A Toaster Oven Thanksgiving-Grief and the Holidays

Once it hit October this year I felt it coming, that old familiar holiday feeling. But this year when the holidays inevitably crept up it wasn’t exactly the same feeling as years past. How could it be with my Mom’s absence? Which was made all the worse by remembering my Dad’s absence and that this would be my first holiday season without them both.

There is a lot of advice out there on what to do your first celebration without a loved one to help adjust to the changed holiday. From advising that you don’t make any changes to your plans fearing you may a nervous breakdown, to recommending not cooking going out to dinner instead and everything in between like donating your time to a good cause, staying close to loved ones or avoiding them all together-the advice list goes on and on. It’s all good advice and I imagine that different things work for different people. After reading countless articles and meditating on the idea myself, I still wasn’t sure how I would celebrate the holidays that would make me feel comfortable.

IMG_2449
Getting ready for the Chico 5k Run For Food on Thanksgiving morning.

I knew one thing for sure, it wouldn’t be the same and I would probably be dealing with a lot of emotions. So after a couple of weeks of back and forth about what to do, I decided to do something totally out of my comfort zone-run a 5k on Thanksgiving morning. Four miles may no seem like a big deal but for me, running at all was a huge accomplishment. It all started when we first moved back to Chico a few weeks ago and I saw a sign for the Thanksgiving Day 5k on a store window downtown. I pointed it out to Mando and joked that it would be fun. At that point we were still throwing around Thanksgiving Day plans and didn’t know where we would be or what we would be doing. But something deep inside me was nagging me, urging me not to make plans and to celebrate quietly here in Chico.

IMG_2459
Thanksgiving dinner-Chicken boiled then pan fried, stuffing made in the toaster oven, brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes and cashew cream gravy and Mando’s cranberry sauce.

But old fashion guilt has a way of making you feel like your desires aren’t what they should be and so I continued to bat around the idea of celebrating elsewhere. But the truth was, my heart just wasn’t in it. We’d been traveling a lot lately and I didn’t want to get back into the car and drive far away and stay at someone else’s place when I felt like we just got here, (we moved in early November). I guess that fact that we don’t have kids or pets (but we do have plants and a watering can in the shape of an elephant names Fante that I talked to often), sometimes leaves me feeling like the family I have, (Mando and I), isn’t sufficient enough.

I said these same words out loud to my therapist a couple of days ago and realized that it just wasn’t true. The truth was that I did think that Mando and I were enough, I just didn’t think anyone else did always felt that the bigger the gathering for celebrations, the better. I was stuck on this old pattern of thought also worried what other people thought of how I defined family and how I celebrated the holidays. It was my old thinking trying to creep its way back into my head. It’s also not surprising that the idea of conventional family bothers me because my Astrological sun sign is Cancer which is the sign of home, family and domesticity.

I was once told by a fellow Astrology enthusiast that when these aspects in a Cancer’s life are in disarray, that person is in disarray. It’s was an Astrological connection that rang so true for me and that I could connect back to my childhood, especially because my family has never been conventional and I think on some level I’ve resented that. Even today in low moments, I think of my Mom’s unexpected death and get angry that yet again, I didn’t get to say goodbye to a parent and my family unit is once again, turned upside down. Would it be too much to ask for a normal family like in the holiday commercials and ads? For us to all want to be around each other and able to be, to accept each other for who we are and listen to one another, for my Mom to be here like she’s supposed to be. And puffy white clouds, unicorns and snowflakes and all that crap.

When I come down from that negativity I can clearly see there’s someone out there that has it worse than me for sure. That no one has normal. That we’re all striving for better and are doing our best. I’ve come to learn however, that happy families are happy  because they just don’t expect or define normal like the rest of us living in misery do. They don’t want to be normal they change their normal when they realize that the good of the family unit is compromised. If an aware family realizes that something is up-there are secrets, upsets, addictions, illness, depression, jealousy, resentment- they confront it. No matter how uncomfortable it is to have these conversations, to address the things people don’t want to address and make change with action, they do it because to continue on in such a way as a family would be false and hurtful to family members.

Redefining what family and the holidays mean has become an important part of me moving through my grief. Losing someone so close to me makes me realize that family is what you make of it and who you surround yourself with. It doesn’t matter how big or small the gathering but the quality of the people you keep and the joy you bring one another.

IMG_2473 (1)
Homemade pumpkin pie! The filling didn’t come out so great, (I used the recipe on the organic canned pumpkin), but the crust did. The recipe I used is below. 

That brings me to some of the good tips I found for the grieving on the holidays. Whether you’ve lost someone recently or are still feeling their absence years later, ignoring their missing spot at the table is the last thing you should do.

Try some of these instead…..

  • Acknowledge your grief-Acknowledging the absence of a loved one is important around the holidays. The ornaments they loved, the desserts that were their favorite and everything in between can’t go unspoken or unnoticed. Make sure to talk and cry about your loved one
  • Don’t do nothing-Even if you’re not sure what to do and let it go to the last minute, take that friend up on their offer to join them for holiday dessert. Hiding from the world and putting yourself in a position where you’re alone for the holidays will make you more sad and can be unhealthy. Remember, you don’t have to do ALL the things just make sure you do something.
  • Do something non-traditional-You have to face the fact that the holidays will never be the same again without your loved one. So why should the celebrations continue to be the same? Death is a chance to add new traditions and do something out of your comfort zone that takes your mind off missing your loved one. Think vacation for Thanksgiving, going to the movie theater or out to dinner instead of gathering at home. Switching up your traditions allows you to handle the change better.
  • Do something in remembrance-Making your loved ones favorite dish or setting a place for them at the table is a nice way to remember your loved one and also still enjoy the holiday.
  • Expand your definition of tradition and let it change-The holidays will never be the same. Not without the person you lost so don’t pretend it will be. Allow yourself to do something different at least for the first year if that’s what you feel comfortable with. You can opt in and out of holiday events as you feel comfortable and shouldn’t worry if you change what you do from year to year.
  • Put a twist on a favorite tradition-It could be anything that comes to mind and may even be something that before you lost your loved one you never thought you’d do like putting a twist on your grandmother’s pumpkin pie recipe because you know you’ll never make it the same way she does, it keeps the tradition going and keeps you connected to your loved one. Losing someone is a great time to start a new tradition to prove to yourself that life does go on.

