Open Topic

Guilt After My Abortion.

I remember exactly when I knew. I was hanging out on the roof sun tanning with my BFF. We were talking about girl stuff, and after we got our bathing suits on, my girlfriend turns to me and says, “you’re pregnant.”

Then, my stomach sunk.

I knew.

I wouldn’t even say the words to myself, because even though I had to make it real, my mind shied away from it. I am not religious, but I do believe in God. And even though I no longer attended services, I still held a few things sacred. Life, itself, was sacred. Life was precious. It was important and beautiful and perfect.

Since I knew exactly who the father was. There was more than one possibility, and I wasn’t comfortable playing eenie, meenie, minie, mo with something like paternity.

I knew, as soon as I knew about it, what I was going to do. I always knew I thought it was wrong. I also knew I didn’t care, because I wasn’t going to ruin my entire life, and I wasn’t open for the imagined misery this new one might hold.

So, I had an abortion. 

The pain was excruciating. This wasn’t normal period cramps. And after the baby was gone, the guilt came over me. It shaped itself to the child I wanted. I know now it wasn’t the right thing to do. And I know now I wouldn’t be where I am today, living an unhappy, empty, guilt, depressive life. I would have never gotten involved with the wrong crowd of people or got addicted to drugs.

I always imagined my baby as a girl. I gave her a name.

A name for something I love. A name for my punishment. I cannot have any children now, because the abortion caused me to have an ectopic pregnancy with my ex-husband and made me infertile. I have always longed for one. I can’t shake the feeling that this child I let go is the reason why. This lack of fertility is my punishment for her. I so desperately want kids. Because of her, my heart tells me, I cannot have them.

This is my religious guilt speaking. This is my tit-for-tat, my holy roller sooner-or-later-gonna-cut-you-down. My heart says that God does not work that way. My head says that maybe He does. 

I know I didn’t make the right choice, all those years ago, lonely and alone, but it was too late. I didn’t tell anyone, of course. I did it all by my lonesome. I avoided what could have made me stronger. I also avoided what would have been hard, what would have been different, what would have been something I never would have wanted or asked for. I made the worst choice, but with the best resources I had at the time. It pains me and brings back memories of what could of been every time I walk down the aisles of baby stuff, see a pregnant woman or see a baby.

But I did it. I had an abortion. As painful as it is, I can say the word sometimes, now. Look it in the face. I can mouth it, type it, admit it. But I cannot own it. The tangle is to great. My arms are too empty.  

Open Topic

What It's Really Like To Have PTSD.

It only happens to soldiers.

It’s the result of immense trauma.

It is impossible to diagnose.

Unspoken: “and you have not earned the title.”

Nobody can deny that post-traumatic stress disorder is complex. Nobody – me, least of all – will tell you it’s easy to diagnose or treat. But, with news of the suicides of Parkland survivors bringing PTSD to the front of our minds, now may be the only chance we have to talk about it.

We’re used to thinking of PTSD in military terms because until the First World War, it was very rare for a civilian to encounter this level of violence in day to day life. We’re used to thinking of it as extreme outbursts of violence, strange behavior, inexplicable fear. In reality, PTSD can occur when someone experiences any kind of traumatic event – including any kind of long-term trauma that can come from childhood abuse and neglect. There is a lot to it, too – the bad episodes are just when it’s the most visible.

If anything, PTSD is about what you don’t do as much as it is about what you do.

It’s about the friends you don’t see.

It’s about the calls you don’t pick up.

It’s about the guilt, the weight that only gets heavier as you isolate yourself more.

It’s about the moment when the phone stops ringing.

It’s about the voice at the back of your head getting this bit louder by the day.

It’s about the moment when you’re too tired to fight it anymore.

PTSD isn’t just moments of extreme action. It’s a never-ending drip-drip-drip of stress, a slow water torture that never, ever seems to end.

It’s dangerous. It’s hard. And it’s not enough for you to have a strong friend group.

You have to reach out yourself, and turn off the tap.

Open Topic

"Doc-Anxiety."

Living with chronic illnesses is a challenge. We have to go to doctor appointments regularly to have our blood tested for different things. We have to have MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds, colonoscopies, laparoscopic surgeries, or other surgeries and procedures. Most likely, we have experienced at least one doctor who didn’t believe us, who wouldn’t listen to us and what treatment options we wanted to try, who let their ego get in the way of standard healthcare. Even though we may find a great doctor who listens to us and what we want to do, the bad apple can ruin doctors in general for us.

When I first started going to the doctor before I was diagnosed with endometriosis, I trusted doctors. I believed what they were telling me and didn’t think to do my own research outside of what they were telling me. They took an oath to do no harm, right? Yes, they did, but that’s not 100% foolproof. They are human and don’t always have our best interests at heart. They may be set in their own ways and don’t have great bedside manner for their patients.

I have encountered several doctors like this, which in turn has led me to be anxious any time I go to the doctor now. I ask myself questions such as: Will this doctor believe me and listen to me? Will this doctor treat me like I don’t know what I’m talking about? Will this doctor do anything for my pain or just let me suffer because they don’t want to admit they don’t know the answer, and refer me to a specialist? Will this test show something is going on or will it show everything is “normal” and my doctor will tell me there’s nothing they can do for me?

Waiting in the waiting room to be called back to a patient room also causes anxiety. Waiting for test results causes anxiety. Will I have this illness? Will I be able to get treatment? Will I ever be pain free?

Even now, after 27 years of going back and forth to different doctors, going to the doctor increases my anxiety—let’s call it “doc-anxiety.” I get extremely nauseous and sweaty. My heart beats faster, sometimes my blood pressure is higher than it would be normally, and I have a million things running through my brain. I dread going to the doctor, even though I make lists of questions I want to ask about my illness, treatment options, symptoms, etc. If I didn’t make these lists, my doc-anxiety would be worse. I try my best to take slow, deep breaths and think about the beach (a place I love) while I’m waiting, but sometimes it isn’t enough. Depending on how my appointment went, my doc-anxiety may still be there for the rest of the day or longer.

If you have doc-anxiety, or any type of anxiety for that matter, know you are not alone. Know that having anxiety doesn’t make you weak. There are good doctors out there, and I have to keep that in mind anytime I go to the doctor.