My LEEP Experience

The doctor gave me a valium and told me to take it 45 minutes before the procedure, which I did, eagerly. I don’t do drugs and I won’t even take someone else’s prescription painkillers so this is the closest I’ll ever get to tripping on shrooms in the back of some guys truck. It didn’t feel like anything and I was deeply disappointed. I think it says more about how anxious I am as a person than the strength of the prescription.

You have to do a pee test before you have a LEEP procedure because they don’t want to apply electricity to your cervix if you may be hosting a fetus. Which is understandable. I set seven alerts on my phone to drink water because I don’t drink a lot of water and when someone tells me to pee, my bladder peaces out.

When you get into the procedure room they tell you to take off your clothes from the waist down and get on the table. Then they leave you alone in the room with all of the sharp objects, test tubes, and orange canisters that have your name printed on them: SPECIMEN. There aren’t any magazines in this room. The door is thin enough that I can hear the nurses talking in the hallway, which I remember from my consultation. I don’t know if this is on purpose or not but I always hear them talking about other patients like WE’VE GOT A BLEEDER IN ROOM TEN. Did I mention there weren’t any magazines in this room? I hobble to the courtesy chair and snag my cell phone and go take photos of everything, a process which I will later repeat when pieces of my bloody cervix are floating in some kind of clear liquid.

The doctor and her nurse come in and they’re so wonderful. I realize that I might be happy to see them because I’m high. I actually find myself wondering if there might be some reason I can come back and see them. Do you do brazilian waxes? Wait, this is a gyno. Or is she some other kind of doctor? Am I saying this all out loud?

They insert the speculum and she tells me that she’s going to shove a needle into my cervix to numb it. She doesn’t use the word shove but I’m high so I start laughing anyways as she pokes me over and over and over again. The nurse asks if I can feel any pain and I twist up my face like I’m trying to think about it and she starts to laugh too. They apply a grounding pad to my thigh which is sticky and heavy and I note that I prefer it over electrocution. While she uses the wand to slice off pieces of my cervix, we talk about what we’re watching on Netflix, and the pure longevity of OJ’s cultural significance. I can’t feel anything but it sounds like a vacuum cleaner. She says she made a mess all over the floor and I get a little light headed thinking about blood dripping down between my legs onto the linoleum.

No sex or tampons or any penetration of any kind for four weeks. No excessive walking and no exercise for 24 hours. You may experience mild pain and some bleeding.

On the internet I read that charred pieces of your cervix fall out of your vagina and it smells like burning flesh. One girl describes being unable to have sex even after the four weeks are over because she is so scarred by what she’s seen. I ask my doctor about the burning flesh. I ask if pieces of me are going to fall out. She looks at me with a diplomatic yes.

“Well, you know when you have a scab and it starts to heal and it’s gooey? It’s more like that.”

She tells me that it won’t hurt too much and I tell her that she’s a cheat and a liar and she folds and reluctantly prescribes me Vicodin. When we get to the pharmacist he tells me feel better! I don’t really have a script for what to do in this sort of situation so I say “you too!”

The next three days are a blur of television and pizza. My boyfriend takes care of me with grace and kindness and occasionally a firm “why do you want to see how bad it hurts before you take painkillers?” (Because I’m a woman and I can handle anything! Small foot stomp!)

I receive a flower delivery which I first think is a package of vibrators I’m expecting. I am pleasantly surprised when I unwrap daffodils instead. I don’t know how this whole dry packing thing works. I unwrap them and place them in the sun and they immediately open. I think how could I be so lucky that someone would deliver me flowers. A couple of hours later another friend comes by with a box full of things. Wine and bread and cheese and books and a candle and food and little gifts that have me reeling. Three cards packed with sentiments. Another friend has given me some weed to make me feel better. I am literally swimming in kindness. Really, a little seasick actually. I think perhaps I should get sick more often.

Then I start to wonder if perhaps I’ve underestimated how afraid I should be. Everyone seems to think I’m really sick. I mean, I am. I could die. I mean, I could really die. What if all of these gifts are the last kindness I’ll ever receive? I smear some cheese on bread. I mean, you know, this is like a sign. What do you call it? A premonition? No. Foreshadowing. Her friends delivered her a basket of goods because they knew even before she did that life was coming to a close. I drink some wine and contemplate my demise. It tastes like angels are farting in my mouth. Seriously, this wine is so good that halfway through the bottle I convince myself that white wine must be less alcoholic than red wine. If this is how I go out, I guess it could be worse.

