The essure sterilisation procedure, one year on

I say one year on… it’s actually 15 months on, but it’s taken me so long to finish writing this post (as with all posts) that my original draft and actual life timeline are way out of sync.

Anyway, so: the essure procedure. The last time I wrote about it was 3 months post-procedure and I was having a bit of a head wobble about the whole thing. I’d had some heavy bleeding, which at one point put me in A&E with a suspected ectopic pregnancy, and some contact dermatitis caused by a nickel sensitivity. I spent a lot of time googling essure side effects and found some bloody terrifying scare stories.

15 months on this is all but a memory. The random heavy bleeding stopped almost as quickly as it came on (assumed “settling in” / scarring – i.e. part of the process that causes the actual sterility). I have only recently started wearing my watch again after the initial irritation from the strap occurred, but it hasn’t flared up at all. I no longer have issues with painful intercourse or discharge, and other symptoms I’d worried about – weight gain and fatigue – turned out to be mostly related to my drinking (surprise surprise).

My periods are regular as clockwork most months and, most importantly, I’ve not popped out any babies lately. Surprisingly, I’m also yet to experience any feelings of regret either. I occasionally get a bit broody when I see other people’s cute babies online, but mostly I look at how happy and comfortable I am (despite life’s stresses) with how things are, that I wouldn’t want to change anything. I will never not miss baby cuddles, but I know for a fact that I would miss sleep, and flexibility, and freedom, and time with my existing babies more.

With something like this it’s easy to get carried away with panic at the first sign of a problem — as with all things in life, people are quicker to complain when it goes wrong than compliment when it goes right — and with essure there’s no shortage of scare stories to terrify women into avoiding the procedure, but I would have no problems recommending it to anyone wanting a permanent birth control solution.

An Insight into PMDD aka Today I’m Crazy Because…

Today is day 12 of my cycle, so over the next few days I will be at peak hormone anxiety-ridden mess. To put this into perspective, this is how it’s affected my day so far:

  • I turned down the opportunity to work for a local agency today because I couldn’t face people. My usual day rate is £400, so this isn’t just like turning down the last slice of pizza.
  • I took a phone call from a client, arranged a meeting for tomorrow AM, spent a couple of hours after that panicking that they wouldn’t be happy with the quality of my work (despite being my longest standing client of some 11+ years) and proceeded to hide from a follow up phone call.
  • Noticed another client on twitter chatting to a tangentially related business and convinced myself that they were going to ‘leave me’ for a better alternative. Had a panic attack. Cried.
  • I ate an entire tub of pringles because I had an overwhelming carby salty craving and then convinced myself I was going to be fat forever thanks to my poor diet choices and the meds I recently gave up.
  • Masturbated. 6 times. Thanks, ovulatory libido increase.
  • Got angry at Gaz because he didn’t reply to a text message this afternoon (despite the fact that he is, you know, working) and convinced myself it’s because he doesn’t love me, and goes to work to get away from me. Cried.
  • Had a small glass of prosecco because it was the only thing I could think of that would calm down the anxiety enough for me to function this afternoon. Convinced myself I am an alcoholic that’s going to die of massive liver failure. Cried.
  • Realised I hadn’t thought of suicide ‘properly’ since coming off the meds. Thought about suicide. Cried.
  • Pondered what I did to deserve life throwing so much shit at me (completely ignoring all the pretty cool experiences and stuff I get to do). Cried.

I am unproductive and unpredictable, up and down and anxious. I see no worth in myself or my creations and can’t understand why people like me, let alone love me.

& I’m already having doubts about my choice to drop the meds, instead of increasing the dosage.

I guess I should hurry up and investigate that rabbit hole.

Progesterone, PMDD and a rabbit hole

(Please note this post is more so that I can refer back to important links and notes later on, rather than for you guys. I won’t be offended if you’re not interested or find the whole thing a little TMI…)

I’m currently pre-menstrual and, as with all periods (pun) of pre-menses symptoms, I have sore boobs, massive mood issues and something I’ve never given much thought to before: I have small fluid-filled lumps on my hands. After consulting Dr Google, I have learned that cyclical skin issues such as mine are often related to progesterone intolerance/allergies. Given my previous issues with progesterone (after taking the mini pill, 2014 and Depo Provera side effects, 2008) this wasn’t a surprise.

What was a surprise, however, is that progesterone intolerance and PMDD can be closely linked. Leading me down a rabbit hole of hormone related articles and gynaecological fun facts, I’ve discovered a couple of learned leading gynaecologists (Professor John Studd, Mr Nick Panay) who specialise in PMDD who have experience treating it with hormone therapy: battling the side effects with more of what the body tolerates and less of what it doesn’t.

