What is Age Regression (Agere/Littlespace)? | Healing Your Inner Child, Part II

In the past, I wrote a blog post about Healing Your Inner Child, which to this day, is still my most popular post. I think a lot of people have experienced childhood wounds and relate to the idea of wanting to go back and be a child again. That being said, I decided to make a “Part II” post where I talk about one way that a lot of people — myself included — engage in childlike play in a safe way: age regression.

As someone who experienced childhood trauma, I had to grow up fast. Even though I know I played with toys as a kid, I don’t have a lot of positive childhood memories. Since then, I’ve always been drawn to things like coloring books and dollhouses, even though I knew I had outgrown these things. Soon, I learned I wasn’t the only adult who felt this way — and that some adults were engaging in play with the things they used to love by participating in healthy, safe age regression.

What is Age Regression?

Age regression (“agere” for short) is a coping mechanism where a person mentally reverts to an earlier age (one where they felt safe) to deal with the effects of a mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. Some people entirely regress to an earlier age, fully believing that they are that age and engaging in developmentally-appropriate behaviors for that age group. Others don’t regress completely — they may act childlike or engage in play while still acknowledging that they are no longer that age.

Regression Ages

Whether you’re fully or partially regressed, the headspace of feeling like a child, or feeling “little,” is often called “littlespace.” A lot of people have a “regression age” that they revert to every time they’re in littlespace. For others, it’s a range of ages or a certain developmental group. You can pinpoint your little age (or ages) based on the behaviors you exhibit and the activities you enjoy during littlespace:

0-1: non-verbal, crying, kicking, sucking; not potty-trained, uses pacifier and diapers; bottle-fed only

1-3: learning to be independent, becoming verbal, fantasy play, asking questions; potty-training, may or may not use diapers/pull-ups and/or pacifier; weaning off bottle to sippy cup and baby foods & some solid foods

46: explorative play, developing routines, becoming more independent, imaginative play; fully potty-trained and no longer uses pacifier; switched to sippy cup or water bottle and eats solid foods

7-11: mastering skills, becoming more concerned with social experiences, starting to question beliefs, more opportunities for independence; fully potty-trained and no longer uses pacifier; switched to regular plastic cup and/or water bottle and eats solid foods

Is Agere a Kink?

One thing that’s important to acknowledge is that age regression or littlespace is NOT a kink. Some people do engage in caregiver dynamics (I do not, so I won’t speak too much about this since it’s not something I understand well), but they are NOT sexual and there is NO power dynamic. However, you can be a “little” with or without a caregiver.

When people engage in a relationship with a power dynamic, sexual or not, they may call it DDLG or CGL. These terms are considered kink/NSFW by the agere community. To be perfectly clear, we are NOT talking about kink in this blog post! I’m talking 100% about SFW agere/littlespace.

Is Age Regression Harmful?

Agere can be healthy — there’s nothing inherently wrong with it! Being in littlespace can be a healthy coping mechanism, can keep you from engaging in maladaptive coping mechanisms (like self-harm), and can help you heal your inner child. It’s even used by some therapists to help people access traumatic memories from childhood and heal from their pasts.

Here’s a great quote from a scientific paper that I think perfectly sums it up:

Regressive behavior can be simple or complex, harmful or harmless to the individual showing the behavior and to those around them. Regression becomes problematic, especially in a hospital, when it is employed to avoid difficult adult situations or stressors.

Hermioni N. Lokko, MD, MPP & Theodore A. Stern, MD (2015)

Something I want to clear up, however, is the distinction between helpful and harmful agere behaviors. While I think it’s important to acknowledge that regression itself isn’t inherently bad, there are times when being a regressor can get in the way of leading a full and healthy life. I’ll call these “healthy” and “unhealthy” regression for the purposes of this article, although it’s rarely as black-and-white as being one or the other.

As a social work student and aspiring therapist, as well as an age regressor, I would define healthy age regression as:

  • A conscious choice (you aren’t regressing involuntarily, which can be harmful at times)
  • A form of self-care (you aren’t harming yourself or creating problems in your life by regressing)
  • Healing to your inner child (you have to define this for yourself — to me, play is healing, but temper tantrums are not healing)
  • Pure regression (“impure” regression occurs when age regressors have unwanted intrusive thoughts of “adult” things, such as sexuality)

Times when age regression can be unhealthy or unhelpful include:

  • When you regress even though you don’t want to (involuntary regression)
  • When you’re using it to avoid adult situations or it gets in the way of adult responsibilities, like going to work
  • When you are self-destructive or harm yourself in littlespace (e.g. head banging)
  • When it is your ONLY coping mechanism

To summarize, age regression usually isn’t harmful. If you’re experiencing involuntary regression and it bothers you or is causing problems in your life, you should definitely speak with a mental health professional, since it can be a symptom of more serious disorders that require psychological intervention. Otherwise, if you’re consciously engaging in agere as a form of self-care or a coping strategy, there isn’t any harm in accessing your inner child, as long as you have other grown-up ways to cope, too!

How to Be Little

Tips for Healthy Age Regression

  • Engage in age regression in a safe place, around people who understand your behavior (or at least accept it)
    • If you live with others who aren’t supportive, lock your door or do it when no one is home
  • Set up a comfortable play area with blankets, pillows, stuffies, and fairy lights (or anything you want)
  • Fill up your water bottle, sippy cup, or bottle and make snacks easily available for when you want them
  • Take care of any “adulting” before you regress: pay bills due today, get work or homework done, etc.
  • Stock up on little gear, if you can afford it, like arts and crafts supplies, stuffed animals, and cute accessories
    • If you don’t have a lot of money, Dollar Tree and Five Below are great places to get little gear!

