The Good Guys

Everybody needs a therapist. Trust me.

After I got back from Mayo Clinic, I decided I needed to start looking at this from a different angle. No gastro doctors were listening to me, and there was obviously more going on than just a stomach problem. I started paying attention to other symptoms and racking my brain for other types of doctors that may could help figure out what was going on. While at Mayo, we asked to see an Endocrynologist and were told no (shoutout to you, Dr. Number 15, you keep doing you girl). I started looking at what was happening from a hormone standpoint. There was some weird stuff going on that most definitely could have been hormone related. So, I went to see my Gynecologist and got a referral to an Endocrinologist. Of course, everything came back normal. We were all bummed.

I continued to see my therapist, Drew, after I returned from Mayo. Over the past year, with my full permission, he has consulted his wife (who is a drug rep) on several occasions. It’s safe to say she knows my case and I feel like I know her, even though I don’t. I had been to see Drew on a Monday night, discouraged because I was about to go through this invasive Physical Therapy for no reason, and I still felt like crap. The following Tuesday night, my neighborhood had an Homeowners Association meeting. I was in the Catholic Church and got a call from Drew. Sometimes we do communicate outside of our sessions, but a Tuesday was odd. So, I stepped outside and took the call. Our conversation went like this:

Hey, it’s Drew.

Hey, what’s up?

I think we found you a doctor. I really want you to make an appointment with him. My wife met him last night at a conference and told him about you. He said you should go see him. He specializes in Pelvic Floor and is super smart. I know this sounds odd, but I think it’s a God thing. Please make an appointment, he is expecting your call.

The conversation went on, and I did not call and make an appointment for a few weeks. I did not have Pelvic Floor, so why would I need to go see him? Every time I saw Drew, he would ask if I had made an appointment with Dr. Baten, and I would say no. Drew would say, “I’m proud of you for sticking to what you believe in (the Endocrine route at the time), but I find it ironic that the one thing I ask you do to, you’re not doing it.” It was true. I was being very hard headed about scheduling an appointment. I had JUST seen my Gynecologist about another issue and knew I should not just schedule another appointment with a new doctor in the same field the same week. At one point, I had been told I needed to stick to one doctor. After all, I had seen 20 at this point. Matthew was with me for one of the sessions and he pushed me to call the next day. Matt loves Drew aka “The Head Doctor,” and what Drew says, goes.

I got an appointment scheduled, and ended up getting it pushed up because I was feeling extra terrible. He came in, and did not remember Drew’s wife or her talking about me, but that did not matter. He asked me some questions, and sent me for an ultrasound around the corner. The ultrasound tech did not want to ultrasound where I asked, but after my persistence (always), she did. She kept telling me to drink Miralax, over and over. It was all I could do to not come unglued. This is not just a stomach issue, people! She told me she found my gallbladder, and I ensured her that in fact was NOT my gallbladder, because I had had that removed in September. I was really ready to wipe that gel off and leave.

Dr. Baten came back in and said the Ultrasound looked good, and that the only thing he could really offer me is a Robotic Assisted Laparoscope to check for Endometriosis. Apart from GI symptoms, I did have more symptoms that fit the diagnosis of Endometriosis, but he said the only way he could diagnosis that was if he went in with his naked eye. He encouraged me to go home and research the procedure (which was no big deal to me at this point) and Endometriosis. He told me that many people thrown into the IBS category have Endometriosis but are not diagnosed because they do not have the procedure to find it. Apparently this could grow anywhere, as in other places besides the uterus, like the bowel too. He also referred me to a doctor that implants gastric stimulators, being as I had been diagnosed with Gastroparesis at one time. I was quick to tell him, I had been diagnosed once, then told I did not have it at all. I definitely was not going to get something put in my body unless we knew 100% that that was the problem. The nurse called to set up the appointment, and I passed on that one. That seemed a little bit steep to me.

So I went home, researched it and had a good week the following week. I started thinking whether or not I really wanted to put myself through another Laparoscope. Sure, it really wasn’t a big deal, but I had gone to MAYO CLINIC. Was this Laparoscope really going to be worth it? I would really love to not be stressed out about vacation days at work, and I finally felt like I found my place there, got into a routine, and did not want to go through this. A few days into the good week, though, I started getting worse (typical), so I decided to proceed with the procedure. I did call and ask for a referral to a new GI doc, because stuff was happening that I knew wasn’t normal and I needed to be seen for. I was told to, “go to the ER,” instead, but I knew I would have been sent home. I was seen three days before the procedure by a nice fellow. He assured me I had IBS and talked to me about my options for treatment, living my best life, etc. He said the best option to deal with IBS was Amitriptyline, which is an anti-depressant. Yay, just what I needed, more drugs. He said he would proceed with the Laparoscope, if not for anything but mental clarity when nothing is found. That made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. As my aunt said, “we all need some mental clarity.”

So here I am, trying to keep this little procedure hush-hush, because I figured nothing would be found just like every other scan and test that had been done over the last year and a half. To lots of people, it probably seems slightly ridiculous to continue looking for a diagnosis that could not be found at Mayo Clinic. I am not mad about people thinking that, because I understand and I would think that from the outside looking in. But the thing is, I really don’t know if I was/am searching for a diagnosis; I was/am searching for a better quality of life the only way I know how. So on comes the panic attack Thursday, and I knew I had to tell my boss what was going on. I told her, she was understanding. I sent Matt fishing for the weekend (shoutout to he and Brandon for bringing home a check – whoop whoop!), got on my knees in prayer, and went in Friday ready to get this thing over with.

My mom and I really like St. Dominics. Even though I was young, I remember my grandmother having really good experiences there and I was excited to be there instead of Mayo (can I get an AMEN) (seriously, AMEN). I was already prepared to ask for someone to come pray over me, but a nun came in before I could even ask. The nurse I had prep me was really professional, but we talked about recipes and I began to wonder what it would be like if I could actually eat all this I was talking about instead of just talk about them.