The nurse calls me a week later and tells me I don’t need to come back for another year. At that point I’ll just get a regular old pap test. No snippin’ and no electricity. And, no, you’re not going to die and no that wasn’t ever really on the table, were you even listening to us?

I roll my eyes so hard she can probaly hear the firm clunking of my optic nerve as it rotates ball in socket.

Whatever Brenda.


What is a LEEP procedure? Think of it this way: (a) Pap (a swab with a giant q-tip) (b) Colposcopy (snipping of cervix where area was irregular) and (c) LEEP (cutting away the irregular part to remove it entirely or help the body heal it more quickly).

79 Million Americans are currently infected with HPV. It is so common that most men and women will have it at least once. Most of the time HPV goes away without any of these procedures. Usually there are no symptoms. 

Everyone (regardless of gender) should be vaccinated against HPV!  Especially because men cannot be tested for HPV!

While I had CIN 1 (mild changes), others have more advanced changes. CIN 2 indicates moderate changes and CIN 3 indicates severe changes. Catch any abnormalities as soon as possible so you can receive additional help fighting off the virus if necessary.


Getting this in your email? That’s because I finally fixed my email subscriptions! Why were they all fucked up? Because I moved my blog! If you haven’t checked out my new site yet, give it a look! All new theme made to make your reading experience just that much more enjoyable. 

Have you had a Colposcopy or a LEEP? What was your experience?

Share it in the comments!

QOTD: All Religions Are Sexist

“To advance this argument [whether or not Islam is uniquely sexist], one may point to the fact that women’s rights have been severely curtailed by right-wing Islamic regimes such as the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Conservative Alliance in Iran. We might respond to this point in two ways. First, the parties of political Islam adapt religion to serve their political goals in much the same way as American fundamentalists have used Christianity to attack women’s rights. Second, all of the world’s major religions are to a great or lesser extent sexist. Singling out Islam for its sexist practices in the mainstream media and public discourse is not a historical oversight but a systemic attempt to construct “our” values and religion as being enlightened in contrast with “theirs.”

From Islamaphobia and the Politics of Empire by Deepa Kumar 

When were you last unfaithful?

Tonight is the last night to make your submission to my upcoming post about being unfaithful, you can see the original post I wrote about the subject here: Times you have been unfaithful.

Why am I writing about being unfaithful and infidelity?

Every time I go out with friends I inevitably ask them to tell me about a time they were unfaithful to a partner. So far, every single person has had a story to share. (I’m a real gem at parties.) I wrote my thesis on infidelity because I wanted to inspect the stigma around people who are unfaithful to their partners. Media has long engrained the archetypes of bad boy / slutty girl. In my research, most people who were unfaithful to their partners were unfaithful to them in some way that you wouldn’t expect. We shut down discourse about infidelity because we’re afraid to talk openly and honestly about our feelings and why these things happen. When we shut down that discourse, we lose out on an opportunity to learn what being unfaithful looks like and how we can prevent it.

Preventing infidelity is key because infidelity sucks for everyone

The focus of my thesis was the guilt women feel before, during, and after infidelity. In talking with men and the gender queer, I’ve found that those feelings of guilt and disappointment are pretty universal. No one wants to find themselves in a position where they are unfaithful to a person that they care about. We all tell ourselves, and our partners, “I would never be unfaithful to you.” But if that’s true, why are the rates of infidelity so high? Why does it keep happening? We can’t truly prevent infidelity from happening until we learn how and why it happens. If we better understand ourselves and the ways we communicate (or don’t communicate) with our partners, we can confront the sticky issues that lead to infidelity before it happens.

My definition of infidelity is much more flexible than “sleeping with someone else.”

I think that infidelity, the act of being unfaithful, is anything you do that you wouldn’t want to tell your significant other about. That’s because more serious strains of infidelity (like sex, or having a whole second family) often begin with these little moments where you aren’t faithful. The long, emotional, late night conversations you have with someone else. Holding the hand of someone who isn’t your partner. Leaning on someone for primary support that isn’t your partner. Chances are you have a moment at some point in your life where you can recall a moment where you did something that you shouldn’t have done.


 

Submissions are now closed.