How do you deal with your grief during the holidays? Have you started any new traditions or kept old ones going now that your loved one is gone? 

Gluten Free Almond Crust 

  • 2 cups blanched almond flour, I used unblanched and it turned out great but it is a thicker crust
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (optional; omit for a savory crust) *I omitted even though it was for dessert. If I did use sugar I would recommend coconut sugar.
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (chilled briefly to firm up, if necessary; may substitute cold butter)*I used Nutiva’s coconut butter
  • 1 egg *I used Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacement
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla (optional; omit for savory crust)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees *I baked mine in a toaster oven on bake setting for about 10 minutes and it turned out great!

Place dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse several times. Add egg and vanilla then put drops of coco oil onto the top of it. Pulse until the mixture forms a ball.

Press into dish and cook 8-10 minutes.

*Click the title to find the link to the original recipe

Endometriosis Part II-The Upside

When I was preparing myself for a diagnoses over the summer and last couple months of doctors appointments, I never thought my life would change this much as a result of an illness. But that’s probably what everyone says when they get sick. In fact, I’ve heard it from the sick people themselves. They also say that their illness was a blessing in disguise, a conclusion I too, am coming to each day as I navigate this new part of my life. Because unfortunately, it’s not something that ever really goes away but is more of a daily practice and mindful work to feel better and reduce my symptoms.

IMG_2068
This is me on Halloween night staying in and enjoying some tea instead of going out and boozing it up.

At first and still in some down moments I find it hard to see the bright side of my diagnosis. It’s changed me and my life more than I ever thought it could. For example, the act of making and finding healthy, tasty food was once a passion of mine has now become a necessity. It’s taken a little of the luster out of cooking and made it more of a chore. While before this I was eating healthy by choice using the 80/20 rule, with 80% of the time eating healthy and 20% being relaxed about what to eat, now I MUST eat well otherwise my symptoms flare up.

IMG_2251
Motivational words to help keep me strong on painful days. 

Needless to say it’s been an emotional roller coaster but still one I feel very lucky to be on because it’s taught me so much. To appreciate my health, loved ones and to focus on what really matters in life. It’s forced my hand on lifestyle matters that I was moving sluggishly to adopt like meditating, exercising and addressing certain stressors in my life. It’s also brought some new things into my life that I might not have otherwise been here if it weren’t for endometriosis.

IMG_0488
Extreme self care in action-bath and chlorophyll face mask from Cocokind Skincare, a great line for Endo sufferers because it’s not full of ingredients that disrupt hormones.

Here are some things that I’ve fallen in love with thanks to Endometriosis….

  • Comfortable clothes-Items like my used velvet pants that I got in Portland or my cotton onesie purchased in Eugene, (thanks Oregon), have become favorites on days when I’m feeling really bloated or in pain. Tight clothes just put too much pressure around my lower waist and hips.
  • Essential oilsEssential oils like Clary Sage, Frankincense and Geranium are known to provide pain relief when rubbed around the problem area (for topical use only).
  • Putting Myself First-It’s not always easy and feels selfish at times but making a daily commitment to put myself first and give myself what I need really allows me to be better for the other people in my life. I’ve adopted extreme self care and learned to say NO when everything in my being is against saying yes.
  • TeaI can’t tell you how many cups of tea per day that I now drink-it’s absurd. But I can’t drink coffee (caffeine is bad for endometriosis), alcohol or Kombucha (alcohol in any form aggravates the symptoms of endo), anymore so I needed something to enjoy. My favorites are Numi and Traditional Medicinals, caffeine free flavors of course
  • TeeccinoBecause I get tired of tea at times and because it’s really hard giving up coffee, Teeccino, an herbal coffee that I found on Amazon that tastes just like coffee has been a real treat. I’m so in love with the product that I recently became a brand ambassador for them and can’t wait to share this wonderful product and its benefits with you.
  • RestingIt’s in my nature to want to always want to know what the next activity is, the next thing on the to do list,  without giving myself much of a break in between until I put so much on my plate that I come to a crashing halt. It’s only now that I’m dealing with endometriosis that I’ve finally seen the benefits of resting when I need to.
  • Walking Away From StressI’m learning just how much my cortisol levels affect my hormones which in turn may have lead to the aggregation of my endometriosis. So it’s important to watch my stress levels just as it is to watch what I eat. I now walk away when I’m getting too stressed and stat away from situations that I think will be stressful for me. But this isn’t always possible so I’m also trying to learn to deal with life stressors better.
  •  Exercise-Although I shied away from it at first because at some times my pain has been too much to be able to workout, but now I’m learning to listen to my body and how much energy it wants to exude. Following Woman Code protocol for exercise has been tremendously helpful and I actually look forward to working out. It maybe because I know it won’t be the same every time.
  • Epsom Salt Baths-They’re not only relaxing but they provide magnesium which may be low in women with endometriosis. They also detox the liver through the skin which helps flush out excess estrogen and provide pain relief.
  • StretchingMost mornings I wake up, my body screaming to be stretched. Mostly in the hips, thighs and butt. Some days I need to stretch more than others but it’s  a become a MUST everyday. I think it’s something that I should’ve been doing my whole life and now find myself doing whenever I need to throughout the day. The body takes so much wear and tear and stretching in itself can be exercise especially when my energy is low like during my menstrual phase.
  • MeditationI’m still getting into doing this on the regular but I so enjoy it when I do. I’ve used the calm application and Gabrielle Berstein  meditations.
  • Expressing and Feeling my Feelings-It’s important to feel whatever negative feelings you may have about your diagnosis. Talk and cry about them before you can release them.
  • Focusing on Creativity, Relationships and Sexuality-Endometriosis resides in the sacral region or second chakra which relates to the emotional body, sexuality, creativity, relationships and relating.  There is a lot more information out there about it but briefly I’ll say that this information has led me to examine these aspects of my life to see whether or not they’re imbalanced and in many instances, I must admit, that they are. Noticing this imbalance is the first step and its up to me to make sure I don’t let my attention to these areas slip again.

