6 Ways Feeling Suicidal Changed My Life

Note: Before reading this article, please be aware that I discuss sensitive topics such as suicide and self-harm that may be triggering for some people. If you are sensitive to these topics, you may want to consider not reading this article. Please use your discretion before continuing.

In September 2017, I experienced what I now describe as a mental break where I saw something traumatic to me and it impacted me in a profound way.

(I don’t see the point in recounting what I saw here. It does not matter. Everyone’s triggers will be different.)

The next day, I felt utterly hopeless and like I wanted to die.

It was a normal day, except it wasn’t. I actually went shopping at Costco with my mom that morning. It was raining and I was wearing a blue hemp kaftan and had frankincense and myrrh essential oil in my hair. As we walked into the store, I told her a funny story my neighbor had told me, and we doubled over laughing.

I laughed so hard.

And yet, there was a darkness inside me that I couldn’t shake.

Later that evening, as my then-fiancé and I sat on my front porch after dinner, I cried and told him that I felt like I didn’t just want to die, but that I needed to die. We were both afraid, and he held my hand as I told him how I felt.

I felt like nothing mattered. Despite having an amazing family, a wonderful fiancé, two jobs I loved, and four adorable bunnies that gave my life purpose, I felt like none of it mattered and that I needed to kill myself because the world wasn’t ever going to be right and I couldn’t be a part of it anymore.

My newest rescue bunny, Hava Dalal.

So this article is about the isolation I felt while experiencing these feelings and how they changed my life.

I Felt Like I Could Talk to No One (And to This Day, Haven’t Talked to Anyone Besides My Husband About These Feelings)

I’m ready for the criticism on this.

It seems like anytime someone says they’re having feelings of hurting themselves or killing themselves, the immediate reaction is that they are in danger and that they need to:

a) get professional help (such as from a therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist, etc.)

b) call the Suicide Hotline

c) be admitted to the psychiatric unit of the hospital

I didn’t do any of these things.

In fact, I was afraid to talk to anyone about these feelings. I didn’t talk to anyone besides my now-husband. I tried to talk to my best friend about them, but she has issues with talking about death and so couldn’t talk with me about it. (I completely respect her choices and do not have negative feelings towards her about this.)

So my husband heard everything.

We talked about getting me professional help when my feelings and thoughts didn’t get better. I talked about killing myself for months. I felt depressed about the world (I’m an empath; if you don’t know what that is, you can read an article I wrote about it here. It’ll make a lot of sense why I felt this way if you understand what an empath is). I felt like I couldn’t be here anymore even though if nothing else, my bunnies needed me to take care of them.

One of my adorable rescue bunnies, Fiver Kadeem.

I didn’t self-harm and hadn’t self-harmed anytime in the last several years, but I thought about how I would kill myself. I felt like I “couldn’t” kill myself because I wouldn’t be able to carry out the act of doing it, but some hours, I felt like I had to.

Sometimes I would get home late at night and think about hurting myself, or feel like I needed to hurt myself. I talked with my then-fiancé about all these feelings. He was worried, but he knew I trusted him and didn’t reach out to anyone about my feelings (I suspected he Googled a lot, though).

Were These Feelings “Bad”?

I realize how “bad” all this sounds. But I also realize there are other people out there who feel like this every day and feel like they can’t talk to anybody about it because it will be taken the wrong way. By being “taken the wrong way”, I mean that their feelings won’t be accepted as normal and that they’ll be treated differently for experiencing these feelings.

I am an adult. I am a person. It’s my personal choice whether or not to seek professional help. I have resources and a network of people who could help me if I chose. I ultimately chose not to speak to anyone else besides my husband because I felt like no one would truly understand. I was also afraid of not only being judged, but of people encouraging me to “seek help” (thinking they know what’s best for me) or treating me differently because of my experience.

I came to realize that these feelings weren’t bad. They were how I felt. It was neither good nor bad that I felt like I wanted to die. I couldn’t keep labeling myself or my feelings. It wasn’t serving any purpose. Was I suicidal? Was I depressed? Maybe. But it wasn’t going to do any good labeling myself those things while I was experiencing my mental break.

A Little History

This wasn’t the first time I’d thought about killing myself. But it was the first time that I seriously considered it.

At the age of 13 and a self-proclaimed atheist (you can read more about that here), I didn’t really see the point of living if we were all just going to die anyway.

I thought about killing myself and thought that eventually that was something I might do. But I never had any real desire to die and eventually stopped thinking about it. I realized that I was a teenager and my life would—hopefully—get better once I was an adult and could do whatever I wanted (it did!).

The break I experienced in 2017 was a completely different thing.

I don’t know if deep down I necessarily wanted to die, but felt like I needed to die. I had a rough plan for how I’d kill myself, though I knew the chances of me following through with it were slim.

I was in a place where I felt like nothing mattered. I felt extremely apathetic and that was scary. I felt like it didn’t matter if I killed myself or not. I simply felt like I couldn’t deal with the world and didn’t want to be here anymore.

I’m the type of person who wishes I didn’t exist because as an empath, the world can be very hurtful to me and sometimes I truly feel like I can’t take it (this is also one of the major reasons I’ve decided not to have children—I’m anti-natalist—among many other reasons).

My husband and I talk about death all the time and are aware that one day we are both going to die, and while this thought is saddening, it’s also liberating knowing I won’t be on this planet forever, and it makes me appreciate my time here more.

Ultimately, however, I feel like the fact that nothing mattered actually led me to keep going.

How My Desire to Die Impacted My Daily Life

Feeling like you want to die changes things. I no longer felt any need to be happy or pretend to be happy about life. I no longer felt like I could do things I didn’t want to do. I actually felt like I couldn’t do these things.

No longer caring made things simple. Not easy, but simple. If I wanted something, I bought it. If I didn’t want to do something, I said no. There was no longer any agonizing over my choices. Who cared?

So the following life changes happened.

1. I Cut Out Friends

I dropped one of my friends during this time (not the one that didn’t want to talk to me about death, she is my best friend). I no longer enjoyed spending time with her even before my break and truly felt like I could not hang out with her anymore after my break. It wasn’t personal. I just couldn’t pretend anymore with the way I felt.

2. I Stopped Spending Holidays with Dysfunctional Family Members

I could no longer spend dysfunctional holidays with my Catholic extended family, which I had been doing forever and never truly enjoyed it. Again, I felt like I literally could not do it. So I copped out of the three dreadful holidays every year I would spend with them.

There was a silver lining to this. Not doing things I didn’t want to do made me much happier. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I now feel relief that I’ve been making conscious choices about what to do with my time. How I spend my time now is very important to me since I’ve had these feelings about dying, perhaps because I’m more aware of how limited my time really is.

3. My Sex Life Went to Shit

My feelings of wanting to die combined with the traumatic thing I witnessed made sex feel really hard. I felt like I couldn’t enjoy it or didn’t deserve to enjoy it because of all the horrible things happening in the world. I also kept having “flashbacks” of the trauma during sex. It was truly awful. It took a long time to get our sex life back on track.

4. I Spent More Money

My feelings made things that used to matter not matter anymore. For instance, I no longer cared about money. I bought whatever I wanted because I felt like it didn’t matter. If I bought something that brought me joy, could I really put a price on that at this point in my life? (This is a dangerous mindset to have when you’re on a budget—not to mention when you’re a freelancer that owes buku taxes at the end of every year.)

5. I Ate More Food

I also felt like it didn’t matter what I ate, although I generally eat really healthy, if I do say so myself. Who cared if I weighed 130 pounds or 230? Did it really matter? I ate a lot of gluten-free cinnamon raisin toast and vegan cream cheese during this time (I later dropped the few extra pounds I gained before my wedding with intermittent fasting).

6. I Appreciated the Tiny Things

These feelings also made me appreciate the teeny tiny things about my life that made me feel good, even if it was just for a second. These things could have been:

  • Laughing with my family, like I did with my mom that morning at Costco
  • Feeling the sun on my skin
  • Eating some goddamn gluten-free cinnamon raisin toast with vegan cream cheese
  • Spending time with my best friend, even if she didn’t understand what I going through
  • Having a strawberry kombucha (GT’s what’s up!)
  • Snuggling with my bunnies
  • Having a great cup of tea
  • KINDNESS. This one was huge. I felt so touched anytime someone was kind to me. It could have been the girl at the checkout asking me how I was, or telling me to have a good day. It could have been a stranger smiling at me. It could have been my husband saying “I love you”. It could have been my neighbor calling just to say hi. These tiny things meant so much when I felt so bad.

