Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Little Robot OR Advice Against Listening to the Internet




[I'll acknowledge right off the bat that I know that this topic is really ironic. I'm a random person on the Internet asking you to not listen to random people on the Internet-- at least not all the time, and especially not all the time when it comes to medical issues. So take this for what you will.]


If you follow me on Twitter, you're probably somewhat aware of my recent venture into the world of IUDs. So you can tell right off the bat that this post may be a little TMI, but we're (mostly) all of the female persuasion here, so I'm thinking there isn't too much squeamishness in the audience. Look away now if you're afraid of talk surrounding uterus stuff! Go, run while you can!

Moving on, yeah, an IUD. I'd been thinking of taking a step like this for awhile now. I'm 21, in a committed relationship for over two-and-a-half years with a guy who plans on spending forever with me (dawww), and I've never been pregnant (important info in the world of IUDs).  The ads for IUDs always seem to suggest that someone my age and childless wouldn't be a good candidate for this kind of birth control. That's false, and I've been aware of that for some time. The thought of putting a foreign object in my body and just leaving it there to do it's own thing seemed a little scary, but I hadn't been crazy about my birth control pills for awhile. I needed a change and I knew it.

When I went to my primary care physician a couple of months ago, my blood pressure read a little high. High blood pressure runs in my whole family, so this very well could be a genetic issue, but as many people know the birth control pill isn't good in conjunction with this condition, and can even be a factor in causing it. Since I'm otherwise young and spry, the doctor said I should get off the pill and start thinking of what I want to do from there. Off the the gynecologist I went.

I'd like to take a moment to say that my gynecologist is the man. He's amazing. I'm in love with him. I would really like to hang out with him on the weekends because he seems like a really cool dude. He's very cute, possibly gay. I want him to be my BFFL. And he was totally cool and supportive about the idea of switching to Mirena, which was a plus due to the fact I totally thought he'd fight me on it (thanks, deceptive advertising!)

When I got home from my visit, decided on my plan, feeling great, I did the one thing that no one should really ever do: medical research online. Within a few clicks, I was scared out of my mind. I was sure this would be more painful than childbirth, I was sure my uterus would explode, I would be a crazy hormonal bitch, I would weigh 30 tons but it wouldn't matter because I would never want to have a physical relationship with anything ever again, my brain would become riddled in tumors, I would never stop bleeding for the rest of my life, I would become hopelessly barren and doomed to live a life lacking emotional fulfillment, etc. Bad stuff, people. And I couldn't even tell my boyfriend about it, because if there's one thing he continually harps me for, it's my tendency to look up information online that I really shouldn't. I've been through two different sets of birth control pills that Internet assured me would cause my death-- and I liked them both just fine and obviously lived. I even lived through the dreaded Ocella birth control pill (you know, the one with the commercials offering a lawyer if you know someone who DIED OR SOMETHING because of it).

Anyway, I knew he would have no sympathy for my impending death.

So I tried to convince him to come in with me. It would only be right: he had to be present at the time of my demise. Originally, he agreed, despite the fact that he refused to even discuss the matter of my IUD due to squeamishness. He was going to be a trooper, and I do believe he intended to go through with this whole thing.

But you know from all the hinty words there, it didn't work out.

On the day of the procedure, he woke feeling pretty crappy due to his colitis, which he was trying to reign in with some new medications.

"I don't think I should come in with you," he said. "I don't feel good this morning and I don't think the doctor would want me to just leave for the bathroom in the middle of the insertion."

"But maybe you'll feel better later," I said. I recall grinning a lot and putting my face all up in his face, which I think is really adorable (like when kittens do it!) but he probably finds annoying.

"I don't think so."

"But Luuuuuuuuuke!!!"

"You're going to be fine. You're not having major surgery or anything."

"But what if--!!"

"You'll be okay. Trust me."

So suddenly everything got a lot scarier and all my unsaid fears of uteral explosion were buzzing around in my head even more 'cause I would be with strangers when I died and that was even worse. Dr. BFFL wasn't even doing my procedure. Horrible.

The one part that went well was the fact that you have to pee once you get there. Even though they usually do the insertion while you're menstruating (your cervix is more dilated), they have to check if you're pregnant. I had been instructed to be ready to pee. I drank plenty of water with my 800 mg of pre-insertion Advil, but I don't even think I'd have needed to considering my reaction to extreme fear is the extreme need to pee.