Dr. Baten came in a little late to talk to me and mom. I had missed him the day before for pre-op because he had an emergency delivery, but I went ahead and left because I was not planning to be gone from work for FOUR hours, even though that is what it turned into. His cell phone rang. I told him to go ahead and take it, and he said it was the hospital calling him. He told the person on the back line, “Well yeah, I’m talking to the patient right now. I’m ready to do this! Let’s rock and roll!” I told him I already had someone come pray over me, I was ready, and begged him to please look at every little detail inside me. He said he would do his best. He left and my mom started to cry. I smiled at her, and she said, “now THAT is a nice man.” Y’all, it has been a REALLY long time coming. There have been some not so nice men come in and out of hospital rooms. He was a total breath of fresh air. They came in and gave me the “happy juice” and had extra for when I woke up because I had already made sure they knew I was probably going to wake up in panic mode yelling, “I swear I’m not crazy! Please don’t take me back to GI Associates! I swear I’m not crazy!” I literally have no shame. I do not care. I will go to my grave proving to people my mental health is not what is causing these problems. I feel like there should be an appropriate hashtag for the way I feel about this.

I’m being rolled back to the operating room, loopy as ever, when another nurse informs me she grew up coming to Palo Alto Plantation in Minter City, and her best friend Caroline Townes Falls, was my neighbor. I’m pretty sure I started yelling because that’s where I grew up. Point of that story is I was glad to have a Delta girl in there with me. I had already told her, also, to look EXTRA hard inside me – ha!

I remember waking up feeling really sore, I mean a different kind of sore than I expected to feel. I knew before I even asked that something had been found, I could feel it inside of me (literally). I did ask, “did they find anything?” I heard rumblings of something about a cyst, something about my colon, and a wall. I remember saying, “he found something. What did he find?” I kept going in and out, and asking each time I woke up. Finally one of the recovery nurses was like, “why don’t you let your mom tell you?” And she said something else about a cyst.

I get back to the room and wake up. I remember asking Mom to repeat over and over what she had kept telling me, “He said your colon was adhered to your abdominal wall in a weird shape. He fixed it.” “He said your tissue was beautiful, he said you were so thin and he could see the blood flow and everything was perfect. Then he saw a part of your colon in the wrong place, on your abdominal wall. He said it was adhered there, but it looked physiological. He put it where it was supposed to be.” I could not process it, so I asked her to text me the message she had been sending to people.

I stayed in the hospital for four more hours because I could not pee (how else am I supposed to make that sound more ladylike?). Oh, the irony. I was moved back into recovery because the floor I was on closed. One of the nurses moved a rocker and mom just sat there until I finally could use the restroom. I remember cussing like a freight train in the recovery area (I was the only one in there) because I was so MAD this had not been caught before now. I mean seriously, what the heck. I remember pulling out pictures I had saved on my phone of Mayo X-Rays being like (below), “Can you see the colon here on the wall (as if I had ANY clue what wall I was talking about LOL)?” “Why the heck did they not catch this when I had my gallbladder out?” Pretty sure I dropped a few unladylike bombs but obviously I felt they were necessary.

So I was finally able to use the restroom, and I was wheeled outside. When I get outside and waited with a nurse for Mom to pull around, I sat there looking out of the hospital with so much clarity. I felt accomplished, I felt wounded and healed all at the same time, I felt wise, and at peace.

I asked the nurse to please take a picture of me, and told her I know it sounded weird, but I thought I needed it. Then I asked Mom to get out of the car and take one with me. As she wrapped her arms around me, I began to cry. We got in the car, she looked at me and said, “when was the last time you cried happy tears?” I thought about it and responded, “I guess when I got engaged.” And then we went home back my house, to see my sweet dog Lucy and evil kitty Rue.

Hopefully, this journey is coming to an end and this will be the last blog post I will need to therapeutically write. Mom nor I could sleep Friday night; we were both too excited. I’m on day three and I still feel much mental clarity, but physically I have not improved. I am beginning to feel the fullness feeling again, and I do feel the bloating seeking in, but it’s in a different place now. When I put my hands on my stomach, it’s not at my rib cage. I ate lots of soup today thanks to my Aunt Nancy; hopefully tomorrow I will begin to see improvement.

This has been an exhausting, expensive, and overwhelming journey. I have learned how to advocate for myself and not put up with those who don’t. I have been taken advantage of. I have stopped believing in the medical field in its’ entirety. I have been let down so many times, judged so hard, and belittled to the point of crying like a toddler in my mother’s arms. But I have also experienced more love and have been coveted in more peoples’ prayers than I ever knew possible. I have fallen in love while being sick, and am planning a wedding while healing (hopefully!). I am ready for this financial burden to cease, mental barrier to subside, emotional roller coaster to halt, and physical pain to dwindle away. I want to come home and cook dinner for my future husband, walk my dog, and be able to perform to the best of my ability on a daily basis.

I wish I could guarantee that the procedure I had done Friday would fix me, but unfortunately only time will tell. I have never been as hopeful as I am now that all these things are about to start happening, all because one man took the time to look not at my past, but at my present problem. God bless you, Dr. Baten, and may you enjoy all the pound cakes my mother bakes for you, now and always. You will always be my favorite #22.

22 Reasons

“Are you pregnant?” I have been asked this twice since I started working last August. The question was surely not meant to cause any harm, but it struck a nerve in this bloated, hurt, and weak girls’ heart. The first time I was asked, I had just had my gallbladder removed a few weeks prior. The second time, was this past Thursday, the day before I was scheduled to have a Laparoscopy. In all honesty, I’m not sure which reason it hurt me so much: (1) because I know my stomach looks abnormally large and there is nothing I can do about it, or (2) because the worse I feel, the more I question whether I will be able to bear or raise a child. Matthew and I are a LONG way away from even thinking about having a child, but in the back of my mind I do question whether it’s even possible considering how terrible I feel on a daily basis. I love kids, and because of that, I know there is no way I could take care of one in this condition.

Thursday was a really bad day. I could not bring myself out of a two and a half hour panic attack, could not accomplish anything at work, and felt like a complete failure in all aspects of my job and in my life. But Friday… Friday was a really good day. In order to explain what happened Friday, I feel it is necessary to lay out how I got there. Buckle up, folks!

Dr. Number One, you are a young Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. I went to you for help in switching an Anxiety medication because I was struggling at work, and you put me on a mood stabilizer. After I asked to be taken off the mood stabilizer (because I wanted to key someone’s car), you increased the dosage. You prescribed Colace when I complained of stomach problems. To this day, I consider myself “allergic” to the mood stabilizer. You royally messed with my head, and my stomach.

