My BFF Is An Anti-Vaxxer And It’s Destroying Our Friendship

I’ve had the same best friend for over 30 years. It’s not one of those friendships where you lose touch and don’t see or talk for six months either. She’s the real deal — the one I can count on to bring me out of a funk or kick me in the ass when I need it.

We have the same taste in clothes, make up, and can tear it up in the home goods section. We finish each other’s sentences and love each other’s kids as if they were our own. We are on the same page on nearly everything — with one major exception.

My BFF doesn’t vaccinate.

When I first got pregnant, it was never a question for me that I’d vaccinate my kids. I believe in it. I’ve done my research. People die from many of the diseases that have been wiped out by vaccinations, and that’s all the proof this mother needs.

I watched my kids closely after each one for side effects and always felt confident I was making the right decision — not just for my kids, but for the rest of the people out there who can be affected if you don’t vaccinate your children.

When she first questioned me about my choice, I figured she was just being curious. She had a little one on the way after I had my first, and of course she wanted to know if he was up to date with his shots so her baby would be safe. Coming into contact with someone who has measles while pregnant can cause severe complications.

But I was wrong about her questions. That wasn’t where she was headed at all.

My friend had decided not to vaccinate her children. And while she was quiet about my choice to vaccinate at first, now she’s not. She’s judging me for choosing to vaccinate my kids, and I’m judging her for not. Quite frankly, I think she’s wrong.

It’s my job to keep my children safe from whooping cough, measles, and the chicken pox. She’s lectured me more than once about all the “shit” they put into vaccinations. By “shit,” she means formaldehyde which is already in our bodies. In fact, babies are born with over 50% more formaldehyde in their system than what is given in a vaccine, which is “residual.” So, we are talking about a tiny dose of something our body already has inside it to prevent death. It’s a no-brainier.

She loves to talk about all the new outbreaks of measles or whooping cough, saying, “See, a lot of these kids were vaccinated and they got it anyway!”

She turned her nose up when I told her about herd immunity — when most people are protected from certain diseases, it greatly reduces the risks for those who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons. There’s a reason why so many of these diseases went away. Think, people, think.

I asked her how she’d feel if her kids were carrying a virus, not showing any signs yet, but came into contact with a newborn who wasn’t old enough to receive certain shots yet. Her reply was, “We don’t hang out with babies for that reason.” WTAF?!

The thing is, measles is highly contagious. She doesn’t have to be at a play date with them to infect. What about the playground? The grocery store cart? A restaurant? The CDC reports,”Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, up to 90% of the people close to that person who are not immune will also become infected.”

NINETY PERCENT. That fact is indisputable. And it’s infuriating to think anyone feels they can make that call.

Because her children aren’t vaccinated, they could easily infect someone who can’t receive their shots due to a medical condition. I asked her how she’d feel if her own child got the measles or whooping cough. She said she’s not taking the chance that they could become autistic.

Okay, well, first, there has been extensive research confirming is zero link to vaccinations and autism. And, aside from that, autism isn’t something to be feared. It makes a child who they are, and it isn’t something that needs to be “cured.” Deadly and contagious illnesses, on the other hand… well, these are something we should all fear.

Bottom line: I couldn’t live with the consequences of not vaccinating my family.

I’m not taking the chance my kids could become ill with long-lasting damage that chicken pox can leave in its wake. I’m not taking the chance my kids come down with measles, which can be deadly. And I’m not taking the chance that my kids could infect a precious newborn baby or a person whose immune system is too weak for vaccinations so they must depend on herd immunity to protect them.

Not only do I not understand her way of thinking — if you can prevent your child and other people from getting sick why wouldn’t you? — I’m pissed at her. Like, really fucking pissed. I’m mad at her for thinking she knows more than scientists and medical professionals and feels she has the right to make this decision for her child and other people.

I’m irate that she thinks it’s okay to lecture people. I’m irritated with her anti-vax obsession. It’s fucking annoying and over the top and I’m sick of hearing about it. I’m over her tangents about how they put “poison” in every shot the give people.

I don’t agree with her at all. She doesn’t agree with me at all. We’ve both said (over and over) how we feel about the issue.

She knows I’ve vaccinated my kids. She knows how I feel about it. And instead of agreeing to disagree, she won’t shut up about it.

I’m not used to feeling this way around my friend, and I’m not sure where we go from here.

Do you end a friendship because you disagree on whether to vaccinate your kids or not? It’s not what I want at all. We have a long history together, but I’m struggling.

I’m over talking about it with her. She’s not going to change her mind, and I’m not going to change my mind. And honestly, I have too many other things going on in my life to continue this angst between us.

I want to drop it, move on, and get back to where we were. But in order for us to do that, we need to make peace with each other’s decision. And honestly, with vaccines being so important, I’m not sure we can.

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Emotional Numbing: What It Is And How To Tell If You Are Suffering From It

Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by your feelings that the only thing you can do is shut them off? Rather than fall into an all-encompassing despair, you just decide that you won’t feel anything? Not feeling anything at all is certainly a welcome idea when the only other option is sadness or despair. That’s why sometimes it feels easier to shut down than to sink into those awful feelings. Shutting down your emotions makes you feel like you have control when you may not.

Turning off your emotions is also known as emotional numbing. And while it may feel like a good idea in the moment, emotional numbness is not a long-term solution. It’s hard to face the negative feelings we have, but emotional numbing can make it even harder to heal.

That’s because turning off your feelings when you’re hurting is a temporary solution to a long-term problem. Not having to worry about whatever it is that you’re feeling — especially if that feeling is pain — is a relief. Numbing your emotions means that you won’t start crying in the middle of the grocery store because you’re breaking. It protects you from getting hurt even more, and when you’re deep in some serious shit, that’s all you want.