After determining I was not with child, I was left in a room by myself. I had to take off my pants and then sit on the table with a paper drape over me. I'm not sure if this was more or less embarrassing than when you go for your annual and need to be NAKED and wear a johnny. I was just sitting up there and I wasn't sure if I was allowed to unfold the drape and it wasn't quite wide enough and I didn't want anyone to see side-butt-- silly when you're consenting to the doctor looking inside your vagina-- and then I got completely distracted by noticing all the tools were set out on the doctor's desk.

There was something that looked like giant scissors.

At this point I was literally planning my escape route and hoping the doctor would hurry up before I chickened out.

Luckily, a pretty doctor in her 50s came in and shook my hand just in time to stave off my panic attack. She explained the risks and such-- she made it seem so safe compared to Yahoo! Answers-- and then asked me to assume the Embarrassing Position You're Always Asked to Assume at the Gynecologist and proceeded.

And I won't say this wasn't, in the moment, one of the more miserable experiences of my life. At first it was okay, actually. She would say "okay, you're going to feel a cramp" and then it would be too awful. Really bad period cramps at worst. Then she paused for a moment.

"We're going to have to dilate your cervix."

This was when I went from feeling uncomfortable but okay to wishing for death. Yeah, my boyfriend would be casually reading some car magazine in the waiting room when it happened, but at that moment I didn't care. I mean, the woman manually opened my cervix. If you have any idea what a cervix is, and I'm guessing you do, that has to sound horrifying. I actually think this may have been the part the scary giant scissors things were for. It felt sort've like the weirdness of a pap smear but with something way sharp and awful and digging in your insides. I started to sweat a little and wondered if I was about to pass out. The assistant asked if I wanted to hold her hand and I said "no," because with everyone except my boyfriend I like to seem as tough as possible.

When the doctor said "okay, now we're going to put the Mirena in-- big cramp" I thought to myself "this is the part where I cry and/or pass out and/or die."

I'm not kidding when I say I didn't feel a thing at that point. When she told me it was all over, I'd thought she hadn't inserted my IUD yet. I'm guessing the pain of the dilation saved me the pain of the actual insertion.

So we talked about setting up follow-up appointments and then I hobbled out Luke. During the ride, I started hurting worse and worse, and continually moaned and complained, slumped down in the passenger's seat. Compassionate man he is, he told me he'd get me home as quickly as he legally could.

I got home and got into bed. And then I couldn't move. I was paralyzed, I was just in so much pain I didn't want to move. It felt like a period from Hell. Luke got into bed with me and cuddled. I complained a lot more. Once in awhile I looked up at him and blinked very slowly and dramatically to convey the idea that I was miserable and dying and that he should say something very loving and profound before I slip away.

"You know what's really cool?" he asked.

"What?" I said.

"It's like you have a little robot guarding your uterus now. I like to think of it like that."

If there is one thing I love, it's personifying inanimate objects. I'm not sure if "tiny robot soldier" can count as personification, but now I picture my IUD as just that.

"We're going to call it Little Robot from now on," I said.

"Wanna take a nap?"

Two hours of sleep later, I felt fine. No joke, fine. As if nothing had been dilated or inserted. I decided to spend the night playing video games once Luke had to leave, but I probably would've felt fine to go out with friends or something. I was amazed-- and alive! It's been almost two weeks now, and I haven't had any more pain or awfulness. I seem to be back to normal and all my worrying was for naught.

It may seem that the purpose of this post was to walk people considering Mirena through the very beginning of the process-- and, yeah, in a sense it is. The message for everyone, though, is this:

The Internet does not know everything.

You know how there are probably more trolls than people trying to be nice? It's kind've the same when it comes to looking up any kind of review. If you have something to complain about, you're more likely to go scream it from the rooftops and go on a rampage than if everything is just fine. If I didn't have a blog, I wouldn't have felt the impetus to share my very normal, mundane, not too scary experience. I'm sure if my uterus had indeed exploded, I would've felt more of a need to OMG WARN THE WORLD about IUDs and how terrible they are.

Here's the thing: medical issues are very personal. No one person reacts to a medical procedure, pill, etc. in exactly the same way as anyone else. Our bodies are all very different. I might've had a good experience so far with my Mirena, but I have no doubts that there are other people who will have a nightmare with it. You can't predict things like that accurately without the help of your doctor and until you experience it. If you take anything from this (and if you got through this excessively long post), take the idea that the Internet is very sensational and will mostly show you the extremes in any situation. You get the really angry people and the people who are pleased to the point of being fanatical. Don't let anyone tell you "this is right for you" or "this is wrong for you" if they don't happen to be you and a professional. Like, really. Deciding to see other people's opinions caused a lot of undue stress for me in this situation. If something bad was going to happen, it would have, regardless of what I read online.