Do you have endometriosis? What works for you when your symptoms are flaring up? 

Endometriosis

On the morning of my appointment to find out the results of my MRI, I made sure to eat breakfast before the appointment to calm my nerves. I’d already skipped breakfast before my MRI and some of my other appointments due to my nervousness. This would be the appointment where I would go in with a full stomach which I thought I really needed since I was going to finally find out if my pain was coming from more than ovarian cysts.

I thought back to the MRI just a couple of weeks earlier experience, but couldn’t’ help it. I remember it being much like I imagined being raised down into a coffin would be. And my feet got really cold. I remember regretting my decision not to wear bigger, warmer socks. I remember the woman who did the MRI being really nice, how she’d asked what kind of music I would like and I said anything but head-banging music and country. Then I remembered where I was and felt bad, trying to redeem myself saying that it wasn’t that bad even though I really did thin it was. She only blinked, smiled and said, ‘Everybody here likes country, I understand it gets to be a little much.’

IMG_2093
I bring Woman Code everywhere I go now so that I can refer to the food plan. I felt really lucky to find Lettuce Inn, a plant-based restaurant in my hometown of Concord. I stopped by for a Flo-friendly meal. 

I remembered how the music wasn’t nearly loud enough to drown out the machine’s  deafening sound. I wanted desperately for it to be over so I could get up and out and finally figure out which song was playing. Oh, and what was wrong with me.  I remembered how I’d asked her after it was over if she saw a mass on my left side and how she’d turned away from me uncomfortable, scared to say too much. How when I assured her that I understood that she couldn’t offer too much information, she’d confessed that there was a large mass followed quickly with a comment about how the doctors would take care of me. I remembered how I’d wanted to push her aside and see the screen for myself. Unsure, really of what that would do other than give me a very short-lived bout of control over my situation that may very soon lead to dread.

I shook the thought and came back to my current appointment and put my nose back in my book. I was reading Woman Code for the third time. Finally the doctor came in and got straight to the point. She said that it wasn’t conclusive but that it looked very much like I have endometriosis. A condition where the cells lining the uterus, endometrial cells, begin to form outside of the uterus. These endometrial cells respond to the rise and fall of hormones that occur during and around your period. Which is why menstruation can be so painful for women with endometriosis.

My whole period life flashed before my eyes, all days spent in excruciating and hundreds of toxic tampons and pads used, ruined underwear, depression and anxiety, all symptoms I’d deemed normal occurrences for any woman who had her period. Now here I was, 20 years later finding out that these were all warning signs. My body trying to tell me that something was up. A woman’s menstrual cycle, it’s flow the pain involved, thoughts surrounding her period, are all an indication of the health of a woman. I was wishing I had paid attention earlier and done something about it before now. But there was no sense in looking back and regretting. I’d done enough of that this past year when it came to the death of my Mom. If I’d learned anything over the past year, it was not to wallow in regret. The best thing to do was to feel my feelings, work through them and allow them to inspire a better present and future.

IMG_2110
Back at my Mom’s house visiting with my sister and aunt, I stayed in the Flo food plan with wild salmon and roasted pumpkin that turned out amazing! Just preheat oven to 400 degrees, drizzle Chosen Foods Avocado Oil on the pan, lay down slices and cover with oil, pink himalayan sea salt, black pepper and roast for about 40 minutes, turning halfway through. 

For me that meant not seeing my endometriosis diagnosis as a death sentence. Yes, it was true that it could cause infertility and was already causing me a lot of pain at times. I’ve read accounts where women end up in the hospital from the twisting of organs, internal bleeding and other complications that were enough to send me into a total tailspin. To make matters worse, my choices for pain relief and possible removal of the endometrial tissue were hormonal birth control and surgery. I denied the hormonal birth control and  Alissa Vitti’s article on synthetic birth control can briefly explain why but I’ll go into more detail with another blog in the future.

Next, the my gyno told me that we could do laparoscopy to biopsy it to make sure it’s endometriosis and remove the mass. I assured her I’d be back in touch about my decisions, took her pamphlets and proceeded to retreat to my car to absorb this new information. I knew immediately that if it could be avoided, I didn’t want surgery. I’d read before that masses can grow back if you didn’t get to the root of the problem and that could mean more surgeries. I shook my head as if someone were still sitting across from me insisting on surgery. But there wasn’t.

The next things I could think of to do was to book an appointment with an Integrative Doctor, one who could help me get to the root cause of my issue and provide support through supplementation and counseling. The only problem was, I didn’t really have a home. I was staying with Mando and his Mom’s house which was so wonderful to be able to do over the summer and to heal after my Mom’s sudden death. But both Mando and I were feeling that familiar itch again, one that’s hard to explain to the people around you, but we both know all too well, means that we’re ready to go.

