After I was laid off from my longtime job, over a year ago, things were more or less at life meltdown levels. This was completely to be expected, of course, and was thoroughly survivable if unpleasant. It threw me off my game more than I wanted to admit, but life goes on whether you can pay for it or not.
Time traveling down the road a few hundred pictures of trees and/or months later, however you prefer to gauge the passage of time, I had a new job (which I'm still enjoying very much, thank you for asking) and things appeared to be on the up and up — as long as you discounted the vomit-inducing panic attacks I was experiencing for hours at a time almost every single day. I didn't bother telling anyone about it because frankly, all of the above seemed like a pretty reasonable reason to have a lot of panic attacks, and I am nothing if not a highly reasonable person.
Unfortunately even once I was well settled in to my new position (and all the way through eight months later) they hadn't stopped. My stress levels were off the charts. I sent in my resignation to mamapop. I drastically cut back on my writing here. Sure, I managed to scratch out a few things here and there, but the process was like trying to pull a poisonous snake out of a greasy drainpipe by his tail, and it left me with none of the usual mental relief I had so come to expect. Come on, Ben, aren't you forgetting something? Daddy needs his medicine.
By all rational accounts life was fine , but I wasn't. I didn't want to write; I didn't feel like myself. Nothing had changed; everything was different.
I don't mean to make things sound dire; there were average days mixed in there with the bad. But there were also days I would stare out the window and hope I didn't have to talk to anyone during all the hours I was awake. I told Jon I was broken. It felt like something inside me had snapped. My anxiety was crushing me from the inside out, which I suppose is the very definition of dire.
Okay, let's take it there: IT WAS DIRE. DIRE, YOU GUYS. (Mother, do not call me about this.)
...And now let's talk about something completely different.
* * * *
Birth control and I have had a rocky history, running all the way back to my first early years on the pill. At one point my lady-doctor switched me to a lower-dose of hormones, at my explicit request, to try to tame some irritating side effects I was experiencing. I called back within the week begging her to put me out of my misery.
"Switch me back! Switch me back!" I plead from the location of the cool, smooth bathroom floor, "I'm dyyyyyyinnnggggg."
"Oh!" she chuffed into the mouthpiece, "That's just your body working double-time trying to override the hormones. We call people like you 'super breeders.' Your systems are pretty much going haywire." And back 'round standard issue pillpack I went, until I didn't, because: Jude.
After Jude's birth I opted to have my stuff plugged with a mirena iud, rather than return to the magical world of pills for reasons that should be rather obvious re: the above. I was excited about the mirena. No remembering? No periods?! Good for five whole years! I could tick off the selling points on my fingers at rote like a goddamn commercial, overly whitened toothpaste smile, illustrative arm motions and all. They should have videotaped me and broadcast it across the nation for all to see. I was stewardess of all mirenaville! This was going to be a dreeeeam come truuuue spirit fingers.
And for two years it was! I sung my mirena's praises to many a fellow woman that crossed my unlucky path and seemed remotely interested in hearing about the state of my pregnancy prevention. "Oh, I definitely love it," I would gush without a care in the world, completely oblivious to the fact that I was about to jinx myself into seeing next Tuesday.
I knew there were potential side effects, because I am a 21st century woman who schedules regular visits with my general practitioner, Dr. McGoogle. He's my favorite, except when he tells me I have cancer which is all the time. Did you know that your iud can "perforate" your "uterine wall" and become lost in your body cavity, or that it can become "irreparably fused" to your organs, requiring surgery? I learned that particular fun fact the day after I had it put in. I spent a lot of time thinking very hard about anything except that every day after.
* * * *
Around the turn into mirena year three (which coincided quite nicely with my ego-destroying anxiety explosion) things began to change. I didn't consciously make note of when it began, but somewhere along the way I starting having cramps. I'm not talking about your average woe-is-me I'm a woman wah-boo-hoo pass-me-the-midol cramps, either.
"Oh cramps are often worse after you have a baby. It's the worst," people told me. "Fucking shit ass cum dick hell fart," I would stutter back before falling asleep prostrate on the couch at 6pm in utter misery every other Wednesday and every third Tuesday.
By the middle of summer things had gotten really quite bad, in that way where you don't notice that something has grown to ridiculous levels because it's happened so gradually and then WHAT - WHEN - HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?! I woke up one day and realized I couldn't walk sometimes from the pain of my "average cramps." Huh. Lookit that.
At that point I had near-crippling levels of shooting abdominal pain more often than I didn't, in one particular spot on the left there, yes that's the spot, please kill me now hurry. They came in an all-the-time, irregular sort of pattern which I just chalked up to my invisible period from the cycle I no longer seemed to have.