5 Things to Read, Watch, and Listen to This Week

You should watch 13th on Netflix directed by Ava DuVernay

13th is a critically important, sad, and infuriating documentary. I took a course called “Women, Activism, Social Change” near the end of university and we spent a substantial about of time on prison abolition and the prison industrial complex. At the time I hadn’t heard of the PIC or prison abolition.  Not much later I got to hear Angela Davis speak for the first time and that series of things has made me permanently think differently about what justice means to me. This movie should be required viewing.

You should read Assata by Assata Shakur

As a follow up to 13th, everyone should read Assata by Assata Shakur. If you don’t know much about Assata prior to reading the book, I may even recommend reading the book without research to begin and then doing a little read up after the fact. I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but I took a course (…) called Black Feminism /Womanism. This book was on our reading list. It was the only class I ever took where there were fewer white women in the class than black women. A few years later I’m still processing the feelings I have about the intersectionalities of class and race and the privilege of education.

You should read Sex Object by Jessica Valenti

I’d particularly recommend this book to men. I’ve been thinking a lot about men and how men are allies and I think one of the things that really hits home for me is when men take it upon themselves to read and think about the stories women are sharing. And that’s it. No thoughtful article about how they’re a changed man now that they understand misogyny. True fact: writing about how you suddenly better understand the women’s struggle isn’t necessarily heartwarming. And I’ve been trying to think about why because at first glance I too have been fooled by the initial gut-reaction of “awwwww, he gets it, finally!” I suppose I get a little chapped that men so quickly get recognition for believing something they should have believed all along.

(Love Valenti? Check out Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape)

You should read Islamaphobia by Deepa Kumar

We’re currently reading Islamaphobia for my book club. (Grey matter seeping through ears courtesy of BB, thanks for the recommendation. You’re fired.) The full official title of Deepa Kumar’s book is Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire: The Cultural Logic of Empire. That sounds dense, and it is. But it’s also incredibly interesting and more than worth the time if you can take a pause and read slowly and intentionally. For me that means a lot of ELI5 notes on Islam.

Study tip: Reading a dense book? Re-write segments of the book that are complex as simply as you can. On my legal pad there’s just a line that says “Muhammad and Jesus were both prophets. Muhammad could have more than one wife and get divorced and remarry if he wanted to but Jesus couldn’t. Christians thought Muhammad was a pervert.” I know nothing about religion, so tackling a book that discusses religion so in depth is a real task.  (Also my mind is totally blown by how early sex shaming started. Was there ever a time when sex shaming didn’t exist? I am going to default to no and/or maybe, but only before religion.) 

You should listen to Sex Out Loud with Tristan Taormino 

You’ll never waste time listening to Tristan Taormino impart a little wisdom on your brain meats. If you’re not already well acquainted with Sex Out Loud, now is a great time to make friends. I just listened to the March 17 episode “Kale Gosen and Tracy Bear on Converge Con, Relationship Anarchy, and Indigenous Erotica.” (My favorite app for listening to podcasts is Overcast.)

“Whether it’s relationship styles and structures or generalizations about sexuality identities and practices, the dominant ideas are formed and then disseminated only by dominant groups. And that means they exclude indigenous folks, communities of color, queer people, disabled people, anyone not in a dominant group.”  – Tristan Taormino

Other items of note:

    1. I’m on instagram! Follow me at @speakwithast for behind the scenes snaps and general hi howyadoins.
    2. I am still accepting stories for my upcoming post on infidelity and the act of being unfaithful. Please submit by (3/21) to be included in the upcoming post. I have added a submission form to THIS POST if you do not want to submit by email!
    3. Want more suggestions for good reads? Visit my book (and sometimes other media) blog: Slough Avenue.
    4. Looking for some advice? Submit now and I’ll answer on my blog!

xx st

r/relationships advice, condensed

Welcome to r/relationships advice, condensed. Where I give advice based on the title of r/relationships submissions without actually reading the submission!

Q: Am I [19 M] being crazy to stop seeing her [20 F] because I feel like another option?

A: You’re not crazy! Just because someone is a good fit for you doesn’t mean they are the best fit, or the only fit.

Q: My childhood friend and SO (30s) just adopted their SIXTH cat

A: This isn’t a question, but congratulations, I’m sure they’re very happy.

Q: Is it ok for me [F/28] to initiate the “exclusivity/what are we” talk with him [M/28] via text?

A: It’s best to avoid having milestone conversations by text. Meet in person. If you have any thoughts that didn’t get fully processed, you can send him a little email or text message after the fact.

