The Five Stages of Grief and Plastic Surgery

I got plastic surgery five weeks ago. I was so excited about the surgery (I got an elective double mastectomy without nipple grafts—you can read the story here) that it didn’t seem to me that I could feel anything other than wildly excited about having my dream of not having breasts come true.

However, I had enough sense to know that I would likely experience many different emotions after the surgery—and not all of them would be positive.

As the surgery got closer, I became less excited and more anxious, despite knowing that I had made the right decision. Of course, I couldn’t anticipate the exact emotions that I would feel after the surgery. I was surprised by some of them. In the months before my surgery, I wondered: would I miss my breasts? Would I think I had made a huge mistake? What I went through was a little like the five stages of grief after my plastic surgery procedure.

Denial

It didn’t feel like my breasts were gone for a while after the procedure. It’s hard to explain this to people. I had two wounds on my chest after my surgery, two long incisions starting in the middle of my chest and extending to the end of each armpit. I had stitches. I didn’t feel “free” or unburdened by not having breasts anymore. Instead, I couldn’t lift my arms over my head and I had a bandage on that was wrapped so tight that I couldn’t take a deep breath.

For the first week, before the bandage came off and I got to see my new chest for the first time, I literally felt like I was wearing a corset and that my breasts were simply smushed underneath that white binder (it didn’t help that my chest was numb, so I couldn’t really feel anything).

In a way, it felt like I was in denial that I had just had major surgery and that both my breasts were gone. When the surgeon removed my bandages at my post-op appointment and I saw my new chest for the very first time, I finally realized that they weren’t there. They were gone forever.

Anger

Why did I do this to myself?

It was hard not to wonder this in the first week, where for two days, I was so nauseous from the anesthesia that I couldn’t walk to the bathroom by myself. Where I couldn’t even lift a glass to my mouth and had to drink from a straw. Where I cried and thought that it was stupid of me to have maxed out two new credit cards to pay for this elective procedure.

I felt mad simply at the fact that I wanted so badly to have my breasts removed that I had actually gone through with this expensive and life-changing procedure. It was hard not to feel like the whole thing had been a giant mistake. My husband was very reassuring and told me my feelings were normal. After all, I couldn’t take a deep breath, bathe, or take care of my beautiful bunnies. It was natural that I’d be pissed, but at the time, it was hard to not be hard on myself.

Bargaining

What if I had gotten a different procedure done? The surgeon had asked me if I considered a breast reduction or another surgery such as a breast lift to “correct” my breasts. But my desire to get my breasts removed wasn’t about the way they looked; it was about the way I felt, and I just wanted them completely gone.

Should I have gotten a double mastectomy? Maybe removing my breasts wasn’t the right decision. Maybe I would miss them one day. Maybe I would find that, years from now, I would want to live my life as a woman with boobs.

I know this isn’t quite like the traditional bargaining stage of grief, but it’s difficult not to wrestle with yourself and consider if you might have taken another path. What I was facing in that moment—a lifetime with a new body that I was still getting used to—felt unbearable in a weird way, and thinking about alternatives to my decision was a result of that.

Depression

This is the part where I cried and told Ian (my husband) that I was afraid he wouldn’t love me anymore. Ian has always been amazing and so reassuring. We had so many conversations about my decision to remove my breasts, and have talked a lot about my feelings about my breasts over our 10 years of knowing each other and our two years of marriage.

I think what got to me was that almost every single person I told about the surgery asked about Ian first.

“What does Ian think?”

“Is Ian ok with this?”

“Did Ian know you were thinking about doing this before you got married?”

“I feel bad for Ian.”

After the surgery, I was feeling very emotional and experiencing a lot of feelings and I think I didn’t allow myself the space to acknowledge how much it had affected me that so many people had asked about Ian’s feelings about my body. News flash: Ian didn’t marry me for my breasts, and it’s my body, not his.

But lying in bed on the third day after surgery, Ian held my hand while I cried and I told him that I was afraid he wouldn’t love me anymore or find me attractive. I finally gave myself space to process these feelings. He was reassuring and we talked about our feelings, but I still felt depressed that not only was I recovering from major surgery, but that I had made a decision that I couldn’t take back (not that I wanted to take it back, but there’s something very sobering about making a decision that you can’t change).

Acceptance

I saw my new chest for the first time a week after the surgery. I was lying back on the chair in the exam room at my plastic surgeon’s office while the surgeon and an assistant unwrapped my bandages. There was a part of me that felt like my breasts were going to pop out after they unwrapped the bandages. I watched, looking down as the last bandage was removed and my new chest felt the cold air for the first time. “Welcome to your new chest,” the surgeon said.

It was strange looking down and seeing how small my chest looked. My breasts were a DD cup, and I had some fat around them, so I had also had liposuction during the procedure to prevent “dog ears”—pockets of fat left in the armpit area after a double mastectomy, as they’re known in the transgender community.

When I saw my new chest, I was amazed at how good it looked. Like I’d been dreaming for the past 15 years. Yes, I had stitches and purple marker and some blood around the wounds, but this was how I had wanted to look for so long. When I saw my new chest, I felt acceptance blooming in my heart, a love for something I could have only imagined in my other life.

It’s only been a little over a month, but I love my new chest. I’m still processing all the feelings that I’m experiencing as a result of choosing to get my breasts removed at age 30. But as I navigate my new body and my new life, I’m grateful to be able to say that my surgeon did an excellent job, the people in my life have been mostly encouraging and supportive, and I’m very happy with my new body.

I’m Not Trans But I Got Top Surgery: Why I Got a Double Mastectomy at Age 30

I never thought I’d be writing this article.

Five years ago, I read an amazing article on Elephant Journal that kickstarted my journey to trying to love my breasts.

I’d always hated my breasts. I was sexually molested as a child and also bullied by my mom about my body. These two important things that shaped my outlook of myself made me hate my breasts, at least on a superficial level. But underneath all that, the hatred I felt for my breasts was solely mine. Beneath those layers of trauma, shame, and guilt, it was just me and my feelings. And outside of my experiences, I’ve never truly felt good about my breasts.

I thought about removing my breasts for a long time. As a young teenager, I once duct-taped my breasts in front of the mirror, wondering what it would feel like to have them pressed completely flat against my body, almost like I didn’t have them. I thought about cutting them off myself (this just shows you how young I was; I really thought it wouldn’t be that hard to cut them off myself and sew up the wounds).

At age 18, I confided in one of my aunts that I wanted to get both my breasts and my uterus removed. My breasts because, of course, I hated them, and my uterus because I’d had horrible periods for six years at that point and hated feeling so incapacitated by my body. My aunt responded with “I think you’re experiencing a sexual identity crisis”.

