Friday, September 13, 2019

How the Surgery Went

I went in to have my Tonsillectomy/Adenoidectomy done Monday afternoon. I had already been expecting several possible complications after the surgery, but the things that did end up going horribly wrong were not even things we had expected to occur.

First off, my surgeon is cold, callous, and mechanical. (That's a very nice way of saying he's an asshole.)  He's been this way throughout the entire year long process, considering this was supposed to be done back in March 2018. The reason it wasn't done then was because there were too many "unknowns" that made him deem the surgery "too dangerous" for me. There was the chance that I could become Manic/Psychotic as there was no real way to treat my pain. At the time, we didn't know that opioids/narcotics can trigger my Mania/Psychosis (we didn't learn this until last September, the hard way), but I knew from previous experiences that these conventional pain medications do nothing for my pain either way. (They just cause me to lose my mind.) Therefore, since this was such a huge risk and there were no other alternatives for pain management, he cancelled the procedure on the same day! (Yes, my family and I had all woken up at 4am and went to the hospital, I had already emailed his clinic my concerns weeks prior and they did not address them until the day of! It was ridiculous!)

I had still met with him for the Post-Op appointment, even though the surgery never happened, and he said that I seemed to be doing better. For a little while, I was. I changed my diet and lifestyle, reduced my sugar intake significantly and started drinking green vegetable juices/Emergen-C daily. He said I resolved the issue myself, but that if I really needed the procedure in the future, he would gladly do it for me. And this time, the right way. He said we would ensure it was safe for me through obtaining medical clearances from both my Primary Care Physician (PCP) & Psychiatrist, and that he would authorize for a 24 hour hospitalization to monitor me and manage my pain.

So now that you know some of the history, I can bring us back to this year, 10 more bouts of Tonsillitis/Strep Throat later, a total of 22 times in the past 2 years. And how the surgery actually went this past Monday.

His clinic actually called me in early. I was expecting to be seen at 1pm, then called in for surgery at 3pm. My Aunt Robin was driving me there while I received a phone call at 12:50pm from the surgery scheduler asking if I could come in earlier. I said I was about 5 mins away. She said they would be ready for me as soon as we got there, and they were. (I had a prior missed call from her as well, which looked to be about from 10am, so maybe they wanted me there even earlier?)

They prepped me for the surgery and had a different person from the medical staff come talk to me before we began. As is required of all procedures, I was starving and dehydrated as you can't drink or eat anything 8 hours prior to the operation, and I was incredibly sleep deprived since I had appointments and class back to back every day last week. Regardless, I was ready to get this shit done & over with.

After the nurse finished speaking with me, the surgeon came. Smugly, he asked me, "Are you sure you want to be hospitalized for the full 24 hours?" I kept on a good poker face and simply answered by nodding my head and saying "Yes." But this question was baffling. OF COURSE I wanted to stay the full 24 hours! I have had to jump through hoops to even get Medi-Cal to cover his authorization, had to attend SEVERAL medical clearance appointments, and I had been waiting months for the main facility to be available so it could happen! I found it incredibly insensitive and presumptuous that he would even ask, and especially with such a sardonic tone.

Secondly, he looked through all of the paper-work, asked me a few questions, barely even making eye contact with me, and so once I got a chance, I took out the letter I had prepared. 2 of my Psychiatrists had warned me that there was a risk that the Anesthesia alone can cause a person with my mental health history to wake up Manic/Psychotic, and so I wrote a brief letter just instructing the medical team what to do in case this were to happen. (The protocol would be to simply administer a higher dosage of my psychotropic medication, and I informed everyone at the hospital already during my Pre-Op appointments.) I pull out the letter to hand to him, and he dismisses me by saying, "Well I'm just the surgeon, I just do the surgery. This if for the nurses to worry about, not me." I politely responded by letting him know that it was simply a pre-caution in case I woke up disorganized or delusional, so that they could all be aware of how to proceed.

Again, the way he was speaking to me and retorting with such insensitivity made it seem like he had a huge stick up his ass! He was completely devoid of sympathy or compassion when here I am, getting ready to do one of the most difficult and scariest things I've ever had to do in my life, and just trying to be extra cautious in making sure I'm properly cared for.

Luckily, my Aunt Robin was right there with me and I introduced her to him. She watched the entire transaction we had, and after he left the room, she summarized her observations with what I consider the most perfect and appropriate conclusion, "He thinks he's God." We exchanged glances of validation, both disgusted with his aloof demeanor and in disbelief of his horrendous bed side manner. She had heard the stories of my previous experiences with him, and seeing it for herself clearly confirmed everything.

The next person to enter the room and speak with me before the procedure was the Anesthesiologist. She seemed very nice and upbeat, walked me through a series of questions, and indicated that she would do her best to care for me. Made me and my Aunt Robin feel a lot better after our ridiculous encounter with the surgeon just minutes prior. After I answered all of the questions, that was it. It was time for surgery! And I get the sense that they really wanted to just get this over with, because my Aunt and I had barely waited at all, and they did see us immediately after we had gotten there. Like I said, wasn't expecting to actually have the surgery done until 3pm. It wasn't even 1:30pm yet when they rolled me in to the operating room.

So that was that! They engaged in some light and playful conversation with me while wheeling me to the operating room & connecting me to everything, I didn't see the surgeon anywhere, just the nurses and Anesthesiologist, we laughed at a few jokes together, and before I knew it, I was out.

