F*$# Dementia.

I haven’t been writing as much lately because I’ve been trying to cope with watching my Dad decline further into the grips of dementia.

I keep trying to write about other stuff and it just falls flat. Because I’m thinking about this.

There are a lot of different ways people cope with grief and illness. My Dad is not dead, but I grieve the man he was because that man is already gone.

Grief is a fickle bitch I’ve decided.

I have a few family members who face death and grief and illness head on. I walked into one of my aunts houses several years ago, and she was baking bread. I asked what it was for and she said for one of my Great Aunt’s funerals. I said, “She died?” She hadn’t died. My aunt was just preparing.

I am not the face head on type; more of the avoidant and detach variety.

I find it incredibly painful to see my dad now, but I do every week at least and I bring the boys too because it’s important that they have this time with him. But the rest of the week I try and turn it off. Focus on my wife, the boys, and work. Don’t think about it. But then I have the song in a playlist of Tangled Up Puppet by Harry Chapin. My Dad and I danced to it at my wedding.

That is one of the my best memories with my Dad. I feel incredibly blessed that he was in good health that day, that he was so happy and proud, and that we got to rock it out on the dance floor together. We are both corny and crazy and we both had so much fun dancing. So that song will come on while I’m driving in the car to daycare to pick up the boys and I get there and I sit in the car and I remember that guy, my Dad, and my eyes well up as I think my boys will never know that guy. They will miss out.

Something will happen and I’ll think, I bet I can fix that, at my house, and I think, I should call Dad…and then I remember. He can’t help me fix anything anymore, or lend me his tools, or bitch that he loaned me his tools and I haven’t returned them. I miss it all. The good and the bad. I miss fighting with him. Because that man and I could argue. It was ugly sometimes. It takes us both a long time to reach our fuse. But when we do. Watch out. I definitely got his Irish temper.

I’ve also been called a redhead twice recently. I think that’s weird as I have brown hair.

That’s an aside though.

He and I clashed over just about everything at one point or another, but we were also incredibly close and I can and likely did say just about anything to him over the years. It also just hurts me and makes me angry that I saw him today for St. Patrick’s Day, and it wasn’t the normal jovial celebration. I’m not sure he knew it was today. St. Patrick’s Day was always his day. The Irish dude who married into a family of Swedes. He didn’t own any other time or day but this holiday.

I was talking about it with my family and some one said they wish for more time, and I said I would give anything to have one more moment with him lucid and the man he was pre-dementia. But this man with Dementia is suffering, and it breaks my heart to watch.

To reconcile those feelings is insane. Because I don’t want him to die, but I don’t want him to suffer.

So fuck dementia. As you slowly take my Dad I flip you the bird. Because honestly that’s what my hot tempered Irish Dad would want me to do.

p.s. The pic is because I am confused by the redhead comments, and I knit my first hat! Yes I made the hat! I also realized I knit more when I am stressed. So I’m sure this is only my first of several hats.

 

 

Why I’m Pro-Cop.

I didn’t realize until I reached adulthood that people could be anti-cop. I didn’t know about racial profiling, and I didn’t know about the murders of defenseless African American teenage boys. And yes. That is white privilege.

I didn’t know that there are police officers who treat psychiatric patients like criminals or worse like animals. And I didn’t know that there were police officers who questioned women’s rape stories as stories and not as fact.

I also didn’t know the large number of people who identify themselves as “anti-cop”. But I do now. I have a smidge of understanding now having witnessed horrific behavior by police officers in the emergency department and on an inpatient psychiatric unit. I know  a psychiatric patient who died because a police officer tased them to death, and I know that killed me inside a little.

I know countless stories from my clients of negative interactions with police officers in their professional and personal lives.

I know that I am not a Person of Color and will never know the fear that community has ingrained in them from a young age because of racial bias and racial murders and I also recognize that is privilege. I don’t have a solution for that in this moment. But I think it’s important I acknowledge it.

I know I was shocked the first few times I had clients make disparaging remarks against police officers in front of me, and it was work for me to keep my mouth shut and not challenge those beliefs because that’s not my job or role. Instead I try to understand their narratives and journeys and how they came to this space of distrust and fear.

But I also know that there are a lot of police officers. According to stats on a government website there are roughly 750,000 officers at any given time in our country. That’s a lot of individuals. Within any large number of people carrying guns there are going to be bad people. People who make bad decisions. And mistakes.

But I’m not trying to convince you to be pro-cop. I’m just going to explain why I am. Because it’s something I’ve struggled with; trying to reconcile my own experiences positive and negative, and the negative experiences- including murders and wrongful deaths- of others.

When I was eight a police officer lived on my street and played football every day with all the kids. His parents still live there and we have now known him and his family for over thirty years. When I was growing up a girl around my age had a father who was a police officer- he was at one point my basket-ball coach. When I was sixteen I got into a car accident (I was driving and going straight and a car turning left rammed in the drivers side of my car).