I may have been young at that point, but I knew I wasn’t a lesbian. I’d always been into guys and I identified as a girl. I was ok with my vagina and my sexuality, but I just didn’t like some parts of my body.

My breasts were the most obvious part, as I was a DD cup and they were very noticeable.

By the time I read the Elephant Journal article at age 25, I’d been spending hundreds of dollars every year at Victoria’s Secret on bras, panties, and lingerie that I felt made me feel more empowered and secure about my breasts. Reading that article forced me to face an uncomfortable truth about myself—I didn’t feel empowered about my body at all. I felt ashamed, so ashamed that I had to wear fancy bras to give the impression that I was confident, to my friends, to my boyfriend, to everyone. When I took the bra off, I was so uncomfortable that it was shocking.

I didn’t wear a bra (outside of exercising) for five years after I read that article. So how did I get from there to here, five years later, getting a double mastectomy?

I thought I could embrace my breasts by not wearing a bra. For the five years I didn’t wear a bra, I tried my absolute best to love my body. I tried to not feel weird when my boyfriend, then fiance, then husband (as he transformed over a 10-year period, ha) and I did stuff with them during our intimacy. I tried to feel comfortable and confident in my clothing. The truth was that I was more physically comfortable, but mentally, I was a wreck. I was extremely self-conscious, and although I became somewhat less self-conscious over time, and even hated my breasts less, I still didn’t like them and didn’t want them on my body.

I think it’s important to note here that my feelings about my breasts weren’t about the way my breasts looked. It was about how I felt, both physically and mentally, about having them as part of my body.

Earlier this year, Nadir and Fiver, two of my amazing and beautiful rabbits, died. It was extremely hard (those words don’t do the experience justice at all) and I’m not sure how I’m still here after experiencing that grief. Like any traumatic or life-changing event, it shifted my perspective on things. I’m not sure how to explain this. I know I should, being a professional writer, and maybe one day I’ll have the words to describe how I feel like Nadir and Fiver’s death guided me to this decision. It wasn’t because I was upset. It wasn’t because my bunnies, the most special and important and beautiful beings in my life, suddenly weren’t there anymore, at least not in the way they were.

It was because I realized that I deserved to be happy. I wanted to be happy. Not even because I’d experienced profound loss, but because their deaths transformed me. I was born again, even if I didn’t want to be, even if I would have given anything to have them back. My life after witnessing their deaths was startling—I couldn’t relate to people, I had two bald spots on my head from where my hair fell out because of the grief I’d experienced, and I resented my other rabbits for surviving when I just wanted Nadir and Fiver back.

One night, my husband and I were being intimate before I had to go into work for an overnight shift for my on-call job in DC at a women’s homeless shelter. We were engaging with my breasts and I felt so uncomfortable and embarrassed that my body was literally pulling away from him. He sensed my discomfort, and we stopped. This happened frequently during physical intimacy for us. A lot of times, we didn’t even engage with my breasts because it ruined sex for me. Normally, we’d stop with my breasts and move on.

But something was different this night. Something had shifted inside of me. It was like everything suddenly just “clicked” and I was able to see my desire to remove my breasts with a clarity that I hadn’t experienced before.

On the hour-long drive to work, I thought about what I had experienced. I suddenly, irrevocably, strongly felt that I no longer wanted to live with my breasts. They were beautiful breasts, my husband loved them, they looked ok on my body. But the truth was that I had always hated them and felt so uncomfortable with them. Outside of the way my family made me feel about them, I had just always hated them and wished that they weren’t there.

I thought about A Year Without a Name, a book I read earlier this year by Cyrus Grace Dunham. Cyrus is transgender and I loved reading his account of coming to terms with his gender. He got top surgery (a double mastectomy with a nipple graft). When I read about his experience with his breasts, I both identified with it and didn’t identify with it. He starved himself at one point to try and get rid of his breasts. I didn’t do that. But was I much different, duct-taping my breasts, considering cutting them off myself with a sharp knife?

I decided to write a letter to Cyrus, even though at that moment, I didn’t know how to reach him. In my head, I wrote the letter as I drove. I talked about how I was molested as a child. How my mom made me feel like shit about my body. How my breasts never felt right on my body.

By the time I parked on the street outside my job in DC and finished the letter, I knew. I knew without a doubt that I wanted to get my breasts removed.

That night, I researched extensively about top surgery and elective double mastectomies. I couldn’t find anyone like me who still identified as a woman and wanted their breasts removed (today, I think I’m more non-binary than anything—although I’m not big on labels for myself—and I know of at least one other person who has had their breasts removed and still identifies as female). But I knew, just as I knew when I was 18 and my aunt made me feel like I didn’t know myself, that this was how I felt, this was what I wanted. I didn’t need to question it. I knew it buried in my heart; I would recognize it anywhere.

I found a potential plastic surgeon near where I lived. The next day, I called and made an appointment for a consultation for an elective double mastectomy. Two weeks later, I had my consultation, and the surgeon said he had never seen anyone like me who wasn’t transgender but wanted their breasts removed. But he agreed to do the surgery, and I felt he understood me and that he would do a good job (he did!).

My husband and I had many conversations about my choice to remove my breasts, both over the decade I have known him and in the months before my surgery. My husband has always known that I have hated my breasts, and as I talked about removing them over the years, has always been supportive of my feelings. He has always told me that he would think I was gorgeous and sexy no matter what. I know he can’t anticipate how he’ll feel about me or my body in five, ten, or fifty years, but I do know he’ll do his best to be honest with me and that we’ll continue to navigate this strange (and exciting) new space together.

My family and friends were largely supportive. My friends were SO supportive. My family was more confused but still supportive, even offering to help me pay for the surgery if I needed it. My one grandmother had issues with the surgery and told me she was upset that I was getting it done. A lot of people asked about Ian (my husband) and his feelings about the surgery. I thought that was a little weird since it’s MY body. It’s not Ian’s body. I’m grateful for everyone’s support, and for those that had the courage to tell me their negative feelings (hey, Grandma!), I am grateful for their honesty.

I told my husband in the months before I officially decided to get my breasts removed that I felt like I needed to want to get the surgery, instead of feeling like I needed it. I didn’t want to feel like I needed to have my breasts removed, I felt like I had to want it. After Nadir and Fiver’s death, I no longer felt like I needed to have my breasts removed. I could appreciate their beauty, their uniqueness, but they never felt like mine. I suddenly wanted to have them removed more than anything.