Activities for Age Regressors

  • Eating “little” snacks or meals (dinosaur nuggets, mac ‘n’ cheese, fruit and veggies cut into shapes)
  • Sipping out of a bottle, juice box, or sippy cup (based on your “little age”)
  • Sucking on a pacifier, if you want to
  • Wearing a onesie or matching pajama set, if you want to
  • Watching kids’ TV shows or movies on Netflix or YouTube
  • Coloring a children’s coloring book or printable coloring pages with markers or crayons
  • Doing arts and crafts projects
  • Starting a “little journal” for age regression
  • Going to Build-a-Bear Workshop
  • Playing kids’ video games or phone games
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Drawing with chalk
  • Take a bubble bath with bath toys
  • Print out a reward chart and use stickers to fill it in

Inexpensive Little Gear for Age Regressors

Play-Doh 5-Pack ($3, Five Below)
Nickelodeon Character Bubbles ($3.25, Five Below)
Rainbow Sherbert Unicorn ($9.99, Claire’s)
#BFF Nail Polish ($5.99, Claire’s)
Decora Kei Bracelet Set ($4.90, Blippo)
NUK Learner Cup ($6.99, Amazon)
Hello Kitty DIY Scrapbook ($17.99, Amazon)

How to Become Your Authentic Self

Today’s post is a little bit different, but it’s something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Something I’ve been talking about a lot with my therapist is how I learned from a young age to suppress who I really was — the things I liked to do; my sense of humor; my opinions — in order to win others’ approval.

The need to be liked is something I still struggle with, and probably always will on some level. But more and more, I am learning how to be not the best version of myself, but the truest version of myself. I have decided that 2021 will be my year of authenticity: of learning to be myself, of embracing the things that make me “weird,” of no longer hiding how I really feel.

Since I was 16, I have lived my life online. I became a blogger in high school, and my blog began to take off halfway through college. By then, I received brand sponsorships, developed friendships with other bloggers, and felt that, on some level, people were invested in my life.

Online, I presented a perfect image of myself, which involved joining a sorority full of inauthentic friendships and spending money I didn’t have on credit cards in order to keep up with appearances. Even though I was struggling, I posted as if I had it all together and was sharing advice to a previous self. But offline, I was struggling with loneliness, depression, anxiety, and dysfunctional relationships.

A turning point occurred when I ended a three-year relationship with a toxic boyfriend. Around that time, I stepped away from my blog and decided to live my life offline. I spent only about a month being single, but in that time, I learned a lot. I discovered a deep yearning for belonging that led me to seek comfort from dead-end relationships with emotionally unavailable men.

Shortly after, I had a breakthrough that led me to assert my boundaries for the first time and brought me to my current partner, David. Then, I ended my relationship with my emotionally abusive father, faced my credit card debt, quit my sorority, and still managed to graduate college one year early. That year, I had far fewer people in my life, but for the first time, I could say that I was truly happy.

Even now, I sometimes feel as if I am playing a role — not by choice, but by habit. I want to be the perfect doctor’s girlfriend, the perfect dog mom, the perfect “future therapist,” the perfect influencer. But perfectionism is inherently at odds with authenticity. Every day, I have to consciously make the decision to be my truest self, not an actress playing a part in a film.

I am still on my journey toward healing from people-pleasing and inauthenticity. But since the years I spent living my life for other people, I have learned a lot about what it means (to me, at least) to be authentic. Based on those experiences, I’m sharing some tips that I hope will help you navigate your own journey.

1. Examine Your Beliefs

If you’re here, you probably feel the need to people-please, to put on a fake smile, or to play a role at least some of the time. But have you ever asked yourself why you feel that way?

To pinpoint the beliefs that make you feel like your authentic self isn’t good enough, start at the very beginning. We all receive messages in our childhood, direct or indirect, that shape the way we think about ourselves. Maybe it’s that I’m an aspiring therapist, but I truly believe that these messages are ingrained in our subconscious from a young age, and continue to shape the way we behave as adults.

Sometimes, those messages are obvious, like only receiving praise when we got an A on a test or won an award. But other times, they’re more insidious: for example, I had a narcissistic parent who used to imply that my friends were “nerds.” As a result, I learned to hide a lot of my interests that were considered “weird” at the time.

The next time you hear a critical voice in your head, it’s worth asking why you believe this thing is true instead of quietly accepting it as such. Sometimes, when we look more closely at our beliefs, we realize they aren’t rooted in the things we truly believe at all, but in the things that someone else taught us.

2. Embrace What Makes You “Weird”

As an Enneagram Type Six, it should come as no surprise that I am self-conscious about feeling “different.” Throughout college, I molded myself into the person I thought I should be in order to make people like me. I joined a sorority, started drinking, and bought a new Lilly Pulitzer wardrobe. But behind the scenes, I was struggling with my mental, physical, and financial health.

Growing up, I heard so many messages that made me feel ashamed of who I was and what I was interested in. In high school, I stopped reading manga or watching anime — hobbies I’ve since picked back up, because I genuinely enjoyed them — after learning it wasn’t cool anymore. I have always liked Harry Potter, but I learned to bury my inner Hufflepuff so others wouldn’t judge me.

