Gaslighting and The Rashomon Effect

Gaslighting

Gaslighting (wikipedia): Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.

Rashomon Effect

Rashomon Effect (wikipedia): The Rashomon effect occurs when the same event is given contradictory interpretations by different individuals involved.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about gaslighting, specifically as a result of the heightened us of it in my own life. I’ve been saying it a lot, and I’ve been hearing it a lot, too. What about you? I began to wonder if the term gaslighting wasn’t just an easy and comforting way for me to say “this person must have intentionally been trying to hurt me” when the reality of the situation was too confusing, or too complex to truly break down and understand.

I was telling Jason about this the other day and asked if maybe some of my experiences where I had said I’d been gaslit were really just me experiencing a situation differently than someone else.

He showed me the wikipedia page for the Rashomon Effect, and now I can’t stop thinking about it. Particularly the part where, in the eponymous movie, they stress that the Rashomon Effect arises due to the social pressure for closure. 

More simply: when we can’t understand why something has happened, and it appears obvious to us that someone has manipulated the situation, we rely on our one perception of what happened as the truth. However, there are many other perspectives of what happened occurring simultaneously.

One could get into murky waters here pretty quickly. I don’t want to suggest that anyone’s experience is wrong or misread. I don’t want to say my experiences are wrong, or misread. (I have been gaslit, but I’ve also been quick to take my experience as the one truth.)

It has caused me to pause and think about how I label my experiences.

Post Goals

  1. Spend some time thinking about how you’ve hurt someone and find ways to take ownership of the pain you caused them.
  2. Consider someone who has hurt you and ask yourself ways in which they may have been hurting first to lead to that action of hurt.
  3. Honor your experience and your feelings exactly the way they are without trying to change them or explain them. If you feel hurt, you deserve to feel hurt. If you feel angry, you deserve to feel angry. If you feel sad, you deserve to feel sad. Don’t try to morph those feelings into what you feel like they “should” be.
  4. Give yourself time to heal whether you were the (1) person who hurt or (2) the person who was hurt or (3) both. Try to think of ways you can be kinder to yourself and others.
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Tackling the Gross of Menstrual Cups

Sometimes I write about something and I get kind of worked up about it. Like, why isn’t anyone else writing about this? And so I keep writing about it and then I get kind of irritated with myself. I don’t want to be the menstrual cup girl. Maybe someone out there does want to be the menstrual cup girl.

I digress, I think it’s important. I also think writing about it is difficult.

We are a culture of snap-judgements and one of my snap-judgements was menstrual cups. I thought they were gross and the only people I saw using them were crunchy. (See: A little bit of a hippy.)

I’ve spent nearly two decades using tampons. I think the statistic is that most menstruating people use the same method of menstrual product that their mother or other parental figure used. Once you’ve got a system it’s hard to go off of it. And let me tell you how much I loved smooth glide plastic applicator tampons. I had a hierarchy in my head of menstrual products and I apologize in advance for being a huge dick about it.

Cloth Pads: Once the blood leaves my body I never want to deal with it or see it ever again and this cloth pad thing is not super making me trust that my clothes won’t be covered in uterine lining.

Pads: Literally diapers for blood except you can smell the blood all day and if I’m anywhere near a bear I’m probably going to be murdered.

Tampons without applicators: You mean it’s normal in other countries to shove your finger into your bloody vagina multiple times per day even though you don’t technically have to?

Tampons with cardboard applicators: Literally satan.

Scented tampons: Cancer?

Tampons with plastic applicator: Totally great, almost makes periods fun!

Menstrual cups: If you live in the forest and drink your own breast milk and also maybe knit clothing out of your cats hair.

If you’ve missed previous posts about menstrual cups and why I decided to give it a shot in the first place, it was because I hate seeing this judgemental kind of a bitch side of myself. If a lot of people deeply appreciate something and I’m so adamently against it without even trying it, there’s probably something wrong with me. Go go trial phase. Major success.

I ordered the Lena Cup from Amazon and it completely changed my life. Perhaps this strange and somewhat offputting love for something people don’t like talking about is what deters people from trying it. Everyone I know who has tried it, hasn’t gone back. Knowing that before trying it can be kind of intimidating. Change is hard.