Two months after my initial consultation, on November 23, 2020, after more than 15 years of wanting to get my breasts removed, I got a double mastectomy (no nipple grafts). In the end, I paid over $11,000 to have a plastic surgeon remove my breasts while I was unconscious on an operating table. My gorgeous and amazing husband took care of me after the surgery. That first week was an emotional week. I cried and told my husband that I was afraid he wouldn’t love me anymore. He fed me cinnamon raisin toast and helped me sip water through a straw, emptied my drains and dressed me.

Before my bandages came off and we saw my new chest for the first time, I thought so many things. I thought my new chest wouldn’t feel like me. I thought I would cry with happiness. I thought I would be afraid. I thought that I wouldn’t love it as much as I wanted to.

Turns out, my new chest was scary: it was just so different. But it felt like me. I didn’t cry with happiness. But it felt right. And I loved it immediately, immensely.

I’m still getting used to my new chest (if you’ve read my tattoo grief article, I definitely went through a little like the five stages of grief with my surgery in that first week—I will write an article about that at some point!), and will post pictures soon as well as my recovery journey for those who are interested!

For My 30th Birthday, I Was Going to Get a Neck Tattoo—Instead I Found Out I Have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Thirteen years after my misdiagnosed autoimmune disorder, 18 years after having debilitating painful periods almost every month, and almost nine years after going gluten-free and feeling healthy, here I am with a potential new diagnosis.

In hindsight, it all makes perfect sense. Ehlers-Danlos and mast cell activation syndrome. I have many of the symptoms of each. Yet, no one—outside of my integrative health doctor a few months ago—told me that I had these disorders.

Yet I know that at least one of my doctors knew I had Ehlers-Danlos. She had me perform the maneuvers of the Beighton score during my appointment at the age of 21. At the time, I didn’t know that’s what she was asking me to do; all I knew was that she was surprised by my hypermobility. She never told me I had the disorder.

(I recently attempted to find this doctor—who told me I would be on chemotherapy for the rest of my life to manage my autoimmune disorder, and who I only saw once—to get my records only to find that the practice is closed and I cannot locate her. Very frustrating. She came highly recommended to me from some acquaintances who had lupus—she turned out to be a total joke. She knew I had Ehlers-Danlos, probably knew about the connection between Ehlers-Danlos and mast cell activation syndrome, and probably could have come to the conclusion that my “autoimmune disease” was a result of my body overreacting to foods that it didn’t like.) Anyway!

So how did I get from there to HERE?

You can read the full story here, but the short version is this: I walked out of that doctor’s office feeling hopeless yet determine that this was not going to be my life. I found an herbalist who helped me figure out that gluten was causing all my symptoms. I stopped eating gluten and have been fine for the past nine years without any medication.

And yet.

While I’m currently healthier than I’ve ever been in my whole life, there were still some nagging issues that I couldn’t quite figure out.

  • The insanely painful periods (which have improved SO MUCH with help from my herbalists, but still sometimes leave me in bed all day)
  • My unexplained anxiety and skin picking disorder
  • The bad reaction I’d often have to alcohol (I’ve since quit drinking for good)
  • Having brain fog after eating
  • My orthostatic hypotension and low blood pressure
  • Hives after eating food (never quite figured out which foods caused this)
  • Poor wound healing, scars, and dry skin
  • The fact that I feel cold almost all the time

I couldn’t put my finger on it, and often times I’d forget that many of these symptoms weren’t normal because I’d been experiencing them forever. I chalked it up to genetics: my dad has insomnia and dry skin, my mom and brother have some form of skin picking disorder (which is actually a mild form of OCD).

Brain fog and hives are classic symptoms of a food intolerance, but I couldn’t figure out what I was eating that was causing these symptoms. I already don’t eat gluten, dairy, alcohol, and genetically modified food. I also do my best to avoid refined sugars (although, of course, I do indulge once in a while).

So what was going on?

I blamed it on my parents: I got screwed with bad genes, blah blah blah. But that didn’t explain my low blood pressure (high blood pressure runs on both sides of my family), and it didn’t explain my bad periods. There were gaps that I didn’t understand.

And then.

I needed to talk to my integrative health doctor to get some paperwork for my job in DC. I tried to get reception to send it, but they said that I had to schedule an appointment. Boo. So I did, even though I didn’t really feel that I needed to see him. It was COVID times, so I had a phone appointment with him (I love my integrative health doctor, I just hate doctors in general, so I always have an attitude when talking to him).

We spoke about some of my symptoms and he suddenly but strongly suggested that I had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and mast cell activation syndrome after asking me some questions. After asking me to come in for bloodwork, we got off the phone.

At first, I didn’t think much of his suggestions, but then, I felt upset. Here I am with yet another disorder—ahem, disorders—at age 30.

So I started researching and read the material my doctor sent me. I was convinced that I had this. I had so many of the symptoms. Not only could I perform several of the actions on the Beighton score, but I also had Gorlin sign—the ability to touch the tip of my nose with my tongue—something I’d always been able to do. Only 10% of people can do this, but 50% of people with Ehlers-Danlos can.

I’m still learning about Ehlers-Danlos and mast cell activation syndrome, but I can’t help but feel that this is a huge missing link in the big picture of my health—a merging of my misdiagnosis and my current symptoms. I also found some tentative research about the role of mast cells in dermatomyositis, and how mast cells could not only be “the first cells” to become activated in dermatomyositis, but also how maybe treating mast cell activation could be a missing link for those with dermatomyositis.

I’m currently working my herbalist to address many of my mast cell related symptoms and am excited to see what the future holds for my health! And the neck tattoo? Don’t worry, it’s on the list for next year 🙂

I’m Turning 30: Here’s What I’ve Learned So Far in Life

Ok so technically I turned 30 a couple days ago (where are my fellow Cancers????). I was hoping to get this post up before then, but, you know, life 🙂

I’ve had some insane experiences in my life and I never thought I’d live past 18. Turning 30 inspired me to reflect on all the things I’ve learned so far in my three decades on this planet.

So here are 20 things I’ve learned in my 30 years of being alive.

1. Your parents are imperfect people. Maybe they did the best they could. Maybe they didn’t. Maybe they were unenlightened pieces of shit who abused you (sorry, just read Dr. Alice Miller’s The Body Never Lies: The Lingering Effects of Cruel Parenting, which I highly recommend!). You don’t have to forgive them. You do not owe them anything. And you are not responsible for their happiness, problems, or their general wellbeing. 

2. Love will come in many forms. You won’t always recognize it or be willing to receive it. It could be in the form of forgiveness. It could be an animal that needs your help. It could be a person you just met. Open yourself to receive all love’s mystical forms. They will be the best decisions you ever make.

3. If you’ve had orthodontic work in the past, wear your retainer! Unfortunately, you need to wear it nightly for life to keep your teeth from shifting. Even if you can’t do nightly, do it as often as you can, even if it’s only once every few weeks. It’ll prevent your teeth from shifting and you from having to get braces again when you’re like 45.

