The History of Periods

How did women deal with menstruation before all the modern conveniences? Today, we’re exploring the history of periods.

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From the beginning, little was known about periods – either because early cultures didn’t talk about them or because most scribes were men. Figures.

During ancient times, the Romans thought menstruation meant that a woman was a dark witch. According to Pliny the Elder, an ancient author and philosopher, menstruating women or witches, could stop hailstorms, drive dogs crazy, kill crops and bees and dull weapons just by looking at them.

In Mali and Nepal, women were sent to menstrual huts. The French thought sex during ones period would cause monsters to be born. Others thought it would just corrode the penis. Corrode? What is it? A steel pipe? Medieval Europeans thought period blood cured leprosy, while others thought drinking period blood would cause leprosy– drinking it? When?

The women of Egypt wore softened papyrus as tampons. In Ancient Greece, tampons were made from bits of wood with lint wrapped around them. Wood? Sounds like a vaginal campfire. The Romans made their pads and tampons from wool, and we all know how comfy wool is. Many women just wore rags or free flowed into their clothing. They’d wear herbs around their necks or waists to hide the scent. Because free flowing was considered unsanitary, sanitary napkins began to make more appearances in the late 19th century.

It took an actual war to come to this discovery. In World War I, French nurses realized that the cellulose bandages they used on wounded soldiers could also work on period blood. Shot wounds and periods had a lot more in common than we ever realized!

In 1921, the first commercial brand was invented — Kotex! Unfortunately, there was no sticky adhesive on the pads until 1970, so before that women wore belts that they pinned the pads onto. This menstrual belt was called the Hosier Sanitary Belt.

In 1929, Dr. Earle Haas created a catamenial device, or monthly device, where a plug of cotton was inserted using two cardboard tubes, which he patented. The device, what we know as a tampon, was made with sewing and compression machines and it probably took about a month to make them.

Today, we have all kinds of feminine products from period underwear to cervix cups. We also know we’re not witches, unless we want to be, and unfortunately can’t change the weather by just looking at it. We’ve come a long way, but only a few states include feminine products as a tax-exempt item of necessity. I guess we still have a ways to go.

 

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I Don’t Hate Middle Age — And An IDGAF Attitude Isn’t The Only Reason

I turned 40 this year with a deliberate and utter lack of fanfare. I’m not sure what prevented me from attempting at least a small celebration. I changed literally nothing about my routine. I barely even remember the day except I know it was a Monday because my son had a guitar lesson that day.

I’ve been reading for a decade now that once I hit 40 I would suddenly grow a magical “I don’t give a fuck” attitude. I suppose I care a lot less about trivial things I used to care about, like fashion, makeup, and what (most) people think of me, but I can’t strictly say I give no fucks whatsoever. I actually still give quite a few fucks. I don’t always love my changing body or how I seem to require eight hours of sleep every night in order to not feel like I’m losing my mind. I don’t love how I keep walking into a room and forgetting what I’m doing there, or that I have to hold out any reading material with fine print at a distance that is not too close but not too far from my weakening eyeballs. Do I need bifocals? I have several fucks I would like to give for these things.

I don’t love that I have acne and wrinkles at the same time. This is some nonsense nobody warned me about. When I was a teenager suffering through angry red acne outbreaks, I used to dream of the day I’d finally not have to deal with acne anymore. I would have happily traded in my acne for some crow’s feet and smile lines. Haha, joke’s on me because it’s totes common to have acne and wrinkles at the same time.

The worst part of middle age, though, is that too many people I know are sick. Cancer has already taken one close friend, several others have been diagnosed and come out on the other side cancer free, and still others are in a literal battle for their lives. Mortality feels more real and present than it ever has before.

Yet, despite all of this, I’m actually kind of loving middle age. To be fair, for me personally, middle age might symbolize an even bigger milestone than it does for most people. That’s because, last year, I finally came out as gay. The year I turned 40 was the same year I started living as my true self. There was no midlife crisis for me — there was a midlife rebirth.

Though I still give lots of fucks about lots of things, in order to come out, I had to stop caring so much what everyone else thinks of me. I had to trust my own gut, heart, and mind, and stop allowing my life to be dictated to me. It was a good, beautiful life, but it wasn’t mine to live. That beautiful life was turning me into more of a liar every day I remained in it.

I have to assume there has been at least a moderate amount of gossip about me since I’ve come out. I assume it exists, and yet, despite still caring about lots of things, I honestly don’t give even one single fuck about whether or not anyone is bothered by my sexuality and what I had to do to claim it. I know what I felt like before. I was living life in greyscale while everybody else was living in color. There was a whole spectrum of colors I was supposed to see but couldn’t, no matter how hard I tried. And now I live life in color. Life isn’t easier than it was before — in fact, in a lot of ways it’s harder — but at least my outsides match my insides now.