I’ve also discovered and ended up knee-deep in blog posts by a lady who had a hysterectomy to relieve her PMDD after hormone therapy following a private consult with one of the aforementioned specialists.

My curiousity is piqued. I know that the combined pill does offer small improvement to my symptoms (which lends support to the idea of hormone therapy being of use) as does weight lifting (which is known for its testosterone boost) but I had no idea that all of my issues were specifically linked in with progesterone problems. I don’t particularly want to take pills every day for the rest of my life, hence being sterilised, but neither do I want to put up with mood swings, anxiety, depression, pain and suicidal thoughts that leave me unable to function for three quarters of a month.

I have a lot of reading to do, I think…

Essure procedure: 3 months on

Warning: lots of “TMI” in this post, so if you’re a wee sensitive soul you might want to skip this one.

As we approach 3 months to the day since I had the essure procedure done, I should be receiving a letter for my appointment to confirm how successful it was any day now: whether or not I can finally stop taking the pill and rely on my ‘scarred up’ tubes. In the mean time, I thought it would be a good idea to log the changes I’ve noticed since I had the procedure.

Firstly, in the days following the essure, I had significant period-style cramping and some spotting/light bleeding but this was to be expected and settled down quite quickly. In the first period following the essure I started spotting a few days earlier than my period would normally start (bearing in mind they’re regulated by the combined pill still at this point) and then in the first few days of actual menstruation, I would bleed incredibly heavy losing very large clumps, akin to an early miscarriage! The heavy bleeding would last for approx 3 days then stop almost suddenly as it arrived, leaving me spotting for a days or so before finishing completely.

In between periods I experience some minor cramping around the time when I would be ovulating (again, despite the combined pill) and my hormone-related mood swings would peak: anxiety back to pre-prozac levels for a few days before settling down. Then, just before the next bleed, pre-prozac levels of anger and impatience. At this point if it weren’t for the mood stability in between these peaks, I’d be worrying that I’d undone the benefit of starting the prozac for my PMDD!

As well as changes to my periods, I’m now experiencing nickel sensitivities (the coils they insert into your tubes are made with nickel) and can no longer wear my Garmin day to day because of a red, itchy patch of contact dermatitis on my left wrist from the buckle. This is a common complaint after the essure but the official website only states that its a risk if you have existing sensitivities. I’d been wearing my watch for approx 1 year prior to this with no problems.

I also have other new “symptoms” which I cannot pinpoint to the procedure specifically, but are recorded by other women post-essure: joint pain, itching, fatigue, weight gain despite working out at least 4 days a week, painful intercourse, vaginal discharge.

This week I’m battling throbbing / pulsating pain radiating from the location of my right ovary and lower back pain similar to early period cramping as well as excess tiredness and hot flushes. However, I was assaulted in the early hours of Saturday AM (don’t worry, I’m fine) and may have been hit in the lower abdomen. I’m hoping that the pain will go on its own and that the insert on that side hasn’t shifted.

Day to day, I am mostly OK and don’t (yet?) regret having the procedure. I’m trying to bear in mind that I’m still in the early days and my body is likely still producing scar tissue around the implanted coils. We’ll see how it goes from here…

You can’t go wrong with chocolate cake

After last week’s crushing failure to get back into the clean eating rhythm, recent anniversary of my oldest brother’s death, a bit of a breakdown on Saturday night where — with a room full of guests — I sobbed all over Gaz and then took myself off to bed, and a terrible morning on Tuesday which ended with both Isabel and I in tears I’ve been a little MEH.

But, on the plus side:

  • I have realised that the mood swings and desire to consume a few hundred thousand calories a day are “new pill” symptoms – I had the same thing when I started the pill for the first time so it makes sense that it’d all come back when restarting after a month break. The eating a million calories thing has already calmed down.
  • My awesome friends Aisling and Katy sorted me out with a Mother’s Day breakfast and a card on Sunday, just in time for my ugly mug to be splashed across the Telegraph moaning about how I don’t get a Mother’s Day cup of tea in bed.
  • I am taking the kids away for a week at the end of the month, so in theory that’s something to look forward to (although I have to admit that the idea of spending 5 days in a tiny caravan with 2 small children on my own is also very terrifying).
  • I’m trying a modified (harder?) version of Stronglifts 5×5 workouts as a bit of a shake up from my usual workout routines, which is exciting (I know how sad that sounds)

I re-read my “manifesto for life” this morning and I’m trying to be conscious of both what I’ve achieved and how much more I have to do (I mean that in a positive way: life has so much to offer) to keep me plodding along.