I woke up a couple of hours later, my throat, the primary object of my main concern, feeling fine, albeit very dry and tasting like burnt chicken, but to the rest of my body in excruciating pain. It felt like every muscle was spasming all at once, as if you were having a Charley Horse throughout every part of your entire body at the same time. It was a horrific shock to my system, and I didn't understand why or how it was happening immediately after the procedure. I was crying and calling out for help, trying not to hyperventilate as I couldn't risk hurting my throat, but it was a living nightmare. My Aunt Robin was called to return to me, and she was shocked and upset to see me in such a state. She tried her best to comfort me as I tried to calm down. I begged and begged for water, the nurses only gave me a little bit and insisted I would get more attention once I was moved to my room. They didn't really know what was happening except for one nurse who specified that she suffered from Fibromyalgia too and knew what this was like. The contracting of every single muscle at once and the violent pain it caused. She substantiated my claims with her own experience and they wheeled me to my room for the night.

My Aunt Robin spent the night with me and had to pull me up out of my bed every 20-45 minutes so I could use the restroom. I was in horrible pain, and my throat was the least of my concerns. (Quite contrary to what the surgeon said, over exaggerating how painful my throat would be!)  I felt completely incapacitated, immobile. I could move, but it was overwhelmingly painful to shift my weight into any position. I was inundated with the fear that any sudden movement would make my muscles spasm even harder, so I stayed real still for the majority of my time there unless I had to get up to use the restroom, in which I had to do so very slowly and carefully, be disconnected from everything and then have my Aunt Robin lift me out of the bed, I used the IV holder as a walking stick. I felt crippled and completely disabled. though very glad to have my Aunt Robin there helping me when the nurses were failing to. (She was a fucking rock-star!)

This was not the end of my problems. (But wait.  .  . there's MORE!)

Anxiously awaiting to have some fluids, I received my first tray of liquids. I was immediately upset to see so many things that I could not have because they were against my dietary restrictions and the specific instructions that the surgeon had given me. There were cups of Italian Ice in flavors Orange & Cherry. I am not supposed to have any citrus acids as first off, this upsets my GERD (acid reflux disease, which can cause acid to travel up my esophagus), and citrus will burn the wounds very badly, and the surgeon's clinic also told me I could not have any red dyes as they can stain the surgical site and make it appear bloody as if it is not healing correctly. They had given me Cranberry juice, which is HIGHLY acidic, with a hot soup and cup of hot tea. I was instructed not to have any hot foods because the temperature can damage the wounds, causing them to bleed. They had also given me a bag of Mint Tea! Mint can open the sphincters in the esophagus, allowing the acid to travel up through the throat more freely, and if ingested after this type of surgery, it would immediately sting and irritate the newly cauterized tissue on the back of my throat! Are you fucking kidding me!?

I told them very adamantly that I could not have a majority of the items on my tray and that they needed to replace them with items that adhered to my strict dietary requirements. After a while, they did return with some sugar-free tropical fruit gelatin, some apple juice and Chamomile tea. (I had to add that I am also on a very low sugar diet since I have to maintain my blood sugar and weight with all of the medications I take. This should also already be in my file as I have previously discussed it with them.) I even handed them a copy of the dietary requirements that the surgeon's clinic gave to me so they could update the system and make sure that these mistakes didn't happen again.

Did that prevent them from happening again?

.  .  . NOPE!!!!

Later that night, they had given me another tray of liquids with several items I could NOT have AGAIN! The Mint Tea was back, more Cranberry juice, and Orange flavored cups of gelatin! I had to tell them to return everything again and bring me back new liquids!

Mind you, during this time, my Tylenol (the only pain medication I can safely take throughout this entire procedure and recovery process) is starting to wear off. I was told by the Anesthesiologist that she would administer some after I woke up from the surgery, and that she would schedule it to be administered again at 8:30pm.

As I felt it wearing off, the pain started becoming more noticeable throughout my face, neck, and jaw, so I told the nurse. At first, she said I'm supposed to receive Tylenol in tablet form. My Aunt Robin and I were like "Hell no!" The whole reason I was hospitalized was so I could receive it intravenously. So she goes back to figure out what's wrong and says there was a mistake on my chart.(Duh!)

Meanwhile, we're still waiting. She comes back again and says the Pharmacy hasn't ordered it yet, so it's not available! Even though we were expecting it to be ready by 8:30pm!!!! (Ask any medical professional, you're NOT supposed to chase the pain!)

I patiently waited and asked to take my regularly prescribed medications as well. The nurse told us that the attending physician said I won't be taking any medications tonight, I can take them when I get home.

Once again, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!!!???

I had already very carefully instructed the surgeon's clinic that I would need ALL of my daily medications to be given to me! I cannot skip days! It's too dangerous for me to skip any of my medications, and I had listed all of my mandatory medications and explained the dosage I take of each with the nurses at the Pre-Op appointments. They took notes on everything I said and added them to my file. If I don't take my psychotropic medications, I can literally have insomnia for days and then become Manic/Psychotic. (which was literally one of the biggest risks we were trying to avoid!)  If I don't take my birth control, I will bleed intermittently throughout the month or have a very painful period (which I did NOT need on top of the pain from this surgery!) And if I don't take my iron supplement for my Anemia, I can become very faint and dizzy, which is especially unsafe after surgery! Skipping days is NOT an option for me! 

After I demanded that taking my medications is NON-NEGOTIABLE, the nurse contacted the doctor and finally got the okay to give them to me. I did not receive them or the IV of Tylenol until almost 10:30pm that night, two hours later than I was supposed to have.