4. Not everyone will understand you, and that’s ok, because you won’t understand everyone either. Be unapologetically yourself because there’s only one you, and you are completely magic.

5. Take care of your body. It’s really the only thing you have. Your care of your body affects everything about your life. Don’t shortchange yourself by neglecting your temple.

6. Don’t hold back. You will regret every second you spent making small talk or letting other people make you feel bad. Let go of the meaningless things and dig your hands into the deepness of life. It’s here that your growth will happen.

7. The moments that bring you to your knees and leave you struggling to breathe are your most profound truths. Don’t deny what you feel. Experience every flinching emotion that presents itself. You won’t always feel this way. Embrace it.

8. Take care of your skin just like your inner body and mind. Listen to what it needs. Only use pure products. It’ll thank you!

9. Your teachers are not who or what you think they are. They come in different forms. They could be a dying rabbit. They could be a child. They could be a rainstorm. They could be an abusive partner. LISTEN. Listen to what everything is telling you. Let it transform you, let it teach you, let it bring you closer to your truth.

10. Pay attention to what others’ lives are like. They will also be your teachers. Let their paths be mirrors to your own life. And remember that what you react to in others is also within you.

11. Trust your gut. Logic could be screaming that something makes sense, but if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. You always have the choice to walk away. You always have the right to change your mind.

12. Only buy things that truly inspire you (and, you know, food). Everything else is a waste of your money.

13. FLOSS YOUR TEETH! And go to the dentist for a cleaning every once in a while! Your teeth will look whiter and you’ll help prevent so many common dental problems as you age.

14. Blood is just blood. If your family doesn’t respect you, they don’t deserve a place in your life, period. You deserve to be surrounded by people who truly see you and nourish your best self.

15. Be kind to people. You truly have no idea what someone else is going through. Think about how you would want someone to treat you on your darkest days. Maybe the person who cut you off was rushing to their sick or dying spouse. Maybe the person who gave you a nasty look in the grocery store was jealous of how magical you are. Maybe their rudeness has nothing to do with you.

16. That being said, don’t tolerate disrespect. You deserve to be respected.

17. Acknowledge your feelings. It’s amazing how much hurt, how much shame, how much negativity, can happen when feelings go unrealized. Recognize how you feel. You don’t have to name it, but do look at it full on. Let it know that you see it. Only then will it release its hold on you.

18. EAT GOOD FOOD (and by good, I mean healthy). You can pay for health insurance, but you can’t pay for your health. Invest in it now by nourishing your body. Inform yourself. Get tested for food intolerances. Listen to your symptoms. The common factor of all disease is inflammation. Keep it down by being smart about what you eat.

19. Not everyone is able to support you in the ways that you need. They may not be physically, mentally, or spiritually able to. Don’t punish them for this or resent them for the things they are not able to do or do not know how to do. At the end of the day, only you are responsible for your care of yourself.

20. The things that have broken you are not the things that define you. They are your teachers, yes. They are pointers to the truth. But they are not what makes you you. You are free to learn from them and let them go.

I’m interested to see what the next decade brings!

The Real, Research-Backed Reasons Why (And How) Marijuana Can Hurt You

I don’t usually discuss my personal views on things such as recreational drugs on my blog, but I’ve always been anti-marijuana (and anti-drug in general) so this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me.

I have never used recreational drugs, never smoked or vaped ever, and I don’t drink (for the record, I have drank in the past but have never been drunk, and I’ve been officially sober since November 2019).

Unfortunately, it seems as though more people believe that marijuana isn’t harmful to human health (or environmental health), which is leading to an increased number of users.

That being said, I do recognize that using drugs and drinking are personal choices. I would argue that they should be informed choices, so let’s talk about how marijuana can influence the body, as well as my thoughts on cannabidiol (CBD) oil use.

Marijuana Use Can Permanently Alter Brain Function

Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience concludes that smoking as little as one to two joints can change gray matter in the brains of teenagers.

Yes, it was a small study—just 46 teens—but their brains showed more gray matter volume. The biggest changes were in the amygdala, which is involved in fear and other emotions, and in the hippocampus, which involves memory and spatial awareness.

But what does this mean?

The researchers aren’t sure, but the lead author of the study says that teenage brains undergo a process where it gets thinner as it refines synaptic connections, and they suspect that marijuana use disrupts this process.

Let’s look at a larger study.

1,037 individuals were followed from birth to 38 years old, establishing research criteria from before marijuana use started to well after a pattern of use had been established.

The research concluded that “persistent cannabis use was associated with neuropsychological decline broadly across domains of functioning, even after controlling for years of education”.

What does this mean, exactly?

It means that cannabis has a neurotoxic (meaning damage to the brain or nervous system) effect on the brain, and even after ceasing cannabis use, neuropsychological functioning (which is related to cognition and behavior) was not fully restored.

Negatively Impacts Fertility and Fetal Development

If you’re planning on having a baby, it’s best to stay away from marijuana for three reasons.

  1. Changes sperm DNA. The psychoactive component in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana alters the DNA of sperm. Again, this was a small study—24 people—but it showed that THC alters a DNA process that’s “essential to normal development”, although researchers aren’t yet clear on how this affects the children this sperm is responsible for.
  2. Problems for baby post-birth. Babies exposed to marijuana in the womb are not only more likely to have a low birth weight, but are more likely to need neonatal intensive care compared to babies whose mothers didn’t use marijuana during pregnancy.
  3. Children may be at an increased risk for behavioral issues. Women who smoked marijuana during pregnancy have been found to have children with behavioral problems, even after controlling for outside variables. Children exposed to marijuana in utero tend to be more impulsive, hyperactive, have lower IQs, and have an increased risk for memory and mental health problems.

Marijuana Use Can Also Affect Your Mental Health

Cannabis use “is likely” to increase the risk of developing disorders such as schizophrenia and social anxiety disorder, and may exacerbate symptoms of bipolar disorder. Heavy cannabis users are also more likely to report having suicidal thoughts.

In one study of 50,000 people, marijuana use during adolescence was associated with a 30 percent increased risk of developing schizophrenia. The higher the marijuana use, the higher the risk for schizophrenia.

Some research also notes an increased risk of depression with regular marijuana use, although other studies have not reached this conclusion. However, a recent study noted that people under the age of 18 who used marijuana were 37 percent more likely to experience depression in early adulthood than those that didn’t.

A small study of 43 people also noted changes in impulse control and hostility, including perceptions of hostility, for people when using marijuana.