I never realised how all-consuming depression and anxiety could be until I got sucked into this whirlwind of self-doubt and negativity. The days where I wake up feeling low, it’s like a black cloud surrounds me threatening to swallow me whole. As I drag myself out of bed and make my way through the day I can feel the impact that my low mood has upon others than that just makes it worse: the feelings of guilt for wearing people down, the frustration at not being to “just cheer up” and so on.

Anyway, that sounds glum but the reality is I can see this ‘bad patch’ fading away. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, which gives me something to aim for. In the mean time, I’ll settle for self-medication: with lifting to make me feel strong, running to chase away the brain chatter, and chocolate cake… because you can’t go wrong with chocolate cake.

A Clean Slate?

I’ve had a potentially absurd idea. I can’t remember what inspired it, but I’m pretty sure that I’m going to go ahead with it.

I’ve decided that if I’m going to “fix” whatever is wrong with my mental health at the moment, that the best way to start is with a completely clean slate. By that I mean my body, in its natural state: no artificial hormones, no sugar / booze / caffeine to get me through the bad nights and shit days.

I run out of my current prescription of birth control pills on Friday, so as of Saturday up until and including March 1st, I’m starting … well, I’m loathe to use the word “detox” because it’s usually bullshit marketing hype for dodgy “green” products that do bugger all for your liver but certainly make your wallet thinner – but that’s kinda what it is. In addition to stopping my pill, I am going to attempt the Whole30 program, and I’m going to cut out the coffee as per #30 of my 30 things before I’m thirty challenge. I’m going to try and ‘reset’ my body so that it can do its thing, whatever that might be.

I know I can give up alcohol for a month. I know I can give up dairy for even longer. I am fairly sure I can even give up coffee. However, given that I’ve failed two previous attempts to cut out sugar (and that’s while being ‘allowed’ to eat bread, pasta, etc) I am pretty much crapping myself.

But I can do this. I CAN DO THIS.

Right?

The things I’m not saying out loud

I am currently sat in bed crying into my second glass of wine. Wine that I shouldn’t be drinking because I’m the sole carer for my children tonight, as with most nights, and if they wake up in the middle of the night with some sort of medical emergency I want to be competent enough to deal with that, especially given Oliver’s recent leg trouble, and yet here I am sobbing into this glass of wine anyway.

I didn’t want to write another whiny post. I want to tell you all about my awesome birthday yesterday and the fun I’m having lifting weights or the fact that I managed to run yesterday without my foot hurting for the first time in months… but instead all I can think about is trying to relieve this load weighing me down, constantly dragging my weary body into the dirt because writing helps and I can’t afford therapy right now anyway.

And so I sit here in bed, tired but lacking the will to try and sleep (because what’s the point trying when I know I’ll lie here tossing and turning all night anyway?) I’m googling for ideas to fix me, to stop me feeling like my life is spinning out of control and I hit upon article upon article about depression and I keep repeating to myself that I’m not depressed. It’s just hormones. It’s just stress. I’ve got a lot going on at the minute. I am busy. I just need some sleep.

But the truth is I’m not sure sleep is going to stop me from getting to work and staring at my screen for 3 hours achieving nothing because I can’t even formulate a coherant sentence to reply to a client. Sleep isn’t going to stop me being irritated by the very presence of my children because they’ve looked at me wrong, and the rage I have to surpress when they open their mouths and all I hear is whine whine whine. Are hormones really to blame for the utter loneliness and desperation I feel when I climb into bed, alone and insecure? Is it really just stress & busy-ness that makes me want to give up my job, give up my children, lock myself away and hope I fade into the background so that nobody notices I’m only just managing to keep my head above water?

I guess the truth is that I don’t want to admit that I might be depressed. I don’t want to admit that even though in my lifetime I’ve been through experiences that would make the strongest amongst you wince and I’ve carried on without a second thought, that somehow I’m being brought to my knees by imaginary thoughts and fears and I don’t even know what. I don’t want to have to admit that as each day passes it gets harder and harder to pretend that everything is OK and I don’t have a fucking clue where to go from here.

But it might be the sleep. The hormones. That I’m not exercising enough. That I’m not eating the right foods. So I’ll pour this wine back into the bottle, salty tears and all, and I’ll put down my laptop and attempt to sleep. And tomorrow I’ll take another birth control pill to manage the hormones, and vow to run a little bit more, I’ll skip the sugary chocolate and eat regularly to avoid blood sugar dips. I will keep smiling so that I don’t drive away those I need the most with my constant complaining about how shitty life is.