I’m 40 years old and, though I regret nothing that has led me to this point, in a lot of ways, my life has just begun. It was no walk in a rose garden to get here — divorce is excruciating no matter the circumstances — but I made it. I can breathe with my entire lungs now, laugh with every bit of my guts, smile with my whole face. That part of middle age feels really good. Authenticity feels good.

My experience with middle age may be unique in the sense that I came out the same year I turned 40, but the commonality I share with others in middle age is the authenticity I finally embraced. The reason middle-aged people “don’t give a fuck” is that they are sinking more and more into their true selves every day, and with that comes a profound confidence. It’s not ego or pride, it’s just a comfortable settling in, a deep awareness of oneself that can’t be touched or fucked with by anyone who isn’t invited.

Some people seem to possess this self-knowing from very early on. Practically from birth, they are old souls who know exactly who they are and will fight anyone who tries to cram them into some mold that doesn’t fit. I have friends who knew themselves completely before they ever hit puberty. Their personalities were completely defined, their likes and dislikes, their life goals. They didn’t care what other people’s expectations of them were. They just went and did what they needed to do to feel whole in this world, whatever felt right to them. They trusted their guts. These people get to middle age and just keep on being more of who they already were.

I think most of us don’t have this piece. We have to grow into it. I was always the type of person who needed a list of pros and cons before I could make a decision. But that’s changing, and that’s the part of middle age I love the most. The more I accept the self I buried for so long, the more I am able to rely on my gut. I may not have always known who I was or what I wanted, but I did finally get to a point of knowing what I didn’t want and couldn’t live with. I finally got to a place where the happiness that mattered most was mine. This wasn’t a selfish thing the way I always thought it was, because tending to my own happiness means I can better tend to the happiness of the ones I love. I get it now.

And “getting it” is my favorite part of middle age.

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Everything You’ll Want To Know About Maternity Leave

As if bringing a baby into this world isn’t stressful enough, there’s a ton to figure out regarding maternity leave and paid time off. Not to worry, because we’re here to explain ALL OF THE THINGS. We’ll demystify the (FMLA) Federal Medical Leave Act, including what it covers and what it doesn’t. We’ll tell you what a Health Savings Account is, and how Flexible Savings Accounts work. We’ll explain everything so that you can get back to trying to figure out how to put together the crib.

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CDC Says Puppies May Be Making People Sick

The CDC released a statement this week, revealing that a serious illness has been spreading across the country and puppies (gasp!) are to blame

Puppies — in all shapes, sizes, breeds, and genders — are cute little fur balls that are pretty gosh-darn irresistible. Seriously, it’s sort of impossible not to scoop an adorable puppy up and give it a million kisses! (If you don’t agree, just check out these ultra cute puppy newborn shoots and you will be a convert.) However, according to the Centers for Disease Control, there is an illness making the rounds across the country right now, and it is being spread by puppies — mostly from pet stores.

On December 17, the CDC issued a warning that they, along with public health officials in multiple states, are investigating a multi-state outbreak of Campylobacter jejuni — a type of food poisoning experienced by 1.5 million people in the United States every year –in this case linked to puppies purchased from pet stores. Even worse, is that the infection is resistant to multiple drugs.

Confused Puppies GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Since January 2019, this strain of Campylobacter jejuni has been reported in 13 states with 30 people infected between the ages of eight months and 70 years-old. As of now, four have been hospitalized.

“Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicate that puppies purchased from pet stores are the likely source of this outbreak. Many of the cases had contact with puppies or were employees at pet stores, including Petland,” the CDC reports.

The government organization has interviewed 24 people so far, and of those, 21 reported contact with a puppy, 15 reported contact with a puppy from a pet store, 12 of the 15 people were linked to Petland, and 5 were employees of the national pet store chain. It isn’t known where the disease-spreading puppies originated, as the CDC has yet to identify the breeder or supplier.

However, in a statement released December 16, Petland did point out that over a third of the cases were reported in 13 states where there are no Petland stores. Additionally, more than 12 million guests visit their stores annually. During the time mentioned by the CDC, the store estimates more than 2.4 million customer socializations of Petland puppies. So, the chances of getting sick from one of their puppies is very slim.

Obviously, the CDC isn’t encouraging you to avoid puppies at all costs. Instead, they have some tips on how to keep yourself healthy while enjoying the cuteness that puppies have to offer.

First and foremost, always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or use sanitizer, especially after handling your pooch or their food. If you have kids, make sure they do the same. Same goes with cleaning up their pee, poop, or vomit, and if they happen to do their deeds inside of your home, clean it up immediately then disinfect the area with water and bleach.