The responding officer was my DARE officer when I was in fifth grade. He saw the cut on my head, saw that I was terrified, in shock, and alone. I basically fell into his arms sobbing and looking back I can see that the other driver realized he was screwed.

I have seen detectives come in to detect shit (Shout out Bad Boys II;) while working in the ED and inpatient. I have been in the room with them when they see the body of an abused child for the first time and seen the horror and weight of it on them as they leave. I’ve worked with law enforcement around sexual assault and rape cases and seen them work their ass off to get enough evidence to prosecute the perpetrator and not rest until they know they’ve done everything they possibly could do for justice.

I’ve worked with officers who are just as infuriated and injured as I am when we don’t see justice done to perpetrators.

I’ve seen officers go above and beyond to protect and serve children and victims.

As I said, I’ve seen the bad side. I’ve experienced the bad individual police officers. But I’ve seen the good too. I’ve seen the fighters who fight for those who are weaker, for those who are considered “less than” in our society, and those are who I respect and those are who continue to solidify my outlook on police officers.

Law enforcement officers have, in my opinion, the hardest job available. They are underpaid, understaffed, hated in some cases, and yet they continue to press forward. There is corruption, there is greed, there are horrible outcomes including wrongful deaths that should not be excused or ignored.

But as a society we depend on law enforcement to serve and protect. And in my own personal experiences the serving and protecting I’ve witnessed gets me in the gut. Because it is authentic and honest and something I truly admire.

To reconcile the death of a psychiatric patient who was wrongfully targeted and tased with my experiences with other law enforcement has been the most difficult for me. Because that person did not deserve to die in that manner. But for me, hope springs eternal and I chose to incorporate a DBT skill to stop wracking my brain about it. It’s called radical acceptance.

I decided I am going to radically accept the world the way it is in this moment for me, and that means there is a grey area. There are good cops and bad cops quite literally. And I refuse to let the wrongful actions of some overshadow the brave and solid work of so many others.

Last thing. I know that every one has different personal narratives and you may strongly disagree with everything I’m saying and that is your right and privilege. Like I said, I’m not trying to change your mind, I’m just making peace with my own.

Why Passive Queers and Queer Allies Irritate Me.

When I was visiting my cousins this past weekend I went off on an angry tangent about Ellen Degeneres’ special Relatable. I stopped myself mid-sentence and channeled some Hannah Gadsby, “I’m angry. Little bit lesbian happening right now.” We all laughed but I kept thinking about it. Why did her special piss me off?

Then I figured it out.

She interviewed Ellen Paige and talked about how she admired Ellen P.’s activism and that she (Ellen D.) basically tries to keep her head down. Which is extremely evident in her Netflix special. She references being fired and having her sitcom end and that’s about it. She then acknowledges publicly that she’s trying to keep her head down.

I’m not down with that. Here’s why.

I own a business. It’s my livelihood. It pays my mortgage and feeds my family (not literally, I get taxed, calm it down). If my business goes under my family would be in trouble. I have a business partner and we are in it together for sure. But I market myself as a Queer provider. I’ve put it out there that I am gay that the business is owned by a lesbian and that I want to help the Queer community.

I risk homophobia affecting the business I bring in because I put it out there loud and clear who and what I am. I do this for a reason. I do this because individuals within the Queer community feel comfortable knowing I am one of them.

Because the first few times long term Queer clients found out I had a wife they were pissed I hadn’t told them sooner and relieved that they were truly in a safe space. They knew that even if I had not walked in their shoes I could identify with their narratives.

When they tell me about their parents disowning them I can truly understand that pain as I’ve born witness to it with my wife for eleven years. When I tell them I won’t let them be homeless if their parents kick them out, they believe me, because they know I would give them the shirt off my back if needed.

They know that because I risk my family’s stability by out-ing myself as Queer within my business. They know that because I’ve treated Queer individuals at wicked reduced rates, even pro-bono, and when a transgender or non-binary client calls for an intake I make it happen. I stay late, come early, give up my lunch break, because I make them my priority.

And guess what. I’m not the only one. I know of several Queer provider’s who put it out there and who have faced harassment because of it. I know I have lost clients over the years when they’ve found out I am gay. But I keep going. Because the look of relief and comfort on my Queer client’s faces when they realize I’m one of them…it’s just too good too gut wrenching to give that up just so I can “keep my head down”.

Why do I get pissed about Queer individuals and allies who say they are allies or Queer but then put their heads down? Because our opponents have their heads up. They have their heads up and they are yelling loudly. They are working very publicly against us.

I know the vulnerability and fear that comes with coming out as a business owner and practitioner. I get it. I do it anyway. Because it’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do to make myself vulnerable in order to help advance my community. Because it makes my business not just women owned and operated, but also lesbian owned and operated.