Contains Many of the Same Carcinogens as Cigarettes (and Puts 4x More Tar in Your Lungs)

I’ve long argued that smoking marijuana is not better than smoking cigarettes by any means. People like to argue that marijuana is “natural” without having any research to back up their claims. Radon is natural too, but it’s the second-leading cause of lung cancer.

So what does research say when it comes to marijuana versus cigarettes?

More Tar in Your Lungs

Research concluded that smoking marijuana “results in a substantially greater respiratory burden of carbon monoxide and tar” than smoking a similar quantity of tobacco.

Marijuana also leads to four times the deposition of tar than cigarette smoking.

What does this mean? It means four times the amount of tar is being deposited into your lungs when you smoke marijuana than it would be if you were smoking cigarettes. Tar can take years to leave your lungs after you stop smoking, and the longer you smoke, the longer it’ll take for your body to remove the tar.

Higher Concentrations of Some Chemicals

Other research notes that marijuana and tobacco have many of the same chemicals. In fact, ammonia was up to 20 times greater in marijuana smoke than tobacco smoke (ammonia has a corrosive effect on the lungs and can lead to permanent lung damage).

Additional chemicals such as hydrogen cyanide were found at concentrations 3-5 times higher than those in tobacco smoke. Hydrogen cyanide is extremely poisonous at high levels and is used as a pesticide, and can affect the entire body.

Marijuana smoke also contains 50 percent more benzoprene (a potent cancer-causing chemical) and 75 percent more benzanthracene (also suspected to be a carcinogen) than cigarette smoke.

No, Marijuana Does Not Cure Cancer

And, surprise, marijuana (as well as CBD) does not cure cancer—in fact, with all the chemicals involved in smoking this plant, I’d say there’s a much higher chance that it actually causes cancer, although research has not yet proven this link. However, some studies have concluded that long-term cannabis use increases risk of lung cancer.

Not to Mention…

Some people argue that marijuana use helps alleviate chronic pain and reduce anxiety, among other claims.

I’m not arguing that marijuana doesn’t have these effects on people—but I would argue that there are alternatives to solving your problems than permanently damaging your brain, lungs, and body with a substance, and many of them are more “natural” than smoking marijuana.

With marijuana use, I find it hard to feel that people are actually addressing the root cause of their issue, and instead are covering it up or trying to treat it with marijuana, which, as we’ve seen, can cause even more problems in the body.

A Note on CBD

The use of cannabidiol, or CBD—a non-psychoactive component of marijuana—has been growing in popularity. While CBD has some promising results, my personal thoughts on using CBD are more hesitant.

I believe more clinical trials should be done to study the long-term effects of CBD in the body. I also think there a ton of low-quality CBD products on the market, and as CBD isn’t regulated by the FDA, it’s hard to say what you’re getting in a particular product. If you choose to use CBD, look for full-spectrum hemp oil as a starting point, or follow up with your herbalist or natural healthcare professional to find the best product for you.

Again, I’d argue that for many medical problems, there are healthier alternatives that we can take advantage of until further studies are done on CBD’s effect on the human body. Two of these alternatives are diet changes and herbs, which can dramatically influence chronic pain, anxiety, and even cancer.

Wrapping Up

With all this said, I would not advocate for marijuana use for anyone under any circumstances. I hate seeing how much misinformation there is out there about marijuana, and that’s not even to mention its negative effects on the environment, or how it can increase your risk for drug addiction.

Can we stop saying marijuana is harmless?

How to Treat Depression Naturally: 3 Key Nutritional Elements You Could Be Missing

I’ve written before about my mental break almost three years ago and my suicidal thoughts on this blog.

What I didn’t talk about in that article was antidepressants and my views on how to treat depression naturally.

I’m straight edge and have a super weird attitude about drugs and alcohol. I’ve never been drunk, never smoked anything ever, and have never taken recreational drugs. As a result of my misdiagnosed autoimmune disorder almost 13 years ago, I also have a very weird attitude about pharmaceutical drugs.

That being said, I don’t believe in taking any type of medication unless it’s more or less a life-or-death situation. This is just my personal philosophy.

Instead of taking medications for things that I personally feel can be treated naturally, I’ve compiled this list of three hugely helpful things that have made all the difference for my mental health when it comes to how to treat depression naturally.

Please note: I am not a doctor, herbalist, or nutritionist. This article is not intended to diagnose any type of illness or offer treatment advice for your particular case. Please consult with your qualified healthcare practitioner about your mental health!

1. Omega-3s

I really can’t say how much I feel omega-3s have helped both my mental and physical health. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that are absolutely crucial to proper brain function.

Though many people say the evidence isn’t concrete enoughpeer-reviewed research shows that mental health professionals “should at least ensure adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids among patients with major depressive disorder (MDD)”.

There are three types of omega-3s when it comes to humans:

  1. A-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in certain plant-based foods such as flaxseed and walnuts.
  2. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which is found in fish.
  3. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is also found in fish.

While, of course, I would love to sit here and say that vegan sources of omega-3 are the best when it comes to how to treat depression naturally, the fact is that they simply aren’t. Studies show that our brains are designed to function best on omega-3s from fish. 

Your body can convert ALA to EPA and DHA, but the conversion rate has been shown to be rather poor. What this means is that you’d have to eat A LOT of walnuts, avocados, and flaxseed to get even a fraction of the amount of EPA and DHA you would get from fish (although all of these foods are generally excellent for your health!).

I’ve tried to eat cans of sardines in an effort to boost my fatty acid intake without a supplement, but I’m here to tell ya, it’s just not for me, and I’m guessing it won’t be for you either!

So taking a quality omega-3 supplement makes a lot more sense for many people. But what dose is best?

In his book The New Optimum Nutrition Bible, Patrick Holford, founder of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition, suggests that omega-3 fish oil supplements containing 1,200 mg of EPA a day are best for people with depression, compared to a standard dose of 350 mg each of EPA and DHA.

Personally, I take Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega 2X every day. I just take one capsule (which fulfills the requirements of 350 mg each of EPA and DHA), but the serving size says two capsules, which you could easily take if you were looking for a higher dose of these essential fatty acids!

Yes, they’re more expensive than some supplements, but I would absolutely advocate for these over cheaper versions of omega-3s! Plus, what is your mental health worth?

2. Probiotics

I didn’t really know what I was missing in life until I found out about probiotics.

These helpful bacteria exist in your gut and play a major role in your health, especially when it comes to how to treat depression naturally.

Your gut is intimately connected to your brain in what’s called the “brain-gut” axis. Ignoring the link between our gut health and our brains could have negative repercussions for some people with depression and anxiety.

Established research so far shows mixed results on the link between probiotics and mental health. However, there are other studies that demonstrate their benefit.

For example, a review of evidence on probiotics and mental health disorders showed that “probiotics and prebiotics might improve mental health function”.