There are a lot of misconceptions about menstrual cups and if you have any questions I’d love to chat more about it. Submit your questions today and I’ll answer them on my blog. [SUBMIT HERE]

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Lena Cup Review: Four Months Later

The Lena Cup Challenge

Four months ago I decided to try the Lena Cup, a highly rated and well-reviewed menstrual cup.

Now that it’s been a little while I wanted to jump back in and give some secondary thoughts and feelings on using a menstrual cup over tampons. If you want to read my initial reasons for giving a menstrual cup a try (see: I thought they were gross!) read my original post.

Lena Cup

It’s basically like not even having a period at all

One of the biggest inconveniences I experienced before using a menstrual cup was specifically related to blood itself. Going to the bathroom multiple times per day to deal with tampons.

For those who don’t use tampons (or those who don’t have menstrual cycles) tampons come in a variety of sizes. The sizes generally relate to blood flow. If you’re in a heavy-bleed month or if you’re in a heavy-bleed day, you’re going to need a bigger tampon. It’s going to absorb more blood which means you’re not going to quickly soak through it. There are also medium absorbancy tampons, light tampons, regular tampons, extra lite tampons, and all other varieties depending on the brand you choose to go with.

Riveting stuff.

If you know yourself pretty well, and your body is pretty predictable, you may be able to select the right absorbency pretty easily. Sometimes that isn’t the case.

Sometimes you choose a heavy absorbency tampon and then your uterus says just kidding and you have to pull a barely-absorbed cotton swab down and out of your vaginal canal. At other times, what was once a light bleeder, suddenly turns into a heavy bleeder, and your lite tampon suddenly soaks all the way through, down to your jeans, out through your chair.

Of course this is a logistical problem as well. You’re going to want to have a selection of tampons with you at all times so you can have what you need. It costs a lot of money and creates a lot of trash and is generally pretty unpleasant. Some women acknowledge this problem in advance and use liners of some kind (thin absorbant sheets that stick to your underwear) to absorb any likely spotting.

Note that I didn’t actually think tampons were unpleasant until I started using a menstrual cup. I used to be all about tampons! That’s because I was thinking about my options in terms of pads vs. tampons. Broadening my view to pads vs. tampons vs. cups changed things.

Long-Lasting and Flexible

The Lena Cup, like other menstrual cups, can be inserted up to 12 hours. If I wake up at insert it at 6am that means that I don’t have to take it out until 6pm. That means no fuss during my workday. When I get home I can dump it out, put it back in, and not have to think about it again until the morning.

Since the blood just all goes into one central cup, you never have to think about how much you’re bleeding. If it’s important to you to know how much you’re bleeding, you can begin evalutating how much collects over a 12 hour span, or less, if you prefer to dump it more frequently.

Some color fading was disappointing

Some color staining and fading happened to the Lena Cup in the first four months, which was disappointing. Even with proper cleaning, care, and storage, the it’s not the bright perky color it was when I got it. I’ve seen other menstrual cups make an all black version which I thought was funny but now kind of makes sense.

Lena currently only sells a variety of springy colors like pink and turquoise, and white, which must be a hot mess after three months. (But it doesn’t really matter.)

Lena Cup

Continuing to carry tampons with you, anyways

If your cycle isn’t super predictable and you don’t want to always have the cup on you, you may want to carry around tampons or pads as a backup system.

I always keep a few tampons of different sizes in my bag just in case someone asks me for one in the bathroom. It would suck to have to say no to someone who is coming to you in a desperate situation!

Four Month Conclusion

It’s a little mind boggling that there isn’t more widespread use of menstrual cups. I think a lot of people share the same stigmas that I had against them. That’s the primary reason I decided to try them in the first place, and it revolutionized pretty much everything.

Have you given the cup a try? What do you or don’t you like about it? I’m curious if using a cup has impacted your life in any significant way. Leave your thoughts in the comments!
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I’VE BEEN IN THERAPY FOR ONE YEAR AND I’M HAVING AN EXISTENTIAL CRISIS

Going to therapy every week can be alarming. I’m still talking about this? It’s been a week! Going once every other week can be even worse. But… but it’s been two weeks! I haven’t solved this yet?