Any Queer owned business is a step forward for our community. It cements us in the tapestry of towns and cities and people’s lives. Any Queer individual not using their platform to advance our community…I don’t have time for that. Yes it’s scary. Yes it’s dangerous. But silence is more dangerous. With silence comes complacency. With complacency we get #45 and the most homophobic transphobic administration of my lifetime.

So step it up Queers and Queer allies. We need your voices. Your talent. We need you to take a stand. We need those equality stickers in your windows. We need the pride flags out front of your businesses. Take a stand.

Because by keeping your heads down you are complicit.

Houston the Poop Has Landed…Watching my Twins Grow.

As any one who has potty trained knows pooping in the potty is the ultimate goal. The peeing seems to come easy. The pooping is a chore. Well today one of my sons pooped in the potty three times and it was amazing.

He was incredibly proud and though we will still be wiping his butt for many months to come, if we can move toward underwear and away from diapers that will be the start of a new era.

Twins are hard. At least mine are. These monumental occasions are exactly that. Monumental.

I was walking up our stairs recently and I realized we never put the baby gates back up after a furniture delivery a couple weeks earlier. Monumental. No more baby gates in our household. Soon no diapers.

I never truly understood the word bittersweet until I had kids. Every monumental step forward also means we are leaving behind a time and a place with them. They want to put on their own socks now and they are leaving behind toddlerhood looking more and more like little boys.

We are not having more kids for a variety of reasons including but not limited to my ob-gyn telling me I’d be risking my life if I got pregnant again. Not worth it. So while I am relieved to see them growing and learning and becoming I mourn that I did not have those precious baby moments with just one at a time. That while Declan was smiling happy and we could have had a day out together when he was just ten weeks, Jackson was screaming with colic all day.

I feel cheated at times. Logically I know that I am actually blessed but resentful that we were exhausted and didn’t get to enjoy our newborn days like a singleton can. I remember standing in line going on three days no sleep and my c–section scar was still sore, and there I was at BabiesRUs I don’t even remember why. I was surrounded in line by young moms with one baby strapped to their chests. It was literally three or four of them.

I remember wanting to cry because my boys were home, as I could not get them out of the house due to colic and there being two of them. I couldn’t lift the car seats alone still. I wanted to scream. I have twins. F*&$ you all with your one kid at a time life.

I love seeing them grow but I hate feeling like I’m just surviving for much of their infancy and toddler years instead of enjoying every precious moment.

But I don’t like feeling regretful and I don’t regret them. I just at times yearn for a singleton experience while knowing I’ll never know that.

Today I will relish in the small victory of poop in the potty. And the victory of making it to Quincy Market in downtown Boston with my cousins. We don’t dare go to a city unless we are 4:2 adult to children. We all survived and we all got to eat and walk around Quincy Market.

There will be more victories to come and with each step forward we say good-bye to their dependence on us. Parenting and therapy. It’s the only two jobs where we want our clients to leave us. How incredibly painful to let them go.

Declan put on his socks and shoes and zipped up his sweatshirt. I almost cried. I asked Jackson to put on his socks, and he staunchly shook his head and said, “Mama do.” Now, he can do it. Probably faster than Declan. But that little man is 1- resistant to change of any kind 2- incredibly empathic. I think he knew I was having trouble watching them grow up in that moment so he ordered me to still put his socks on.

I mean. It helped. I stopped tearing up and as he swung his feet around avoiding the socks I started muttering under my breath about when will he learn to put his own damn socks on. Parenting is a conundrum. All these feelings all the time. When I see parents who are struggling emotionally I always say, How could you expect to not lose your mind at some point in this journey?

I relish in the moment of bedtime when Jackson rubs my cheeks with his hands and sniffs my arms and gives me butterfly kisses and tells me all his secrets. Declan asks me to snuggle him and I always do. I hang onto these moments; knowing that soon we will leave these days behind…as we should.

Disney and Three Year Old Boys

We were watching Snow White with the boys. They insisted after seeing a Princess Book of mine and seeing a princess they hadn’t seen on the tv before. They wouldn’t leave me alone about it. I had a lot of feelings about Snow White.

She’s fourteen! That’s disturbing to me. I didn’t want my sons seeing a fourteen year old dealing with a Prince and marriage. Cue me shaking my head and massaging my temples. Fourteen! But they were insistent. They being Declan. He’s obsessed with the Princesses. We will come back to that later.

Here’s the thing. I treat a lot of fourteen year olds. They are just babies. And I know that when we only lived to age forty then fourteen was kind of old. But we live to one hundred now. So fourteen is wicked young. Also Snow White is white. Really white. I try and get them to watch Tiana and Mulan and Moana…which they do…because for God’s sake can we get some color in there?! Apparently only white women were pretty and marrying princes in the past.

Anyway, I let them watch it. The Queen is freaky. I forgot how freaky. And Snow White was young. Freakishly young to me. Twenty years younger than myself actually.