So many of us struggle with the compulsive need to be liked — and trust me, I get it. Rejection is painful. However, I’ve learned that when you try to make everyone like you, you don’t make genuine connections. Meaningful friendships and romantic relationships come when you are being your true, authentic self, as people are attracted to others who are like them. People may reject or make fun of you, but at least you will have the gift of friendship, instead of the surface-level connections that are inevitable when you’re trying to be liked by everyone.

3. Follow Your Intuition

I am an INFP, so being intuitive is a part of who I am. (In case you couldn’t tell, I really like personality tests!) But I also spent so long pretending to be someone who I wasn’t that I know what it’s like to confuse what YOU like with what you think you’re SUPPOSED to like.

Trying to be liked over being authentic stifles your intuition. You learn to ignore the gut feelings that draw you toward certain people, objects, and experiences if there’s a risk that those things may create conflict or cause others to reject you. That’s why it’s critical to authenticity to get in touch with, and listen to, those gut feelings again.

Take the example of clothing shopping. When you buy clothes, are you looking for clothing that fits a certain “aesthetic?” Or are you picking up the items you are naturally drawn to and attracted to? The key to authenticity is doing less of the former and more of the latter. Listen to your gut, not to what society has to say about what you’re supposed to like.

4. Contradict Yourself

Despite what high school cafeterias may suggest, most people can’t be boiled down to a single “type.” We aren’t nerds or jocks or goths or band geeks. People are more complicated than that. Instead of trying to mold yourself into a stereotype, don’t be afraid to be your unique self! You don’t need to simplify yourself into a certain stereotype (or, these days, “aesthetic”).

We tend to do these things to make others feel more comfortable, since cognitive dissonance — the psychological term for making sense of contradictions — feels weird and, at times, wrong. But it isn’t your job to make everyone around you comfortable. If just existing as yourself makes someone uncomfortable, that’s THEIR problem — not yours!

So, where to start? To begin with, stop saying “or” and start saying “and.” You’re allowed to be soft AND tough. You’re allowed to like the color pink AND have a black belt in karate. You’re allowed to study science AND have an Etsy shop on the side. You don’t need to be girly OR strong; logical OR creative.

You’re allowed to exist as you are, even if parts of who you are seem to contract one another. As human beings, we’re tempted to make people fit neatly into boxes. But it’s okay to be messy. Embrace the parts of yourself that make you say “and.”

5. Give Yourself Permission to Change

As important as it is to accept yourself as you are, you also deserve permission to change. Growth is an inherent part of being human. We aren’t meant to stay the same our entire lives — otherwise, we wouldn’t get wrinkles or gray hair!

Sometimes, we cling to old interests because they’ve been part of our identities for so long, we don’t know what to do without them. Pursuing a career in social work, I sometimes worry if I made a mistake by abandoning marketing. I knew I wanted to study communications way back in high school, and I fear I’m not listening to my instincts by changing my mind.

But the thing is, you’re allowed to change your mind. People outgrow careers, friendships, relationships, and hobbies the same way that they outgrow their clothes or shoes. It doesn’t always feel comfortable — in fact, a friend breakup might be the worst thing I’ve ever been through — but it always happens for a reason.

And, if it helps, you can always change your mind again! Remember that girl you knew who changed her major ten times in college? Schools LET students do that — because they know that it’s in our nature to be indecisive. Just remember that, with the exception of tattoos and pregnancies, no decision is permanent. You can always pick up and move, quit your job, or learn something new.

Give yourself permission to make those mistakes. Mistakes are the business of living, after all — and if nothing else, you’ll always learn from them.

How I Got Into a Top 10 Social Work School | My Tips for Getting Accepted to Your Top Grad School

One thing I’m excited to write about more on my blog in 2021 is my journey toward becoming a trauma therapist. For anyone who wants to become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW or LICSW, depending on the state you live in), graduate school is a non-negotiable part of that journey.

Do you need a Master’s degree to become a social worker? If you’re interested in macro practice — like working at a hospital or non-profit — the answer is, probably not. But if you want to become a clinical social worker, then a social work program that will prepare you for licensure is a must. Many, if not all, states include a Master’s degree in their list of requirements for licensure.

I finished my graduate school application process, including taking the GRE, at the end of November 2020. This week, I heard back from — and committed to — my top choice social work school, Boston College. It’s tied with my alma mater, Boston University, as the #10 social work school in the country. Fun fact: the two schools are fierce hockey rivals, and now I’ll have degrees from both!

Now, here’s the caveat: school rankings don’t mean much of anything. The meaning we ascribe to them is entirely personal, since sites like U.S. World Report rank based on factors that don’t have anything to do with education — like donations and new buildings. (Don’t believe me? Watch this clip from the show Adam Ruins Everything.) What was most important to me was to go somewhere that had a good clinical program, which BC does: they offer a specialized track in Clinical Practice.

That’s why the alternate title of this post is “My Tips For Getting Into Your Top Grad School.” Because I’d rather help you get into your favorite program than into a program you don’t love but which has that top 10 ranking. That being said, I’ve learned a thing or two along the way throughout the admissions process at Boston College. Here are some tips based on what I’ve learned to help you get into your top MSW program.

Tip #1: Show Off Relevant Experience

Social work programs don’t require a background in social work, but they do usually require you to have majored in the liberal arts. Your grad school applications typically ask for a resume and a personal statement of varying length. These are your opportunities to show off the places where you really shine — and that are most relevant to your future in social work.

