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That moment I couldn’t feel anymore

A neglected blog. A sort of inactive twitter account. General feeling of meh. I would smile, but it wouldn’t last for long. Little sleep. Overeating. Gaining more than 10lbs in 6 months or less. Showing up to work, but feeling demoralized. Not wanting to get out of bed. Oversleeping on weekends. Taking naps even after sleeping for half a day. Not feeling up to anything. Clamming up. Avoiding people.

The list could go on and on. But that’s just a sampler of what was going on (or not) in my head for the last year (maybe even more).

My husband noticed that I started 2015 in a really bad place. I was anxious all the time. I was silent (very uncharacteristic). Every time I had a staff meeting I felt this sense of dread. I wasn’t finding excitement and happiness in my job, something that even under other stressful circumstances was sort of a constant.

He uttered the words. You are depressed, go see a therapist. And I couldn’t. I didn’t want to admit it to myself. I wasn’t showing the same signs that he did. I thought I had to be on the verge of crying every second to be depressed. Lack of feelings? Lack of enjoying stuff that would normally bring me tears to joy to my eyes? Nah, that couldn’t be depression. Plus, I was taking an anti-depressant to keep at bay my harsh PMS. I was already medicated. It couldn’t be.

Then I read this and this. And things started to make sense. I wasn’t feeling content, joyful. And if I thought I did, it didn’t last. I was like a zombie. I was going through the motions, but didn’t feel a thing. Not a single damn thing. That’s partly how depression manifested in me. That and a whole lot of anxiety due to some harsh things happening at work.

I contacted my regular physician. Since hon had been directly admitted to the psych hospital, and his therapist was there, I asked them to send in a referral to see the same guy. But they said they couldn’t, unless I was suicidal. Was I suicidal? I didn’t feel like creating a plan. It felt like too much work. But I was depressed. I was somewhat sure of it. My physician asked me to contact a special office at work where they do give you referrals to doctors outside the psych hospital. They also do a something akin to an intake interview, to determine what risk you pose to yourself or others.

It happened so fast. Early one morning I walked into the special office. 30 minutes letter I got my diagnosis: depression and anxiety. Through the roof. It was miracle I was still standing and hadn’t resorted to anything drastic. Of course I hadn’t done anything. I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t feel. At all. The only thing I thought I felt was dread and emptiness. I was a hollow blob, just going about my business. Trying to not burden anyone.

Instead of re-routing me to a counselor, I was referred to the psych hospital. I was to be taken in as a patient. I needed urgent treatment or something would break. I guess things were caught at the right moment.

I had a series of emails, calls and authorizations to take care of. I called my husband. He was just as surprised as I was. He sure thought I was depressed. But to the point of requiring immediate attention? Admission to the psych ward?

Two days later I was in. I was assigned a social worker, a psychiatrist and would see a nurse and receive intense treatment. Kind of a jump start.

I was very skeptical of how talking to the three of them, and eventually joining a group of like-minded fellow patients would do me any good. Had modern science and medicine produce a way to re-wire my brain? To make forget my traumas? Was I ready to face all the BS the would sure want me to bring to the surface? How would talking solve anything? It sure wouldn’t. Talking about not feeling would solve shit. I was damn sure of it.

I can tell you that after a few weeks in treatment, I am feeling again. And that is amazing.

to be continued ….

PS. I created a hashtag about my depression. Feel free to check it out.

Finances

Almost 6 years ago I wrote this. I’d just gotten my first paycheck as a postdoc and ran down a list of where money was being spent. My then boyfriend, now husband, found the blog (I still don’t remember or know how), and confronted me. We talked about debt and how deep in it I was (still am) and about forms of payment, etc.

Two years after that, I got my shiny new job in NYC. NYC was expensive (rent-wise). But I moved from Canada. My province (Ontario) had a tax of like 14%, so I was used of paying more for everything. NYC wasn’t such a harsh surprise, cost-wise, except for rent. But I was very lucky in that sense too. And even though I truly never lived alone, I never paid more than $950 in rent for a room, and got to live in pretty convenient places with pretty nice people (I was very lucky and never got crazy roommates like Chandler).

At the end of my PhD, I was making ~23k. During my postdoc I made ~38k. In NYC I was making ~55k. And now I’m making ~60K. My salary has gone up slowly but steadily. And I hope that if I’m fortunate enough to leave my lab for something better, I’ll be in the 70k range.