I got almost no sleep that entire night. I shared the room with another patient, and our IV machines kept going off, beeping, at all odd hours. It would take the nurses several minutes to come stop them! Once it took over an hour! I managed to fall asleep for 5 minutes, only to be violently awoken by one of the IV machine's alarms going off for more than 45 minutes before the nurse came to stop it! It was sickening!

I asked the nurse if she could give me a higher dosage of my prescribed medication to help me sleep. She said it was too late for the doctor to answer her call, but she would try contacting him anyway. Sure enough, he never answered.

I had brought all of my medications with me just in case, but they directed me not to take anything against the doctor's orders, which is a mandatory regulation, true, but all of my prescriptions are given to me at my own Psychiatrist and PCP's orders, so I've been taking them as instructed. Regardless, I wasn't allowed to.

Therefore, I could not fall asleep until after 4am, and it was a very light, in and out like sleep for about 3 hours. I woke up still in a ton of pain and very thirsty.

Once again! They brought another tray full of liquids I was NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE!!! More Orange and citrus flavored cups of gelatin, the fucking Mint Tea for a 3rd fucking time, and the hot soup! At this point I was livid! I had already given them the list of foods that I was not allowed to have! And they still got everything all wrong!

I had to wait almost an hour or more for the soup to cool off before I could try it, and I think it was supposed to be a Chicken or Vegetable Broth, but it tasted like there was some kind of Cayenne Pepper or spicy seasoning in it, so I could feel it tingling/irritating the back of my throat! I had to wait for them to replace my gelatin cups and tea before I could really drink anything. And though they gave me about 6 cups of apple juice, they were so high in sugar that I only drank one! They told me they really didn't have many sugar free options available. (So what the hell do they give Diabetics then?)

Here I am, this woman who just got out of surgery, can barely walk, am in a ton of pain, am extremely sleep deprived, having no choice but to advocate for myself again and again as they keep making ridiculous mistakes! I'm the patient! The one that's supposed to be taken care of, and I'm fighting for my own safety and well-being! WTF??!!!

Fortunately, the 2nd day was much better. My day shift nurse was very friendly and on top of everything. And they ended up sending the Head Nurse to our room because the patient next to me also had some issues with the nurses taking care of her. I told her everything you've just read, and she was very sympathetic to my concerns and apologetic.

She brought up my file and showed us that in fact, all of my medications and health conditions were listed right there, as I had already informed the hospital not only last year when this procedure was originally scheduled, but twice last week to update the information! She said there was no reason the doctor shouldn't have given me my medication as I instructed.

She apologized for the nurses having a "bad attitude" and making us wait so long for them to attend to us or the machinery. She said that's their job and there should have been a faster response time.

However, she said that my surgeon never made a note of indicating that my diet was to avoid red dyes or citrus, which is why the cafeteria kept sending the wrong fluids to my room, so they had to enter this into the system manually because he had not done it himself. What the hell!?

My Aunt Robin and I had told her about my horrible experience with waking up from the surgery in so much pain, and the Head Nurse admitted that this has happened to her before as well. She explained that several years ago, she gave birth to her child through a C-Section, and that her entire head/neck locked up in painful spasms. They sent a Neurologist to evaluate her and couldn't figure out what was wrong, so they dismissed her completely. She said it's a very rare phenomenon that can occur after surgery, and it took about 4 days for it to wear off. This validated what my Aunt Robin had Googled, and my foster mother also admitted that this has happened to her after each and every single one of her prior surgeries, because like me, she lives with Fibromyalgia. The Head Nurse said that she does not have Fibro and this has only happened to her once in her life, but she said she felt grateful to have met me because though she was sad to see me in so much pain, this was the first time in her life she had met someone who had been through the same nightmare, and that made her feel understood. She thanked us for candidly speaking with her and said she would definitely report all of our concerns to management.

Later, the Physician came to meet with us before I was discharged, and he further confirmed the phenomenon I went through. It's called "Post-Operative Myalgia" and occurs due to a substance called Succinylcholine, a muscle paralytic that is administered during the Anesthesia process to prevent you from waking up/moving during the procedure. It basically causes all of your muscles to contract at once, and the after effect for some people is intense pain/spasming once you wake up from the surgery. The term "myalgia" translates simply into "muscle pain," so my educated guess here regarding both my own and my foster mother's experiences is that this may be inevitable for people who live with Fibromyalgia, as we are already prone to muscle tension, pain, stiffness, and cramping on a daily basis. The Physician explained to us that most doctors are not familiar with this risk unless they were trained as an Anesthesiologist, which he had been.

Upon doing further research, I discovered a peer reviewed article from the year 2000 that said this phenomenon is still not understood or well known, even though we've been utilizing Succinylcholine for over 40 years. Therefore, I don't think I can be angered or upset with my Pain Management clinic or Rheumatologist for not warning me, because I honestly think they didn't know this was a risk factor. Though once I'm fully recovered, this is a conversation I will have with them. They need to be aware so that they can warn others!

But I am saddened that I did everything in my power to educate and prepare myself for all potential risks, I was hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and this threw us all for a loop. Was not expecting this at all.

The Physician finished speaking with us, was very kind and supportive, and discharged me late Tuesday afternoon. I've been home ever since, and it has been a very slow recovery.

Like the Head Nurse mentioned, it has taken 4 days for the substance to wear off. I was in horrible pain throughout my entire body for the whole week until today. I could walk just fine once I was up, but moving around, shifting my weight, or trying to lift myself up out of bed was a very difficult task. I felt so crippled, I'm glad to have my mobility back, though I feel very weak and fatigued now.

