All it took was one ring and I do not mean the ring of my telephone. As in one perfectly round plastic ring laced with hormones that you insert into your vagina monthly, ring. In the blink of an eye the Nuvaring changed my life for the better.
At first I didn’t feel that way. I felt cheated, I felt defeated, and I felt a vulnerableness like I’ve never felt before. I was angry, I was bitter and sad all at the same time. I couldn’t see past the mourning of my former life. All of my other friends who had used the Nuvaring got plus signs, while I got a blood clot.They got to welcome home their bundles of joy, while I struggled to find any joy in my life.
I put my trust into my Doctor. I believe her when she told me the Nuvaring was safe. I tried to tell her something wasn’t right. I told her about the pain and swelling in my leg. About how I had tightness, swelling, with pain and redness in my groin. I believed her when she uttered the words “go home, drink some water, walk more, and you will feel better.” Her words would become the stone my testimony hung on. Her words made it blatantly obvious that she ignore my concerns that day.
The hardest pill to swallow was “I’m sorry but your injury was 100% preventable…..” My pulmonary embolism with infarction and stroke were 100% preventable. 100% preventable, all she needed to do was order a blood test and the clots would have been found before they even hit my lungs, heart, and brain. If only she had listened, I wouldn’t of had to live through my worst day possible.
Over the years I have been asked on numerous occasions, “if you could go back would you change it?” Years one through three I would have said yes, yes I would have skipped the Nuvaring and used something else.” Around year four I came to terms with what happened, I came to terms with the fact that this wasn’t my fault. That there was nothing I could do to prevent it or stop it. When people ask me now, I say “no I wouldn’t change any of it, that one disaster made me who I am today.”
I had to go through the pain in order to become the best possible me. That one moment of disaster prepared me for the disasters to come. It taught me that I was strong and that I was capable. Lucia was my silver lining, he was my miracle after the storm. Yet fate, she had other plans and wrote his name down in her book of life and said “too beautiful for earth.” If I hadn’t gone through what I did, I’m pretty sure I would have withered up and died right along with him. His death, his very death gave me the push that I needed. You see I wasn’t living my life, I was just existing in it. My ex husband beat me down emotionally and mentally, he made me believe things that were not true. You see my PE, Stroke, and Lucia’s death; those three things gave me the strength to take myself back and I walked out of a toxic marriage into the life that was patiently waiting for me.
The life that was waiting for me wasn’t all filled with cocktails and glitter. I was alone for the first time in my life. I had to figure out how to be alone with me, myself, and I. It was brutal at first, I was a mess most nights but soon I grew to find comfort in the silence. While learning to be alone I destroyed friendships while going through my post divorce hoe phase. Those who knew me could see beyond the well put together outfit, they knew I was headed for trouble before I ever did. There were people who tried to have many a “Come to Jesus” moments with me, none of them worked by the way. Stern talks were held while having cocktails on patios. Weekend trips to visit this friend or that friend who tired to talk some sense into me until they were blue in the face. None of it worked.
Later that summer I got a Facebook message from an old college professor of mine. He was sorry for my divorce and asked if I needed to talk as he had just gone through one himself. I ignored his message, he was just one more person trying to help someone who clearly had her shit together. A week went by and I heard the ping on my computer, it was another message from him. Maybe it was the wine or boredom, but I decided to respond back. That response led to a late night phone conversation where I poured my heart out. He listened to my words, he didn’t judge my behaviors, and responded softly. He said “get yourself a dog, that will give you something to come home too.” A few weeks later I adopted Cullen.
I found myself calling or messaging him multiple times a week just to chat with someone other than myself. During one of our calls he asked me “remember when we’d drink coffee in the AISO lounge?” Yes I said. He asked me if I wanted to come up for a visit. I had nothing else to do, so I said “sure.” I drove up that weekend with Cullen to see Gary. To this day I don’t know why but the moment he hugged me the flood gates opened and I ugly cried on his shoulder as he squeezed me tighter. The last time he saw me I was a fresh faced 23 year old who was ready to take on the world and give up law school for marriage. I returned to him years later worse for ware with a new hair color and one heck of story to tell.
