Girl School for Grownups

Like having a big sister, but better because I can't boss you around!

Respecting the Struggle

I’ve been blogging on and off since 2005 when I did a figure and fitness competition in Las Vegas. As a stay-at-home suburban wife and mom, training for the event was unlike anything I’d ever done, and I thought maybe my friends would be interested in what I was doing. So I sent out a group email when I could. Then I heard about web logs and decided to start a blog.

What started as a fitness blog became, over time, a more heart-felt creation. I started to write about riskier topics like depression (a lifelong challenge for me so far) and loss (when we experienced the deaths of loved ones) and emotional vulnerability. It’s both easier and harder to write about topics that are more personal. The ease comes because it’s what’s foremost in my mind and heart. The difficulty is that it’s scary to write about what’s not working or what I haven’t figured out.

So I’ve been self-cathing for a week now. I still feel nervous going out in public for more than an hour or two, and when I do go out I’m thirsty all the time because I try to limit my input to also limit my output. 🙂 But it’s way better than having the permanent catheter. And I should be grateful, right? Some part of me *is* grateful. However, I get frustrated with how down I can feel about something so small. I mean, if Viktor Frankel could write about the freedom he experienced while he was in a concentration camp, surely I can deal with a minor inconvenience, right? And then I feel worse about myself and the cycle continues.

At a session with my counselor where I was explaining this, she said, “It’s interesting that although many people use Viktor Frankel as an inspiration, you see it as a way to beat up on yourself.” She went on to say that what I’m dealing with *is* difficult to deal with. That’s when the lightbulb came on and I realized that what I need to do is to respect the struggle. Rather than seeing the difficulty as an indicator that I’m not coping, realizing that struggles are hard and it’s ok for them to feel hard.

So that’s my mantra for now: respect the struggle. And as always, I will remember to put one foot in front of the other and do the next right thing, with love.


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Post Op

Disclaimer — if you don’t want to read stuff about the human body or if you get grossed out easily, you might want to wait for when I write about cosmetics or food or other vital topics in the future.

So it’s been 2-1/2 weeks since the surgery. The operation went fine. Recovery is going well according to my doctor. I thought that the physical limitations post-surgery would be hard, and I was right: it’s tough being so limited physically, but I’m dealing with that.  What I didn’t count on was the emotional impact of my bladder not working after surgery.

I left the hospital with a catheter. I’d thought this was a remote possibility. I’ve since learned that 90% of people who have the surgery I had leave with one. And the surgery I had is no joke. The specifics are: hysterectomy, 2 internal hernias repaired, bladder repositioned and supported with mesh. So it makes sense that my bladder could take some time to heal. And after a day of having the catheter, and with the help of my amazingly supportive and not grossed out husband, I came to see it as interesting and unusual. I carried around the big bag in a Lululemon shopping bag, but I also had a sporty leg bag for more discretion. The downsides to the sporty model are: 1) it has to be emptied every 30 to 45 minutes, and b) having a bag of hot pee on your leg takes some getting used to. But things were going along ok, and I was super tired so I just stayed home a lot and focused on healing.

Last Monday, I went to have the catheter removed. They warned me that if I wasn’t able to pee on my own, or could just pee a little bit, that was a BIG DEAL and I needed to return to the drs office. Well, that’s what happened, so after a few short hours of freedom, I went back to have the catheter re-inserted. This was hard to take. My inner 3-year-old wanted to have a huge tantrum about it. But it is what it is, right? So I had the catheter for another week. This became an emotional issue when I went to a housewarming party. I wanted to go to the party because I love the people who’ve moved, but I felt vulnerable and exposed showing up with a bag on my leg, even though nobody could see it. We didn’t stay long.

Three days ago I went to have the catheter removed again. And yes, they removed it. But then they delivered the bad news: I would have to catheterize myself every time I pee. And I need to measure and record what comes out naturally and what comes out via catheter. I’m a Fear The Walking Dead fan, and as a character said on Sunday’s night’s episode, “What new fresh level of hell is this?” I know that’s dramatic, and awful things are happening to people all over, and this is a byproduct of a surgery I chose to do. But it’s still tough.

I didn’t know you could catheterize yourself, but indeed you can, and that’s what I’ve been doing. If you want to know how it’s done, you’ll have to find that for yourself, but here are a few things I can tell you:

  • It is not painful.
  • It requires some repetition to do it with ease.
  • I have not done it enough to do it with ease.
  • Start to finish the process, including measuring output, takes between 3 and 10 minutes.

A byproduct of this new way of peeing has been a self-imposed isolation. Why? Because having to do this feels humiliating. And the idea of dealing with this anywhere but at home? Oh hell no! When looked at with logic this makes no sense. This is a physical limitation brought on by surgery. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. But knowing that hasn’t changed how I feel when I think of having to do this (self catheterizing) out in the world.

Yesterday a friend called to see how I was doing. Poor friend. She got to hear the whole saga. She said she understood not wanting to do this in public and she understood how emotionally tough this could be, but she didn’t understand the humiliation. (This friend is a therapist so she has a way of getting right to the essence of things. I’m grateful for this.) I said, “If our situations were reversed I would have only love and compassion for you, so I’m not sure I understand it either.” But after we talked I considered the situation from that vantage point again: what would I think about somebody who had surgery and then ended up where I am? And I realized not only would I have no judgement, but I would have tremendous respect for someone who could, despite all the very real feelings and fears, continue to live her life and not let this stop her.

So today I’m going to live my life. Even though I will probably have to deal with this outside of my home. Even though I’m frightened. Even though just thinking about it makes me a little short of breath. I’ll let you know how it goes. But right now I have to get ready for the day.


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Getting surgery

Today I am having surgery to I can control and enjoy my peeing as I once used to. This has been a problem for more than 10 years, and it keeps getting worse. I no longer: jump on trampolines, do high impact activities, lock bathroom doors (because there’s no time when you absolutely positively have to go!). The actual surgery part seems like NBD as far as operations go: spinal block will work (no general anesthesia, although they assured me I will NOT remember the surgery), no external incisions, and just 1 night in the hospital. The recovery? Until last week it had me thinking “my life as I know it ends on October 2nd.” Here’s the list of instructions post-surgery:

  • No exercise for 8 weeks
  • Ditto for no sex
  • No squatting lower than the toilet
  • No picking things up from the ground
  • Gentle walking on level surfaces is ok
  • Stairs are to be avoided and taken slowly if I must use them
  • No lifting anything heavier than 10 to 15 pounds
  • No driving for 2 weeks

Have they met me? These instructions felt impossibly awful, and fueled some panicky “I have to do all the things!” behavior over the last week or so.

On Wednesday rather than being held hostage to my shitty attitude, I started thinking *about* my shitty attitude. (Thank you “The Untethered Soul” for helping me to separate the two.) And as I was thinking about my bad attitude, this thought (which I think might have been God-inspired) showed up: You are not the only one having surgery on Monday. In a flash I a) recognized the truth of this, and b) was flooded with gratitude for all the great things about MY surgery. The truth is that many people will have surgery today. Some of them will pray that the surgery gets all the cancer. Some will be having open heart surgery after a heart attack. Some will be put back together, God willing, after a car accident. Me? There’s all sorts of stuff to be grateful for:

  • I chose to have the surgery to make my life better
  • I picked the timing (AFTER our Grand Canyon rafting trip)
  • The doctor is one of the best in the area
  • I have insurance to cover most of the cost
  • I don’t have to get back to work or risk not having shelter, food, a car, etc.
  • I have a cute nurse who says he will take very good care of me!
  • I get to recover in a beautiful home.

See you on the other side. Love, Leslie

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