Dr. Number Two, you are a young Gastroenterologist. I went to you because I had seven days of food inside of me. You did not examine me, advised me to drink Magnesium Citrate, and you ordered a Colonoscopy. You performed the Colonoscopy, found a few ulcerations, and prescribed Linzess. You sent me home. I called you multiple times to tell you something was still wrong, the Linzess wasn’t working right, but you did nothing. Come to find out, Dr. Two, you did this same thing to three others.

Dr. Number Three, you are a kind Emergency Room doctor. You were kind, and advised me to go home to drink Magnesium Citrate after you did what you could to help. You thought this could be caused by “a medication side effect,” after an X-ray.

Dr. Number Four, you are a Family Practitioner. You asked me, “what I was doing there,” in that I should have gone back to Dr. Number Two. I went to you for a referral to a new Gastroenterologist. You assured me with a friendly, “I mean, it’s not cancer.” You suggested “depression” is causing my problems.

Dr. Number Five, you are a Gastroenterologist. You ran in depth tests (per my persistence) and prescribed many, many medications to which none worked. You diagnosed me with mild Gastroparesis, and was sure the cause of my issues were anxiety related. You watched my mother and I cry, saying there was nothing more to do.

Dr. Number Six, you are a General Surgeon. You removed my gallbladder. After you did that, you enlightened me by sharing the only way one gets bloated is inhalation of air, and my crying allowed for that. You were kind, but that comment made me angry.

Dr. Number Seven, you are another Emergency Room doctor. You did not run any tests, you merely told me “I’m sorry for what you’ve gone through,” and sent me home.

Dr. Number Eight, oh dear Dr. 8, you are not a doctor. You are a holistic Nurse Practitioner who took advantage of me like a lost kitten. You ordered a $5000 test from an out of network lab, you eliminated everything under the sun from my diet, you tricked me into buying expensive pills, and you said “this” was not going to “work” unless I “believed” it would. You never, ever answered the phone and avoided my questions like the plaque. It was like pins and needles getting my records from you. You do not have one actual nurse on your staff.

Dr. Number Nine, you are an Allergist. You played grade school basketball with my Uncle and you are a God-send. You called me after hours, texted encouraging words, ran every allergy test I asked, and were truly a saving grace.

Dr. Number Ten, you are an out of state Gastroenterologist. You are my father’s doctor. I sent you all of my records prior to coming to you, and you graciously read them all. You told me I had moderate Gastroparesis. After prescribing a motility drug to no avail, you kindly referred me to Oschner’s. After Oschner’s did not call, you proceeded to refer to Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Number Eleven, you are an experienced Gastroenterologist with an impressive resume. You are lead of your GI department. I was sent to see you before going to Mayo Clinic. You were on your phone for 20 minutes during my appointment, when you finally looked up you asked me, “Has anyone ever gone over the side effects of your medications?” You referred me to a Psychiatrist and a Uro-Gynecologist. You suggested a medical holiday. You tested my vitamin levels. You did not listen to me. You watched me as a sobbed and cried into my mother’s arms, steadily judging my mental health stability. You were a jerk.

Dr. Number Twelve, you are a Uro-Gynecologist. You assured me I did not have Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and reassured me of side effects of an anti-depressant medication could likely be causing my issues. You had a resident who was my age, and it was a very awkward appointment.

Dr. Number Thirteen, you are my ex-boyfriends cousins’ wife. You are a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. You messaged me on Facebook with suggestions, questions, and encouraging words. You gave me questions to ask and ideas to ponder. You were amazing.

Dr. Number Fourteen, you are a Psychiatrist. I asked my therapist who to see after Dr. 11 told me to go. You are not in Network and are very expensive. You have motherly qualities and assured me I was not crazy. You encouraged me to go to Mayo with an open mind, and to be prepared to stand up for myself and my health. You call me after hours, and want to know how I am doing. You were a God-send and I will pay your out-of-Network fee any day.

Dr. Number Fifteen, oh fifteen. You are a Gastroenterologist specializing in Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and Constipation. I went to you because you are Mayo Clinic – the best of the best. You ordered tests that I hope my worst enemy does not have to complete. You said I did not have Gastroparesis at all. You did not believe anything I said. You did not listen to me. You diagnosed me with Pelvic Floor Dysfunction after I passed your crazy tests. You REFUSED to test for anything else. You would not look inside of me. You said there was no such thing as “gastric enzymes.” You would not refer me to another specialty. But, you did refer me to a Psychiatrist. You compared my body to a traffic jam. You ordered physical therapy and sent me back to Mississippi, heartbroken.

Dr. Number Sixteen, you are a Psychiatrist at Mayo Clinic. You told me I needed to accept what was happening to my body. You assured me the medication I was taking was working, and that there was not an “absorption” problem. You made sure I was attending therapy at home.

Dr. Number Seventeen, you are Matthew’s friends fiancé. You are a dentist. You reached out to me after a conference. Out of everyone I had spoken to, you had my best interests at heart. You made me feel special.

Dr. Number Eighteen, you are my Gynecologist and you are my favorite. You want me to feel better and wish you could do something to help me. I went to you for any other ideas, and you referred me to an Endocrinologist after I asked for the referral.

Dr. Number Nineteen, you are an Endocrinologist. You are so sweet. You ran Thyroid tests, Cortisol tests, inflammation tests, and I think you were just as disappointed as I was when they all came back perfect. You told me there was no point in referring me to a Rheumatologist because they would not see me.

Dr. Number Twenty, you are a Physical Therapist. I went to you because that is what Mayo advised me to do. You told me my “pelvic floor worked beautifully,” and called around to try and find me another doctor. You believed me.

Dr. Number Twenty-One, you are a Gastroenterologist. I went to you Wednesday because I need a GI doctor; after all this, I do not have one. I went in with two Manilla folders full of records. You did not look at any of them. You did not examine me. But, you were so kind. You talked to me like a therapist and told me I have IBS. You explained IBS, and said the best medication for it was Amitriptyline. Amitriptyline is an anti-depressant.