I think in a world so full of readily-accessible opinions from all over the world, we have to learn when it's appropriate to take advantage of that information and when we should just leave well enough alone. I think we'd all be a little calmer for it.


Have you ever used the Internet to find out opinions on a medical procedure? Did it stress you out? Or was it helpful? What things do you ask the Internet about most often?

9 comments:

Marie said...

Great story about the IUD. I am currently looking for a new form of birth control as mine is no longer covered by my insurance and it's nice to hear about one option from a real person.
I also look up medical stuff online pretty often. I had a cyst a few years ago that had to be removed, and I definitely wish I hadn't read about the removal process online because it freaked me out a lot more when I had to go in. On the up side, when the first one burst, I had some idea of what was going on due to reading about it online.

Kelly said...

OK, that robot part is the cutest thing ever.

For a while I got a LOT of medical information online. I have polycystic ovarian syndrome and I'm insulin resistant and to be honest I don't feel like *any* of the doctors I've been to for it have done a good job of treating me for it or even educating me about it. I disliked them all for different reasons (and I'm not crazy about the endocrinologist I'm with now but at this point I feel a little stuck) and I didn't feel like I understood anything about what was wrong with me or what my different medications were for. So a few years ago I spent a LOT of time on an online forum discussing it with other women who have PCOS and I understand it SO much better for having read all the links, literature, studies, and just plain discussions that I found there.

I don't visit the forum much anymore because a) even though I'm not nuts about my doctor, I am managing it pretty well right now and don't find myself panicking about it much these days and b) after a while I felt like I was reading the same stuff over and over and not really learning anything new. But I am so grateful it was there when I needed it or else I would still be in the dark about what's wrong with me!

Raquel said...

Little robot uterus guardian!! Excellent! Ive been on birth control on and off since I was 15. I usually get the depo provera injection, which lasts for three months. I stopped my birth control in January after breaking up with my boyfriend and it took ages for my periods to return and even now they're not normal.

I sometimes look up medical advice online but as I'm pretty darn healthy it's usually not an issue. Once I looked up some dental advice (which assured me that I was going to have to have a root canal or my tooth pulled) but I was sceptical and went to see my dentist. Turns out it was just a side effect from a filling I had and the pain went away on its own.

I think the internet can be helpful, but I definitely take everytthing with a grain of salt and go and see a professional if I'm worried about anything.

Ilde said...

I also have a Mirena. But my insertion was WAY easier and WAY less painful than yours. Mine was done under general anaesthetic, which was the best thing ever. Go to sleep, wake up, done! My gynae pesonally inserted mine, and the whole process was hassle-free. I had NO pain whatsoever afterwards, not even something resembling a light period pain. Also, I haven't had a period since! Bonus!

Allison said...

Man I've been on many different kinds of birth controls after various breakthrough bleeding problems and the only one I've liked is Ocella! Ocella FTW! Don't listen to what crazy TV lawyers tell you either...

Laells said...

I have a tiny robot too!

I will never think of my I.U.D. as anything else.

When I go online to look up stuff, it's normally to look up alternative remedies because my boyfriend's kind of big on not using medication unless you have too (he won't take a tylenol for a headache or anything).

Normally if I need medical advice I go to my doctor or research things she suggests, but that's because I really love my doctor and think she's fantastic. Her advice hasn't really steered me wrong in the past.

T E H R E N A N A I I S said...

my two best friends swear by the iud. its not something i would consider for myself [something about foreign objects all up in there creep me out a bit] but thanks for your post it was interesting to hear the details [is that gross?]

Anonymous said...

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Is this possible?

Vanessa said...

Thanks for everyone's responses! I know I'm writing back a zillion years later, but I realized I never commented back on this post. Bad me!

Anyway, especially in response(ish) to Kelly, I have found the Live Journal community Iud Divas to be pretty useful and not panic-inducing for IUD-related issues. I still say in most cases talk to a doctor first, but a lot of the people there have a lot of experience with IUDS and are mostly level-headed.

I'm really glad, by the way, Kelly, that you found such an awesome community to help you! There certainly are gems out there!

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