You may also remember how, right after taking my shiny new job in NYC, I was surprised by the news that a family member had defaulted on his payments to a loan I’d co-signed. For $50k. Yeah, I almost threw up then and still feel queasy thinking about it.

Long story short, since late 2011 I’ve been dumping $ into these debts.

Today, I got my calculator and punched some numbers and concluded that, if I have a steady job for the next two years, right until December 2017, I should be debt-free. I’m also keeping my pen and ink pretty put and not signing on for new debt (or worse, signing any documents that make me liable for other people’s debt).

I’ve been very slow to erase debt. I could have been debt free much faster, like, this year I could have been debt free if I’d applied myself as far back as Canada. But I didn’t. And of course, I’m paying now in interest.

I hope this story shows some of the very real dangers of getting into debt, especially in academia. Take my advice, never sign up for anything that you sure don’t want to be help responsible for. Don’t let family or friends guilt-trip you. It’s not worth it.

2015

Phew. Boy am I glad 2014 is gone, gone, gone. Last year was tough. First, hubby was recovering from his severe episode of depression. We were both walking on eggshells for a bit, waiting for the other shoe to drop, for his condition to worsen. For weeks he had no appetite, he was sad, had no inspiration. Luckily he got to be treated by a great psychiatrist and his therapy is going great. We both like him, and when his med med was changed and adjusted, hon started looking and feeling like himself. All in time for our second wedding ceremony, this time with family included. We’d gotten married in NYC (essentially eloped) but we wanted our families to celebrate with us, so we planned and planned and had our second wedding ceremony. It was awesome. We laughed a lot, ate, danced and even got to go on a very short honeymoon. It was a much needed break.

Then in the summer, particularly at the end of July, I became aware of just how much of an asshole a boss can be. That was the final straw that made me realize what a horrible decision I made when I left my previous job and took this one. While I am thankful for the experience to help run a lab and train students, it’s clear I’m not made for this, long term. Or at least with the current power structure I’m in. I applied for jobs, got a couple of calls, but nothing materialized. I became despondent, even a bit depressed. I talked to one of my previous bosses and with his guidance decided to try to isolate myself as much as possible from the asshole boss and concentrate on training his students while looking for a job. Nothing has panned out. With my current experience I’m trying to be very, VERY selective in terms of where to apply and for what. I don’t want to be in a staff position in academia, and sadly, those are where most of the openings I’m seeing. Ugh. But I’m trying.

Towards the end of the year, honey got word that he’s going to start working as an adjunct soon. It’s a bit of a commute, but it’s a couple of times a week, broadly speaking in the same discipline he studied and it pays. Not a crazy amount, but enough to cover food and some utilities. I’m so excited for him. He’s also applying for FT jobs, but they are even more scarce than mine, so we’ll see.

Finally, we have to move. Our lease at the current place is up and rent went up by a fucktillion, so we have to pack our bags and move. But this is proving to be a bitch. Rent has gone up in our neighbourhood. By a LOT. And for now, I’m covering most of the costs of living. Even while earning a bit over 60K, with my debt (I’m slooowly climbing out of that hole but still have until 2017 to pay it all off), and honey’s lack of FT employment, it’s difficult to fork over 1K for a 2BR apartment. Yes, I know, that’s cheap compared to lots of places. But it’s not for us, in our current situation. We’ll see, I’m making calls to a couple of places that appear to be affordable, but apartment complexes in this city suck immensely.

My hopes for 2015 are to: blog more, apply to a couple more jobs and perhaps land a different gig, appear in a couple of publications (last year was very dry, except for a decent profile paper that was published from my previous job), and have honey land something more permanent. We’ll see how it all pans out.

Hope 2015 is kind to you!

Been meaning to write for a while

But between the hectic schedule and instruments breaking down, and my energy levels at an all time low, I’ve been putting it off. Then I remembered how good it feels to let things out and feel like I’m coming up to the surface to get some air.

Earlier this year my husband and I came to the realization that moving for this job was a BIG mistake. Neither one of us is happy or feels like we’ve had some of our dreams come true. On the contrary, between health issues that send hubs to the hospital more than once, and my inability to submit and find a way to click with my boss, the heartaches and headaches have been enough. Earlier last week I realized that the only reason I took this job was because it paid more. Nothing else. My benefits at my previous job were comparable and the company ponied up the money for my retirement up front, instead of waiting 6 months or whatever (like my current job does) and deduct it from my paycheck. I know, this is silly. There are a host of other things that I’m not at liberty to discuss that make the job even less appealing, but that’s one that really pisses me off.

