Endometriosis, sexual health

Resilience and Pessimism.

 

I attended a lunchtime seminar this week, in which I learned about how to remain resilient when life throws its sh*t storms at you. And what happens if you are pessimistic about everything that comes your way.

Have you ever heard of the three P’s? I hadn’t. When something goes wrong, our brain can immediately do three things, if we don’t catch it fast enough.

Lets say, you break your arm in a game of netball.

First it gets personal. Our brain tells us, that “it’s all my fault. If I hadn’t done X, Y  or Z, this wouldn’t have happened”. A person with resilience, and a few extra calming seconds might think: “This was beyond my control. I am not wholly responsible.”

Secondly, our brain decides that its permanent“It’s never going to heal, and it’s never going to get better. I’ll never play netball again!”. If we are more resilient, apparently we can trick or convince our brains to think “this too shall pass” or remember that “it’s just a broken arm, not a broken neck”.

Thirdly, when we are still freshly processing the bad thing that has happened, our brain can then decide that the event is pervasive, meaning it has “ruined my whole life for eternity and nothing can fix it”,  or that “it’s always happening to me and nobody else- WHY ME!”. Yep. You got hit by a feisty Goal Keeper, and you slammed into the post and broke your arm. It happens to lots of people, and they have survived. You will survive too.  

So, according to this seminar, if we let these three things take hold of us on the regular, when things go to sh*t, we develop “learned helplessness” and pessimism. Now, I don’t know about you, but if you have Endo, you’ll know that life sure throws its sh*t balls at you, directly to your face, when you are least expecting it, and trying to be an optimist in these times can be hard. Challenging. Feels near on impossible.

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So, what are we supposed to do?

When you get told that you are going to be in chronic pain for the rest of the foreseeable future? How do you find a positive spin on it?

When you are told your chances of having children are slim to none without the supports of IVF etc- how can there be light at the end of that tunnel?

When you wake up in pain, day after day, how can you tell yourself that it’s not permanent, and isn’t ruining your life forever?

When your relationships fail; friendships end; work stops; finances increase;  mental health issues develop; physical health deteriorates; your body changes; your life changes – what can be done to remain a ray of sunshine?

One thing I have been learning, is to own these big feelings. I think it’s so important to remember the positives, but it’s also equally OK to feel those deep, hurting, heartbreaking feelings. What I am really trying, is to not automatically put on rose coloured glasses, because I think that just ends up leaving you in the shit when reality strikes (again). It’s important to remain as logical as possible, and to take your time feeling the feels, and thinking through processes and outcomes. This then helps lead you to some more positive outlooks. And positivity, has to be the key.

“Accumulating research suggests that the positive emotions (happiness, contentment, joy, etc.) are associated with healthy immune system functioning. Conversely, the negative emotions are associated with weaker immune function, greater production of stress hormones such as Cortisol, and greater incidence of illnesses.” 

Because what do we know about Endo? It’s triggered by inflammation. And what triggers inflammation? Stress (among other things). And what is stress? A negative feeling that can be triggered by negative emotions.

According to Science Daily: “Stress wreaks havoc on the mind and body. Until now, it has not been clear exactly how stress influences disease and health. Now researchers have found that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response. The research shows for the first time that the effects of psychological stress on the body’s ability to regulate inflammation can promote the development and progression of disease.”

When it comes to Endo, I am learning to tell myself the following things, in order to minimize this “learned helplessness” and stops me wallowing in self pity and negativity:

  • I am not alone in this. I am supported.
  • I have besties and family members who get what is going on.
  • I am connected to so many  people on social media platforms who have been through what I am going through.
  • I am not being punished. This isn’t karma. It’s just what it is.
  • I am lucky to live in Australia, where health care is amazing.
  • A nice Voltaren suppository will fix my pain if all else fails. (Gross, but true.)
  • I am loved and cared for.
  • I have time.
  • I am not dying. (Drastic, but also true).
  • I am so lucky to be able to connect, learn and investigate alternative therapies and options.
  • There is this spectacular invention called Champagne. not great for bloating, but sharing a glass of this with a sister can heal many wounds.
  • I have come this far, and I can keep going.