Perhaps most of all, I appreciated feeling better, even if the steps were tiny. Time passed and while some days were fucking hard, things very slowly got easier. And even if some days I truly didn’t feel ok, that really was ok.

These Are the Things That Helped

So as I said, time went on. I made a list of things that helped me feel less like I wanted to die, which you can read in my empath article. In case you don’t feel like reading that article, these are the seven things that really helped me (although I do go into more detail in that other article about each one).

1. Exercising

2. Meditating

3. Activism

4. Reading Eckhart Tolle

5. Grounding

6. Avoiding Triggers

7. Baths

My husband and I keep this list on our fridge to remind me to do at least a couple of these things daily. It really helps me maintain my mental health and strengthen my resilience, so the next time I do experience a trigger, I can handle it better and get through it easier.

Even though I felt so bad some days, these things did help. For instance, maybe I didn’t feel like exercising on a certain day, but I would read Eckhart Tolle, which was hugely helpful. Or maybe I didn’t feel like meditating, but I would ground, which was easy and made me feel better.

What works for me won’t work for everyone; I just know that these things are helpful for me even if I feel like I want to die.

Where Am I Today?

Today, I do still feel like I want to die on occasion. In the months after my break, my life largely consisted of “not ok” moments with rare moments of happiness. Today, it’s the opposite. I feel a lot better than I felt nearly two years ago, although some days are a struggle, I feel nowhere near as bad I felt back then.

I got married less than a year (about 10 months) after my mental break to my amazing husband. At this time, I was doing much better and knew what I needed to do to feel less depressed.

I’m not saying everything is better. Just that I’m doing better.

So why the heck did I write this article?

I’m tired of not talking about my feelings because of the stigmatism associated with mental health and suicide. Over the last nearly two years since I had my break, literally the only person I have talked to about my feelings has been my husband. And that’s not only doing a disservice to him and to me, but to everyone out there who has felt these same feelings and doesn’t want to be labeled as suicidal or depressed or have people freak out about their feelings.

You may not have seen what I’ve seen or experienced what I’ve experienced. But maybe something happened to you that deeply hurt you and marked your soul and has made you feel like you want to die.

My goal in writing this article isn’t necessarily to offer you hope. Do I think the world is going to get better? Yes, I do. But that’s not the point of this article. I’m here to tell you that your feelings are valid. I’m here to tell you that it’s not wrong or bad to feel like you want to die. I’d even go so far as to say that if someone chooses to kill themselves (as my own grandfather did), then that’s a decision that is theirs and theirs alone. No one else lives your life. No one else feels the things you feel. Only you know if you want to keep going.

I hope you do, only because I’ve done it, and I know that I am better because of this—even though I feel differently about life now and things aren’t all roses—and have something to share with the world. I know you do too. It’s up to you if you want to share it though.

I’ve learned that I can make a difference even if it is small. The thing I witnessed—I work every day to stop it from happening again and that brings meaning, even if it feels small sometimes, to my life. It makes me feel like if I die, I won’t be able to make a difference. But I’m here now and I’m working daily to make the world a better place. I know you can too.

If you want to comment on this article with your feelings, know that you are safe here. Your email address is required to comment, but will never be posted publicly. You are also free to reach out to me at jenn@thegreenwritingdesk.com to share your feelings if you don’t want to post them publicly.

(Also please keep in mind I have 100% control over what comments are publicly posted and I will simply delete anything that I feel is criticism or negativity towards either me or another commenter.)

Thank you for reading and for not judging me, the decisions I’ve made, or how I live my life. No one has lived my life but me, so please don’t comment on what you think is best for me. Thank you.

 

Clothing: Tube top with inner boob tube, hammer time pants, and Love Me 2 Times below knee sari simplicity dress, all from Gaia Conceptions

Glitter: Aurora blend from EcoStardust

Tattoos: Floral arm piece by @tokatattoos and dragon back piece by the amazing @anka.tattoo

These 7 Habits Have Dramatically Improved My Sleep Life

As someone who has had lifelong problems sleeping, I know firsthand the frustration that comes with not getting your beauty sleep.

But there’s a silver lining.

All those years of not being able to sleep well and trying different things have helped me slowly improve my sleep life over time.

Now that I’m nearing my 30s and live with my husband, my sleep life has dramatically improved thanks to these five habits I’ve cultivated over the years.

1. No Tech in the Bedroom

My husband and I just keep our bedroom for sleeping (and sex, of course). This means we don’t hang out in there during the day, don’t work in there, and don’t watch TV in there. It’s important to us to not have a TV in our bedroom.

We also don’t bring our laptops into the bedroom either. We do, however, bring our phones, but they are solely for alarm purposes, we never look on our phones in the bed or use them while in the bedroom. My phone is off in the bedroom since I don’t need to wake up at a specific time most days and my husband’s is on airplane mode (scary cell phone radiation, anyone?)

This just our personal philosophy but we don’t want to accumulate a bunch of energy in the bedroom, especially before bed. We find that minimizing our activity in the bedroom and keeping tech out of the bedroom helps the space feel calm and ready for sleep.

2. No Sugar or Caffeine Before Bed

I’ve noticed that I sleep a lot better when doing intermittent fasting, which is how I lost the few pounds I wanted to before my wedding.

I chose to do intermittent fasting by not eating for a period of about 16 hours every day. So essentially, I would eat my regular meals throughout the day, but cut out late night snacks. So I would not eat from about 8 p.m. at night to noon the next day.

This also helped me eliminate sugar and caffeine a few hours before bed. This is a practice I started doing years ago when I found that eating these things at night—think desserts, chocolate, coffee, or even caffeinated tea such as green tea—would make it impossible for me to fall asleep.

3. Using Organic Bedding

I did not realize how much a toxic mattress was killing my sleep life.

A few years ago I realized conventional mattresses are made with dangerous chemicals and can give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs) for years after purchase, which can harm your health and the air quality of your home.

Fortunately, the mattress I had at that time was about a decade old and needed to be replaced, so about a year before our wedding, my husband and I invested in an all-organic mattress. We also chose to invest in organic cotton sheet sets, pillows, and a comforter.

(You can read more about my transition to all organic clothing here and here).

Not only is my organic mattress and bedding so much more comfortable and luxurious than my old bedding (and hella more expensive!), I swear it helps me sleep better knowing I’m not being exposed to toxic chemicals.

4. The Military Sleep Trick

So I know this one is weird but I swear it works! It was developed to help soldiers fall asleep anywhere in less than two minutes.

It’s easy and can be done in three simple steps as you are trying to fall asleep:

  1. Relax your entire body including your facial muscles as you sink into the mattress. Let tension go from places you didn’t realize were tense.
  2. Take ten deep, conscious breaths while keeping your mind clear. For me, if my mind begins to run with a thought, I start over.
  3. Do one of the following three things that most resonates with you:
  • Picture yourself lying in a canoe on a calm lake with only blue sky above you
  • Imagine snuggling in a velvet black hammock in a pitch-black room
  • Repeating “don’t think, don’t think” until you fall asleep

I do the canoe one; if I have trouble sleeping, most nights this helps me fall asleep.

5. No Clock in the Bedroom

We actually don’t have a clock in our bedroom. I haven’t had a clock in my bedroom for the last 12 years.

Looking at the time when I’m trying to fall asleep gives me anxiety so I just don’t see the need to have a clock in our bedroom. Fortunately, I’m a freelancer who works from home so I get to sleep in every single day and don’t need to worry about what time I get up.

Even when you do need to wake up in the morning I recommend setting your alarm and turning your phone on airplane mode and not looking at your phone until the alarm goes off. My husband and I have found this practice super helpful (especially since he needs to wake up in the morning and I don’t).

6. Exercise

I’ve found that exercise plays a huge role in whether or not I sleep well. Usually, regular exercise helps me sleep so much better!

I run but I also lift weights and do yoga on occasion. I also walk a four-mile loop with my neighbor several times a week. Staying active not only relieves stress but helps me fall asleep easier and stay asleep.

7. Addressing My Health Issues

So, of course, many of you know my crazy misdiagnosis story which led me to a wild and wonderful journey of hard lessons in learning how to take care of myself.

I’ve been tested for food intolerances and have eliminated gluten, dairy, genetically modified food, and commercial meat from my diet. I’ve found that, in general, my body doesn’t respond well to grains and so I lead a mostly grain-free diet.

I’m also super sensitive to caffeine and sugar and so keep these very minimal in my diet as well. I’ve worked with numerous herbalists who have helped me to address my minor health issues and supplement my diet so I feel better and live a much more harmonious life these days.

Sleep Is Not Separate

I can usually get to sleep quickly now provided I follow all these guidelines that I’ve naturally incorporated into my routine over the last few years.