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Here’s the hard part: they say not to let dogs lick around your mouth and face — something most dogs can’t help themselves from doing. Also, don’t let them lick open wounds or areas with broken skin.

Keep in mind, that if you do have a puppy who isn’t from a pet store, you are likely in the clear, as the CDC points out that most of the puppies infecting humans originated at pet stores. However, if your puppy is showing any signs of illness, being them to the vet asap. And, if you start to experience symptoms, such as diarrhea (often bloody), fever, and stomach cramps two to five days after petting a puppy, you might want to get yourself to the doctor. The illness usually lasts around week but sometimes longer.

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Perimenopause Is A Sh*tshow Of Emotions 

I tossed and turned last night, again. This has been the story of my life for the past year or so. As someone who used to be a heavy sleeper — I could snooze on a shady sofa in college during a beer pong tournament like a champion if I needed some extra ZZZs — this is both unfamiliar and unpleasant.

I rely on a solid nine hours of sleep to get me through the day. Needless to say, my lack of rest doesn’t really fit into my lifestyle. Neither does my irritability, my anxiety, mood swings, or the fact I break out into a sweat and have the desire to walk around naked all damn day.

I always feel like I’m on the cusp of being PMS-y, too. I keep my diva cup and a bag of chocolate and salty nuts on me at all times.

It’s a real fucking treat. I’m 44 years old and peri-freaking-menopause is making its way through my body. This experience has nothing on pregnancy hormones — and I had three children in three years, so that’s really saying something. The cherry on top? My crimson wave comes whenever the hell it wants so there’s no use in tracking it anymore.

Apparently, perimenopause doesn’t care how old you are. It knocks on your door when it feels like it.

Lest you think your mid-40s is too young to experience the hell that is perimenopause and its wild mood swings, you are wrong.

The average woman goes through menopause at age 51, but there’s a lot of shit going on in your body as it prepares to shut those periods down. They don’t just stop overnight. There’s hell to pay first, which isn’t a new story for a person who has a vagina.

I recall my own mother’s experience with perimenopause. My first taste of it was one afternoon when the house needed vacuuming and I was being a “lazy teenager.” She went next level while pointing the vacuum hose at my temple telling me what an asshole I was. She’d just been to the doctor that day to get some things checked out and was informed she was starting menopause.

Well, guess what? She was a few years younger than I am now, and that shit lasted for at least five years. Probably longer, but I’ve blocked it out.

I swore I’d never act like that, I didn’t care where I was in life. But just the other day I lost in on my son over a few crumbs he left on the counter. I reached for the damn hose to suck them up and saw my reflection in the mirror as I almost blew a gasket.

Hello, Mom. Sigh…

Dr. Kate Kiloran of Your Doctors Online, explains perimenopause is when you “have all the symptoms of menopause, but still get your period.”

Well, aren’t we just a bunch of lucky fucks?

They aren’t just regular periods, either. Kiloran says, for many women, their cycles become irregular and heavy as they approach menopause. Other symptoms we can expect to be blessed with, according to Dr. Kiloran are “breast tenderness, increased PMS, reduced libido, vaginal dryness, fatigue, memory issues, hot flashes, and depression.”

Before our reproductive hormones — estrogen and progesterone — start to dry up, they like to keep us guessing. “During perimenopause, these values can fluctuate dramatically. Some months estrogen can be high and other months it is low,” says Dr. Kiloran. “Sometimes it may be the imbalance of the two, estrogen and progesterone, that causes symptoms.”

So, what can we do to ease this madness? Because believe you me, this is a shitshow and I’m looking for some relief.

According to Dr. Kiloran, you can soften the blow a bit. It’s important to address insomnia and depression if these symptoms become unbearable. I’ve started taking melatonin and it’s helped a bit, but it’s definitely time for something stronger. I have a friend who swears by Tylenol PM.

Another option is low dose hormonal contraception or hormone therapy. “Some women are symptomatic due to a hormonal imbalance between estrogen and progesterone and taking just progesterone during the second half of their cycle (which, in an ovulatory cycle, is the time progesterone is secreted naturally) is very helpful for easing symptoms,” says Kiloran. “Other women benefit from taking both estrogen and progesterone.”

This is not the time to let self-care go either. “It’s imperative to get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat a healthy diet as often as possible,” says Kiloran.

Listen, I know this isn’t fair. Not feeling like ourselves due to bouncing hormones feels like a dirty trick. I’ve been struggling hard and my kids and skinny jeans are suffering for it.

