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"The day has been eventful"
pallas cat - *catface*
cleolinda
@cleolinda: Anxious about doctor visit. Have to go, don't want to go.

@cleolinda: I'll talk about it more elsewhere, rather than inflict the details on everyone. It's a pro-active effort, not serious illness.


I don't normally go into this kind of detail, but I'd like to try this time, rather than have people be worried I've been diagnosed with something catastrophic, and because I think it might be helpful. But I'll go ahead and warn you, this involves reproductive health issues and a bit of gynecological trauma. Very vaguely described--"it hurt"--so this is more a warning of emotional trauma than anything. And then it just gets weird. But it'll explain my cryptic "can't write because health" statements over the years.

Basically, I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) in college; it's a not-uncommon hormonal imbalance that can lead to some really unpleasant symptoms (as well as actual, extremely painful, even dangerous, ovarian cysts). Usually it's treated with hormonal birth control, simply enough, and I was on that for a couple of years in my early twenties. The first visit to the gynecologist circa 1998ish (?) went fine, pelvic exam and all; the second visit didn't involve a physical exam; the third was... traumatic. The third was weird. This was the same clinic, same doctor, all three times, but the third time, she had a total personality change? The whole thing was bizarre. I walk in and the nurse starts weighing me; I was very neurotic about being overweight, and I sort of pitifully asked her not to say the number out loud. So the nurse TURNS TO THE REST OF THE OFFICE AND ANNOUNCES IT. Which was not only embarrassing, but also very antagonistic. That's not a good feeling to have in a doctor's office. Particularly not a gynecologist's.

It got worse from there. I wasn't even worried about the pelvic exam--for those not familiar with this, this is the internal exam where you get the Pap smear, a scraping of your cervix. At best, it's not exactly comfortable, but I'd had it before and it went okay, so I was prepared to just shrug through the self-consciousness and deal with it. But this time? It was horrible. It was so painful that I had a panic attack and the doctor couldn't even finish it. I'm guessing what happened was vaginismus--not the similar-sounding vaginitis, an infection--a sort of "locking up." I don't know that I'd ever had it before that visit--before that moment, even. But I've had it ever since.

The rest of the consultation was no better. I really don't want to get into it, but the doctor was dismissive and snarky. Among other things, after the debacle of the pelvic exam, I nervously asked it everything looked okay--did I have some kind of physical, I don't know, deformity that was interfering? She just stared at me like I was an idiot and went on to the next subject. Despite being the doctor who initially diagnosed me with PCOS and prescribed birth control as a treatment, she refused to renew the prescription until she could "be sure I didn't have cervical cancer" and sent me for an external sonogram in lieu of the manual pelvic exam. (Which went fine, because she didn't administer it. Yes, I'm a smidge bitter.) Then, no one ever sent me the results. Considering that I haven't died in the last fifteen years, I'm assuming I didn't have cancer. The visit finished with the doctor saying, "And don't come back until you've played around with a tampon."

I'm thinking that "and don't come back" is probably not a phrase that should ever leave a doctor's mouth, but sure. That's not even getting into the idea of a girl with vaginismus being told to "play around" with a penetrative object until she just gets over it.

So I was a bit traumatized by the physical pain and panic, yeah. But I think the real problem was the attitude of the visit--just so antagonistic and unsupportive that I didn't want to go back to any gynecologist. I was only 20-21-ish; it was years before friends told me that I'd been treated badly. I felt like I must have deserved to be treated that way--by both the doctor and the nurse--to be embarrassed and belittled, and that any other doctor would do the same. Everything had been fine before, but then something had happened to change the way they treated me--I had gained weight, I froze up--and so of course anyone else would treat me the same.

So I didn't see another gynecologist for fifteen years. Until yesterday.

My psychiatrist--the only doctor I do see regularly--has been urging me to finally go and see one for a few years now. Both she and my new gynecologist agree that PCOS (causing horrific periods and cramps), depression (I'm bipolar II, as frequently mentioned--manic depression, as it used to be called), blood sugar issues (I'm apparently pre-diabetic now), and weight problems are all interconnected--a system of problems. They all contribute to and exacerbate each other, essentially; we've treated the fuck out of my bipolar disorder, but the PCOS hasn't been addressed since I was 20. And a major consequence of the whole system is that I am tired most of the time. The only reason I can tell it's abnormal fatigue is because sometimes I do have manic upswings where I do have energy; otherwise, I would probably just believe that I am a bad and lazy person. Then, throw in the horrifically dysfunctional menstrual cycle--I've started tracking it on the Clue app, and it's all over the place. I've had heavy periods that lasted for three weeks, to the point where I became anemic; I've gone six months without having one at all; I've had cycles that lasted twenty days and cycles that lasted (*checks app*) fifty-nine. The last couple of months, I've had cramps every other week, but no period ever came.

Depression, physical fatigue, headaches, and spells of menstrual illness--when I say I've had health issues keeping me from getting the recaps done, this is what I was talking about.

