Today is a good day in Endometriosis Awareness Month

The last three weeks…not so much. I’ve cancelled going to shows, going to a board meeting (some secretary I’ve been), and had to force myself to go to work, because I need to pay rent.  Spending sleepless nights lying perfectly still, yet feeling my abdomen being wrung like a soaked towel. My gynecologist assured me that my endometriosis was under control.  Which made the pain I was having more unbearable.  I had known what was causing the pain, and now I didn’t anymore. What he said then was that many women who have endometriosis also develop Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  The constant pushing and pulling by the endo lesions in the lower body wreak havoc on the lower intestine, which reacts with…irritation.  So, I was referred to a gastroenterologist. That was in November.  I called my gynecologist’s office in February to ask if my referral had gone through – it had.  So then I called the gastroenterologist – they’re behind, but I was promised they’d call me to schedule an appointment in a couple of weeks.  It’s now 23 March. I will rant elsewhere about Canada and Alberta’s public health care systems being gutted by our increasingly conservative governments. What I’m concerned about today is that, six years after being diagnosed with endo, thirteen years after realizing something was wrong with me, it’s not over. I haven’t tried cutting down on any specific foods yet, because – unlike what advertisers would have us believe – each person can have different triggers.  That’s if IBS is what I have; I don’t even know yet.  I thought last week, perhaps, raw spinach was a culprit.  But I had some this past weekend, and I was fine.  It’s not likely gluten, because I haven’t made any particular effort to cut out bread, pasta, or soup using gluten as thickener.  And some days I’m good. Others, NOT. This Saturday, 28 March, is the EndoMarch at the Alberta Legislature, when all we “Endo Warriors” band together and tell the world that there is an insidious illness in 1 out of 8 women on earth, which has zero outward symptoms, but causes infertility, consistent muscle spasms and aches, depression, and OTHER illnesses, like IBS.  And no one knows where it comes from, or how to stop it. Today, this second, I feel normal.  Tomorrow?  In twenty minutes?  In five?  … I don’t know.

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My show about endometriosis WILL be at Edmonton Fringe 2015!

Okay, it’s also about sex and drinking (when I could still do that) in Scotland, and cats, as well as uteruses (uteri…?)

It was confirmed today that my redux of It Started With an Allergy will be on at the Strathcona Edmonton Public Library for Fringe this summer.  YAY!

Heather Morrow in It Started With an Allergy.  Photo by Adrien Guyot & Alix Popescu

Heather Morrow in It Started With an Allergy. Photo by Adrien Guyot & Alix Popescu

I’m writing a play in 18 hours or less!

I can’t do it in 24 hours, because I work until 5 pm.

Yes, the 2nd Annual Writeathon begins at noon tomorrow!  Last year’s was…bonkers.  Fellow writers made velcro out of their beards and resorted to lacing of warm drinks (and then just tossing the mix altogether and drinking straight out of the mickey).  Oh, and we all did some writing and raised some (a crapload) of money to keep Alberta Playwrights Network ticking.

I haven’t been flogging the Writeathon at all.  With this two months ago, and flareups of this, I’ve been lying low. Now, however, I’m going to write out the beast that is endometriosis and kick it across the room.  I am re-writing It Started With an Allergy from beginning to end, and one way or another, I’m performing it (me!) at next summer’s Edmonton Fringe.  If you’d like to see it, feel free to visit HERE.

I’ll see you when I come down from the caffeine high.

Why I hate being single #4: Food

I will say first: I love to cook. I make killer chocolate trifle. The Ukrainian lady who gave me her recipe for borscht said I was a very good cook – high praise. I make cookies every year for Christmas presents, and people anticipate them.

But here’s the problem: When I cook for just me (which is almost always) I always make too much. If it’s something that doesn’t keep well – which happens often, because I like trying new recipes to prevent boredom – I end up throwing away most of it. So I find recently I’m not cooking as much. It’s a waste of money, and time. I’m…enjoying it less.

I have a Costco membership to get the cheaper gas, and it’s good for bigger things that you can store – paper towels, bottled juice, canned tuna. I’ve learned NOT to buy the single servings of amazing greek yogurt or hummus though…because I’ll only get halfway through the box before the rest expires.

Every now and then, I take myself out for dinner, and I’ve learned over time which restaurants are nice to single people, and which will treat me like a fast food customer because I take up too much space and don’t spend enough money. If a restaurant has a bar, I usually squeeze in there, and ignore the rowdy university students on either side of me while I drink ginger ale.

