarettes because I lack generosity but because I, in fact, simply don’t have any so could s/he stop  threatening me? I don’t stay in bed because I feel there’s no point in getting up, but because I’m petrified of going about my day and forgetting I am cursed only to receive news of something terrible that is going to hurt me even worse than I’m already hurting. The events that have transpired in the last three years (losing babies, botched surgery, medical complications, infertility) have left me acclimated to receiving horrible news, to being struck by lightning.

I don’t feel my moods are out of control save from when I take Femara and in fact, I think taking Femara has only underscored the fact that my moods have been relatively stable since receiving news of Molly’s many incompatible-with-life defects. I think my psychotropics are doing their thing. I think I am, for lack of a better word, shellshocked. And I hate to use that word when there are so many out there who have arguably lived through worse (my brother in law is a combat veteran for fuck’s sake), but I feel the comparison is valid because of the intensity of my reaction. It may be easier for my doctors to diagnose mania when I am simply shaken to the core with rage over the things I’ve endured and a support system that ghosted me because they didn’t approve of a second tri abortion or because my grief made them uncomfortable. And, when I express the depth and weight of my sorrow, I’m sure it’s easier to say I’m having a depressive episode because how could I be that upset over an 18 week fetus (note my therapist has 4 children and my psychiatrist is childfree by choice)?

I need to heal from trauma, but I’m at sea as far as knowing how. I don’t even know where to go for help.

And, just to keep everyone in the loop, I’m 13dpo and waiting for my period…I know it’s coming.