Dr. Number Twenty-Two, you are a Uro-Gynecologist. You were referred to me by my life coach/counselor/therapist via his wife. You found something wrong with me. You were my Friday. You believed me. You told the nurse, “I’m ready to rock and roll! Let’s do this!” My next blog post will be all about YOU!

Part 3/3: Leaving Mayo

Friday: the day we meet back with the assigned physician to hear results. Not before an endoscopy, of course! Before I go under anesthesia, I tell the doctor doing the procedure, “please, please go as far as you can. I tried to prep as well as I could but I know there is still food in my stomach.” She said she would, and reminded me that the intestines are 25 feet long, and she can only go a short amount down. When she said 25 feet, I thought, “would it be possible for there to be a “kink” in part of that 25 feet? A possible damaged vessel? Something?” Also said she was going to take biopsies in the small bowel and stomach, which I already knew. We will not know those results for another week or so. When I was getting ready, the nurse felt my stomach for pain, and said, “Oh my, you are bloated aren’t you.” Yes, mam, yes I am.

I came out of anesthesia telling the post-op nurse, “I promise I’m not crazy!” I do not remember that, but of course I asked the nurse what I said. Her response does not surprise me at all. I’m just telling them like it is. The performing doctor comes out and asks if she can talk to my mom, I said yes. Mom comes in to post-op, says everything looked normal, and my stomach was empty. I was still high on the meds but thinking “WHAT!?” I 100% knew 2.5 days of food was still in there. Even the three preps failed yesterday. So it’s still inside me along with however much more food from previous days. I suppose somewhere within those 25 feet of intestines!

We go to Davis 6 again and prepare to see Dr. Vazquez. I am still a little out of it and had to be wheeled up there (procedure started at 9:30 and my appointment with Vazquez was at 11:30). We get in the room and I’m just doing all I can to keep calm. What is about to happen: (a) I’ll be sent home with nothing or (b) I’ll stay and find something.

She walks in there, sits down, and says the CT did not show anything abnormal other than what the previous CT in Jackson had shown (a calcified lymph-node and other minuscule stuff). Next she says there are some muscles in my pelvis that are not working. I chimed in quickly, “those tests, I know I passed those tests!” She said yes, but there are still muscles that aren’t working. Something about how they did not respond to something or another. I don’t remember, I was kind of in shock to be honest. So she diagnoses me with PFD and recommends Physical Therapy. I am, at this point, crying telling her even if this is all caused by PFD, that does not explain why NONE of the medication is working as well as it once did OR if I do finally get some relief, I am still bloated like a pregnant woman. She asked what the Psychiatrist said about that, because she did not have that report yet. I was about to lose it. I told her the Psyche told me that’s not what I was up there for and she said, “well that’s what I put in my notes.” Mom told her, “that is not a Psychiatrists speciality,” and I reminded her Dr. Younger had requested I ask her (the GI) about the metabolizing, because she is a PSYCHIATRIST and does not know if stomach acids/enzymes could effect medication. Dr. Vazquez again said she did not know. Mom asked, “okay well whose speciality is it? What about an endocrinologist?” Dr. Vazquez said she did not see any point in me seeing one of those.

So for a while we go back and forth with the doctor about things that were not addressed, such as the fatigue. She said, “well who is your general MD? Didn’t you explore hormones or vitamin levels?” Yes‘m, did that. I told her this was my last option, I was not a doctor, and we were there for her expertise and I did not want to go home without an answer as to how I am supposed to go about daily life feeling like this. She said, “I’m really not sure what answer will put your mind at ease.” I responded to her something like, “when my body is at ease,” or something along those lines. My mom asked about possible strictures or blockages, and if I could swallow the “pill camera.” Dr. Vazquez said that wouldn’t help either.

I asked about a Hydrogen-breath test, because a family friend of ours was diagnosed with SIBO (via the breath test) along with PFD. Our friend said SIBO is what made her bloating so unbearable. Dr. Vazquez said she rarely orders those tests because there are so many false-positives. So no, she would not order that, but she would call in a prescription for an antibiotic in case there was some type of infection. She did send me for one more x-ray before we left which involved putting contrast in my entire pelvis all the way up to my stomach and through intestines, etc. I was being turned over, to the side, and back during the pictures. The x-ray showed no blockages or strictures, but did show “an excessive amount of stool for someone my age” before and after the contrast was inserted. So basically the contrast did not “work it’s magic” in regards to getting me any relief. “An excessive amount of stool for someone my age…” he said, I know this already. I know this every single day. And I can’t do anything about it with medication, diet changes, more water, more fiber, less fiber, more Miralax, exercising, praying, things that are specifically made to help with this do not work, I cannot do anything. That’s why I am where I am, here, at Mayo Clinic, where people get diagnosed with weird stuff and physicians think out of the box. Autoimmune was never explored, at all.

So now we are here. Headed back from Mayo Clinic with a diagnosis of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, a prescription for Doxycycline, advisement to take 30mL of Milk of Magnesia (I’m throwing up just thinking about it), and a written order for Physical Therapy. Do we think this is my only problem? No. Could this be part of the problem? Definitely. Am I going to do the recommended PT? Absolutely. Am I irritated the only thing that was explored while at Mayo was Pelvic Floor? Yes. Is there anything I can do about it? No.

I’m coming home with a diagnosis, and whether or not it makes any sense to me does not matter. A lot of things that have happened in my life (and everyone’s life) doesn’t make sense. Why did this all start happening to me after I tried to switch an anxiety/depression medication (simply because I felt I had plateaued), which is the same time I met Matthew. Drew pointed out a valid point, though. I was at my very best when this occurred, and if sh** was going to hit the fan, it probably needed to hit at that time, not when I was deep in a hole. The deeper someone gets in a hole, the harder it is to get out. Instead, it happened when I had the biggest support system and greatest friendships. I’m not crazy, I’m aware of the possibility of that happening, though. I sincerely hope this diagnosis puts my body at ease, and that the physical therapy gives me great results. Because one thing I can promise that I know about myself, if something doesn’t help, those who call me “crazy,” may just be saying, “I told you so.”

Part 2/3: Time at Mayo

“We will go to all extremes to figure out what’s going on,” said Mom. “I will go to all extremes to make sure they know I am not making this up in my mind,” said me.

