The Mosaic

The Mosaic

The following was written by one of my patients who experienced pelvic pain and underwent pelvic floor physical therapy. She left this in my room for me to find one evening after my session. Every time I read this, I am affected; her words are brave, honest and inspiring. She gave permission to share this, in order to encourage women to seek treatment and advocate for themselves. As I type this to transcribe it to the blog, her words bring me to tears. For what she’s lived through and for her courage and resilience. This truly paints a picture of what it’s like for SO many women dealing with pelvic floor dysfunction.

*Names have been changed to protect people’s privacy.

A mosaic is a piece of art image made from the assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials.

You might not believe me, but two years ago I didn’t know if I would be here another year. I’ll take you back to some of my darkest times and then you will see why i am so grateful for the light of today.

I’m itchy and sore. I had told my sister, for a couple of weeks prior, but there was no white discharge. Schedule and get fluconazole and you will feel better right away, she kept urging me to go to the gyno, but instead I stopped off at Target to buy the infamous white egg. I lay in bed that night in the unfamiliar basement bedroom I was renting at the time, stuck in the egg, and then waited…Before a few minutes had passed, my body was on fire. Little did I know, this moment was when my new normal had begun. The egg was burning me, and I’d never hurt that bad before, I pulled out the fan and had it on me trying to cool down the deep burning pain I was experiencing. I fell asleep that night with a cold washcloth on my naked body and made the decision to listen to my sister and schedule to see my gynecologist. This egg freaking sucks and it’s disgusting, I thought, I guess I’ll go in and get something better.

A few days had passed and I remember sitting my gynecologist’s office getting my pelvic pain symptoms checked for the very first time. It was unusual visit, and I remember it very vividly. The visit itself was very ordinary as I explained my itched symptoms to [the doctor] and within a few minutes she pulled out the pad of paper to write the script I was waiting for – fluconazole. Lots of cranberry juice in case of UTI. Lots of water. Lots of probiotics. No culture, I thought was odd, but oh well, because my symptoms all add up. I’ll be fine in a few days, I told myself. I’m a normal, healthy person. Then next, with boy my legs in the air [the doctor] asked if I’d like to see a photo of her son who was my age, and perhaps go on a date with him. Even though I can be a pretty big bitch, I did try to be kind in that moment while declining the date offer but accepting my new prescription.

I went home, started my antibiotics and kept on going with life. One day, two days, a week. Nothing was changing. I called [the doctor’s] office. Nothing has changed, I told the nurse. Things seem to be getting worse. Don’t eat anything with yeast in it, no bread, no carbs, she told me. Yeast infections can be hard to get rid of. You should be careful, don’t wear anything but cotton underwear. I check all 50 pairs of Victoria’s Secret thong that I have, none of them are cotton. I listened to them except the cotton underwear part. Yeast is a really hard thing to treat, they said. i had no idea it was this tough to get rid of. I Google how to get rid of yeast infections. Keep skin dry and clean. I wash my body excessively but pretty much like normal, and I make sure it’s dry. I take probiotics. I go to Walmart and buy children’s gummy probiotics. I start taking them everyday. Apple cider vinegar – I start taking shots of it. It hurts my stomach, so I put it in smoothies. I should keep taking shots of it but I think it’s gorss.

Things are getting worse. I’m holding my breath, take another shot of apple cider vinegar. Drink more probiotics. Avoid taking a bath, quickly dry off after the shower. Itching, starting to burn. I called her office again. We will need to see you again, and give you a culture, they told me. I’d like to see somebody besides [the doctor], I don’t feel comfortable with a doctor who wants me to date their son, I thought. I got scheduled with a nurse practitioner. She took a culture. Strep. No yeast. She gave me fluconazole, and said it was for the itching. I don’t have yeast and I though this medicine was for yeast but this lady knows what is best, so I used it. Also got a z-pack for the strep overgrowth. What is overgrowth of strep? Bad bacteria, take probiotics. I’m taking my fucking probiotics every day, and they are living ones. There’s 500 billion living cells in this probiotic and I’m drinking this stuff twice a day. Can you take too much probiotic? What am I doing to my poor insides…

7 times I called their office. 7 rounds of antibiotics. Every round steals a small piece of myself, a piece of who I am.