I’ll do everything I need to do to mask the symptoms and hide the pain. Because I just need a good night’s sleep, right?

In which I nearly have a breakdown

Things have been a little weird recently here at Chez Jem. When I posted Enter title here I was struggling more than I let on.

I was struggling to see the point of anything. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, I didn’t see the point in going to work because I was too stupid & useless to do my job properly (and my ever-increasing todo list was proof of this), I thought Gaz was going to get fed up and leave me, I questioned my role as mum to my children, I was eating virtually nothing because I felt fat and ugly, etc etc.

I have never felt as angry, paranoid, insecure and well.. just generally shitty as I did in November. Early last week, my mood sunk to an all time low. I was angrily snapping at the people I love and then using their retorts as mental justification that everything wrong in my life was all my fault.

I am usually ridiculously laid back, so it was like being a completely different person. The scary part was not so much that though, but rather I couldn’t remember who I really was. It was almost like the ‘me’ before this black cloud surrounded me had never existed at all. I am not sure if I’ve ever truly experienced depression but I’m fairly sure that *that* was as close as I’ve ever been, and it was fucking terrifying. I felt like I had lost my identity and my “self”.

I put the black mood down to not running (it’s been really pissing me off) so I thought fuck it, and blew nearly £200 on an exercise bike I couldn’t afford (yay overdraft!) Of course, sod’s law, having received and assembled said exercise bike (I’m NEVER complaining about putting together IKEA furniture ever again) I’m now pretty certain that it wasn’t actually not running that’s caused my moods at all.

Around Thursday evening last week I suddenly began to feel… normal. This followed into Friday, and Saturday, and Sunday and here I am today still feeling normal. Normal. Like me again! I never thought I’d be so grateful for being me.

What changed? The only think I can think of is that it’s because I have finally had an actual period for the first time in ages. After months of stupidly short cycles, followed by an extra long one, I think I’ve been suffering from raging PMS symptoms. That and the withdrawal from the mini pill / starting a new one (combined pill) must have caused some sort of mad hormone-cocktail mess. I should have known what the progesterone withdrawal would have done to me: I’ve been there before.

Of course I could be wrong. It could be a complete coincidence that my symptoms are identical to when I came off the depo jabs years ago, but really I don’t care. As long as I don’t end up feeling like that again it’s all good.

Snap, Crackle and PMS!

This post is probably a bit girly for most of you, feel free to bugger off now…

About 4 years ago I went on the Depo Provera jabs. As well as wanting the extra contraceptive power, I figured it’d be a good way to ditch the Monthly Terrors and the accompanying symptoms (agonising cramps, ridiculous food cravings, piss right off or I’ll rip your head off attitude, etc.) It worked like a charm and within about 2 months of starting, it was like being 12 years old all over again.. except with bigger boobies.

Anyway, I decided to come off the jabs last year for a variety of reasons. Not least because the long term side effects of the contraceptive are enough to make a girl want to say “screw the jabs, no sex EVER”. There’s loss of bone density leading to an increased risk of osteoporosis, lack of sex drive, possible weight gain due to increased appetite and so on. I managed to avoid the weight gain, and I’m pretty sure my bones are doing fine, however, it was worth taking a break.

So, I’m off the depo. My last jab was due October 19th 07, and that was the one I didn’t have. I had a very light period with on/off days in December and because I’ve always been regular as clockwork I assumed that was it, back to normal after that. No such “luck” (if you can call bleeding through your va-jay-jay luck – whatever!) Since then I’ve been in a permanent state of PMS of one degree or another, up and down like a bloody yoyo.

I’m physically aware of the mood swings — unlike when I was a teenager — so I can stop it interfering with day to day stuff. However, some days I get so bloody frustrated at the most stupid things I feel like I’m going to stand up and punch the wall. It’s not even people that are pissing me off (now that does makes a change) but stupid shit like my e-mail not downloading fast enough, or my chair not being comfy enough and worst of all: my FTP timing out at work.

So here I am, having eaten 2 chocolate bars, a chocolate biscuit and a chicken thigh this evening (oops, those food cravings are back) fully aware that I’m PMSing at idiotic, inanimate things.. impatient at some impending news that may or may not affect my schedule for the next 2-3 months and all I can think about is by golly, being a woman is a pain in the bloody arse sometimes.