So I’m thinking we are ruining the boys and then at the end when they get married, Declan says, “I Sleeping Beauty. I marry a prince.” I said, “You’re the prince and you are going to marry Sleeping Beauty?” sorta puzzled. He adamantly shook his head, and laid back into the couch as he calmly said, “I Sleeping Beauty Mama. I marry the Prince.”

First off Dec, we were watching Snow White. He apparently thinks Sleeping Beauty is better. Second, I got bigger problems than an underage bride. My wife and I looked at each other, then I pounced on him and tickled his belly and he giggled and laughed, and I said, “Baby, whoever you are and whoever you marry, I love you. I love you no matter what.”

Then we laughed and played. What’s interesting is Jackson knew he was not Sleeping Beauty and in fact just watched the interaction with Declan and I. Which is uncharacteristically quiet of him.

Then I’m thinking, whatever and whoever they are I cannot imaging living without them. The number of Queer individuals I treat who are cut off from their parents because of their Queerness is heartbreaking and as a Mom I will never understand or condone it.

I thought I sorta rocked that moment as a Mom. Because seriously in twin Mama mode we are just trying to survive. Gay/straight/boy/girl/queer doesn’t matter. Let’s just make it to the other side of twin childhood in one piece.

But then I’m googling Disney Princess ages and Jasmine is 15?! WTF?! I thought they were at least eighteen. Wow. Disney epic fail!

What is my point? Love and accept your kids. No Matter What.

Twin Mom Problems.

They are three now. I have two three year old boys. Generally when I say that I get two reactions.

Reaction one is from parents- they say either, “Holy shit” or “God bless” or something where they convey that they get it. They get the twin thing must be freaking crazy. And it is. Reaction two is from people/kids/young adults who don’t have kids- “Aww I want twins!” and those are the people I want to smack. I don’t though.

So tonight we were baking Valentine’s day cookies for their friends. The boys were actually really sweet and into it, and we then had to do Valentine’s for friends (daycare friends). So I start signing them jointly…and then stop and realize the boys might want to do their own and that the other kids are going to get them individual ones and I should probably do them from each boy individually.

Five valentine’s from Jackson and five from Declan. Declan wanted to decorate his and write on his, and Jackson showed zero interest in his and only applied glittery heart stickers because I handed them to him/shoved them into his hands…and made him apply them to the valentine’s.

These are twin mom probs.

We are potty training, and in the mornings they know that that we won’t turn on the television for any cartoons until they both pee pee in the potty. Now riddle me this…one pee pees and the other one has a hissy fit and refuses. The kid that pees is expecting and is deserving of his Pete the Cat cartoon. The kid that did not pee needs to have the limit set. So what to do?! Twin Mom Probs. For real.

My solution to the pee problem….the boys are old enough now that they can understand and talk to each other. So whoever the pee-er is usually asks me to turn on the cartoon and I say, “Well your brother hasn’t peed.” It plants the seed. Then the pee-er goes to his brother and says, “Go pee!! I wanna watch!!” far more effectively than I ever could say it.

They then follow each other around discussing the pee and tv watching situation and eventually the non-pee-er goes and pees.

There are no rulebooks for these moments, no twin guide, and do I ever feel guilty about putting one boy on task to get his brother to pee?! Maybe a little. But seriously. Offer me a better solution!

We got them two balloons this past weekend. There were many adventures with the balloons. First they both got stuck up high in our cathedral ceiling foyer and I could only reach one with a long pole. They apparently knew that it was Jackson’s that I reached and Declan could see I couldn’t reach his, and looked at me, eyes welled up, and started crying. It was very sad.

We eventually got the second one. Day two- one popped. As predicted. Now Jackson takes the one that’s left and runs around the house laughing maniacally as Declan chases him screaming, “My ba-lloon” (he says the ba part like the word bad).

There are so many twin moments where I’m like what the F is this reality right now? And it is. It always is. My reality.

I come across a lot of twins in my work and in my personal life. It’s like once we found out we were having twins there is a beacon and all twin families eventually find me somehow. Twins tend to have this quiet confidence about them when they are together, and it always seems that you don’t really know one twin fully until you see them with their twin sibling because they become some one else when they are together.

For my son’s at age three we rarely have them separated and when they are separated they constantly ask about the other one which makes it not so enjoyable for us to have them apart. It’s funny to think about what would Jackson be like without Declan and vice versa. It’s weird. Because it’s like they complete each other.

And even when I’m cursing their twin-ness and my complete lack of ability to know how to parent them at times…I know I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because they wouldn’t be who they are without the other one and that’s kinda cool.

One Experience of My white Privilege.

I’m watching Netflix’s Kevin Hart’s special about Black history.

I started thinking about a conversation I had with a woman recently, she’s African American. I was talking about my blog post about white privilege getting me out of a ticket. I told her I was nervous about posting it, unsure if I would receive backlash or not for starting the conversation about white privilege as a white woman. She laughed and said, “Well some one has to start the damn conversation!”

