Tuesday, January 3, 2017

the new year

I've achieved the silliest/dumbest pic yet!
I've come to love these kinds of posts where I get to reflect a bit on what I've achieved in the last few months (and what I could have done differently) and make goals for the future. I'm not sure why I like these posts so much now... maybe it's part of the "older and wiser" thing? Entering adulthood with a bit more grace than years past? Perhaps, perhaps. Either way, I sort of relish these marked dates where we all get the opportunity to do a little reflecting and a little planning. 

Even though I'm, you know, three days late. Ahem. 

So, 2016. This year was rough to say the least. I think most of us agree on that, but for me it was personally difficult, too. And yet I almost feel good about it? As though I've been through enough hell to have actually learned things? So that's good. For me 2016 was defined by sickness. I have to laugh at my own naivety in last year's post, when I thought all was well since I had been "feeling a little bit better." As they say down here, "Bless your heart," last year's Charlotte!

The first half of the year was brutal. I was in the hospital all the time. I had surgeries and procedures. Finally we found out that my liver is in fact damaged, but... they found no cause. Luckily the damage isn't severe and in these last few months the pain has decreased somewhat (knock on wood!!!) and my labs have been coming back mostly normal, so let me tentatively say that the liver issues will be at least somewhat less difficult to deal with from here on out. It seems as though some of that upper quadrant pain is something I'm just going to have to live with since we can't find a cause, but as long as I'm not having severe flare-ups, I can mostly manage. This year has made me tougher. I had a liver biopsy and felt the whole thing since I don't numb easily, so I kinda feel like a real bad ass.

As the liver problem lessened, my endometriosis made an appearance. It didn't want to feel left out, I suppose. After all, the upper abdomen can't have all the attention. The low dose birth control I was on stopped doing its job, pain returning full-force. 

You may have noticed I stopped posting entirely some time around late August. I'll tell the story of why now, and try to keep it short. (Brevity is not my forte, though. ;)

When I felt the endo coming back I talked to my primary right away. Endometriosis and I go back far enough that I knew I wouldn't want to put off treatment. He sent me to an obgyn here and off I went. Well... shit hit the fan. For whatever reason (capitalism and the patriarchy, probably), endometriosis is relatively under-researched. Most doctors don't seem to know a ton about it, and in all honesty, the current options for treating it aren't terrific. Turns out the doctor I saw must be one of the doctors who isn't extremely familiar with endo. She told me I'd need an open surgery and a bowel resection and, and, and... you get it, but suggested that in order to avoid that surgery I ought to go on depo provera. 

Ya'll. The horror. The horror!

I received the first shot of depo and about ten days later I started feeling my depression coming back. It felt heavier than it has in months. I was pretty devastated. I knew that on top of everything else, I really couldn't handle deep depression as well. I worried that things would quickly spiral out of control (well, out of what little control there already was, anyway...). School was starting at this exact time, too, so I made the decision to focus on treating my endometriosis, treating my depression, and getting myself to school... and nothing else. This blog, and many of my fun or blog-related "goals" immediately took a backseat. I found a new obgyn. For the depression, I asked my primary to talk about medicine (I'd been on medicine for depression before, but at this point I had been off of all medicine and doing well for over a year). I also committed to reading certain kinds of books, to walking and driving through nature as much as possible, and to going to church. All things that I knew from experience would work to battle depression. I can't say the depression went away - in fact I am still fighting it. But because I knew what I was dealing with and I've been there before, I think I was able to stop it from getting to a point where I can't function at all. Thank God, truly. As for school, I got myself there whenever I wasn't too physically ill and I passed my classes. Those three things: school, endo, depression. That's what I've focused on for the last few months. It was all I had the energy to do, and it's why I haven't been writing here as much. Now that I've just had surgery and therefore need to take the semester off (no point wasting my money on class if I need to miss a month to recuperate), my plan is to get back into the habit of writing. I'm very much looking forward to it. 

~me when I think about blogging again~
So that was that. 

Another effect of that depo was that it (sorry for possible forthcoming tmi) thinned my uterine lining way too much, causing me to bleed for weeks at a time. You know what's not fun? Bleeding out of your vagina for 57 days straight. But yes, anyway. I saw several surgeons, all great but not willing/able to perform my surgery because it was too high risk. I was finally sent to a gynecologic oncologist and then to a reproductive endocrinologist, we came up with a plan, and finally I got some relief first in the form of estrogen and then just last week via major surgery. I'm sore as anything now, but I'm honestly just ecstatic about the thought of a future with no/less pain. 