Because I'm home, I'm able to take as much of my prescribed medications as needed and rest without interruption, so I've gotten much better sleep, which has been desperately needed. 

My throat seems to be recovering fine. The wounds look how they are expected to, healing with a white membrane surrounding them, though it is very painful for me to speak, so I avoid doing it. I also cannot eat solid foods yet, I've been subsisting only on Pedialyte, Koia protein shakes, water, and ice cream, all preferably as cold as can be. I've already lost 10 pounds, which I guess I knew would happen. I'm very hungry and can't wait to eat some mashed potatoes and a cheese burger, but that may take another week or longer.

I still cannot take any Ibuprofen, though that is my pain medication of choice, because there is still a risk of bleeding until the wounds are completely healed. So I am only using my Maximum Strength Arthritis Tylenol which my Rheumatologist suggested my Pain Management Clinic prescribed. It's doing the best it can, which isn't much, but it's all I have I guess.

But though I am doing better today, please don't misinterpret my words and think that I'm "okay." I am NOT okay. It has been a grueling few days, I have been miserable and suffering, all for reasons that could have been avoided. I am so outraged that the surgeon and hospital were not in proper communication on my dietary restrictions and medication regimen. I am so angered that they would not listen to me even though I clearly laid out of the instructions to care for me. I am furious with all of the mistakes they made and all of the added stress they have caused me that was NOT necessary! I will definitely be filing my own complaint once I am fully recovered.

For now, I'm NOT okay. But I am channeling my anger and frustrations into good, in hopes that I may prevent these types of errors from taking place and hurting others in the future.

Thanks for Reading. <3



Sunday, July 14, 2019

Lost Years

They say, "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." Well, if that's true, then I think that the reverse of it must be true as well. You don't know what you've missed until its there. In your face. To show you what you have never had.  .  . 

My friend's mother was in town visiting for a while, & I really got to know her. Got the chance to get close to her. And she told me about all of the things she did with her sons. Like play video games with them, go to concerts with them. (They went to see Linkin Park together! Can you imagine?! Getting to see Chester Bennington in his prime! Oh, I wish I could have seen that while I still had the chance. Rest in Peace, another legend gone to soon.)

But I digress. I got to watch her & her son together, talking in funny accents, making silly inside jokes, the bond that they have. And it's moments like these that make me see all of the years of childhood I lost.

When you come from a tumultuous upbringing, one plagued with abuse, neglect, trauma, poverty, molestation, etc., you're constantly in survival mode. At least for myself, I know I had to become my own hero to get out of it. And I never looked back.

However, once you get out of it, it doesn't necessarily get out of you, & you don't know what was missing. Until you see it for yourself.

I remember being in the 1st grade, hearing one of my classmates get complimented on her Winnie the Pooh overalls. Everyone was telling her how cute they were, & she said they were a gift from her mother. That's when I thought to myself, "Your mother buys clothes for you?" I was used to living in raggedy hand-me-downs from my cousins, or recycled clothing from the 80s that my biological mother (I call her the egg donor, actually) kept in old storage bins. I was lucky if I got something from a thrift store or a discount store that fit me properly. And I was used to my egg donor constantly berating me on my weight, calling me fat, getting mad at me for growing out of her clothes/shoes, despite the fact that I grew taller & broader than her. Hey, she's 5'4" and got with a 400 lb, 6'4" African American man! What did she expect! It's not my fault I grew like a weed! I'm an Amazon!

But it goes sooo much deeper than that. I really didn't think that the toxicity in my household was out of the norm until I seriously got into daytime & evening sitcoms. I grew up watching My Wife & Kids, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Everybody Love's Raymond, According to Jim, 8 Simple Rules, 7th Heaven, The Bernie Mac Show, & several others (A.K.A. the poor 90s kid who can't afford cable starter pack, am I right?) where I saw how "normal" families functioned. The ways they would talk & interact with each other. And it was watching these shows that started to reveal to me that constant yelling & being hit in the face repeatedly were not a normal part of family life. It was these shows that shed light on the sick reality I was living in.

But still, you don't think about these things once you get out of it. At least for me, I processed these memories in therapy, learned to cope, & focused on moving forward & away from these tragic cards I was dealt with.

Though, inevitably, it still comes up, & especially when you least expect it. Like the time I sat in one of my graduate courses, and the professor randomly asked the class such a simple question: "When you were a small child, what did your parents cook you for breakfast every morning?" I sat there & watched everyone fondly reminisce & spit out their answers like rapid fire.

"Oh, bacon & eggs!"

"Pancakes!"

"Huevos rancheros!"

"Um, I think my mom always made me oatmeal or waffles."

"Grits!"

I sat there, dumbfounded, trying so hard to remember. And I couldn't remember anything. Because there wasn't anything to remember. Everyone in the class took a couple of seconds answering one by one in a circle until it came to me.

"Um.  .  . um.  .  ."

I could feel myself panicking, taking up too much time to figure out an answer.

"Um, I don't think anyone ever made me any breakfast. Um, I remember having to wake up early to go to school to get breakfast in the cafeteria. I remember making myself something to eat. But I don't remember anyone cooking for me, not every morning. Um, maybe once in a while."

I think the class took a break after we had a dialogue about culture, and the professor took me outside to tell me that I didn't have to share anything I was uncomfortable with. Legitimately concerned about my well-being, she said I didn't have to feel pressured to give an answer. She noticed how upset I became, listening to everyone's fond answers that they produced so quickly, & then being completely stumped. I assured her that I'm an open book, I really don't mind sharing aspects of my life with others. But I left class that night feeling so deprived of a "normal" childhood. Everyone answered that question with ease, & I sat there, blankly, trying desperately to think of what was done for me when honestly, nothing came to mind. And the fact that everyone else had it so easy made me truly recognize exactly what was robbed from me.