Another study shows that “the evidence for probiotics alleviating depressive symptoms is compelling”; however, the research did note that more evidence is needed.

Other research showed that regulating gut bacteria through probiotics helped improved symptoms of anxiety. 

I’d argue that probiotics are absolutely worth a try when it comes to managing your mental health and even your physical health.

But where can you find probiotics?

Probiotics exist in fermented foods, including:

  • Miso
  • Kimchi
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kombucha
  • Natto
  • Yogurt
  • Water kefir

I‘m a huge fan of all these foods; however, I do not eat dairy (for ethical and health reasons). There are so many negative sides to dairy, even outside of the horrific way it’s produced—I would encourage you to get plant-based sources of yogurt, which are just as delicious and won’t give you acne!

However, if you’re having trouble getting at least one of these foods (or drinks—heyyyy kombucha!) every day, you could consider a supplement. However, beware: many probiotics supplements contain dairy, YES, even ones that say milk-free (I wrote a rant about that here.) 

This is the supplement I take for probiotics; I called the company to confirm they are vegan, but that was a few years ago. I would encourage you to do your own research!

However, these days I typically just try to get probiotics through food every day and rarely take a supplement.

Side note: Most herbalists I have spoken with advocate for getting probiotics through food, saying that you simply can’t confirm the integrity of a supplement due to manufacturing methods and that foods provide a much better source.

Also, it’s important to be careful about probiotics–many herbalists consider them to be medicine and there’s no need to go overboard on the amount you consume (for example, there’s no reason to drink a gallon of kombucha every day!).

3. Vitamin D

Over a billion people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D. Deficiency in this essential vitamin has been shown to play a role in autoimmune disorders, gum disease, and 17 different types of cancers, among many other health conditions.

Vitamin D deficiency is also “highly prevalent” in teenagers with severe mental illness. Study after study shows how crucial vitamin D is to our mental health, which could make it an influential supplement when considering how to treat depression naturally.

One study noted that “effective detection and treatment of inadequate vitamin D levels in persons with depression and other mental health disorders may be an easy and cost-effective therapy which could improve patients’ long-term health outcomes as well as their quality of life”.

But how much vitamin D should you take?

Patrick Holford suggests a minimum of 400 IU a day; however, other research showed benefits with as much as 1,500-5,000 IU daily for people with depression.

You’ll want to get your vitamin D levels tested by your doctor to show if you’re deficient and get a recommendation of how much to take!

Where can you get vitamin D naturally?

Humans make vitamin D in their bodies through sunlight exposure, so the more sunlight you get, the more vitamin D you’re likely to have in your body.

However, some people are naturally more deficient in vitamin D, and may still need to supplement even if they are getting the recommended sunlight exposure each day.

Foods that contain vitamin D include:

  • Mushrooms
  • Egg yolks
  • Fish
  • Beef liver

Obviously, these aren’t foods that everyone likes to eat (myself included). Talk to your doctor about a supplement if you need one!

(I do supplement with vitamin D when needed with both a vegan and non-vegan supplement: I take fermented cod liver oil and this vegan supplement. Currently, I’m looking for a better supplement and am researching some options that my integrative health doctor recommended to me. I will update this article when I find one I like!)

Why Shouldn’t I Just Take an Antidepressant?

I’m not a doctor, and I am absolutely not here to tell you whether you should or should not take an antidepressant.

As someone who has never taken any type of antidepressant or antianxiety medication, I can’t say how these medications affect you and can’t tell you whether or not you should take them or consider how to treat depression naturally.

I am, however, an advocate for natural health, and it’s my personal belief that the majority of our modern health problems can be treated through diet, exercise, and herbs. 

Antidepressants can also have major side effects, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Premature delivery and low birth weight of babies
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Weight gain

Above all, I would argue for getting tested with your doctor to see if you’re deficient in anything and considering supplements before going on a medication that changes your brain chemistry and has the potential for serious side effects.

And even if you are on medication and choose to stay on your medication, these supplements may be helpful to you or may support the outcome of your meds, so talk to your doctor about them!

The Bottom Line

How you deal with your mental health is a personal choice, and no one should judge you for it.

There are so many aspects that could play a role in your depression, from genetics to your diet to your environment. Of course, these three nutritional components are only part of the picture—but together, they could make a big difference to your wellbeing!

I deal with the daily stressors of life and my social anxiety by exercising, eating healthy, meditating, and reading. Everyone is different, and what works for me may not work for you. However, if you’re considering how to treat depression naturally, consider these three essential supplements—you could be missing a big piece of your mental health!

Can We Talk About Why I Don’t Shave Anything Except My Head? (Time to Get Personal)

I don’t have any sisters. I’m sandwiched between two brothers.

But I always wanted a sister growing up. My parents say that when I was really young, I said I wanted a sister and was going to name her Jif (my brothers and I are all named with J’s). 

In lieu of sisters, I had several female cousins that I grew up with. This is probably why I wanted a sister so bad. I saw their bond and it didn’t seem to be anything like what I had with my brothers. I was envious.

And so, my introduction to the world of female things didn’t come from my mom (who decided not to talk to me about these things anyway), but from my cousins. This included talk of brasperiods, and, you guessed it, shaving.

I don’t remember thinking much about shaving besides feeling pressured to do it once my cousins started doing it. I don’t remember specifically at what age I started—probably 11 or 12, but I began shaving my legs, underarms, and pubic area.

When I was 13, I decided shaving was stupid and that I didn’t want to do it anymore. And so I stopped shaving my legs.

This went on for a few months while friends argued with me about it. It’s hygienic! One of them declared. Eventually, after someone whispered to me that my current middle-school boyfriend had gotten wind that I didn’t shave my legs, I started shaving again.

This went on for a couple years until, in high school at the age of 15, I decided to stop shaving my legs again, this time for good.

That was almost 15 years ago (God, HOW am I going to be 30 this year?????).

My not-shaving progressed to other areas of my body as I entered adulthood, despite having several boyfriends over the years. At the age of 22 and in college—and dating my long-term boyfriend (now husband)—I decided to stop shaving my armpits. And, in the couple of years after that, I abandoned shaving what’s probably considered the most embarrassing area of all for women to have hair—my pubic area.

Today, I fully embrace my body hair and I love it. Not shaving (I literally don’t own a razor) has made my life blissfully simple and empowering at the same time. My husband loves my hair and couldn’t care less about whether or not I have body hair. Not that his opinion of it would matter to me, anyway. The only opinion that matters is mine.

I keep the hair on my head shaved for the same reasons I don’t shave anything else—it’s easier and I love it.

So without further ado, here’s why I don’t shave my body hair and never will again.