Sleep is not separate from the rest of our lives. I’ve found that by considering the effect of my diet and lifestyle on my sleep, I can better care for myself to get that essential good night’s rest!

Do you have any sleep tips that you’ve found have been super helpful?

10 Funny Benefits of Having a Shaved Head

Almost 12 years ago, I shaved off all my hair after having long hair that I hadn’t brushed for months and that had developed these gross knots I liked to call dreadlocks.

I’d had hair my whole life and had never had my head shaved before.

At the time, I was out-of-my-mind sick and was later misdiagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder. Years after that, I discovered all my symptoms were being caused by a gluten intolerance. Today, I just get to skip gluten and feel awesome.

I say all this to say that part of the reason I got all my hair cut off is because I was so sick I couldn’t take care of it. I could barely stand up by myself, and I couldn’t walk without assistance.

But I also had just seen V for Vendetta the year before and completely loved Natalie Portman’s shaved head.

After over a decade with this hairstyle, here are 10 funny benefits of having a shaved head I love.

1. Look Like a Fucking Badass

While seeing myself without hair for the first time was certainly strange, I was kinda in love with it.

I also sleep a lot better without hair, which to me, is one of the best benefits of having a shaved head.

While I did startle every time I went by the mirror the first dozen times or so, I came to see the beautiful shape of my head with a kind of reverence and naked adoration for this new self, even if I was sick at the time.

Today, I’m healthier than ever and I love looking like a fucking badass. I love my shaved head with every single look.

2. Just Feels Good

One of the benefits of having a shaved head is that it just feels really nice. I love the way it feels. My husband loves it. I feel fresh and free and unburdened by my hair.

I don’t hide behind my hair anymore like I used to with my blonde mane—I’m just there and it feels so good to not worry about sleeping, shedding hair all over the house, having to brush my hair, or finding a scrunchi. It just feels so refreshing having a clean buzz.

3. Towels Don’t Get That Wet

This is one of the weird benefits of having a shaved head, but the towels I use just don’t get that wet since I don’t have all this freaking hair to dry.

I don’t have to dry my hair and then dry the rest of my body with a wet towel. I guess I could have just used two towels, one for my hair and the other for my body, but seriously, who wants to do all that laundry?

4. Experience Weather Better

Oh. My. God.

This is probably one of my favorite benefits of having a shaved head.

It feels so good with water, rain, wind, and sun on it. My favorites are feeling the rain on my shaved head and the wind. It’s an indescribable feeling, both these things, one I would have never felt if I hadn’t cut off all my hair.

I feel more connected with the elements without hair and I love the way the weather feels on my skull.

5. Less Likely to Be Kidnapped

I read a book when I was in fourth grade about a girl who got kidnapped. Her attackers held onto her long hair and dragged her into the woods.

Really though, how was she supposed to escape?

I do feel I am less likely to be kidnapped, but maybe the truth is that I’m just less scared to be kidnapped. I mean seriously, what are they gonna grab onto? By the time they figure that out, hopefully they’ll be tased/pepper sprayed/stabbed (by me).

6. Use Less Shampoo

Ok so I definitely use less shampoo and conditioner (and, it goes without saying, other styling products), so I’d say one of the benefits of having a shaved head is saving money on crap like this.

However, it should be noted that I do spend more time cutting my hair.

Lately I’ve been cutting my own hair and doing this an average of every two weeks. It really doesn’t take long but the time adds up I suppose. I spend maybe 10 minutes cutting it every two weeks.

It’s really nice to not have to buy shampoo that often, though. I think my husband and I buy it like once or twice a year.

7. Nothing to Grab in a Cat Fight

So I’ve been in a cat fight before and it’s not frickin fun. Fortunately in that fateful eighth-grade cat fight, I just got scratched, didn’t get my hair pulled or my face cut.

But in the event that stuff goes down and someone wants to grab me, there’s nothing there so good luck with that.

I’m not really planning on being in a cat fight again, just saying.

8. Don’t Get My Hair Caught in Stuff

I’d always get my hair stuck in scrunchis and stuff. It was so annoying and hurt like hell. Now, I don’t get my hair caught in anything, so I feel no pain. It’s really nice.

I also don’t get that weird aching feeling in my head after wearing my hair in a ponytail for too long. I hate that feeling. Now I feel so free.

9. Have So Much More Time

The time that I spend cutting my hair is way less than the time I spent shampooing, brushing, drying, and styling my hair when I did have hair.

I would usually need to figure out what I was doing with my hair for a certain outfit too, which would take time and effort. I also washed my hair every day which was annoying too.

Now, it’s one hairstyle and I go.

10. Less Sweaty

I’m absolutely less sweaty without my mane of hair, which is super nice in the summertime and also when I exercise (especially when I run).

However, I do tend to be a lot colder in the winter. But since I don’t have cold wet hair hanging in my face, I like to think that I stay warmer overall.

Love being less sweaty.

Will I Have a Shaved Head Forever?

Honestly, at this point, I’m planning on having my shaved head for the rest of my life. I’ve grown out my hair twice since I shaved it off twelve years ago and each time have found it very annoying and have hated it.

I truly love my shaved head and feel so fortunate that this hairstyle has rocked my world!

Have you ever shaved your head? How did you feel about it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

5 Ways Herbalists Have Immensely Helped Me

Many of you know the story of how a crazy autoimmune disease I was diagnosed with was just the result of a gluten intolerance. I found out this monumental piece of information with the help of an herbalist when I was 21.

No one I knew had ever seen an herbalist and I’m not sure why I felt driven to find one. Maybe it was because I was facing a life of chemo. Maybe because I was in chronic pain. Or maybe it was just something bigger telling me that this wasn’t the end of my journey.

I’ve worked with two herbalists since the one I originally saw moved away. Here’s how these women have immensely helped me improve my health and quality of life with some simple suggestions!

Note: I am not a doctor. Please take the following information from my experience only. This information is not intended to provide medical guidance.

Discovering the Cause of My Autoimmune Disease (Hint: It was Gluten)

When I was 21, I was told by a well-known doctor in a city near me that I would most likely be on chemotherapy for the rest of my life. Although I felt like I wanted to give up hope at that time, I ended up pursuing another option—finding a natural treatment for my autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

Through an herb shop about an hour away from me, I located an herbalist who agreed to see me. During my second visit with her, she told me that she thought gluten was causing my illness. I thought she was crazy. I hardly knew what gluten was.

She turned out to be right. A protein named gluten was causing my immune system to attack all my muscles and my skin. Within a week of going gluten-free, all my autoimmune symptoms disappeared and I was able to stop taking all of my medication. That was seven years ago.

The fact that I spent over four years on detrimental pharmaceutical medications, gained 30 pounds, and felt sick all the time was all undone by a woman who knew that food could make us sick. Her simple but profound knowledge dramatically changed my life for the better.

Without discovering that root cause of my illness, I would likely still be on all those medications today and still feel terrible. My quality of life would have been compromised all because doctors are still grasping the idea that food can cause such severe illnesses.

Saying Goodbye to My Crazy-Bad Menstrual Cramps

I have more or less always had bad menstrual cramps. They aren’t consistent, though. Some months are absolutely terrible. Other months aren’t bad at all. Trust me, I’ve yet to find a pattern (although I have a few theories after trying to figure it out for the last 16 years).

When I began working with an herbalist to learn more about the Fertility Awareness Method, we also worked on addressing the cause of my crazy bad cramps. The solutions she suggested have helped me to remain mostly pain-free during my period today.

Through drinking a ginger infusion, taking magnesium glycinate, and taking omega-3 supplements, my menstrual cramps have majorly improved. In the last seven months, I have only had one episode of bad pain thanks to her suggestions.

Since, unfortunately, I’ll be having a period for a long time, her help has enabled me to not feel like I want to die just because I am a woman.

Helping Me Realize Fats Are Not Bad

I have yet to have an herbalist not recommend fat to me (except, of course, the horrible kinds like trans fats).

Saturated fat such as animal fat and coconut oil as well as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as avocados and olive oil are all part of a healthy body. Yes, people will argue against this. I’m not getting involved in that discussion here. I’m here to say that my herbalists helped me realize that fats are not bad—in fact, they’re pretty essential.

Through their help, I’ve been getting more fats from all types of sources (except for Twinkies) and have more energy and better skin!

Implementing a Natural Method of Birth Control

The Fertility Awareness Method has been an enriching experience for me and my husband. I would have never been able to learn the method as intimately as I have without my herbalist.