And sure, I butted heads with my previous boss on occasion, but he didn’t meddle in lab affairs, or wanted to control my every move, something that I’m constantly fighting against at my current job. The pay isn’t worth the heartache. The city is boring beyond compare, and the stress it has put in my marriage is simply not worth it. I’m a (semi) godless liberal … and this is most definitely not my turf.

Because of those things and more, I’ve decided to start looking for a job. I haven’t warned the boss and I don’t plan to until I have to … ie. until someone asks for recommendations specifically from them. I know it’s a huge gamble, and I’m banking on some of the senior people that I’ve worked on here to help offset my current bosses low opinion of me, the rebellious bitch.

Some of the things I’m thankful for having learned at my current job are that money will not ever buy me happiness. It certainly hasn’t alleviated my feelings of inadequacy, hasn’t funded long vacations home to decompress, let alone freed some time to spend with my husband away from work. I have learned that I’m not willing to submit to an asshole no matter how much money they throw at me (oh, I’m, starting to sound like a high paid escort). And that I was trained well and know my shit, even when the asshole boss is fixated on proving me wrong (time and time again I’ve proven them wrong, yet they continue to give me the evil eye). I’ve learned that I like the fixing part of the instrument more than I thought possible, but I would have to go back and earn a BE in mechE or EE to even attempt to apply to their company. I’ve learned that I love training students and that I can train them faster than I thought possible. I’ve updated web pages and lab protocols to help run things smoothly. I have created databases and started ways to document things that weren’t in place before I got here.

But even with all those little goals met, it’s still not enough. I’ve been asked (forced) to mold into something I’m not, into something that I thought I’d left behind. There’s a reason I didn’t pursue the academic dream, and I’ve been forced to stare at those demons in the face and reiterate that I’m not going to compromise. Academia is not for me. Never was, never will.

I’ve experienced some of the growing pains I’d faced before … when I was a postdoc. And while it hasn’t been nearly as devastating (possibly because I’d faced those demons), it has hurt, it has been painful anyway.

Sometimes I beat my chest and ask the universe, why, why didn’t I stay where I was. The comfort of what was known was reassuring. The demons I battled there were known and I could handle them. I gave myself the freedom to dream and think that I could still make it in academia, well, in the fringes. But I was wrong. There are things I knew I didn’t like and still came back … mostly because I wanted to feel needed. I wanted to know what it was like to go back to a place I’d been and dazzle everyone with my mad skillz. And that pride came to bite me in the ass. And in a way it is OK, because it means I have a couple more notches on my belt. I can lick my wounds and try to fight back. That I have a clearer picture of what I want and know my limits.

Growing pains, being an adult, being a facilities coordinator (my official title), they have all sucked pieces of me. But today I’m making the decision to stand up, to use the knowledge and skills learned and perfected over the last 1.5 years and fight back. I vow to not settle again, to not be dazzled by supposed past glories and by other people’s judgement. I vow to listen to my inner voice, the same one that warned me loud and clear that my boss was trouble; the same voice I ignored in favor of more money and prestige. Take it from me, apparent more money and prestige aren’t always what they are said to be. You need to be true to yourself and embrace your quirks and respect yourself enough to say enough, to walk back, to try to not burn bridges but still be willing to move away, for your family and your sanity.

I’m done.

The postdoc experience. The staff scientist experience

Ah, it’s that time of the year again. When new grad students, bright eyed and bushy tailed, start their classes and rotations. They’re so cute. They have so much energy and are so excited about science. I love them. I really do.

Earlier this week I had the chance to spend some QT with a new grad student in my boss’s lab. This student is bright and while at first they seemed a bit intense, turns out they have a soft-ish side and seem quite trainable. I’m really happy for said student and hope they chooses wisely.