I’m not going to try and make it through years of this torture without seeing my OBGYN and getting some assistance. There’s help out there and zero reason to be violent with a vacuum cleaner as a way of coping. Life is hard enough without heavy bleeding between our thighs and waking up in a wash-on sweat every night.

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Fat Positivity Requires Me To Be Positive About Every Kind of Body

I’ve been fat my entire life. Literally. The whole entire thing. If you’re in a fat body like me, we probably have some things in common. I’d love to chat with you today because I think there are a few things fat people should probably consider when we talk about bodies and self-acceptance. I think we can do a little better.

I hated my size for most of the first 30 years of my life. Honestly, I still have my days where the voices in my head tell me I’m not good enough. But over the last few years, I’ve come to see my body totally differently than ever before. I’m happy now. My body size is just not important to me anymore. I care more about my health and happiness than some kind of bullshit ideal size or shape.

A big part of getting here was confronting my own internalized fat biases. It was an uncomfortable idea. It hurt me to realize how much I detested fat bodies. But I admitted it anyway, dealt with it, and did intentional work to change my mindset about weight and size.

I would venture to say most of us are dragging around some ideas about fat people and our bodies that really need to be dealt with. Like, now.

It’s not our fault. We have lived in the disaster of diet and “wellness” culture for so long.

But it’s still our responsibility to be better.

Maybe you are clinging to some idea about the hierarchy of fat body acceptability, believing smaller fat people with fairly even proportions are inherently more attractive than larger, rounder fat people simply by virtue of being closer to the cultural ideal. Do you have unwritten and unspoken limits for how big a person can get and still be considered beautiful, sexy, and acceptable?

Do you think you can tell someone’s health just by looking at them? If a person was very large but reported that they received a clean bill of health from their physician, would you high five them while raising an internal eyebrow?

Those are just a few examples of size biases that might still be clanging around in your brain, effing with your chances to see yourself and other people as whole and well and beautiful.

It’s time to let them go.

We have to end the obsession with thinness as a prerequisite for health and beauty, and we also have to reject the idea of health as the gold standard for worth. If we can only validate and respect people who are healthy, we aren’t honoring bodies of any size. Health is not attainable for everyone. Some people of every size are sick and will always be sick. They still deserve a place in the conversation about self-love, body acceptance, and living peacefully in your skin.

I can’t imagine a world where I will ever go back to seeing some bodies as inherently better than others. It was such a heavy state of mind. I am grateful for the way I see things today. It is a more peaceful place to live. I feel better now that I can honestly say that I don’t think my body is inferior to thin bodies.

Everyone has the right to live happily in whatever body they have.

If we, as fat people, see any woman for the shape and size of her body exclusively, we are no better than the media messages that do that same shit to us day in and day out.

Let’s be honest, though. Living comfortably in your body is easier for some people. Saying it isn’t verges on absurd. There are certain kinds of bodies — usually cis, white, thin, and athletic — that are validated everywhere they go. I get why it feels frustrating sometimes to include people with that specific kind of privilege in the body positivity conversation. It is important to acknowledge that many bodies are validated by virtue of existing. Because that’s a fact.

Sometimes, to stay the course and see myself as amazing, I need to have conversations where fat bodies are the singular focus. I think that’s okay. People who have walked similar difficult roads need and deserve spaces where our experiences reign supreme. We need a time and place to be the norm instead of the exception. Sometimes, in fat positive spaces, it’s appropriate to celebrate fat bodies exclusively without mentioning that it’s okay to be thin, too. We need that.

But there’s solidarity, then there’s toxicity. Fat babes, we have to be careful we aren’t choosing to be catty and toxic, pretending it’s healthy community.

If we, as fat people, see any woman for the shape and size of her body exclusively, we are no better than the media messages that do that same shit to us day in and day out.

Yes, it’s important to declare, “Hey, fat people deserve to exist happily, too!” Too often, we are excluded and undervalued. It’s not okay. We have every right to feel like Horton’s Whos once in a while, chanting, “We are here! We are here!” The world isn’t always nice to us, and we are totally allowed to be done with that bullshit.

But while we endeavor to be comfy in our fat bodies, we need to be able to say, “Come over here, thin girl. We see your struggle, too. You can sit with us.”

Our message isn’t diminished if we include people in thin bodies in the conversations sometimes. Everyone needs a little help feeling comfortable and at peace in the vessel that carries them through the world.

Finding that peace looks different for everyone. I had to change my mind, but some people have to change their bodies. Some people will never find peace with their body if they leave it as-is. If someone knows that they must make a change to their body to live in comfort, there is no choice involved for me. I’m going to support them a million percent.