“Emotional numbing is the mental and emotional process of shutting out feelings and may be experienced as deficits of emotional responses or reactivity,” Mayra Mendez, Ph.D., LMFT, licensed psychotherapist and program coordinator at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center explains to Very Well Mind.

So basically, emotional numbing is shutting down any feelings before they have the chance to escape. Emotional numbing is a common side effect of PTSD and anxiety. But if you suffer from depression, stress, or various forms of abuse, it can also be a symptom. Additionally, it’s also connected to grief. Trauma may also lead to emotional numbing as a means of survival. When you’re already feeling overwhelmed, numbing feels like the best way to cope. But there’s a risk that not allowing yourself to feel anything can eventually become second nature.

You’re likely emotionally numbing because you either feel it’s your only option for survival. But over time, you simply won’t be able to change.

Not sure if what you’re doing is emotional numbing? Here are some common signs:

– A loss of enjoyment in things you used to enjoy. If you just sit in front of the television and let it watch you more than you watch it, that could be a sign.

– Detachment from people. Of course, life gets busy sometimes. But if you’re consciously avoiding people because you can’t deal with being seen, it may be a sign of something bigger.

– Feeling physically and emotionally flat. Again, we all have our “off” days, but if it’s overwhelming or extended, you may be emotionally numbing.

Dr. Jonice Webb, a psychologist who focuses on childhood emotional neglect, mentions that anger and irritability are also signs of emotional numbing. And if you often feel like you’re operating on autopilot? Webb suggests that’s also a sign of emotional numbness.

“Like a toy soldier or an energizer bunny, you just keep on going. But you also find yourself wondering what it’s all for,” she writes. She also mentions that not being able to deal with other people’s emotions is a common trait of emotional numbing. You may feel discomfort at people’s strong emotions or might even feel envious that they’re feeling something and you’re not.

“While emotional numbing blocks or shuts down negative feelings and experiences, it also shuts down the ability to experience pleasure, engage in positive interactions and social activities, and interferes with openness for intimacy, social interests, and problem-solving skills,” Mendez says.

And that’s the hardest part of emotional numbing. Not feeling negative feelings often leads to not feeling positive feelings either. Because you’re spending so much time living in a space where you are just operating on auto-pilot. Not taking time to really try to reconnect with your feelings can lead to long-term emotional damage. You no longer know how to connect with the moments of joy in your life.

The best way to overcome emotional numbness is to seek professional help. A mental health professional — preferably one who focuses on trauma-based care — will be able to give you the skills you need to cope. A therapist will help you figure out the root cause of your trauma and why you’re numbing your emotions in the first place. Additionally, they provide you with a safe space to work through your problems.

“Learning and practicing cognitive-behavioral strategies for managing stress, traumatic experiences, depression, and anxiety can help tame negative thoughts and avoid defensive patterns of coping that are inefficient and invalidating of emotional processing and problem-solving,” Mendez explains.

Working through the trauma causing you to emotional numb yourself is key. Spending time with a therapist or psychologist will enable you to get your life back. And their help could prevent you from turning to emotional numbing in the future.

However, not everyone has the means or access to professional help. If you can’t get professional help, finding someone you trust to talk to could still help. Finding ways to get out of your head, whatever that means, can be good tools as well. Some people turn to physical activity like running or yoga. Others may try meditation or something similar. Getting enough rest at night is an option, but that may be hard. PTSD, depression, anxiety and the like certainly can make consistent sleep practically impossible.

Emotional numbing is a temporary way of dealing with your problems. Usually, it leads to a whole different set of problems. And the long-term effects can be worse than confronting your emotional traumas. Finding the help you need to work through your problems is truly the only way out.

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GTFO With This Premarital Exam Bullshit

Premarital exam: A medical exam a woman gets before marriage to prepare for sex.

Yep, it’s a thing. Nope, you haven’t time-traveled to 1958 (though the past few years in our country sure feel like it sometimes). This shit actually exists. Healthcare clinics are offering examinations for women before their wedding night, with the very dated and fucked up assumption that a woman hasn’t had sex before that night, nor should she.

Here, let me help you lift your jaw off the damn floor.

The University of Utah’s Department of Women Health and Gynecology actually offers these exams. Today. And although the University of Utah is highly populated by folks who follow the Mormon religion (which forbids sex before marriage), the University itself is not a religious institution. It’s a public college.

So why on earth is it promoting something as antiquated and backwards as premarital exams?

According to Dr. Jennifer Gunter—author of The Vagina Bible and an OB/GYN herself—the University of Utah has been offering these exams for quite some time. And up until recently, their website was actually much more fucked up than it currently is.

In a blog post from September 2019, Dr. Gunter recounts doing what I just had you do: Googling “premarital exam” and finding the University of Utah’s site. At that time, the term “premarital exam” wasn’t as buried in the site as it is now.

As of this writing, the headline reads “SEXUAL HEALTH VISIT (OFTEN REFERRED TO AS A PREMARITAL VISIT)”

But just a few months ago, it simply read: “GETTING READY FOR YOUR WEDDING NIGHT WITH A PREMARITAL EXAM.”

Because, yes, that’s what we all freaking do. Totally normal.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the website also tried to scare women away from using condoms because they incorrectly claimed (as Gunter pointed out in her blog post) that condoms increase your chances of getting a UTI from sex.

Oh, and if you are about to ignite into an inferno of righteous anger, hold off for a sec because it only gets worse. The University’s website also recommended that women who have never had sex use a “sterile dilator” to “stretch the walls of [their] vagina.” I kid you not.

Because we can’t just normalize the patriarchal idea that women must “save themselves” for sex, we also have to scare the shit out of them with the notion that their bodies will be broken by sex unless they take proper precautions.