Imagine my surprise when I told my therapist how sick I was of complaining about the same shit every month when she told me i’ve been seeing her for a year.

year.

I’ve had relationships with people I was sexually and/or romantically attracted to that ended quicker than that.

Well, anyways, apparently I’ve made some progress. She said that when I started seeing her I said “I don’t really see myself as a career person” and now I have a well articulated five point plan for being incredibly successful. That’s what I like about my therapist. She’s like the best friend / computer algorithm you always wish you had. “You’re not ugly! Look at this photo I’ve saved from my database from last week! It has seventy likes!” 

She has good recall is what I’m saying. And in this particular moment I saw that I had made progress.

I realized that I judge progress in giant milestone chunks like “graduate college” “get job” “move in together” “get married” “have kids” “buy house”

Life, however, has tiny little flags along the way that ought to be celebrated. They also signify change and growth.

  1. Stopped feeling obligated to reply to business emails after hours
  2. Started giving fewer shits about peoples opinions of me when I don’t even like those people
  3. Realized it’s okay to not like people
  4. Decided that one day I wanted to get married
  5. Came to peace with the fact that I don’t always fold my clothes before putting them in my dresser.

You know, things like that. The baby steps. And I think the problem is that I think I’m a little holier than thou. Oh yes, I graduated from college. Puff puff. It was quite the endeavor. Pinky raise. Harrowing really.

Flash to me, EIGHT YEARS OF FEAR, CRYING, ANGUISH.

Everything that happened along the way, those were little milestones, little successes. They were progress. I just didn’t mark it as such until I literally had my diploma in my hand.

So, looking forward, this is how I judge my progress. Not based on how much money I have or what kind of job I have or what my relationships look like, but if I’m moving forward. At all. Even a little bit. If I’m growing better and stronger. If I’m making less of the same mistakes. If I’m making better, newer mistakes.

Do you have a question about sex, love, life? Submit now and I’ll answer it on my blog!

 

 

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Five Ways Masturbation is Healthy

When you’re in middle school, and boys start masturbating, they tell you. They tell you all the time. They tell you mid-laugh like “guess what I did this morning?” or “I know what I’m doing when I get home” or they tell you by comparing every even-kinda-white substance to semen. Lol mayonaise! Lol aioli! Lol sunblock!

Everything is about dicks and I’m not entirely thrown by this because being a pubescent boy must be a lot like having an xbox in your pants your entire life and one day it just turns on in the middle of the night. The sheets aglow, jingling a little tune, diddly-diddly-diddly.

Girls don’t learn about masturbation through any kind of middle-of-the-night hologram experience. Okay, usually. It tends to happen more by accident. In fact, I vaguely recall thinking that masturbation was gendered and it was just something men did. Enough time on the internet will cure any such misconception. Ah yes, women come standard with an xbox in their pants too. Except the controller has more buttons and built in special moves. Suck it.

Montage your way forward almost two decades later. (Finally) we’re prioritizing women’s pleasure and girls are able to read about masturbation in popular magazines like it’s n.b.d. 

Whoopie!

So, why is masturbating healthy?

  1. Body Image – Sometimes you literally need to love yourself. Like my body can do that? Repeat until the love begins to boil and turn down heat to let simmer.
  2. Understanding of your body/anatomy – Look at your genitals with a mirror, touch them and get a feel for what they feel like, look around for moles, make note of size and shape, touch and inspect and grow comfortable with yourself. Not feeling squeamish about my body came in handy when it came to using a menstrual cup for the first time.
  3. Relief of stress, anxiety, or depression – I’ll say it again. Sometimes you literally need to love yourself.
  4. Relief of pain and cramping – Reduces pain and cramping for free! Repeat until desired effect takes place. Or until you fall asleep.
  5. Understanding what feels good to you – The better you know your body, the better you can explain what feels good to your partner/s. That means an easier go for them, and a more enjoyable experience for you! Learn what you can on your own, and discover the rest as a team!