We had plans and I had vowed that I could take care of my health anywhere as long as we were doing what we loved. It turns out that another associated cause of endometriosis as seen by really getting to know her clients in Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, Dr. Christianne Northrup notice that the majority of her patients with endometriosis were having a creative struggle in their lives of some sort. Many times she could connect the link between women who were struggling with the choice between children and career. Something I have not talked about very much but I can certainly relate too considering it’s something I’ve often thought about over the last several years without considering its impact on my life.

IMG_2127
I made this Flo-friendly meal in our AirBnb. It’s not always easy to eat well on the road so I recommend getting a kitchen when you can. 

This is also something I will talk about more in a future post but for now I want to share the symptoms of endometriosis, foods to avoid and food and lifestyle practices that I’ve found to be helpful against endometriosis symptoms.

The cause of endometriosis involves many factors-

  • Diet
  • Lifestyle
  • Stress levels
  • Amount of exercise
  • Relationships
  • Genes-although diet and lifestyle triggers this otherwise dormant issue
  • Occurs mostly in women of childbearing age
  • Estrogen and progesterone levels
  • Emotional issues such as the struggle women go through to decide career over having children
  • Feeling stuck creatively

Symptoms of Endometriosis 

  • Painful periods
  • Heavy periods
  • Depression
  • Long periods
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Pain during sex
  • Infertility

Women make experience, all, some or none of these symptoms.

IMG_2062
Getting into the ‘flo’ and synching my cycle with exercise. In this ‘ovulatory’ phase, high impact, group exercise was appropriate. In the luteal phase energy may still be high in the beginning so keeping exercise high energy is good. Then scale back during the final five days with walking, pilates or vinyasa yoga. Menstrual phase requires rest, walking and light yoga. Follicular phase is a good time to try something new that you’ve been meaning to try like Zumba or yoga sculpting. 

Foods To Avoid

  • Alcohol: consumes Vitamin B and compromises liver function
  • Caffeine: increases abdominal cramps and estrogen levels
  • Refined Carbs, including bread, flour, and anything made from refined flour
  • Dairy: causes inflammation
  • Fried Foods and Fats: promotes negative prostaglandins
  • Red Meat: promotes negative prostaglandins
  • Sugar and Honey: causes inflammation
  • Wheat, including breads, pasta, and cake

*list taken directly from floliving website

Foods That Fight Endo

  • Beans, Peas & Lentils
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Green tea or Rooibis tea
  • Leeks
  • Live Yogurt
  • Onions
  • Rhubarb
  • Seeds
  • beans, peas and legumes
  • brown rice
  • quinoa
  • fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens like kale
  • oatmeal
  • whole grains *not wheat & rye
  • Artichokes
  • Beets
  • Burdock
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Lemon & Lime
  • Dandelion & mustard greens
  • Watercress

Of all the great food I’ve listed, however, just as much attention has to be put to the other aspects of life. For me, being able to put down roots again get into a good routine with exercise, cooking and eating, is something that I think I very much needed and was preventing me from getting better. My stress levels were still a little up and down not knowing where we would be resting our heads for the foreseeable future. I’ve always loved having a space to share with Mando and to have for myself to decorate, cook and be creative. The moment we began bringing our belongings and some furniture into our new home, I could feel myself getting better already.

IMG_2016
Massage is another great form of self care that I learned to love because my Mom loved getting massages. 

Lifestyle and stress tips for endometriosis encourage getting in touch with your creative side, putting yourself first especially if you tend to be the type of woman that gives too much before giving and taking care of yourself. It has been referred to as the woman who is mothering everyone else before herself. It turns out that making time to ‘mother yourself’ and practice self care daily is vital for good health.

Consider some of these forms of self care-

  • Meditation
  • Take yourself out to a movie or lunch-just you!
  • Baths-especially with essential oils and epsom salt help with endo symptoms
  • Solo walks
  • Face masks
  • Exercise
  • Essential oils like clary sage are great for endo pain. Just use a little and rub over cramping area
  • Castor oil packs
  • Spending time in nature
  • Time with friends and family
  • Creative time for painting, writing, knitting-whatever you like to do!

All of these things and more add up to provide ultimate self care that is easy to forget about. I also think that it’s hard for some people to see what self care truly is after ‘treating’ themselves in the wrong ways for so long. For me, self care used to be having a drink after a stressful day of work or smoking pot and watching a show. I’m not saying these things make you a bad person if you do them, I’ve just come to find that they don’t always help to relieve stress in the same sustainable way that say, exercise or therapy do. So if you’re finding it difficult to practice healthy self care, just try throwing on a face mask between glasses of wine and Netflix, I promise you’ll feel better.

1 in 10 women suffer from endometriosis….

Do you or anyone you know suffer from endometriosis?

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms I’ve talked about, don’t be afraid to make an appointment with your gynecologist today. 

Resources-

Woman Code by Alissa Vitti

Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Dr. Christianne Northrup

Me Too…

I’ve debated whether to write this or not as I know many women all over the world have debated whether to share their stories as well. In my case, it’s gotten to the point where I realized I no longer have a choice but to share what happened to me, too.

I’ve realized the decision to not talk more about this story, a few people in my life know about it, comes from fear. But the inability to share my story has led to far too much pain and discomfort and has manifested itself as endometriosis. So I find myself with no other choice than to share.

When I was six years old, two neighbor boys one my age and another older than me by a couple of years, I ended up in the back of my Dad’s broken down cheroco pinned down. It all started playing house and ended with the young boys deciding that they would have sex with me.