(I'm sure someone will say, "You should have gotten over yourself and gotten this taken care of so we could have regular recaps." They can go fuck themselves. I cannot tell you the guilt I am dealing with now, that I let this go for so long. Essentially, guilt that I was physically traumatized, and when I'm able to think of it that way, I refuse to blame myself for that. And then I sit and wonder how different my life would have been if this one doctor had been more compassionate, and said, yes, you do need to go down the hall and have an ultrasound, but I'll go ahead and prescribe you some more birth control, and we can do ultrasounds until the exam is more bearable for you, and let's talk about why you had trouble with it and what we can do about that, and I want to help you get through this. I've dealt with chronic pain, fatigue, and outrageously heavy menstruation for fifteen years because of this doctor--and because I couldn't work past it. But I just can't think about how my life could have been different. There's nothing I can do to change that now. You can't do anything but look forward.)

So, several years later, I went back to the website for the same clinic--a very good clinic--and picked out a new doctor who seemed to have a sympathetic expression in her picture. Aaaaand then I proceeded to put it off making an appointment for two years, feeling deep dread every time I so much as contemplated it, promising my psych I would go next month, sure, totally. I'll be honest, the impetus for finally seeing a new doctor was Dragon Con coming up early next month. I can't be going through hell menstruation while I'm in Atlanta. I can't. I just barely dodged it last year. Put me on a hormonal contraceptive and make sure I won't be having it Labor Day weekend. Do the thing and do it now.

So I steeled myself to go in--I figured, I'm 36 now, surely the pelvic exam wouldn't be that bad, surely it would go better. I was honestly more anxious about having to sit down and explain all this background--and I had to, because she would need to take my three antidepressants into account when prescribing a hormonal contraceptive--and actually having to say, "Yeah, I haven't seen a doctor about my debilitating condition for, oh, fifteen years, and it has severely impacted my life in pretty much every way, including my increasingly untenable weight problem that also makes me really anxious about seeing potentially judgmental physicians. Hi." But I could get through the exam okay, I figured.

But first, they had me do a mammogram. "I've already had two," I told the tech conversationally, "in my early twenties."

"What?"

"Yeah... here, even. Fifteen years ago, when I saw Dr. B."

"That's not... you said your great-grandmother had breast cancer, no one in your family since? That's... they shouldn't have had you do that. Twice? We usually don't have people do them until 35, then at 40."

I mentioned it to the new gynecologist and her nurse as well, and they were both equally surprised. I also explained how horribly the previous exam had gone, and the new doctor said, "She wouldn't prescribe birth control because she thought you could have cervical cancer? At age twenty? And you don't smoke and you weren't sexually active?" (Here's a bit more about the potential causes.) "You wouldn't have had that."

Whenever I admitted who the previous doctor was--I was oddly concerned about hurting her reputation?--everyone, word for word, said, "That WAS a long time ago."

Look, I'm not saying all of this was sketchy, exactly, but there seem to have been a number of... irregularities in the situation fifteen years ago.

So then we get to the pelvic exam. And it was horrific. Probably worse than the last time, because we actually went through the whole thing. I white-knuckled my way through it, because I knew if I blurted out "no," she wouldn't finish, and I was hellbent on getting this fucking done. But it was really, really bad. And there's just something... I don't know how to explain it, exactly, because the doctor and all the nurses were very, very sweet and supportive. In that sense, it was very different from the last time. And I insisted on getting through it; it wasn't done against my will. But there's just something about pain inflicted--not naturally occurring, which I deal with a lot--in a sexual/reproductive area. Intellectually, I don't know how to explain why it was worse than than, say, a procedure somewhere else--even a breast tissue biopsy, for example. You can probably understand why, and I think I probably can on an instinctive level, but I just could not rationally accept why it would be so upsetting. Everyone did the best they could, as kindly as they could, and I needed it to be done. But.

At my age, I am honestly not ashamed of anything to do with sexuality, but I'm very private about it, as longtime readers have probably noticed. I don't like to talk about that aspect of my life because I feel like I'm so open about my mental health that I've just got to keep other things to myself--for myself. I can't, for my own emotional privacy, be an entirely open book. I think it's great when other people write openly about sex; that's just not the job I chose, as it were. Even now, I'd prefer to discuss this in terms of reproductive health, not sexual health; maybe that's a meaningless distinction, who knows. I'm talking about it now because I think that other people who haven't been diagnosed or treated for similar problems might recognize themselves in this and realize they should ask a doctor about it, or feel reassured about asking for help. I know, in particular, that there's a lot of shame about vaginismus, and I just... don't have shame about that any more. There's tons of forums full of women trying to cope with it--there's an entire subreddit, even--and I just don't see it as weird or abnormal anymore. Unfortunate, but not shameful. I don't know--I'm 36, and I just don't have enough years left on this earth to feel shame about things that aren't my fault. And one of the reasons I started talking about being bipolar--honestly, it was one of y'all who asked if I might be, based on posting habits that were manic at times, and that's the reason I got correctly re-diagnosed in the first place--was because no one has ever made me feel bad about mental illness at all, and I know how rare that is. And maybe other people can have a moment of "If she doesn't feel ashamed, I don't have to." And that's finally the point I've gotten to with my physical health, for the most part. If anything, my weight is what I've been ashamed of all my life--incredibly so--but I feel more hopeful now about getting healthy, treating the hormonal fatigue and the blood sugar issues and the depression so that I can become more active and engaged with the world, and whatever my weight settles at then, that's fine with me. Because I just really don't care what the actual number is anymore. After a lot of thinking the last few years, I have given up the Fantasy of Being Thin, and I've finally convinced myself that I deserve to take up space in the world--everyone does--and I can't feel bad about that anymore. If I do everything I can to feel better, then the number is whatever it is.