I’ve tried to compile thoughts in my head about white privilege specifically mine.

Let’s start back in my early twenties. I went to college in upstate New York. Not a very progressive area. Lots of racial tension and roughly one Black person in my nursing program out of about sixty people.

There were discussions among the white people at my college that I witnessed about Black people and the feeling that white people in that moment were not responsible for the enslavement of Africans back in the early days of the USA and up through the Civil War.

Their defense was they were not alive so why were Black people holding them responsible and bringing up these past offenses when in discussions about white privilege.

I didn’t feel any which way about it. I was trying to survive nursing school and not get into racially charged discussions between classes. So I basically shut my mouth, dug my head into my books, and ignored all of these discussions. Thinking back I have a lot of thoughts about that. One- they were wrong. Two- so was I.

If I had lifted my head up and said anything at all, such as, you guys are idiots. You guys don’t get privilege, you guys don’t get being a minority…or perhaps something like, “So here’s the thing, my ancestors came here at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. They never owned slaves. They and myself had no part of slavery. But…my ancestors tale of coming to the USA is one of freedom. They came here from Sweden and Ireland seeking a better life. And for the most part they succeeded. My ancestors escaped hunger and oppression in their own countries and came here of their own free will as passengers on ships.

The ancestors of African Americans who came here had no choice. Their narrative and history begins in America as slaves. They came here in chains treated worse than chattel. So there is already a fundamental difference in the legends of our ancestry and the fact that a bunch of white people failed to acknowledge that is fucked up.

That I can look back with pride and say my Great-grandmother travelled here alone to meet her sister and never saw her mom and dad again, but created a better life here for herself and her children that alone is privilege. Because there are many descendants of slaves who look back and see bondage and pain.

I started watching Kevin Hart’s special because I have been thinking back to my US history classes over time. High school and college. I love history. Those civil war documentaries have got me. I started to really think about all those civil war docs though, and all those hours of classes and reading. Freaking white privilege.

I learned about Frederick Douglass and I mean we were told Harriet Tubman saved a lot of slaves, but that was about it. Every other important figure in my history lessons growing up and in all those civil war documentaries I’ve watched feature white men and women.

New Jersey recently passed a resolution to teach LGBTQ history in school. I’m honestly not sure what the requirements are for Black history, but it seems like it only comes up during Black history month. The rest of the months apparently we still only learn about white people.

There’s also privilege of being white and not Jewish. I was watching a documentary about a murder, and a Jewish lawyer travelled to Germany for something related to the case. He looked disturbed as a parade filed by in the small village he was at. Later on camera he stated he was only thinking about the many parades they had in the 40’s and the purpose behind them.

He said he never needed to return to Germany, that he felt uneasy the entire time he was there. Something deep and horrible stirred inside him as he walked the land where his people were victims of genocide.

So think about that for a moment. African American’s who live in the USA walk the very land where their ancestors were enslaved, beaten, raped, and killed on the regular.

The fact that I never owned slaves and neither did my ancestors doesn’t matter. What matters is that my ancestors came here of their own free will and I have the experience of being descended from and living in a land of my free ancestors. That is white privilege. That is something any Person of Color descended from slaves does not have. They carry the experience and history of slavery with them.

To demean that history and experience in any way is wrong.

Twelve years later. That is the response I should have had for my classmates.

 

 

 

Living With Endometriosis

I’ve written about endometriosis before and Mommying with a chronic painful illness. But I’m going to mention it again.

It’s been on my mind lately for a variety of reasons. The more I practice psychiatry the more I see how women are mistreated in our society. I mean I knew it before, having experienced it myself, but now I really see it.

It took me three years to be diagnosed with endometriosis. On average it takes about five in the United States, up to ten in England (I did my thesis on barriers to treatment and diagnosis of endometriosis, so trust me on the stats, but you can message me if you want the articles). The first diagnostic surgery was wrong in many ways- she used laser to supposedly get rid of the one endometrial spot she found, told me my ureter was malformed, and that I had minimal endo maybe stage I. There are IV stages- IV being the worst and most widespread.

Fast forward- my ureter was not malformed, I found a second surgeon because my pain quadrupled after laser and I educated myself that I needed excision not laser removal of endometrial lesions. We went for the second surgery and he diagnosed me with stage III endometriosis and excised several areas of lesions on my abdominal wall and my ovaries. He also found endometrial tissue on my uterosacral ligaments and colon.

When I woke up from that surgery I remember he told me what I had and how much he took out and I sobbed. I was so relieved. For three years I chased a diagnosis. I chased my pain.

I was sent to psychiatry at some point by my OB at the time- as many women with pain are sent to me- and was told my a therapist that I must have chronic abdominal and pelvic pain because I must have a history of sexual trauma even if I have no memory of it and no other signs or symptoms that I was a victim of sexual abuse.

I in fact do and did not have a history of sexual trauma.

