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Connecting the Dots- infertility and adoption part 2

seven dwarves of menopause

There were signs of menopause for years that I didn’t recognize.  After a very stressful senior year in high school I began to skip periods and had episodes where I would get extremely flushed-I thought it was embarrassment.  I actually thought I was in situations where I was uncomfortable enough to start to overheat.  Those were hot flashes. Unlike most women who go through natural menopause in their 50’s or 60’s  I never did wake up in the night drenched from sweat. But because I was only 18 years old and not being sexually active, my mom knew something was wrong so I went to the gynecologist.  He put me on synthetic hormones to balance out my cycle.  Everything seemed to be like clock-work after that.  Problem solved!  Or so I thought.

After high school graduation I started working as a server at a family restaurant in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  I only worked one job that summer, as opposed to the summer prior when I worked two putting in about 12-14 hour days. Not having a lot of time to eat in the morning because my shift usually started at 7 a.m. and I had a 30 minute drive to work,  I usually skipped breakfast but had a snack around 10:30 which consisted of two English muffins with butter and some Sprite-every day,  5 days a week,  for 3 months.  I got off my shift around 3:00 and by the time I got home it was usually between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m.  Dinner was whatever my mom made for the family which was always something with protein and a starch and vegetable and homemade bread.  My mom was a really great baker.

I really wasn’t eating much of anything and I was exhausted every day when I came home from work.   I could barely function.  My body ached to the bone.  Trying to have a night life as a teenager just out of high school was hard because I was so tired from work but I continued to go out with friends and go to movies or dancing but at night I would climb into bed with my little 11 year old sister and beg her to rub my back for me.  I was always freezing cold too.  I mostly got into bed with her to take her warm spot!  I had no energy what-so-ever to exercise.  I LOVED to exercise but couldn’t even think about it at this point in my life.

My main goal that summer was to earn enough money to pay for college that fall. I had tried out for the cheer leading squad at a local Jr. College, just an hour from home and I had been chosen to be on the team. I knew my clothes were getting tight on me, especially this one pink suit that I had purchased to wear under my graduation gown earlier that spring. I didn’t think much of it, perhaps it shrunk at the dry cleaner, I thought.  But by the time I started school up in the Fall I had put on about 10 lbs and my cheer leading adviser was not impressed.  That 10 lbs and being on the cheer squad made my life a living Hell.

Not just because I hated how I looked, (although I did) but it meant that if I didn’t ‘make weight’ for the cheer leading squad, the week of a game, I didn’t cheer. The weight a person was suppose to hit was their try-out weight.  My senior year I weighed 112 with my track clothes on and that is the weight I had recorded when I had tried out for the team.   At this point I weighed 123 and my coach was willing to work with me and allow a 5 lb gain and not be penalized but I had to get the other 5 lbs off or I would not be able to cheer.  Not only was I not allowed to participate but I had to dress down and SIT on the sidelines and answer passersby questions as to why I wasn’t cheering when they could clearly see I wasn’t injured.  That wasn’t degrading in the least bit was it?!  I wasn’t the only person who had to sit out that year.  There was another gal, Gina, who sat out one or two games until she started losing weight and then everything was fine and our coach was happy, with Gina at least.

Perhaps poor eating habits, including lack of enough food, as well as  lack of energy and exercise had caused me to gain that weight over the summer.  My coach kept telling me I needed to lose it and I tried and tried without success. One of my roommates was a runner and she took me under her wing and I ran with her a several times. I had cheer leading practice 3 days a week for two hours each day and I would go into the weight room to lift weights in the evenings and run by myself on the indoor track. I ate dry chicken breasts and cottage cheese on baked potatoes for dinner.  Yes, I will admit that I ate my fair share of muffins made from Jiffy Mixes and my roommate’s Oreos as well as Wendy’s Chicken Club Sandwiches and non fat frozen yogurt. Lunch for me was always a sandwich with mustard, no mayo because it was fattening!  But my roommates were eating ramen noodles and potato chips, packaged cookie dough and lots of pizza, and they weren’t gaining weight! Finally I just resolved that I didn’t know how! So I went to the person in my life who had the most experience with dieting.

