My Health Journey As A Woman…
Just under two years ago, I wrote a blog post about getting a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy because doctors not taking my period and other health complaints seriously for decades led me to becoming too obese for a hysterectomy. I was hopeful, based on the research I did (much linked in that blog post), that the VSG would be enough of a body reset to fix all the things doctors said it might. Hopeful, but not convinced. I even said that hysterectomy wasn’t off the table if the VSG didn’t fix the hormone issues.
Sometimes it really fucking sucks to be right. It’s time to evict the bitch, yeet that uterus!
(For even more information about why I’m excited about this particular surgery, here’s some background and even more emotional thoughts on how having a uterus has made my life miserable, particularly in the past decade…)
For those of you who’ve managed to see me in the safe windows of a pandemic, you’ve seen that I have, in fact, lost a lot of weight. About 100 pounds, give or take.
Give or take being the key phrase.
You see, there’s this thing called “body homeostasis.” In short, the body has natural systems that work to keep it in a standard functioning state even when the world around changes and endangers the body. However, if your body ends up functioning in an unhealthy manner for years and years and years, it can potentially reprogram itself to believe that is the state it is supposed to be its best functionality, even if it’s not. This is one of the many reasons weight loss is so damned difficult: Fat cells hold onto certain hormones, like estrogen, so being fat actually changes how your body releases and uptakes hormones. And the longer you’re fat—and on a constant schedule of weight loss and gain, because what fat person isn’t always under pressure to lose weight?—the more the body starts to normalize its functionality for being fat.
And if you’ve had a hormone imbalance for most of your life too? Or—and, in my case it’s an and—you also have a neurodiverse brain with its own special biochemical cocktail needs?
Your body is pretty fucking certain that your survival depends on a fucked up biochemistry.
That’s why, the older I got, the less helpful any chemical birth control was in period regulation.
We were at the point that any birth control we tried would work fantastic for 6-8 months, and then slowly stop working. Periods would stretch back to eight days, ten days, two weeks, three weeks… And I was back to buying wholesale club-sized pads, pain meds, and whatever herbs and other drugs seemed to cooperate with Adderall for the brain fog, emotional roller coaster, hot-and-cold flashes, anxiety, depression, forgetfulness, fatigue, and so-bad-I’m-in-bed pain.
About a month or so after my VSG, I literally had THE WORST EVER of ALL of the abovementioned symptoms. Yes. ALL. OF. THEM. Oh, and with the tiny tummy, I also got my first-time-ever hypoglycemic episode because, apparently, I’m one of those people whose body doesn’t function in full ketosis. And post-bariatric surgery involves basically a keto diet.
And that’s not even getting into discovering a sensitivity to sugar substitutes and getting seriously sick from that.
It was fucking hell. I was on the phone, in screaming tears with my whole damned medical team. They couldn’t do anything… I had just had serious surgery. All we could do was wait it out. Then, by about the 3-4 month mark, everything started getting better! Periods went away; I was getting more energetic; I WAS NOT IN PAIN!!
There’s a thing about chronic pain people don’t realize unless they’ve had it and then managed to actually get rid of it for a while: You absolutely forget what it’s like to function while not in pain. It’s almost scary. You don’t believe it’s real. You are stunned: “This is what life is like for other people? Other people live like this?! No wonder everyone else gets so much done!”
I mean, we’re still talking about it being 2020, so I was feeling physically awesome while living in Dumpster Fire World, so there’s that.
In any case, there was an absolutely glorious six months where I felt like what I guess a normal, healthy, fucking human being feels like. And despite the world only mildly abating from Massive Dumpster Fire status, it was, in fact, glorious.
And then the bleeding started again.
At first it was spotting for 3-4 days. I told myself, “Well, this is normal-person period stuff. I can totally live with this.” I also told myself, Every other time your birth control started to fail, it started like this. But, like all the other times, I wanted this to be the exception. I wanted this to finally be the thing that worked. I went through heavy-duty surgery, FFS! I supposedly reset my whole gut biome!
Just under a month later, it was just over 5 days of spotting. Not heavy, at least, but enough to be annoying.
Less than three weeks later, it was 7 days, not all spotting.
And so it went.
And then I was bleeding again for 2+ weeks. And worse, my weight was creeping up again.
I had my food and activity journal. I had my Fitbit activity / calorie-burning data all saved and on hand because the logical, OCD part of me had had a feeling this would happen.
I was vindicated; I was furiously crestfallen.
You can’t really gloat about being right all along when the physical pain and misery you’d thought you escaped comes back; you’re too busy remembering all your coping mechanisms to living while in pain and with lower functionality. You still have deadlines and people depending on you; you still have to live.
At this time I met with no argument against the hysterectomy. I even got surgery on my preferred date based on conventions and Scott’s work schedule, so I have the time to recover and Scott is available to take care of me.
After chatting with my doctor, we decided we’d keep one ovary in there as a buffer in case my body decides to seriously flip out after years of functioning on overproduced levels of estrogen.
This all happens in a week!
Intersection of My Health and Women’s Health…
I was all set to post this about two weeks ago. I had contacted most of my clients and / or planned projects with my surgery in mind.
And then there was that little leak from the Supreme Court, and I was thrown into one of those paralyzing emotional Cat 5 tornado of a caliber only people with neurodiverse brains can appreciate. (Not saying neurotypical folk can’t be thrown into a paralyzing emotional tornadoes—particularly uterus-owning folk in regard to this particular thing—but part of the brain chemistry of many neurodiverse conditions, particularly ADHD, is that our emotions are literally “turned up to 11,” beyond what neurotypical people feel.)
I would have been hit with this emotional storm regardless, but less than a month away from a surgery I have fought years to get—even living in one of the most freaking liberal of states when it comes to women’s reproductive rights—that…that was… A. Lot.
To say the least.
In fact, I do have a lot to say…but I also have A. Lot. to do before my surgery. I also need to look at the emotional energy it takes to talk about this, the potential arguments and having to monitor comments…those are all important considerations when I have limited time and limited energy. I state this, too, because I have friends who feel I should say more.
My short response for this blog:
I respect a woman’s bodily autonomy; there should not be legislation that prevents her from making the best decision for her health and her whole family’s well-being. A woman should not have to fight for access to the best health choices for herself and her situation. Limiting women’s access to health care affects all women’s access to health care. There is SO MUCH INFORMATION showing how the more restrictions we put on women’s healthcare the worse women’s health is. There is a massive, massive, massive correlation to states with stricter laws for women’s reproductive health and higher death rates for women and lower overall health. The fewer restrictions, the better women’s and children’s health is.
Beyond that, I need to respect my own health and body. So please don’t make me moderate comments on this. Be kind to each other. When I’m in a better health situation, perhaps I can put in the emotional and mental work of the post I want to make, along with all the research I’ve collected.
So, with that… I am counting down for my hysterectomy with joy and more hope. I fought hard for this, and I shouldn’t have had to. But the time is finally here!
For those of you with other uterus-owning persons in your life, particularly if they are young, listen to them when they talk about their periods and issues. And help and support them so they don’t have to suffer what I went through.
Love and health to all of you!