It's Working! It's Working!!! ...Wait, Nope. It's Not.

8:04 PM

Have you ever seen a cartoon where the character notices a leak and puts his finger in it to stop the water from spraying out? But then another leak springs up, so he puts another finger over there. And then another. And another, until he's somehow using all of his fingers and toes.

onyl 90s kidz will undrstand dis~!!
Or, if you haven't, have you seen Star Wars Episode I? And everyone was like, "Oh, boy! George Lucas solved the prequels issue. This will be great!" And then they saw the movie and went, "Wait. What? That just made everything worse..."

That's how my life has felt over the past few months. And why my blog quickly and unfortunately fell by the wayside.

I could detail exactly how my life came to be that way, but I've always hated the "I'm so much more stressed out and busier than you are" game. So suffice it to say, work, life and other obligations piled up. (And as an aside, I'm growing out my pixie cut right now, which is a whole 'nother level of frustration, as any girl with short hair can tell you.)

But finally, things have started to calm down. On top of that, I'd received a lot of positive feedback about my blog and, as I was shocked to just discover, my blog views kept going up while I was gone! So I felt the pull to come back to this project and talk about, well, the past six months.

Health-wise, a considerable amount of stuff has happened since I left you. To avoid rambling, I'll just jump into the first story I'd like to tell you all.

I'll title it "That Time When My Medication Made Me Fat, Stopped Working and Then An Escalator Attacked Me."

Okay, my husband is going to get mad if I say I got fat. I didn't, to be honest. But I did put on a good 15 pounds that showed absolutely no sign of stopping.

Let me explain...

If you do recall, right before my blog came to a sudden pause, I talked about my new ob/gyn, Dr. Lisa putting me on Elavil, an antidepressant that's often used to control pain in people with chronic conditions like fibromyalgia or endometriosis. And I said I felt great. And I did! And I said I was finally at a healthy weight. And I was! And I glowed with the radiant light of newfound energy and joy. And it's true!

For about six-ish months, I felt awesome on Elavil. The pain near where my endometriosis was found (my left ovary and Fallopian tube) decreased substantially overnight. I had very few bad days that landed me on the couch for hours. My energy was at an all-time high, but I still tired fairly quickly and felt the need to rest up before big events or trips (which I had a LOT of this summer.)

My pain had diminished so much that my follow-up visit with Dr. Lisa mostly consisted of Super Chipper Tracy detailing how great she felt. Dr. Lisa was so impressed that she brought in another ob/gyn to listen to my delirious ramblings. I was happy to leave my treatment the way it was and keep my doctor updated as needed.

But about two or three weeks after that, everything changed.

It all started when I noticed (stop reading here if you don't want the details) I was bleeding. A lot. Not a whole lot, but a lot when you consider that I'm supposed to bleeding ummm not at all. My continuous birth control shut that crap down, keeping a good chunk of my symptoms down with it.

So I thought, "Oh, no big deal. I probably just took my birth control kind of late one night, and it'll figure itself out."

But nope. It didn't stop. And it came with the bloating, pain, exhaustion and all around crappiness that it was supposed to stave off.

(Okay, if you left, you can start reading again.)

On top of that, I was, as I said, gaining weight. A lot of weight. I recently went vegetarian (another story for another day), and my diet had become pretty healthy and plant-based. I was also working out at the gym four or five days a week. So I thought maybe I was just putting on weight from eating more because I was burning more calories, but I didn't think I was eating that much more. Or maybe I was secretly swole, but just no one could see it yet... Not likely, at that point. But it seriously turned into every time I was on the scale, I was up another couple of pounds.

(Full disclosure: I have a tendency to unhealthy behaviors with my diet and exercise habits. Nothing serious, but I do push myself more than I should, and I'm very hard on myself. So this is not an endorsement for my diet or exercise plan.)

After feeling entirely drained, sore, beat up and worn to pieces for two weeks, I started packing for a four-day trip for work. I was really nervous about this trip because unlike most work trips that involved sitting in meetings and conferences rooms, I would be running all over the city, jumping on public transportation, helping wrangle volunteers and typing until my fingers fell off. I knew I'd end up exhausted, and I didn't want anyone to think I couldn't handle the trip. And on top of that, I knew it'd be a very rewarding and fulfilling experience, and I didn't want to miss a minute of it or not be able to contribute because I was in pain.

