Shut up and take the pill

Hello all. I don’t know if you caught the article The Stigma of Abortion? but in that article I made you a promise, a promise that I would re-address the hot topic of women’s reproductive and contraceptive health care. Today is the day I make good on that promise, and I have to offer a special thank you to my amazing sister for sending me a wonderful article to underscore the necessity of writing about this misunderstood issue.

And instead of hitting you with statistics and insisting that you join me in my pro-chastity worldview (I’ll bet that just triggered some fun associations about really overdone camps with like overly peppy teens telling you condoms are bad, but hear me out. I never went to a camp like that and I have my own reasons for believing what I do) because it’s not as relevant to the major objective of today’s writing, which is this: I’m going to debunk the myth of the infallible doctor.

The myth of the infallible doctor is a tale we’ve all heard without hearing. From an early age we are subtly taught to give doctors our trust because of all the schooling it requires and all the fancy degrees they hang on their walls.

Now I have had some very good doctors in my day and I am greatly appreciative of them, but the thing that made them good was the fact that they do not subscribe to the myth of the infallible doctor.

The myth of the infallible doctor is a lie hinged on the idea that we know all there is to know in the field of medicine and treatment. Very few doctors would say they subscribe to this myth outright, but the real teller is in their treatment of you. If you have a doctor who subscribes to this myth, he will treat you as a one-size-fits-all patient.

What is a one-size-fits-all patient? Well, I am, for starters, and I am happy to share a bit of my story to illustrate my point better.

I was recently diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). This condition is something of a hormone disorder that could potentially greatly affect my fertility/ability to have children. And gentleman, unlike most media outlets, I’m not going to insist that
because issues surrounding female health and birth control don’t affect you directly that you are incapable of having an opinion on them. I find that type of bias insulting and I would be insulted to be patronized by you in that way.

**But I will offer a disclaimer that I’m going to use words related to the female cycle in the coming paragraphs, so brace yourselves if you’re the shy type. **

Anyway,  around the age of 14 I went to the doctor about some hormone problems and they wanted to put me on birth control. Being naturally cautious of putting synthetic chemicals of any kind into my body (and thinking I was a bit young for that), doctors deferred to my wishes because the symptoms, while difficult to deal with sometimes, weren’t life threatening. When I was 18 the process repeated itself, but this time my cycle was proving so inconsistent that I was willing to try a low dose birth control. Because those were essentially the 2 options on the table, birth control or “just deal with it.”  Unfortunately, the low dose birth control made my symptoms even more erratic so I stopped using it with the doctor’s okay. bThey did a thyroid panel because of my family history, but they didn’t find anything and that was that. It was left unchecked until recently when a doctor wanted to put me on birth control yet again because based on what I told her it sounded like I might have something called PMDD (which is like PMS on steroids).  I told her (politely) that I would not start taking an extremely high dose birth control pill for an indefinite amount of time to treat something that it sounded like I might have based on my experiences in college. She and her colleagues, in essence, were comfortable leaving the root cause of these hormone issues for speculation and wanted to start treatment because it would most likely work and we could revisit the topic when I wanted to have kids. 

I don’t care if the “shut up and take your birth control” method is a convenient solution for women my age, a way to kill two birds with one stone in their eyes by treating my mysterious period symptoms and making me readily available for “consequence-free” sex. I have different priorities than most people my age to begin with, and I have no patience for people who offer band-aids while dismissing the root of the problem as something to be dealt with later. Because I’m not just some bubbly stereotypical 24-year-old who only cares about sex with hot guys, Pinterest desserts, and Cosmo magazine topics and who is willing to compromise her own health in the name of perpetuating the infallible doctor myth by taking the doctor’s advice unquestioningly and walking out the door with her prescription. I’m the type who strongly dislikes Cosmo, is neutral about Pinterest, and likes answers.

So, needless to say, I got a second opinion. I found a doctor recommended by a few friends who also prefer a more holistic approach to their health (but while still taking into account their safety- no Steve Job’s style deaths for us, thank you). This doctor was wonderful. She was the first doctor willing to go the distance with me. We used a Natural Family Planning method called charting (it is Catholic affiliated, so insult me if you want, and I admit it was a fun first visit because they were like “is your husband coming?” as it is usually a couples thing.) But once I explained my reasons they were happy to take me on and I was assigned a certified instructor to help me chart my cycle (many an awkward phone conversation, but she was always kind and professional) as well as an actual doctor who was a certified gynecologist. I learned so much about my actual health and body from those two women, so far beyond the “shut up and take the pill” attitude of mainstream medicine. It was like taking an actual class in addition to being treated, and I’ve retained what I learned there to this day.