We exited Davis building at 5:05pm after the appointment with a new and updated itinerary, confused and almost flabbergasted. We woke up early Wednesday morning and shuttled back to Mayo to begin the testing. First I had the typical labs, which all came back normal. I told them prior to testing my blood levels are normal and I’m not pregnant – but what’s one more prick and urine test. That “ain’t” NOTHING compared to the rest of the tests – oh my word. Second, I had an EKG – my heart is fine – as a precaution prior to putting me under anesthesia. Apparently that is a standard thing to do, but I’ve been put under plenty of times and have never had that done, to my knowledge. Third, I had a CT of my abdomen/pelvis. This was done with contrast, meaning I had an IV with one type of contrast and had to drink three “Breeza” bottles (a different type of iodinated contrast) and hadn’t had anything to eat all day, but knew I wasn’t “empty” because I never am. Mom was happy it was with contrast because that might show if some organs aren’t working properly. It tasted like a flat sprite, much better than Mag Citrate. But, by the end of 2.5 bottles I was feeling like I was going to throw up.

In the waiting room, I noticed to the left of us was a really dirty person who kept trying to talk to us about how “we must be related because we both have on boots,” and to the right and up were two men and a service dog, mostly yellow lab. The men, particularly one, looked like they were not from here – perhaps from Arkansas or somewhere hunting was a thing because one man (the patient) had on a camo hat or something, and jeans with boots. We found out later the patient’s name was Phil and the dog’s name was Kaden. Whenever Phil gets out of Kaden’s site, Kaden cries. It was the most pitiful cry I have ever heard and it absolutely broke my heart. I have not always been a dog person, but since I have become a dog mom, I have softened in that way. I will actually pet a dog that’s not mine, and that’s saying A LOT. Kaden continues to cry, and I think of Lucy, so then in turn I start tearing up. I’m like, “Elizabeth, you should not be crying because you miss your dog. STOP IT RIGHT NOW!”

The second man was on the floor with Kaden trying to comfort him and he just wasn’t having it. People who don’t like dogs are obviously getting annoyed, and that annoys me that they are getting annoyed. He’s a service dog people, come on. At that point I get up and go try to comfort the dog. I’m petting the dog, talking to it like I do Lucy when Matthew leaves for a fishing weekend, telling the dog, “It’s okay… daddy will be back soon. Shh, Shh it’s okay,” etc. in a soft voice. I ask the man who is not the patient what the dog’s name is and he says Kaden. He continues to cry and it was so sad. I was holding back tears, so I get up and go call my boss and tell her I definitely won’t be back at work tomorrow or Friday. I had only “taken off” Tuesday and Wednesday but she understood I may need to use more days.

I come back to the waiting area and the poor little fella is still crying for his companion. So I sit back down with him and continue to comfort him. Phil finally comes back out and the dog is sooooo happy. It reminded me of a Lucy-Matthew reunion. So now, I’m just crying happy tears and I think mom is too. The patient, Phil, comes over and introduces himself to me. He is a single minister from Alabama, has lots of dogs, and this one is his emotional support dog. He has been sick for 4 months; his good friend and Kaden brought him to Mayo. His stomach was firey red and he had lost a significant amount of weight. So of course when he starts talking dogs, I have to show him pictures of my Lucy! We chat for a second about how much we love them and they love us, and he asks me to add him on Facebook so we can share pictures of our dogs. At first I thought that was pretty odd, but then this happened: he thanks me for helping Kaden and grabs my hand and says it was nice to meet me. Before he lets go of my hand, he starts praying over me. I was completely taken back by what was happening. I knew everyone in the waiting room was looking at us, I knew Kaden wanted Phil to hurry up and come back to him, I knew my mom was probably crying her eyes out (she was) and I was just in awe that this was happening. We, mostly mom because I was in shock, thank him so much, and he leaves, reminding me to add him of Facebook. Mom and I just sit there and people are looking at us, some smiling, some not. Mom’s crying. I’m just wondering if I should add this man on FB! I do. I looked through his profile, and start to notice he is really sick. He used to be a body builder and you could tell his health had rapidly declined. He messaged me on FB and asked to share the photos Mom had taken of me comforting the Kaden. I shared and also thanked him for the prayer, and said we were praying for him as well. He also asked for a picture of me with Kaden, it is below:

Okay, back to reality… back to these tests! I did the CT, no big deal. We go back to the hotel and eat dinner. Thursday morning, the first test that morning was something to test the muscles in my pelvis. I had to prep for it. This prep failed, twice. That’s all I will say about that – but I thought I passed the actual test with flying colors regardless of the prepping for the test. Second thing that morning was the Psyche appointment. I was pretty angry I was having to go through this again, but proving my sanity is high on my priority list and I knew it wouldn’t be a problem. So mom and I just wander around Mayo from building to building until it’s time, and I go into the appointment ready to address the issue of “medication not metabolizing” because that is what I was told I was being sent here for. We didn’t really understand why I was being sent to a psychiatrist for that, but, again, proving sanity, following path… Well, Dr. Psyche-man tells me, “that is not what she sent you here for,” and I had to give my entire background (again… I had just done this last week with Dr. Younger) starting from birth, to moving to Arkansas, break ups, phases, getting engaged, stomach issues, etc. No problem – I’ll talk about myself, but THAT is NOT what I am here FOR. Right? My takeaway from Dr. Psyche is:

A) The medication not “metabolizing” in my stomach is not a thing.

B) If “even he” were to be taking liquid forms of medication and crushing pills, he would also see more effectiveness.

C) I do not have OCD (per Dr. Younger also).

D) I need to learn to live to the best of my ability because all the tests thus far have said nothing is wrong.

After I heard all these things there was no way I was going to walk away without Mom hearing them too. So I’m like, “can you go get my mother?” So she comes in and he says the same stuff. We just kind of walk out and start laughing. Why did I just go in there? In regards to the 4th thing I listed, I know this – that’s why I’m here at Mayo Clinic, for them to run more tests and figure this sh** out, man.