As Dr. Gunter points out on her blog, the majority of women do not experience pain or bleeding the first time they have sex, especially with foreplay, a trusting consensual and communicative relationship, and some comfort and familiarity with one’s body and sexuality—none of which the institutions that promote premarital exams seem to be offering.

The good news is that once Dr. Gunter posted about all of this fuckery, the University of Utah revised their website. They changed the headline and deleted the crap about condoms causing UTIs and dilators being recommended to stretch your vaginal walls. They also tried to make it clear that this was a general sexual health exam, and not necessarily one tied to your marriage night.

“While the term ‘premarital exam’ is what some people have heard of, the visit itself is called a sexual health visit,” they write on the site.

Yet the words “premarital exam” are still all over the place on their site and there is an assumption throughout that your first time having sex obviously coincides with your marriage night. (*insert eyeroll*)

Take, for example, the first sentence on the site, in its current incarnation: “Getting ready for your first sexual experience can be nerve-wracking, especially if you have certain expectations around this first experience. A sexual health visit is a woman’s health exam (or premarital visit) that you can schedule with your doctor to prepare for sexual activity.”

As far as I’m concerned, they’re still pretty much offering premarital exams, with the assumption being that this is a totally normal thing—that you need to visit the doctor before you can have sex for the first time.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with seeing a doctor to discuss your sexual health before having sex. But the idea that this must coincide with your first sexual experience—that you somehow need a doctor’s blessing—is ridiculous and sets up a lot of false notions about sex and a woman’s ownership of her own body.

Why not offer sexual health counseling throughout a woman’s life, starting in childhood and continuing through her adult life?

Why aren’t there similar exams or counseling sessions for men?

Why are they assuming a woman’s first sexual experience is with a man anyway?

Since when did sex become a medical condition that needs evaluation and a “green light” from a medical professional?

Since when is a woman’s plan to have sex a problem that needs to be solved?

So. Many. Questions.

Interestingly, according to The Washington Post, the idea of a premarital exam wasn’t just concocted out of thin air by the folks at the University of Utah. It turns out there was a demand for it from the general student population, many of whom are Mormon and are forbidden from having sex before marriage.

In addition, the state of Utah itself doesn’t allow sex ed in public schools, so in many ways, the Utah population needs a place like a major University to step up and provide that gap in education to its students.

But, again, there is absolutely no need to call it a premarital exam. NONE. Even if that’s what a portion of the University’s population is asking for, there is no reason a public institution needs to co-op into that misogynistic jargon.

It only upholds the values that such misguided practices avow. As a health clinic employed by medical professionals, they should know better than to post misinformation about birth control and other false notions—like that you need to prep your vaginal walls before having sex for the first time.

GTFO with this bullshit.

Instead, let’s offer women and men inclusive, comprehensive sex education throughout their lives, with compassionate, non-judgmental care that is based on science, facts, and medical recommendations. PERIOD.

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I Ate Cereal, Naked, On My Front Porch — While ASLEEP

It’s 4 a.m. The entire house is asleep, but I’m now awake and not where I once was when I cozied myself up into bed. I’m slumped over on the couch, sticky from eating two popsicles and letting the third one melt on my lap. I’m topless and braless. The TV is on, and playing something random that I’d never normally choose in my conscious state of being. But worst of all? I have no memory of how I got here. All I know is that I was definitely sleepwalking… again.

When I was a child, it happened quite often. My mom would lay me down for bed, turn on her adult shows in the living room, only to see me wandering about the house like a walking vegetable later in the night. Sometimes, I’d fidget with the front door or open the refrigerator, she says. Other times, I’d just stand still. And when it was the most creepy, I’d pace rooms of the house with a blank, “lights-out” type of stare and mumble incoherent words.

The way she remembers it, she was always able to get me back into bed without waking me. She would usually just tell me to go to bed, and I would do it. I wouldn’t always go to bed right away, but with some guidance, I would after being gently reminded.

Some folks believe sleepwalking only happens with children, but that’s just not true. It is most common among adolescents, and it’s something that kids typically outgrow after puberty. But as it turns out, up to 25% of children who had recurring sleepwalking episodes will go on to sleepwalk as an adult — making up more than 8.4 million U.S. adults wandering the halls at night.

As an adult who has been sleepwalking for as long as I can remember, I’ve been able to track my episodes and conclude that their likeliness is usually in sync with great stressors in my life. But there are many reasons for sleepwalking disorders such as, sleep deprivation, sleep disorders, alcohol-abuse, medication side-effects, heart problems, and psychiatric disorders including PTSD, panic attacks and multiple personality disorder.

It’s unclear why some adults continue to sleepwalk while others don’t, as it’s been given little research and medical attention. But according to a new published study, sleepwalking can become dangerous, inappropriate, and even reduce the overall quality of one’s life.

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“We found a higher frequency of daytime sleepiness, fatigue, insomnia, depressive and anxiety symptoms and altered quality of life in patients with sleepwalking compared to the control group,” lead author and investigator on the study, Yves Dauvilliers, MD, PhD, tells AASM. “What would usually be considered a benign condition, adult sleepwalking is a potentially serious condition and the consequences should not be ignored.”

Just within the past few years, I’ve woken up outside on numerous occasions: My rump seated on the cold cement of our back porch stairs, and my neck pained from nodding it against the side of our home or edgings of our doorway. One time, I even walked outside, sat on our front porch swing with a bowl of cereal, and ate Fruit Loops completely butt-ass naked. Thankfully, my dream-state had enough common sense to wrap me in a fuzzy blanket before making my “birthday suit” debut near a busy street.

I’ve been known to masturbate and initiate sex with my partner while I’m fully asleep. I’ve written complete gibberish in the notes of my phone while I’m snoozing. And I have even taken baths (the most common of my sleepwalking occurrences), which usually wake me once the water is freezing cold and, occasionally, overflowing the sides of the tub.

