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.   


Confessions about Confession

So speaking as a Catholic I have to confess that there are many, many aspects of my faith that are mysterious and rich in Biblical ritualistic significance. What this translates to meaning for the everyday is that there are several misconceptions surrounding the Catholic Church and people talk about it like they understand it when they don’t (some Catholics are probably included in that). Tackling them all right here would be impossible. But I did want to talk about the sacrament of Confession.

I understand the confusion and how that might come off to a non-Catholic. It would be insulting because it suggests that the victim has to go and ask forgiveness for being victimized, handwhich would be moronic if it were true because the essence of being victimized is that whatever happened was beyond your control, that it was not chosen. And it’s easy for people to believe that the Catholic Church is moronic. It certainly suits the world’s secular agenda, and I think there are many who enjoy believing that without actually worrying about whether their opinion is actually based in truth.

But, back to addressing the matter at hand, this particular victim, in this case a woman, committed no crime. So how am I going to make the argument that I believe confession is a good idea for the woman in this circumstance and that the person highlighted in the article was (based on my limited knowledge supplied from the article) not trying to be a dismissive jerk?

So glad you asked.

If a friend confided in me that they had been the victim of a sexual assault and they shared my Catholic faith I would hope that the sacrament of confession would be the first thing I would recommend. Because all of my friends, as different as they are, have one thing in common: the fact that I love them. And I hope we can all agree that sexual assault is a crime that needs healing. So if I love my friend like I say I do, I would have to admit to them that I can’t heal internal wounds like that.  I would do all I could for my friend. I would be there for him or her, make them tea, offer my condolences, talk or not talk, go on long walks or whatever they needed to do, but I still can’t heal them. I might be able to walk the mile with them at their side, but I can’t walk it in their place. Only God can do that.

And when I need internal healing, the sacrament of confession is my first stop. Because, contrary to popular belief, confession is not a place to go and list your sins in front of God so you can feel bad about yourself for the rest of the day. No, confession is, to borrow the words from one of my favorite Dominican priests of all time, “a place to come and experience the mercy of God.”

I know the mercy of God sounds a lot like forgiveness. It is a lot like forgiveness, but why limit yourself? The mercy of God is also the complete and total love of God, his descent into our misery. His caring about us in every way no matter our sinfulness or present circumstances. And when we go to confession we choose to receive this love into our lives. No limit on how many times you can go. But the priest actually stands in persona Christi which is the Latin for “in the person of Christ.” That is a big deal. It essentially turns an ordinary church room into a grace factory. (The love is as unique as the needs of each us, but factory still works as a comparison because the love of Christ can be supplied infinitely in Him and through Him.) To get back to the point, you are confessing your sins and your struggles to Christ Himself and receiving the graces to heal, to overcome, and to be made whole again. And I will confess that in confession I don’t limit myself to confessing my sins commandment by commandment (or commandment broken by commandment broken I guess would be more accurate) I confess attitudes, places I want to improve, and life circumstances that are hard for me and cause me to question my faith. And boy has the process (learning how to confess for real) ever been fruitful. It wasn’t immediate, but I’m glad I stuck with it because I have gotten a lot of good advice, pertinent scripture passages, support, understanding, and forgiveness in the confessional. A good confessor is for sure something to thank God for and if you’ve never had that I’m sorry but pray about it and continue to seek it out. (Then try a Dominican parish if there’s one near you.)

But suggesting confession is not just a cop out. It’s where healing happens. That’s why God put it there in the first place. It’s not like a sexual assault victim could walk in there once and never struggle with the memories again (although here’s hoping- that would be great!) but it’s a place, to me I always imagine entering in the heart of God or like some cozy parlor where you meet with Jesus and you just chat, openly and honestly about your actual soul. God already knows what we’ve done or what has happened, and even more He knows exactly what we need. And I believe that it’s an important meeting place to have on the journey of life.

Maybe the most important of all. And it makes me sad that so many Christians reject it. In the spirit of open honesty, to me burning your sins on a paper or hanging them on a cross as I’ve seen done in some Protestant churches is nice symbolism but can never compare with actually entering a space and handing them to Jesus through the intermediary of a priest and experiencing the full freedom of merciful love. Knowing that God has looked on your unworthiness, and still decided on the most loving response available in this universe, to freely give you Himself.