While having a convo with the new student, I was asked about my educational background and how I felt about my current job. I’m bound by some sort of corporate thingie that prevents me from eviscerating my boss, so I was kind and smiled and told them about my former department, what I did for my PhD, the topic of my thesis and then delved into my postdoc and what my role is here and now. I paused for a moment and mentioned to them that now was the ideal time to consider why and what they wanted to do a PhD. I mentioned that during rotations, they should start forming an idea of what they want to become an expert in. That their ideas may or may not change as time passes, and discover that maybe they truly aren’t into cancer bio as much as they thought and that this is OK. We eventually talked about my postdoc and for the first time in a long time I didn’t say that I hated my postdoc. But I did say why I thought I’d failed miserably at it and the conditions that lead to me choosing the particular lab I went in and what I liked and didn’t. The convo then moved to how I’d become a staff scientist and what were the pros and cons. I explained that most staff scientists I know are not on contract and how that translates to job security (ie. none). How we still depend on profs getting grants and how when we head the instrumentation part of the lab, whatever happens is our fault, always out fault, even if we haven’t touched the stupid dry nitrogen tank in 2 months!!! I also told them about my interests and how after grad school I didn’t get “married” to a topic, but welcomed anything that fell in my hands because I couldn’t get attached to a project the way I did in grad school, especially if I’d be handling large volumes of samples for others. I knew that I had a job, ie. to prepare samples, to make sure the ideal conditions were achieved prior to data collection and that data was properly collected, recorded, processed and archived. I told them about how, in the grand scheme of things, I do a lot of work, a lot of the slow-type work, collect the raw data, but how this excites me because I get to see the data before the PI or even the grad student or postdoc sees it. I get to pass on the knowledge and train people to collect data. And I get to see how excited they are when they see they can do it on their own. I told the student about how some PIs still want to squeeze you and your time as if you were a grad student, how they would love to see you here at 7am and have you leave at 10pm like everyone in their lab. I relayed how when one is bright eyed and bushy tailed one may want to go to the very top and choose a PI based solely on their publications in C/N/S, while ignoring crazy working conditions and/or inhumane treatment. And how some people are OK with that, while others have different expectations and they have to know what they’re getting into and whether that’s OK in their book. You will be in a lab for a few years and you have to ask the tough questions, check out physical cues and trust your instincts, especially if they’re telling you to run for the hills. Papers ARE the currency in academia, but you have to remain level headed and feel good, and some labs are not very good at that, even if they only publish in C/N/S.

This whole conversation made me think about how lucky I’ve been. I haven’t had gaps in my education or work history, I’ve managed to get out of bad labs/experiences before (I’m not having good luck this time around, but I’m growing a thicker skin for some things, so I guess that is one of my lessons to learn in this job) and how I was pretty sure from the very start, that PI-dom wasn’t for me. I couldn’t see myself writing non-stop, begging granting agencies for funds for my own ideas, mostly because I felt that I had no original thoughts that were worth funding. And how I was OK with that and I much I enjoyed, and still do, providing a supportive, training role to students and postdocs. How happy I am to see the data before it gets to the PI, how I help people troubleshoot. I how I get stay current in my game, while still saving money for retirement, something I couldn’t do as a grad student or postdoc. There are many advantages to being part of the scientific staff and I wish these kinds of positions were available and found more often. I feel accomplished (when my boss is not acting like an ass) and happy in what I do. I’m proud of my job and how I help my lab. I feel important and (somewhat) valued. Things I didn’t feel while I was a postdoc.

Then later, I got to spend some time with a very bright older grad student. This person is friendly, intelligent and has some pretty big ideas. They’re now shopping for a postdoc. This student wants to go the TT route and was looking for my opinion about certain PIs and cities, but also asked me to train them in some protein stuff I know how to do and they don’t, but we have to do it quietly, without raising suspicion because neither their PI nor mine can find out we’re training them, even thought their defense proposal has been accepted and they’ve been told to start writing. It brakes my heart that we both have to resort to “extreme” hiding measures to make sure this student is prepared for the postdoc, with skills they can’t acquire in their lab but are expected to know for their postdoc. This made me feel shitty because I would like to think that if I was a PI, I’d be thrilled I got to expand someone’s training, even if they weren’t in my lab (but I had a longstanding collaboration with their lab). I guess that’s yet another reason I’m not a PI. I would be a semi-softie and I know I’d have to make hard decisions that PIs have to make in order to keep the money coming and have it spent well. Decisions that while necessary, wouldn’t necessarily help me feel like I was helping the most amount of people. I have a soft spot in my heart for grad students and postdocs. Even though it’s been over 5 years since I finished my thesis and started my one and only postdoc, I still identify with many of their struggles and I want to be as supportive as I can.