My mom had done every fad diet in the book and advised me to do the grapefruit and egg diet.  You guessed it…..only those two items for an entire week.  I lost 6 lbs. I was elated to see the number on the scale but cringed when I looked down at my thighs because my body fat was still high. But the scale didn’t measure fat, just weight so I was allowed to participate .  I looked terrible in my uniform and I felt like no one on the squad respected me. My coach was always nagging me, rolling her eyes and making remarks under her breath when I couldn’t do a stunt the right way.  I knew it was because I was bigger and I was ashamed to even show up to practice.  I felt like she didn’t respect me and it wasn’t long before other members of the team looked apologetically at the my stunt partner as if to say with their eyes, “Sorry, you got stuck with the chunky one.”   There was one girl on the team who was always kind and nice to me no matter what, and her name was Lana.

When those 6 lbs crept back on, plus 3 more I was mortified and so was the guy who was suppose to assist me in the lifts.  I was humiliated.  All the while, I was suffering with depression.  I had friends in high school that were wrestlers and told me a few tricks to lose weight before weighing. Sucking on Jolly Ranchers……and spitting.  I did this for a few weeks on Tuesday nights, before ‘Dreaded Day Wednesday,’ (this was day we weighed in)  I slid under the radar a few times but my weight yo-yo-ed back and forth and finally kept climbing not matter what I did until I had gained an additional 12 lbs for a 25 lb total from the time I had tried out for the squad in April, just 8 months prior.  Along with the weight gain I had other physical changes like hair loss,  sporadic sleep, aching joints, poor digestion and terrible mood swings.  Just ask my roommates, I was acting C-R-A-Z-Y!

I literally felt like I was going crazy!  In high school I was an athlete.  I played basketball and ran track.  I had been a cheerleader and on the drill team.  I was never overweight.  Yes, my weight fluctuated from year to year unexpectedly but I never paid attention to it, I was too busy enjoying sports and never ever worried about what I ate. I always seemed to have nervous energy.  So much that I really had a hard time winding down at night to go to sleep. I always thought I had a high metabolism so when I suddenly had to deal with a weight issue and nothing I did seemed to help, I got desperate and decided to start making myself throw up.  I would eat and excuse myself.  I think a couple of my roommates suspected something was up but didn’t really know what to say to me.  I would  throw on black sweats and a sweatshirt and run sprints at 10:00 p.m. in the frozen darkness because I didn’t want anyone to see me.  I would come back to my apartment and do  push ups and crunches desperate for results. Friends from high school came to visit me and I was so embarrassed and didn’t want to be seen.

One morning I woke up to see my tongue was black and I had a horrid taste in my mouth.  Coincidentally, in my personal health and fitness class, our instructor was teaching a segment on eating disorders that very morning and I saw on the video the damage that I was doing to my body.  Seeking help and perhaps some sympathy I went to speak to my teacher, who chastised me for not keeping the school’s honor code by keeping my body healthy.  I whimpered all the way back to my apartment.  Because I’ve mostly been a ‘rule follower’, to an annoying fault sometimes,  I picked myself up and vowed to never vomit intentionally again.

Finally the school year ended and I did not try out for the cheer leading squad the next year, not that the coach would have allowed me back on the team after the rotten deal she ended up with by putting me on it in the first place.  I had been accepted to college the following semester in Hawaii and I was so excited to not only begin a new chapter in my life, but to have a do-over. Not feeling well and not wanting to continue to pay for the hormones Dr. Crouch had put me on, I stopped having the prescription filled.  Things seemed to go back to normal as far as my cycle was concerned….all is well I thought.