Because I didn’t know I wanted to do social work in college, my undergraduate experiences weren’t that closely tied to my choice of graduate program. So, instead of stressing the internships I had on my resume — on the Massachusetts Coordinated Democratic Campaign in 2018, for example — I talked about my volunteer experience in mental health. I also paid $20 to get certified in administering Naloxone and another $20 to get trained in suicide prevention so I could a) learn and b) put these certificates on my resume.

You probably won’t put coursework on your resume, so your personal statement is your opportunity to talk about these. Many graduate programs specifically ask you to address relevant courses you took in college. For social work, that could mean psychology — but it could also mean any course that challenges your critical thinking and teaches you valuable skills. For example, I also talked about how I took a Statistics course and minored in Political Science, and how those helped prepare me for a graduate level program.

Even more so than your experience in social work or mental health, MSW programs are looking to see that you’re mature and capable of handling a rigorous program. They need someone who can juggle classes and fieldwork, and represent their school well at a fieldwork placement outside the school. My advice is to worry less about how impressive you are as an applicant and focus on showing them that you’re capable of succeeding now.

Tip #2: Customize Your Personal Statement

One of the most important things I did for each school that I think helped me get accepted to Boston College was to customize my personal statement to the school I was applying to. Again, many of the schools I applied to specifically asked me to address why I wanted to attend their program. However, for BC, I was especially excited to write about why I wanted to go there because of their specific Clinical Practice concentration.

Instead of copying-and-pasting the exact same personal statement for each program, I highly recommend finding at least one specific thing you like about each school and mentioning it in a short paragraph. Here’s a trick you can take directly from my applications: look into the school’s mission statement and see if you can quote it directly. Don’t plug a two-paragraph quote in, but if you can use two or three words from the school’s mission statement in your personal statement, it shows them that you did your research.

Tip #3: Take the GRE if Your GPA is Low

I had a difficult second year of college (I say second year because I graduated in three years, so I didn’t have a typical freshman-sophomore-junior-senior experience). I was struggling with my mental health, struggling with my relationship with my dad (whom I no longer talk to), and struggling to adjust to being single after a breakup. As a result, I partied too hard, caught a recurrent case of strep, and got Cs in most of my classes. This really dragged down my GPA.

At the time, I wasn’t worried about my GPA because I thought I would be done after college. I never anticipated going back to grad school because I didn’t think it was necessary for a career in communications. I still don’t, but obviously, a career change is in my future — one I never could have expected! But that put me in a bit of a pickle when I decided to apply for graduate schools. My undergraduate GPA was a 3.2, which is just over the 3.0 minimum for many graduate school programs.

While I technically passed muster, I was worried that my GPA might drag down my application. So, I made the decision to register for the GRE test. GRE scores aren’t required for most undergraduate programs unless you have a GPA below a certain threshold (usually, that threshold is 3.0 or lower). But, because I’m good at standardized tests, I knew that it would help my application to take it. If you aren’t good at standardized tests, I would look into other ways to strengthen your application.

Since I’m a good test taker, I decided to go for it. After studying for a month and a half, I got a 321 and was in the 96th percentile for verbal (the part of the test that’s more important to MSW programs), so you could say I know myself pretty well!

Tip #4: Choose Reliable Recommenders

When people give advice about recommendation letters, they tell you to pick the recommender who will write you the strongest letter of recommendation. I happen to think there’s one thing that’s more important than writing you a good letter, and that’s how reliable your recommender is.

I had three great recommendation letters from two coworkers and a professor, but my experience with recommendation letters highlighted how important it is to choose someone you can rely on, even more so than someone who likes you or whose class you got a good grade in. Unfortunately, two out of three of my letters ended up being a bit of a chase. It all worked out for me in the end, but I wish I would have taken into consideration speed when I was creating a plan for my recommendation letters.

Of course, many professors are busy, and when you’re relying on them for a recommendation, it’s impossible to avoid working with their schedule. If that’s the case for you, I recommend thinking about your recommendation letters months ahead of time. Ask them to submit your letter way before the deadline — because chances are, they’re going to submit it a little later than you ask them to.

Most schools won’t review your application at all if you don’t get the materials in on time, including recommendations, so it’s important to follow up and stay with it. I sent so many emails and Facebook messages I started to feel like a broken record, but in the end, that’s how I was able to push my recommenders to get their letters in on time.

How My Chronic Illness Led to an Eating Disorder Relapse

To be honest, I don’t even know how to begin this post. I’m embarrassed, I’m ashamed, and I’m deeply saddened that I’m writing it at all. That’s why I’ve been so silent on this blog (that, and I’m studying for the GRE). But while I wish that I could pretend that this never happened, I know that maintaining a facade of perfection isn’t helpful to me, nor is it helpful to anyone else who might be struggling with the same thoughts or feelings that I am.

So, here it goes: I’m currently recovering from an eating disorder relapse. And while I recognize that recovery is not linear, and relapses are a part of life, it’s hard not to feel embarrassed when my eating disorder recovery, and using diet to manage my chronic illness symptoms, has been such an important part of my online presence.

I think it started with this blog post (TW: weight loss): Can You Lose Weight in Eating Disorder Recovery? I stand by my answer, because I am an advocate for body neutrality and body autonomy. If you want to change your body, you should be able to — but you should do it out of love, not hatred, for your body. Yet you should never, EVER try to lose weight when you are still in the throngs of an eating disorder.

The critical mistake I made when I went on my own “weight loss journey” was believing that I was “fully recovered” from my eating disorder. I recognize now that I existed in a state of partial recovery. I stopped actively dieting and obsessively exercising, and I was no longer borderline-underweight — but that didn’t mean that I had overcome the demons responsible for my eating disorder.