He led me to the deck and handed me a cup of coffee and asked me “how are you really doing kid.” While we were talking about the hot mess that was my life he noticed a wire poking out of my tank top. He pointed the way any Native points and asked “what’s that about.” I shyly pulled my cardigan closed across my chest, “it’s nothing” I said. If it was nothing you wouldn’t be trying to hide it, you can tell me when you are ready. I looked him in the eye, “I haven’t told you everything. I’m sick. I had a pulmonary embolism that caused permanent damage to my left lung and because of the position of the clot it damaged the left valve going from my lung to my heart. I had a stroke too. I have to wear this monitor because they are trying to figure out if I need a pacemaker as my heart goes into runs of sinus tachycardia when I get excited, stressed or run.” He gave me the look that everyone does, a look of heartbreak followed by a look of pity. He didn’t offer condolences like the others did, he instead asked me to stand up and hugged me as tight as he possibly could. Gary looked me in the eye while squeezing my shoulders, “life is shitty kid and it’s what we do with the shit that matters. I’m glad you are alive. What can I do to help?” My reply “I just want to feel normal.”
That day lead to many days with Gary. He treated me like a normal human being. We golfed, we hiked, we shared jokes and swapped stories on his back deck while watching the sunset. With time I traded in my fuck the world antics for quiet nights in Wisconsin looking up at the stars. With each story, conversation, and round of golf I found my way back to the path I was always meant to be on. Gary made me realize that it’s ok to be broken, or as he would say “the creator made you strong, you were made to break..” He was right, in that moment I realized that my breaking was apart of the plan all along, that it wasn’t my fault, and there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. It’s what I did with the aftermath that mattered.
I was young and dumb and didn’t realize what I had in front of me. I let my ex-husband’s words haunt me and threw myself into my career. I had to prove to the world that I could make it, I made a life in minneapolis and I couldn’t imagine a life outside of the city limits. The northland seemed so far away, it was a slower pace of life that I wasn’t ready for. I wanted to be Independant and not fully depend on someone. Gary understood and our relationship continued off and on until I took a permanent job in minneapolis. The job was an excuse, I let fear override my heart and I once again threw myself into my work. I still remember the look in his eyes the day I told him no….. He quietly told me he understood and made me promise that I would stay in touch. We both moved on to other people and slowly we drifted apart, conversations slowed and visits were few. Yet, Gary was always in my corner providing guidance with a side of inappropriate jokes when I needed it.
I realize now that Gary once again allowed me the space to grow as a person. In college he gave me the space to come into my own as a biracial woman and post divorce he gave me the space to grow into my new normal. His words allowed me to flip my perspective from “oh my god the Nuvaring ruined my life,” to “that one moment of disaster changed my life for the better.” When I made the choice to change my perspective, the energy shifted and my life, it fell into place. Or so I thought, life is tricky she starts burning when you are not looking.
I failed, I was so busy building a career that I forgot to live a life. My career was what I attached my self worth too and I was living to work, instead of working to live. I was burning the wick at both ends and leaving nothing for myself, I was destined to crash and burn. I called Gary on my 32 birthday, I was a mess, even though I had my perfect career I still felt like a failure. I was single, I was exhausted from working 50+ hours a week, and a little bitter at the world around me. Plus I may or may not have been on a first name basis with the cashier at my neighborhood liquor store. I honestly called Gary because I needed a voice that wasn’t going to judge me. Gary talked to me for a long time that night, he suggested that I see a therapist, a Native therapist that would understand our way of thinking. I told him I didn’t need one and was angry that he even suggested it. He also suggested that I lay off the wine for a bit too. I angrily quipped back “I work hard! I deserve a glass at the end of the day!” Without a beat he said “a glass is different from a bottle Kid!” Even though I was a little mad I still promised him that I would find a therapist the next day and that I’d throw out the bottles of wine that I had sought solace in. And I did, I threw the bottles out that night and found a therapist the next day.
I had to go to therapy to learn how to have work / life balance. Turns out throwing myself into my work, into an environment where I could control the variables was my copping mechanism. That is how I coped, I shoved my feelings in my back pocket and went to work, went to work where I could be normal like everyone else. Yet I wasn’t normal, I was never meant to be normal. Bad things happened to me, and out of those bad things came a lot of good things. I had to learn how to say no to people. I had to set an alarm so I left work at 5PM on the dot and not a minute later. I had to learn how to have a life outside of work, because I am more than my career. I had to learn how to live life, a beautiful life that is a disaster.
That one small plastic ring changed my life in more ways than I could ever begin to describe. It brought people into my life that I wouldn’t have otherwise met. It allowed me to put myself first and walk out of a loveless marriage. It allowed me to have deeper relationships with people and it gave me the ability to emphasize with those around me. It brought men into my life who changed me for the better, those men prepared me for the relationship I am in today. That one small ring did a lot of damage, but it also did a lot of good. Because I am more than a complication, I am more than a survivor, and that one ring no longer has a hold on me. The Nuvaring made me into the woman I was always meant to be and for that I am grateful that I survived the disaster and found a life amongst the ruins.