It’s not often that a person gets accepted into a college in Hawaii and my parents were supportive even though they knew I would be doing a LOT of playing.  Their only requirement was that I pay for it.  They agreed to buy my plane ticket but I was to pay for everything else.  I was so excited, I didn’t care how much I had to work to make my world in Hawaii go around!  So I got myself two jobs and set off for a summer of hard work with a great reward at the end.

The first was working at Sizzler in Jackson and the second was at Mountain High Pizza,  just a few blocks from the steak house. Again I was struggling to maintain my weight despite not hardly eating anything.  My clothes were tight and my face was puffy. But this time I forced myself to exercise.  I would run almost daily.  Granted, it was only a couple of miles and it was after I got home from working 12-14 hour days, usually around 11 or midnight, but I was motivated to lose weight.  What I ended up doing was losing my health and being hospitalized with Mononucleosis for 3 days and being in some of the most pain I had ever been in my life. My throat, swollen and coated with infection felt like it was closing in on me.  I could barely swallow and my limbs were on fire but my trunk was ice cold and sometimes without warning I had involuntary muscle spasms.  One day the nurse, who happened to be my friend’s mom, came into my room and I was crying.  She said to me, “Are you afraid you are going to die?”  In a whisper barely audible I replied, “No, I want to die.”

The day I got out of the hospital was the day before I was suppose to board my plane to Hawaii.  That didn’t happen.  I was too weak from not being able to eat and I had lost 9 lbs in a week’s time. After I was released from the hospital, my voice was gargled because and I was constantly throwing up stomach bile. And until my parents replaced the carpet in my bedroom from a basement flood last year, there were 19 year old stains in the corner behind the door to prove it!

After recovering from Mono, I had to tone down my work-day and modify my exercise in order to regain my strength.  I only worked 8 hours a day and rode a bike and started hiking until the snow started flying and then I tromped down the road in my snow boots.  Prior to my hospitalization for Mono,  I started to date a guy who I had met 4 months prior. He had seen me at MY WORST-in the hospital, no make up, a chunky frame and he STILL was sticking around.  I knew he was special 😉 He knew that I had been accepted into college in Hawaii and wasn’t going to stand in the way of a long-term goal of mine so we continued to see each other but as the end of December drew to a close, I prepared to leave.  A new life awaited me there. No one knew I had gained 23 lbs the year prior. No one knew that I had felt like a failure as a cheerleader at my first college.  It was my chance to start over.

On the island my energy was renewed.  I took an aerobics class and I lifted weights.  I ran a few times a week, up down the highway as well as the beach.  (I even had the cross country coach seek me out to see if I would come back the following semester and be on the team.) I hiked to waterfalls and swam in the ocean.  Since I lived in the a hale (dorm) at school I ate cafeteria food which mostly consisted of rice, a few instant potatoes, which I detested, and lots of salad and fruit and the occasional sandwich.   My weight dropped MAYBE 5 lbs.  But I dropped at least one size and my cycles had once again returned to normal.  Life was better and I was happy.

I came home from Hawaii and within a week I was engaged.  It was the best time of my life.  I kept up my regimen of running and aerobics but within a few weeks the hot flashes returned and my cycle became sporadic.  After talking with my mom, I decided that maybe I should just start birth control to even out my hormones and of course try to control  pregnancy.  I had heard that a person should be on the pill a few months prior to being sexually active so it would work correctly.  My fiance and I wanted to wait until I graduated from college to start our family so birth control seemed like the best route.  Being ignorant about ‘the pill’  I just started taking it without educating myself.  I was completely clueless as to the science experiment that was  going on inside my body.

My body had literally been through the wringer the last 2 years, gaining weight, going to college, ingesting synthetic hormones, starving myself to lose weight, vomiting like a supermodel, working like a dog, exercising like a maniac, being hospitalized for Mononucleosis, depleting my body of vital minerals and nutrition and a few months of more hormones in the form of birth control. It was the perfect storm for future chaos….something that I was unknowingly doing to myself and I didn’t even see it coming.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing, but when do we get “the rest of the story”, as Paul Harvey would always say!

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