The method enables my husband and I to forgo conventional methods of birth control, many of them toxic, and simply track my cycle via taking my basal body temperature (BBT) and monitoring my cervical fluid to know when I’m fertile and avoid intercourse on those days.

Implementing a natural method of birth control has allowed me to honor my body and also choose a conscious form of contraception that doesn’t rely on toxic pharmaceuticals. This is a huge benefit for someone who doesn’t want kids (cough, that’s me).

Allowing Me to Realize Food Is Medicine

Before I began working with herbalists, I didn’t understand how much food impacts our health. Food is everything to our health. What you put in your body, the supplements you take, whether you choose to smoke and drink, all have huge effects on our systems.

Perhaps this is the most important gift herbalists have given me, being able to realize that I have so many chances to put either medicine or poison into my body. By choosing the foods that I feel are best for me, I choose medicine (by medicine obviously meaning plants and grass-fed, free-range meat).

Whether it’s probiotics or herbs, food and supplements are a powerful form of medicine, one that I feel grateful to have tapped into with the help of a professional.

Working with an Herbalist

I would absolutely recommend working with an herbalist if you’re facing any health issues that do not yet have an identified root cause. In many instances, conventional doctors are only trained to treat our symptoms, not the cause of our illnesses.

Even for people who believe they have discovered the root cause of their illness or symptoms, an herbalist can help you better manage your health. I’m so grateful to have worked with my herbalists to be as healthy as I am today!

How to Get Rid of Butt Acne—7 Simple Habits

If you think acne is frustrating, thinking about how to get rid of butt acne (also called buttne or even assne) is even more frustrating.

Fortunately, butt acne is relatively easy to get rid of, although it does take a little bit of time and effort. With the adoption of healthier habits including eating habits, you can have a clean, smooth-looking bum in no time.

I know no one wants to talk about how to get rid of butt acne, but there are people out there who have lived with it and people out there Googling it, and so here we are.

The following list isn’t necessarily in order of most importance, and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another when it comes to how to get rid of butt acne. So while loose clothing might majorly help you out, dry brushing might not, and vice versa.

Here are seven simple habits that will help you if you’re considering how to get rid of butt acne! 

1. Wear Loose Clothing

If you’re into wearing tight yoga clothes that don’t let your skin breathe, you might be doing your bum a disservice.

Often, yoga clothes and other tight clothes such as leggings are made from synthetic materials like polyester. These toxic clothing materials often suffocate our skin in addition to introducing it to toxins, making it a poor garment choice.

Wearing loose clothing in addition to organic clothing can help you when it comes to how to get rid of butt acne because it actually lets your skin breathe and detoxify itself.

I’m not saying you have to wear loose, flowy cotton skirts forever, but it’s a good idea to wear loose clothing most of the time while trying to get your butt acne to clear up and then you can enjoy wearing tight clothes on occasion.

2. Try Dry Brushing

After reading about some of the benefits of dry brushing, I decided to give it a try.

Basically, it’s just getting a dry brush (which are relatively inexpensive, I think I got mine for $15 on Amazon) and then brushing your skin towards the heart, so starting with your legs and then working up.

I’ve really liked dry brushing although as someone with dry skin, it does tend to be a little harsh on the skin. It’s just another way to exfoliate basically but I have really enjoyed doing it and it’s pretty refreshing and makes your skin feel amazing!

Dry brushing can help your skin recover from bouts of butt acne, just be sure to do it gently and once a day for the best benefits when you’re considering how to get rid of butt acne. 

3. Take Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA and DHA)

I’ve been doing a lot of research about omega-3 fatty acids lately, especially since the majority of mine had always been mostly plant-based (I’m not a big fish person).

In addition to being excellent for inflammation and menstrual cramps, omega-3 fatty acids are also great for the brain and body, including your skin.

Plant-based sources of essential fatty acids include chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, and avocados. These are great, but they provide the body with ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) when the body primarily needs EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

The body can convert ALA into EPA and DHA, but research shows the conversion rate is rather poor. Getting the necessary amounts of EPA and DHA can pretty much only come from fish.

Taking a quality supplement such as cod liver oil (I take fermented cod liver oil) or an omega-3 capsule is your best bet (after my research, here’s one of the best ones I’ve found). I take an omega-3 capsule in addition to raw fermented cod liver oil in a liquid form every day. This can help clear your skin right up when you’re thinking about how to get rid of butt acne!

4. Consider Probiotics

I’ve talked about probiotics in a previous blog post and how finding the right one is really important, as many of them contain milk proteins (which I can’t have, being intolerant to dairy).

However, probiotics provide many benefits to the human body. They help digestion, can clear your skin up, boost energy, and overall provide you with a great foundation for a healthy body.

I take a vegan probiotic supplement a few times a week, but natural sources of probiotics are your best bet (and they’re a lot cheaper). These include anything fermented, such as:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Miso
  • Kefir (do not eat this if you can’t have dairy, although I have yet to explore water kefir)
  • Yogurt (I eat cashew and coconut milk yogurt, no milk)
  • Apple cider vinegar

You don’t need to overdo it on the probiotics—an herbalist once told me they should be considered as medicine, so there’s no need to overdose. A daily serving can be enough to help you when it comes to how to get rid of butt acne and clear up your skin!

5. Exfoliate Regularly

If you don’t exfoliate, you’re missing out on a body pampering routine that will change how you shower (or bathe if you’re a bath person—hello fellow bath lovers!).

Exfoliating helps remove dead skin cells, stimulate circulation, and refresh your skin. I always feel pretty boss after I exfoliate. If you have sensitive skin, you probably shouldn’t exfoliate any more than once a week, but if you have oily or normal skin, two times per week is fine.

I’m really into making homemade exfoliating scrub (this is my all-time favorite recipe here), they are super easy and fun to make. Certain scrubs tend to be harsher on the skin than others. In my experience, I’ve found that salt-based rubs are too harsh on my skin while sugar-based ones are perfect for me.

Exfoliating at least once a week can help improve your skin and help you when it comes to how to get rid of butt acne!

6. Eat Clean

Eating clean sounds easy, but I want to mention food intolerances here since acne is a symptom of an unhappy gut.

Since everyone’s body is different, everyone will react differently to different foods. For instance, I can’t have gluten or dairy, but I’m fine with most other foods. Some people respond fine to gluten and dairy.

A food intolerance is not the same thing as an allergy. Though they both can have dramatic and life-threatening symptoms (yes, my gluten intolerance was actually life-threatening), an intolerance tends to take a day or two to show symptoms while an allergy will have more immediate symptoms.

If a certain food makes you feel a certain way, you might consider removing it from your diet. Food intolerances can cause acne, even butt acne. Other symptoms that you’re reacting to a certain food may include:

  • Muscle pain or weakness
  • Rash or eczema
  • Fatigue
  • Arthritis
  • Gastrointestinal problems (gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, etc.)
  • Brain fog
  • Headaches

This list is by no means complete; even psychiatric symptoms have been shown to be associated with gluten intolerance.

If you suspect you have any food intolerances or need supplementation of any kind, I would really recommend working with a natural health doctor or an herbalist instead of just self-diagnosing and taking random vitamins. I have a vitamin and herbal regimen in addition to my diet that helps me a lot but it took years to develop with professional help!

7. Move!

Our bodies were made to be in motion. Similarly to wearing tight clothing, if you’re not moving throughout the day and are just sitting at a desk, you’re suffocating the skin on your bum. If you want to be successful when you’re considering how to get rid of butt acne, you need to get up and move!

Whether you choose to exercise a few times a week (your best option) or just take numerous breaks throughout the day to take a spin around the office, do it. I promise, your bum will thank you!

Conclusion

So as you can see, working on how to get rid of butt acne will take some time and effort. Switching to loose, organic cotton clothing, exfoliating and dry brushing, and eating clean and supplementing can help you achieve that baby bum skin you’ve missed!

My Experience with Dermatomyositis: How Gluten Was Behind It All

I’ve previously written about my misdiagnosis of dermatomyositis (which was 11 years ago now!) on HuffPost and Natural News. Today, I want to share more about what happened to me all those years ago here on my personal site.

In an effort to not to let what happened define me, I’ve mostly shied away from talking about my diagnosis of dermatomyositis at the age of 16, although I did write about it briefly when I first started my business on The Green Writing Desk.

But here we are, and I realize that part of my work is helping others and sharing something that I used to consider monumental about myself—that I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis and almost five years later, discovered all my symptoms were being caused by a gluten intolerance.

Yes, it’s that simple.