I know, I know. *insert motivational poster here*.

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I guess at the end of the day, I am still learning. But if a little bit of optimism helps, I am willing to do whatever it takes to regroup, and come back to that place.

Feel free to get in touch if you need a little bit of optimism, or, you can google, “people who are having a way worse day than you“. It always helps to put things in perspective.

x G

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Endometriosis, sexual health, Wisdom Wednesday's

Wisdom Wednesday

This week’s Wisdom Wednesday is a must do.

So, last night I went for a walk to the chemist, to collect my Endo nerve pain/anxiety medication. During this walk, I was listening to one of my favourite Podcasts, the Melissa Ambrosini Show. Her guest this week was the incredible Dr Lara Briden, and they talked all things periods, cycles, contraception, Endo, PCOS, fertility etc.

It was AMAZING.

You can listen to the podcast here…

To give you an outline, this is what the blurb is, straight from Melissa’s page:

Missing periods, PCOS, endometriosis and PMS… odds are, either you or someone you love struggles with one (or more) of these painful conditions every month. But your cycle does NOT have to be a cause of pain, frustration or moodiness, and today’s podcast guest — Dr. Lara Briden — is going to tell us why.

Dr. Lara Briden is a naturopathic doctor and ‘period revolutionary’ — leading the change to better periods for all women. Informed by a strong science background and more than 20 years experience with patients, Lara is a passionate communicator about women’s health and alternatives to hormonal birth control. Her book Period Repair Manual is a manifesto for woman who want to reimagine their cycle and provides practical solutions using nutrition, supplements, and natural hormones. Now in its second edition, the book has been an underground sensation and has worked to quietly change the lives of tens of thousands of women across the globe.

Everyone — and I mean both men and women — NEED to listen to this wide-ranging conversation, especially if you want to make a baby, re-establish regular periods, discover the most reliable methods of natural non hormonal contraception methods, and heal your PCOS, endometriosis, or PMS.

In this episode we chat about:

  • What the pill is actually doing to our bodies (03:58)
  • Why period pain is not normal (06:29)
  • Dr Lara’s top 3 non-conventional ways to combat period pain (good GODDESS I wish I’d known about these back in the day!) (12:06)
  • Why our periods go missing and how to get them back (14:23)
  • The top 5 non-hormonal natural contraception methods (18:55)
  • How long you need to wait after you come off the pill before you make a baby (26:30)
  • Why making a baby is a team sport and why men are just as responsible as women (29:19)
  • What men can do to make sure they have super sperm (31:45)
  • Plus so much more!”

 

If I could get this played in every high school sex ed class across the country, I would. until that magical time occurs, please keep talking about it!

xx

G

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sexual health, Wisdom Wednesday's

Ruth King, Queen of Midwives.

In my first interview on Finding Fortitude, I wanted to dive straight into the nitty gritty and cut through the uncomfortable wall. I have interviewed the best Midwife I know, and one of the best mothers I know- Ruth King. Ruth is the Midwifery Advisor for the Education Unit at Australian College of Midwives. She knows her stuff, and isn’t afraid to put it all on the table (or floor, or birthing pool).

Ruth

Ruth King (right) with a future interviewee, Claire Byrt of Project Work Life (left).

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

I am a daughter, sister, aunty, wife, mother and midwife.  I am just over 40 and I have 2 children (13 and 5), a great husband, a dog, 2 cats a fish and a turtle (as well as a huge and loving extended family).

Why Midwifery?

When I was living in London I was working in Project Management when I was pregnant/had my 1st child.  At the time there was a great show on the TV called William and Mary.  It was about a community midwife (Mary) and her husband who was a funeral director (William).  Essentially a show about birth and death and the way we perceive it in our society which resonated with me – probably because I was pregnant.  Plus there was just something about the role of Mary that got under my skin.  I think it was because she reminded me so much of my Aunty from back home who was also a community midwife and whom I had always admired.  Plus her job looked amazing – working with women (like me at the time) to have a pregnancy and birth the way they wanted (and where – she did lots of home-births) and then being there for the women in the postnatal period.