(Anyone who wants to parachute into my comments section and start fat-shaming can also go fuck themselves.)

I will admit, though, that once I was alone getting dressed, I cried a little. Not because of the pain--a certain soreness faded as the afternoon went on, but was with me for a while--but because I was so deeply disappointed that the exam had gone so badly, after all my hopes that it would be better this time. I felt a little betrayed by my body, maybe. After all I just said, I know that I wasn't "broken." But for a few minutes, that's the feeling I was flooded with.

But the doctor herself was great. She prescribed Sprintec (a hormonal contraceptive--idiomatically speaking, The Pill) and Spironolactone (which treats a number of things, but in my case, would regulate hormones; apparently skin care aficionados speak highly of it), a battery of blood tests, exercise, and a low-sugar/carb diet. None of which is terribly unexpected, except that I was surprised to get a second medication. I'm also a little uneasy because that's now five prescription meds I'll be taking daily--that's a lot of moving parts, so to speak, at a time when my psych and I are adjusting two of the antidepressants. But I see my psych again in September, so we'll discuss how all of that's going then. The gynecologist also sent me to get another external ultrasound, because while she was, so help me God, able to finish the pelvic exam, she didn't get as good a diagnostic look as she wanted. And I was just like, fuck it, I'm doing it all today if they can work me in. (The fasting two-hour glucose test she also ordered would obviously have to wait for another day.) So I go down the hall to the lab to get the blood work done.

I have to add here that I was terrified of needles and blood as a kid. This was due to a couple of bad experiences as a young child--a gory IV removal when I was in the hospital with dehydration from a bad case of the flu at age four, for starters. And while this is not an uncommon fear, I used to go into absolute fucking hysterics the moment a syringe came out. Just total involuntary sobbing meltdowns. And that happened until I was seventeen--not seven, seventeen--at which point I had to have blood taken fairly frequently (long story), and I just told myself, look, we can't be melting the fuck down on a weekly basis as a near-adult. You are just going to have to power through this. Not that anyone else with a phobia should have to just "suck it up," but that was what I decided to do. And I managed it--I get nervous now, but I look away, and unless the phlebotomist is really inept (which has, in fact, happened a number of times. "Do you even HAVE veins?" "YES IT'S RIGHT HERE CAN YOU NOT SEE IT") (one time, our snarky family doctor gave me a giant bruise and deadpanned, "Don't you tell anyone I did that to you") (man, I... I have really not had great doctors in my life), I get through it pretty well. Fortunately, yesterday's blood-taker was really good.


@cleolinda: Holy shit they just took like all my blood

I mean, I was fine with that, because please, do ALL the tests so I don't have to come back and do this again.

@cleolinda: I am serious, there are like six vials sitting there (I wasn't looking)


Today:

@cleolinda: Welp, I just realized the four smaller vials on the table had to have also been mine. They took TEN vials of blood yesterday.

"Oh, I guess the other vials are just someone else's they left out...?" Look, I was lightheaded and not making a whole lot of sense at the time.


Back to yesterday again:

@cleolinda: I have to have a two-hour glucose test sometime soon, not today

I asked if it would be literally two hours of sitting there with a needle in my arm, because, again: lightheaded, but no; they take blood at the beginning and then again, two hours later, after you've drunk a sugar solution, apparently. It's more that they want to see what happens after two hours pass, not, like, monitor your blood the whole time. LOOK I DON'T SCIENCE VERY GOOD OKAY.


@cleolinda: Been in various waiting rooms/offices for four hours. Morale is low.

@MitigatedText: @cleolinda this displeases me. Doctors are a necessary evil. In the long run, it's for the best. Let me know if you need anything

@cleolinda: @MitigatedText Oh, it is both necessary and overdue, and everyone's very supportive. It's just... ugh.

The ultrasound people were able to work me in at 11:30, an hour later. Except that for some reason, the tech thought I was having an internal scan--you've heard of transvaginal ultrasounds in a political context? That, basically. And I was like, I mean, I'll give it a shot, but that's kind of why I'm here in the first place? The not being able to do that? And the tech was like, "... ohhhhh." And she was happy to do it externally, just... no one told me I'd need a full bladder for that. So I spend the next forty minutes pacing up and down a tiny side corridor, drinking a truly vomitous amount of water from the water fountain. Probably nine or ten paper cup refills of it. A nurse finally came and got me--and apologized profusely for the mix-up; like I said, everyone I encountered yesterday was very sweet and supportive--and said to go on and give it a try. The ultrasound took about ten minutes, tops. Also, the gel they put on your stomach these days is weirdly hot. Gel technology has either greatly improved in the last fifteen years, or the previous doctor was using weird cold sketchy gel, because of course she would.

So I staggered out of the hospital five hours after I'd gotten there, too nervous to have eaten much for breakfast, down a good bit of blood, still cervically sore--glad to be done but, on the whole, fairly demoralized by the whole ordeal. Reader, I will confess that I strongly considered calling up my psych's answering machine, shouting "FUCK YOU I FUCKING WENT AND IT WAS FUCKING HORRIBLE SO YOU CAN SHUT THE FUCK UP NOW" and hanging up. She is a very good psych, and I never speak to her that way. I was in a necessary but not terribly good place right then.