To take it a step further, there was another course in my Master's program where the very first day of the semester, the professor wanted to start a discussion about parenting practices. She asked us what disciplinary measures our parents would take in raising us. Again, this was another unpredictably painful question to answer. I watched my peers take turns telling amusing anecdotes of trouble they got themselves into & what their parents did to punish them. I don't remember details, but all I can tell you is that their answers were innocent & tame. I looked across the room to see my eyes meet only with one other student, who was turning red as her eyes welled up with tears. I knew exactly what she was thinking. We were both dreading having to go next, waiting to go last, doing whatever we could to direct attention away from ourselves. I could feel myself becoming hotter as my eyes welled up with tears too, & they started streaming down my cheeks. But I'd like to think I've perfected the art of the silent cry. I've had to cry in public so many times when random conversations trigger traumatic reminders of my past. And growing up, tears were a sign of weakness, they were considered a nuisance, & if I cried in front of my mother (or sorry, I meant egg donor) the only response I would get is, "Stop crying, or I'll give you something to cry about!" And if I didn't stop, it was an open palm across my face, several times, the usual. Once I got into foster care, we were all teenagers, and my foster siblings didn't recognize the signs of depression I exhibited. They were just annoyed by my inconsolable sulky mood and bad attitude. Little did they know I distanced myself from them so I could cry privately and away from their cruel remarks and criticism. And so I learned from a very early age how to stop myself from audibly crying & hide behind dark sunglasses, go find discreet corners, & hold my sniffles in so no one would hear or see me while I did.

So I did this that day, & I sobbed under my breath & quietly, inconspicuously wiped away my tears until it was my turn to speak, the floor was mine, & all eyes were on me. I just began weeping as I told the class how I was constantly hit in the face, slammed into walls, scratched by long, dirty fingernails, burned with cigarettes, & thrown around, over the dumbest things. If I did so much as build a fort out of sheets or eat someone's chocolate, I wouldn't hear the end of it for hours, & I'd be slapped so many times I lost count.

But I don't bruise easily. Though I'm light skinned and fairly complected, I've never bruised easily. You can hit me as much as you want, & it probably won't show. (Which was quite convenient for my abusers since they got away with it for such a long time, & the cops would be called to our house or I'd go to school with no evidence left behind of their maltreatment.)

But that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. Just because you can't see marks on my skin doesn't mean I'm not in pain. But the scars run deep, because my skin may not be marked, my capillaries may not be broken, but the scars I have are psychological & neurological, & their pain seems to be permanent.  .  .

I shared bits & pieces of my story, & this motivated my other colleague, the one that exchanged anxious glances with me from across the room, to share a bit of hers. And sure enough, she could relate to me. The circumstances may have been different, her father was an alcoholic, & that's what led to the turmoil in her childhood household. My family did not consist of addicts, it was solely mental illness that caused them to have such erratic behaviors. But the differences didn't matter, because the damages were the same. Here we were, the only 2 of our kind, completely grown women, crying our eyes out in this graduate course about Human Development because the truth of our pasts was blatantly revealed in its stark contrast to the privilege of our peers.

These moments remain fresh in my memory to this day. Instances where I discovered things I had never known before. Where it becomes clear just how bad I really had it.

Because for so long, & I'm sure many survivors can relate to this, we think it's all our fault. Or it didn't really happen. We made it all up. And we're to blame for everything.

And the gas lighting, or brainwashing that the perpetrators do seems to work to make us doubt ourselves. They will tell you over and over again that they did no wrong, they never abused you. And after a while you may start to believe them. "Maybe they were right? Maybe I did make everything up."

But obviously, you didn't. Yet, you start thinking you're delusional.

Until you have experiences like this. Where everyone discusses their "normal" childhoods, and you can't relate at all. You can't remember any happiness. You can't remember anything other than absence, pain, and resentment. (And in a sick & twisted way, at least it's validating, because now, you know it did happen, it was horrible, & you're not crazy.)

And so I felt some of these feelings come up for me again while my friend's mother was here. How envious I felt that he had a mother who did so much for him, truly cared for him, had fun with him. I told him how lucky he was & that he should never take her for granted. I can only wish I had a mother like her. A badass mother who plays VIDEO GAMES with you!!?? Heck, my egg donor barely knows how to turn on the TV! She struggles to operate a DVD player! She's stuck in the 60s, a video game console would be completely out of question!

Once again, I digress. But the main conclusion I'm trying to get at here is that many of us don't realize how messed up our childhoods were until we see how others had it. And then we truly know what we've missed out on.

I was walking down my street the other day, & I saw that my neighbors had hand drawn a game of Hopscotch on the sidewalk with chalk for their small daughter. One of the times I was walking home, I happened to pass them as they were playing with her, and they encouraged me to play, so I did. I joyfully jumped along, following the directions they had drawn, and heard the resounding laughter that filled the air. They were so nice and she seemed to really be enjoying herself.



All I could do was think back to how nothing like that was ever done for me. I don't remember my egg donor ever playing with me. I can only remember playing by myself, reading, writing, or watching TV, alone.

It's the smallest things that can trigger me. And they're a persistent reminder of the years I've lost. Years that I'll never get back. And as much as I've worked through it, that still hurts.