I’m starting to not feel well. I’m starting to feel sicker. The pharmacist on Wadsworth started saying “Hi [Sara*].” I cringed that she knew my name. Months went by. My normal was withering. “Recurring yeast infection” I Googled. “What to do to get ride of yeast infections.” “How to prevent yeast and strep overgrowth.” “What happens if you have yeast forever?” “”Anti-yeast diets.” “Do yeast infections last forever?” “How my yeast infection lasted for 7 years” – one article said.

What the fuck… I’m normal, I’m healthy, I am independent, I am strong. I’m an athlete. I lift weights. I run. I teach my baby nieces how to love their bodies and trust their bodies. I don’t have 7-year long yeast infections, that’ snot me. I love my body. I trust my body. My body has never let me down before. My body is hard-working. I make my body fight for me. My body is able. It’s healthy. I’m healthy. But I’m not anymore. My mind starts playing tricks on me. What’s wrong with me? Did I do this to myself? I start to replay everything I’ve ever done wrong to my body. Did I hurt myself? What did I eat? Who did I let touch me that I can’t remember anything happening that could have hurt me? I’m reading horror stories. I’m crying every day. I’m ashamed of myself. I’m ashamed of doctors. Why are you a doctor if you can’t help me? Why are you even there? Why do you exist? But mainly I’m ashamed of myself, what have I done? I’m so angry and bitter and sad and nervous. How many nights in a row can I wake up in the middle of the night itching and hurting before I decide it’s too many nights and not wanting another night?

My sweet friend [Jessica] tells me to go to a chiropractor. You are allergic to something and it’s causing you to have yeast, she says. I’m at a part with lots of food and drinks and she won’t let me eat anything except vodka sodas. You need to stop eating. She’s probably right. I’ll stop eating and figure out what I’m allergic to. I have always been annoyed at people who are allergic to gluten or lactose intolerant or high maintenance, but now I’m going to be one of them. I’m annoyed at the bitch that I am. So I go to a chiropractor. He tells me he needs to do full workups on my allergens for the next few weeks. It costs me $80 each time. My friend venmo’s me $80 for my first visit. I’ll never forget that kindness. Acupuncture. Adjustments. Dry needling. Allergy testing. Every needle stuck into my skin takes with it a particle of me, a slice of what I am, a piece of my strength.

He tells me I’m allergic to dairy and gluten. I cut it out of my diet. I’m eating vegetables and fruit and I’m not even happy about it. Nothing is changing. I’m hungry and irritable and in pain. A lot of pain. Excruciating pain, but feel so stupid. It’s getting worse everyday. My insides are on fire, burning with every movement. It feels like pounding, thrashing, small cuts on my insides. Pulling. Tighter. Harder. Hotter. Why am I ridiculously allowing this pain to control my life? Stop complaining about this. Stop acting like this infection is going to ruin your life. Stop calling mom. Venmo [Jessica] that $80 back, that’s ridiculous, I tell myself. But it hurts. It hurts so bad that I can’t keep living regularly. It’s not regular anymore. I’m starting to feel not regular. I’m feeling very weird.

I called again. I’d like to get another opinion. They got in me in quickly. I’m hurting all the time. My insides are screaming, they feel like they’re bleeding. I sit in their waiting room, hot and angry and sad and cold. I go back. You’re losing weight, they tell me. I don’t care, I tell her. I’m sorry, I’m just sick, I say. I sit down on the end of the cold, unwelcoming table. We don’t know what is wrong with you, I’m really sorry, I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve never seen something like you, you really have a special case, you have gone through everything we have to offer, she says. I stared at her and remember thinking horrible thoughts, but not about her. About myself. I’m wrong. I’m not right. I’m broke. I’m used. I’m unusable. Little pieces of me broke off and I couldn’t gather them up fast enough so I left them in that office that day.

“You’ll need to see a specialist at named [Dr Johnson]. He specializes in recurring infections.” They referred me. I don’ think I have recurring infections, since nothing is showing up on my cultures. But I still feel hopeful. Surely somebody who has not only gotten their doctoral degree but then gone on to specialize in the field of medicine that I’m struggling with will know just the trick. I schedule out 3 weeks or so and then wait. My waiting is not nice, it’s not relaxing, it’s not easy. My waiting is full of painful nights, itching until I bleed, peeing until I cry. My waiting is emotionally exhausting and traumatizing. Am I dying? What is wrong with me? I sleep at my mom’s house some nights just so I can have her help. I cry in her bathtub at 2am as she pours box after box of baking soda into the lukewarm water for me to sooth my pain, rubbing my hair and telling me that it will be okay. Every time she strokes my head and tells me it’ll be okay one day, I break a little bit more. Bits and parts of me float around the bathtub and down the drain with the baking soda.