(The surgery shed light on just how severe the endo was - it was everywhere and I needed stitches in my intestines and rectum and it was binding together my vagina and uterus and aren't ya glad you're reading all these details?! But hey, these kinds of posts are mostly for myself, so I'm not holding back. And despite the severity, there was something sort of miraculous about my case. I'm going to write a post on that really soon.)

So that was most of 2016. There were some really great things about the year, too, though. Like I said, I followed through with my plans and started school again! I did really, really well in my math classes and I didn't do horribly in physics, either. (That one was a bit harder since I've never taken physics and because I missed quite a few days for medical stuff - and yet, I still got a B-!) I also finally found a church (one of the most beautiful churches I've ever seen, at that!) and went as often as I could. I can't describe how good it has been for me. In general I've just experienced and done things last year that, for reasons I still don't get, have made me just feel like a better me. So that's nice, right?

Now, as for those goals, let's see. They were: 

1. Make a two year plan; 
2. Get a job; 
3. Be less distracted; 
4. Watch more documentaries; 
5. Make a pilgrimage;
6. Exercise every single day; 
7. Go on a legit date; 
8. Finish the draft posts for the blog and,
9. Read.

How'd I make out? Well, I made a loose two year plan, but it was a bit thrown because of medical stuff. I'm counting that as a success, though, because I've got a general idea of things I'd like to do and I've been doing them! "Get a job!" oh, Char. My exact words in that post were, "The health stuff is improving. I need a job." If only you knew. I did work odd jobs, but I was so sick this year. I'm bummed about the lack of work, but I really can't even be mad at myself for it given everything I was dealing with. Prayers that this changes in 2017! I was definitely less distracted, and I'm actually a little proud of myself for how mindful I've become. I watched some documentaries, but I fell short of my goal. I think in 2017 I won't make it a resolution so much as just something I stay conscious of and make sure to do more often. And a pilgrimage! Technically I did make a pilgrimage! During the Holy Year of Mercy, Holy Doors were set up and if you were able to pass through one, it was a pilgrimage. Of course, when I made that goal, I intended it to be a pilgrimage that involved traveling more than an hour away, haha. But given all that happened, it worked out well for me. I am going to include making a pilgrimage as a resolution again this year. I most certainly did not exercise every day. However, I exercised as often as I could and I am in better shape now than I was this time last year. I lost a ton of weight... but then I put quite a few of those pounds back on after getting that shot of depo provera, dammit! Curse that shot!!! I did not go on a "legit" date... but I finally got my act together and joined a dating site and it hasn't been horrible. :) I finished quite a few drafts and I read 56 books, check and check. (Though my goal was 60 books... grrr.) 

Altogether I suppose it was a mixed bag, but I'm happy. Like I said, mid-year I switched gears and focused all of my energy on keeping my depression from getting too severe and treating my other health conditions, so I'm not going to be angry at myself for falling short on some of my less important goals. Priorities, people!  

Other fun/random things that I noticed about myself in 2016? Well, I've embraced some of these southern things...... you guys, I am now the owner of a pair of cowboy boots. Or cowgirl boots, I suppose. Le sigh. I also use the word "reckon," though I think that's also due to how often I read/watch Harry Potter. I finally learned to just love and embrace the color of my hair. Still working on the texture, though. I reconnected with my older brother and it's been great, but that can take up an entire post. 2016 was just a record year for me. 

So this year! This year. I'm unusually optimistic about 2017. I have a feeling it is going to be a lot of hard work, but after this year I feel like I can handle things, yo. If I can basically get stabbed in the liver and not cry (though I did whisper a somewhat loud "fuuuck" through clenched teeth), then I can overcome all of my crap and make good things happen, yes?

I've got a few goals in mind for the year, some of them major and some a bit random. 

1. I'm moving soon (as soon as the landlords stop procrastinating on fixing the bathroom). One of my goals for 2017 is to make my place somewhere I'm happy and comfortable, somewhere that's warm and welcoming to any visiting friends, too. 

2. Along those same lines of renewed independence... cook more. I've barely cooked at all the last year because I eat what's put in front of me. I'm grateful, of course, but I'm looking forward to planning my own meals and cooking from scratch and learning new recipes.

3. Be less fearful. Ah, this goes for a lot of things. Living on my own, worrying about health issues returning, etc. I don't think I'll ever be someone who can just not feel fear, but one of my goals is to overcome it and do things anyway.

4. Read 60 books. This year I only finished 56, falling four short of my goal. But I think I would have achieved the 60 had it not been for so many hospitalizations and stuff. I'll have more specific reading goals later, as per usual. 