Shaving Is a Waste of My Precious Air-Breathing Seconds

Shaving felt like such a huge waste of time when I did it. It made my shower routine longer, and that damn hair was always growing back. It felt like I was constantly shaving to have my legs look “perfect” and have that smooth, hairless look.

It got old.

There were so many things I’d rather be doing than shaving my legs and wasting a bunch of shaving soap and water. I wanted to be outside. I wanted to be spending time with my family. Most of all, I didn’t want to have to worry about my body hair anymore.

It got to the point where I realized that I was shaving when I didn’t really want to and didn’t know why. And, for me, doing something and not knowing why you’re doing it is a pretty frightening feeling. 

I realized that I didn’t have to shave. Some people might think I was gross, but their opinions didn’t matter, and their negative reactions were a small price to pay for my personal happiness. Shaving was a waste of my life and didn’t make me happy. And so I stopped.

I Cannot Pick and Choose the Parts of My Body That I Love

My body is this crazy, imperfect vessel through which I experience life. Growing up, my mom made me feel pretty crappy about my body, and the parts that she chose to focus on were the parts that I soon came to hate about myself, namely my stomach and my breasts.

At the age of 25, I went through a personal renaissance where I realized that I had been wearing a bra since I was 11 for only one reason—because I was ashamed of my breasts. And why was I ashamed of my breasts? Because my mom made me feel like they were something to hide, something to be ashamed of.

I realized that, just like shaving, I didn’t have to do it. I didn’t have to wear a bra. And so I stopped wearing one even though it was out of my comfort zone, even though it felt totally alien and challenged every single thought or perception I’ve ever had about myself. But that was exactly why I had to do it.

Today, almost five years later, I haven’t worn a bra except for a sports bra when exercising since that November day. And it’s not to spite my mom or challenge my beliefs—it’s because I truly feel more comfortable without one, and not wearing one has empowered me to love my breasts, something I was never able to do before.

The truth is that my body isn’t separate from anything, not from the world that I live in or, physically, my mind. I cannot pick and choose the parts of my body that I accept and love, just as I cannot pick and choose the parts of my husband that I accept and love. If I don’t love and accept my body (or my husband, ha) for what it is in this moment, for all its perfections and imperfections, then I don’t truly love any of it.

My body hair is just another part of my body, and getting rid of it through shaving was not serving me in any way, shape, or form. In fact, it caused me to draw further into my self-loathing, body shame, and past conditioning.

I love my body hair, and I have never wished it wasn’t there since I stopped shaving. It’s part of me, and I love it.

Because 

The single most defining reason why I don’t shave anything except my head is this: I don’t want to.

There are some things people think we have to do in life. I’ve challenged so many of those ideas, and today, I recognize that my life is for me, and it’s the only one I’ve got. So I live it in a way that’s acceptable to me and that makes me happy. And that is the beginning and the end of it for me.

I may not have a 9-5 job with benefits and I may have too many rescued animals and people sometimes mistake me for a cancer patient or a boy, but none of those things matter. I’m happy, and that’s what matters. Shaving just didn’t fit into my definition of personal happiness and for that, I had to let it go.

Why Young People Just Aren’t That Excited About Cars

I grew up in a small town where getting your driver’s license meant you were one step closer to finally getting your own car, not relying on your parents, and, well… getting the heck out of there.

Needless to say, I was perplexed when kids my age neglected to show interest in driving. What was going through my head looked something like, ?????????????

I was super excited to be on this BMW in Munich in 2010. I don’t get as excited about Beemers these days, but I do love a good German car.

Turns out, the few kids in my high school that—for whatever reason—chose not to drive certainly aren’t alone. We’re all part of the larger Millennial generation that just really isn’t that excited about cars, or even driving for that matter. And Generation Z (people currently anywhere from 18 to 23 years old) is even worse.

It’s understandable that automotive makers would freak out a little at the fact that younger people just don’t really care about driving—I mean, think about it. When was the last time you saw a car commercial that looked like anyone other than 50-something avid hikers or classy, dark-haired businessmen would be interested in?

The truth is that the people who fit outside of these categories are becoming less and less excited about driving. Here’s why.

Younger People Prefer Urban Living—and That Means Less Need for a Car

It’s true—20-34 year-olds are much more likely than baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) to prefer an urban setting. In fact, statistics show that younger people, especially Generation Z, prefer central urban neighborhoods as opposed to suburban or rural living.

These younger people have less need for a car than ever. The expenses of owning a car alone wouldn’t make sense when they could walk or take public transportation to work, not to mention they’d have to find a place to park the car while both at home and at work.

I drove this rental car while out in California and hated it. I could see virtually nothing out the back window. I know it’s a compact, but Ford, you can do better, right???

City-dwellers also have more options than ever when it comes to getting around. Having a car just doesn’t make sense when there are rideshare apps, Uber, Via, Lyft, and let’s not forget, your regular taxi.

Millennials and Gen Z—Like Other Americans—Aren’t Prepared to Make the Jump to EVs

A recent survey by AAA shows that 40 million Americans would consider an electric vehicle (EV) for their next car.

But this number doesn’t seem so high when you consider that there are 225 million drivers in the United States, meaning these potential EV buyers make up about a sixth of all drivers, and even less when you consider there are over 260 million registered vehicles in the US.

Today’s car buyer has a lot of choices—new or used, hybrid or electric, gas or diesel, SUV or hatchback. Younger generations aren’t seeing car charging ports anywhere besides at their local Whole Foods, but they see celebrities on YouTube driving Teslas. Should they buy a Tesla, or does the Ford Ranger their uncle’s getting rid of seem like the best option?

Maybe there is no right choice, and the best part is, they don’t have to choose. It’s easier than ever to exist without a car, and they can bide their time while manufacturers build up their EV fleets and self-driving cars make it on to the scene.

They’re More Eco-Conscious—and Cars Simply Don’t Make the Cut

EVs are certainly marketed for their eco-friendliness, but the truth is that they still use electricity, and the majority of our electricity in the United States still comes from fossil fuels.

Vehicles, even electric ones, still kill animals including endangered butterflies. Diesel fuel is still considered to be carcinogenic. And they still off-gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs), making that new car smell invoke more of a feeling of terror that you’re breathing in neurotoxins and carcinogens rather than the smell of luxury.

Luxury or not, I was about to accept the ride these two dudes offered me on the top of this mountain in Switzerland. I guess the more rational part of my brain kicked in and I said no.

Millennials and Generation Z aren’t about to spend their life savings on something that they feel will slowly kill them as well as the planet. Eco-conscious members of our generation would rather put their money towards something they believe has less of an impact on the planet—ridesharing, public transportation, or, you know, walking.