My mom tells me she doesn’t trust the allergy tests at the chiropractor. I go to [another facility] for allergy testing. You don’t need allergy testing, the allergist tells me. Give me the allergy tests, I am annoyed. I’m going to go get another doctor, he leaves the room. Two of them come back in. Are you having stomach problems? No. Are you having acne issues? I mean, not really. Are you struggling with bowel movements? No. Are you puking unnecessarily? No, I’m not. Do you have rashes? No. You’re not allergic to anything, you don’t show any signs of allergies, they stare at me. I feel so stupid. I’m not leaving without allergy tests, my mom wants allergy tests, i say. Okay, we will give you the tests. I’m not allergic to a single ting. I leave with 100 little red dots all over my arms and back and a little sliver of my self stays stuck in that dry, stuffy room with the two of them staring at me grossly as I walk out. Embarrassed.

Time passes and I search for answers. I visit prayer nights at church and let strangers I’ve never met before say prayers I’ve never heard before. Doctors can’t help me. Maybe God can. Nothing happens. Nothing changes. I lay in the corner of the gym on a mat. My body is on fire. I’m burning alive. I can’t do anything about it. I’m holding back tears. I pretend to stretch and turn my music up louder. I look around. Everybody is working out, sweating, being healthy. I stand up. My skin feels like it’s ripping. My sweat feels poison on my sensitive skin. My muscles hurt, but why? I lay back down. I spent days at the gym just laying in the corner. I stare at the ceiling. I see white. White like the sky on a really boring day when it’s not sunny enough to go for a hike and not rainy enough to cuddle up for a movie. My exercise is withering. This pain has broken my workouts. It’s broken my weight-lifting. It’s broken the way I used to be capable of building muscles, working my strength, creating my body in the way I wanted it to be, to look, to work. It’s broken the way I used to run until my heart beat fast and sweat dripped down my face. It’s broken me. I don’t work anymore here. So I leave.

I can’t possibly fathom I’m going to come out the same at the end of this. I convince myself that the specialist at [the hospital[ will have of the answers I am looking for. Except, the crazy part about my story is that he didn’t. He didn’t have any answers at all.

I’m waiting on the end of the all too familiar for [Dr. Johnson] and I’m biting my nails. What will he say? What will he look like? Will it hurt? Is he going to think I’m making this up? Am I going to have this for 7 years? Will I ever be able to have a relationship? Does [Dr. Johnson] know what it feels like to have your body burn, itch, pain, ache? You start to think the dumbest things when you are in pain. Desperate. He comes in the room and he sits down. He asks me all the regular questions and I try to convey how much I need him. I need saved, doctor. Please help me. Don’t let me leave the room without helping me. I don’t know what is going to happen to me if you let me leave. I am in trouble. I’m in a ditch. Help me out, help me, please. I can’t move on without something, somebody, I can’t stand up, I can’t sit down, I can’t lay down, it hurts so bad. Please, tell me something to give me some relief. I need to catch my breathe. I need to take a deep breathe and have a few minutes without this stabbing pain in my body. I just need 10 minutes. But, I can’t get that out. All I can say is that I’m hurting. I’m hurting so bad. I try to self-advocate but is a busy man and just doing his job. I try to ask questions but he is rushed. you don’t have a recurring infection problem, you don’t have a yeast infection at all. I stare, blankly. What? What? What? You have a hormonal issue [Dr. Johnson] told me. I’ve been being treated for infections for months. Antibiotic after antibiotic. There’s no infection? I stare blankly. It was silly for them to refer to me, you’ll need to see [Dr. Conrad]. She is the guru for female health, he raved. This isn’t silly. This isn’t funny, or comical or humorous or silly, I want to scream. I waited weeks for you. You were supposed to be my hero. I don’t want to see [Dr. Conrad]. I wanted to see you. My insides want to cry, but i don’t. My brain is going reckless, who is this man? I can’t believe him. I’m so angry at him. He prescribes estrogen. He leaves me but not before reaching into my heart and grabbing a broken piece of myself and taking it with him. Pieces of myself everywhere. His piece is a little bigger than the others.