Dan Baker/Reshot

Clearly, this is not anyone’s definition of a good night’s rest.

Whenever this happens and I start to come to, I’m so damn confused. Almost delusional for a minute or two. I think snippets of fast-occurring thoughts like:

“What am I doing?”

“Why am I here?”

“What is going on?”

During a sleepwalking episode, the brain is still partly awake, which results in “complex behaviors” of the sleepwalker without consciousness of actions. And let me be the first to tell you, there is a reason people are told to never wake a sleepwalker abruptly.

Considering a good chunk of my sleepwalking tendencies are categorized as “potentially dangerous” due to the situations I wake up in, it’s not unusual for me to experience feelings of terror upon waking. And if I’ve been awoken quickly, be it bumping into a counter, harshly falling after I’ve stumbled, or someone waking me up harshly, I feel even more scared and confused than usual until I’m able to piece it all together.

Dauvilliers classifies sleepwalking as a serious, “underdiagnosed” condition, one that “needs to be highlighted and emphasized.” Not just that, but it needs to be de-stigmatized, as it is totally and completely beyond the sleepwalker’s control.

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My Weight Is Considered ‘A Sensitive Topic,’ But Not Because I’m Ashamed Of It

“I know this is a sensitive topic,” you say to me as I sit on your examination table.

Don’t go there, please don’t go there, can we just get through one appointment without this conversation? We had this conversation last time and it was so awful it had me in frustrated tears for hours after my appointment. 

But you go there anyway.

“We need to talk about your weight.”

I’m at this appointment because something is happening with my legs. One of my legs has gotten so swollen and painful that it sometimes interferes with my mobility. It has begun to keep me from doing things I want to do, like taking walks with my husband, going to the park with my dog, or even just walking through the grocery store without pain. I am terrified it is a blood clot because I am on hormonal birth control and traveled on a plane very recently. I told you at the beginning of this appointment that I have had fat legs my whole life, but this problem is new and frightening. Sometimes I will lose control of my legs and they will just shake and shake and they won’t move. I trip over my feet and lose my balance, even when I’m not moving. I am in pain. I’m scared. I want help.

Instead, you want to talk about my weight.

Here is what I want you to know, doc. This isn’t a topic I want to avoid because I’m “sensitive” about it, because it hurts my feelings when you acknowledge my body weight. It’s because this topic results in me receiving poorer medical care. It’s because the last time we had this chat, we spent 80% of the appointment going in circles on this topic and only a few minutes on the actual reason for my visit: the swelling and pain in my legs that had just started. You held my swollen, painful leg in your lap and pressed on the swelling with your fingers. “Yep, you’re definitely retaining fluid there!” You said this and you offered absolutely nothing else. No diagnostic tests, no suggestions, no treatments. Because you wanted to talk about my weight instead.

This is a topic that can drive me to tears. It’s not because you’re Getting Real™ with me in a way no one ever has before. And it’s not because I have never once considered that I am on the higher end of the weight spectrum and you are bringing this to my attention for the very first time. It’s because I get so angry and frustrated that all I can do is cry. The anger chokes me, burns in my chest, and wells up in my eyes.

Do you know how many times I have had this conversation? If I had a dollar for every time as doctor has sat on their little stool Getting Real™ with me about my weight, I’d be searching for a new McMansion with a pool and media room on HGTV. But, alas, I’m the one ponying up the cash for this discussion.

I’m tired. I came to this appointment with a list of possible diagnoses that I had Googled and crowdsourced. I wrote down a list of things to ask for: an ultrasound on my legs, a referral to a specialist. You tried to offer me diuretics with zero qualifiers, but I said, “I don’t want to take diuretics until we know what kind of fluid this is because if it’s lymph fluid, diuretics could make it worse, and if it’s a blood clot, it’ll do nothing.” You nodded your head and said, “You’re right.”

I am tired of being my own doctor.

This may come as a shock to you, but I am aware that I am fat. I know! I even have a whole entire blog about it! I’m aware that I’m fat because I live in this body and have been fat for 36 years.

I was aware of it when my pediatrician advised my mother to put me on a diet before the age of 10. I was aware of it when a school nurse suggested I join Weight Watchers in 4th grade, because I “would be so beautiful if only I’d lost the weight.” I was aware of it when my mother encouraged me to go on Atkins with her at 17, and I ended up with gallstones, that my doctor did not diagnose for a full year because she thought I was making up my symptoms. I was aware of it when that same doctor prescribed Phentermine to me in my senior year of high school, and was annoyed that I stopped taking it because I couldn’t sleep (because it was speed).

I was aware of it sitting in endless Weight Watchers meetings, learning how “healthy swaps” and Greek yogurt would save me.

I am aware of it each and every time I travel, especially by air. I am aware of it when I cannot fit into a seat. I was aware of it when a gastroenterologist compared my body to “an overstuffed suitcase.”

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I was aware of it when I worked for an employer that refused to send me to a conference I helped plan because I was not fit to represent the organization. Jesus Christ, my blog post about going to Disney World is one of the first Google results for “fat at Disney.” Believe me, doc, I am aware.

And I want you to hear me when I say I have accepted that my fatness is not a temporary state. This is it! This is my body. I spent the vast majority of my life trying to unleash the skinny bitch within, but much to my dismay, she was never there. I have tried everything short of surgery to will my body into being smaller than it is, but it just hasn’t happened.

In fact, these attempts have wrecked my relationship with food and movement. I couldn’t even tell when I was hungry, full or thirsty after years of restrictive dieting. I have tried and tried to mold my body into something different. I have spent thousands of dollars. I have cried thousands of tears. I have invested years and years of effort. And what did I get for that? I get to have this fucking conversation, yet again.