Yesterday, the pain came. Yes, this is how I know my endometriosis is back, when I’m in horrendous pain for NO REASON. It’s on days like that when I should really be eating home-cooked vegetables. But it’s on days like that when I feel least like cooking – which involves standing. So I end up eating take-out instead. Because there’s no one to cook for me, but me.

This would require finding a man who can cook. Which is reason #4 (of several) that my crush on this man hasn’t abated yet.

Have you ever been so depressed you forgot to be happy?

Since I’ve blogged about my endometriosis, and I had a minor revelation this weekend, it may be time to talk about my clinical depression. Yes, I’m a bag of laughs.

Once again, I have no idea how long I’d officially been depressed. I was diagnosed by my GP in 2001, and took citalopram and went to counselling for about eighteen months. This past fall, I noticed the symptoms creeping back – I was irritable all the time, headaches, insomnia…sudden crying. Now I’m taking escitalopram.

It helps. Most days, I feel normal – for a given value of “normal”, being a playwright and so on. I’ve previously had acquaintances question whether I should be taking meds. Given the choice between wishing this, or endo, on my worst enemy, I’d choose neither.

I take the escitalopram once a day, and like most medication, the idea is to take it at the same time every day, so the body has a consistent supply. Shortly after I started this one, I set myself a reminder on my phone to take it after dinner – I was forgetting in the mornings, and would sometimes miss it in the evenings if I was going out. And on the odd bad day, if I missed taking it, I felt as rotten as when I wasn’t taking it at all.

This past Friday, our executive director of APN, Trevor, was in Edmonton. I got home from work, had a quick dinner, and went to the meet-up. We talked shop from 7 till 10. Before driving home, I checked my phone, and realized I had missed taking my meds. It was fairly late, I felt fine, so I figured this one day would be okay. I got home and went to bed.

Then yesterday, Saturday, I got up, and went straight to writing. I’ve had an idea for a screenplay (uh huh) percolating, and this year’s deadline for Praxis’ Screenwriting Lab is 30 June. I wrote 35 pages yesterday. I was so excited about what I’d written, I was buzzing. I went out to get a taco salad for dinner, and when I got in and looked at my clock…I was late in taking my meds again! Two days in a row wouldn’t be good, so I took it right then.

I have never missed taking my meds two days in a row. I was perplexed by that. And it still wasn’t until I’d had a mini-facial with my volcanic face-mud from Iceland, and falling asleep with my cat under my arm, that it dawned on me: I had forgotten about taking my meds because I didn’t just feel fine. I felt happy.

I don’t like having to remember what happy feels like.

The reason I walked out of a show? Endometriosis.

Brigitte: Are you sure it’s just cramps?
Ginger: Just so you know…the words “just” and “cramps,” they don’t go together.
From the film Ginger Snaps

This is something I had never, NEVER, done before.

I have a condition called endometriosis. (WARNING – description of female biology coming!) Basically, the stuff that comes out during a woman’s period doesn’t all come out…because some of it is growing where it shouldn’t. I’ll provide a link, should you wish to get really squirmy.

It’s hard to say how long I’ve had it, but from the time I started telling a doctor “This isn’t normal,” to a diagnosis took FOUR YEARS.

I’ve had oral birth control, painkillers, and surgery to stop the pain. Each one worked for a while, and then either my body developed a tolerance, or the tissue grew back. In 2010, I had an IUD put in by a gynecologist (I’ve already said this onstage, so online, whatever) which sends contraceptive right to the source of the problem. I’ve been normal for three and half years. But since February this year, the pain has been getting steadily worse. Again.

A week ago tonight, I was at the Citadel Theatre Young Company’s play readings. Brand new playwrights having their work read, out loud, in public, for the first time. And ten minutes into the second play, I had the icy thought –

I’m going to break in half and throw up on the floor.

I had to leave. I had NEVER before left a show, reading, concert, ANYTHING, ever – whether the show was terrible or not, because it’s a horrendous thing to do. It disturbs the audience, it makes the creators involved feel like garbage. I e-mailed two friends later who were there, and who I knew saw me leave, and I just said “I was really sick.”

“Sick” isn’t the word. It’s a consistent grinding in the abdomen. You need your abdomen to walk, to sit, to stand, to pick things up. Before I had the IUD, I was dragging myself to work, because I HAD to work, and then going straight home. Every night. For months. There’ve been two shows I was desperate to see this past week, and now they’ve closed and I didn’t see them because I was terrified I would have to leave. Again. My life is being screwed up by this. Again.

I’m seeing my gynecologist on Thursday, to find out what else I can do. The final thing to try on endometriosis is a hysterectomy. THAT is not happening. But…I am turning 40 this year…

There are so many ways being a woman sucks.