We leave the Clinic and I have to be back in about 4 hours for an MRI on my pelvis. Before we leave, we go back to Davis 6 and ask if I could have the MRI extended to my abdomen as well since the preps failed this morning and we know the food is still somewhere in there, in my abdomen that is. I was sent a message via the portal, Dr. Vazquez said no since I had just had a CT of my abdomen. That’s fine, we just thought it was worth a try. At 3:30 I shuttle back to the Clinic and leave mom at the hotel; at this point I pretty much know my way around and even though this wasn’t going to take long (so I thought) there was no reason for her to come with me. So I get there for the MRI and I’m an hour early; I can’t even check in. I had previously done another prep for this test, but it also failed, go figure. I wait in the waiting room and see another service dog, except this time it’s a poodle, and there is no cool inspirational story about him/her. I finally get called back and find out this is actually not just a normal MRI of my pelvis. This something to do with PFD and testing the muscles. This is not what I expected. This is nuts and horrible. And, where is my mother? Probably hysterically laughing in the hotel with her friends at what I’m about to do after texting her. At this point in the trip, we are both laughing to keep from crying. I’m laughing at the MRI tech telling me what to do. She’s laughing back, I have just surpassed all modesty and conservativeness that has been instilled in me since birth. So the MRI lasts like 45 minutes, and the tech puts on Pandora, I said just Contemporary Christian is fine. I was thinking I need some Word to get through this; I couldn’t even hear the Word because the machine was so loud. I finish up and shuttle back, walk into the hotel, hot (angry hot). Mom’s like, “I sent this to Susan and Kim and ya-da ya-da ya-da everyone is laughing so hard!” Again, laughing to keep from crying.

We go eat dinner and talk all night about how this can NOT be Pelvic Floor related. It just can’t – I passed all these tests. The food is not even TO my pelvis – it can’t be. I literally feel it all the time in my stomach (area). It does NOT move, and just keeps getting heavier and heavier and heavier day by day by day. We wonder what Dr. Vazquez is going to say tomorrow after reviewing all the tests, wondering if she will send me home with no answers or keep me and refer me to someone else. Obviously, I want to stay and figure out what the heck is going on because I would like to have a better quality of life, but I also want to go back home because I miss Matt & Lucy terribly (an embarrassing amount), and also I need a vacation day left to take engagement photos. I am SO excited about those and want something exciting in my life after this trip. We are wondering what we are going to do if we are sent home. I mean, we are at the BEST of the BEST. There is nowhere else to go, there is no one else to see. There are no more probiotics I can take, no more allergy tests I can fail, no other types of scans, no more foods I can eliminate, no more holistic methods I can try, and to our knowledge, no other medication that will work (for whatever reason). I am so exhausted and so full all the time, she has not addressed any concern other than testing for PFD. So we are verbally making bullet points and prepping for seeing Dr. Vazquez again tomorrow. We go to sleep thinking (a) the Endoscopy in the morning will show something, or (b) the CT Scan will have shown something.

Part 1/3: Getting to Mayo

This past week my mother and I spent time in Jacksonville, Florida, shuttling back and forth from a hotel to Mayo Clinic. I really would like to share my experience there, because it relates so much back to first post about mental health, but I do not know how to share what happened there in a lady like fashion. I do not want to post anything here that my grandmother would not approve of. After all, she never did put on a pair of pants, only skirts. So, I’m going to try to do this in the cleanest and upmost matter.

When we (my family and I) made the decision it was time to focus on my solely on my declining health, instead of focusing on the wedding, or trying to save my vacation days at work, I was referred to Oschner’s in New Orleans. After a few weeks of rapid decline, we never heard from Oschner’s. So, we called the doctor’s office in Little Rock and gave the go ahead to proceed with the Mayo Clinic referral simultaneously. The doctor at UMMC had suggested Mayo as well, but we were thinking Oschner’s would be (a) much quicker to get in to and (b) it was closer to home. The entire process of getting to Mayo was so easy. My records were sent on a Monday, and I got a call on a Tuesday. I was sent an itinerary, and the application/registration process online was super user friendly. I was contacted multiple times to confirm the appointment, to answer any questions that I may have had, and to pre-register a few days prior to my appointment. From the beginning, I was very impressed.

Monday after work my mom and I drove half way; we finished the trip on Tuesday and arrived at 2:30pm eastern. On the way, I get a call from a New Orleans number: “Hello, this is Oschner’s, we received your information and wanted to set up a consult for your Gastroparesis.” I told the rep we were actually on the way to Mayo but thanked them so much for calling. Remember this for later: they called for a consult on Gastroparesis, which is basically paralyzation of the stomach, causing a motility problem. The medication I had taken to improve that did not have any effect.

Prior to arriving at Mayo, I had done research on the physician I was assigned to: Dr. Maria Vazquez-Roque. Dr. Vazquez specializes in constipation and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. Of course my problems extended FAR beyond constipation and PFD had been ruled out the week before last in Jackson by a Urogynocologist. So that was discouraging in that her specialty was in that, but I thought she would refer me to another physician if needed; I mean it’s Mayo, that’s what they do, right? Nobody I had spoken with thought I should have even gone to the Urogyn in Jackson because the symptoms I were showing were far more than Pelvic Floor: bloating, fatigue, an obvious motility issue of some sort, “malabsorption,” “non-metabolizing of medication,” mental delay, etc. One of the main causes of PFD is straining; many women are diagnosed with PFD after childbirth. I have never “strained” to the point of muscle damage (so I thought) and I had never given birth or carried a child. But, I followed the path I was on at the time and saw the Urogyn, and he said it wasn’t my problem. Okay – onto Mayo Clinic we go with one more thing already ruled out.

We get to Mayo, and it’s just as it had been described: like a college campus. It is beautiful. Everything about it is just gorgeous. It’s so clean, for starters, and everyone is so kind and in sync with what’s going on. I literally never came in contact with one negative person my entire week spent there. After checking in in the Davis building, we go to the the 6th Floor. I had read that physicians prefer to see the patient alone first to form the “patient physician relationship.” I was totally fine with that (after all, I am a grown adult now…) until the nurse took me back and started asking me questions. I felt like I just froze and needed someone there to speak for me. This is because I can’t even explain what’s going on with me, so when she was asking me explain it, I started realizing I sounded crazy and just froze. She brought me back outside to the waiting room and would come get me when Dr. Vazquez was ready for me. At that point I took a .125 mg (yes, .125mg) of Klonopin as I could feel myself getting anxious. In all honesty, that had not happened in a while. As stated in my last post, this “phase” is more of a depression phase rather than anxiety. Nurse Charlotte came to get me and I sat in the room. Next thing I know the door opens and my mom walks in – praise!