Here's where the pathetic, screeching halt came. I was trying to pick out dresses to wear to the work event, and I grabbed a couple I hadn't worn in a while. I pulled one on, and it was too small. No big deal. I think I bought it after I got out of the ER anyway. So I grabbed another. And another. And none of them fit.

Finally, the stress of my pain, anxiety and exhaustion came crashing down, and I crumbled into a heap on the floor, bawling. What was going on? I was working out, eating healthy, taking my medication on time, and here I was, clocking in at a max of 157 lbs. when I easily maintained 135-140 lbs. not too long ago. 

And gosh, did I hurt. Not even just in my side. My pain radiated all the way down to my knee! (Oh yeah, this was a brand new, super fun symptom, by the way.) I didn't even recognize my own body anymore. I didn't know what was going on, but I felt like a stranger trapped inside a vessel that I was certain was going to implode upon itself.

My loving husband, Andrew cautiously opened our bedroom door, sat on the floor next to me and held me, trying to soothe my sobs of "I'm fat!" and "I feel horrible!" and "I can't go on this trip!" After getting me to speak coherently and placing our sweet dog in my arms for emergency reinforcement, he suggested that maybe this was my medication.

Having my PhD in googling symptoms, I'm actually surprised that it never occurred to me to dig into my medication and read about other patients' experiences. But after flinging a random assortment of clothes into my suitcase, I plopped down on the couch and looked up "Elavil weight gain."


It was both a relief and disheartening. Almost every single person I found on forums, blogs and reviews gained weight on this drug. And it didn't stop. Even if you tried cutting your calories or working out like a crazy person, you apparently wouldn't drop a pound. Oh, and you craved carbs non-stop, which explained my sudden need to eat chips, like, every day.

So between feeling uncomfortable in my own skin and feeling like my uterus was going to detonate, I was ready to drop this drug and try something else. But it was Saturday night, and I was flying out in the morning, embarking on the most important, demanding and time-consuming work event of the entire year. I had no idea when I'd be able to talk to my doctor.

On Monday morning (the second day of the trip), I called Dr. Lisa's nurse and detailed my issues. She said she'd get back to me the next day with my doctor's recommendation, so I accepted the fact that I had zero cell phone reception and focused on my work duties, trying not to think about my meds. But upon resurfacing from a dead zone a few hours later, my phone started blinking.

Let me guess. Yep. Nurse had a drug recommendation for me, and I needed to call her back to get it.

Frantically, I dialed the office and left another message. I had to talk to that woman immediately. Even as I was dragging myself through the day, I could feel my ovary, hip and knee pulsing and aching. I didn't think I could make it to Wednesday with all that I had to do. So after my panicked voicemail, I dove back into my reception dead zone and a two-hour obligation.

I emerged with another voicemail waiting for me from my nurse that pretty much said, "We're leaving for the day. We'll call you tomorrow. Bye."

I had to step away from my coworkers to keep from screaming and crying. I needed help right now, and there was no way I could get it. I just wanted to bury myself in my overstuffed hotel bed and cry until Wednesday because not only was I in a ton of pain, but my hormones were out of whack and making me super over-emotional.

(I literally cried while walking through a rainstorm later that week because I looked at some Pulitzer Prize-winning photos, and they made me feel feelings. But I find this to be a normal reaction to those emotional roller coasters...)

The next day was the hardest. I had to be up early and running around all day. I manage media relations for the non-profit I work for, which involves a lot of social media, taking pictures, sending stuff to the press and general cleverness that my brain was barely clinging to at that time. So a lot of physical, mental and apparently emotional energy was going to be expelled that day.

My phone finally rang as I was taking a group photo of some volunteers. I grabbed it, balanced it oh-so professionally on my shoulder and snapped the photo as I said, "This is Tracy!" It was another nurse, telling me what I had been dying to hear for days. The solution to my malevolent, life-ruining, fat-creating medication from hell. (I mentioned I was emotional that week, right?)