I never returned to that therapist for obvious reasons including but not limited to misdiagnosis. But can we talk about how much that messed with my head?!

I would puke from the pain. I had hemorrhaging cysts and my hematocrit would drop to 23 and they would threaten blood transfusions as I lay curled in a ball and just wanted it to all go away. But of course, in that moment I remember thinking, and this is all because I have sexual trauma of which I have no memory or inkling? There are so many things wrong with those memories!

I mean the pain made it so I couldn’t think clearly. Then I had to deal with all these health care providers who were minimizing my pain because I was female. I must not have a high tolerance. I must be seeking opioids. I must have a psychiatric history that I am not even aware of. Until that surgeon who took me seriously, I literally thought I was losing my mind and making myself be in constant pain.

So he fixed me for awhile. But it never goes away. Not completely. Then I had the boys and all those pregnancy and nursing hormones kept it at bay. Then it came back. Hard. Then I went on birth control (OCP) because I thought I would give it another go. I hadn’t taken it since my early twenty’s and I really don’t want another surgery. I started it last Summer and it helped. I remembered the one of probably fifteen I tried that didn’t make me super angry and emotional.

But then I stopped losing weight, and gained some back. My blood pressure has been creeping up. I knew it was from the OCP. So I stopped it two weeks ago. The last two days have been horrible with the pain.

I read this piece once by someone with endometriosis, she wrote the “pain is like an old friend,” and I was annoyed and horrified by that ten years ago, but now I understand it. The hormones, the side effects to OCP, the pain meds, the surgeries: all of that crap is foreign and scary. The pain is familiar. I know what to expect with it. Crippling at times.

Like I stood up during yoga class today at hot yoga, and I instantly dropped back to my knees. The pain shot through me like fire from my leg to my abdomen. The boys have seen me drop down to the floor very suddenly when it hits like that. Jackson comes and rubs my head. Declan asks if I’m okay. I grit my teeth and smile at them, a smile that doesn’t quite reach my eyes, and tell them I’m fine, and within a few seconds to a minute it always passes and recedes into a duller pins and needles pain.

Pain meds don’t work. Advil and tylenol are like spritzing a wildfire with a little spray bottle. I can’t take narcotics because I’m a Mama and they don’t really work either. They just numb me out for a period of time.

I said to my wife, “So I’m fat and hypertensive or I’m in pain.” She told me to be fat. That she hates seeing me in pain.

But it’s not that easy for me to accept being overweight and hypertensive. It’s not good for me in the long run. I guess neither is being in pain. But like I said, the pain is like an old friend. Wrapping around me with fiery tendrils.

These days when it’s bad I can’t always focus on the boys. I can only focus on my next breath, my next step, my next move. I feel awful for that. That I’m not myself. I can get into my head about it and have quite the pity party. But then I’m a firm believer in the everything happens for a reason concept.

I think I wouldn’t be able to help the numerous women who end up in my office after a shoddy medical work-up because no one could see past her gender and take her complaints seriously, and truly try and get to the bottom of her presentation and symptoms.

I don’t tell them they must have sexual trauma if they have chronic pain. I tell them I want all of their records. Then I review them all, and I run labs for anything that possibly has been missed, and I refer them to specialists who may think differently then a primary care MD or an OB and who may do different work-ups.

When I offer them alternative work-up ideas and different diagnostic ideas and different doctors to see and alternative therapies to try…I always see something in them that I know all too well. Hope.

When that surgeon told me it was stage III endometriosis with the pathology report and surgical pictures to prove it I felt such relief. Such hope. I knew it was a chronic illness, but at least I had an answer. I had a name for the pain, and an understanding for the underlying cause.

I wasn’t crazy.

That we as healthcare providers are more comfortable telling women to seek psychiatric care then to do an adequate if not thorough work up for them disgusts me. I like to think in my small office, in my own way, I am giving back in a way that only one surgeon ever did for me.

So for now, I’ll embrace my old friend endo armed with my hot water bottle on the front and heating pad on the back. I’ll embrace the good days and not live through them by dreading the bad ones to come and I will take the bad days knowing there will be good days to follow.

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Rebuilding Broken Girls

Do you know what it’s like to sit across from a teenage girl and tell her that what she experienced was not her fault, no matter how many drinks she had, no matter how stupid she feels for getting into his car, that the fact he raped her while she was slurring “No,” is not her fault.

Because I do. I know what that looks like, feels like, sounds like.

Soft crying usually. Not a lot of noise except the sound machine outside my door.

I’ve already kicked the parents out because obviously there is more to the story then what they are willing to say in front of Mom or Dad.

There is always so much tension when the parents are present. They leave and it’s like a weight is lifted, the kid breathes, and tells me the truth. I don’t know when that happens. When the line is so clearly drawn between parents and kids.

So the parents are outside the door while their child tells me about a night when they….drank too much, got a ride home with some one they thought they could trust, stayed overnight with a friend with an older brother or friends of the older brother…the stories are all the same and the girls all feel the same. They feel ashamed, guilty, and alone.