That state of partial recovery was what made it possible for me to relapse in my eating disorder recovery. Even though I now weigh over 20 lbs more than I did in my orthorexia/EDNOS days, I believe that I am still, in many ways, back where I started.

Why I Relapsed

Ever since I was misdiagnosed with IBS in 2018, I have been on some form of a “diet,” masquerading as self-righteous concern for my chronic illness symptoms. Once I found out I likely had endometriosis, not IBS, I was relieved to give up the low-FODMAP diet and eat whatever I wanted again. But as soon as I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted again, my doctor made a simple suggestion that I try going gluten-free for my endo.

That plunged me into a world of shoddy research and iffy recommendations from people without medical or nutritional certifications, telling me that I shouldn’t eat X, Y, or Z because it would promote inflammation. I don’t blame my doctor for it, especially because I don’t think she knew about my history of disordered eating, but I do blame myself for taking her suggestion and running away with it. I actively let it derail my recovery, because, in short, I was desperate. I was tired of feeling “sick,” and I thought that going gluten-free and dairy-free would help me do that.

I did feel better, for a little while — but recently, after my second day in a row experiencing extreme hunger, it became clear to me that I had traded one type of “sickness” for another. My restrictive diet helped my endo belly and my constipation, but it was destroying my mind. Now, I know two things for sure about my relationship with food as someone in recovery from chronic illness:

Firstly, chronic illness is a significant stressor. In my dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) intensive outpatient program (IOP) two Januaries ago, we learned about the importance of relapse prevention for mental illness. Part of relapse prevention is recognizing triggers (like stressful situations) that might lead you to relapse. But because my chronic illness was so all-consuming, between doctors’ appointments and late nights spent educating myself on endo, I forgot to slow down long enough to check in with myself and recognize the stress I was feeling. As a result, I underestimated the stress of having a chronic illness in my life. That’s how I failed to anticipate my relapse before it began. All I cared about was feeling better physically. I thought that managing my symptoms would alleviate my stress, but when I turned to diet to help me “recover” from endo, all I did was trade the lack of control I felt about my chronic illness in for a faulty sense of control in the form of restriction.

Secondly, the chronic illness community encourages restrictive dieting. The endo community online is an important part of my life. They are my supports, and I would not trade the friends I have made on Instagram and through this blog for anything. That being said, there are “influencers” in the endo community who gain money and followers from recommending restrictive diet plans (*cough cough THE ENDO DIET cough*). And the thing is, people with endometriosis are more vulnerable to falling prey to these diets than the average person. Why? Because we’re in pain, and we’re desperate. I was willing to do anything — even potentially compromise my eating disorder recovery — to feel less bloated, to have regular bowel movements, and to stop having pelvic pain. So, even though my surgeon back in Cleveland told me there was no scientific evidence that cutting out food groups could relieve endo symptoms, I let those “influencers” convince me that food was the problem…. when the real problem was, and is, the f**cking endometriotic tissue growing in my abdomen!

The Truth About Dieting and Chronic Illness

Now that I’ve learned the truth about diet and chronic illness — that it’s my illness’s fault, and not my diet’s, that I feel this way — I want to shout it from the rooftops so everyone knows it. For now, though, I guess I’ll settle for sharing on this blog 😉

But thanks to the wealth of misinformation about chronic illnesses and their management that’s out there, I’ve also learned a second important truth: diet-related chronic health conditions (DRCHCs) create a perfect storm for disordered eating. In fact, there is a really fascinating study you can check out that goes into this in more depth — but I’ll attempt to summarize the most important parts of it below.

Basically, the study identifies some key factors that make chronic illnesses a breeding ground for disordered eating habits, chronic dieting, and restriction:

  1. The role of weight in chronic illness. Chronic illnesses, and the medications used to treat them, are often associated with rapid fluctuations in weight, including both weight loss and weight gain. Either can be a trigger for disordered eating, in my experience. Weight loss can become addictive, leading you to compulsively pursue more and more of it — yet no matter how much weight you lose, you’re never satisfied. Weight gain, on the other hand, can trigger self-deprecating, fatphobic thoughts that make us feel “less than” for putting on a few pounds. I strongly feel that this contributed to my relapse. In January 2020, I started taking norethindrone acetate (a synthetic form of progesterone) to halt my periods. Little did I know that progesterone was associated with significant weight gain. I had already put on weight as my gut healed from IBS — which was a good thing, considering I was underweight at the time — but as a result, I found it even harder to cope with the extra 10-15 lbs I gained from the progesterone.
  2. The role of food in chronic illness management. “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food,” is an increasingly popular sentiment in modern medicine — and, as a result, in the chronic illness community. We’ve somehow gotten it into our heads that using medical technology or treatments to manage disease is “bad,” and using so-called natural treatments like dietary restriction or essential oils is “good.” (If you’ve ever had an ED, this type of language probably feels eerily familiar to you.) I feel this is especially prevalent in the reproductive health community, especially when it comes to conditions that primarily affect womxn — like endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Thanks to dangerous marketing messaging from influencers, womxn are constantly plugged into this diet culture-fueled fantasy that we can “cure” an incurable disease, like endo or PCOS, through diet…as long as we pay a ridiculous fee to be part of some program or protocol, of course. What’s more, some chronic illnesses — like IBS, for example, or celiac disease — require a preoccupation with food as a central part of treatment. When I was on the low FODMAP diet for IBS, I experienced the triggering effects of not being able to eat, well, anything firsthand. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I had something like celiac disease, where exposure to gluten-containing foods would be not only unpleasant but also potentially dangerous. When diet is so intricately tied to chronic illness management, obsession and preoccupation with food necessarily follow.
  3. The role of chronic illness in body image. It’s hard to love your body when your body is a constant source of pain and discomfort. When your body feels like the enemy, it’s nearly impossible to look in the mirror and love what you see. For me, what affected my body image most was my endo belly. Let’s be real here: it’s hard to feel beautiful or sexy when you can’t button your pants! Constipation, diarrhea, and the dreaded “endo belly” are symptoms I’ve faced nearly every day of my adult life. Even when I was underweight, I genuinely believed that my bloated belly was “fat” because it was full of air, full of endo, and severely inflamed. Gastrointestinal disorders or symptoms are a component of so many chronic diseases, yet we don’t normalize the diversity of body shapes that necessarily result from a bloated stomach. In a culture that emphasizes the importance of having a “flat tummy” and “busting belly bloat,” and where influencers like the Kardashians are making millions off promoting diet teas to help us smooth out our stomachs, it’s no wonder that having a disease that causes bloat takes such a toll on self-esteem.

