As I sit there listening to the doctor’s voice, her Eastern European accent virtually slapping me across the face with it’s harsh, clipped tones, I struggle to comprehend what I am hearing. I am shaking inside, my mind’s voice rising, first to whisper, then start screaming, “Really? REALLY? REALLY?!?!”
“This is four month re-visit. How are you feeling Jodie?” Direct, no genuine empathy detectable.
“Ahh … actually, I am feeling very anxious & quite exhausted. I have constant spotting or bleeding. I have trouble staying focused on tasks, making decisions is hard & I am really moody. Oh & I have been getting these weird little dizzy spells – I just feel like my it takes my head time to catch up with where my eyes are & it makes me feel all woozy, if that makes sense.“ I spill my words together in an attempt to be coherent, rushing on with;
“I mean I have recently gone back to work full time & things have changed quite a lot, so I know I am under quite a different lot of stress from what I was, but it all feels such a struggle.” I am rambling, I know it, but lately my mind is always on high speed & the words are out before I can check them, especially when the anxiety kicks in.
“Hmmm … yes, well, change can be hard. The release of hormones from Mirena® can impact this too, it is quite normal in early stage of insertion.” Is what she said. What I heard is, “suck it up & stop whining sissy-girl.”
“Oh … really? Well, it’s been four months – is that still early stage? I also noticed my hair is falling out & I have been getting a lot of pimples on my face. I haven’t had that kind of thing happen since my thyroid went all dodgy. It’s a bit upsetting.”
“Again, the hormones in the Mirena® can cause this. It is quite typical.”
“Oh … really. That worries me a little, will it stop? I do recall reading that there can be short term side effects, but they generally stop after a while, right? It’s been four months already though, & I feel kind of ordinary …” My voice trails away to not much more than a whisper.
“Sometimes, yes, sometimes, no.”
“So … really? Okay. Well, I also feel like I have put on a lot of weight really quickly & am extremely hungry all the time. I am finding it very hard to control. I mean I know I am not the healthiest or fittest person I know, but I do try to, you know, eat well & stuff. I guess …”
“Well of course, the hormones from Mirena® can cause this too. You have to start to try harder to regulate appetite & look at having exercise routine.”
“Really? It’s hard to get motivated when I feel so tired all the time. Oh well at least I know it’s not just me going crazy – I thought I was making it all up there for a while. I mean, how often would you see someone who gets the WHOLE list of possible side effects? Not often I’m sure, right?” Cue my awkward laugh.
“I think all is okay to keep it in & we follow up in six months. Things might have settled more by then.” Dead pan, no reaction.
My mind screams, ANOTHER SIX MONTHS OF THIS … REALLY?? What I say is, “Really … oh, okay, ahhh, I guess so then. If you’re sure it’s alright. I REALLY don’t want another pregnancy!”
“Okay then, you can make new appointment when you pay. Take care Jodie.” Rises & opens door, while I still sit in stunned, lost, gullible uncertainty.
“Right then, nothing to worry about. Really.” I mutter as I hastily exit.
My mind is a muddle of inaudible questions. That is happening a lot lately. I can’t process what has been said with any confidence that I should be more concerned, instead of just accepting of what I have been told. So, I do what normally do, I respectfully accept what I have been told & walk away with a polite thank you. I pay. I make another appointment. I walk to my car. I climb in. I sit, keys in hand, eyes stinging, hands shaking.
The next thing I hear is a sob, I wonder where it is coming from, I look up & catch sight of my eyes in the rear view mirror. They are red, wet with tears & streaked with black from my mascara running. It is me who is sobbing.
“Really,” I think confoundedly, “Really?”
It wasn’t until a few days later, when all the doctor had & hadn’t said finally sank in & I had a heart breaking epiphany. I had once again been body-jacked by an alien, only this one I willingly & stupidly had implanted into my own body.
A little while back I wrote a short post about going to the pharmacy to pick up a contraceptive prescription, & to my shock & horror, handed a huge box with an IUD (intrauterine device) in it called ‘Mirena®’. While I joked about not having read the brochure, most of which was true, I had done some research on contraceptives in order to work out which one would be most likely to work for me over the long term.
After having my second child, I knew I was finished with pregnancies. I love my children & would love a bunch more if they were ready made, but the carrying of them is something my body clearly told me it wasn’t keen on anymore. I don’t know if I can clearly explain the need I felt to not get pregnant again – it was almost like a constant warning bell in my mind. When you body yells that loud, it pays to listen, which I did, to that, but sadly, I managed to ignore, deny & mistrust that same warning bell when it began to not so much screech but sob as the Mirena® began it’s reign over my body, mind & emotional stability.