I’m happy I get to train students and have an active role in their formation, even though they’re not “my” students. I do refer to them as such, because there are times that we spend long, long hours and see each other more than their PI or labmates.

Let’s see what happens in the coming months.

I dated a Christian Grey once …

******* Trigger warning *******

This entry contains a sexual coercion situation. This is sensitive stuff for lots of us. Please,  I don’t want you to end up in therapy because of whatI wrote. If sexual coercion situations upset you, please read with caution.

*********************************

No, no, not someone into BDSM. Someone abusive …. like Christian Grey.

So, no big secret, I decided to get out from under my rock and read all 3 Fifty Shades over the weekend (honey was our of town for a bit, so that gave me plenty of free time). I’d heard all sorts of comments about it, from love to hate and everything in between.

This is by no means a comprehensive discussion (and I may spoil it for some people); I just want to get some of my impressions out and share some of my thoughts.

I didn’t want to pay for a book that a) was originally conceived as fan fiction of Twilight (and I am against Twilight), b) had been e-published, c) probably depicted violence against a female based on comments I’d read.

Lucky me, I found the pdfs of it and read it on my iPad gratis.

Some aspects of the book I enjoyed, in a weird way, I guess: I’m a brunette, so seeing having one as the main character was somewhat good (but she’s a while brunette, not a latina like me) . She was interested in British Literature, as I used to be (somewhat) at her age. She met her “prince charming” at nearly the same age as I did meet and date my Mr Grey. I did find erotica appealing and the fact that in some way, the main character, Anastasia owned her sexuality, her desires and (eventually, somewhat) asked for what she wanted.

That’s the extent of what I found “positive”. Everything else, from the writing, the plot, Christian’s attitudes and behaviours … it all made me shudder.

Nope, not the supposed BDSM scenes (which I kept waiting for and never really got … sure, a butt plug here, a whip or flogger there … that’s about it). So, the comments I’d read about people turning bright red upon reading the sex scenes were … overrated, IMO. The true problem is Christian’s abusive, manipulative behaviours and the fact that the same “prince charming” crap keeps getting bombarded to us. That we need a man to complete us, to validate us. But above all, that with just love and patience and submission, we can fix what’s wrong if we end up with a physically or (in this case) mentally abusive partner.

Having said all that, and somewhat setting the stage, I want to share my story.

_________________________

In 2001 I was a sophomore in college. I had my life planned out, I was going to start applying for med school in the fall of 2002 and life was going to be awesome. In March or April of that year, at the last minute, I decided to apply for a summer research program out on the East Coast and was accepted. That summer I ended up going to a well known public school in New England and doing a project which I hated with passion. That same summer, I met my very own Christian Grey. He was a bit taller than me, a bit pudgy and very smart. His smarts and looks instantly attracted me and I was taken by his smile. I could see a lot of pain in his eyes and I wanted to heal him, to make him smile for me and for the world (sounds familiar?). We ended up dating for almost a year, then he broke my heart the first time, but we patched things up. I will spare you most of the details, but he was very controlling (what I could and couldn’t wear; my contact with my family (eventually I turned against them)). It all started slowly, with a timid but forceful ‘If you break up with me, I promise you I’ll disappear, you’ll never find me and you’ll never, ever know about my whereabouts and it’s going to drive you crazy’ spiel. But I just shrugged and continued with our relationship. He was the first boy I’d ever let into my heart, truly into it, and I didn’t want to give up on the promise of a bright future (I was 19 at the time and I’d lived a very sheltered existence up until that point, I thought the first man I’d kiss would end up being my husband). We did many things together, from studying for exams (he was in the same school as I was), to going to family functions.

Then the summer of 2002 came about. We ended up in separate states and he promised to visit.

In one of those visits, a friend drove him to the dorm I was staying for the summer. We went out for dinner and then hung out, and because my room had an extra bed, they spent the night there. My sweet Mr Grey slept in my bed and our friend slept in the bed across ours.

We’d ‘played’ with each other, gone almost all the way, but I’d been able to stand my ground and avoid having intercourse. Up until that night.

That night my very own Christian Grey used all his power and charm to subdue me and beg coerce me into sleeping with him. I remember it like it was yesterday. We were in bed fooling around and I was half naked. He drops his pants, drops his undies and starts asking. At first he asked, that he did. Then he used a bit more force. I was still saying no. I said no … so many times. I said no. Eventually, after much begging, bargaining and promises (that we’d get married, that intercourse would help me get rid of my painful periods, ha!), I relented. I said yes. In a soft voice I agreed to let him in. I cried. What convinced me was that he said he wanted to lose his virginity with me. He wanted to be my first and only. He knew that was my weak point. And I relented.