Equality for all (except you)

Hello again peasants! (I had a history professor who used to begin every class that way. I miss him and his frequent Monty Python references.)

I’ve been blogging for a short time now and while I’m still a very small deal (if I’m any kind of deal in the first place) I do get a lot of interaction from this website- so thanks for making that possible with your readership! I genuinely do appreciate it. I still find it incredibly humbling, even after these many months. I kind of can’t comprehend that as many people would read my stuff as they have, so thanks again- really.

Anyway, today I wanted to pay tribute to a comment that someone posted to my article that I just can’t get over. It was in response to Bad Feminism and the comment was this: “The ‘political movement’ you’re referring to is called equality.” The person’s misunderstanding of my article fascinated me because the entire misinterpretation hinged on our differing opinions as to the definition of the word equality. And while this commentator tried to enlighten me to his definition as you saw above, he missed the point of my article expressly because he did not catch the distinction in our definitions.

To elaborate, we were discussing feminism and we disagreed about the nature of the feminist movement. The commentator sees feminism as a political movement for equality between men and women that makes fantastic strides for my gender whereas I see feminism as an evolving cultural movement with its roots in political equality that undermines authentic feminity.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, his views can best be summarized by the graphic below:


And my views are closer in line with this artsy internet graphic:

What he did not understand/care to realize was that I’m not against giving women the right to vote or giving them equal pay or giving them access to an education because I think each person is born with an inherent, God-given worth that far transcends politics and makes no distinctions.

However, I find it offensive that a woman’s worth is now subject to judgment by worldly standards of power, the types of power which have traditionally been held by men. By that I mean I can’t help but notice that a woman’s societal worth is measured in terms whether or not she is as successful as a man in doing whatever a man does.  It places women at a disadvantage right from the start because it automatically assumes that men are inherently superior to women and that women “bridge that gap” by successfully imitating men and/or surpassing men entirely in any arena where competition is plausible. That is why my masters degree in elementary education was once laughed off by a feminist speaker at a lecture I attended, because women have always been good at the whole “children thing,” and if I wanted to truly assert my intellectual prowess I ought to do something more, in a word, masculine like business, science, or politics (although she didn’t say masculine, I believe her word was empowering). What she essentially meant was that her view of women was to see them as unequal and inadequate men, and her solution to this was to encourage women to behave like better men than men. Therefore, her insult to my studies was to be viewed as a compliment in this bizarre light, because she essentially believed that I had the power within me to transcend my lowly womanhood (of children and childbearing) and succeed in the world of men, thereby validating us all.

I prefer the direct approach of entirely rejecting that view for the utterly infuriating nonsense that it is because not only is her conclusion drawn from dubious logic, it is bad theology (might I recommend Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body because he explains it better than I could ever hope to). And I have always viewed men and women as complementary halves to a beautiful whole picture rather than two separate whole pictures competing for the same position of prestige on the wall.

Moreover, the true definition of equality is hard to measure because it is, in essence, the measure of two things being equal, and beyond mere mathematics this can be a hard concept to quantify. So best of luck to my opponent in this debate because I am inclined to believe he will never achieve the equality he strives for because life is not static and equality is. And if we insist on politicizing something so abstract, then with every change that life inevitably brings, the moment that one gender is perceived to have an advantage over the other the messy process of state mandated equality will begin again. The protests will ensue, demands of the injured party will be given, and the whole cycle of negotiations and political rhetoric and social media outrage will carry on for an indefinite amount of time as each side grows more acrimonious. And the more I see the ideal of equality unfold the more I see it play into a culture of victimhood where the disadvantaged seek not equality but a sort of revenge against those who once had an advantage, which is also not equality, merely a reversal.

I know my opponent may have the best of intentions when he espouses ideals of equality for all, but I still can’t help but wonder what continuing down this path will truly accomplish. Because I could tell from his condescension that he had already written me off as an opponent to his cause and was more interested in demonizing my dissent by highlighting my ignorance (the only conceivable explanation for my dissent in his mind) than he was in listening to me, and that is the tragedy of modern politics and of most modern debates.

And with these observations in mind, it is easy for me to discern that I will always prefer the path of Christian love of God and neighbor to the path of retribution because purely human justice has its limitations, and I pledge my life not to human ideals of justice but to Divine mercy.