The University Diaries: What's the point?

I haven't posted in forever for a variety of reasons, but for now, I really need to vent and this was what this blog was originally created for so strap in. 

A long time ago, I thought that going to university and getting my degree would solve literally everything. Ha. What an idiot. Here I am in the final semester of my degree, where chaos reigns and I am desperately trying not to lose my shit. 

Over the past couple of years, it has become abundantly clear that I did not escape my addiction entirely unscathed. Four years ago, almost to the day, I nearly died from a toxic combination of alcohol and benzodiazepines which I had been using daily for months on end. My body simply gave up and I stopped breathing. I keep asking how long it took for them to get me back but they won't tell me. All I have is a picture of 6 arterial blood gas marks in my wrist, which is horribly bruised. I was taken to the high dependency unit and I promptly discharged myself, against medical advice, obviously. My theory is that I have a hypoxic or anoxic brain injury which seems to be affecting my memory and visual processing, which in turn is destroying my degree from what should have been a strong 2:1 to a mere 2:2. 

I cannot describe just how devastating this is and I'm having a really hard time accepting the reality of the situation. The damage is done and there's nothing I can do about it. What really hurts is that I spent so many years and accumulated a disgusting amount of debt for a degree that offers me very little in return. I work so damn hard and it's just not being reflected in my grades. I wanted to do a masters and go onto PhD but with my undergraduate degree being such a shitshow.... why bother?

So now I'm stuck. What do I do with my life now? I'm still not anywhere near well enough to hold down a full time job and I have so little to offer.... how the hell do I justify my existence if I'm just sat here doing nothing worthwhile? That degree was my ticket out of hell but apparently I have to stay. I don't know what to do and it's really scary. I'll fight to the bitter end, that's for sure, but for what... I don't know. Depression won't beat me. PTSD won't beat me. Addiction won't beat me. Anorexia won't beat me. I'm not going down like that. The thoughts are getting stronger though and I am getting tired. 

What the hell can I do with a 2:2 in Medical Neuroscience? Answers or suggestions welcome because I'm really stuck and drowning in a tsunami of dissertation and assignment deadlines. 

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Infertility: Ultrasound and Next Steps?

I haven't even started IVF yet and I'm already acting crazy... It's very scary and there's a lot of factors to consider and it can be quite overwhelming. My moods have been all over the place lately and I'm pretty sure 90% of it is due to the amount of anxiety and general fear I have around this process. It's all so unknown and I absolutely cannot deal with unknowns. Anyway, before I go any further I wanted to send out massive congratulations to one of my blogger friends who I have known for quite a few years now, Lyndsay (and her partner V, and the adorable woofer Robbie of course) on their successful IVF cycle!!! Check out her blog, she's awesome. 

Anyway. Let's go back to 22nd August. It was my 29th birthday and I had an appointment for an internal ultrasound and also had to have some blood work done. I've never been one to make a huge deal out of my birthday so it wasn't like a massive problem or anything but still... having an ultrasound wand assaulting your cervix on your birthday isn't ideal! ha. The tech was so lovely and it really wasn't as bad as a smear. No evil speculum, you get to wear a gown to protect what little modesty you have left at this point, and honestly it's just a bit uncomfortable. The worst part by far was having to hold 1.5ltrs of liquid for over an hour!!!! Initially, the plan was to do the topical ultrasound then go for the internal but because I was cycle day 28 and we were really looking for abnormalities, there wasn't much point to the topical so I was allowed to pee - and promptly sprinted to the bathroom, felt a million times better - then we got down to the awkward bit. 

So what happens in an internal ultrasound? It's just you and the tech. She had the referral and is the master of making you feel at ease. You get your gown, remove what's necessary and assume the position. This part made me laugh. There was nothing for me to put my legs on so all I had was a chair, classy. The most important thing is to relax - yes, I'm aware this is near impossible but just trust me here, think happy thoughts and do some deep breaths. OH! The tech will place a condom on the ultrasound wand, be very generous with the lube and then well... in it goes... ha. 