@cleolinda: To be fair, I had like four different diagnostic procedures, and everyone was very supportive. (Cleo is now a free elf)

So that's what happened yesterday, and that's what's been going on. I keep thinking that posting this will in some way bite me in the ass, but it also feels like something I want to say? And that I want to be heard? If you take nothing else away from this: 1) reproductive health care is important, it affects a lot more than just those specific parts, but those parts are also important, and anyone who wants to take access to that health care away from you also needs to go fuck themselves; 2) competent, supportive doctors are also important, and if you get one that makes you feel bad about yourself, it's not your fault, and you deserve better; 3) both mental and physical health generally are weird and complicated and it's okay if you need time to work on it. No matter what's going on, you as a person are okay, and you are worth it.

Oh, Cleo. My heart goes out to you. There's something about gynecologists . . . whether you have the right one or the wrong one makes ALL the difference, much more so than with other kinds of doctors.

I had a somewhat similar experience but on a much less horrific level -- went to a bad one (though not as bad as yours), was traumatized, and then put off the next one for many years. And then this summer I had to go again and I found one who was SO nice and good and helpful. The exam still hurt like a son-of-a-gun (celibate 39-year-old here, yeah, that's gonna hurt) but her kindness and patience made such a difference in the experience. I literally would have hugged her out of gratitude, only I didn't want to freak her out -- that's how much of a difference it makes.

All that to say, I understand and sympathize, and I'm so glad you feel a little more hopeful now and that you were treated better. Hoping and praying they can help you deal with this thing.

(I've also had to do the fill-up-your-bladder-really-fast thing. Oh, what fun THAT is. I've literally been reduced to drinking out of the bathroom sink and then scuttling back to the toilet. Good times.)

Thanks. It's interesting--there is just something about pelvic exam pain that is upsetting on a completely separate level. And what really took me aback, I think, was that she was fine the first time. It wasn't like, "this is a terrible doctor and you should never go back." I'm just repeating myself at this point, but yeah, it does a number on your head in a way that "going to the walk-in clinic for flesh-eating catbitis" doesn't, even though they cheerfully gave me shit for not coming in sooner and had a younger doctor come in to witness the administration of ~THE CLINDA~ antibiotic. Like, that was just funny, because I didn't feel like my worth as a person or a woman was involved or anything.

Oh my goodness, this hurt to read but thank you for posting it. And thank you for reiterating that it is okay to question your doctor if you don't like what's happening. I think it's hard for a lot of people because it's like "Well...they went to school for this, so they must know more than me" (this is also the problem I have when interacting with hairstylists.) I only recently got up the courage to tell my doctor about how painful pap smears are for me -- not due to vaginismus, just things are apparently more narrowly-set down there than average -- so they used the pediatric speculum instead and the doctor said he was glad I told him because they didn't want me to be uncomfortable. And I think a good doctor would want to know that shit, because every body is different and there are some reactions they can't anticipate. ...But you obviously had a horrifically bad one, good god. I'm morbidly curious to know if she's still practicing?

tl;dr, I'm sorry this has been a literal and figurative pain, but I'm glad you posted this because it's a very important thing to read, and not something that most people think about until it impacts them seriously.

OMG, something called a 'pediatric speculum' exists? I *so* have to ask my doctor for that next time! Thank you for mentioning it!!

*big internet hugs*

I'm sorry you had a bad day, but glad they took care of you well. Wherever that nurse and doctor from 15 years ago are, fuck them and the medical ethics and patient care classes they apparently failed.

I had at transvaginal ultrasound once that needed a full bladder (I think it was both abdominal and tv), and the full bladder thing nearly killed me. I mean, not literally, but I needed to go to the bathroom *so bad*. I drank the exact prescribed amount of water, but thinking back I should've tailored it a bit more to my tiny bladder. It was like, "Stick whatever you want wherever, just let me go pee!"

Heh. I honestly didn't know if mine was full enough, because I just had a stomach disgustingly full of water, but they told me to come on in anyway. That was the last procedure I had, and I was just totally Pallas Cat by that point.

Also, the gel they put on your stomach these days is weirdly hot. Gel technology has either greatly improved in the last fifteen years, or the previous doctor was using weird cold sketchy gel, because of course she would.

It has changed, yes. Thankfully!


...I'm glad you're still here, I'm glad you came through it, and *MASSIVE HUGS* for surviving it. (I also have problems with evil pap-smears. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I get one, it hurts shitloads and I bleed and it is epically painful. So at least you're not alone in that regard? Sorry for the possible TMI.))

Oh, this entry is a TMI zone. Honestly, there wasn't any blood, so it wasn't even as bad as that. I WAS literally white-knuckling through it, but again, I think the worst part was just the sheer disappointment. That feeling of "but I thought I'd gotten better."

All the sympathy in the world.

Anyone who prioritises recaps over the recapper's physical and mental health doesn't even deserve to get eaten, because they're most likely completely inedible, and even Lecter won't be able to make anything decent out of them.