You need to change your size to find peace? Rock on, friend. Don’t hurt yourself, and don’t buy the lie that you’re not enough today and every day — no matter what that scale or that clothing size says. Nourish your body with foods that contain all the things a human body needs. Move in a way that feels good to you, and watch your body change so you can feel the peace I finally feel. I’m not here for diet culture, but I’m here for YOU.

I’m in for personal transformative growth, whether than means changing your size, adjusting your body to reflect your gender, sculpting your muscles to appear stronger, or any other thing a person might need to do to feel at home in their body.

Fat people are the perfect group to lead the charge on speaking the hell up about bullshit body expectations and unrealistic depictions of size and beauty. We fight against it so much. We are experts.

But we shouldn’t only declare, “Our fat bodies are fine!”

We really should add, “Because all bodies are fine!”

And we need to believe it.

All bodies. Fat bodies. Thin bodies. “Perfect” Hollywood bodies. Post-baby bodies. Trans bodies. Shrinking bodies. Expanding bodies. Healthy bodies. Chronically ill bodies. All of them. All the bodies.

We need to find space to celebrate and validate every kind of human body or our body positivity isn’t very positive at all…and wouldn’t that mean it’s kind of for nothing?

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‘Did My Mom Die?’: The Question My Mom Asked That Stopped Me In My Tracks

“Did my mom die?” This was the question my mother asked me as we sat in her room, day five or six of her battle with antibiotic resistant E. coli. It was also day 1,200 or so of a dementia decline that was robbing her of even her most poignant memories.

My breath drew in. For a moment, I wanted to say, “No, she’s fine. We need to go see her when you get out.” How could I save her from the pain of knowing this truth once again? But the look in her eyes told me she already knew. Somewhere in the broken puzzle of her mind, she knew enough to ask the question. To seek confirmation of what is real and what lies scattered.

I told her about her mom that night. And about the others she loved so much who were gone. Even though I had watched dementia rearrange the very fabric of my mother for several years, that night in the hospital I knew I had become her fellow traveler through the curtains of confusion she was trying to navigate, even as they were closing in on her.

The Dixie Chicks recorded a song that sums up the change in roles that happen to children of dementia:

And I will try to connect
All the pieces you left
I will carry it on
And let you forget
And I’ll remember the years
When your mind was clear
How the laughter and life
Filled up this silent house   

This job of connecting the pieces has been very hard for me. You see, like so many others say about their mothers, my mother is special. I smile when I say this, because I know how foolish I am to feel alone in this battle. Many, many have come before and only now do I see them.

I think about what I’m learning from all of this. Well, I’ve learned how deep the roots of love are, for one thing. I’ve learned about the all-inclusive role my mom has played in my life as mother, mentor, best friend, caregiver to my children, the one who has always walked steps ahead of me on the path, reaching back to help me find my way. I’ve learned how the mix of love and pain in even this brief description of her is almost unbearable and how my mind and body push these feelings down until I’m numb. I’ve learned that I’m scared to death of the tidal wave that is overtaking me. I can see it in the distance and, times like these in the hospital, I feel it closing in and I know she will be swept away and I….I am going to drown.

“Did my mom die?” No, she’s fine. I walk ahead of her now, reaching back to help her find her way, quickly, before the tide comes in.

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I Didn’t Know I Was Having A Depressive Episode Until I Came Out Of It

“I feel… better. I feel like… myself.” I wasn’t sure what I meant by “better” or even what I meant by “myself.” I only knew that what I said was true — something was different about how I was feeling, in a good way.

“Yeah,” my friend said with a knowing nod. “The light is back in your eyes. I was worried about you there for a little while.”

That stopped me in my tracks. “Worried”? Why worried? I thought back over the past few weeks and months, trying to pinpoint a specific event or behavior that would warrant my friend’s concern. Had my behavior really been so different than usual that it would be noticeable enough to cause a friend to worry?

Granted, I’d been through a lot in the last few months. The last year, really. I’d come out as gay and separated from my spouse — that’s a lot by anyone’s standards. But coming out is supposed to be a relief, isn’t it? Shouldn’t it “free” me, make me feel all honest and authentic and stuff? Finally living an authentic life should be enough to comfort me when the stress of divorce overwhelms me or when I miss my kids so much I want to curl into the fetal position and never uncurl. I’d found a cute little house. No one (that I know of) disowned me when I came out. I’d even found someone special, someone who sees me for exactly who I am. All of that should be enough to lift me up, right? Wasn’t I happy?

But, I had to admit, I’d been sleeping more than usual, napping in the afternoons or desperately wanting to nap, never wanting to wake up. But I always did wake up. It’s not like I was staying in bed all day long crying into my pillow. I was getting stuff done, dammit!

But… slowly. Far slower than usual. My productivity had taken a hit, there was no denying that. I’d complained about it often, how it felt like I was working nonstop but my output was less than when I worked half as much.