I began to suspiciously sideeye my mirena, who was whistling on the street corner with its hands in its pockets, sporting dark sunglasses and an overlarge trench coat, paying no mind and not bothering anyone at all.
* * * *
And that was where we (you) last left off with our miserable protagonist, quietly waiting for the sweet kiss of death and definitely not writing many blaaaaaaaawwwhgle posts.
Between the "run-of-the-mill" layoff anxiety attacks and the "perfectly regular" invisible stabbing menstruation cramps I was a hot mess, deeply in denial and not particularly interested in talking to anybody, ever, about anything, for the rest of space and time.
As far as 'where have you been' goes, there you have it, wrapped up and tied in a pretty, albeit novella-length, bow.
Shortly after I began to suspect my mirena of foul play (while meditating peacefully on all words other than "organ perforation paranoia,") a friend posted on facebook that she had gone into the bathroom at her house, given her mirena strings a friendly tug-a-lug, and popped that sucker right out into the bright lights of the world. Easy as a pie that someone else made!
(This is where it is okay if you want to yell at your screen or throw popcorn, because we can all see how things are about to go horribly wrong. Don't split up and go into the creepy haunted shed alone, grumbles, nooooo!)
My curiosity was piqued. Reflecting on it now, attempting to remove my mirena myself was an utterly horrid idea. Reflecting on it then, I was in a haze of semi-constant pain and anxiety, and what if we could just make half of that stop right this second with a flick of the wrist? SOLD. Engage warp thrusters.
As I researched whether or not pulling the ripcord on operation misery was a good idea (results say: yes and/or no), I stumbled across the updated list of mirena side effects. In the years since my initial stuffing the list had expanded quite alarmingly, to include not just our old friends organ perforation, headaches, and cramping, but also bloating, nausea, and "MIRENA ANXIETY AND PANIC DISORDER."
THAT'S A THING PEOPLE GOOGLE. LOOK IT UP.
(This is where it is okay if you want to yell "DAMMMMMN SON," smack yourself or other people in the head, or make this face: O_O. The call is coming from inside the house. GET OUT NOW, grumbles, GET OUT.)
And that's pretty much how I felt, within minutes of reading it. GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT GET OUT.
(Prepare throwing popcorn.)
Given a limited pool of experiential evidence and the sweet smell of desperation, I did, indeed, retreat to a private location to try to yank the ol' sucker out myself. Despite a valiant but cautious amount of tugging (enough said), I returned half an hour later empty handed but fully in possession of moar crippling abdominal pain and some brand new spotty bleeding! Congratulations on your womanhood!
After complaining heartily about my own moronitude to a handful of lady friends and Jon (who thought I was a 100% Grade A Shithead), I put on my adult hat and called it in to the doctor's office.
...Who promptly told me they couldn't see me for at least three weeks.
(Now redirect disapproving popcorn from my idiot face to doctor's office.)
Surrounded by a veritable festival of bad decision making, I called back and complained, at length, until they agreed to see me the next day. Just kidding! They refused quite bitchily, until JON called back and complained at length about my inability to move or function, in his man voice.
By the next morning I was festooned in a large paper bag, tearfully pouring out my heart about everything that had happened to the doctor on call. "You're here to get your iud out?" she asked pleasantly, sweeping into the room like this is a thing that happens.
"Well yes, but I want to tell you what happened first..." (Insert summarized ten hour story about pain and despair, ending with bad life choices.)
"Yep. Okay, let's just pull that right out!"
And then she did, quite literally, pull it right out. Along with most of the left side of my cervix.
As I writhed around on the crumply paper-covered table, crying actual tears and yelling, "Yes! That's where it hurts! That's definitely the spot," she sagely advised me that most people really can remove their own mirenas without trouble, unless they've become massively displaced and partially adhered to the side of their organs. You know, like mine had.
"Bye, have a great day!"
Ten minutes later, I was free.
* * * *
Almost exactly one year to the day that I was laid off, I had my mirena removed. I felt lighter immediately. – No, I mean I lost over ten pounds of abdominal swelling in the following six hours. Great news, team! Turns out I didn't need to go off dairy for that month last spring after all!
As part of what I'm sure the makers of the mirena would like you to know is purely anecdotal evidence, I haven't had a single panic attack since that morning. Within 24 hours it felt like someone flipped the light switch back on in my brain. As the fog started to clear and I fluttered back to life I thought, "Hey! Right! THIS is what functioning is supposed to feel like!"
Hey. It's me.
How are you?