My pregnancy was great and I had nice midwives but not a community midwife as my local service did not offer that.  The birth though left me feeling like it could have been better – that the random midwives that I had did not make an impression on me – that I felt they spent most of their time in the corner making notes and checking machines…

I remember having a conversation with my mum (whilst getting breastfeeding tips) about a new course that was on offer in SA for a direct entry course (no nursing required).  My interest was piqued, but my focus was distracted by our impending return to Australia and all that entailed (my hubby is from the UK so it was a huge endeavour with lots of tears as we said goodbye to family and friends and left our jobs and our home.  However I clearly talked enough about it to warrant my husband advising me (after we had arrived in SA, and with University entries closing within the month) that I had best enroll in a university course (Bachelor Midwifery) or I’d need to go back to work at the start of the following year.  I applied and I have never looked back!

Can you tell me a little bit about your history as a Midwife?

After I completed my studies I went to work at one of the 3 tertiary hospitals in Adelaide, to start with as a general midwife rotating around the wards but then I moved to Midwifery Group Practice (MGP).  This is where a women will know her midwife through pregnancy, birth and post-natally.  She will have support form a backup midwife or team (generally who is part of a team) in case her primary midwife is not available for appointments, enquiries or the birth.  This is the optimal care for women during & after their pregnancy with research showing better outcomes for women and babies when they receive this type of care (known as continuity of care).  Really ALL women should have this care, or at least access to a midwife as their primary carer, however there are currently not enough midwifery models or care around Australia, and our community really doesn’t know the value of midwives (potentially because we still don’t make a big enough song and dance about how amazing we are and why we are so important – such as getting the GP referring women to a midwife rather than an obstetrician when they 1st find out they are pregnant).   I digress…

I would say this was my favourite time working as a Clinical Midwife.  Every day was different.  Every woman special.  It was a time of intense learning and joy (and some tears and sleepless nights) and my children still ask me when I am going to be going back to that job…

A few years after graduating and working in MGP I had my second child (and I completed my Honours in Midwifery – note to self never do that again! Both need full attention).  After my maternity leave I did return to MGP for a short while, but then I saw my current job advertised and I thought… hmmm  I can do that! I can incorporate my skills form my pre-midwifery career, with my midwifery knowledge and passion… and so here I am… managing the Education Unit for the Australian College of Midwives, the peak professional body for Midwives in Australia.  I still do clinical work as I miss working with women and sharing information and ideas with them as well as their journey… so I work on weekends via an agency, and I go where I am needed.  It keeps me current and energised about Midwifery!

You have a young teenage daughter, does she feel comfortable talking to you about
puberty/menstruation (*eep*) /vaginas (*double*eeep*) because you are comfortable, or do you think it makes her more hesitant to talk?

Haha NO!  I raise it with her and she is all ‘shrug shoulders, shy away’. But she is getting better.  And she is getting used to me being open and upfront and asking her about it all – even in front of her dad!

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The normal reaction when teenagers have to talk ‘sex’ with the parentals.

Both of my kids know about periods, what they are and why we get them as they have been asking questions since whenever they used to accompany me to the toilet – and I am not inclined to make up a story, so that I think is a good start.

And then for my daughter I found out about a Celebration Day for Girls here in SA that we went to.  This was an event for girls and their mums to go to, to learn about menstruation and how it fits into the cycle of daily living and life’s journey and also the cycle of womanhood.  I know she had a good time, but also that there were bits that were embarrassing and grossed her out… but when it came time to get her period, we were prepared with pads, spare knickers, heat packs, oils, massage, quiet time – and no fear!!

Do you know much about Endo? If so, can you share your experience?

From a personal experience, no not really, although I learn more every time I talk to my sister and every article or blog I read.