I’d been anxious a lot too, I suddenly remembered, always tight in the chest. But isn’t everyone anxious when they’re getting a divorce? Even in the most amicable of separations, which mine was, divorce still fucking sucks. I was worried about my kids. Of course I was. Any loving parent going through a separation worries about their kids. I was also worried about my own future. Could I handle this new independence? Was I strong enough?

But that tight feeling in my chest was present daily. Minute to minute, for months, it stayed with me. Sometimes it was bigger than just a tightness in the chest — sometimes it was more like a wet wool blanket had been draped over me. The littlest things would make me cry. My eating habits were weird — I was skipping my usual healthy, nutritious fare and diving straight for the bread bin. My memory, especially short-term, was absolute shit. I wasn’t in the mood to go anywhere or see anyone. I’d take my kids to the skate park with their new skateboards and feel a fuzzy disconnect while they rolled down the beginner’s ramps, squealing and laughing. I knew it was wonderful for them, but I felt like I was waiting for some switch to flip inside me that would allow me to vicariously feel their joy the way I knew a mother should.

That was my defining feeling during that period — waiting for a switch to flip. I thought my malaise was related to life stress, and I assumed it would lift once the dust settled. But one thing I never considered during those months was that I may be legitimately depressed. I was depressed before coming out. I didn’t consider it possible to be depressed after.

But that day when I was talking to my friend, it hit me. I had indeed been experiencing a depressive episode. No, I wasn’t suicidal. I wasn’t crying all day long or refusing to leave my bed. But I was most definitely depressed. And the way I could tell was by comparing how I felt that day — the day my friend told me the light was back in my eyes — with the previous several months of being trapped in an ongoing state of fuzzy apathy.

Because the way I felt in my moment of “me-ness” wasn’t anything remarkable. I wasn’t blissed out, elated, or euphoric; I was just… myself. Though, to be fair, the comparison between my apathetic state and the “light in my eyes” state was so great that I did wonder for a brief moment if I’d slipped into mania. I’d been stuck in a disconnected state for so long that it had begun to feel normal, to the point that ordinary contentment, by contrast, felt like mania. But the truth was, I’d simply begun to feel better.

Feeling better didn’t happen by magic. A few critical pieces fell into place at the same time, some deliberate and some by coincidence. My divorce was nearly finalized. I’d had an allergic reaction that appeared to be gluten-related so I cut out wheat products (i.e., carbs) and added in more fruits and veggies (i.e., nutrients). I went to the doctor with complaints of exhaustion and “fuzzy brain,” and she suggested I exercise more regularly, remember to take the vitamins I hadn’t been taking, and go to bed at a reasonable hour. She ordered blood tests too, just in case there was something physiological going on.

Between that first appointment and the second appointment a few weeks later to discuss my lab results, the changes I’d made had already brought about a huge turnaround. That’s when I had the conversation with my friend about feeling like myself. My labs revealed nothing out of the ordinary, but I’m convinced there was something off with my brain chemistry during those sad, sluggish months. I was fortunate that the lifestyle changes I was capable of making were enough to help me feel better.

So, what I want to tell anyone who is in that place I was, waiting for a switch to flip — you don’t have to be bed-ridden or engaging in suicidal ideation or “feeling depressed for no reason” to warrant seeking help. I saw my doctor because I thought something was physically wrong with me. I didn’t see the depression until I was on the other side of it, comparing contentment to apathy. If the nutrition and exercise and sleep hadn’t helped, antidepressants would have been my next step, and that would have been okay too.

The point is, you don’t have to “hit bottom” before you ask for help. Don’t wait for that switch to flip. Talk to a friend, call your doctor, reach out for help. You deserve to feel like yourself.

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I Need More Than A Damn Bubble Bath

As a working mom of young kids, my nights are interrupted as littler bodies collect around mine at random hours until someone wakes up, setting off a chain reaction of wakefulness to start the day. A half-hour to an hour later, the alarm goes off (I did not choose to co-sleep, it chose me). Mornings might be calm, or a tsunami of bickering might surge before 6 a.m.

Feeding, dressing, and brushing everyone else’s teeth means that my morning “self-care” is brushing my own teeth, followed by “cardio.” Cardio is frantically rushing around to collect all the debris necessary to get everyone out the door on time. Post-work, the river of rush hour traffic flows into dinnertime. (Do all kids hate dinner, or just mine?). The day ebbs into an overtired hour of reading, sometimes baths, pjs, more teeth brushing, clean up, next day prep, and the chores that make the lights stay on and the house livable. Around 9 p.m. everyone is asleep and the house is less of a disaster.

Time for…what exactly?