Anyway, it was from this method we found out that I was not ovulating (as healthy women my age naturally do) and they believed that this could be the result of PCOS. We did bloodwork and an ultrasound (also an interesting experience sans husband) and the diagnosis was confirmed.

After all those years, that is what had been wrong the whole time, and nobody caught it. There might even be a corrective minor surgery I can have done to get my body doing what it should be doing naturally, so that I won’t have to take birth control indefinitely (and if I ever did need to take the pill as treatment to synthetically supply a chemical my body naturally doesn’t make enough of, I’ll be able to find one compatible to specifically treating PCOS.)

Sure that’s nice and all, but what does it have to do with the hot topic of women’s reproductive and contraceptive health care? I would argue it has everything to do with it. Because women’s health care is so easily reduced to shutting up and taking the pill and wearing pink while you go and get regular mammograms to check for breast cancer. And it is so much more than that. Women’s health care so easily falls prey to the infallible doctor myth because instead of finding the best solution they settle for the most convenient ones, like one-size-fits-all treatments and the pill. But the facts get lost in the heated political rhetoric, as they often do, and the debate gets shifted to who should pay and for what, forget about whether or not the treatment is even good or beneficial in the first place.

And what makes me sad is that so many women believe this myth and accept this lot for themselves as they rally around birth control as the end of the line, the most innovative and best thing for women because, while we can’t eat any synthetic chemicals in our food, we can easily ingest chemicals into our bodies through the birth control pill, cross our fingers, and hope for the best. It’s almost an expected right of passage until you want to have kids and it has become so first in line for treatment that equally beneficial, more holistic care such as the type I described is barely acknowledged, instead getting written off as inferior even though without it I would still have no diagnosis. And that strikes me as odd because I thought the whole goal of any women’s movement was for women to have options, so that women like me, who don’t even like taking Advil aren’t bullied into shutting up and taking the pill just because “that’s what other women do.” I confess it makes me wonder what the real goals of the women’s health care movement actually are; because if finally giving me a proper diagnosis, opening up a host of natural treatment options that will give me regular, healthier cycles (not laden with painful PMS for the first time in my young life),  and going a long way in saving my future fertility is not seen as a validation of the efforts of women’s reproductive healthcare rights then what exactly is the desired outcome of the services they provide?

I get tired of incomplete pictures, tired of the people limiting the function of the women’s healthcare system to simply enabling women to become sexualized objects who don’t get pregnant or mothers who do. I get tired of the silence, how doctors don’t want to be bothered with women whose bodies are giving them grief unless said women are trying to have kids and can’t. But what’s gets me the most is that women are expected to handle any issues related to the female body privately and quietly as if it’s something to be ashamed of, something we’re not supposed to talk about because the female body is a nuisance if it’s not providing pleasure or birthing a child. And we deserve better than that, we really do. 

And I’d like to thank my NFP doctors once again for not subscribing to the infallible doctor myth or treating me like a one-size-fits-all patient. Because not only have they made fantastic strides in restoring my health and given me a great network of doctors and friends to help me learn how to take care of myself (and giggle about charting with), they ended that silence and they listened to me.   

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Isn’t It Ironic?

So today I came across an interesting comment which read:

Isn’t it ironic how Christians/Catholics are “pro-life” in the sense that life is important to them, but if that life happens to be gay, like me, it’s suddently worthless. So you’ll fight for fetuses but applaud Russian men who beat homosexuals?

This certainly reeks of a bad experience with the Church and I actually feel compassion for this guy because while he may be believing a lie it doesn’t mean the lie doesn’t give him genuine sadness. And in light of that revelation it bothers me that I get accused of hating things all the time, whether directly or indirectly, not based on my actions but as a “natural” result of my beliefs.

I would not deny being pro-life after writing so many pieces about the topic but I reject the notion that because I believe in something I must by default hate everything else that is not that something. This is an absolutely baseless assumption because the nature of choice implies exclusion. By choosing to wear my cute gray sweater from Kohls to work today I rejected every other top in my closet not because I’m anti t-shirt or against my navy blue sweaters or because I hate cardigans (I love them), but because I had to pick a top for work today and this one is pretty, weather appropriate, and convenient as I had a limited window to make my choice since I overslept.