Here’s what happened and how I came to realize a devastating, life-changing illness called dermatomyositis was being caused by one of the world’s most common foods.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. This article is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness or provide medical advice. Please view the following story from my personal experience only. If you have any more questions about my personal experience with dermatomyositis, please feel free to contact me.

The Beginning: Muscle Weakness and Rash

I graduated high school one year early at the age of 16. As many people can testify, I was a punk-ass teenager who had dreadlocks from not brushing her hair and wore men’s clothes to school. I didn’t care about much, and I certainly didn’t care about going to college, which was why I was starting a job as a nanny for a four-year-old boy with autism a week after graduating.

A week after I started my job, about two weeks post-graduation, I was at work one Monday morning when I found I had trouble getting off the toilet. There was a vague muscle ache in my thighs. It was odd, but it wasn’t painful, and I didn’t pay it any attention.

Just days later at the end of that week, a Friday, I was in so much pain and my muscles so affected I couldn’t walk up a set of stairs. I remember going to Starbucks with my friend Kat that night to get passion iced tea, and my legs were in so much pain that I had trouble getting out of the car. I remember crying while trying to walk up the set of curved stairs to my room—I was literally pulling myself up the stairs on the railing. My muscles were giving up.

My disease quickly escalated to the point that I couldn’t work, couldn’t sleep, and couldn’t really do much at all. I first went to an urgent care doctor with my mom and was misdiagnosed with Lyme’s disease, then placed on antibiotics, which made me even sicker.

When the antibiotics didn’t help, we saw another doctor, who admitted he had no clue what was going on, even after I started developing a mild red rash all over my body. This was our family doctor who we’d trusted to care for us for years. I tried to explain to the doctors what it felt like: “It feels like I worked out A LOT, but I haven’t worked out,” and “Everything hurts.”

I had pain medication from my Lyme’s diagnosis and still couldn’t sleep. I was in pain all the time. I felt like I was going to die. This went on for three weeks before I woke up one morning and my legs—my thighs, the initial part of my body that hurt—were extremely swollen. We saw the family doctor once more, who sent us straight over to the hospital, where a bed was waiting for me.

After taking vials of blood and examining my rash, which had come on my face, back, arms, and legs, I was allowed to rest there for a few hours before being woken up in the middle of the night. Turns out I had an irregular heartbeat, and the hospital couldn’t treat me. I was being transferred, to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, at about 4 a.m. The doctors said all my muscles had become involved and were essentially breaking down.

The Middle: Diagnosis and Treatment

I really hated being at Johns Hopkins. It was a crowded, noisy, inner-city hospital in Baltimore, about an hour away from our house, somewhere a farm girl like me had no business being. My roommate was a girl who couldn’t speak and had swollen lips; I got a glimpse of her once through the curtain.

After being at Hopkins for a day or so and running more tests, I was finally diagnosed. A team of doctors stood in front of me and told me that I would be sick for the rest of my life with a disease called dermatomyositis. It did not have a cause, it just happened. It had a treatment, but was incurable. I would need to be on medication. I might not ever feel better.

This was devastating news. I remember sobbing while they told me, and my mom standing next to my hospital bed, telling me to get it together. I couldn’t. It felt like someone telling me that I wasn’t actually going to get better. How was I supposed to feel about that, at 16 years old?

The main doctor on my team, one who was standing there that day, a rheumatologist whose name I will not disclose here, treated me for the next three years. I was treated with high doses of prednisone intravenously, Methotrexate (a chemotherapy drug) via injection, among other anti-inflammatory meds such as Naproxen. After four days, my parents and I finally convinced the hospital to let me go home with all my medicine.

At home, things were different. I couldn’t walk by myself, couldn’t shower by myself, couldn’t really do anything by myself. My family had to help me do all these things. I felt different. It felt like I had been branded with something, and what I felt now had a name I could identify it by: dermatomyositis.

I got out of the hospital a few days before my seventeenth birthday, in the middle of July. For the rest of the summer and into early fall, my parents and I drove to Johns Hopkins twice a week so that I could get intravenous steroid treatments. At home, I did my injection of Methotrexate once a week. Very slowly, I started getting better from dermatomyositis, although I understood it was a chronic disease. Once my dermatomyositis was more or less under control through lots of medication, eventually, I went back to work and had a relatively “normal” life.

Not Quite the End: Relapsing

Three years after my diagnosis of dermatomyositis, I relapsed. I was weaned off most of my medication by this point, and for a couple years, I felt healthier and happier than I had in a long time.

I had lost the 30 pounds I gained from all the prednisone and then some, weighing in at about 125 pounds when I was about 140 when I’d graduated high school. I started college over a year after I was diagnosed, in the fall of 2008, just going part-time to better manage my stress. I even had a few flings with guys I’d met in college. I felt more like a person and less like a patient, until the fall of 2010, when the first relapse happened.

After experiencing an intense period of stress, my legs started hurting again and I felt fatigued. I was afraid. My bloodwork didn’t show any muscle inflammation; my CK levels were normal. My rheumatologist from Hopkins put me back on my medication—lower doses than before—but it helped me get better.

I didn’t want to be on the medication for any longer than I had to. I’d met a guy in my phlebotomy summer program in 2009 who had gotten me into eating healthy. For the first time, I was paying attention to what I ate, buying my own food, and trying to be better about taking care of myself and more conscious of what I put into my body. The medication made me gain weight, feel gross, break out, and the Methotrexate made me feel nauseous.

So, about eight months after relapsing, in 2011, after going off nearly all my medication, I relapsed again just a few months later. At this point, my Hopkins doctor suggested I find another doctor, given that I was well over the age to be treated by a pediatric rheumatologist.

After asking around, I went to see a doctor in Annapolis who was highly recommended by some women in my lupus group. Lupus is a close cousin of dermatomyositis and these were the closest people I could find to relate to. I’d never met anyone else with dermatomyositis. The group was a helpful support to me during this time of believing I had dermatomyositis.

After seeing this doctor, she told me I would most likely be on chemotherapy for the rest of my life to manage my dermatomyositis. I walked out of the office that day and felt completely and utterly hopeless. The sky was gray and overcast, and as I walked to my car, I tried not to cry. I had just turned 21 a few months earlier. I felt like I was going to die.

The End: Discovering the Root Cause of my Dermatomyositis

It didn’t take me long to realize that I couldn’t accept this fate for my life. I needed someone else who could help me. This doctor was not it. I tentatively felt hope. Maybe this wasn’t the end.

I’m not sure where I got it in my head to find an herbalist, but within a week, I began researching online and placed countless phone calls, trying to find someone who could help me. I spoke to a woman who was moving, so she said she couldn’t help me, but to not give up. Eventually, I found Barbara. I began seeing Barbara in November 2011.

During my second meeting with Barbara, she looked at me and said, “I think gluten is causing your illness.” I was confused. I’d heard about gluten, but only in passing. “Doesn’t that cause stomach problems?” I asked. “It can cause many symptoms,” she told me. In my mind, there was no way it was causing my dermatomyositis.

I thought she was crazy. I even told her so. “I was diagnosed at one of the best hospitals in the country,” I told her. “If they couldn’t figure out what was causing my illness, you won’t be able to.” Barbara maintained that once we’d built my immune system back up a little bit, that she wanted me to go gluten-free.

Ideas are strange things. They grow in our minds. And as I left our meeting that day, her words stuck with me. I did more research and even talked to a friend about it. She had celiac disease, and when I told her what my herbalist said, she didn’t think the idea sounded that crazy. She even gave me a book to read, The Gluten Connection by Shari Lieberman.

By the time I got a couple of chapters into the book, I was convinced that gluten was causing my illness. This is what’s happening to me! I remember thinking. I felt a stirring in my soul that can only be described as a gut feeling that this was it.

Although Barbara didn’t want me to go gluten-free yet, I couldn’t stop myself. I immediately stopped eating gluten. Gluten is mostly in bread products, but it can also be in other weird food products such as soy sauce and beer. I didn’t care. I wasn’t eating any of it.

A few days into my gluten-free diet, my family remarked that I looked weak and pale. It was probably my body detoxing from the gluten; I didn’t know. They were worried about me and weren’t exactly supportive of my decision. Of course, I was still taking medication for my dermatomyositis.

A couple more days into my gluten-free diet, almost one week in, I had an extremely long day. I went to school, then work, then to a friend’s house to hang out. My legs, which were almost always in pain, especially after a long day, didn’t hurt. I remember telling my friend: “My legs don’t hurt. This is amazing!”

My dermatomyositis symptoms disappeared about a week after going gluten-free. A couple weeks later, I weaned myself off all my medication for dermatomyositis, dug my feet in for the long haul of being gluten-free, and I haven’t looked back since.