Grief is not only for the dead. Grief can be for anything that's lost, including things you've never had. And I'm still grieving the childhood that I never had. The one I was cheated out of.

A recent scene from the CW show Jane the Virgin resonated with me, (& don't worry, no spoilers here!) when the main character tells her best friend that it's okay to feel sad for yourself & sad that you didn't have it better growing up. And that's something a lot of us have to learn. It's okay to be sad. It's okay to grieve. And it's okay for me to wish I could have had it better.

But I'm doing everything in my power now, as an adult, to right the wrongs of my past, & give myself everything I never had. I practice so much self-love and self-care. I have to, because back then, there was no one to give it to me, at least not until I got placed into foster care & formed strong, lasting bonds with my foster mother, teachers, mentors, & relatives that my egg donor prevented me from seeing.

I live my life to the fullest, I treat myself to what I want when I can afford to. I'm pursuing all of my dreams & achieving my goals. And I work hard so that I can play hard & spend as much time with my friends & family as possible to make up for what I've lost.

I'm in such a good place right now. I feel incredibly happy every day, and I have so much gratitude to God for how far I've come, for all that I have, & to know that I survived through the struggles & they've made me stronger.

I find myself fulfilled in what I do, in those who I surround myself with, & in the many communities I'm proud to be a part of.

However, it's still necessary to never forget where I came from. I accept the fact that I'm still grieving all of the years I've lost, & I acknowledge that there may always be a hole in my heart.

But I'm trying my best to fill it.

Thanks for reading. <3 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Do it Yourself


"If you want something done right, do it yourself." 

Recently, I have had a couple of friends compliment me on self-publishing my book. They said they were quite impressed I've been making things happen, all by myself. (Namely, Carly & Jennie; thank you loves.💕)

Well.  .  . I am. And I'm very appreciative of them noticing. But let me tell you why I've been doing things solo.

In highschool, many of my teachers praised my poetry & creativity. I entered into several contests & won a few, but was rejected from a majority of scholarships/grant opportunities I applied to.

While I studied at UCLA, I started off as an English Major. My aim was to enter into the Creative Writing program. I applied for the Poetry class, a very competitive slot, only 15 spots available each semester. I submitted 5 of my poems, the pieces I was most proud of, each time. I was rejected all 5 times.

After being treated poorly by the faculty & staff, I left the English Department and declared my major with the Gender Studies Department. There, I felt welcomed, supported, respected, & valued. I studied Feminist theory, Sociology, Psychology, Ethnic Studies, and Sexuality Studies, all social justice oriented subjects that now informed my writing & gave me the terms necessary to articulate my lived experiences as well as the struggles I observed, in myself, others, & society as a whole.

This influenced my decision to go onto graduate school & pursue therapy. Though writing was still & always will be a passion for me. I continued to write & finished my poetry collection. I decided to submit it to various publishers. Button Poetry & Andrew McMeel both rejected my work. Several other publishers wanted to charge me exorbitant rates of $1,500-$4,000 to publish, print, & market my manuscript. I turned down all of their ridiculous offers as I am still a starving student saving for rent each month.

But then I was connected to resources in my community that made me aware I could self-publish, by myself, for free.

This is why I do all of the work myself. I have visions in my mind & I know exactly how I want them to be executed.  I trust myself & I trust the process. But that's not my main point.

The message here that I'm trying to pass on: Never give up on your Dreams or Visions. Several doors will get slammed in your face. You will be rejected several times. But if you're patient & dedicated, eventually, the right doors will open for you, or you will make your own damn doors! 🚪

And go with your gut feeling. I knew that my poetry was well received by my teachers, friends, family, colleagues, & broader community. So I didn't let it get me down when departments, professors, & publishers didn't see my potential. I saw it for myself. 

For those of you who have purchased my book already, I want to thank you for your undying support, & kindly ask that you leave a review. Reviews help independent authors flourish. 🌱⚘

And for those of you who would like to grab a copy, follow this link: A Root that Sews

Thanks for reading. ❤

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A Root that Sews - Now Available!



My first book, A Root that Sews; A Collection of Poetry, is now available for purchase as a Kindle eBook ($7.99, or free for Kindle Unlimited members) & Paperback ($12.99) on Amazon.com! 





Follow this link to order it here: A Root that Sews on Amazon.com

Thursday, March 7, 2019

It's the Small Things. . .

Last night, I cried tears of joy over fruit snacks and animal crackers.

Okay.  .  . , let me explain myself and give you some background on why this happened to me:

I grew up pretty poor, but it wasn't just the lack of money that led to my deprivation. My mother was incredibly strict and stingy with what foods she would purchase for the household. She would not allow me to have any sugary snacks or cereals. Her reasoning was that she wanted us to be "healthy" & she considered herself a "health nut," but it was contradictory in that she would buy a box of Twinkies or a bag of gummy bears for herself, and not let me have any!

It was super unfair, and if I asked her to share some with me, she would become irritated and say, "Go buy some with your own money!"

My allowance was only a measly $5-10 every month or every 2 weeks if I was lucky. And I couldn't spend it lavishly as I desperately needed it for bare necessities, such as body wash, shampoo, deodorant, pads/tampons, clothing, etc. since she usually did not buy these things for me and expected I do it myself.

And please, don't think that's all she could afford to give me. She was busy donating $15-$25 or more a month to charities like St. Jude's Hospital, Union Rescue Mission, Feed America, etc. when she literally had a hungry child at home! (Oh, the irony!)