And thank God, it was an easy fix. I had been taking Cymbalta, another anti-depressant, for my ongoing anxiety disorder, and the nurse simply suggested I bump it up to two pills a day. She said I didn't have to worry about weaning off the Elavil, and I could start doing this right away. And to make the horribleness completely go away, she sympathetically said, "I hope that helps, baby. You sound like you feel so miserable." I was seconds from collapsing to the floor again and sobbing, "YOU HAVE NO IDEA AND THERE WERE PULITZER PRIZE WINNING PHOTOS THERE TOO."

So while my problems weren't immediately solved, I had an answer! And seriously, that made all the difference in my mood. I think just knowing that gave me enough energy to push through the rest of my work obligations for that trip, although I was practically comatose by the end of every day. I managed to survive my daunting work trip without having to take a break and hide away in my hotel room with my heating pad! Which also meant I got to experience the happiness, fulfillment and joy from this event that I was worried I'd miss out on.

As of right now, the Cymbalta is working great. In fact, I hadn't had a chance to get to the gym until today, and I'm already down to 149 lbs. without even trying. I can fit into most of my clothes again! So I'm optimistic that I'll be feeling back to normal really soon. The bleeding, pain and constant discomfort has stopped, too, and I'm hoping this lasts longer than the Elavil did.


"But Tracy!" you say. "What about the escalator attacking you?!"

I am so, so glad you asked. And this part has absolutely nothing to do with my health.

On the last day of my work trip, I dragged my oversized suitcase down an escalator. There were, in fact, three sets of escalators to get to the room where we kicked off our mornings for this trip, and each escalator got progressively skinnier for some reason. So I was little uncertain about how this would all go down, but I passed through the first one easily.

Then the second one came. Everyone was headed down at the same time I was, so every step on the escalator was full of my coworkers from across the country, many of whom I'd never met. I was certain my suitcase would end up barreling over some poor, unsuspecting man from New Jersey or something, but it didn't. I made it out alive.

And then the third. All was going well. I was confident. I had new medication. I felt accomplished from my work trip. I was ready to go home, snuggle my dog and say "Oh, hey. You're here, too." to Andrew. Nothing could get in my way!

And then, as the final step approached, it happened. It felt as though someone stepped on the back of my shoe, and I went flailing forward, catching my balance and saving my suitcase from toppling onto a passerby. But as I turned back, I gazed with horror upon what was left in my midst.

My black flat was stuck in the bottom step of the escalator that was completely full to the top with my coworkers.

The man behind me tried to grab it and save it, but he ran out of escalator. Then the woman behind him shrieked and tried to help, too. But it was no use. There was no way that ten-dollar Target flat was coming out of that escalator. I watched helplessly as the Very Hungry Escalator devoured my faithful, everyday work shoe, and it disappeared into the bowels of the hotel.

And then I burst out laughing. I mean, what else could I do? I had just survived my most stressful (but still rewarding!) work trip ever, all while feeling miserable, tired and sore, and I managed to have a smile on my face through most of it. And damn it, I was going to keep smiling, even as a ravenous escalator inhaled the comfortable flats I was prepared to wear through the airport.

Several kindhearted coworkers who witnessed my downfall came up to me to make sure I had another pair of shoes to wear as I continued to cackle (since I had finally cracked) and pulled my favorite pair of Oxfords out of my suitcase. I assuaged their concerns with jokes and "I'm fine!"s and trudged off with my suitcase to meet my team.

So if you're ever feeling crappy about your endometriosis or whatever you're going through, just look in the mirror, take a deep breath and say to yourself, "Hey. At least I'm wearing two shoes right now."

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  1. How did the 2nd set of cymbalta daily help you lose the weight you gained? It sounds exactly like when I was on the depo shot, only I bled 12 out of the 13 months I was on it.

    1. It limited my appetite, which I think helped. I wasn't eating that much more on Elavil, but it just retained everyyyythiiiing. I think a lot of it was purely water weight and swelling that immediately went away when I stopped Elavil.

  2. HAHA Ohh goodness. You made it!!! So glad this post had a happy ending and that you're feeling better!


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