This is one of those times where I really have no fucking clue how to begin. So I'll start there. Because it's honest. And because I'm still trying to buy the time to figure out a way to explain the last 15 years in something that doesn't rival The Canterbury Tales in length and words that needs a dictionary for translation into modern English.
Anyone who has been reading my blog and/or Girl Body Pride regularly will know I have openly spoken about ADHD, eating disorders, body image issues, food allergies, and a host of other ailments that leave people wondering how one individual can be this fucked up. If you follow me on instagram or pinterest, you'll have seen my on again/off again allergy rash pictures that turned my face and neck into a burning pink chin beard no amount of make up is ever going to hide.
Eliana, now six, came to us with the help of fertility treatments and I still consider her a miracle baby with all of the issues that, individually, could have kept me from ever giving birth. The pregnancy itself was a nightmare. I was on bed rest at five months, suffered from debilitating and full-term hyperemis gravidarum (which is akin to being forced to survive your worst college hangover on a tilt-o-whirl for nine straight months), and was induced early due to pre-eclampsia. My blood pressure was 200/100 when I was just a hair shy of the 37 weeks at which a pregnancy is considered full term. My midwife didn't pull any punches when she told me the baby and I could die if I had done anything other than nod my head stupidly and get to the hospital.
It's important to note the linear here, because all the Before and Since I Was Pregnant issues -- every single one -- can be linked back to progesterone deficiency individually, which is significant. Even more so is the fact that my list of combined symptoms is nearly identical to those Google searches were kicking back while The Husband and I did our research. It's what we do when mainstream medicine waves me off with a dismissive hand and orders to eat less and exercise more because my fat ass obviously isn't trying hard enough. Not that he needs another reason to rub in the fact that he was right (again), The Husband single-highhandedly proved a case for the testing that resulted in my insulin resistance, hypothyroid, and PCOS diagnoses. Every instance had a contrite doctor apologizing profusely for being an overconfident asshole who hadn't bothered treating the patient because the symptoms and the charts are what they know.
You'd think me telling them something was being missed because I still felt "off" would account for something, but y0u'd be wrong. It's not like I know my body or anything.
I'm 35 now. I was 12 when I started my period and missed a few days of school each month because it was just that bad. Heavy. Horrible. Cramps that kept me in bed because standing up meant throwing up. I gained 50 pounds in six months when I was 21, going from a healthy and athletic size 10 and 150 pounds to Hello, Lane Bryant and trying to pretend I didn't weigh more than my 6'1'' husband. That's the same year I had a nine-month long period and found out I was hypothyroid (after insisting on a test because the doctors didn't think I needed it, of course). Since then, I've added insomnia, night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings, and a miles-long list of food allergens including wheat, gluten, grains, soy, all dairy and egg products and byproducts to the list of reasons I pray Eliana inherited her daddy's superhero penchant for health.
I have leaked breast milk from my left breast since I was a high school teenager and eventually learned the microadenoma -- a small tumor on my pituitary gland -- was producing enough prolactin to make my body think it's continuously pregnant. Can you say Irony Much?
I've dealt with monthly rash flare ups so severe they once covered my entire body and were so painful I couldn't get dressed, high blood pressure tied to my hormonal fluctuations and allergic reactions, and debilitating PMS nausea that is eerily similar to the hyperemisis I experienced while pregnant. Just yesterday I used the phrase "two and one" in a coded conversation with a new doctor to refer to the two unconfirmed miscarriages and one full term pregnancy to my name because Eliana was in the room, listening to our every word. And I've watched, horrified, as I lost clumps of my shoulder-length hair in the shower so thick that the hair itself actually kept the water from draining. And I've said "fuck it", when I had so little left that my only choices were to buy really expensive wigs or just grab the scissors and chop and shape and chop some more until I found the pixie cut.
I needed that. I needed to feel like I had some control left.
Doctors weren't listening to me because I didn't fit in one neat little box. And when they did, they didn't know what to do or what to look for. The fact that all of my symptoms were directly tied to my cycle had one specialist recommend a hysterectomy just six months after I had my daughter. His diagnosis? Autoimmune progesterone dermatitis. Translation? The doctor thought I was allergic to my own progesterone hormone. The diagnosis was given a boost when we tried for another round of fertility treatments and I broke out in hives and promptly lost most of my hair. But no one wants to take the hit for a hysterectomy on a 30-something-year-old woman. Doctors hedged and passed me on from one specialist to the next in the hopes that someone else would just do it, already. But no one ever did. And I finally got tired enough of all of the bullshit to pony up the cash for a naturopath and my salvation.
We were still living Arizona when I met Dr. Nicole and Dr. Justin at Modern Elixir. The Taylors fixed me, you guys. They diagnosed my ADHD, sent me to my nurse practitioner for an epi pen after they diagnosed me with my Worst Dinner Guest Ever list of food allergies missed by every doctor that came before them, and, most importantly, they didn't stop at the symptoms.
They went for the cause.
It was Dr. Nicole who first brought up the fact that she believed I wasn't allergic to my progesterone, but rather, deficient and in need of major supplementation. It took a bit of convincing -- and a lot of research to verify I had reacted to the medical preservative in the progesterone used during the botched fertility treatments and not to the progesterone itself -- but she did it. And it only took a about 2 days of progesterone supplementation to realize it was working.
My rash cleared up. My bloating went away. My never-ending appetite finally ended. My crazy food sensitivities lessened just enough to make me feel normal. It was amazing.
I'm still working on getting myself on track. There's so much to figure out and so much to come to terms with.
What I can say now is that I'm thankful for my husband for disregarding what I once took as gospel and looking for answers. I'm grateful to the doctors who listened to me and treated me as an individual. And I find myself staring at my daughter more often now, totally in awe of the fact that she's here and that she's perfect.
I'm also pissed off that all of the signs were ignored for so long because I was too young for the symptoms to "make sense". I'm pissed that I had to go "alternative" because "mainstream" means I'm the fat chick who is to blame for Not Exercising Enough and Please See Us Again in Six Weeks. And I'm pissed that I'm now dealing with fallout of a domino effect 15 years in the making.
But I have my answer. And with it comes validation, peace of mind, a clear direction on how to proceed, and a renewed determination to trust myself and my instincts always. That person in the white coat looking at my chart and making educated guesses is just practicing, after all.
Not So Fine Print: I'm not a medical professional and I don't play one online. This is an account of my personal experience and is not meant as a replacement for medical advice. If you suspect a hormonal imbalance, please contact your physician.