I was terrified and screaming as one pretended to drive and the other tried to spread apart my legs. I can still remember the pain in my upper thighs from trying desperately to hold my legs together. Eerily a similar feeling I have as a symptom of my new endometriosis diagnosis. By the grace of God their little sister who was there playing too knew it wasn’t right and ran home to tell her parents what was happening. From there I only remember being swaddled by my angry and scared mother and crying. The aftermath is a blur of finding out that they had been ‘beaten’ by their Dad as punishment. I remember that it became hushed after that and not talked about again for years.

I remember as the years past feeling bad for the boys that they had been beaten, that had gotten them in trouble. I remember continuing on like it was nothing, playing with the boys and even developing a crush on one later in life. The years passed and as a teen ager my mom brought it up one time, angry at the memory. I was too but couldn’t admit it and snapped at her for mentioning it. I felt ashamed about it, afraid to address it.

I can’t count how many times after that I’ve been grabbed, pinched, butt-slapped, had horribly perverted things said to me, etc. and I’ve laughed it off, brushed it off or only been made temporarily angry by it enough to speak out or do something more permanent. I felt as though that was my role to make things easier but not saying anything. To have defended myself or someone else in a similar situation would’ve caused discomfort and I’ve always wanted to avoid that.

Take care of things quickly and make the problem go away was the action taken in response to what happened to me. Out of fear, out of a lot of things I’m sure and I forgive the people involved and the lack of responsibility taken. But I am no longer afraid to speak out about it. It’s important because things like this don’t go away.

Years later, when I was still living with my mom and had just come home from work, one of these young boys now a grown man, was back to check out the neighborhood and wanted to come inside the house. I could tell he was drunk and that uncomfortable, sick fear rose again in my throat, a similar feeling I’d had when I was six and in the back of that car. The whole short time he was there reminiscing I kept the front door wide open like I used to when I was afraid someone might be in the house. It was silly and irrational but I felt safer.

He left eventually but it reminds me today that it never goes away, you have to talk about it, address it, hold the people accountable because living your life in fear is just not an option. Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth. Share your story. Further, be someone who other people can share their story with. It’s because of fear, discomfort, shame and judgement that we don’t share our stories. Allow other people to feel comfortable sharing something with you, be there for them, do what you can to help them.

It reminds me why this is happening in our country today. We have a reality TV star president to promotes ‘grabbing pussy’ and describes his relationship to women as one where we let him ‘do whatever he wants.’ We idolize sports figures who in their private lives physical and sexual abuse the women in their lives. We watch Woody Allen movies without thinking about if the rape and molestation of his daughter are true, we are shocked when people like musical artist Kesha’s story abuse sexual assault and abuse in the music industry comes out and find it in our hearts to demonize people like Tiger Woods for adulator-us, yes, but consensual sex but not equally men who rape, sexually assault, abuse and discriminate against.

When you marked Trump on the ballot you okayed sexual abuse toward women. When you bought that _____ jersey you okayed sexual abuse toward women. When you watched that Woody Allen movie you okayed molestation. It may not seems like it but not speaking up about it if you know it’s true makes you part of it. When you support

You may say that you don’t know for sure if all of these acts of sexual abuse by women is true or that you didn’t know about it. That’s fair. Then I challenge to see where in your life sexual discrimination, assault or abuse toward women exists in your life because it is no doubt there. It may be subtle, like a joke between co-workers that doesn’t paint someone in the best light or a comment about a woman’s size or shape at work. It may be more obvious like your girlfriends husband that gets a little too aggressive when he drinks. Maybe you notice a boy in your kids class who is mean and abusive to all the girls in class. Maybe that boy is your son. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, speak out about it. The women of the world need you too.

IMG_2031.jpg
School photo of me in the second grade around the time my me too story occurred 

If you don’t feel inspired to do this I would ask you to consider the women in your life-the mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, wives, aunts, nieces, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and granddaughters. What are we teaching them is OK in our daily lives and interactions with others? How are we defining what a women is and what male female relationships should look like?

I learned that it was my duty to let go of what happened to me, not to talk about for fear that I would make people uncomfortable because it made me uncomfortable. I see the boys now as grown men here and there through social media and I wonder….I wonder if they know what they did was wrong and if they think about it today. I wonder if I made a mistake by not telling my story sooner. If it could’ve helped more young girls or grown women. I wonder why it’s just become the norm to not talk about these things and how life can just go on. But the best I can do now is share my story, forgive everyone involved and strive to change.

This new me requires me to put my foot down in relationships when I know something is good or bad for me. It means making decisions for me and using my voice to speak up about wrong doings. It means taking responsibility for my own wrong doings. The timing of finding out that I possibly have endometriosis colliding with a time in history that we as people and more importantly women, are finding the courage to come out and tell our stories, is no coincidence. As I’ve mentioned before, any female ailment related to the vagina, ovaries, uterus, etc, can be related to sexual abuse, shame regarding femininity, femaleness and the female body. I can’t ignore this revelation and I’m happy for this message my pain has been trying to get across to me and am grateful for my endometriosis.

Now, I’m working toward forgiving the boys now men, for what they did, their parents and their strict religion, my mom and myself for letting fear hold us back from what we knew was right, my dad being for being absent from this as he was most things at that time in my life and everyone else involved in the hiding of this secret. I understand know why and how this could’ve happened because as it turns out we all had one thing in common, we were afraid.