(I wish I could somehow just magically make you to not feel guilt about those things, but I don't have superpowers. Moral support, this I have in spades.)

Heh, thanks. I figured I'd just go ahead and say that up front, because I just really did not feel like dealing with that moment of shock you get when you're like "I cannot believe you just said that, here, in my comments, and now I have to try not to throttle you." It's very--well, you'll know the moment I'm talking about, when Hannibal just stares at Mason stabbing the chair, like "I don't even know how to handle this."

Sweet hoolies, all I can say to this is: I really hope that everything afterward is onward-and-upward, because damn but you've been put through the ringer. Putting a name on the thing, though, means maybe you can be directed to actually useful treatment and all that jazz. Fingers: Crossed.

The worst part was that I had a name and was just too scared to try and ask for help again. But yeah, I think the reason I'm even willing to talk about it is that things seem to be uphill from here. Thanks. :)

I am so sorry you went through all that. Unsympathetic/unkind doctors are the actual worst. These are people who are supposed to support and take care of us during some of our most difficult moments, and some of them just suck at it. So glad you were able to get that done for yourself. Best wishes for your improved health in the very near future.

Jeez, Cleo, I'm so sorry you've been going through all of this! This is some heavy stuff and I 100% say your health and emotional well-being come before any deadlines always and forever.

I'm crying a little as I type this because while I haven't had your kind of experience, I have been bullied by doctors. Except for needles, I was always pretty okay with doctors as a kid. In my adult years, though, I've had a few incidents which have left me paranoid and distrustful of doctors and always ready to be made to feel awful when I go. You know when you go to the doctor and they put you in the room and it takes AGES for someone to actually come in and see you? Last couple of times I went to the doctor I was near tears and ready to sprint out the door by the time the doctor finally showed. I had a couple of pelvic exams in college (thankfully, the doc at the student center was a nice older lady) but I've never had an actual full gyno check-up and I'm terrified that by the time I actually have a job and health insurance again I won't be able to bring myself to make the appointment.

So, thanks for writing about your experiences. You absolutely didn't have to - you do not owe us anything regarding your health - but I appreciate reading what other women have to say about these sorts of things because our society rarely talks openly about these things.

Aw, I'm so sorry you went through that. I've read tons of stories of people getting treated like shit by doctors because of their weight, also, which filled me with extra dread. I was really surprised that they didn't comment on my weight at all yesterday--she advised a low-sugar diet and exercise in the context of pre-diabetes thing, she never once said "because you obviously need to lose weight." It was like she just... trusted my intelligence enough to know that was true, and to prioritize treating the hormonal conditions and let everything else fall into place? I really, really appreciated that.

I appreciate reading what other women have to say about these sorts of things because our society rarely talks openly about these things

I am very, very private about a lot of things--again, as people have noticed--but it was important to me to be like "vaginismus, nbd" here. I really have no idea at what point I stopped being ashamed of it--several years ago, I guess--but it's a feeling I'd like to pay forward.

I'm glad about the supportive doctors and staff this time (these times? that's a lot to do in a day even if one feels calm and placid about all of it). Also, yes, gel usage has changed; it used to be cold and now it can be warmed, though sometimes they do it at room temp or cold even now.

(I had ovarian cyst issues mid-1990s--dermoids with two surgeries. Much sympathy to you.)

Eeeeek, that must have been rough--I hope things are okay now? And yeah, I had naively thought it would just be a pelvic exam to get through, and I might be out of there in an hour. "Oh... there's a mammogram first...?" I got to a point where I was like, just do it all NOW before I go hide under my bed and never come out again.

Apologies for this whole massively oversharing essay, but this is very 'there but for the grace' for me - I did the same thing (kind of) when I was 21, finally saw a GP after years of shitty period related stupidity - heavy periods that went on FOREVER, cramps so bad my blood pressure plummetted and I fainted, in public, multiple times (no painkillers ever worked when it got to a certain point), lots of other crap, a lot of which were possible symptoms of PCOS. Once I collapsed on a train and someone called an ambulance, and I had to explain that, er, nope just really bad period pains I'm so sorry let the ground just open up and swallow me, kthxbye.

As it turns out, the GP just said 'eh, maybe PCOS' and just prescribed what turned out to be the nuclear option Pill (dianette). Which you hear terrible things about but it changed my freaking life. I mean, there was like the worse mood disturbance for a couple of weeks, and I was thankful my housemates were even still talking to me afterwards, but then after that - no more PMT ever again; and only very faint occasional cramps (and I haven't ever had to buy the supermax size tampons ever again, OMG I can't tell you how great that felt.). It literally changed my life.

We did have a slight mix up over whether I was supposed to start taking it before having any blood tests (let alone anything else), and - long story short, no actual tests ever and I've always had GPs since then who have just been happy to keep giving me variations on the Pill That Deals With That Shit for the last twelve years. For free, because I freaking love the NHS (also work for them so I'm probably biased.)

Now I've been on a variation of Yasmin (which is Drospirenone/Ethinylestradiol) for the last five years, and there's allegedly a whole 'drospirenone is chemically similar to spironolactone' thing going on (spirolactone is also a diuretic as well as an antiandrogen and hormone therapy. It's always kept my weight scarily stable in the past so long as I kept taking it). And you can read terrible things about Yasmin too, but it works for me. I know when I try to not take it for any length of time that I still feel shitty (and put on weight and have some horrific levels of mood disturbance) so you have to take that into account, because, hormones fuck you up.