They all say “I know it was my fault…I shouldn’t have…” I let them tell their story. I sit quietly and hear the whole thing. I don’t hand them tissues. I let them just cry it out all ugly with mascara dripping if they are wearing any. There are tissues in front of them on the desk or table but they never reach for them.

It’s like I’m not even there sometimes. They are remembering the night, the moments, the pain, the afterward, and how it sometimes took them weeks or months to even acknowledge that what happened qualifies as rape.

I wait for them to reach a closing point in their narrative. They usually look up at me, with trepidation. Fear. What am I going to say? Think? Do?

I always hold their gaze. No looking away. Got to maintain eye contact. I have an excellent poker face. So while on the inside I am screaming to find the little shit that did this to them and tear them limb from limb, on the outside I am composed. I use their own language to say something like, “To be clear. I mean very clear. It’s not your fault.” They always try to interrupt me and say “But I drank” or “But I got into the car” and I interrupt them and say something like, “You got into the car because he offered to drive you home. Because you needed a ride home, he was a friend of a friend, and he should have kept his dick in his pants. Just because you were in his car did not give him the right to pull over and rape you. That’s fucked up. It’s also illegal. You are not wrong. None of this is on you. There is a code in society that we can trust other people not to rape us when we are intoxicated or in their car. Don’t own this responsibility. It’s not yours.”

I always talk about pressing charges if they want to, but I don’t pressure them. I tell them we have to tell their parents at some point, especially depending on their age and the perpetrator, some times I am legally obligated to tell their parents and DCF.

I’ve had a hard time coming up with a blog post recently because this topic has been on my mind. This topic of our girls our teenage girls taking responsibility for boys, teenage boys who are unable to keep their penis’ to themselves. What the everloving fuck.

It’s horrifying to me. As a mom of boys it’s horrifying to think my son’s would ever do that to another human being. But boys are doing it. On the regular and girls are swallowing down the hurt and pain and remaining silent because they don’t want to “snitch” they don’t want to be called a “liar” and they don’t want to go through it all again.

I want to reach a day where I don’t have so many girls on my caseload with silent rape histories. Rapes that they and myself and a man somewhere out in the world are the only three people in the world who know about it. I want to reach a day when boys are not rapists who get away with it.

I want boys to be taught to not rape women.

Perhaps we as a society just think boys and men know this intuitively. Clearly they don’t. Clearly there needs to be overt conversations with boys who will become men about never having sex with a woman or girl when she is saying No. Never have sex with a girl who is intoxicated and can’t consent. These are simple rules to live by.

Instead of all the girls on my caseload, where are the young men? Where are the rapists? Protected by wealth, parents, and race. The perpetrators of the majority of my cases are white, middle to upper class, boys of wealth and privilege who if there are charges pressed will have a team of attorneys to make sure it is expunged from their adult record.

To change this it would require a major overhaul of our discussions with boys and girls, men and women, about sex, consent, and rape.

For now, I sit with and I hear their stories. I help them rebuild themselves. I help them heal. I carry their pain and I see their tears. I support them during police investigations if they choose to pursue it.

But some days it’s too much to carry. Some days the stories add up and weigh me down. Yet even then I can’t zone out. I can’t call out of work. I have to be there for them. For their stories. For their trauma’s. For their healing.

That’s what it is to be in psychiatry. To be there. To watch broken girls build themselves into strong bold young women. Even when it feels like too much to bear. Because in those moments I have to remind myself that they lived it. That their trauma is more than I could ever imagine. That the retelling of it to me is nothing compared to the actual assault.

But what I’m really thinking about at the end of the day is that I want to raise my sons to be good men. I want all parents to raise their sons to be decent, kind, respectful men. That I want the rapists to stop raping. Because if we focused on the rapists, and not the victims, we would have empowered women and respectful educated men.

To all the young girls out there. It’s not your fault. You are not alone. Don’t take your life because you were raped. Tell some one. Talk about it. Cry ugly tears. Press charges. Take the control back, give the the shame away where it belongs, and live. Because there’s no greater moment than when you can rise up and give death the middle finger because you choose to live without fear.

Most Memorable Emergency Department Moments Part 5/5…The Christmas Party

I think there’s a thing about nurses, specifically acute care nurses, that we see so much shit that other people cannot even begin to imagine. There’s sometimes no way to process it; no way to sit with it. So we party. Hard. We dance. We drink. We sing. We sometimes get into bar fights (kinda more often than you might think). We get kicked out of bars. And a lot of nurses are kinky. A LOT of them. In fact the only in home sex toy parties I’ve gone to have been with nurses. That’s an aside though.

I have some memorable escapades with my ED buddies. The Christmas party my last year there was one of the best. Lots of people attended, there was a lot of hot gossip going on at the time so it was interesting to see who arrived with who and who flirted with who (spouses are NOT invited to ED parties….for…reasons) and considering we all spent a minimum of forty hours a week with each other it’s always a big deal when we pay to see each other outside of work. But pay we did for the open bar and food.