I walked to my car, i walked past others and wondered what they are sick with. I look around the parking lot and see people, some old and some young. Some have babies and husbands and girlfriends and some are by themselves. I wished I could help them, I wished I was a doctor. I wish I knew the answers to their problems. But, I don’t. And I don’t know the answers to my problems. I can’t help you all. I can’t help myself., and neither can anybody else. I sat in the parking lot and sobbed. Would I make it until my next appointment with [Dr. Conrad]? How could I keep living like this? Do I even want to live if I have to live with this much pain? I cried. For week after week I take Benadryl every morning and every night to help with the itching. I can’t keep myself awake at work. Unproductive, unhelpful, out of touch with the building in which has been so good to me. On my lunch break, I shut my door and sleep on my desk.

I break up with my boyfriend [Jake]. I couldn’t take care of him. I needed to take care of myself. He was a nice guy but looking back he could have never made it through all of this. My heart breaks. Not because I want him. Not because I need him. But because I wonder if I’ll ever be able to water a relationship with what it needs to flourish and grow. My heart breaks and [Jake] takes some of it as we separate.

I get pink eye. I teach first graders, so there’s no unusual reason that I wouldn’t get pink eye. I go to the walk-in clinic at the urgent care one weekend and get some antibiotics. The doctor seems nice. She is asking somewhat personal questions but I don’t care. I just want my eye to look normal again. “How is my job?” “Where do I live?” I just want this pink eye to go away, obviously. Then she asks me if I mind if she asks a very person question. Sure, I say, I guess. “Do you have unusual female health issues?” she asks. My ears and eyes shoot up. yes, I say, I’ve had them for months and months now. I recommend you get tested for Chlamydia, she says. This severe pink eye is a symptom of Chlamydia. I almost jumped out of my chair and hugged her right there. Nobody has every been that excited to have Chlamydia before. I immediately drive to Planned Parenthood. It’s 6pm or so, and there’s no opening. I get scheduled for the next week. I’m certain I have Chlamydia. A final round of antibiotics and I’ll be normal again. I wait an entire week. The week drags on. I get in to be tested. “Have you had any new sexual partners?” No. “Do you have reason to believe you might have an STD?” I just want to be sure, I say. “Have you ever had an STD?” No. “What do you want to be tested for?” All of them, please. They test me for all STD’s.

I have none. I cry. I cry because I have no STD. That weekend I fly to California to see my best friend and spend most of the night-time hours in her bathroom with her blow dryer on the cool setting trying to ease the burning and throbbing. Something is wrong dude, this isn’t normal, she tells me. I know this isn’t normal dude, just stop saying that. I start to act like I’m not in pain so that others around me can enjoy themselves. All of this pretending is taking little fragments of my joy, my happiness, of who I am. The pretending laughs in my face and mocks me for not knowing who I really am am it runs away the the happy and healthy person I used to be.

I go to work. I teach my perfect, healthy, happy, smart little ones. I tell them to be brave, confident and kind. I tell them to never give up. They can be anything they want to be. If you work hard you can do anything. what do you want to be? You can do it, I tell them. I hug them. I hold them. I love them. You can do it, I say. But I’m fooling them. I’m faking it. My fresh and poised self is becoming soft and dry. I hurt everyday. I’m quitting on myself, I’m quitting on them, I’m quitting on my body. How can I expect my 6-year-olds to do something that I can’t do? I start to think of myself as a hypocrite. The truth is, I am a hypocrite. The pain is unravelling me. I go to the store on my lunch and buy hydrocortisone cream, anti-itch cream, vagisil, everything in the vaginal health aisle, give it to me. I try it all. I sit in the bathroom with the door locked just breathing, take a deep breath, and get ready to face my coworkers for the rest of the day. Pain has a tendency of changing people’s lives, I learn. Pain has a tendency of breaking fragile bodies into hundreds of little pieces, I learn. Where have all my pieces gone?

I call [Dr. Conrad]. I laughed on the phone when they told me she was booked out 6 months. The secretary was really nice. I told her I can’t wait 6 months. Please, do something for me. I am nervous laughing. She told me she would put me on a waitlist. I hang up the phone and open my Google calendar and swipe. Keep swiping. I swipe for 6 months. How in the world am I going to make it? I sit in the basement at my parents’ on their cough and I Google out of state gynecologist specialists. I’ll have to travel to them. I can’t wait 6 months. My body parts are eating me from the inside out. I can’t keep pants on, they hurt too bad, my skin screams at me when it’s touched. Everything is still, and my life is on pause.