Now: I’ve Never Felt Better

It’s been almost seven years since I went gluten-free, and to this day, I have experienced no symptoms of dermatomyositis and have taken no medication for the illness.

After reviewing my medical history paperwork from both hospitals, I realized that I had never been tested for gluten intolerance. The doctors truly had no idea what was wrong with me. They made their best guess based on their training, treated me, and I got better. But my immune system couldn’t sustain itself without the medication, because the root cause of my disease went unchecked: gluten.

Once I removed gluten from my diet, my body got better. I got stronger, healthier, and gained a little bit of weight back from my skinny frame in my late teens. Today, I work out several times a week (running, yoga, weights, walking) and come in right around 130. I feel healthier than I ever have.

I don’t necessarily blame the doctors. They are only required to take one nutrition class throughout their entire medical education. How could they have possibly known that food was making me sick? How could they have known that my illness wasn’t some cosmic mystery, that it had a cause, a name, and that name was gluten?

I don’t blame my parents either. Should they have taken me to the hospital earlier, rather than waiting three weeks to get me the help I needed? Of course. But, like any other parents, they did the best they could with what they had. I was a child, I didn’t know better, and I was out-of-my-mind sick; I couldn’t advocate for myself. I trusted them to get me help. Although that “help” came much too late, I don’t think it was entirely their fault. I saw the doctor three times during those three weeks I was sick in the beginning, yet only on the third and final time was I sent to the hospital.

I don’t blame myself either. There was a period of time when I did, but the truth is that I didn’t know. I grew up eating Oreos and Hot Pockets. I didn’t know that food could make me sick. I ate what my parents bought and that was it. I didn’t know what gluten was when I was sixteen, didn’t realize that I was making myself sick. So I’ve had to let that go. I know better now, and that’s what matters.

So What Really Happened?

What happened is that my body, for whatever reason, decided to start reacting to gluten and create such a severe immune response that I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis at the age of 16.

If I had caught my disease earlier, it’s likely that it wouldn’t have gotten so bad, although we still wouldn’t have figured out that gluten was the problem. I would have still been on those terrible drugs.

Gluten is a protein. When we eat food, our body is responsible for breaking that food down into digestible particles that the body can use for nutrients. My body decided to start treating gluten like an invader, and since my body was using gluten to nourish itself, my body was attacking pretty much every part of itself.

It sounds weird, yes, but the body can all the sudden decide it doesn’t like something and start reacting to it, quite literally overnight.

I have a couple of theories for why my body all the sudden decided to start reacting to gluten which landed me with a dermatomyositis diagnosis:

  1. I had just graduated high school a year early, had literally no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and was all the sudden expected to figure it out (read: stress).
  2. My family and I had just finished adding an addition onto our house (of which we did much of the work ourselves), and I was exposed to untold numbers of chemicals through paint, insulation, polyurethane, new carpeting, etc. These materials have highly toxic chemicals in them and I was exposed to them every day for several months.

Do I know for sure what caused my body to feel that gluten was the enemy? No. Do I care? Not really. This is my life now, and I’m so grateful that instead of being on chemo, steroids, and other anti-inflammatory drugs, that I just get to skip bread and feel better than I ever have in my entire life.

FAQs

  1. Do you have celiac disease?

I do not believe so, I believe I have a gluten intolerance. Gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance, and celiac disease are all slightly different versions of each other. It’s also important to remember that an intolerance is different from an allergy. I am not allergic to gluten, my body simply doesn’t tolerate it.

  1. Do you have any lasting effects from your disease?

Yes, but they’re minor. When I get really stressed out, my face gets red and my legs hurt. These symptoms are always temporary and fade within a few hours (provided I deal with my stress!).

I also have to pee frequently thanks to all the prednisone I was on. My weight gain from the prednisone also gave me mad stretch marks. I’m also having minor symptoms of a benign tumor on my pituitary gland; whether this is the result of my illness and all those drugs, I don’t know.

  1. Do you still see a doctor?

I have a deep distrust of conventional doctors, of course. I do see an integrative doctor when I need to and I work with an herbalist to address any other health problems I have.

  1. Did you contact your doctors after you found out?

I did contact my Hopkins rheumatologist to let her know, about two years after going gluten-free. Her response was very nice:

It is great to hear from you. I am very glad to hear that you are doing so well now. You are right—there is still a lot to learn about autoimmune diseases and the interaction between diet and inflammation. I am so happy that a gluten-free diet is working for you. It sounds like you have a bright future planned—please keep in touch and let me know how you are doing. I am sure you will be very successful.

  1. So do you have dermatomyositis?

I do not believe I have dermatomyositis. Dermatomyositis isn’t like other illnesses such as HIV or Lyme’s disease: there is no definitive marker in your blood or tissues that proves that you have the disease. Doctors make their best guess based on your symptoms and bloodwork. I believe my immune system was simply responding to a threat, and when the threat wasn’t removed, my symptoms got so severe that they warranted a diagnosis of dermatomyositis. After seven years of not eating gluten and having no symptoms of dermatomyositis without taking medication, I can only assume gluten was the culprit the whole time. 

I’m looking forward to having a bright future without gluten in it, and feel so fortunate that all these years later, I’m still alive, disease-free, and loving life. A huge thank you to everyone who was part of this journey, even if it wasn’t in the way I wanted or imagined. Would I have preferred to not have been diagnosed with dermatomyositis? Of course. But this is my journey, and I can’t be sorry for any of it.

Also, I wrote a research essay on gluten and dermatomyositis while I was at Penn State. If you’re interested in reading more about dermatomyositis and proof that other people like me who had a dermatomyositis diagnosis have healed from a gluten-free diet, just email me and I’ll send it over!

Thank you so much for reading!

5 Things I Learned After Using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) for a Year

When I was first looking for an herbal method of birth control, I found several different herbs that were reputed to work. It was in looking for this information that I stumbled across an herbalist who taught the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM).

We quickly connected and there began my journey to learn the method. It seemed safer and more reliable than using the herbs I’d found, and its benefits were numerous—tracking my cycle would give me more insight into my health and empower me to consciously not conceive instead of relying on an outside power.

After using the FAM for over a year, here are five different things I’ve learned.

1. every cycle is different

Before I began tracking my cycle for real, I’d estimate on what day my period would come based on what day it came last month. Turns out, predicting one cycle based on another is not how the FAM works.

Every cycle is different. On some months, I ovulate 12 days into my cycle, while other months, it’s not until 19 days in. I’ve learned that just because I ovulated late last month does not mean that I’ll ovulate late this month, so it’s not ok to rely on that information.

I’ve learned to honor the subtle differences that each cycle brings. Some months, it was obvious what day I had ovulated, while other months, I needed help from my herbalist to determine the exact day. Through honoring the differences, I’ve learned to listen to my cycle rather than trying to tell it what to do or predict its mysteries (which, of course, never works).

2. squatting helps

So yes, the FAM does require daily cervix checking. The method has received some negative attention for this, with some healthcare professionals saying that it’s not sanitary to touch your cervix that often.

I’m here to say that as long as you wash your hands before checking your fluid or your cervix, you’ll be just fine.

When I first began using the FAM, I couldn’t even find my cervix half the time. I’d locate it during my period for my menstrual cup, but now, I was having problems. My herbalist suggested I squat in order for my cervix to appear. As someone who’s cervix tends to be high (yes, it moves!), this was hugely helpful.

Checking the texture and opening of your cervix can be an indicator of ovulation, but the primary indicator is the texture of your fluid. If it’s stretchy, ovulation is not far away!

3. it brings peace of mind

At first, my partner and I were hesitant about the method. To be safe, I had the herb wild carrot as a backup plan for contraception.

Then, after having a pregnancy scare because we had intercourse on a day that I did not check my fluid, we decided to commit to the FAM one hundred percent. Since we’ve made that commitment (never having intercourse on fertile days—typically from day 10 to 20 of my cycle—and only having intercourse on days we know are safe), we feel much more secure using the method.

Practice has helped a lot too, as has working with a professional. My herbalist has answered all my questions, gently guided me, and also been firm and clear when my assumptions were wrong (it’s not ok to assume intercourse is safe if you have not checked your fluid just because you are only a few days into your new cycle).

4. it’s not that hard

The FAM seemed extremely complicated and daunting at first. There were charts. There was a thermometer. There was the finding of my cervix. How the heck was I supposed to keep up with all this?

I initially thought that taking my temperature and checking my fluid every single day would feel overwhelming; now, they’re just part of my routine. Of course, it was an adjustment at first, like anything else. However, my partner and I feel grateful to have found a method that we feel works for us with no side effects.