I will say, when you have abusive/neglectful parents, you take what's good and leave the rest behind. I definitely learned how to budget my money well as a preteen and spend only on priorities. If I had any left over, I'd save it to buy something I really wanted, like a GameBoy Color game. (Ah, #Throwback)

But my mother was very selfish and would buy some of my favorite snacks and refuse to share with me. It was heartbreaking and devastating.

Because of it, I started to develop unhealthy binge eating behaviors. Once, I was allowed to visit a neighbor's house, and her mom had a gigantic bucket full of fruit snacks. I had to have eaten 20 packets in one sitting! Her mother became somewhat upset with me, but she understood that I really didn't have access to that type of luxury in my household, so she brushed it off.

I tended to do this whenever I went to a friend's, relative's, or neighbor's house. I would eat all of the candy, sweets, and junk food they had in sight because I knew I wouldn't get any at home. I'd stock up while I had the chance. Thank goodness I didn't end up having an eating disorder, and luckily I managed to grow out of this bad habit. (So a small lesson to learn here for current or future parents, DON'T deprive your child of small snacks they love! Just let them have it in moderation or from time to time so they don't end up doing what I did!)

However, in the midst of all this, one of the small things I do remember enjoying as a young child was my grandmother or uncle always surprising me with Barnum's Animal Crackers. They were cheap, probably only 79 cents or $1, but I loved the cute box & the fun shapes.


This box looks exactly how I remember them. <3

When I went into foster care, my foster mother always had a huge cookie jar full of animal crackers, and it was a nice snack to munch on in between meals, as well as brought back some of the very few fond memories I had of such a chaotic, tormenting and horrific childhood.

Another thing I remember were these cheap, single serve pies called "Mrs. Redd's" that you could buy at Food 4 Less or any other discount supermarket for 4 for a dollar. Occasionally, on a trip to the grocery store, my mother would allow me to pick one, I'd always get the chocolate pudding pie, and it was my little dessert that I was allotted maybe once or twice a month, or less frequently. But it always made me smile. :)

I happened to recently find them again while I visited my childhood Food 4 Less, now they're 2 for a dollar (go figure, inflation I guess, LOL). But I'm excited to eat them when I get a craving from my sweet tooth.

The new version of Mrs. Redd's pies. The packaging has been updated, but they still taste the same!

So, this is the reason I cry tears of joy over some fruit snacks and animal crackers. I went on a trip to Costco, saw them, and immediately picked them up & hugged them. After I brought them home, and placed them in my cupboard, it made me sooo happy to know that I can buy this type of food for myself, just to have as something to snack on at home, or bring to class for a quick bite when I get hungry in between breaks. They were something I wasn't allowed to have, and now that I have the freedom and ability to buy them for myself, I don't take it for granted.

Not to mention, they also serve as a reminder that I managed to escape that emotional abuse & neglect, and I now live in an apartment I love, a home I created, and I can provide for myself.

Welch's Fruit Snacks (my favorite brand) and Costco brand (Kirkland) Organic Animal Crackers

It really is the small things in life that matter the most and make us happy.

Thanks for reading. <3

Monday, February 18, 2019

Profound Moment


A random act of kindness; one of life's mysterious, beautiful, & meaningful moments. 

I had an interesting, strange, & profound moment at Union Station the other day. As I was waiting to board the Red Line train in Downtown LA, I thought very briefly about launching myself off of the edge of the platform & being killed by the impact of the train. I wasn't feeling sad at all. I had just finished class & was relieved to have gotten through the week. But the thought came to me in a split second. A daydream about ending it all. The thought scared me. It scared me to feel that way. To want to off myself even though seemingly nothing was wrong. I shook my head & pondered, "It's probably just because I'm very tired." I've felt tired of life often. 


I caught the train to Union Station, & as I arrived, a man kindly approached me. His skin was of a bronze complexion, he may have been Latino or Asian, I'm not quite sure. He was dressed in a black coat and looked a bit disoriented. He came up to me & asked "Excuse me, you speak English, right?" I nodded & verbalized "Yes." He proceeded, "Can you help me?" I obliged. He held a discharge sheet in his hand & explained to me how he had just been released from a mental hospital. He had since taken his psychotropic medication on an empty stomach & was starting to feel the side effects kick in. He appeared uneasy. I offered to buy him a small snack. Happily, he said he would like that. I walked him over to the small convenience store, letting him know that I could only spare a few dollars. He said that would be fine. I watched as he hurriedly grabbed 2 small bags of Famous Amos cookies & a Vitamin Water, trying very considerately to not take up much of my time, & politely apologizing for the inconvenience. I told him not to worry. We waited in line for the cashier, & I paid for the items on my credit card. $5 and a few cents. We walked out together and he thanked me & told me how much he appreciated my help. I told him that he asked the right person. I shared with him that I, too, have been in a mental hospital. He asserted, "Ah, then you know how it is." I told him "Yes" & shared with him my diagnosis. I told him that I then went on to work in a psychiatric ward for a year, & am now pursuing my doctorate. He thanked me again & told me to have "a blessed evening." I told him to do the same, & we said our goodbyes.

I cried immediately after the exchange, and for several minutes during my ride on the Gold Line train home. I thought about how good it felt to help him, to have the capability and privilege to spare a few dollars for a small snack that could reduce some of his discomfort. I thought about how good it felt to be able to help someone, but I also thought. . . If I had killed myself just minutes earlier, I wouldn't have been there to help him. And again, this thought scared me.

This interaction caused me to re-evaluate my existence for a moment. I truly do believe my purpose on this earth is to help others in the ways I've learned to help myself. I truly believe that is why God created me. And it's my reason for being.