Parenting magazines and mommy blogs describe this as the precious hour of “me” time, to be filled with a glass of wine, a bubble bath, or some “guilty pleasure” trash TV show. Is this when Pintrest projects get made at other people’s houses? It’s just not enough for me, and I think we need to talk about it before we moms find that we’ve lived our lives for the other people in it and forgot about ourselves.

I think it’s because my kids are mostly sleeping through the night that I’m no longer too tired to ignore myself. I feel antsy, energized, like stretching and growing. Bubble baths are just a band-aid on a wound that will keep bleeding unless I can get the kind of “me” time I crave. I need to feed my soul after doing the repetitive work of adulting and childcare. I’m a new age with a new post-kids body, and I need time to discover who I am, to look around from this new perspective. I don’t just want to read the next great novel; I want to write it.

It’s hard to articulate the feeling of flow. I miss diving deep into a project that leaves me feeling replenished and purposeful. I miss doing work I enjoy without keeping one eye on the pick up or dinner or bedtime clock. I need creative immersion, flow, to feel like me. I’m reclaiming my “me” time in a way that feels meaningful for me, and here’s how:

1. Time from sleep (a dangerous game)

Tony Morrison got up before her kids to write. I’m a night owl, and stay up too late. But burning either end of an already short candle is risky. Running a working household smoothly is a precarious tower of cards, and pulling precious sleep out from under the foundation is going to eventually cause the tower to collapse in illness and burnout. So, I’m trying to be reasonable here, but some nights I’m living dangerously with purpose.

2. Time from work (when you can)

Days are filled with work, and momming, so time for you pulls time from one of these. Have you ever taken a vacation day just for you? I’m going to try it. I know, we already take more than the time we have, for sick kids, for snow days, for random school vacation days, for when the sitter cancels last minute… My career is challenging, and so even though I’m lucky to have it, I’m scheduling time away from it too, just like I would any medical appointment. My soul is hungry (and also, I need to schedule that dental cleaning sometime too…).

3. Time from parenting (if you can shake off the guilt)

The workday is long and bedtime comes early, weekends are a blur of fun and chores and errands. Taking from this time is hardest for me because I already feel so guilty about not seeing my kids enough. But I’m deciding to do it anyway, as guilt-free as I can. Before kids, this used to be all my time. Now, I’m taking back a tiny part of what I have completely given over. One night a week I don’t see my kids. There, I admitted it out loud. Fridays I stay late at work, wrap up and cap off my week, then go to candlelight restorative yoga. Substitution: see if your child-free good friend will let you lie on their floor with your eyes closed for an hour (basically restorative yoga). Some weekends I’ll head to a coffee shop for a little while to write. Some evenings I’ll take a walk by myself to think. You deserve no less than to own your own time at least once a week. Well, you actually deserve way more than this because parenting is hard, but I know your alternate kid-watchers are also busy and/or cost money, so it’s a start.

Parents of babies, you’re in a special kind of working parent hell, but have faith – you’ll get through it. When you’re crawling out of that pile of diapers, bottles, and wake up calls on the hour every hour, don’t forget to check in with yourself and make sure you’re still there. You need this time, and the world needs you. That education you fought so hard for? The loads of job applications you submitted? The things that move you and inspire you, be it creating art, canvassing, playing a sport, talking with a friend, listening to your favorite songs and writing new ones? Don’t forget that person. She’s still in there. She still needs time of her own, and more than a damn bubble bath. Put on your own oxygen mask first. You have a spark and it’s never too late to decide to let it shine.

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High School Sports Are Struggling To Enforce Concussion Laws

My husband Matt was just 13 years old when he joined his first local football league. A huge fan of the sport, Matt was more than ready to give his all to the game. He hustled hard, loyally followed his coaches’ feedback, and toughed his way through the most challenging of moments.

He also never spoke up when the intensity of each practice took a dangerous toll on his physical and mental health. Back in the day, helmet-to-helmet contact was not only allowed, it was repeatedly encouraged.

“The whole time we’d be practicing, it would just be us hitting each other with our helmets over and over again, and it felt like it went on forever,” Matt says. “You’d jump off the line, lead with your helmet, and then you hit. That was just the way we played, over and over again.”

Quite unavoidably, my husband encountered minor concussions while playing. But there was one in particular that left him especially debilitated. “I remember I got a very bad headache in the middle of practice and had a buzzing in my head. And then after that, I was nauseous and dizzy,” he explains. “I think there was a little part of me that knew it was a concussion because I was telling myself not to take a nap. I had heard that it wasn’t a good thing to fall asleep if you’ve had one.”