Conclusion

There are so many problems with the way we talk about chronic illness, both in the medical system and within the chronic illness community, that contribute to the prevalence of disordered eating among people with chronic illnesses. For some reason, we’ve become preoccupied with treating people who “heal their bodies naturally” (!!!) with diet, exercise, essential oils, and acupuncture as the “gold standard” in chronic illness management. Unless we’re basically dying (or in so much pain that we wish we were dying), turning to modern medicine is seen as the coward’s way out.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken to online who have had similar experiences as me: they began a restrictive diet for their chronic illness that either caused an eating disorder relapse (in those of us with a history of ED) or triggered disordered eating behaviors for the first time (in those of us with no history of ED).

At the end of the day, I think so much of the problem has to do with blame. We’re desperate to explain the unexplainable — like why some of us get stuck with chronic illnesses and not others — so we devise these elaborate narratives in our minds to rectify the cognitive dissonance. As a result, both chronic illness patients and society as a whole put too much blame on the individual, as if we somehow “caused” our disease through a combination of weakness, laziness, and lack of willpower.

Thankfully, what I am finally beginning to understand is that the only thing to blame for my endometriosis is, well, the endometriosis growing in my belly. The problem was never food; it was endo. Now that I know that, I honestly feel I am closer than ever to conquering my eating disorder. This time, I’ve decided, I’m going to make a full recovery. I won’t stop halfway. This is going to be the one that sticks.

Healing From Trauma | What is Complex PTSD?

If you have been reading Endo Strong for a long time, you know that I want to (eventually) attend graduate school for my Master’s in Social Work to become a licensed clinical social worker. I have a special interest in working with trauma survivors as a therapist, partly because of my personal experience with complex trauma.

I have always been anxious; a people-pleaser; over-achieving. I spent my childhood, adolescence, and early college years trying to win the approval of someone who always wanted me to be someone who I am not. Growing up with divorced parents, I spent my time split between a house where I felt safe but misunderstood, and a house where I felt fundamentally anxious and unstable. My parent has untreated mental illness and narcissistic traits that shaped me into someone who feels like she needs to be “fixed;” someone who is unworthy of love.

Thanks to my low self-esteem, I stayed in an abusive, manipulative relationship for three years and, because of my difficulties with emotional regulation, truly believed that I was the problem. In that relationship, I was sexually coerced, which I believe contributes to my experience with chronic pelvic pain. It was almost as if I sought out a flawed relationship because I did not believe myself deserving of better.

Both my mind and my body have been affected by trauma, to the point where I consider my traumatic past to be a core part of my identity. If we had “islands” of core character traits in real life, the way they do in the Pixar movie Inside Out, my Trauma Island would be an epic destination of Disney-sized proportions. That’s why I want to dedicate my life to helping people who have been through similar experiences recover from their trauma.

In particular, I have a special place in my heart for sufferers of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), which in many ways describes what I went through to a T. C-PTSD develops after an ongoing traumatic experience, rather than a single traumatic event like a natural disaster or military service. Many times, C-PTSD develops from childhood experiences of abuse and instability, but it can also develop from an abusive relationship in adulthood. C-PTSD shares many characteristics with PTSD, but sufferers often do not meet the full criteria for classical PTSD.

Unlike “normal” PTSD, C-PTSD is not a formal diagnosis in the DSM-V handbook that therapists use to characterize mental illnesses. Many mental healthcare providers do not recognize it at all, which is why it is crucial that more people like me enter the field. I hope that going through complex trauma myself will offer me perspective on what it means for my patients to experience ongoing trauma. In other words, I hope I am able to one day use my traumatic experiences to help others. To me, this will be the ultimate expression of post-traumatic growth.

I won’t pretend that I can teach you how to heal a lifetime of trauma in one blog post. But what I can do is offer some understanding. Perhaps you know that you suffered a difficult childhood, but don’t understand how your present day behaviors are connected to that behavior. Or, maybe you resist thinking about your past because it affects how you think and feel in the present and as a result, you feel disconnected from your mind and body. Whatever the case, this post is for you.

