Health, hormones and mourning

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I’ve debated creating this post for a while, thinking that it could come across as self-indulgent. But then I realized…whenever I see people “getting real” on social media, I applaud them for not painting some false perfect picture of their lives.

For several months, I have been dealing with some intense migraine-level headaches. I found out that these headaches were actually not migraines.

After reviewing some CT scan and lab results, it turns out…I have severe anemiacysts in my sinuses, elevated liver enzymes, high blood pressure and high follicle stimulating hormones. According to my rheumatologist — the doctor who has helped me manage my fibromyalgia — I also have early signs of osteoarthritis.

In short, I am in pain, stressed, tired and going through menopausal symptoms at 32. The chemotherapy, radiation and bone marrow transplant that saved my life as a teenager (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, 2000-2003) has affected the function of my reproductive organs.

I had been trying to minimize my physical pain. I thought this stuff was just “a mental thing.” I told myself to stop being lazy. After reviewing these recent test results, it’s no wonder that I have been having a hard time functioning through pain. This pain is valid.

Side note: folks, please don’t ever let society, doctors, peers, etc. tell you that your pain is “just mental.” If you have chronic pain, there is definitely something that needs to be checked out.

I am working with my ENT, gynecologist, rheumatologist, orthopedic doctor and primary care doctor to figure out what’s going on. In addition to dealing with these health issues, I’ve had plenty on my mind after losing someone very close to me.

Last October, just one week after his 31st birthday, my former fiancé died unexpectedly.

This loss was a complex situation, because as “exes,” we still had a mutual respect for one another. The love didn’t go anywhere once the relationship ended. Both parties needed to focus on growing…independently from one another. Sure, we had a friendship, but to call him “a friend” almost seems insulting because for years, we had planned to spend our lives together.

To make things even more challenging, I had to temporarily put my mourning on hold, as I was applying for a promotion at work the following week. To be clear, I am really good at compartmentalizing my feelings. It’s letting myself process that is challenging for me. My self-judgment was telling me to stop being a baby and get over it. Once my professional life had calmed down, I had to remember to keep working on accepting this loss, rather than “stuffing” my feelings out of sight.

For the record, telling someone to “move on” or “get over it” is incredibly insulting. Please don’t do that.

What happens when we stuff our feelings? Outbursts. Anxiety. PTSD. I am not a doctor/psych expert, but we need to process these difficult situations in a healthy way in order to move forward. I go to counseling, practice mindfulness/meditation and take walks.

Every day, accepting this loss feels a little bit less painful. If I need to cry, I cry. If I need a nap, I take a nap. If I need to lay down with an ice pack on my face and unplug for a while, I do it without apology. We cannot serve others well, unless we can take care of ourselves first.

The point of this post isn’t to obtain unsolicited advice. I want to let people know that it’s OKAY to focus on self-care. There is no time limit on grieving. There is no “right way” to mourn. And if you are in pain, you have every right to (legally) do what you need to do to fix it.

Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive as I tackle this difficult time in my life.

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