I’d like to be the first of us to stand up and say that what happened to me was wrong. It should’ve been acknowledged, talked about and some resource should’ve been brought in after such a traumatic experience. The boys should’ve received help not punishment in the form of physical abuse however, I’m not entirely sure of their truth and what happened to them. I only know that it was back to normal, playing on our neighbors lawn and I played along because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do.

Even sitting here now I feel bad for the people involved. Should I be writing this post? What if one of the men were to read it? I fear them being held responsible Well, I’ve heard that voice before, that fear and this time, I’m telling it to take the backseat, someone else is driving.

*Do you have a me too story? I encourage you to share it here or in whatever style/platform is comfortable for you. The more we talk about it, the more we heal ❤

Doctor Fear

Sitting in my new doctors office for maybe the fourth time and I can’t believe how much has changed from that first visit. As I think about it I watch as a man says goodbye to the nurse, “I’m taking this,” he says holding up a Shape magazine and walks out, the nurse not even blinking an eye.

I laughed out loud and thought about how lucky I was to be in Mt. Shasta. Not because it has the best health care in the world and everywhere else doesn’t, but because I came from a big city where dealing with these health concerns would take considerably more time. It wouldn’t be as intimate as the experience is here. Where doctors know each other because their office is just across the street. With that said, things like broken MRI machines wouldn’t interrupt my appointment like here, because where I’m from, there’s more than one machine.

Since I came up to Northern California this July, I’ve been to more doctors appointments than I have my whole life combined. This all came about because I was ignoring pain that I had been feeling since last December. I’ve always looked at my menstrual pain as a final judgement put on me that I could do nothing about. It is what it is, I thought. Every woman must go through this and it’s the norm. Little did I know that my pain was trying to tell me something important about my body.

So why then, would someone like me who prides themselves on being interested in all things health, shun the one community that could help her? Well, it begins like all fear begins, with a story, a history of discomfort and the general attitude that doctors are Gods on top of their pedestals making important decisions about our fate.

IMG_0590
Me in the hospital after fainting which led me to discover that I have two cysts. This visit really turned out to be a blessing. 

That’s how I always felt anyway until I reached high school and my Mom took me to our family doctor because I was depressed. I remember feeling like I didn’t care about anything, like life din’t matter for me. I couldn’t find the joy in things and I hid my depression from everyone except my Mom. At this particular doctors appointment I saw not my primary physician but another doctor working with him at the time.

It is still one of the most uncomfortable memories of my life, being asked, in front of my Mom if I had been molested or abused. Because, obvious to my doctor but not me, this could be the only reason for my depression. I was stunned, embarrassed and uncomfortable. My answer was no but the fact that he had asked in such a manner changed my perspective of conventional doctors from that day forward.

I left that appointment with a prescription for prozac which I came to later find out he had prescribed to more people in my family than just me. After that appointment my fear of doctors grew and began going to see the doctor less. At first, it seemed like a good idea. No unnecessary money spent and wasted time. I’d seen lots of people go to the doctor for no reason at all so I was happy to learn that I didn’t need to go every time I sneezed.

Flash forward to 2015, I’m enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and still proudly not seeing any doctors because I believed with the new knowledge I had, I could take care of myself and I had the proof. Time after time I’d used whole foods and holistic treatments for ailments and began rarely getting sick because I’d changed my diet and lifestyle.

But behind the facade of healthy eating was a person desperately trying to control everything that went into their mouth without really giving attention to the other aspects of my life that were beginning to unravel. It took a while for me to admit something was really wrong with me. I had a lot of excuses for what could be causing my pain. I’d taken a Soul Cycle class with a friend that left me hurting for weeks on my left side that I connected with my cyst pain. I also blamed work and their terrible chairs and tiny work spaces. I didn’t know a cyst could be the issue until I started focusing my studies on female health.

While reading Women’s Bodies Women’s Wisdom by Christianne Northrup, the idea that I may have a cyst crossed me mind. My symptoms matched up with those described in the book so I made a gynecologist appointment. At the time I was still San Francisco. I told the doctor I had pain but also said it may be from work so she ignored the comment. All my tests came back normal so I let it be but couldn’t ignore the pain eventually and knew deep down something was wrong.

Once I moved up North for the summer I made a gyno appointment right away which after a vaginal ultra sound, determined I was right, that I actually had two cysts. So what have I learned from this whole ordeal? I’ve listed some myths that I’ve come to find are just that, myths and resources beyond conventional medicine.

Doctor Myths Busted 

  1. My doctor knows it all-This is a dangerous one. Although conventional medicine has offered us so much especially recently with its developments, it is usually better for a band-aid fix and not prevention. This means that doctors rarely have other options than to slice, stitch or prescribe. Although I went into my situation cautious about conventional medicine, I was still shocked when my new gyno didn’t have any advice to give me on pain management for cysts or reducing their size other than hormonal pill form birth control. Something that she profits from and probably learned in medical school was the only solution. Which is just not true. So don’t worry if you feel let down when you go to your appointments, you doctors aren’t supposed to know it all and they don’t. There are plenty of other resources available to you like health coaches, integrative doctors, acupuncturist, etc.
  2. I Shouldn’t Ask Questions-I get it, the doctor has been rushing around the office and has no time for you and now that they’re finally there, it’s like they can’t wait to leave. You don’t want to bother them with questions or take up anymore of their time. Ditch that thought. Your health is more important. Be sure before your appointment to jot down some questions that you have about your ailment or in general. Feel free to do some of your own research and check with your doctor to see their accuracy. Don’t feel ashamed or worried if they aren’t comfortable answering. You have every right to ask questions and if you’re not getting the answers you need, it may be time to find another doctor.
  3. I Don’t Need to be completely honest about lifestyle/food choices with my doc-It’s easy to feel like we don’t want to be judged by our doctors. The first time I ever wrote down how many alcoholic beverages I consumed in a day, I was shocked at myself, embarrassed and worried what my doctor would say. But the reason this is so imperative is so that they can better help you. The more they no about you the better they can make a plan that will work best for you and your ailments. So be honest!
  4. I Don’t Deserve Health care-Regardless of your job, income, race, age or religion, everyone had the right to good health and the resources we provide for this health. Never feel bad about yourself or think you deserve less care because you are on medicare More money shouldn’t buy better health and doesn’t make you more deserving of it. We should all want our neighbors to have the best health care because when everyone is healthy they are at their best and can then become thoughtful members of society.
  5. There are no other alternatives and if there were, my doctor would’ve told me-This last one relates to the first but it’s so important because there are always alternatives. More importantly, there is always someone else that has gone through what you’ve gone through. Get out there and find them, connect with them and learn. Never assume that your doctor knows all the options out there because they may not. Do ask because there are plenty of great doctors out there and they may have some valuable resources to share with you.