Do you have a question about sex or love? Submit now and I’ll answer it on the blog!

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The Identity Politics of No Sex for Four Weeks

Sexual  identity is more than just your sexual orientation. Your sexual identity can also include things like what kind of sex you like, kinks or fetishes, or how frequently you have sex.

So what happens to your sense of self when certain parts of that identity aren’t being utilized? 

After my LEEP procedure my doctor said that I couldn’t have penetrative sex for four weeks. When the whole waiting period is said and done, that will be the longest time I’ve ever stayed abstinent.

A couple disclaimers: This isn’t a big woe is me because I don’t actually think four weeks is a very long time. It would be fine if someone did think four weeks was a long time, but I don’t. Four weeks goes quick. Also, my doctor didn’t say no sex for four weeks. She just said no penetrative sex for four weeks. There’s a distinction. But for me, sex almost always means penetration. So her saying no penetration was effectively saying no sex. There are a lot of other things to do, but it’s just different for me, and that’s okay. (Also with the amount of bleeding, pinching, and cramping, I’m not feeling all that sexy anyways.)

All of this got me wondering about identity

At a different point in my life, if I weren’t able to have sex for a long stretch of time (due to stress, anxiety, medical issues, etc) I would feel less than myself. I viewed myself as sexual and thought that to fulfill that identity I had to act out what a sexual person does. If I wasn’t doing sexual things all the time, I was, in some way, failing myself and the guidelines I’d set for myself and who I am.

At times, I would even go out of my way to try things that I wasn’t interested in doing or push myself outside of my comfort zone because I thought “huh, if my identity is this, I should say yes, because I’ll probably like it, right?” Big heavy yuck.

Be aware of false prophets. If anyone ever says “but I thought you were cool” tell them that cool is whatever the fuck you say it is. 

But people do this all the time right?  Women wonder if they’re actually bisexual if they’ve never kissed another woman. A guy looks at another guy he finds attractive and spends the rest of the day re-asserting his heterosexuality to balance it out. We have scripts for what a person of  identity does, and what being X looks like, and when we don’t live up to those arbitrary guidelines, we can start to feel off or less than ourselves.

Learning that my identity can be stable has been important as my life has become more fluid.

The reality is that we may not always be able to do the things that we define ourselves by. That’s hard. Especially if these things are deeply wrapped into our identity and who we are.

Sometimes we have no choice. We may develop a disability that in some way prevents us from doing the things that we used to define ourselves by. We may become sick. Our health may impede us. A writer may be unable to write for weeks at a time. A surfer may lose the ability to use his legs. This is getting grim, I know, but I’ve had the privilege in my young life to really not have many things impede me from doing what I want to do. I know that as I get older, that’s likely to change.

I don’t exactly have the answers here but I think it’s important to think about. When I let go of the arbitrary guidelines I’d set for myself, I found myself becoming a lot more chill. A lot happier. Some nights I might want to choose reading over sex and I don’t have an identity crisis about it. I might go weeks without wanting to write on my blog and I don’t second guess my ability as writer. And, one day, if I have to completely let something go, I know it won’t change who I am and who I was and what makes me, me. My life might just start to look different. And that might make me feel sad. But it doesn’t make me (less than) I used to be. It just makes me different.

How do you deal with feelings like this? Have you ever had to cope with a big identity shift, or even a short-term identity shift because you couldn’t do something or had to change the way you did something?


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#ISupportPP on #PinkOut Day

Today is #PinkOut day :: a day to show support and committment to Planned Parenthood.

I have never been to Planned Parenthood but many of my close friends have.

It is important to me that others have access to affordable healthcare services. Whether or not I directly benefit from them should not have any influence in whether or not I support them.

When you support PP: You’re saying that you want to live in a society that provides for those who may not be able to afford to provide for themselves. You’re saying that someone shouldn’t be forced to carry a baby to term that they don’t want. You’re saying that you live in a world where, no, people don’t just have sex to procreate. You’re saying that information about sexual health is important in making educated decisions about what you do with your body. You’re prioritizing pap smears or mammograms, preventative care that will help us live better lives. You’re destigmatizing sex, you’re destigmatizing STIs, you’re removing just an ounce of the fear in getting a check up.