About two weeks later, it was about 3pm and I got a call that there was a cancellation. Who would ever cancel on [Dr. Conrad]? I know I wouldn’t. I leave work immediately and speed to [the hospital]. I’m anxious, I’m afraid, I’m fidgeting in the chair. I get called back to the room. Everything is white. Don’t give your babies marijuana. ow much weight should you gain during pregnancy? What is the best way to treat period cramps? I stare at the posters on the wall and wish that I was visiting to discuss the best way to treat my period cramps. I sit on the end of the table. Bleak, sterile, white, my legs are cold. [Dr. Conrad] is tough, she’s normal and she’s human, but she’s tough. She’s what I imagine a doctor who’s 6 months booked out to be like. I learn that not everybody has all the answers, not everybody has their life figured out, not everybody can figure my life out, not everybody knows everything. [Dr. Conrad] says I have hormonal issues. I don’t have the right questions to ask. Where’s my mom? I need help with this. I say okay. I say thank you. She take me off trisprintec and tells me I need an IUD. I”m in pain, is all I can mutter. She gives me narcotics. Narcotics?

“How much tramadol do you need to take to overdose?” I Google. I don’t want to live like this. I hate my life. I’ve always loved my life. I have a great family. I have perfect friends. I have fun. Boys like me. I like them back. My brothers and sisters all have babies, and I love them. What would I do without being able to see those babies grow up? But, I hate my life. I hurt all the time. I hurt bad. I can’t focus anymore. I can’t talk to people. I can’t sit and enjoy a conversation. I can’t go out at night. I can’t be close to a boy without having severe anxiety. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. I think about dying. My horrible thoughts break little parts of me off and take them captive. I take one tramadol and fall asleep. The next day I give the bottle to my dad. He is concerned about me but never really does anything about it except to call me to check-up.

I can’t sit down. I can’t stand up. I can’t wear jeans. I can’t wear thongs. I can’t pee. Everything hurts. It burns, it itches, it throbs, it’s pulling too tight. My body feels like a rubber-band that’s about to snap but keeps getting pulled tighter and tighter. And it’s hot and burning. I go in the bathroom and I hold my breath while I pee and squeeze my legs because I feel the pee stinging my insides. I’m drunk with my friends at [a bar] and we’re watching a wrestling match that none of us care about. My friend asks me to go for a walk and we go outside. He says he knows I haven’t been well. I said okay. We walk around the block and I’m cold but I’m fine. He says he was sorry for anything he’s done to be insensitive. He starts crying and I really don’t know why. He doesn’t even know what’s going on with me. I’ve never told him any of this. Does he know I’m sick? Do I look sick? He says he’s sorry. Why does he keep saying he’s sorry? My mind is racing, what is going on? He says he can tell I’m “different.” I said I loved him because it was true of him just like all my friends. I do love them. I don’t cry. I’m not sure why he’s crying. He thinks I’m sick. I tell him I’m fine. We go back inside and I look around and wonder if anybody else is in pain. I start to hope I make it through this just so I can one day reach back into the thick darkness of pain and pull someone else out. At this point I start trying my best to not be “different” for my friends’ sake. I try so hard not to be different that I begin to forget what I was like before all of this started.

My IUD hurts. My muscles are pulling at my insides. My stomach is hurting. My head hurts. I’m laying on my bathroom floor. I call my mom, she doesn’t answer. I’m lying naked on my bathroom floor with the fan blowing on me. My bathroom counter is covered in boric acid and empty pill capsules ready to be home-made into suppositories. I’m wearing plastic gloves and there’s powder everywhere, the internet says don’t let it touch your skin. I am going crazy. I’m naked in plastic gloves and I’m sick and hurting and I feel like a crazy person now. It’s a Sunday. I call my mom again. No answer again. What could she be doing? I can’t handle the pain, this could be the worst it’s ever been. I can’t pee, I’m holding it in. It hurts too bad. I call Urgent Care. The doctor pulls up my file. The only thing there is from my file is the pink eye. I tell him I’m desperate. He orders me fluconazole. I fill it and use it. It feels awful, like I’m overdosing on something I don’t need. What is wrong with me? Is this my fault? Chips of me, parts of me, pieces of me, slivers of me, gone, gone, gone. This is not me. Where are all the pieces going? How many pieces of myself can I lose before I am no more?

I’m bleeding anally, I wipe myself and there’s bright red blood. What? People do all sorts of crazy shit and I’ve done nothing like that to deserve or cause anal bleeding. I call the phone nurse and she tells me to do enemas followed by anal suppositories over the counter. I do enemas, and I have a lot of diarrhea. It’s gross, and it makes me feel weird. But it doesn’t help the anal bleeding. The bleeding just starts to get worse. The more blood I see the more scared I feel.