But I haven't had to worry about being debilitatingly ill or bleeding out for the last twelve years, and it's bloody amazing. And I want to recommend it everytime I hear someone complain that they're in incredible pain with cramps and heavy periods but it's just.. different for everyone. But potentially very simple to fix if it is just hormones out of whack that can be addressed with the right combination of hormone therapy (which is essentially what the Pill is/are). And there are so many options that people try one and find it doesn't work for them, or can't get through the initial time before it stabilises (when you tend to feel even more freaking awful before you feel better) and give up, and sometimes it's just a case of keep trying?

I will say that in my experience of working in healthcare, someone ordering you a mammogram that young is... just plain wrong. I used to work for a breast cancer surgeon and spent more time explaining to younger patients that they weren't even allowed to have a mammogram until they were around 36, no matter how much they wanted to (because breast tissue is too dense until then and it's mostly pointless. Ultrasounds all the way). And now I work for Haematologists and see so many girls with anaemia because they have such heavy periods not getting sorted out by Gynae and it's just... depressing, really. I don't understand how you can work in Gynae and actively make people more uncomfortable when they're at their most vulnerable?

Anyhoo. I really really hope this works for you. It's not without downsides (which you can read all about very easily) but the benefits can so far outweigh them for a lot of people.

Ayyyy, I think I've heard of Yasmin. I hope Spiro and Sprintec work for me, but it wouldn't be the first time I've had to experiment (doctor supervised) with medications and deal with side effects, so I guess I'm game. Little bit of back pain today with the Spiro, I think. Not starting The Pill for about a week to schedule it around the convention, so not sure how I'll do on that yet.

I will say that in my experience of working in healthcare, someone ordering you a mammogram that young is... just plain wrong. I used to work for a breast cancer surgeon and spent more time explaining to younger patients that they weren't even allowed to have a mammogram until they were around 36, no matter how much they wanted to

I swear to God, I know I had one and I THINK I had two, because I remember thinking, "Yeah, this is just as painful as the first one." Because they pressed REALLY hard. The one I had yesterday was NOTHING like it. Again, another argument for shadiness.

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You are awesome and that last paragraph is very YES. Thank you for sharing this.

Hooray for visibility and normalization!

(Also, yeah, this whole "biology" thing kinda sucks sometimes.)

I have had similar multi-year procrastination going on with both gynecologists and dentists, also due to a combination of painful experiences and asshole/insensitive medical people. So, all the sympathy!

omg, I didn't see my dentist for like FIVE YEARS until I suddenly became convinced ALL MY TEETH WERE FALLING OUT a few months ago and he was like "what? they look great, stop clenching your jaw." It is a Year of Seeing Doctors, apparently. (In other words, thank you! I totally get it.)

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Whole lotta people about to learn about my ovaries, I guess. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Man, I want to punch Trauma-Inducing Doctor right in the face.

You are all the awesome, not just for going in and getting it done, but for posting this. Thank you.

I honestly still feel guilty about that? Like I'm not entirely sure I believe my own experiences. I mean... who DOES that? Which may be why I finally wanted to talk about it, I guess.

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Wow, not only should you NOT feel guilty that you didn't go in for 15 years, I kinda think you ought to be applauded for having the courage to go back AT ALL. Wow.

Also, I hope that original doctor is no longer practicing and ruining people's lives with her utter awfulness. (Maybe she was having a bad day, but no bad day excuses shaming you in such a vulnerable way.) In fact, let's pretend that actually, the reason people at the clinic kept having funny reactions to her name is because she was fired and lost her license for being generally horrible, but they can't tell you because... legal reasons.

The good thing is, I have long felt that we underestimate the degree to which Everything is connected when it comes to health, so it's cool and interesting that your psych and gyno are seeing you as a complex interlocking system. I hope they get it figured out and you get a little bit of energy back. (For you! Not for us, but for whatever would make you happy to do.)

Well, like I said, I'm going to Dragon Con again this year (for another Hannibal panel, and I am once again the bearer of precious giveaway loot), and I was like, I cannot be traipsing around downtown Atlanta like this, I can't. Or doped up on naproxen. I've had periods where I couldn't leave the *bathroom* for an hour, much less walk around. That is ENTIRELY the reason I broke down and made an appointment.

In fact, let's pretend that actually, the reason people at the clinic kept having funny reactions to her name is because she was fired and lost her license for being generally horrible, but they can't tell you because... legal reasons.

I even said that to someone yesterday--it was like they were surprised to see a patient who had survived the Before Times.

it's cool and interesting that your psych and gyno are seeing you as a complex interlocking system

It was so great when she was like, "Oh, exactly, I know exactly what [psychiatrist] is talking about." Oh, thank God, you know how to actually TREAT THIS, then.

Were it not for the fact that I am in Boston and you are Not, I might think we had the same ridiculously fuckheaded and dismissive gynecologist in our early 20s, because wow does that sound familiar. Unfortunately, I just think there are similar strands of burnout and unpleasant people all 'round the country, and I'm irritated/mildly outraged on young-you's behalf.