5. my body’s rhythm

This is perhaps the best thing I’ve learned from the FAM—my body’s natural rhythm.

After over a year of using the method, I know what’s normal and what’s not. I’m more familiar with my menstrual cycles, what my fluid looks like before ovulation, and how long my cycles typically last.

Being familiar with my body and all the amazing little things it does has afforded me insight and clarity into my health and femininity. My partner and I feel more enlightened using this method and we have concrete knowledge on when we can have intercourse and when my vagina is on lockdown due to ovulation.

IS IT WORTH IT?

Absolutely, although the FAM isn’t for everyone. I’m grateful that it works for me and that I’m able to engage in a form of birth control that I feel is not harmful to my body. Yes, I’m still learning, just as we all are. The FAM has taught me many things, just like life, and I’m grateful to have had this opportunity to be its student!

Why We Need to Say No to Pharmaceutical Birth Control

I’m going to be honest here—I do not, nor have I ever, taken birth control pills.

I just haven’t had a need for them. I chose to abstain from sex during my teenage years. As I got older and realized the impact that pharmaceutical medications have on our bodies, I couldn’t help but wonder—why would people take these pills?

I guess having to take a pill every day isn’t nearly as bad as carrying an unwanted child for nine months. When you put it that way, it seems blissfully simple.

Let’s not forget the fact that many women go on birth control not to avoid pregnancy, but rather to control difficult or heavy periods. Some women even get prescribed birth control simply because they have premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which consists of symptoms women commonly experience before their menstrual cycle starts.

Regardless of why women choose to go on birth control—some at terribly young ages—a need has arisen to question why.

There are safer, more natural methods to birth control. I’m not against birth control. What I am against is the pharmaceutical companies profiting from the harm we women are doing to our bodies by taking these pills every day.

So let’s talk about why we need to say no to pharmaceutical birth control.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or nutritionist. The content contained in this blog post is for educational purposes only. 

A Brief History of Birth Control Pills

The need for birth control goes back centuries. Pulling out (also called the withdrawal method) is one of the oldest methods of birth control.

Pharmaceutical birth control can trace its roots back to Mexico. A chemist by the name of Carl Djerassi in Mexico created birth control by synthesizing compounds from Mexican Wild Yam (which is one of the herbal methods for natural birth control that we’ll discuss later).

The year was 1951 and chemists at pharmaceutical companies were looking for a way to provide birth control to women—but in a synthetic version that they could patent and profit off of. Since people cannot patent nature, no profit was to be made on the natural, Mexican Wild Yam version of birth control. Djerassi could have been credited with the invention of the birth control pill if he’d had the means to test and distribute this product.

In 1952, a pharmaceutical company with the means Djerassi lacked created synthetic progesterone, which hits the market as the pill Enovid in 1960. Despite the fact that women experienced side effects of depression, stroke, cancer, and blood clots, the pill was still deemed safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). By 1970, several more pharmaceutical companies had FDA-approved birth control drugs on the market to get their share of the profit.

It seemed like a miracle—but for whom? The pharmaceutical companies that profited from what’s now a $2.8 billion dollar industry, or the women who no longer had to worry about getting pregnant?

The Risks of Pharmaceutical Birth Control

The side effects of birth control continued to reveal themselves over the years.

Pharmaceutical birth control has been shown to increase the risk of breast, cervical, and liver cancer (it’s been shown to decrease the risk of ovarian cancer, so hey—increase your risk for three or more cancers while decreasing your risk for one, woo hoo!) It has also been linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack, which is the leading cause of death among women in America.

Hormonal oral contraception has also been linked to:

  • Migraines
  • Infertility
  • Decreased bone density
  • Yeast infections (candida overgrowth, which has a wide variety of unpleasant symptoms)
  • Blood clotting
  • High blood pressure
  • Weight gain
  • Mood disorders
  • And more!

In addition to this, birth control pills produce waste that affects the environment. What this means is that hormones are ending up in our ecosystems, therefore altering life as we know it.

Covering Up Symptoms Rather Than Addressing the Problem

Women’s bodies change when they’re on the pill. We no longer ovulate because our body is tricked into thinking that we’re already pregnant. When we stop taking the pills, we’re supposed to get our period and menstruate as normal.

Birth control pills often cover up symptoms that women commonly experience before and during their period—for instance, acne, mood swings, and painful menstrual cramps. These medicines do not address the root cause of these problems. Our bodies are trying to tell us something when we experience symptoms such as this. For instance, consider:

  • Acne is usually a result of a food intolerance or a lack of fresh foods and omega-3s in the diet. A poor diet can also lead to bad menstrual cramps!
  • Muscle cramping can be a symptom of magnesium deficiency. Simply by getting more magnesium along with calcium and vitamin D in your diet can help prevent painful periods.
  • Poor pelvic circulation was found to be the cause of my painful cramping, and some intensive periods of ginger tea and the right dose and type of magnesium cleared that right up.

What Can We Do?

Say no to pharmaceutical birth control. Say no to a billion-dollar industry that’s increasing our risk for certain types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and hormonal problems. Say no to animal testing. Say yes to alternative methods!

If we’re taking the pill as a contraceptive

We have so many other choices! From the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) to Neem oil, Mexican Wild Yam, Queen Anne’s Lace, Slippery Elm Bark, and more, the herbal methods we can choose from are numerous.

My partner and I use the Fertility Awareness Method, which took some time and training from a professional herbalist to learn. It’s important to learn what method works best for you. Like any method of birth control, nothing is 100% effective at preventing pregnancy, so it’s important to be informed and diligent about what you choose.

If you choose to go with a natural method, working with an experienced herbalist can help ensure the best chances of pregnancy prevention success. I would absolutely not recommend Googling these things and trying them on your own, especially if you are not ready for a child.

If we’re taking the pill to reduce period symptoms

Diet can alleviate many of these symptoms, as can proper nutrient intake. Everyone should have the right to eat healthily and know their body. We have the ability to get tested and know if we’re deficient in any nutrients and take the proper steps to correct it. We have the right to a healthy body and healthy choices.

Regardless of what symptoms you’re experiencing surrounding your menstrual cycle, work with a professional to discover and address the root cause of the problem. Attempting to find a solution on your own can work, but it typically takes a lot more time, effort, and money. Working with an herbalist or other natural doctors can help you stop your period pain, reduce your symptoms, and help you feel better during your cycles!

Do we need another reason to say no to harmful contraceptive pills that are man-made? Why not just use the natural substances and eliminate the harmful side effects? With a little more knowledge about our bodies as well as the plants that can help us, we can better understand our choices for pregnancy prevention. Let’s say no to pharmaceutical birth control and save our bodies and our environment!

Organic Clothing Review—Gaia Conceptions, PACT Organic, and Rawganique

Welcome to my organic clothing review of three companies I’ve found worthy of this post.

A little more than a year ago, I realized many of my clothes were made out of toxic fibers that were actually polluting the earth and potentially exposing me to carcinogens.

What’s a girl to do?

I began looking for alternatives, which wasn’t at all easy. Everything I found seemed to be blended with synthetic fibers. I was annoyed and disheartened—where were the pure clothing companies?

I found a few that I love and that I think meet the standards for ultra-pure stuff. If you’re cleaning out your closet and want to find alternatives to synthetic fibers, check out these brands. You won’t be disappointed!

So which ones have the best stuff and which one did I like the most? Here’s my organic clothing review of three organic clothing companies.

FYI: I did not work with any of these companies to construct this post. The information contained in this post is my honest opinion and these companies are largely unaware that I am even writing this. I do not engage in paid advertising or promotion on my site.

Rawganique

Rawganique was one of the first clothing companies I found for this organic clothing review. I wasn’t really feeling their stuff; it looked really raw and outdated for my taste. I did end up ordering some things from them, however. Here’s what I think.

Clothing: The only clothing I got from Rawganique was a pair of fleece sweatpants and some socks.

Now, the fleece sweatpants were attractively priced (you’ll soon find that organic clothing is expensive) and I love them. Warm and comfortable. The socks, I hate. The fabric is soft but extremely raw, contains no elastic, and shed everywhere. They were also expensive and I will not be ordering them again.

A picture of those strange socks from Rawganique. I mostly wear them to bed now or around the house.

Bedding: I ordered a couple pillows and an organic comforter from Rawganique, both of which I really like.

Conclusion: If you’re looking for the purest of the pure, Rawganique is your store. They are virtually the only company I could find online that makes socks and underwear without elastic in the fabric. I also plan on ordering another pair of sweatpants from them!

Their prices are on the high side although their shipping costs are reasonable. Their customer service was extremely prompt, which was great.