Such a tiny & innocuous looking little thing isn’t it? Kind of like the pills I took to rid myself of the first alien invader – a cyst on my thyroid. A little radioactive iodine cure me of that sucker, but this, this did not grow of it’s own volition, this, I had it put in my body by choice. Bad choice, very bad choice.
In retrospect, I wonder if I did make a hasty decision, just so I felt like I was ‘protected’, rather than really thinking through the possible consequences, given my history with hormone dramas & other related medical issues.
As a form of contraception the Mirena® is considered among the most effective & is branded as a a great way for “busy moms” to “keep life simple”. What it does not express quite so forwardly is the nastiness of the side effects.
When you dig deeper & read the ‘Safety Considerations‘ – it reads like a disturbing list of ‘unlikely‘ issues. Unlikely to some, but then there are those like me who are extra sensitive to changes in the balance of hormones in the body. For those, it reads like a horror story of chaos & devastation. The information states that;
Less than 5% of Mirena® users may experience:
•Breast pain or tenderness
•Inflammation of cervix, vulva or vagina
•Pelvic pain during your period
•Decreased sex drive
•Pain during intercourse
•Unusual hair growth or loss
•Skin irritations (such as hives, rash, eczema or itching)
•Swelling of hands and feet
Horrid, right? There is that part of you that reads these things & thinks, well, they have to cover all bases, surely it won’t be that bad. Another part thinks, DON’T DO IT! Infuriatingly I didn’t listen to the latter thought – I cannot tell you how deeply I regret not listening. It is with no hesitation that I say, “Evil, thy name is Mirena®!”
Over the four month period I lived with this alien matter inside me, I went from being a happy, reasonably healthy, reasonably confident & easy going woman, to a paranoid, insecure, anxiety stricken, angry, insatiably hungry, out of control beast. I became so lost & compromised I did not even make the obvious connections to what was happening to me – a place I hoped I would never got to again.
I felt like a bystander to my own steady decline – watching, helplessly as my whole system pulsed with the poison being released from a little piece of plastic hidden deep inside my body. I was going through the motions, but felt no like I had no way to change it. My mind was a mess – unfocused & foggy, unable to cling to the idea that something was wrong. I even wrote a little about my sense of apathy & disconnection here - but I still hadn’t put all the pieces together.
You might be reading this thinking, well, DUH Jodie, wasn’t it obvious? But it wasn’t, it really wasn’t. Life is busy & complicated most days & keeping check on myself had become a low priority.
In the days following my visit to the doctor, a few things happened -
- I had a major melt down where I screamed uncontrollably at my children for spilling paint on the tiles, something that had happened many times before & was no.big.deal. Both my babies ended up cowering away from me crying in each others arms. I was mortified & disgusted with myself.
- I had someone ask me when my baby was due, to which I responded, “I’m not pregnant just fat, so please fuck off now!”
- I stood on the scales & broke down when I saw that I had put on more than 10 kilograms in the past four months & was now the heaviest I had ever been.
- I had a conversation with someone relatively new in my life, who is a little older, a lot wiser & who had been through her own nightmare experience while using an IUD.
- On impulse & after some quick Google-ing, I took the alien Mirena® out & threw it unceremoniously in the rubbish.
Fast forward about 3 months & I can tell you, that impulse was the BEST.IMPULSE.EVER! My decline into horror has stopped, completely. Hooray, all good, the end! Really? No, not really.
I have been sitting on finishing this post for a few weeks now, I am not sure why. I suppose I think there should be some take home message, some insightful, all encompassing wisdom that makes this all turn out for the best for everyone.
What I realise is, it is still a work in progress, you see, for all the celebration of ridding myself of the alien invader – there is collateral damage. My body & mind are recovering, but I can’t undo what has happened quickly. And if I am honest, that part really sucks!
I have some very hard work to do to get back to a place when I feel comfortable in my own skin, where I don’t feel guilty for allowing my children to see me so unwell & inflicting on them the wraith of my own pain, where I don’t feel like cringing away from my partner’s touch because I hate the way I look. It’s a steep climb from here & I fear I am not up to the challenge.
I am working on it – but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a struggle. That said, I have, at the time I write this, lost around 5 kilograms, I am eating well & intentionally & I am, to even my own surprise about halfway there on the C25K app! Not so long ago, I would have said this about running anywhere …
So, while it is not all smiles & happy endings, yet, I am making a concerted effort to get myself on track, for my children, my partner & ultimately for me.
I’m tucking this little note away for future reference.
If there is a take home message I can impart here, it is please, please, please read the fine print before you make any decisions regarding any kind of pharmaceutical / chemical intervention. Then once you do decide, listen carefully to your body, very carefully, it will tell you if there is a problem – you just have to trust yourself.
Cook! Eat! Enjoy!
(ecards sourced via Pinterest)