My aunt calls me from Ohio. She’s a nurse practitioner there specializing in kids. You could very likely have bed bugs, she says. I stay up until 1AM cleaning my room, sanitizing and cloroxing my sheets, and bagging up my clothes. I’m not freaking homeless, I’m not unsanitary. I’m clean, I’m healthy, i wash my sheets, my room is spotless. There’s no way I have bed bugs. I’m normal. I’ve spent so much time trying to convince myself that I’m normal that I’m starting to think I’m not normal. I sleep on the couch because i’m scared of the bed bugs. Maybe I feel less burning now that I’m not in bed? Maybe I’m itching less? No, I don’t think so. After two nights, I start sleeping in my bed again.

I start to get major insomnia. I’ve never had insomnia before in my life. I can’t sleep. I’m up itching, grabbing my painful body, pulling at my tissues, trying to get relief for just one second. I try to convince myself it’s getting better, but it’s getting worse. I sit on the bathroom for at 1 AM, 2 AM, 3 AM, I put cold washcloths on myself. I’m really starting to lose it. My alarm goes off and I’m up to work. I take a Benadryl. I’m exhausting myself. My body is letting me down.

The next day, my aunt calls again. I could have pinworms. She’s certain it’s pinworms. I gag, ew. Pinworms? All the itching, yes, most certainly pinworms. I drive to the store to grab pinworm medicine, trying to make sure nobody I know sees me. I drink the bottle, and then wait. I just sit and wait. But no. I don’t have pinworms. The anal itching doesn’t go away. But some of my dignity is lost, I shouldn’t value myself on my health, I shouldn’t have self-pride based off of how healthy I am, bug I think I do. I feel gross and undesirable and unhealthy and unwanted and un-me.

I start to miss out on things in my life. I try not to but pain is getting in my way. I miss my nephew’s fifth birthday party because I’m upstairs in the bathtub sitting in 2-inch tall warm water and baking soda. I miss going to the gym because the sweat burns my skin. I miss going out with friends because it just hurts too bad. I think about all the things I’m not going to be able to do with my future kids if I have this amount of pain. I start to tell my mom “I just can’t.” She says, ” you can.” But, I can’t. My hair is falling out in chunks. I’m finding clumps of it on the bathroom floor, in my shower, in my bed. Not just a little bit of hair, there are chunks, is this a normal amount of hair loss? I FaceTime my aunt and show her the floor, my brush. No, I don’t think so, she says. My long black hair has turned short and thin. It will grow back, it will grow back, it will grow back. It will grow back. I tell myself. I pathetically cry about my hair.

I start dating [Ryan] who had full-custody of his 2-year-old son name [Evan]. I didn’t want to start dating [Ryan] but it just happened. We met and we started seeing each other casually. At the park, ice cream. Walks with [Evan]. I lived downtown. We spend quite a bit of time together and I start to like them both more. My IUD is hurting, and I tell him I’m having problems because of the IUD. As soon as I get this IUD out I’ll be fine, I told him. I call Dr. Conrad. I need this IUD removed, I tell her. [Ryan] made me feel uncomfortable. I wanted to make it work. In one side of my head I knew I didn’t want to be a mom to Evan, but on the other side I needed this so bad. I needed a relationship. I needed to prove to myself I could do it. Somehow we had good sex a few times, until one day it wasn’t. [Evan] sleeps in the family room like usual and [Ryan] is in my bed. We are talking and watching a movie. It’s fine. Then we start to have sex and it doesn’t fit. I can’t get it to go in, I start to freak out. The pain is a 10 out of 10, but he keeps going. I can’t handle it and I tell him to stop. Stop. Now, I’m panicking, I’m trying not to freak out to him, I go to the bathroom and shut the door. Breathe, breathe, breathe, I tell myself. Calm down, I can’t have sex, I’m never going to be able to have sex. I go back to the bed. I can’t sleep with you right now. As soon as this IUD is out things will be better, I promise. We go to sleep awkwardly. He falls asleep fast. I check on the baby. I go to bed and lie there wondering what my life would be like if I could never have sex again. My heart is cracking at the thought and the splinters from that night stick out to haunt me.