The affordable care act has provided preventative services to millions of women. The president is attempting to deconstruct the aca as a matter of ego and pride.

One of the most immediate changes for women was the ACA’s birth control benefit, which ensured that more than 55 million women now have birth control without a copay, and helped women save an estimated $1.4 billion on the pill in the ACA’s first year alone. – Planned Parenthood & U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

It is easy to take these services for granted. My generation knows a world that has healthcare accessibility, access to abortion, access to birth control.

We might always have access to condoms and birth control and mammograms and sexual health testing, but what does we mean, and what does access mean, if only the wealthy or privileged are able to receive these services?

Support Planned Parenthood today by using the hashtags #PinkOut and #ISupportPP to spread the message. Wear pink with pride. Donate what you can (minimum donation of only $5.00) to Planned Parenthood to help them continue their efforts. Finally, find some other way to help. Everyone can do something, and everyone should do something.

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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!

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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.

 

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Going Back on Birth Control After Going Off

If my body were a temple I would be sort of a F5 level Tornado. It’s not entirely my fault. On hormones, off hormones, switching hormones, going continuously on hormones. The straw the broke the camels back, as it turns out, was narcissism. Six months in to my purge from hormonal birth control my body went through what seemed like puberty round two. My skin broke out for the first time in over a decade. My hair was unbearably greasy. My complexion looked dull, and no matter how hard I tried to smile with my eyes, I looked dead inside.

It’s possible that’s because for the last decade my body had been fed with a more or less steady stream of estrogen. This is the me that I knew. The me pumped with hormones. I thought I was strong enough to beat it. I know if I’d waited just a little longer I might have stabilized. But I’m weak. It all came crashing down with that final, unbeatable pimple. And then all of the things that birth control had provided me clicked at the same time.

I was sick of depending on condoms in an unstable and terrifying political climate. Is the condom good? Did it break? It is safe? Am I pregnant? What if I get pregnant and I can’t get an abortion? What if abortion is illegal? What if I decide I want to get back on birth control but I no longer have insurance? My cycle was irregular and physically demanding. My initial uptick in mood had leveled off and I no longer felt self-righteous euphoria. I almost crawled back to my doctor asking her for more. I take no pride in this moment.

The Rebirth(controlling)

I asked for a lower hormonal dose, I started the next day. I’ve kept the pills in my desk drawer as a sign of my defeat.

I am still critical of how we dependent we are on hormones. Women, in particular, as the bearer of protection and the bearer of children. But there simply isn’t a similar option for men, yet. And even if there was, how can we really know for sure that extended use of hormones is safe? I might have a stroke, I might get a blood clot, or I might just not get pregnant. These are the moderately well-informed risks we take.

I now feel more in control of my own sexual health, again. Which is in direct competition with what I said before. Not being on birth control also made me feel more in control of my own sexual health. It’s just the way it is. I’m a complex person and I hold a multitude of feelings. I’m unlikely to get pregnant. My cycle quickly regulated. My skin cleared up in a week. And my hair has decided it’s okay to brush it again.

The Great Both/And

The moral here is that I may not have found my end all be all. Maybe you haven’t, either. Perhaps there is no final solution. Sometimes we’re on hormones, sometimes we’re not. Sometimes we feel good about it, sometimes we don’t. It is intersectional, my feelings on these pills. My privilege of having them. The frustration that I have to use them. My fear of losing them. The concern that one day they may not work the way they are intended. The little pleasures they bring. The potential medical grief they could bring down upon me.  I’m going to take it one day at a time. I hope that my admission that it’s not always so clear makes it a little easier for you to ask these questions too.

Do you need advice? Submit at Ask Suggestive and I’ll answer it on my blog. Today, start a calendar to track your sexual and mental health. You can use a notebook and journal, jot notes in your schedule, bullet journal, or write on a scrap piece of paper. How do your emotions change throughout the month? How often are you having sex? What kinds of symptoms do you experience throughout the month (headaches? stomach pain? arousal?) If you menstruate, what is your cycle like? Do you have PMS? Make the calendar your own and see where trends pop up.

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