I drank a lot. Two residents came who didn’t pay. Myself and the nurse who organized the party confronted them. We take money very seriously as nurses. We are generally cheap and as I said- it’s a big deal for us to pay to spend time together. So pay up.

I laid into them hardcore about being entitled asshats until they coughed up the 30$ each. The nurse who organized it thought I was awesome and we took horrific selfies in the bathroom together.

One resident who I made pay then hit on me, and when I told him I was married to a woman he said, and I quote, “I like ’em feisty,” and smiled at me like he thought that was a great pick-up line. I mean really Grey’s Anatomy isn’t too far off reality. I picked up a pool stick within reach and casually leaned against it, and told him if he came within six inches of me I’d show him what it means to be feisty and there were about fifty people here who would all pretend they didn’t see shit because they had my back. So back off.

That was the end of that.

The end of the night my friend drove me home, dumped me on my lawn, screamed at me for losing my purse as I was screaming at her that I lost my purse, my wife came outside and screamed at us both to shut up because it was 2 AM then my purse was catapulted into my face and my friend drove away. It apparently was on my seat. My bad.

So why was this the most memorable night for me. Couple things.

That year had been particularly gruesome with cases that left us all scarred. There were more deaths than usual, all around the holidays, and there were at least three times in the last two months I personally had done CPR- as in the actual chest compressions. And I knew that was only three out of eight cases. We were all beat up emotionally that holiday season because the deaths were just more and more painful.

There was an abuse case where a child died. Where the parents were in our ED and where the parents were the perpetrators. We had to stand there in the room and watch a child die standing shoulder to shoulder with their murderers.

I mean if you sit back and think about that. It’s fucked up on many levels.

A few of our own were going through ugly divorces, we were starting to see a huge turnover in nursing staff that would only get worse in the coming year, and as always management was up our ass for things out of our control and never appreciative for the lives we saved that were within our control.

We needed that night. We needed that night to remember that we were all just human beings. That we can laugh, cry, blush, play pool, joke, and do all those things that normal human beings do. It was a huge catharsis and relief in a sea of chaos.

I also realized right there with the pool stick in my hand that I wasn’t lying. All of those people would have my back in a hot second. Because that’s what we did for each other.

There is nothing that can quite describe the bond that develops in acute care, the closest I can come to describing it is that moment. Knowing I could pound this asshat with a pool stick if he tried anything with me and that not only would every one in that room defend me in every way, they would all have stood in front of me before I even needed to use it. That’s some serious loyalty right there because I know for a fact not everyone in that room liked me and the feeling was very mutual. But we were family. You don’t mess with our family.

A few years after I left, a nurse I hadn’t talked to in awhile messaged me on FB. She was going through some bad stuff. She poured her heart out to me, and I called her, and we cried together because it just killed me to know she was suffering. We hadn’t talked since I left the ED. Three years earlier. But that’s how it is with the people I worked with there. They reach out to me sporadically now, and when they do it’s like we know we are there for one another. Nothing has really changed. I could be in a bar twenty years from now with a pool stick in my hand, and if one of them was there I know in my heart they would be next to me in an instant no questions asked.

That’s what I gave up leaving the ED. The family and connectedness. That’s what I miss most. It’s just all the other shit that takes over your brain when your in the thick of it. The safety, management, violence, safety of my license practicing with a shortage of nurses, and the patients. The patients who touch you in ways that fade over time but are never truly forgotten.

People always ask me if I miss the ED. I don’t miss the violence. I don’t miss the fatigue emotional and physical. I don’t miss looking murderers in the eye. I don’t miss the ego’s and the pissing matches between specialists and medicine. I don’t miss watching patient care be put to the back burner while politics of a hospital plays out.

But I miss the people. I miss the family. I miss knowing I could yell out “suction” and it would be in my hand. I miss having an Attending look relieved when I come in the room to start an IV or draw up a medication because they had confidence in my skills and knew I could manage things when shit went down. But most of all I miss the cases that didn’t break my heart. The cases that gave me hope that humanity still existed with kindness and compassion.

I miss knowing that the people beside me were part of an epic team of which I was a member- our mission- to literally save lives.

The better question is not do I miss it, but knowing that I would see the worst sides to humanity, knowing about the blood that would stain my clothes, the tears I would shed, the bodies we would try and pound life back into, the violence I was victim of and witness to…knowing all of that would I do it all over?

Hell yeah.

That night. The Christmas party. I knew my time in the ED was coming to an end. But I also knew I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And anytime I see any of you waving a pool stick around in a bar, I got you.

 

 

*** The picture was taken just about four years ago when my friend the nurse who drove me home and dumped me in my lawn, and I, took a vacation together. Considering I irritate her in many ways we travel very well together!