Do you know that it took a tremendous amount of courage to even come here to ask for your help with this problem? Because I knew what you would do, and you did it. I spent days dreading this appointment. I rehearsed my speech about why I do not want to have weight loss surgery in my car on the way to this appointment. I rehearsed my attempts to get you to refocus on my presenting complaint. I’ve fretted and imagined every possible direction this conversation could go in. Last time I was here and I declined weight loss surgery, you said, “Well, if you have cancer in your breast and getting a mastectomy would remove the cancer, you would do it, right?” So you know how to throw some serious curveballs at me. At the time I just gaped, because I had never before heard someone insist that my healthy, functioning stomach was diseased before. That was a new one for me! You keep me on my toes, so I had to be ready this time.

At this point I’m just done with the shame. I am done with the notion that every ache, every illness, every difficulty, is something that I’ve done to myself. I am done with being labeled “noncompliant” because I refuse to submit to an expensive, permanent surgery that I don’t want. I’m done defending my own humanity. I don’t want to have this conversation anymore, because I have a right to receive evidence-based, compassionate medical care, and you are not providing that. Even if you furrow your brow and look at me with your best Pity Face, you’re failing me. You’re falling short. You’re wasting my time. I swear, I am not being fat at you. I am just a fat lady, sitting in her socks in front a medical practitioner, asking for medical care.

I want to know what you expect to get out of this conversation. Do you expect me to look at you in shock and go, “Oh my god, I had no idea I was fat! Please, explain what a vegetable is!” Or, do you expect me to go down to the bariatric surgery center and get operated on immediately, just so you can begin treating my legs, even though you have no idea what is causing the pain & swelling because you have not done anything to diagnose it and there is no evidence that weight loss surgery will cure or treat whatever the fuck is happening?

Do you know that it took a tremendous amount of courage to even come here to ask for your help with this problem? Because I knew what you would do, and you did it.

Do you just want me to cry? Do you like those tears? Do they make you feel better about yourself? Or do they make you feel like maybe I had a breakthrough, and one day I will give you credit for saving my life?

Am I supposed to apologize? Is there an apology threshold I must meet before you deign to treat me?

Let’s say we take it for granted that my weight is the one and only cause for this mystery issue. How much weight must I lose for you to treat me? 20lbs? 50lbs? 100lbs? How thin do I need to be to be worthy of medical treatment? How long will that take? A year, two years, more? What if I never get there? Do I just accept that this is my life now and no one can ever help me? If I never become worthy of treatment, do I deserve to just live with pain? Is that my just desserts?

It’s confusing because, aside from weight loss surgery, you have offered no advice. You have not asked me about my diet or lifestyle. You don’t even know what I do for a living, nor did you care to ask. (You seem to be under the impression that I am unemployed, come to think of it.) So, you just drop this bomb at my feet, this discussion about my weight you insist on having, and then you leave. What am I supposed to do with it?

My biggest fear is that one day my weight will kill me. Not because I am too fat to live, or because of all of the “obesity-related” diseases out there, but because I will be suffering from something life-threatening and you will not notice. You will not be able to see past my fat body (with a pretty face, you note) and you will insist on having this conversation yet again and something will kill me. Who knows what it could be! Cancer, a blood clot, an aneurysm like the ones my mother had that may run in the family, a stroke, a disease. I imagine myself sitting on the table in my socks, like I am now, and you sitting there with your best Sympathy Face on telling me that I did this to myself and I need to lose weight.

And then, BOOM, I am dead from something you didn’t even try to diagnose. BOOM, that bomb you dropped at my feet kills me.

My other fear is that one day, you will wear me down, and I will get part of my stomach removed. I will do this so that perhaps you and others like you can maybe see past my weight, or at least appreciate my compliance, enough to offer me medical treatment. And that I will die on the table, or after the surgery I will suffer from painful complications, malnutrition, my hair and teeth will fall out, and then I will die. I have nightmares about this.

All I want is for you to do your job. I think you feel like this is your job, because you would be irresponsible if you let someone as large as I am just walk out of your office without a thorough tongue-lashing about how I should be smaller. And, sure, you want to be able to bill my insurance for “obesity counseling.” I know how it works.

But in reality, you’re just refusing to treat me.

My biggest fear is that one day my weight will kill me. Not because I am too fat to live, or because of an “obesity-related” disease, but because I’ll be suffering from something life-threatening and you won’t notice.

I ask you what evidence or facts you have that my weight is the cause of my issues with my legs, and you have none. You admit that it is just a feeling. Who knew that your feelings were science?!

You press on. I feel them coming, the tears. My throat locks up and my eyes start to burn. My eyes well up.

You inch in closer. Oh god, you’re going to hug me, aren’t you? You fucking did it. You gave me a goddamn hug. You chastised me about my weight, refused to listen to me, refused to treat the problem I came here for, and wasted my time. And you gave me a motherfucking hug.

I got your notes from this appointment the next day, through the patient portal.

“Tried to discuss patient’s weight but she is sensitive about it and prefers not to discuss it.”

Oh, fuck you. 

The post My Weight Is Considered ‘A Sensitive Topic,’ But Not Because I’m Ashamed Of It appeared first on Scary Mommy.

Don’t Be Fooled: ‘Detoxing’ Is Dangerous On So Many Levels

If I have one more person slipping into my DMs trying to tell me all I have to do is sip on some magic tea to detox myself, I am going to scream. We are a society obsessed with the term “detoxing” and most of us don’t even know what it means. If we did, we wouldn’t be reaching for pills, bath soaks, or teas to get the job done.

Because the only thing we need a detox from is pseudoscience.

So unfollow those damn detox groups and stop spending your money on expensive potions that make you run to the shitter as you try and clench you butt hole. This isn’t how you cleanse yourself.