This blog is in no way meant to discourage anyone from seeking medical help via conventional medicine. It is not a call to get off medication or swear off conventional medicine. I am incredibly grateful for the health care I’ve received especially in the past few months that I’ve been in Mt. Shasta. This post is instead intended to raise questions about conventional, medical advice and tactics when other, less severe options are available to us. I intend and hope you will as well, to continue to use both conventional and integrative medicine throughout my life and not be afraid to ask questions, seek advice, or challenge anything I’ve learned because when it comes to my body, I’m really the one on the pedestal.

So what are your options if conventional medicine doesn’t have something to offer you or you aren’t comfortable with your choices?

Your choice is something know as integrative medicine. You may have also heard it called functional medicine, eastern medicine, alternative medicine or holistic medicine.

This type of medicine differs from conventional medicine because it looks at alternatives to surgery and medicine and instead tries to get to the root of the issue using whole foods, therapeutic practices, supplements and exercise.

  • Integrative doctor-they will test blood, hormones, talk to you about diet, lifestyle, relationships, family medical history-they dig deep. And the deeper the better.
  • Acupuncturist-they can help by talking to you about what your symptoms are and where pain lies and accordingly use metal pins and insert them into areas of your body to relive pressure. Helps relive pain by moving restricted blood around.
  • Regular massage, Thai Massage or massage specifically geared toward female healing-This can offer pain relief and is just a great practice of self care if you can get one once month or whenever possible.
  • Holistic Dentist-They will use safer practices while teeth cleaning and can remove your fillings and replace them with something newer and less toxic.
  • Health Coach-Health coaches can really add to your life by providing help with a lot of these resources and support throughout the process of healing. They are your biggest advocate to help get healthy and stay that way. They help you adopt new healthy habits that won’t fall by the wayside like they typically do when you try to go at it alone. They consider all aspects of your life that may be affecting your health and have helpful information to your specific body. I went to school to be a health coach at IIN so I’m a big advocate for health coaches and how they can help someone achieve they health goals.
  • Holistic therapy-I specifically looked for a holistic therapist because I didn’t want to be offered medication and I wanted someone who was familiar with the approaches I’m comfortable with. She also offers things like nature therapy which is a perk of seeking out a holistic therapist. Therapists also tend to have lots of other great resources to give you and I think are an important part of a healthy lifestyle for anyone.
  • Groups like Al-Anon and AAThey aren’t holistic but depending on your individual situation a group like this might be beneficial for you. I started attending Al-Anon meetings, which is for children, family and friends of alcoholics and I think it’s been a great addition to my well-rounded healing. The experience and stories from the people there offer something that therapy or talking to a friend doesn’t offer. It helps me to feel less alone and refocus my life on myself. It’s also helped me with my decision to stop drinking but more on that in another post.
  • Holistic General PractitionersI haven’t looked into this thoroughly but I know they exist. I wanted list them because I think it’s important to note that there are doctors out there who have studied and gotten degrees from medical school who have taken their studies further to include eastern medicine as well.

Do you have any to add to the list?

Sensitive

I am so sick and tired of being called sensitive. My whole life, I’ve been the ‘sensitive’ one in my family. The one who cries the most and ‘feels’ the most. It was a rarity that I could share my feelings without an eye roll, being told I was taking something the wrong way or ultimately, being invalidated.

I’ve always gone through life being told to suppress my feelings. That they were too much or too loud. As an adult, not much has changed. People hide from feelings and emotions. They feel better when feelings are kept to themselves. Adults get uncomfortable when children cry, trying immediately to fix whatever is making them feel that way-silence the emotion. It’s in our nature to not want to address the emotion behind the act of crying.

Why is this? Why do we avoid feelings? Well, digging into them would be messy and would require work. Work that some people just don’t want to do. If you’re a sensitive person, then you know what I mean. You’ve always been the cry baby and it’s everyone else’s opinion that you should get thicker skin.

sensitive

Typical things a sensitive person hears daily, ‘Get over it,’ ‘Calm down,’ ‘it’s not that big a deal,’ ‘why are you so upset?’ It creates a problem for sensitive people to try to live among others. When every emotion becomes judged, you learn to guard them carefully so as not to be judged by them. Everything you say is wrong and drenched in too much emotion. This is really sad. Sad that I was hiding my emotions to please others. Sad that I wasn’t being myself. Holding on to so much causes pain and illness and in my case, may have caused my cysts.

Somehow as a sensitive person you get attacked for feeling. I think it’s put us in a bit of a predicament. We’ve become an unfeeling society, one afraid to address real issues. That’s left us with a lot of unacknowledged pain and discomfort. When people don’t talk about things, feel things, they begin to fester.