[Dr. Conrad] is too busy to remove my IUD so they book me with [Dr. Green]. I’m on my way to meet [Dr. Green] and I need to pull over on the side of I70, get out of my car and puke from the pain. I can feel my body pulsing like a hurting heartbeat. I get back into my car and go to my appointment. I’m walking through [the hospital]. I’m sick. Physically sick, shaking and nauseous. Mentally sick, I’m at my end. Emotionally sick, wondering if I can even keep going. She comes in and feels me, slides her fingers in and out, I cringe. She tells me the IUD should stay in, but I can’t. Get this thing out of me. It’s killing me. It hurts. Please, give me a copper one. I don’t even want to listen to another doctor. That’s not going to help you, she tries to tell me., but I don’t hear her. She’s trying to help me, but I’m so nauseous. She spits out a bunch of language about what’s wrong with my muscles and removes m Mirena IUD. My vagina is small, tight she says. That’s a good thing, I think, and puke again. She puts the copper IUD insides of me and hands me a pamphlet with your name on it. Then she’s gone. She’s professional and cool and cute and kind of way too good for the way I treated her. I can’t get up off the bed in her unit. I’m puking hard now. They give me a Zofran shot in my ass. I call my sister who works at [the hospital] and she comes and gets me. I puke all the way to my car, drive myself home. I feel like the wind is knocked out of me.

I despise her for the pamphlet. How dare she tell me the IUD isn’t my solution? in a few days my problems will be gone, I can devote my time to [Ryan] and [Evan]., my life is going to be back to normal. All of this is going to just be one big nightmare that is over with. How dare her suggest I have a bigger and more disturbing problem at hand. Don’t tell me you didn’t see this coming, I think, throw it away. The next day, I take it out of the trash and put it into my nighstand.

I watch Netflix and lay in bed. My stomach is killing me. A deep, hot stomachache that I can only describe as a copperache. My body spits out bright red, thick blood. I watch stupid shows and see people fall in love and create families and go to the carnival and buy puppies and have sex and I cringe. Watching them have sex makes me hurt., make me throb, makes me burn. I start to fast-forward intimate scenes in movies because the bother me. I cry while I fast-forward, thinking of the times I used to love the way my body treated med. I cry thinking of the times I unnecessarily flaunt the way my body worked in bed. I cry thinking of the way I used to desire intimacy in bed with another person. I cry thinking about how I will never use my body like that again. Nobody can help me get back to that point, I’m not sexy anymore. I fast forward and fall asleep.

Get this copper out of me. I’m going crazy. My blood is hot and it hurts. The copper is killing me, I think. My insides are churning. I wake up sweating. I look at my phone., it’s 2 AM. I’m only sleeping a few hours a night. I never knew pain could take my life from being so good to being so bad. I’m so tired. My insomnia is haunting me every night. I find myself awake in the middle of the night. Aching. My chest hurts with regret, my body burning with pain. Did I do something that caused this? Was it sex? What did I do wrong? I wish I never had sex. My pain breaks me and I think about the day that I can break it back.

I call the number on the pamphlet. I schedule. I absolutely hate this idea. I’m sitting in the waiting room at N2 PT. I’m looking around and I hate myself for being there. What am I getting myself into? I sign in for my appointment. A lady is trying to open the door and she can’t. She’s old and can’t walk. I stand up and open the door for her, and it takes her a while to get through the door. She is old, maybe 80. She sits down. I shut the door and sit back down. I’m tapping my legs and asking myself what I’m doing. I think about leaving. I should go. But it’s too late, you come out to get me. You look happy. You sit down and ask me what my story is. I put my coffee on the windowsill. Should I sit down? Should I stay standing up? I don’t know how this works. This isn’t going to help me. I should just leave. I never told my mom I was coming, nobody would ever know, I could leave right now. I can feel myself crumbling. Oh my gosh, she’s going to think I’m so dumb, I don’t fit the category of this type of patient. I shouldn’t be here. You leave the room and I think about getting dressed again and leaving.

But then you’re back. You ask me questions. You coach me. I start by telling you some of the details of my pain. You listen. I know how this works. You’re going to tell me you don’t know what’s wrong with me. You’re going to tell me you don’t know how to fix me. You’re going to disappoint me. You’re going to rush through my appointment and leave me. I’m scared but you’re so nice. You listen. You smiled. I think we might have laughed.