This post is for the high-achieving, anxious, people-pleasing woman. She was once a little girl who didn’t get the love she deserved and now, she struggles with self-confidence and emotional regulation. Today, I’m going to do my best to teach you how to give yourself the love you were once denied by others, and how to take back the present moment from a traumatic past.

What is Trauma?

We often make the mistake of defining trauma as a single, standout event that haunts a person to this day. But while things like a natural disaster, a tour in the military, or a violent sexual assault are undoubtedly traumatic, other types of trauma exist — and can be equally as, if not more haunting. There are many types of trauma, including:

  • Acute trauma. This is the type of trauma we often call to mind when we think of post-traumatic stress disorder: a single, devastating, often violent event, like a natural disaster, car accident, war, or rape.
  • Repetitive trauma. This type of trauma occurs when a person experiences multiple traumatic events, such as receiving regular chemotherapy for cancer.
  • Complex trauma. The trauma concerned in C-PTSD, complex trauma, results from prolonged, ongoing trauma, often of an interpersonal nature and typically occuring during childhood. Examples include domestic violence and narcissistic parental abuse.
  • Developmental trauma. Early-onset exposure to trauma during infancy through early childhood — including neglect, assault, witnessing violence, or coercion — comprises developmental trauma. Developmental trauma affects a person’s attachment style due to its effect on our relationships with caregivers. This can overlap with complex trauma and/or C-PTSD.
  • Vicarious trauma. Also known as secondary trauma, vicarious trauma affects service providers like therapists and first-responders who treat patients with trauma. They absorb some of the patient’s traumatic background, integrating it into their own functioning.
  • Historical trauma. This trauma is passed down across generations, resulting from large-scale group trauma experienced by family members. This type of trauma includes ancestral genocide, slavery, and colonialism. Children of Holocaust survivors, or the great-great grandchildren of former slaves, are the examples I use to frame historical trauma.
  • Intergenerational trauma. Intergenerational trauma is also passed down across generations, but concerns patterns of coping developed in response to trauma, rather than the direct effects of a massive group trauma. For example, the child of a parent who has experienced an acute trauma may pick up on or have been taught some of that parent’s coping mechanisms, effectively absorbing the effects of their family member’s trauma.
  • Medical trauma. We don’t often think of medical treatment as traumatic in nature, but invasive, painful, or emotionally difficult hospital stays and procedures often trigger the trauma response — especially in children. While much attention is given to emergency rooms, ICUs, and operating rooms when discussing medical trauma, it’s important to acknowledge that medical trauma can occur at any level of care.

Trauma — especially acute trauma — can affect you at any stage of life, but mental healthcare providers are especially concerned with the dramatic effects that experiencing trauma during childhood can have on us as adults. A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 61 percent of adults experienced at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE). ACEs are linked to chronic health conditions, mental illness, and substance abuse, but can also cause subclinical problems with emotions and relationships, in adulthood.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) - Napa-Solano
Image Source: Kaiser Permanente

Your “ACE score,” used to identify ACEs in the CDC’s original study, is a measure of the number of ACEs you have experienced. This score comes with limitations; it only identifies ten types of ACEs, whereas I (and many trauma therapists) believe that the definition of childhood trauma is more nuanced. However, the score has been used to predict the rates of chronic disease, depression, and suicide. An ACE score above 4 is considered high. An ACE score of 4 or more is linked to a 460 percent increase in the rate of depression and a 1,200 percent increase in the rate of suicide attempts alone. 1 in 6 adults — myself included (my ACE score is 5) — have experienced at least 4 ACEs, making the somatization and integration of trauma incredibly common.

About the CDC-Kaiser ACE Study |Violence Prevention|Injury Center|CDC
Image Source: CDC

We often instinctively know when we have experienced trauma. Our bodies hold onto those traumatic memories, experiences, and feelings, and internalize them as somatic symptoms like aches, pains, migraines, and upset stomach. Sometimes, however, memories of trauma can be buried beneath layers and layers of denial, suppression, and other coping mechanisms. Working with a therapist can help you uncover suppressed trauma — and specific therapeutic techniques have been developed to help you do just that.

Signs of C-PTSD

When adults experience a traumatic event, they are more easily able to process what they have been through. That is why C-PTSD stemming from early childhood experiences is so destructive to a child’s physical and psychological well-being. Children who experience ACEs have their development disrupted by trauma. As a result, the trauma becomes deeply interwoven into the child’s identity. They integrate their experiences into their core beliefs, and often grow up feeling unworthy and unloved.

As an adult, the signs and symptoms of trauma do not simply disappear. Because they are woven so deeply into the fiber of our being, it can be impossibly challenging to unravel our beliefs surrounding ourselves and our experiences, in order to develop an identity separate from our traumatic past. According to the organization Beauty After Bruises, patients with C-PTSD often require over ten years of therapy to heal the wounds inflicted in childhood. There is a strong physical component to psychological healing as well: studies of animals and humans with PTSD show that trauma literally changes our brains, and the way the neurochemicals in our brains respond to stress.

When I first read the challenges faced by people living with C-PTSD, I instantly resonated. I knew at my core that C-PTSD was the name for the psychological and relational difficulties I’ve faced since my late adolescence. Below, I’ll recount the signs and symptoms of C-PTSD. My advice? Pay attention to the way your body feels as you read them. Your body will communicate with you through sensations, to tell you what it has to say about C-PTSD and you.