Q: I (25F) hurt my grieving boyfriend (24M) and I’m at a loss for what to do now

A: It’s hard to know how to help a partner who is grieving. It’s okay that you made a mistake. Just do better next time.

Q: I [28f] have lost several relationships by blowing up and verbally lashing out in anger. Those who have had this problem, what did you do to fix it?

A: I haven’t had issues with anger but we can all empathize with ongoing, negative patterns. Talk to a therapist and see how you can change these negative ways of communicating with your partner.

Q: I’m [39 M] living with my girlfriend [38 F] of 17 months, with her Husband[39 M] living in the basement. Should I move?

A: You should start your own sitcom and pitch it to Fox.

Q: Can a 32 year old guy date a 21 year old woman?

A: Certainly.

Q: I (M/35) can’t help but feel like I’ve settled for my wife (f/27) and it’s ruining our relationship.

A: Figure out where the settling feeling is coming from. It may have more to do with you and your feelings about yourself and what your life should look like than what your wife is or isn’t doing.

Q: Me [24f] with my friend/fwb [25M] of 6 years, should I ask him out or continue to act like I care less than I do?

A: Don’t live the lie anymore. Take the risk of asking for what you want and know for certain if he feels the same way.

Do you need advice? (I’ll read the whole thing, I swear!) Submit now at Ask Suggestive.

Three Millennial Blessings

(1) When we bought our first house we put a black lives matter sign in the dirt of the front lawn. We tucked three signs behind the shed in back for when the first was stolen. The neighbors were nice. They’d wave when you walked by and pretend to have some sense of what goes on in your life. But we lived on a busy street in a big city with small ideas.

(2) There was an article by a man who wrote under a women’s name for a week. He realized with dismay just how poorly women are treated. He had known instinctively, with such primordial knowledge, the “women’s struggle.” Of course he knew. It was like a fun piece of trivia but it made him sound irreverent. Did you know that a woman is assaulted every 90 seconds? It just wasn’t revolutionary until he too had experienced it first hand.

I supposed this should have bothered me, but lately things are blending together, fact and fiction. A man can write an article about how women don’t get treated fairly and receive twice as much compensation for it, but it’s just really good writing. He gets twice as much recognition, the incredible father who brings his child to school just once. We can’t say these things anymore. Not without saying not all men. Not without citing sources. (a) Men aren’t awarded custody as often as women are (b) Women are getting pregnant on purpose(!!!!) Hear the patriarchy’s latest reasonable discontent.

The chant of our generation can be heard in the quiet screams of women who no longer know how to gauge their pain.

(3) In my grandfathers desk is a stack of letters he wrote to his children and halfway down is a description of gender inequality he wrote in the 70s. He wrote it in pencil on yellow legal pad and it’s so faded I can barely read it. I want to wrap myself in the good things people say like armor and wear them about. I think these good people have always existed.  They are the pennies we throw in fountains. They just sit there, they just shimmer. Other days I want to wrap myself in the pain and the suffering like barbed wire. I want to walk through the city with the blood of their words dripping down my legs in silent protest.

 

SUBMISSIONS: Times you have been unfaithful

I decide to write my senior thesis on infidelity because no one else was talking about it. 

When my advisor asked me what that meant, I explained that the subject of infidelity shuts down discourse. It’s difficult to have open and honest conversations about infidelity and what it is because people always seem to need to default to “but it’s just really bad and if you do it you’re a bad person.” This sweeping generalization was confusing to me, because I knew many people who had been unfaithful to their partners. I didn’t know them to be bad people. In writing my thesis I realized that the percentage of people who cheat (like in the movies, purposefully, with intent of harm) must be incredibly slim. 

I haven’t stopped thinking about infidelity and the culture of being unfaithful since I turned in that paper. 

A new definition for being unfaithful

My go-to definition for being unfaithful is anything you’ve said or done which you would feel uncomfortable sharing with your significant other. 

Potential examples:

  • A series of communication (text, email, phone) where you confide in someone that is not your partner and create an emotional bond.
  • Lying about who you’re spending time with and where you’ve been rather than being honest and open with your partner.
  • Feeling chemistry with someone that is not your partner and flirting extensively with that person, particularly to fulfill an emotion that you feel is lacking in your relationship.
  • Kissing or touching or being physical in some way with someone who is not your monogamous partner. 
  • Doing something outside of the boundaries you’ve created in your monogamous or non-monogamous relationship. 
  • Indicating that you are interested in having an exclusive relationship with someone while continuing to date other people.