As I learn more I look back on my childhood and remember cousins and friends that were holed up in their room every month, in pain!  Back then I thought – “cor another day off school.. lucky chick!”  Now it means more to me and I rather think – “oh wow you poor girls that must have been horrible!”  Back then it (the pain) was just accepted (although it was known not to affect everyone) and (if you had pain) you just got on with life (after you got over the pain of course).

I’d like to say that this expectation has changed, but really I don’t think it has.  I think it is still a common experience for many girls and women… and that makes me sad.  But at the same time I see all the amazing work going on, the new funding, the awareness days and promotion and I think there is a beautiful communal garden of knowledge being grown and shared such that our future generations will be well informed. Well before the issues of Endo first make an appearance, young girls and women might have a chance to nip it in the bud (so to speak) or at last know where to go to and what to do, rather than just quietly accept what they are going through as the norm (and do nothing until it is too late and it has affected every aspect of their life).

What do you wish more women (of all ages) knew about their bodies and their ‘lady garden’ health?

I wish that all girls (and boys) were taught that this was a wonderful and natural life cycle and that it should be embraced and celebrated rather than shunned and hidden.  If we made this a positive experience for girls and women then maybe they would be more open to talking about it and not be ashamed when their period cycle begins.

I think it is important that boys and girls dot get separated out to have those types of talks as they are all affected by what happens to the other sex, be it now or in the future and so it is important to understand both sides. And for girls particularly id want them to know/understand that  a period that has you hiding in bed, unable to move and in pain is not in fact normal and that the sooner it is checked out the better.
(You can read more about my thoughts on this in my post, SexEd: more like ShamEd)

For health professionals, I’d ask them to start listening to the girls and women who come in and stop dismissing them as just having their period.  No one really goes to the doctor on a whim… they make the time to make an appointment, sit in a waiting room for a few hours, surrounded by people who are potentially infectious because there is something wrong and they need help.  It is time for change.

You can learn more about the Australian College of Midwives and the wonderful work they do here.

A ginormous thanks to Ruth for contributing and giving such beautiful and honest responses to questions that a lot of people would be too scared to talk about!

I agree. It is time for change.

x G

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Endometriosis, sexual health, Uncategorized

SexED: more like ShamED.

 

Can you remember what your sex education was like?

I remember mine. The boys were sent into one classroom, and girls into another.

There was very little ‘education’ and we watched a movie about how erections worked and how babies were created.

No joke, I think the teachers were just as uncomfortable about being in the room with us as we were with them. In some fairness, I attended a private catholic school. Need I say more?

At the end of the lesson, we were offered time for questions, but not one person put up their hand. I certainly had a million questions but I was way too embarrassed, awkward and horrified to ask anything. I would plan to ask my cool older siblings at a later day, but even that  was terrifying to me. I could only imagine what it would have been like for the kids who didn’t have older siblings/cousins/friends and had to talk to their parents. Groan!

When you are in year 7; your hormones are kicking in while life long crushes develop (this may have started well before year 7, lets be honest- didn’t we all have a future husband planned out in year 2?) This would have been a great time to introduce the idea that not only are our bodies individual and different, but that they should be respected and also enjoyed and celebrated. Now please don’t get me wrong. I am in no way encouraging young girls or boys to go off into the bushes and get it on, but it just seems to me that it would have been helpful to understand how it all works, being encouraged to love my body rather than being ashamed or scared of it (don’t even get me started on when they made us do public BMI shaming testing in year 10 and I was deemed ‘overweight’- I was a size 8-10 and weighed like 55kg, c’mon people).

Still to this day, I’m learning things about men, women and our bodies, and I am totally fascinated by it all. I am 28 for goodness sake, and these ‘new’ things I am learning should have been taught when I was supposed to be learning about the birds and the bees. Periods should have been discussed (maybe not in the very first sex ed class, but later on in upper year levels) with boys and girls together. Boners and wet dreams should be discussed with girls and boys together. I sense people right now are like, oh man, she’s going on a tangent but hang in with me here. This also stems to the discussion with our parents or guardians. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your kids about sex and your body/their body, how are they going to be comfortable about hearing it and talking about it? That goes for pubic hair, wobbly bits, periods, bacne, BO, boobs growing and balls dropping.