But hey, if your goal to always have an excuse to run out of the PTA meeting so you don’t have to listen to Karen talk about how you aren’t pulling your weight in the bake-sale department, detox away.

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Stop telling people they can just sip on some freshly brewed crap and lose twenty pounds. While it’s tempting, it’s a big fat lie. And it can be an expensive and dangerous one too. There’s a right way to stay healthy, and it doesn’t come from downing these teas and blowing mud five times a day.

No doubt when someone hits you up wanting you to try their weight loss teas or supplements, it makes you feel shitty. Just seeing these products out there are enough to make anyone feel vulnerable. Enough with the pressure to be smaller or look a certain way. ENOUGH ALREADY. These products are contributing to the dangerous (and deadly) body image issues that many of us face.

Not only are they psychologically damaging, but they are physically harmful as well. Many of these so called “detox” teas — many of which are endorsed by celebrities — contain senna, which is an FDA approved laxative. Medline Plus advises not to take senna longer than two weeks, saying it can cause dehydration and make pre existing conditions like heart disease and gastrointestinal issues worse.

Also, just a guess here, but I’m pretty sure the very celebrities endorsing these “skinny” teas that can cost anywhere for $50-$100 for a bag probably aren’t drinking them. And you bet your ass if they are, they also have a personal trainer, chef, stylist, and a team who makes sure every photo is perfect.

So sure, while you are having the squirts, you might be thinking it’s because the tea elixir is squeezing out all the toxic enemies you’ve had in your body since your college drinking days. But it’s a giant scam. Don’t get duped.

A Teen Vogue article quotes Dr. Karin Kratina, a nutritional therapist, as saying, “The weight loss [from detox teas] is primarily, and probably all, water weight. If true weight loss occurs, it is because a caloric deficit also occurred from a change in eating habits.”

Scary Mommy spoke with Dr. Tarek Hassanein of Southern California Liver Centers who explained how these detox teas and herbal supplements that are being used as alternative medicines are actually causing toxins and problems to the liver.

“Nineteen percent of reported acute liver failures are induced and caused by herbal and dietary supplements,” Hassanein told Scary Mommy. For example, the use of Morning Recovery which claims to detox your liver and get rid of your hangover, contains DMH which is “a Chinese plant extract that’s known to have a number of biological effects in animal studies, but is difficult to absorb for humans and has poor bioavailability when ingested.”

So newsflash: some of these products are causing dangerous reactions in your body, not purging you of toxins.

“There are a lot of claims these products can detox the body, but there’s no proof,” says Dr. Hassanein, adding that our bodies detoxify themselves on a regular basis on their own. To best support this, Hassanein recommends drinking enough water and eating a balanced diet that includes fiber.

Dr. Yeral Patel MD, a functional medicine physician practicing in California also warns about the risks of over-the-counter detox products. “Any kind of detox kit or product you can buy over the counter, or from a Facebook group, probably contains ingredients that can cause adverse reactions and side effects. It’s never a good idea to try and detox without a medical professional.”

Yes, toxins are bad for our body, but our bodies already know how to flush them out by way of urinating and sweating. We can support this natural occurring process by not believing the things these detoxifying product claim to do.

So put down the detox tea, grab a healthy snack, and take the dog for a walk. Now that’s a detox plan we can all enjoy a lot more than overdosing on supplements of liquids that leave us with cramps and feeling like we want to hurt people.

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You Can Be Grateful And Still Feel Like Things Suck Sometimes

I do this very unhelpful thing when I am feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or disappointed. I argue with myself about the severity of the offense that has caused me to feel anything uncomfortable or irritating. Or worse, when I am miserable and sad I tell myself I shouldn’t feel that way. I try to analyze my way out of feeling shitty. I attempt to stop the negative thoughts by replacing them with ones that say It could be worse or I have so much to be grateful for.

Even while I try to trick myself into contentment — if not happiness — all I do is delay the inevitable emotional meltdown. It’s exhausting to procrastinate the necessary act of feeling; instead, I am learning how to embrace the fact that sometimes life just sucks.

I know we can’t navigate life by being overly negative all of the time, and I am not suggesting we do. But I don’t want to pretend or conjure up the naïve belief that there is always a silver lining. When my depression is telling my brain lies and when my anxiety is rampaging its way through every cell of my body, I get into the “shoulds.” I somehow think I should be able to control the chemicals in my brain by telling myself I should be happier. After all, I have my physical health, a job, a warm place to sleep, happy kids, and a wonderful support network. And when my anxiety is high I beat myself up for overthinking everything and for feeling agitated and short tempered. I can barely stand to be around myself so I become convinced no one else wants to be around me either. I should be better by now.

I feel guilty when I can’t come up with positive thoughts about my life or myself. And all I can think is WTF is my problem?

I know there is no such thing as “better by now” when it comes to mental health. I also know that the right answer is not the easy answer in this case. It would be easy to say I am selfish, a misery, and unappreciative. But the right answer is that I am a human being with tough stuff to deal with and for the most part I do a pretty damn good job at it, but there are days and situations that are garbage. Calling shit stinky doesn’t make me lose sight of the wonderful things in my life.

I am learning that I am better off allowing raw and natural reactions to unwanted events and feelings be what they are. Instead of telling myself it could be so much worse or that other people struggle more often or that their hard is harder, I tell myself my hard is still difficult. I need to honor the struggle and believe I have every right to work through negative feelings while kicking and screaming about it. I know I get to a better version of me when I accept being uncomfortable and trust that I am deserving of care from both myself and those who love me. When I stop fighting myself, I usually move through the muck a bit faster.

A large part of my sobriety and recovery is a sense of gratitude. I am truly thankful for where I am today compared to two years ago. I am grateful for what I have to look forward to because of a clear head and healthy body. But sometimes I take it too far. I almost will my way into feeling thankful for what makes me feel like shit as if depression and anxiety or everyday stress and bad luck are punishments for my alcoholism. I want to see them as reminders of my strength and not crosses to bear.