I am looking for stories about times you have been unfaithful

GUIDELINES:

  • No length limit. It can be a sentence or you can really dish.
  • You define what being unfaithful means to you. Don’t worry if someone else wouldn’t think that it was being unfaithful. All that matters is how it made you feel.
  • It can be a current or past relationship.
  • Feel free to include multiple occasions. 

INTENT:

  • In a future post about infidelity I’ll be pulling quotes from some or all of the submissions I get. Please do not submit unless you are comfortable with the possibility of part of your story being shared anonymously. 
  • If all or parts of your story are shared on my blog and you later decide you would  like it removed, I’m happy to do this.

To submit, email your story to: lorelei AT suggestivetongue DOT com 

EDIT: If you don’t want to email your submission, and prefer anonymous entry, please use this box to submit:

Submission Deadline: 3/21/17.

Erectile Dysfunction Junction

Do you have any advice for coping when your partner suffers from low libido and erectile dysfunction? This was a communicated issue from the beginning of our relationship, but as work and other life issues have become more stressful his interest in sex has become non-existent. We haven’t had any sexual interaction in almost 2 months. It has left me feeling unloved and undesired but also a bit resentful as he’s not willing to see a doctor. The rest of our relationship is great but I miss the physical aspect of it. Do you have any suggestions?

There are a lot of reasons why someone may experience difficulty getting and staying erect. My assumption based on your post is that his low libido and his erectile dysfunction are connected and likely one in the same. It’s easy to jump to medicalization. Men are taught to connect a lot of their masculinity and their identity to their power, their sexuality, their penis. If their penis doesn’t work the way they want it to, it’s easier to discount that as a dysfunction – something that is outside of their control.

In many cases, low libido and the ability to get or stay hard are things that can be diagnosed at home, without going to see a doctor. My first question is always “what has changed?” and you answered this in your question. Work and other life issues have become more stressful. It’s impacting his ability to get in the zone (low libido) which influences what his penis is doing.

There are a lot of things that can influence libido and make it hard to get and stay erect. Life changes, life stress, depression, and medication are all super common reasons whys someone may not be able to put on their once predictable level of performance. Not to oversimplify this, but when the libido goes, it can be a huge shock to the system for anyone. Especially if your sexuality is deeply rooted in your identity.

It sounds like your partner knew that stress impacted his interest in sex and warned you ahead of time that this may come up. It sounds like your partner needs to find some ways to relax and detach from the stresses of his work and his life so that he can find the mental space for sex again. If he is depressed, medication may help, but medication could also further deplete his interest in sex. Having someone to talk to about the stress of work (a therapist) might help. Working together to find ways to wind down at the end of the day might also be of some help.

It’s hard to sit by and feel helpless when your partner is having a rough go of it. Your struggle as their partner is equally valid. Try to work together to find ways where your needs can be met in other ways. There are a lot of ways to be physically intimate that don’t require his penis to be hard. Exploring some of these options can help you feel more fulfilled, and may even boost his libido when he least expects it.

Massages, cuddling, naked cuddling, using sex toys together, masturbating, oral sex, fingering, dirty talk, pornography, or literotica. Having him be more attentive in other ways may fill some of the gaps.  Have him take a moment and chat with you at the end of the day with no distractions, go away on a short vacation together to re-connect, have a meal out or cook a meal together, read books together, play video games together, do some of the things you used to do together at the start of your relationship. Discuss ways where you can both initiate these things so it’s not all on him or all on you.

Finally, look at the issue you’re having holistically. I’m not saying going to see a doctor would be a bad thing, or that it wouldn’t help, but make sure that if he’s seeing a doctor he’s also considering the other things in his life that may be contributing to his libido that can’t be eased with the wonders of science. You’ll both be better off for putting in that thought, and that work, together. Good luck, and I hope this gets harder soon.

Have questions about sex or love? Submit at Ask Suggestive and I’ll answer it on my blog! Goal for this week: When your partner is going through a rough time, what is one thing that really makes them feel appreciated? We so often think of what we would want in moments of crisis, but this isn’t always the same as what our partner would want in a moment of crisis. Discuss care packages with your partner and how they can combine both emotional and tangible assistance as you work through difficult times together. 