PACT Organic

I was also able to find PACT Organic online for this organic clothing review. Their selection is pretty minimalistic, but they have all the basics. Here’s the deal.

Clothing: I bought a couple long-sleeved shirts from PACT that I adore. They are simple, basic, and go with everything. I also bought a pair of sweatpants from them, which aren’t as thick and warm as the ones from Rawganique, but they are still 100% organic cotton and they’re really comfortable and less than half the price.

I usually wear PACT as a base layer, you can see a black t-shirt here under my Gaia shirt.

I’ve gotten some free socks from PACT as well, and although they’re blended with synthetic fibers, they fit way better and are much cuter than the ones from Rawganique. They’re cheaper, too! Bonus for PACT: some things you buy come with a slip so you can go online and get free socks. It’s really easy and their socks rock!

Conclusion: PACT Organic uses synthetic fibers in a lot of their clothing. Their socks, underwear, sports bras, and even some of their shirts and pants use polyester or elastane. I don’t like this about PACT. What I do like is that their stuff is very cheap compared to some organic clothing, and their basics are absolutely worth the price. Their shipping is fast and free, and their returns are super simple and also free.

Update: I recently ordered some more stuff from PACT and felt like their quality had diminished somewhat. I guess the old saying goes–you get what you pay for!

Gaia Conceptions

I stumbled upon Gaia Conceptions through Etsy, and I’m thrilled that I did. They are my favorite part of this organic clothing review 🙂

Their clothing was much more of my style than Rawganique was and their selection was way better than PACT Organic. It’s much more expensive, however.

Gaia Conceptions features handmade, eco-friendly clothing. Their pieces are truly works of art and their fabrics are to die for! The majority of their clothing is synthetic-fiber free, but you can choose to get stretchy fabrics from them if you like.

Clothing: Gaia Conceptions’ clothing is second to none. The eco-friendly dyes, the colors, the cuts, the design, it’s all stunning. From summer essentials to winter warmers, Gaia Conceptions has just about anything you can think of. I’ve gotten so many pieces from here and have a few favorites.

The Gypsy Petal Back Long Dress from Gaia Conceptions in 100% organic cotton knit. Color: squash.

The downside to Gaia Conceptions is that since they offer natural plant dyes in addition to their selection of low-impact dyes, the plant dyes come out all different colors. They show the colors on the models on their site, but that may not be at all the color you end up with. This is true for all of their plant dyes including brazilwood, sage, sunshine, poppy, and indigo. I think Gaia could do a better job of letting its customers know that these plant dyes vary hugely, however, they do disclose on their site that all dyes are subject to variation, even the low-impact ones that aren’t considered pure plant dyes.

The Priestess Sleeve Ballerina Wanderer Short Dress in 100% organic cotton knit. Color: raisin.

The other bad thing about this is that once you have a piece, you’re stuck with it. It doesn’t matter if the piece is damaged, incorrect, etc. It’s yours. Gaia makes you pay for return shipping for them to correct or replace the product, and they will absolutely not take a piece back just because you don’t like it. This is conscious consumerism right here.

Gaia’s customer service is prompt although again, their return policy should absolutely be noted before purchasing anything. These clothes take up to a month to make and ship and they’re expensive, so you want to be absolutely sure that you’re getting what you want and are willing to accept imperfection if you choose to go with a natural plant dye.

Conclusion: Although expensive, Gaia Conceptions’ handmade clothing is well-made, locally based in North Carolina, and truly unique. You will not find free shipping here and while they include free gifts with each order, you will rarely find discounts. Around the holidays and equinoxes they will typically have 10% off your order. I’m surprised to say that this clothing is somehow worth every penny.

Did you guess that Gaia Conceptions was my favorite organic clothing company for this organic clothing review? 😉

What to Know When Buying Organic Clothing

I had no idea what I was getting into when I was searching for organic clothing for this organic clothing review. Here’s what you should know if you’re considering making the switch.

It’s more expensive. You’ll pay much more for organic, natural fibers than you will for non-organic, synthetic ones.

Fabrics that are blended with synthetics are cheaper. Anything you find on an organic clothing website that’s been blended with elastane, spandex, or polyester is cheaper than the pure stuff. Many people like their leggings, underwear, and socks to have a bit of fit to them.

Some pieces are unique. If you get pieces that are handmade—which some organic pieces are—you should expect variations in the color and cut. You can contact the company if you have any questions before purchasing!

It’s a different buying experience. Don’t expect to buy organic clothing and get the same experience as you do at Forever 21. This is not that. These clothes are harder to find while you’re out. They don’t look or feel the same as synthetic fibers. The customer service is different. You will feel different wearing them. They are much more expensive. You will need to take better care of them.

Get some freaking plant-based detergent. I use Dr. Bronner’s for everything, but if you don’t, you should really invest in some plant-based detergent for your new organic clothing. Plus don’t you know all the big-name brands test on animals?

You can utilize thrift stores. If you can’t afford to pay for new organic clothing, why not check out some used stuff? Even if it’s not organic, 100% natural fibers such as hemp and cotton are the next best thing. Your local thrift store may have some options!

 

Have you ever tried to shop for organic clothing? Making the switch is an investment. It can feel painful to pay $90 for a t-shirt when you could buy one on clearance at a department store for $5.

When you think about your impact on the world, it doesn’t feel like that much money, though. Plus, you’re much thriftier with your cash when you buy natural fibers because they’re so much more expensive.

I now have a semi-minimalistic closet with just a few essentials and all my favorite organic fabrics in there. It was difficult finding the right companies for this organic clothing review, but it felt so worth it to get rid of all my toxic clothing and invest in a few pieces that truly inspire me!

Do you know of any organic pure clothing companies that rock? I’d love to hear from you if so! Happy shopping 🙂 

3 Reasons Why I Gave Up Hating My Body After 25

For years, I was self-conscious of my body.

It started with my breasts. Then my weight. Then it was my stomach. Next thing you know, I was cripplingly self-conscious.

After ditching wearing a bra after 15 years, I’m done feeling self-conscious of my body.

The last three years since graduating college, I have grown immensely. No, I haven’t necessarily advanced in my career but personally, I have triumphed. I was tired of feeling like I wasn’t good enough or that people were judging me.

The truth is that people are judging me. But I also realized another truth around the time I turned 25—I just didn’t fucking care.

Here are the three reasons why I gave up hating my body after I turned 25.

1. I’m Stuck With It

It seems really stupid to spend money on plastic surgery when I’ve been gifted this gorgeous, amazing body. Why would I shell out thousands of dollars for something that’s already perfect?

The truth is that I was born this way. It was time to embrace my body, not hate it.

Hiking near The Dish in Stanford, California. Look at all that armpit hair!

I furthered cultivated this practice by getting rid of all my toxic clothing and buying pieces that I felt inspired by. Getting rid of clothes that were full of toxins and promoted a negative body image felt so freeing to me.

I was also able to sell some clothes I didn’t use and get some of that money back.

I’m stuck with my body, and I’m starting to have trouble seeing why that’s a bad thing.

2. It Was Hurting My Relationships

Turns out, crippling self-confidence issues are not sexy.

I was not only hurting myself, but I was hurting the people close to me. I have an amazing fiancé who couldn’t understand why I was so self-conscious.

It was just my body. It was only this perfect thing that grounded me in this world. I was a goddess and I couldn’t see it.

jenn ryan

Being a mermaid in Nantahala National Park, North Carolina. Yes, those are my breasts and yes, I lack the ability to care what you think about them.

I was ready to stop hurting my relationship with my fiancé and with myself. I was ready to embrace every single part of myself—from the hair on my body to my scars to my stretch marks, they’re all part of my stunning self.

My relationship also improved once I let go of the notion that I was my body. The truth is that I’m not my body. I’m not the things I identify with. I am only life.

Letting go of my hatred towards my body image only helped me become more of my best self.

3. I’m Ready to Be My Best Self

Once I was freed from all the perceived imperfections and struggles that kept me chained, I was free to fly.

I became more confident in just about everything. I stopped caring what people thought. I realized that there are very few things that actually matter in life.

Taking some pics at my house in Maryland with one of my rabbits, Fiver.

What I was not prepared to do was spend the rest of my life hating my body, letting that hatred hinder my relationships, and most of all, hold me back from being my best self.

I’m proud to say that I love my body despite what other people might perceive as its flaws.

Thank you to everyone who teaches me patience. Thank you to everyone who thinks not wearing a bra is a public nuisance. Thank you to everyone who tells me body hair is disgusting. I love my body and giving up hating it was one of the best things I’ve ever done.