5. This year I've really got to drink less soda. I've been great about drinking more water, but I drink a ton of Coke. My soda habits got about 500x worse when the depression hit, but I haven't tried hard enough to correct them. I'm thinking I'll go back to my old strategy of only drinking it on Sundays. 

6. Exercise often. I mean often. And continue losing weight! I got down to under 200lbs for the first time in years in 2016! The depo may have put some of that back on, but I fully intend on taking it back off and getting down to my ideal weight, anywhere between 160-180.

7. Learn to knit/crochet/sew. Pick one and learn it.

8. Learn to do my hair and makeup. I'm never going to be a makeup superstar because I just prefer not wearing a ton of it, but I would like to know the basics better. And my hair!! The only thing I know how to do with my hair at this point it putting some mousse in it and calling it a day. Surely I can learn a few more tricks. I always make goals that should make me feel better about my character, nothing wrong with making one that'll make me feel good about my looks, too. 

9. Pick six subjects and learn about them. Just for fun. My idea is to use two months per subject/topic to read about them, watch documentaries, take stuff out from the library, etc. So far my ideas are blue whales, the tundra, and progressive era activists. Ideas and suggestions welcome!

10. Get closer to God. Pray the rosary more, go to confession, go to daily mass more often, get to know the saints, go to adoration more often, read the Bible. You know, the good stuff. This is the most important of them all.

11. That pilgrimage!

12. Make friends in North Carolina, dang it!!!!!

I also told my friends I was going to be like Charlotte from Sex and the City, declaring that this is the year I get engaged. But we shall see haha. Might be a tad far-fetched. 

There are some broader plans and ideas I've got that don't quite qualify as "goals," like writing more. I'd like to write intentionally more often, too. Of course I use this blog for fun things like sorting characters into Hogwarts houses and coming up with nerdy baby names, but I'd also like to use this space to write more important stuff from here on out. There are things I really think I need to get out there (just for myself, not for the world to see or anything like that) and this is a built-in place to do that. I remember back in the day when I was actually pretty good at writing, and I feel as though I've lost that skill. I'd like to work on getting it back. This is a good place to start. Other plans may or may not include a dog companion and backyard chickens, but more on that later......

And finally, for this year's word and saint! 

2017's word: Heal

My body, yes. Big time. But also mind and soul. 

2017's saint: St. Gianna Beretta Molla

I plan on writing much more about this choice, as well as my saint friends of years past, like 2016's St. Joan of Arc and 2015's St. Anne. 

Until then, 

Happy New Year! 
xo Charlotte


  1. Dear Charlotte,

    first of all: It's great that you're back and I am very glad to hear from you.

    At this point, I have to admit that I wondered about your long absence from this blog and grew a little impatient, waiting for new posts.
    Then I read your prayer request over at Sancta Nomina and now this article.
    And now I feel sorry that I would have expected you to keep writing for the entertainment of, well, basically total strangers while you had all these other serious things going on.
    Let me just say that I stronly admire your strength and stamina in dealing with them.
    Stay as awesome as you are!

    Since I found this blog, there have been many things I love about reading it. So, please, see the following list as motivation to continue writing and posting in your own good time.
    However, I don't mean to put any pressure on you to do it now and immediately (or ever, if you don't wish to).

    Reasons why I love this blog:
    1) Your writing is authentic, honest and relatable.

    2) You don't shrink from difficult and controversial matters, but I never have the feeling that you try to lecture me.

    3) And though I certainly don't know much about your private life, it impresses me that (and how) you write about very personal and sensible matters: courageous and never without humour.
    I imagine that this requires a lot of courage.

    4) And finally, there are simply a lot of interests we seem to share: Books and reading. (Harry Potter! And I've actually begun to read Jane Eyre. Not that I've yet come very far - my reading list is simply to long:) - but I plan on finishing it this year.)
    Baby names (my guilty pleasure) and faith (or the struggle with it).
    And so on...

    After all, I hope, this rambling isn't too dull.

    Last, but not least, I would like to include you in a prayer to St. Gianna - may I?

    Love and best wishes


    1. Hi Bea! Of course, I'd appreciate any prayers, thank you! And thanks for this comment, it's so encouraging! Haha don't feel too bad, I've gotten impatient with bloggers, too. :) It happens. I'm hoping to get back to a regular-ish schedule as I heal up.

      Stick with Jane Eyre!!! That is a roller coaster of a book! I loved it so much that I'm considering reading it again this year :D
      Thanks again, Charlotte