Dr. Vazquez comes in. She hard dark hair, glasses, fresh off of maternity leave, and didn’t wear a lot of make up (score! I hate make up). She was very sweet and knew a lot about PFD. She asked how she could help me, and I began with the fact that medication wasn’t as effective on me anymore, and we believe it’s stemmed from what’s going on in my stomach. Then I elaborated on my stomach issues to which I will not post here. She listened and talked back, but I began to realize as we were talking that she kept talking Pelvic Floor. Mom kept mentioning how I was now crushing pills and taking liquid forms of medication because they were apparently not “absorbing” correctly; she asked about the metabolizing of medication (and food (aka nutrients), for that matter) and questioned if my “gastric enzymes” or “acids” could be off balance, perhaps. Dr. Vazquez said, “I do not know what enzymes you are talking about but as far as the metabolizing of the medication goes, let’s set up a Psyche consult while you’re here.” OH. MY. GOSH. Are you freaking kidding me?! I literally JUST had a Psyche consult and brought the damn summary with me – I could see it in her paperwork. Dr. Younger (Psychiatrist in Jackson) wanted me to ask HER (Dr. Vazquez) about the metabolizing of medication. Now, Dr. Vazquez is sending me to another Psyche? I’m going in a circle here. As this point I’m pissed. Mom and I are in sync looking at each other thinking, “what the hell is going on? Psychiatrists don’t specialize in how medication is broken down?!” Keep in mind, we are talking about ALL medication – Celexa, Wellbutrin, Linzess, vitamins, Magnesium Citrate – that are all having less effectiveness on my body. We questioned her again and she said something about the liver, then said the metabolizing of medication was not her speciality, but perhaps a Psychiatrist could help answer those questions. At that point, I feel like I’m talking to mom telepathically, cussing the entire time, not at Dr. Vazquez, but just at the situation.

So she begins to read the previous records I had brought and says out of the blue, “You do not have Gastroparesis.” Excuse me? I am literally feeling food (or something) in my stomach right now – every day – every second – just hauling it around – and it is extended to the point where I feel and look like I am pregnant. She said, “there is a lot of stuff there, not just your stomach.” True. She scolded me for looking online for answers and told me multiple times to stop looking online. If you read my first post, you saw that me and Mr. Google diagnosed me with a parasitic infection, so I could see how looking online is obviously not the route to go. Desperation, people, desperation. Continuing on… she does a physical exam and finds some “spasms.” Because of that, she’s ordering tests to confirm it’s for Pelvic Floor. At this time I believe I started crying because I knew my symptoms were so much more than PFD. I’m thinking, “literally, you just did an exam on me and because part of that was uncomfortable/painful to me, you’re on the PDF train?” I’m thinking, “okay, that was ruled out last week, and I’m at MAYO CLINIC, this is where people get diagnosed with weird sh**.” My prayers were for her to think out of the box and test for something that had not been tested for. Even though I am irritated at this moment, I know she is a good physician, I mean she’s at THE Mayo Clinic. She agrees to do a CT of my abdomen, which I’m happy about because I had not had a normal scan in months, and orders an Endoscopy and will biopsy, and lots of other pelvic tests. I even ask about autoimmune diseases, because we haven’t been down that road, and she says, “Okay, you just let me do my thing and then we can talk that if needed but I don’t think this is autoimmune.” She gives me a pamphlet on Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and I’m just standing there, arms open wide, mouth on floor, deer in headlights.

Health + Being Engaged

I am 25 years old. I have fallen in love three times in my life, and on the third time I found my prince. I am engaged to the sweetest, most generous and selfless man I have ever met. He makes me a better person, and I do him. He loves my scars and bruises, what has formed me into who I am today.

I come from a middle class family in a small town. I grew up shooting at targets for fun, and got a pistol for my birthday when I went off on my own. And yes, I asked for it. I have the best support system: a loving mother, a caring father, and a brother who is also a friend. I have no doubt in my mind that all three of them would lay down their life for me. I have aunts who claim me, and friends who I can talk openly with about my struggles and they do not run.

I grew up fighting a mental illness that has crept back in full swing 3-4 times since I was first diagnosed. Yes, crept. The first time I was diagnosed, I moved to another state going through puberty. The second time, I was called crazy in college and that sent me for a tailspin. The third time, I went through my second break-up. And on this last, fourth, and current time, I realized I will make it out of this hole and be happy again. I only know this because each time, I always end up being okay. I wish the entire world would have the familiarity of mental illness as I do and how often it is misunderstood. You will be okay even when you think you aren’t. But, not everyone has my struggles or my life. Not everyone has experienced being in a depressed state for absolutely no reason, and if you haven’t… I’m so happy for you and whole-heartedly hope you never do!

I work in a company with 600 employees and often wonder who else has the same struggles as me. I wonder how many people walk in my shoes, and how many rely on a medication to get them to work in the mornings. I wonder if I am the only one who has absolutely no reason to be depressed, but still find it hard to function daily. I wonder if anyone else stares at their computer screen, frozen, wondering how they are going to sit there for 7 more hours and productively work without letting the depression “creep” in.

Mental illness is the only illness I’ve ever had to deal with, up until a year ago. I’ve never had a tumor, cancer, a psychical disease of any sort etc. Sure I’ve had an ACL repaired, a tonsillectomy, and had my wisdom teeth out… hasn’t everyone?

Over the past year, I have fallen in love, started a new job, had a colonoscopy, an endoscopy, a HIDA scan, a cholecystectomy, a radioactive gastric emptying study, a sitz marker study, had multiple ultra sounds and X-rays, and a CT scan. I was in the ER the night before a job interview, wondering how I was going to explain to the recruiter I couldn’t make it. Following my first visit, I was turned away, hysterical, from the ER the second time. I literally have had so many needles stuck in me I think I am immune to pricks. I have consumed more bottles of Magnesium Citrate than I knew one could actually intake in an entire lifetime. I have gotten to know the man God created for me while physically ill and mentally not-ill. What kind of man stands by someone and falls in love with someone who is having a digestive problem? This is not like a sore throat, or a broken arm, this is GROSS and NASTY and no one openly TALKS about this. This is EMBARRASSING, painful, and confusing. There is no other way to describe whatever is going on with my body but absolutely awful.