Complaining about the messiness of life it doesn’t take away from my gratitude. The problem comes when I am told to reframe a situation. Someone will send me an inspirational quote or meme. An acquaintance will tell me to focus on the good. Be optimistic. This too shall pass.

Fine, I can reframe something in a more positive way but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the challenges in front of me for what they are—absolute trash.

And there is so much more to the story than the inspirational and motivational words behind memes with pretty font and prettier backgrounds. Those viral posts and videos of folks smiling and triumphant after going through the absolute worst shit that was ever piled on top of shit would not be celebrated if the focus was on the miserable parts of the process. But folks love a good underdog story. We strive to rise from the ashes. It’s not that bad, right? If they can do it, so can we!

Let me remind you of something: The joy, success, and ability to walk out of fire didn’t happen without the misery of being burned.

Failure and pain—both physical and emotional—are part of life and we should be able to talk about them in the same way we talk about our moments of euphoria and pride. I don’t want to be stuck in dark cycles for too long, but I am no longer in a rush to throw on the rose-colored glasses when life is tough.

It is what it is. And sometimes it all fucking sucks.

The post You Can Be Grateful And Still Feel Like Things Suck Sometimes appeared first on Scary Mommy.

As A Highly Sensitive Person, It Can Be Hard To Trust My Instincts

I plop myself down on Jenn’s couch and take in the room. It’s changed since I was last here. The bookshelf is in a different corner; a desk has moved. But the clipboard and tiny, square tabletop clock are familiar.

I’ve come to deeply trust my counselor. I know there isn’t anything I can’t say to her. It’s taken me years to get here, but I’m at a place now where I can dive right in.

That’s the thing about trust — it may take months or years to build it up, but once it’s in place, it is a haven. A refuge. A sanctuary.

I tell her the heavy things, we laugh about the light things, and we make it to the end of our session.

Jenn has this way of ushering me out of the safety of her office where she speaks courage into my being. We both know that her office is the place where I can let my guard down, but there’s a certain amount of armor that’s needed to reenter the real world. I think the idea is that we strip off the protective armor that hinders our growth when we walk in the door, and when we leave, we put on a new type of armor that protects it.

I have walked in her door wearing shame and doubt and walked out wearing forgiveness and courage.

Today as we are wrapping up, she says to me, “I think your instincts are good. They really are.”

I’ve made it 48 minutes without tearing up, but her words settle into my chest with a softness that whispers to me, “Take it in.”

So I breathe in and out. In and out. And I hold what she’s just said to me. The tears rest in the corners of my eyes, and I listen to what they’re trying to tell me.

For years, I was ashamed of my sensitivity. I tried hard to swallow my tears — to hide my body’s innate reactions to the world. But I’m learning that my body is telling me things all the time.

Today my tears acknowledge that yes, I can trust myself. I can trust my body. I can trust my gut.

I tell Jenn that her words have healed me in a way I didn’t know I needed to be healed.

As I walk out her door and inhale the outside air, I put on my new armor of self-trust.

No matter what the world has told you about yourself — that you have come to believe as true — I want you to know that you are good.

So innately GOOD, friend.

We are not our mistakes and our shortcomings. We are not the labels that we have been deemed by the world.

We. Are. Good. You are so, so good. And I am good, too.

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After A Routine Medical Procedure, Some Women Lose The Ability To Orgasm

Before the procedure, orgasms were easy for her to achieve, and she enjoyed a healthy and full sex life. But after a simple gynecological procedure back in 2010, all of that changed.

“I felt nothing,” said Sasha (name changed), who described her experience to Cosmopolitan magazine. Just moments before, she’d undergone a common procedure at the gynecologist called LEEP, or Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure, where abnormal, potentially cancerous cells are removed from the cervix.

The procedure is a quick, out-patient procedure and is purported to have minimal side effects for patients. LEEP is thought to be one of the elements – along with HPV vaccines and early detection tests – that has dramatically decreased the rates of cervical cancer over the past few decades.

But for women like Sasha, the procedure has had traumatic sexual side effects. And she is one of many. Besides an inability or struggle to achieve orgasm, women have also reported feelings of numbness as well as vaginal and pelvic pain.

 

Sasha tells Cosmopolitan that her labial area felt totally different after the procedure. “There was a sort of sensation in my clitoral area, but just as I was about to orgasm, it was suddenly nothing,” she described it.

“I knew then,” she said. “Holy shit, they broke me.”

Sasha’s story is disturbing and shocking to consider. But she is far from alone. As Cosmopolitan reports, there is a Facebook group of LEEP survivors, all of whom have experienced similar – and in many cases permanent – sexual side effects. The private group has over 3,000 members, with over 10 new posts per day.

 

And yet, most of these women are having lots of trouble having their symptoms taken seriously – and most importantly, getting help so that they can heal and potentially begin to experience sexual pleasure once more.

Part of the problem, according to VICE, is that LEEP is such a common, oftentimes life-saving procedure, and that only a minority of women report sexual side effects. Not only that, but there isn’t a ton of good research on the matter, so most of what we have to go on is anecdotal stories from women themselves – and doctors aren’t usually quick to believe women when they report such things.

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“The LEEP was presented to them as a simple procedure with few risks, so they were shocked to experience sexual side effects that they had not been warned about,” says Furseth, who interviewed a handful of women and trans men for her VICE piece.

“Then, when they report the sometimes devastating impact to their sex life — such as complete loss of libido, pain during intercourse, or sudden inability to orgasm — they were told by their doctors that it could not possibly be related to the LEEP,” Furseth added.

This. Is. Devastating.

It’s bad enough to experience these things, but to feel like you’re not heard or like it’s “all in your head” just makes the experience that much more traumatic.