I was in pain. I wanted him out. But I had just agreed to go forth. I couldn’t turn my back, could I? This is the first time I’m openly admitting it. My heart is racing as I type these words … I couldn’t back out. I’d already given my word. Who was I to back out?

I can’t remember how fast things happened. But I remember the tears. I had a bit of pain and discomfort … but more than anything, I couldn’t believe that the special moment I’d been told about by my mom and by movies and magazines had a) gone that fast and b) gone so awry. I wanted hearts and flowers. And I got none of it. I had a friend passed out in the bed across mine, I had a very hormonal boyfriend who had just convinced me by breaking my will, that it was OK and that we’d be OK. That sure, it wasn’t romantic or special, but it happened. I was his. I remember him saying that, I was his, I was all his.

Throughout the year before that night I’d been systematically broken down. He always complained about my big mouth and about not being able to keep it shut when I was with his family. I’d begged him to correct me. I wanted to avoid pissing him off, causing any sort of issues or conflicts. I begged to be disciplined so I could become the perfect girl he wanted. I opted not to wear certain clothes, for fear that he’d have a hissy fit and accuse me of being a slut or of capturing the attention of other guys and make him look like an idiot. Christian Grey did that. His weapons of choice, of power, were his penis .. having sex … and the mind games he played. And it was the same with my Mr Grey.

I eventually learned to like sex, to use it as a weapon to quiet my Mr Grey whenever I pissed him off.

Eventually his promises died. He cheated on me (I only learned about it 3 years after we broke up … but as usual, I suspected it). He eventually got married and I believe he’s had progeny. I pray that his progeny will never meet someone like him. He’s still probably not aware of the damage he did to me or how he broke me down.

I wasn’t aware of it until I learned about sexual coercion and about how I had the power to say no, but I didn’t use it. Because I didn’t know that it was a possibility.

I had all these patriarchal ideas in my head, and that didn’t fit into what I was experiencing. In a way, I felt like I deserved it, because I was being a ‘slut’ in the eyes of my family and my church. I was throwing away everything that was good and wholesome … thus I deserved to have my first sexual encounter be one in which I was coerced, in which there was another person in the room, someone that could wake up and perhaps could have stopped. But I was afraid of disturbing his sleep with my cries.

_________________________

Reading 50 Shades helped me realized that having someone controlling, someone exerting power over you, especially if you’ve not given your consent, is toxic. It is damaging.

I applaud that we’ve made progress into helping women own up their sexuality, say what they want and under what conditions, and hopefully be respected. But I do not applaud the glorification of a control freak, a stalker, as Christian Grey is, and how many of us swoon over this “ideal” man.

My ideal man listens to me, rubs my back when I’m tired, is my nurse when I’m ill. My “prince charming” loves hearing me laughs and hates when I cry, and does everything in his power to make me smile. He cares for me and for our cats. Helps me with the dishes, offers to cook for me, and washes my clothes when I’m out of time. He’s a good, respectful sexual partner and is interested in making me feel like a queen. He doesn’t stalk me, or disrespects me, and would never belittle me … and I am so glad I married him instead of my ex, Mr Grey.

_________________________

This clip is very awesome, and is one of the few that help put everything in perspective when it comes to 50 Shades and how the relationship of these characters is.

Mirena-versary (oh yeah, I went there)

In a couple of weeks I’ll celebrate my Mirena-versary (yes, it’s been almost a year since I got my Mirena in … time flies). Today, the always wonderful Katie tweeted an early FF to moi because … well, I’m always talking about personal business regarding my ladybits (not graphic stuff, but weighing in on Mirena and other forms of birth control). And her tweet reminded me also that I haven’t updated my blog regarding how things have been going with Mirena since way back in Sept of 2013. So, here’s a short and sweet post on how has my year been since I had Mirena inserted.