All blood work comes back normal, all scans come back normal, none of the medications work, all doctors say the same thing. However, the last doctor was the only one to recommend I see a Psychiatrist. What a STAB in the HEART for someone who is aware of mental illness. What a STAB in the HEART for someone who is going broke paying medical bills [after seeing a homeopathic NP as a last resort]. I mean, I really wish I could explain to people how much the words, “Not that I am implying anything, but I think you should see a Psychiatrist and get a second opinion,” hurt me. This appointment WAS my sixth opinion. I had no idea that what this doctor was looking up on his phone and writing down for 15 minutes were the side effects to Celexa and Wellbutrin, the medications I have been on for 10 years. The medications that I KNOW work for me. When he said, “I’m not sure if anyone has ever gone over this with you….” then read off the symptoms he had written down, I became absolutely hysterical. I was devastated. I was absolutely crushed. I could see my mom tearing up in the corner. I could see her reaching for the box of tissues. I heard her tell the doctor, “that is not an option,” after he suggested to take a “medicine holiday.” I don’t really remember the conversation after that. I tell you, hysterics.

The doctor left, and his nurse told me she was scheduling an appointment for 6 months. Again, hysterical. The nurse said firmly, “Carolyn.” More hysterics. The first thing I did after we were alone was cry in my mother’s arms assuring her, “I wasn’t crazy.” She cried back, hugging me, assuring me, she KNOWS I am not. A grown adult crying in a doctor’s office waiting room to her mommy… yes, that was me. Then the lab tech called for blood work, and of course I asked what all these tubes were for. She advised for vitamin levels – VITAMINS! Hysterics, I tell you, hysterics! I just couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. There was absolutely NO way I could go back to work. I could not even bring myself to call work to say I wasn’t coming. It was not happening. The second thing I did was email my WONDERFUL life-coach Drew and ask him to call me. He called, and I explained to him what had happened. If anyone is reading this and does not have a life-coach (aka a counselor aka a therapist), I highly recommend you invest your emotions in one. He, along with Matthew, is the best thing that ever happened to me. The thing is, I haven’t even been to see Drew since before Christmas simply because I was doing so well, and didn’t really have anything to talk about. But he’s still available to me as a resource and professional. So, what did Drew say? He gave me the name of a Psychiatrist, of course. And as my mother said, we will follow this path. We will go to all extremities to figure out what is going on, and I will come out of this, again.

This is supposed to be the happiest time of my life. I am ENGAGED! I should be jumping over rainbows and smiling everyday. But the thing is, I’m not. I am not. I feel terrible. I feel sad. I feel weak and exhausted, more than any other depressed state before. I’m forgetting my best friends’ bridal shower which I am hosting, I’m forgetting when friends’ come to Jackson and make plans, I’m forgetting where I put a button for my mom to sew, I’m forgetting my in-laws are coming to town, I’m forgetting to look in my planner, I’m forgetting what it feels like to remember. I feel like I am going crazy. But, at the same time, I feel strong. I know I will make it to the other side, and come out of it better than before. I know my stomach will normalize at some point, but not on my own time. Quite frankly, I’m pissed off. As stated, this is supposed to be the HAPPIEST TIME OF MY LIFE! WHY is this happening, not only that, but why is it happening right now, when I work for my own health insurance company who knows every medication I’m prescribed, doctor I see, and symptom I have… when I am planning a wedding (which is taking my mind off of being sick), have little vacation time to take off when I feel awful, and when I need money more than ever. Each time this phase hits… my constant question is, “WHY?”

I definitely do not pray every second of every day. I rarely go to church. I pray when I need help – and most nights I fall asleep praying before I even get to the, “Amen.” I say a blessing before I eat at my parents’ house, and thank the Lord for mom, dad, and Sam every night because that’s what I grew up doing, adding more people as time goes on. But, still… WHY, WHY, WHY?! Why is this happening to me, right now?!

Mental illness, yes, it’s an often unbearable thing and it’s really not talked about. I watch the news every morning when I get ready for work, and when I get home. Matthew watches Seinfeld and The Office, I watch the lifetime and the news. I see and hear about school shootings and that’s about it. I see and hear about people advocating for gun control. I see and hear people from home posting about these things. Of course, it breaks my heart. I have a mental illness, and I own a gun for protection. I can count on both hands friends who struggle who also own a gun that their husbands or dad have gotten them for the same reason: protection. The thing is, I’m aware of my mental illness and I’m aware when it’s creeping in on me. Again, not everyone has my struggles, and not everyone faces depression. Some people face other types of illnesses, much more in depth and “confusing” (because that’s what the brain is… confusing) than mine. Do you think I would have been given a gun had my parents thought I would use it to shoot up a school or place? Absolutely not. I was given it to protect myself against people like that: people who have a mental illness but do not seek help.

Over the past year, I have been saying, “I’m going to write about this. I swear, I’m going to write a book.” At one point, I thought I had a parasitic infection… me and Mr. Google were determined I had a parasite. During that time, my book would be called, “Falling in Love with a Parasite.” Today, my book will be called, “Owning a Gun with a Mental Illness.” Let’s be honest, I’ll never write a damn book. I’ll just talk about it forever. I really don’t know why I woke up today and wrote this. I really have no idea. This is extremely vulnerable of me to do, but also extremely important.

In health regards: the next step for me is to… drum roll please… see a Psychiatrist! See if these meds really aren’t working, or if they are not absorbing correctly due to what ever the heck is going on in my abdomen. Mom and I are going for the absorption. Next step, see a Urogynocologist and wait for MORE blood results. Perhaps these results will come back different than all the rest. Fourth step, Oschner’s, Mayo Clinic, or Cleveland Clinic. Right now, I’m sad my mom is leaving. I’m sad tomorrow is Monday, but I’m happy I’ve got my sweet Matthew here with me. I’m happy I am planning a wedding to take my mind off of being sick. I’m happy my mom and dad love me and are concerned with how I feel, and always have and always will. I’m happy I know I will come out of the hole, because I always do.