International Women’s Day, or: Oh God We’re All Going to Die

My first grey hair was discounted as blonde. My partner plucked it out of my head with triumph and I smirked. A week later, looming over me in his height, he gasped and took my head in both hands. A second hair was plucked. I studied it curiously trying to determine what was different about this hair than all the rest of my hairs.

I taped it into my journal and wrote “FIG 1. GREY HAIR” next to it in an accusatory kind of way.

The week after that I found two more when I was brushing my hair. I plucked those myself. Not to get rid of them, but to get a closer look. I was perplexed. This tangible sign. But of what? Was it a sign of my stress? Was I stressing myself grey? Was I getting old? Can you turn your hair grey by not getting enough protein? Can flat ironing turn your hair grey? I wasn’t angry at my hairs. It just felt like a part of somebody else’s body was growing out of my own.

I keep telling everyone that I turn 30 next year, which is true, but I actually turn 29 this year. It’s all semantics. I’m not afraid of my 30s and I’m not afraid of getting older. But it’s a curious process. You become accustomed to the version of you that you’ve lived with for so long. As if overnight, you change. I have smile lines now and I have one particular pore that I can actually see. People get mad at me when I say that but it was alarming. My skin feels different now, it demands more care. My vision went. I wear glasses when I realize everything is really blurry which is less often than you’d think.

I’m not afraid of getting older but I am afraid of dying. The dying is the thing you can’t predict. It could happen tomorrow or next week or a couple of years from now and the fear of dying is paralyzing. I always imagine dark. But then I remember that dark is a construct of life. The perception of darkness. I would not even have the darkness. But things would go on without me, wouldn’t they? And I’m not quite fine with that. It doesn’t sit right with me at all, frankly.

So there is this paralyzing fear and it is peanut butter and jelly with this sense of now. There is only the now. And it’s not until you’ve sat down and had a proper dinner with death do you really know that the now is a living and breathing thing. There is no past and there is no future. There is only now. And it’s been written on so many inspirational pinstagrams that all meaning has been removed. The now has reached semantic satiation. Now. Now. Now. Now. Now. What does now mean? Now does not mean we must fit a lifetime into a moment. It only means that a lifetime is a moment. A series of moments. Look at what you want your life to be when you are twenty years older and think of what you must do now to achieve that life.

I don’t want a skin disease and, despite my indifference with wrinkles, I’d certainly like to prevent the more aggressive sags. So I wear sunscreen. I wear it in the winter months. And I make this choice because my now is also my then. It’s all connected, don’t you see?

No, me either.

As soon as something happens we begin to forget it.

Each time we try to remember it, we rewrite a new version of what happened over the reality of what we actually perceived.

In my journal I will write I am not afraid of turning 30. I am not afraid of anything. And when I turn 30 I will look back and I will read this and I will think, I wasn’t afraid. And when I turn 40 and when I turn 50 and when I turn 60 I will forget how this moment felt. And I will open my journal and I will read I am not afraid of turning 30. I am not afraid of anything. And because I will have forgotten, all I’ll have is this. A line scribbled in a book. And I’ll think, she wasn’t afraid of anything. And that will be the truth.

Going to Couples Counseling Even if You Don’t Have To

If my phone is recording and analyzing everything I say all day long and is capable of running reports on content, you would see a recent uptick in sentences that begin with “my therapist said.”

I spent a good portion of my youth complaining about math. Maybe I just wasn’t stemmed hard enough or stem didn’t exist yet or I had too many people encouraging me to do exactly what I wanted in my life. And, I mean, who really really really wants to do math? (I know some of these people, we’re constantly at odds.) My deep hatred for math began when I almost got held back for not being able to learn subtraction. I remember very clearly having to stay in at recess and after school as the teacher tried to explain the concept to me.

Teacher: How many pens are there?

Me: Five.

Teacher: (takes away two)

Teacher: How many pens are there now?

Me: FIVE. THERE ARE FIVE PENS.

Teacher: No. Right here. How many are right here. In front of you.

Me: There are three pens here but there are five pens YOU JUST HID THEM BEHIND YOUR BACK. Why are we ignoring the fact that there are still five pens. They didn’t disappear. They’re still here. I can actually see them. Red. Blue. Green. Yellow. Purple. Five colors, five pens.

You can imagine my disgust when I was forced to learn imaginary numbers.