Other Factors—Money, Status, and Can Someone Help Me Change My Tire?

Despite their lack of saving savviness, young people know a car is not an investment. Even if it was, it’d be an investment they weren’t eager to make.

I’ve never bought a new car and probably never will. It’s not only that I don’t want a car payment, I just don’t see the point of buying something that will immediately lose over 10 percent of its value as soon as I drive that puppy home.

Millennials also aren’t thrilled about the idea of getting a loan—especially with mounting credit card debt, student debt, and lower wages. Plus, not to mention, climate change?

The truth is that cars are quickly losing the symbol of status they held for baby boomers. And younger generations have far less of an understanding of how cars work, generally speaking, than baby boomers. They aren’t sure how to take care of them and TBH, don’t want to be bothered by it. Now, will someone please help me change my tire?

The Future of Cars for Young People

As self-driving technology evolves, younger people may take advantage of these cars. But still, car sales among younger generations are likely to continue to decline, and automakers will be forced to come up with creative ways to appeal to these auto un-enthusiasts.

Driving home from NYC after getting a fresh tattoo (pictured) at Black Iris by the incredible johno_tattooer

As for me, I can’t help but wonder what the future roads will look like as I sit behind the wheel of my 2000 VW Jetta TDI and watch girls who look barely out of their teens run to get into an Uber on Saturday nights. Will self-driving Ubers take over? Am I destined to part with my beloved TDI? Will I get cancer from the diesel fumes? One can only wonder.

But I know this—things are changing, for better or for worse.

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

What’s the Difference Between Himalayan Pink Salt and Table Salt? (And Why You Should Care.)

This article is a guest post written by Polly Telegina, a holistic health expert from Siberia. She loves writing and helps people to know how to be healthy and beautiful using only natural remedies!

So why is salt even good for you? Sodium is an essential nutrient involved in nerve and muscle function, it helps regulate fluids in the body to prevent dehydration, and it even plays a role in regulating blood pressure.

In fact, you may have heard all this before if you know what an electrolyte is. Yes, salt is an electrolyte! Some things you might not know about salt is that it’s also used by your body to regulate the blood pH and help produce stomach acid. Like any type of food you put in your body, over consuming can cause problems — and may even be toxic.

So why is salt bad? The most common problem it causes is high blood pressure which can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. Meat, fish, and other food contain salt. Salt is added to most processed foods as a preservative which can make food delicious but unhealthy in the long term. Because of the long term effects, salt should always be enjoyed in moderation.

Why Are There Different Salts?

All salt is essentially the same. However, salt is processed and sourced in different ways which can affect minerals, sodium, and nutrient content.

There are several kinds of salt and they all contain varying amounts of minerals, sodium levels, and additives. However, depending on where and how it’s sourced, it gets a different name. To learn more, check the graph below.

Type of Salt Benefits Cons
Table Salt Contains added iodine. It’s low in impurities. It’s low in healthy minerals, contains anti-caking chemicals to prevent the salt crystals from clumping.
Himalayan Pink Salt Contains trace minerals and is lower in sodium than regular table salt, and contains no additives. Contains less iodine than other type of salts.
Sea Salt Contains trace minerals like potassium, iron, and zinc. Contains trace amounts of toxins like mercury and microplastics.
Kosher Salt Contains less anti-caking chemicals than regular table salt. Contains less iodine than regular table salt.
Celtic Salt A type of sea salt which contains trace amounts of minerals and is low in sodium. Contains trace amounts of mercury and microplastics.

What Are the Benefits of Himalayan Pink Salt?

Like any type of salt, Himalayan pink salt is beneficial in its own way. It’s natural, contains minerals, and is low in sodium.

However, many of the nutritional differences depend on how the salt is refined, the location it’s extracted from, and the purity.  Like any substance, pink salt does have some side effects. However, it’s up to you to decide what is best for your body. 

Pros

So how is Himalayan pink salt beneficial? First, you have to understand what makes it different from all other types of salt. Geographical location plays an important role in this.

Himalayan salt comes from the nutrient-rich Khewra Salt Mine in the Pakistan mountains. Its signature pink color comes from the trace amounts of iron oxide and other minerals it contains which are only found in the Himalayan mountains.

Although pink salt functions in the same way other salts do, the main benefits you get from pink salt come from its inherent nutrients which include calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium.

Magnesium, potassium, and iron are extremely beneficial for heart health and lowering blood pressure. Since it contains a higher percentage of these trace minerals, it has less overall sodium than table salt. It’s also more natural than table salt and does not contain any additives.

Cons

This pink salt can be expensive which might deter many people. It also doesn’t contain high amounts of iodine like table salt does. Iodine is essential for thyroid function. The thyroid is an organ that regulates hormones. However, iodine deficiency isn’t a typical problem for many and only tends to occur in third world countries.

Himalayan Salt Pros Cons
High in minerals, no trace toxins, lower in sodium than table salt.  Cost, low in iodine.

What Are the Benefits of Table Salt?

Table salt is the most common type of salt consumed around the world. It isn’t sourced from any particular location and can come from anywhere in the world.

It’s also processed more heavily than Himalayan pink salt to remove any impurities. This is done to remove toxins, but this process affects its overall nutritional value However, the sodium content between the two are very similar. Although table salt does contain more sodium per teaspoon than Himalayan salt does.

Pros

First, salt is a necessary mineral so that in itself is beneficial. Table salt is extremely refined when compared to other salts. This means it contains no impurities or trace toxins like those contained in sea salt.

Table salt also contains high levels of iodine which are critical for thyroid function — an organ that regulates hormones.  In healthy doses, salt keeps your body hydrated, is good for your blood pressure and heart, and prevents heat stroke.

Cons

Since regular table salt is heavily processed, it loses most of the healthy trace minerals it naturally contains. This means it also contains more sodium per teaspoon than Himalayan pink salt, but it’s also nutrient deficient when compared to Himalayan salt.

Apart from this, most table salt isn’t 100 percent natural, as they contain anti-caking agents to prevent the salt from clumping together.  

Table Salt Pros Cons
High in iodine, no trace toxins. Low in minerals, high in sodium, and contains anti-caking agents.

So What’s the Bottom Line?

Every type of salt contains its own perks. However, when you compare the differences between them all, one definitely comes to the forefront out of all of the rest.

For several reasons, Himalayan pink salt is the clear winner. Why?

Well, first, pink salt contains more minerals than all the rest. Second, pink salt contains magnesium and potassium which are good for blood pressure and heart and kidney health. And third, Himalayan salt is lower in sodium which means you’ll consume less sodium in the long term, lowering your risk of developing high blood pressure.

Lastly, Himalayan salt does not contain any toxins or additives making it the most natural salt for your body!