I'll be completely honest here, I was so fascinated by the images on the screen it nearly almost completely removed any anxiety and discomfort I was feeling. It was amazing to see what was going on inside my body! Of course, part of me was terrified of seeing a massive physical problem but being the medical nerd I am, even that would have been quite cool to see. Yes, she's right up on your cervix to see your ovaries which is pretty uncomfortable, but it's more of a pressure than actual pain, and as long as you don't tense up it's manageable. The whole process took maybe 10 minutes, 15 at most as I kept asking questions and basically had a grand tour of my uterus.... hahahaha. 

Results? There is nothing wrong! Structurally sound and I am indeed ovulating. I had some brilliant follicles and no signs of PCOS at all. The only slight issue was that my lining was quite thin for CD28, but again this is just evidence of my bizarre body so.... meh. So on the one hand it's brilliant news and such a huge relief, but it also puts into mind an awful lot of questions as to why I am failing to conceive. 

The following week I got a letter. I am being referred to an Obstetrician that specialises in pre-conception medical management prior to being sent onwards for IVF. Once again I am left with more questions than answers but I am looking forward to meeting with another specialist and learning more. Of course, I will update when this happens. 

As an aside: I was advised that I need to start tapering off of venlafaxine due to its contraindication in pregnancy. I have not begun this yet as my moods are quite erratic and I don't want to add fuel to the fire. Full disclosure: I am cycle day 39 and an absolute mess. It is well documented that hormones are a catalyst for a range of psychiatric conditions, so even in the absence of the down-regulation and subsequent stimulation aka stimming that IVF provides, I am already struggling. It makes me wonder if I am actually capable of enduring such a massive dose of hormones without slipping into a major depression/psychosis. It's a very scary possibility, which is perhaps why I am being referred to a specialist obstetrician. I don't know. 

Brutal honesty: I am absolutely terrified by the very grim reality that I am at a high risk of perinatal depression and/or psychosis and it does make me wonder if IVF is the right decision. I have considered looking for a surrogate...
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Infertility: and so it begins

I finally have an update on our infertility journey! 

We met with a specialist GP last week in Littlehampton to discuss the masses of test results and our options going forward. Going into the appointment I was fully anticipating to be given a prescription for clomiphene or letrozole and told to come back in 6 months, and perhaps be referred for some further investigations to rule out any physical problems. The doctor was wonderful, she was so kind and really tried to involve my partner in the conversation - even though it was very awkward, TMI which he doesn't do well with - and it was of course me asking questions and trying to gain as much information as I possibly could as to why on earth we were sat there at the age of 29! No-one ever expects to have problems conceiving, especially in your late 20s... it's a very strange and frustrating situation to be in and all of the doctors and nurses I have met are so sympathetic to this fact. 

So. Following the discussion that there was no evidence in my blood work to explain the problem; I am indeed ovulating as I should be albeit in a bit of a weird pattern but not enough to warrant clomiphene. At this point my thoughts went to IUI to help things along. Nope. We are going straight to IVF. Yes. At 9am on a Friday morning the IVF bomb was dropped and I honestly didn't know how to react. I'm still processing it to be honest. She also recommended an internal ultrasound and that referral should be coming through quite soon, on top of that I also have to repeat my HIV/Hepatitis serology bloods as these tests are only valid for 3 months. Go figure. My partner also has to be tested too which I'm actually pleased about in a mean sort of way! 

The only 'problem' with our current situation is my being on venlafaxine, which is contraindicated in pregnancy. This isn't something to be taken lightly and it is quite likely the IVF clinic we choose will not accept us until I am off it. Of course, as I've talked about before, coming off venlafaxine is hellish and I'm not at all looking forward to it. I need to discuss it with my GP and possibly a psychiatrist, as I have been very stable and we need to put something in place that is safer to use in the case of possible pregnancy. The trouble with this is I only respond to heavy duty antidepressants, which of course are incredibly risky to an unborn baby so... I don't know at this point what will happen with that but it's certainly given me a push to at least try to get off this demon drug and see how it goes. 

So that's where we're at right now! If everything goes according to plan we could be looking at starting around the end of the year which is really exciting/terrifying/every emotion ever... 

IVF.... really?!?!?!  

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