The neuroscientist who taught me subtraction

It wasn’t until I signed up for an advanced neuroscience course I had no business being in that I learned a very rudimentary concept. We have to learn math because it develops a part of our brain that would not develop if we were not forced to think in that way that math makes us think. I failed neuroscience but I did learn why subtraction is important so it was probably worth the thousands of dollars I spent that year.

There are a lot of things that we have to learn growing up. Some lessons come sooner than others and some never come at all. Like how to do our taxes, how to navigate boundaries in relationships, how to find the g-spot, and the very super secret reason people actually have sex. It’s not to make babies like my health teachers said all those years. If only we’d known.

We also need to learn about how to communicate our feelings internally (to ourselves) and externally (to others). We talk about our feelings a little bit in school, but it’s kind of in a super secret closed door way. Like when your 7th grade teacher sees you writing a suicide note and sends you very publicly to the counselors office to talk. (This is a true story. It didn’t happen to me, but it did happen to a girl in my class.) Therapy is more or less shamed from the moment you first hear someone you know is going to therapy. They’re in therapy. They’re attending therapy. They’re being analyzed. We shouldn’t think about therapy in this “OoooOOooOOOOoh you got called the the principals offfiiiiiiiceeeee” kind of way. We should think about therapy more like, uh, downloading an app to our life that makes us better people. Therapy is like yoga for the brain.

Going to therapy doesn’t mean you’re broken on the inside, or: we’re all broken, actually.

Due to the assumptions about therapy and the fact that it’s a little terrifying talking about yourself to a stranger, a lot of people don’t go to therapy until it’s too late. Too late is sort of a wishy-washy way of saying that people usually go to therapy after they’ve hit a max of what they can handle, or something has happened and they are in crisis.

So you’re in therapy and you’re talking about this horrible thing that is going on in your life and then you realize that after a few weeks you’re starting to make progress on this one thing. At this point you can segment this one horrible thing off from the rest of who you are as a person, or you can admit to yourself that this one horrible thing is a part of a much larger picture of who you are. And you keep going. And you keep going, and you keep going. This is what I call maintenance therapy.

Crisis therapy: I’m going to attend therapy until I feel like I can tackle my crisis.

Maintenance therapy: My whole life is basically a crisis tbh.

So I started going to therapy so long ago that I think I can quantify it in months now. And though I feel like I did go for crisis, or a particular reason, I honestly can’t remember what that reason was. As soon as I was there, the importance of having some uninvolved third party to talk to became super apparent. So I just kept going.

Attending Couples Therapy even if you don’t have to: YTMND

Then, one day, and I don’t know why I always put the point of my post at the bottom, but I brought my partner to therapy with me. I had been to couples counseling before, but I had only ever been to couples counseling in crisis. We sat in the waiting room together and my therapist welcomed us in. Here’s the thing, here’s the spoiler about long-term relationships: never fool yourself into thinking you know everything about your partner. Never fool yourself into thinking there are no surprises left.

First: You can know someone very very well but there is always something you don’t know. Second: Never tell your partner that you know everything about them because this is basically transmitted as “there are no surprises left, you could not surprise me.” Which is, kind of, y’know, a bummer. Thirdly, if you’re in a relationship that is dynamic and thriving and changing, your partner will be meeting new people, learning new things, and will be growing and changing as an individual. I believe a sustainable long term relationship requires falling in love with slightly different versions of your partner over and over and over again.

Like any other couple there are things we disagree about or we aren’t super clear about and it was helpful to be able to just have another person in the room helping guide us through a conversation. I learned some new things about him and he probably learned some new things about me too. This is the new kick I’m on. Maintenance therapy for couples. Just be wary, because if you go into therapy thinking you know everything about your partner and sunshine literally comes out of your asshole, you’re probably in for a rude awakening.

Finally, and this is important, but you can skip it if you’re in a hurry: I want to be better than the person I was yesterday. That means that I have to come to terms with the face I make when I hear the word math or chemistry. I made a promise that if I had children I would not recoil in fear when I saw a spider because I wouldn’t want to pass down my fear of arachnids. If I had children, I would also want to find somewhat honest enjoyment in math. So far this has been the most effective form of birth control. Don’t try to be better than anyone else. Just try to be better than you used to be. Attend therapy. Attend couples counseling. Write in a journal. Conquer a fear. Do your taxes before the day they’re due. Avoid that moment where your life becomes a crisis.

Have a question, need advice? Submit now! at Ask Suggestive and I’ll answer it on my blog.