 

There might be some hope, though. A Rutgers neuroscientist named Barry Komisaruk completed a study back in 2004 that found that some doctors cut too deep into the cervix during LEEP procedures, severing “vital nerve endings, silencing the genital connection to the brain,” as Cosmopolitan describes it.

This may have had the unintended effects of numbing the entire genital area, San Diego sexual health doctor Irwin Goldstein has theorized.

“Nobody teaches doctors or does quality control on how deep to go,” Dr. Goldstein told Cosmopolitan. “There is no appreciation for the three very important nerves in the cervix…and that the deeper you go, the higher your chance of denervating the whole thing.”

The idea is that teaching doctors to perform the LEEP procedure more carefully may be the trick to reducing these incidences of sexual side effects.

If this is the answer, let’s hope it happens ASAFP, because it’s unconscionable that this many women have had to endure such awful and life-changing side effects from what was supposed to be an innocuous procedure.

Make no mistake: LEEP procedures are very important and save lives. But we need to work on making them a safer choice for women, because contrary to popular belief, women’s sexual health matters. It affects every aspect of a woman’s life and can profoundly shape her mental health as well.

Not only that, but it’s disturbing AF to think about how all these women’s claims of feeling “broken” and numbed by a medical procedure were totally disregarded by their doctors. If a woman tells you what she has experienced, you believe her. And if there isn’t research to prove her claims, well you go out and do the research. Period.

Can you imagine if a “simple” medical procedure was causing men to stop having erections or orgasms? Millions of dollars would be poured into research and the entire world would come to a screeching halt until the problem was rectified.

Women deserve no less. Let’s fix this. STAT.

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As A Teen, I Had A Traumatic Experience With Pot And I’m Still Scared Of It

For about a year in high school, I was a total stoner. I wasn’t stoned all the time, but I’d smoke weed almost every weekend with my friends and boyfriend, and there were a few times I even went to school stoned. In many ways, these were not my finest moments in life, but I was pretty responsible about the whole thing, and like any stoned teen, I had my fair share of blissed out revelations about life, the universe, and everything else.

Everything was seemingly fine with my life as a pothead…until it wasn’t.

It was my senior year of high school and I’d just gotten over bronchitis. I was on antibiotics and still coughing a bunch, so when my good friend came over to hang out and get stoned, we decided that my best course of action was to eat a little of the weed she’d brought over rather than inhale it into my lungs.

BIG. FUCKING. MISTAKE.

Most people know that eating pot has a very intense effect on you, and though I kind of knew that at the time, I pretty much had no idea how bad it could be. Plus, I don’t think I exactly regulated how much I was consuming…and who the hell knows how the weed mixed with the antibiotics I was on.

Within an hour of eating the pot, I was full on freaking out.

Basically what happened was that I felt like I was dreaming. But not in a good way. I felt like I was totally outside of my life, looking in. I was separate from my body. I was losing my sense of center, of self. Disassociating big time.

And the scariest thing was that I was convinced that I was “going crazy,” and would never feel normal again. Ever.

So mixed with the feeling of disassociation came a full blown anxiety/paranoia attack. My heart was racing. I was crying and shaking. I was bugging the fuck out.

I remember calling my boyfriend, who had just gone away to college. “I ate pot,” I said, “And something is very, very wrong.”

He laughed a little, which freaked me out more. Then he did his best to reassure me, but honestly, nothing helped. I was convinced that I had gone off the deep end, would need to be hospitalized, and would never come home.

The worst thing was that I could not shake the feeling; because I felt this sense of distance from myself, from the world around me, and from everyone I knew, I didn’t believe that I would ever feel like myself again.

As you can imagine, all of this disappeared when the effects of the weed wore off a few hours later. It was just the drug, and I was fine.

Courtesy of Wendy Wisner

I decided then and there that I would never, ever eat pot again, which was a wise enough decision. But I figured smoking it would still be okay.

Well, I tried smoking it a few times, and although no time was as horrible as the time I ate it, getting stoned was never quite the same. Those feelings of paranoia and disassociation were still there, and sometimes it was really bad.

It was like something had switched in my body and rather than experiencing the effects of pot as mellow, dreamy, or trippy-in-a-cool-way, it was just always a flashback to the time of my pot-eating freak-out.

Early in my college years was the last time I smoked pot. It just wasn’t for me, and although I felt a certain amount of peer pressure to try it again, it was not worth it for me to continue to “go there.” In a way, acknowledging that and taking a clear stand about it was an empowering moment in my youth.

I am definitely not knocking pot, and I don’t judge people who use it for health or mental health. I know it is invaluable to many people, and I applaud the legalization of pot as well. I also know that there are many different types of marijuana now, and it’s possible that I could find one that wouldn’t make me feel like I was losing my mind.

But I really have no interest. And I know I’m not alone.

As a mom of two boys who will likely someday dabble in pot and alcohol, I think it’s important people realize that not everyone has a positive experience with pot, and that it’s important that you take precautions when trying it.

I certainly don’t think it’s anywhere in the category of most illicit drugs, but I also think many people are quick to proclaim how great and innocuous pot is. Pot is actually known to be both an upper and a downer. It’s known to cause paranoia in some people, and although it’s not addictive in the same way alcohol or tobacco is, people most certainly can become emotionally dependent on it.

This is definitely going to be part of my conversation with my kids as they get older and we talk about drugs and alcohol and experimentation and all that. I’m not stupid; I know they will likely try these things. So I’m going to be honest with them about what to expect, and I will share my experiences with them, the good and the bad.

Basically, pot does different things to different people and different bodies, and it’s okay if you are one of those people who really can’t handle it. I know a lot of people for whom this is the case. I think we don’t really talk enough about the negative effects pot can have on people. And we should.

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