Around this time last year I’d been mulling over trying Mirena. I’d turned 32 the month before and was working hard in my lab when a convo with one of our trainees about birth control sparked my interest in trying progesterone-only BC. Mirena is a T shaped form of BC that is inserted in your uterus and through a variety of mechanisms, which include: thickening of the cervical mucus (making it harder for the little swimmers to get close to the egg), possible suppression of ovulation, and thinning of the lining of the uterus, prevents unplanned pregnancies. Mirena does this by slowly but surely releasing a synthetic version of progesterone locally and can stay put for about 5 years. There are other types of T-shaped BC rods, including Paraguard (ie., the copper one), and Skyla, which is similar to Mirena, but lasts for 3 years instead of 5. (And no, I wasn’t paid to say any of the above, just pointing out some of the details which may be relevant to us biologists).

At the time I went to the women’s clinic at work, I had no idea that Skyla even existed. Had I known that, I would have opted for it, not only because it is slightly smaller than Mirena, but because instead of 5 years, I could have had it in for 3 and have it taken out by the time hon and I may consider having a spawn of our own (no, I do not refer to my nephew as spawn, he’s the most adorable little boy ever … I like to have a fun outlook on a possible 27 and a PhD baby). The deductible would have been the same ($30), but it would have been a lower cost to my insurance and should I decide to take the Mirena out before the 5 years I’d feel like I’d wasted $$, even if my deductible was the same.

Anyway, after the initial shock of having my OB measure the inside of my ladybits and poke me a bit, the Mirena went in and after a bit of bleeding I got a break, and then spent about a month spotting. I did feel the discomfort of the instruments even though I was given a local anesthetic because I can’t take most painkillers. And I felt discomfort the first night and had a bit of a headache but it slowly went away.

Sometimes I think I feel/know when I’m ovulating because I feel as if something was breaking (more of a popping) inside of me, in my abdominal area. One OB I saw as a student said that some women report this and that it may be possible to feel the follicle releasing the egg. Usually after this “popping” I get some discomfort and two weeks later the red gates open and I’m miserable.

With Mirena, I was spotting for a month, then things normalized a bit and I was able to sort of predict when my period would start. During my next two periods I would spot, but the periods were definitely less heavy than … well, ever, and I didn’t have to take painkillers as much as I’d doing. I did hang around a bit with my heating pad as I was afraid that at any point I’d have my period and cramps show up … but thankfully that never happened. My mood didn’t deteriorate, my breasts didn’t feel any different, in general, it was how I remember my 2nd or 3rd period happen before I started getting the cramps from hell.

My OB showed me how to feel the threads that are supposed to hang out of the cervix. And honey did report at some point feeling something poking a bit, but nothing major and certainly it didn’t impair his …. performance.

Before our wedding, I did go back to the OB to have my threads checked because I couldn’t feel them. Turns out the threads sometimes curl up and are difficult to feel. I then (as always) shared my experience with the lady scientists on Twitter and a few of them said that they don’t even check them anymore … so I guess it depends on your OB. The threads can be a bit stubborn, but you don’t feel them, I promise.

I had my last period sometime in February and since then, I’ve been period free. Yes, you read it right. PERIOD. FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. This is truly a state of bliss.

I remember when I was grad student and I first saw the ad for (I think) Seasonique and it mentioned that you could have your period 4 times a year. I was appalled and I thought, hell, I ain’t doing that! But as I got older it dawned on me that all the suffering, the missed work days, the cramps, the breast tenderness and pain, they all could have been gone years ago! I wasn’t sexually active at that time and felt silly suppressing my period. Ignorance was not bliss.

I think Mirena works well for me and if asked, I’d tell all ladies to forget about the pills and go with an IUD. For me it’s proven safe, effective, non disruptive and I don’t have to worry about forgetting to take a pill or making a quick stop at the pharmacy for a condom.

But above all, beyond preventing an unplanned pregnancy, what makes me a believer is that I haven’t had cramps in almost a year. And, for me, that’s unheard of. I’ve had to miss work because I’ve had a cold or a medical procedure, but not because of my period. I honestly wish I’d made this decision 10 years ago.

For me, an IUD has been a life saver and money saver. I haven’t had to purchase pads in a LONG time, and the other day when I had a headache, I couldn’t even remember where I’d put my acetaminophen!

*** If you want to follow the conversation on IUDs, other forms of BC and ladybits, click here. And last but not least, you can read about IUDs and how they are most definitely NOT an abortifacient as the scientists of the Supreme Court and Hobby Lobby want you to believe. Oh wait … Hobby Lobby and the Supreme Court don’t have scientists … they are NOT scientists.