It gave me the opportunity to look at how far I've come. I've been through so much. Only a few years ago, I was in that man's shoes. Feeling uneasy, alone, disoriented and in need. And now, I'm accomplishing great feats.

But when taking a step back from this experience, I now see.  .  . I don't think I helped that man as much as he helped me. 


 Thank you for reading. <3

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Love Should be Conditional


This will most likely be an unpopular opinion piece. So be it.

I have never believed in the concept of unconditional love. It doesn't sit well with me. It doesn't seem right.

But I've talked to many friends about it, & most view it as the truest, purest form of love.

I still disagree.

I believe that love SHOULD be conditional. You should love someone on the conditions that:

-They love you back.
-They respect you.
-They trust you.
-They are loyal to you.
-They value you.
-They would never do anything to intentionally hurt you.
-They are kind to you.
-They are considerate of your needs & support you.

I feel that these conditions are fair. I feel that they are just. They are equal & reciprocal. They should be amendable.

And I feel that if these simple conditions are unmet, you don't have to love that person.

It seems that many people think you should give love freely. I don't disagree. But if someone won't love me as freely as I love them, I'm not going to waste my time by continuing to love them & give when all they do is take. In my opinion, this is idiotic & self-destructive.

Rather, you should give kindness freely. Kindness can be bestowed upon anyone you meet, a stranger or even an enemy, & it should be. But love, to me, is a more serious investment & a relationship to that person, which does not apply to everyone.

I feel that unconditional love can be used as an excuse to stay stagnant and not change, still expecting others to love you for who you are. But if you can't become a better person, a better version of yourself, continuously improving, then why should anyone go out of their way to love you when they're putting in all of the work and you're putting in nothing? That's one sided.

I do believe you should love someone flaws and all, on both their best day & their worst.  You should love the person as a whole, in their entirety. But that does NOT mean unconditionally.

I feel that many people think that loving family is an obligation. (Ever heard the saying "Blood is thicker than water."?) Throughout my life, I have been detached & estranged from my biological mother. People don't understand this. They tell me things like, "You should love your mother!" "How could you not love her!? She gave birth to you! She created you! She raised you!" "How dare you hate your mother!" "You need to forgive her!"

I do not hate my mother. I don't truly hate anyone. Hatred takes energy & negativity that I don't have. I may throw the term "hate" around loosely & jokingly, & I do have a strong dislike for certain things. But no real hatred.

I do forgive her for all of the abuse & neglect she put me through. She is deeply mentally ill, & has been for decades. I don't feel that all of it was conscious or her fault. It's the illness's fault. And I do believe that forgiveness is necessary, but for you, not for the other person. You need to let go of that hurt & move on before it consumes you. You can't heal, make progress in life, or grow until you do. And in terms of my mother, she isn't fully aware of the extent of the pain she caused me. "Forgive them for they know not what they do."

I do acknowledge that she did the best she could with what she had. I grew up poor, with food stamps & section 8 housing. We didn't have much, but she made sure the utilities were always paid & we had food on the table, even if that meant we went to a food bank or church to get it.

So I have empathy for my mother. I understand why she is the way she is. And I'm grateful for the good in her. But I do not love her. I cannot love her.

I cannot love someone who is toxic. I cannot love someone who is abusive & destructive. I cannot love someone who has no regard for others. I cannot love someone who refuses help & support. I cannot love someone who doesn't have love for him/herself.

Instead, I am indifferent towards her & I pity her. And that's just how it is.

She will never change. She is beyond saving. And I've accepted that.

There's no use in trying to love her when it is unsafe for me. When I tried to maintain a relationship with her, it threatened my own sanity, emotional wellbeing, & mental stability.

That is not worth it.

And it makes my heart heavy. It pains me. It fills me with sorrow. I wish I could have a normal mother/daughter relationship with her, but I can't. She is not a healthy person. She refuses to see a Psychiatrist or Therapist, heck, she won't even got to a regular medical doctor! She resists all help & functions as a ticking bomb waiting to go off. It is too dangerous for me to even be around her because she is so explosive, volatile, & completely unpredictable. So I can't risk my own safety by being around her. And my intention isn't to hurt her or make her sad, but protect & preserve myself. And the only way I can do that is by staying away from her. It's an incredibly hard plight that most people don't understand, but it's my life.

Some people are still able to love their abuser. This is known as "Stockholm Syndrome," or in clinical terms, "traumatic bonding." But this is usually a means of survival because they cannot escape the hold of their captor and they are trying their best to cope.

This is not something I possess. I was able to escape, to become my own person, & to leave my abuser behind. And I feel that I am stronger and more resilient because of it. But I am not capable of unconditional love.

Perhaps this is a distinct part of my personality or nature. I have a tendency to detach & disassociate easily from others. I can fall in love with you instantly, but lose that love just as quickly. Maybe I developed this skill as my own survival mechanism to shield myself from harm, or maybe it's an inherent quality. Either way, it's how I interact with others in the world. If our love is mutual, you can remain in my life. If not, I let go, disconnect, & move on.

After reading this, you may view me as a victim of my past or as a creature of circumstance. You may completely disagree with me. And that's okay.
But try to see my point of view.

On the other hand, if you see my side & agree, then begin letting go of unconditional love. It's an outdated, overrated cliché that can be more harmful than helpful. Begin to recognize your value & your worth and implement those conditions into your relationships. Ever since I have, I am surrounded by friends, the family I've chosen, who are healthy & supportive, & they enrich my life rather than try to destroy it.



Thanks for reading. <3