Since Matt’s coaches were of the old school “hang tough” mindset and toxic masculinity reigned supreme on the field, he never felt comfortable to talk with them about his head injuries. He also didn’t tell his parents or anyone one else for that matter. While this allowed him to easily play several more seasons of football, Matt had no clue of just how long-term the damage from his concussions would ultimately be.

“I don’t think I fully knew what was going on and certainly didn’t know how bad they were back then – or that it was even a brain injury,” he shares. “Nobody ever talked to us about them at all, even in football.”

The good news is that rules have finally been put into place in every state that can improve a school’s chances of sports-related concussions being prevented, identified, and treated. The bad news is that many schools are without the necessary resources and education required to actively put these rules into tangible practice.

These new regulations are something Matt and others like him would have greatly benefitted from as a young student in sports. But our youth are still facing the same exact obstacles Matt experienced, because these rules don’t empower coaches to create a safe space for ongoing discussions about head injuries. Which makes total sense, as schools are being forced to change policies to ensure our children’s safety, but they aren’t becoming fully equipped with the tools needed to communicate with their students effectively.

Courtesy of Lindsay Wolf

A new study conducted by the researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital sheds light on key barriers faced by schools when implementing each of the three core components of concussion laws: education, removing athletes from the game, and returning them back to play.

Dr. Ginger Yang is the principal investigator who led the study, and she believes that by openly talking to athletic trainers, we can overcome the roadblocks that keep them from putting these policies into action. “These laws exist on paper, but we need to understand how they are implemented in schools and the challenges that arise in order to determine if they are truly effective,” Yang says in a press release for the study.

According to her findings, the educational materials that are being used in most schools are littered with complex medical language that keeps parents and coaches from feeling engaged enough to teach the best ways of preventing concussions. What’s more, you can’t see a single outward sign of a concussion, which makes identifying them beyond difficult.

Just like my husband when he was in high school, many student athletes also still feel pressured by coaches and parents to stay in the game no matter what. This leads teens to hide their symptoms as a way of not being a risk to the team, which can make removing them from the field tremendously hard.

There are also an overwhelming amount of students who simply don’t have access to the specialized care they need to properly treat a head injury, which further exacerbates an already challenging problem.

“Concussions need to be diagnosed clinically after a doctor assesses how the injury happened, analyzes the symptoms that developed, and completes a neurological exam,” said Sean Rose, MD, co-director of the Complex Concussion Clinic at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Unfortunately, doctors can’t even begin to assess a concussion if a student has no way of being medically screened by them. Which means that many injuries can go unreported — and even worse — untreated. When a sports-based concussion goes without treatment, it can have a lasting impact on the brain and body. Which means that experts in the field need to focus immediately on addressing the inherent challenges in these new policies and determine how they can be efficiently carried out by the adults in charge of our student athletes.

In October 2019, a no-nonsense PSA went viral as part of the “Tackle Can Wait” campaign, an effort designed to shed light on the dangers of signing children up too early to play the game. The goal was to encourage parents to wait until their kids are at least 14, because delaying their exposure to tackle football can greatly reduce their chances of having long-term brain trauma. “Tackle Can Wait” is a movement created by two daughters of former NFL players who died from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease found in people who have had multiple head injuries.

Both professional athletes weren’t even diagnosed with the disease until after they died from it.

It’s important to note that the above is just an example of two post-mortem CTE cases in adults. Children, on the other hand, have brains that are still very much developing during their adolescent and teen years. Which means that a sport like football can leave them unbearably vulnerable to head traumas that could last their entire lifetime.

And while concussions are certainly at the top of the list of concerns, it’s also critical to know that kids under the age of 12 who incur even minor head injuries while playing tackle football  are at a much greater risk of struggling with clinical depression, clinical apathy, behavior deregulation, executive functioning dysfunction, and impulse control.

As a result of playing just a handful of intense seasons as a young teen, my husband is still struggling with the lasting effects  sports-based head injuries have had on his mind and body. “I feel like I’m very prone to headaches a lot of the time now, and I think the migraine issues and a lot of other issues tied to my anger or any kind of erratic or depressive behavior stem from football,” Matt says. “It probably didn’t help that I was bashing my brain around for so long.”

When asked if he’d ever be open to having our children play the sport, Matt’s a hard “no” on the subject.

His reason? “There’s no way for a kid not to get their head injured in tackle football,” he shares.

I’m going to have to passionately side with my husband here. And I think it’s safe to assume I’m not the only one who will. The fact of the matter is, we can’t afford to wait any longer to change the course of an urgent conversation that so dangerously affects our nation’s youth. With roughly two million of our country’s kids and teens suffering from sports-related concussions each year, it’s time to finally make it easier and more practical for coaches and parents to keep students safe on — and off — the field. 

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