(I had to have the external ultrasound, too, checking for the standard ovarian cysts (which I don't have), and it was fairly unpleasant because it is HARD to keep that amount of water in, and I eventually didn't, in an unfortunate sort of way.)

I've nonetheless got PCOS, too, though mine manifested for most of my life as a) weight, b) a lot of hair in non-standard places, and c) a lack of period (now, in my 40s, I'm getting a fairly regular period, which is startling). I got put on Spiranolactone for the hair, but didn't keep up with it.

Since a lot of the time with the constellation of PCOS issues it is, if not causing the persistent weight (via insulin resistance), at least interacting with it in interesting ways, so the doctor-types may well suggest Metformin (or similar alternatives). Which I mention because you undoubtedly know, but other folks might not.

Anyway. That kind of doctor-stuff is difficult, and I'm glad that, even if it was pretty awful, that there were at least sympathetic people trying to help.

Edited at 2015-08-13 06:39 pm (UTC)

I've mentioned PCOS vaguely before, and a TON of commenters around here seem to have it as well. (Which means that they also understand when I vague on about "health issues.") Non-standard hair is also a thing with me, yeah--it's weird, this whole calendar year, I've barely had any periods at all, but all kinds of random cramps and bloating like my body's TRYING but can't quite make it happen. Whereas last year was just one long Cronenbergian hellscape.

And yeah, can confirm, she mentioned insulin resistance.

Thank you for sharing this. I too have struggled with going to the gynecologist--I tried it in college as part of an effort to clean up my life, and finally went back a few years ago. I've been white-knuckling my exams, even though my gynecologist is a very nice lady. It's just really, really hard physically and emotionally. I think I've spoken of it with two people in my life, because I felt so awful about being irrational.

Also, as someone who gets blood drawn regularly--I just shove my hand out at them and tell them to take it off the back of the hand. It stings a bit more, but they usually can get the vein there and there's no duck-duck-goose efforts at finding the vein in your arm.

It's really difficult to explain why it's so tough, because intellectually it seems like it shouldn't be--it's just a body part, it's just a medical professional, the doctor may be very nice, you may really want the procedure done, it's not actually sexual, let's all be adults here. And... yet. I was able to power through the blood withdrawal even when it was painful badly done, because I just MADE myself, and it never even occurred to me to feel bad *about myself* afterwards. This kind of thing just... isn't the same. And it's okay for it to not be the same, I guess.

Oh, hon, that's so awful that you got a doctor like that. Doctors like that should be shoved off the medical rolls. That just -- what a horrible woman.

I had the period problems myself and it wasn't until three years ago now that they actually got solved. But it is terrible. And embarrassing, and I am SO GLAD you did something about it because it took me 20 years to do the same thing you just did and I am thrilled that it didn't take you another 20 years. No one should have to go through that, but how the hell can you KNOW that?

Good for you, that you could do it. Now things can be taken care of,

If you feel up to talking about it, or you need to to talk to someone with the same kinds of problems, you can talk to me.

Many virtual hugs.

Aw, thanks. It seems like such a small thing in the scheme of things, but--I was already afraid of doctors generally due to (normal) childhood horrors, and then that happened, and it just seriously felt like... why even bother going, if they were just going to snark on me and then be like "well I know what treatment to prescribe for this, I'm just not gonna, come back when you've fixed this other condition." Why go to a GP who would probably just be like, "Eh, you have high blood pressure, don't come back until you've lost 50 pounds?" It just took over my entire way of thinking.

<3 <3 <3
Thank you for sharing this. I've had similarly awful experiences with doctors, and it took ten years until one of them diagnosed me with PCOS instead of just shrugging and brushing away all of my very obvious symptoms.
Horrible doctors are the worst on so many levels and I wish there was a better way of dealing with them, especially when you're in such a vulnerable place.

Well, and if it hadn't happened when I was only 20ish, I probably could have recovered from it. I have a great relationship with my psych; she's always been open to what I did or did not want to do with the medications she suggested. "I'm not doing well on this dose, it's too much, let's go down," that kind of thing. And I've been seeing her since I was 19; I would probably approach a current doctor with more of the mindset I've been able to develop with her--ask questions, raise concerns, and know she'll care what I have to say.

This post has meant more than any recap has or ever will. All the hugs and support for your honesty and I'm so happy to see your confidence. Hope it inspires others. <3

Oh, Cleo, I'm so sorry this was so awful for you! And that you had a terrible doctor (seriously go fuck them). As someone who also puts off doctor's appointments forever, this was a good reminder to actually maybe take care of my health once in a while. I really hope that things get better for you. <3

Most people I know put things off, tbh. Except my mom. And even her sometimes. (Thanks. :)

I may have started reading your LJ for the M15M and other hilarity, but I definitely stuck around for teh Truth Times regarding mental and physical health. So thank you for keeping that level of honesty I expect of the Cleo brand (slight snark, but in love!)

I've had both good and no-so-good OBGYN experiences - in my case, there was definitely a direct correlation between my reproductive health and overall health (long story: went off birth control for another diagnosis, and nearly died 2 weeks later due to the less than excellent health care. Moral of that story: COBRA health coverage is so expensive it makes you do stupid things for financial reasons). I definitely saw improvement with my current (and leaving, bah) OBGYN, but hearing your story gives me strength to assert myself in future visits, because as women we often get judged by our body parts, rather than the whole (and doesn't that just suck).