I was drowning when I walked into your office that day. I was choking on water and gasping for air. I couldn’t breathe, you pulled me up. You told me to take a deep breath. I left. What is the feeling in the pit of my stomach? It’s not fear. It’s not panic. I sat in my car and tried to decide on the feeling. It was hope. For the first time in a year, I believed that something could change. I believed that there was a different path I could take. I believed that I could stop getting worse. I believed in my body. I even believed in myself. You saved me that day.

Sometimes you get healed in ways you never imagined. My spirit was broken. My emotions were damaged. My mind was spinning downward. I thought I could never be fixed. I thought I could never think the thoughts I was thinking. I thought my body was broken. I thought I was too broken. I didn’t think I could make it. I thought I was going to die from this. I didn’t want to live. My pieces were everywhere, in 100 different doctors’ offices, why would I want to live with only parts of myself? But then what was left of me fell into yours and you started to put me back together piece by piece, appointment by appointment. You went backwards, you found the missing parts of me. You made me decide it was time to respark the things that really matter to me.

I kept seeing you. It wasn’t easy. I twas time for me to spend time on myself. I’m at the bottom of a hill and I’m climbing up, my body hate me me right now. My muscles hate you, they’re screaming at the end of my appointment, they want to be left alone. Nothing is ever easy but this is really hard. I’m trying to run but all the energy I have only lets me walk. But now I’m walking towards healing. In between appointments, I hurt. I struggle. But i’m fighting because you’ve given me a purpose. You allowed me to see that I can get better. You told me I am healthy. My body is strong. My body is able. My body is working. I can take a deep breath now. Inhale, exhale. You held me above water long enough for me to catch my breath. It is true that nobody can fill the void that emptiness creates besides yourself, but you showed me what healing looks like and allowed me to learn to fill that void myself. There in your office, I began my path to being healthy again. I sent a picture of the massive pile of prescription drugs. I threw them all away. You trusted me, you believed in my healing, you never doubted, you never lied, you never stopped, you never quit, you never gave up, you never left.

I lay on the cold table to of [Doctor Brown’s] OR. Naked. Cold. Fully exposed. My body is freezing, my face is hot. I’m used to the needles. I’m used to being touched, prodded, poked. I wonder how many needles have jabbed me this year. How many steroids, how many shots, how many times has it been. I’m closing my eyes, it hurts so bad. He digs needles into the softest most vulnerable part of my body, 6 or 7 sets of eyes are watching as he manipulates my body. The needles stab my insides and stem cells fill my nerves. I think about being grateful for the tiny vials of liquid that will rejuvenate my inflamed and needy muscles and nerves. I feel violated. My muscles throb. I can feel the pieces of my shattered, bruised body falling onto his OR table, down the cracks. He comes up to my face, tells me it will be okay. I trust him, but it hurts. I take a breath, the pain resides for the moment. Then the pain is back. My breath is gone. Tears are hot down my face. I try to hide but there’s nowhere to go. The stem cell rep stares at me with a horrified look on his face. He looks scared. Go away, I want to scream at him. Who cares what he think, I tell myself. If he’s scared then you are a bad ass, I convince myself. Shut your eyes keep them closed. Stop crying. Deep breath. Breathe with your stomach. Inhale, exhale.

On that table I think about you. you will get better, you’ve said it 100 times. You will not be like this forever, you’ve said it 100 times. You are going to be healthy, you’ve said it 100 times. You are not crazy, you’ve said it 100 time.s You will be okay, you’ve said it 100 times. You can do this, you’ve said it 100 times. I can hear your voice telling me that healing is coming.

All of the sudden I knew you were going to be there when I was better. All fo the sudden I knew you were going to be the one who got me there. All of the sudden, I knew you had taken me when I was at my worst. You had welcomed the sick and shattered body I had come in, but not accepted it for my future. You are a helper, a healer, a friend, a coach, a doctor. You didn’t quit. You didn’t push me away when m y body refused to accept treatment. You worked longer, you thought harder, you accommodated more willingly. You kept me.

Damaged, shattered, crumpled. I was snapped, my body exploded in my face and made me blind to see where I was going. How could I build myself back up when every piece of who I am had been broken into a million pieces? Is there a purpose to this pain? Can there be a meaning to this mess? And that’s when I realized my body, my life will be a mosaic. A picture or pattern produced by putting together small, broken pieces. I will be far more beautiful than when I was whole. All of these broken pieces that you’ve gathered this year, glued back together and helped to make work again won’t be scars, they’ll be art. So I’ve learned, the world can chop me down and break me apart. For the more they chop and break will only add more wood to the fire from which I’ll rise.

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