These completely natural, healthy bodily functions are something that teenagers often grow up ashamed of or only able to discuss in a joking manner. Dr Martha Tara Lee advises: “Children should not become ashamed of their body. If there is confusion, this can present later in life as body image issues or shame surrounding their sexuality.” You can read more about that here.

Now, I can’t exactly talk about a male perspective, but when girls/young women/women are ashamed of their bodies we do silly things like:

  • not wear dresses/shorts/singlets/jeans/anything that potentially shows a part of our body we do not like (which leads to many days/nights of being uncomfortable/hot/cold/sweating all because we might be worried that the boy we like might see the one missed leg hair that wasn’t removed during the meticulous shaving earlier that day)
  • not wear bathers in front of people let alone bikinis. (Heaven forbid someone see anything less than a six pack or a Kim K booty!)
  • not go to the beach (see above)
  • not swim if they have a period (it took me years to figure out that tampons were the solution here- why did nobody tell me????)
  • hide natural features under layers of makeup
  • agonize over that 50grams we put on in the day (and not even stop to consider that the 50grams might be from nutritious, fueling food or water)
  • never leave the house in tracksuits (this I never understood, aren’t trackies meant to be worn for comfort? How are they different to active wear?)
  • skip getting a pap smear because we are terrified of someone being that up close and personal (as a woman who has had more pap smears than all of my family and friends combined, I can tell you- seen one, seen them all. Doctors do not care what you look like. They are too busy making sure you are healthy to notice that stray pube or extra skin)
  • only have sexy times with the lights off, or in bed under a blanket (Live a little. You’ve gone so far as to be at a point where someone is enjoying having some lovin’ time with you, they are obviously attracted to you!)
  • never, ever, tell anyone you have your period unless you are absolutely desperate and need to borrow an emergency tampon or pad, and even then: you whisper it in secret and without looking your friend in the eye because you’re absolutely mortified and so ashamed and cant possibly imagine what they will think of you whilst forgetting that you are asking a fellow female, who has tampons and who obviously has this happen to her as well, but forget that and maintain that you are soooooo embarrassed. eye roll 1.gif

I could go on and on about body shame but that’s for another post I think. I risk going down the rabbit hole too far if I don’t stop now!

If we want our friends, daughters, sons, nieces, nephews, cousins or even next door neighbours to grow into healthy, mature adults who can hold a serious conversations with their closest people (let alone a doctor!), about that weird itch on their areola or the odd thing that’s happening in their armpit without cracking a giggle or going beet red, we need to start talking about the hard stuff from an earlier age. (No pun intended, but boy it would have been a good one.)

Why is it so hard to have these conversations? I have this dream, where one day, I get to go to a school and talk to a year level (lets say year 11’s and 12’s for example) about periods and Endometriosis. Or perhaps make the awkward sexEd talk not so awkward in general. I long to educate. Hence why I am studying Education I suspect.

For me right now, my main point of focus is the topic of Endo, and the stigma around periods. It has to end if we are ever going to get anywhere. Girls should know about what signs they can look out for, or be encouraged to talk to a parent/mentor if they have questions. I don’t want to see another generation of women spend a decade of their lives waiting to get that pain checked out, out of fear or shame. I don’t want another generation of young men acting repulsed at the mere thought of periods. It just breeds confusion, misconceptions and worse off, makes the young girls around them feel like they are disgusting.

Enough of teachers and parents feeling icky talking about this stuff! If it weren’t for periods, erections, ovulation, women’s bodies and men’s bodies, none of us would be here.

If you had a brilliant sex-ed class, or have a birds and bees story that was memorable, that you want to celebrate or whinge about, I’d love to hear about it!
Follow me on instagram @gene_ie_e or leave a comment below.

 

Stay strong my young guns, if you think puberty is confronting, wait until you have to start paying taxes!

 

 

 

 

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