I say this a few comments up, but my relationship with my psychiatrist has really helped in ways I hadn't quite realized--she treats me like an equal in my own treatment, and if I'm having problems with a dose, she actually listens to me; I can come in and say, I want to go down with this one, or, can we raise this one a little again? And sometimes she'll have an alternate suggestion, but it's more with the understanding that she's the one who knows the chemistry, but my concerns are to be addressed seriously. So what I've ended up doing with other doctors is going in and saying, here's my concerns (I have jaw pain, PCOS symptoms, whatever), here are areas I'm worried about (do I have high blood pressure?), any other information (I had a bad experience and tbh I'm really anxious about this), and you end up presenting yourself as someone who's in charge of their own health. I mean, I didn't realize I was doing that until I thought about it just now. But I go in almost like it's a (friendly) business meeting, and I'm here to be informed, and I have a right to that. I mean, I didn't say any of that out loud, but I have an assertive mindset to fall back on now if things take a turn for the unhelpful. And that's what happened--I did actually say, "Here are all these symptoms, and here is the bad experience that caused me to let them go untreated, and I can't live like this anymore, what can we do?" I have an objective, and it's my health.

And we're still going to run into shitty doctors, but I think going in with that kind of proactive mindset could make it easier to perceive when they are, in fact, going out of their way to be unhelpful. It made it easy for me to tell that this was a good doctor who cared about my concerns, at least.

My first pelvic was when I was 20 and had been bleeding for SIX MONTHS STRAIGHT. The doctor came in and yelled at me for being "disgusting" and said it was "all my fault" that I was bleeding because I was fat, and then yelled at me during the pelvic for bleeding on his table.

...you can guess how much I wanted to go back and do THAT again.

And then five years later, I thought, "You know, I really need to take care of my health, and I am living in an entirely different state now, so hopefully that doctor hasn't moved here," and I found a nice woman nurse practitioner at the university clinic where I was in grad school and she was so nice and so kind and confirmed I didn't have PCOS (about which I can only say the transvaginal ultrasound is not really the best time a girl can have). And it got easier after that. I still always take myself out for a nice lunch afterwards.

But I still had a panic attack when switching general practictioners this week because I was afraid the new one was going to come in and start yelling at me. And when he came in and was perfectly nice and started reviewing my medical history, I almost cried.

Thank you for sharing, is what I'm trying to say. You're not alone.

omfg

OMFG

WHAT WAS THAT

OMG FUCK THAT GUY

I'm not terribly eager to go back and see the Snarky Family GP--I went to the nearby MedHelp clinic the last couple of times instead--but I think I would feel more comfortable now that I'm getting treated for... most of the things he would snark on, actually. I haven't seen him in probably ten years now. Do they have "bedside manner" classes in med school? Can I do a guest lecture? Because part of the point of this post, if any medical professionals see it, is that THIS SHIT HAS LONGTERM CONSEQUENCES.

Oh wow, I can't even imagine how hard it must have been. What the hell happened with that doctor, though. From what you said, it must have been something major if everyone in the office STILL remembers it. I wonder how many people realize just how affecting a doctor who is dismissive and sarcastic can be.

But, we share a prescription! Which is a very odd thing to say, when you think about it. I take spironolactone for it's primary purpose, as a diuretic that doesn't affect my potassium levels (unlike my OTHER diuretic, which requires me to take a ridiculously huge potassium pill) for treating heart failure; I'm a congestive heart failure survivor. I'm sure your doctor mentioned it, but you'll probably need to increase the amount of water you drink, and maybe cut back on any caffeine, since it'll be easier to become dehydrated on this medication.

I hope this new doctor will be able ease the trauma from 'THAT Doctor' eventually, and you'll be able to visit them without the anxiety.


Side note: My doctor's office has a sorceress nurse that gets the blood samples. First time she drew blood from me, I didn't even notice when she stuck the needle in. One moment we're chatting about Doctor Who, the next I'm noticing she's putting the second vial of blood in the rack, and filling the third (and final) one. I blinked, then told her she was THE BEST at that I've ever seen. And it wasn't a fluke, I've had my drawn twice more since then by her, and every time I don't even notice the pinch/prick of the needle at all.

EDIT: About the ultrasound gel, when I had an ultrasound for stomach issues (long story), the tech mentioned that they keep the gel tube in hot water deliberately to avoid that chill.

Edited at 2015-08-13 06:57 pm (UTC)

Oh, wow, I hope you're doing better now?

I'm not sure that she mentioned the dehydration issue, so thanks for that--one of the reasons I mention medications I start taking is that people always pop up with helpful testimonials about side effects, which I like. (And vice versa, that's why I talk about what they're like for me.) Fortunately (?), I'm already really sensitive to caffeine due to all the antidepressants, so I only indulge occasionally. Decaf iced tea, even.

This doctor was a good combination of gentle and brisk, which was good. I will probably still have difficulty with the next exam, but I feel like she'll be more willing to work with/around that.

You are awesome.

I'm also 36. And needles freak me out. I'm better about it now, but I am right there with you.

HUGS

You are so brave. You did so well.

?

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