So it’s important for me to voice this as a sensitive person. To voice the need to speak out no matter how other people feel about it. To cry when I want and need to. To feel when I want and need to. It’s also important so that can break the pattern of attracting people to me that don’t honor my sensitivities and see them as a super power. When I change how I feel about myself, I attract others that feel that way about me as well. Those who judge, make fun of or think my emotions are too much, well, they know where the door is.

Day 4 Of My 4-Day Detox

Ever since my Mom died, and even a few months before that, I began waking up around 4 or 5 am without being able to go back to sleep. Typically I smoke pot to help me back to sleep and to help with the pain of what I came to learn were my inflamed ovarian cysts. But today, the last of my cleanse, I did something else instead. I’ve been wanting to adopt other healthy ways to start my day even through the grief I’ve been experiencing, because of the grief I’ve been experiencing and for cyst treatment and pain management.

So today, when I awoke around 5:30 or 6 am, I put on my headphones and listened to school videos instead. I didn’t fall back asleep but I did get some more rest, do something productive and positive and caught up on some school work. It may seem like a small thing, but for me, someone who has depended on pot and alcohol to help through painful experiences in my life, this is huge.

It felt really nice to feel like I was giving myself a fresh start. At least on this day. I was also really excited that it was the last day of the cleanse. Even though I planned on sticking to the program indefinitely, which is not the same as the detox, I missed nut butters and dark chocolate, potatoes and chips! Which is really just more potatoes, but hey, what can I say, I like potatoes.

Dinner
This is what I had for lunch and dinner as well

But back to my last day of the detox…..

I was on such a high from, well, not being high, that I didn’t care I was eating the same thing yet again. I’ve realized these past four days how much fruit fills me up, how long it takes to chew and how much energy I’ve had afterward. Instead of the hard drop in my stomach that I feel when I eat a load of heavy carb. This isn’t to say I think I can eat like this every morning and nor do I think I should. This was about giving my body a detox of extra estrogen in the hopes of reducing the size of my cysts. It was also so I could give myself a good start to this new way of life now that I will be cycle synching.

I went for a nice walk with Mando and Jackson after eating my fruit and when we got back I read the material for the day. It was all about goal setting. Following is a little bit from that Flo Living material.

Day 4: Using your Body as a Tool to Create Your Best Life

The focus for Day 4 is intentions and goal setting. Your reset is also creating mental and emotional clarity for you right now, so take advantage of this special time to set some goals for your New Year, starting now with a meditation. Pick two things that you don’t have in your life right now and describe exactly how these new things will change your life and how you will feel when you have them. Now imagine that these things and experiences are present in your life now. Feel the feelings of already having what you want. Notice any self-doubt or skepticism and set them aside. You are programming your your body and mind to expect to receive these things into your life.

I sat for a while and thought about the two things that I want to manifest in my life…..

The first was very typical of my astrological sign of the Cancer–what I imagined first was a home and community to immerse myself in. The second thing I wanted to manifest was a writing career where I could help women change their lives for the better through holistic nutrition. I described in great detail each of these manifestations and sat quietly a while with my eyes closed, smiling. I pictured what I wanted clearly and felt the feelings that I would have as if I had them now. And I do!

pumpkins
My pumpkins from the pumpkin patch

I focused on the feelings of joy, pride, accomplishment and gratitude and let them wash over me. I felt relaxed and confident afterward and it inspired me to complete some homework and dive more into the Floliving program. Then Mando and I went shopping for our Goddaughter’s birthday and to the pumpkin patch, grabbed some pumpkins and played some games. I feel really blessed to be with someone whom I can express my child side with because it always brings me the most joy in life. I believe doing these things are really important for a happy life and I’m really grateful for this detox for opening my eyes to the other joys in my life that surround me other than food.

At different times food has been center of everything I do. It pretty much went like this-Do you want to go the carnival? What food do they have there? Wanna go bowling? Yeah we can eat there! The Raider’s game is on, want to go watch it? Do they have food there? What do you want to do? Let’s go to a restaurant!

I think you can tell who I was in the scenario and hopefully you get the point. This isn’t to say I’ve changed for good; I just feel a little less worried about my next food venture when I’m preparing more food for myself and sticking to a plan that makes it easy to eat delicious food that also works well for my body. I’ve learned that I really like food prep and having meals ready to go so there’s not so much focus on food throughout your days, and more time for other things.

To finish my day, I took the advice of Floliving and took an Epsom salt bath to help complete the detoxification process by drawing out toxins. Epsom salt baths are also good for alleviating pain caused my inflamed cysts so it was a two-for-one. I also put a little tea tree oil in because it’s suppose to be good for cyst pain. I used two cups of Epsom salt and 6 drops of tea tea oil for my bath and stayed in for 20 minutes. I ran mine a little too hot, as always, but really enjoyed it.

Breakfast 

Fruit bowl of apples, blackberries, ground flaxseed, lemon juice

Snack

Apples, tea, chlorophyll water

Lunch 

Wild salmon, quinoa, ground flaxseed, liver cleansing melody

Dinner 

I was supposed to just have quinoa but I didn’t finish my salmon for lunch so I had it for dinner. I’m still working on eating more during the day and less in the evening. It’s a process for me.

That’s it for my 4-Day Detox but this won’t be my last time doing it. I think that it would be great to do it every once in a while for a reset. Now my focus is cycle synching according to Woman Code and the Floliving program.

Follow along as I work to find creative ways to follow the program with food exercise, self care and cutting out some hurtful habits like coffee and drinking alcohol.

Have any of you had to change your diet or lifestyle because of health? I’d love to hear from you!