But there are more important choices in this world than which top to wear and when it comes to religion I’m never sure whether I chose Catholicism (I did) or it chose me (also true). But to be Catholic is to believe it’s teaching to be the truth revealed to man through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And I do. Call it mindless submission to authority if you like, but it is my free choice to be Catholic and that decision binds me to its teaching because if I profess it as my faith but don’t believe or practice its teachings then I am a hypocrite.

And with Catholicism, it is often explained to me that because I follow Church teaching which upholds traditional marriage I automatically hate all gay people. False. That because I follow Church teachings on chastity I’m a prude who looks down on everyone and has “unrealistic” expectations about life and men. False (and rather jaded). And that because I follow Church teaching on contraception I’m against women’s rights. Also false. The list goes on. I’m thinking you get the idea. The ironic part is those I have argued with and who bring such claims forward are using their own bias to condemn my perceived bias and demanding I apologize for their incorrect perceptions.

I can tell you I’m not against the individuals of the LGBT community, women, etc. but I have no control as to whether or not you believe it. I would hope my words and actions demonstrate as much to you but that’s the tricky part about bias, if people are looking to hate or denounce you they can certainly find a way and once the claim is out there our shallow world cares very little about whether or not it’s actually true so long as it fits the narrative of Christians as bigoted, oppressive, ignorant etc. And to use such a narrative to justify hating me because of my religion, to use that ill will as the basis for assuming that I would do something so callous as to cheer one man beating another solely because of his sexual preference is perhaps the most ironic of all because in that moment this anonymous man becomes the very type of person he is condemning, one who chooses to hate others based on nothing but their life choices.

And that is an irony of the worst kind.

Martin Luther King Jr. 

I really like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
I know we’re taught to like him all throughout public school, but he’s one of those people who I imagine I’d still like even if the curriculum didn’t overflow with praise.

And I get weirdly nostalgic around his holiday because the world is so full of people who try to imitate him instead of realizing that his greatness relied chiefly upon him imitating Christ. To explain, for most of my life I’ve been a student of history and I believe that too often we study acts that make a character in isolation from what forms that character in the first place. For example, Martin Luther King was a minister which means he was familiar with ideas of heaven and the Christian teaching of loving thy neighbor because all are equal in the eyes of God. He was also a Baptist, which I know means he read his Bible. And in the Bible Jesus literally overcomes the world not by dominating it as he could have done, but by choosing heaven over it every single moment of His life even unto death.

I bring this up not because I have some overarching narrative agenda that I’m trying to brainwash you with, but because so many movements that attempt to imitate Martin Luther King Jr. come up woefully short and I would argue that the main reason for that is the misunderstanding of Dr. King himself. Because I would also argue that Dr. King didn’t set out to simply win political rights from a government or garner the adulation of the world. I truly think that he believed that when he died and went to heaven and saw a white person standing next to him he would not be looking not at his superior but at his brother. I believe he recognized this mysterious Divine reality and held on to this truth in his heart throughout his life, and that it was this vision that motivated him.

And I think Dr. King was so determined because he knew that the only thing that can truly overcome the world is the only thing that can truly overcome the nature of man, love. Perfect love. Love in the face of hatred. Love in the face of adversity. Love that provides dignity in scenes that are undignified and makes all mankind brothers and sisters.  And it was Dr. King’s witness to that love that is at the heart of the true Civil Rights Movement, and all civil rights movements throughout history. Because the world does not grant civil rights. The world deals in power, wealth, domination, and servitude. It is love that grants peace, freedom, and the universal brotherhood that comes from being not just citizens of earth, but citizens of heaven. And it is the world’s recognition of that immutable reality that truly changes it for the better, because it is in that act of concession that the world becomes a little more like the heavens, and when we see that happen we remember who we are.

And modern protestors, if they even deserve that title, want the glory without the guts. They take the shell of what is good, while missing the center. They self-importantly champion those the world loves and oppress those whom the world hates. They champion feelings over reason, relativism over absolute truth, and spirituality over religion. They champion not universal love and brotherhood, but a sterile equality, simplifying Dr. King’s message that God creates us equal and His love renders us brothers and sisters to instead say just that Dr. King had a dream that all people should have equal rights under the law, and this does the man a gross disservice. It maximizes a part of his mission at the expense of the whole and turns him from a champion of the heavens to a champion of the times, from a victor who overcame the power of the world to a victim who successfully managed to get a little power back from the system.

And I think he deserves to be remembered not for what he gained, but for the inspiring example of love that he so freely and equally gave away.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.