Signs and symptoms of C-PTSD include:

  • Emotional dysregulation. Emotional regulation is one of the core skills in dialectical behavior therapy, first developed for patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD). It should come as no surprise, then, that patients with C-PTSD are frequently misdiagnosed with BPD. C-PTSD survivors, too, face difficulty with experiencing and managing their emotions. They may cope with uncomfortable emotions in unhealthy ways, whether by over- or underreacting. Many patients do not know how to adequately identify and name the emotions they are experiencing, or may suppress their emotions altogether, leading them to appear numb and disaffected.
  • Dissociation. The most extreme example of dissociation occurs in Dissociative Identity Disorder, in which patients switch between personalities, or “alters.” However, a more mild form of dissociation is often seen in PTSD and C-PTSD. Patients with C-PTSD may forget elements of their trauma; recall events in the wrong chronological order; experience intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, or nightmares of their trauma; or even experience episodes of feeling wholly disconnected from their physical bodies. Many people describe this feeling as an “out-of-body” experience, as if the patient were looking down on themselves as an observer rather than being present in the moment.
  • Relational challenges. Challenges with interpersonal relationships emerge naturally from the developmental and psychological effects of childhood trauma. Survivors of C-PTSD may be distrustful due to an inability to depend on their caregivers as children — or, alternatively, they may be too trusting. Some C-PTSD patients are over-eager to connect with others to make up for childhood neglect, leading them to seek out and stay in unhealthy relationships, even when they become abusive or dangerous. From a partner’s perspective, it can also be difficult to understand a C-PTSD survivor’s behavior. Their emotions can come across as erratic or unstable; they may seek constant reassurance, express signs of codependency, or fundamentally doubt the relationship, harboring a deep distrust of their partner. It is critical for long-term partners of patients with C-PTSD to understand their loved one’s trauma, so they can better understand from where these “irrational” behaviors (which are, in fact, completely normal within the context of the trauma response) stem.
  • Misperception of the perpetrator. C-PTSD survivors may be unable to recognize the abuse they experienced at the hands of a particular person. To those on the outside, it is completely clear that this person was abusive — yet the C-PTSD patient’s perception of that person remains untouched. Gaslighting is a common behavior used by abusers to maintain control over their victims. The abuser makes the victim out to be the crazy or irrational one, until the victim begins to doubt their own perceptions of reality. As a result, the victim’s perceptions of the abuser can also become distorted. Many abusers put on a charming front to the rest of the world, and victims can sometimes remain enchanted by this public persona. Other times, victims long for emotional validation they will never receive from their abuser, so much so that they over-compensate with their achievements in an attempt to win their abuser’s approval. Others still become transfixed with bitterness or the idea of revenge. In my experience, it’s also possible to oscillate between all three of these extremes (sometimes, even in the course of a single day).
  • System of Meanings. Our System of Meanings is the name given by trauma therapists to our core beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. People who have experienced complex trauma may learn to see the world as a cold, unjust place, in which perpetrators are never held accountable for their wrongdoings. They may doubt the motivations of others, believing that no one does anything without the expectation of something in return, or feel suspicious and distrustful of those around them. But perhaps the most harmful beliefs, and the most difficult to repair, are those that we develop about ourselves in the wake of childhood trauma. Because we were so often exposed to them, we begin to believe the criticisms of our abusers, and internalize the beliefs that we are “bad,” “lazy,” “worthless,” or “cruel.” Our self-perception becomes so distorted that we start to view ourselves as unworthy and unlovable. Many of us feel like there is something fundamentally wrong with us; that we are “broken” or need to be “fixed.” As a C-PTSD survivor, I can assure you that the only thing you need to fix about yourself, the only thing that is broken about you, is this faulty System of Meanings. Unraveling these beliefs and replacing them with better ones can take years, but it is a critical step in the process of healing from complex trauma.

How to Heal from Trauma

As humans, we aren’t necessarily born with the innate ability to be resilient. Resilience is a skill like any other, which must be developed with practice. But resilience represents only one side of healing from complex trauma: we also need to learn to honor our bodies and emotions, forgive ourself and others, and rewire our subconscious System of Meanings.

The combination of these tasks represents true healing, and it’s true healing that eventually gives way to post-traumatic growth. Post-traumatic growth can be defined as the ability to channel previous trauma into a positive endeavor. Post-traumatic growth is exemplified by those whose trauma sparked a deep desire to help others heal from the same experiences. I once believed that it was impossible to serve as a mental healthcare provider with a history of mental illness and trauma, but I’ve never been happier than to be proven wrong the legions of mental health providers who were inspired to do their current work by their past experiences, in a stunning example of post-traumatic growth.

It’s important to recognize that post-traumatic growth does not happen overnight. It’s not as easy as simply deciding to channel your energy into something different. You cannot heal from trauma without acknowledging and moving forward from your past experiences. Try as we may to suppress our traumatic memories, the body remembers our history of trauma, even when the mind does not. Even the most fervent attempts to heal from trauma can be upended by our refusal to confront the past. When we avoid confronting previous trauma, we may experience somatic symptoms in the body — such as aches, pains, migraines, and gastrointestinal complaints — that cannot be explained by medicine, even when we have subjectively “moved on” from our trauma in the mind.

Avoidance, resistance, and stagnancy are not treatment plans. We can only heal from complex trauma with time, dedication, and commitment. In my opinion, it’s best to begin the process of healing from childhood trauma under the guidance of a licensed mental health professional. However, it’s equally as important to consider how we treat ourselves when we are outside the care of therapists, psychologists, or psychiatrists. Weekly therapy sessions can help you process trauma in a safe environment, but true healing also requires a steadfast commitment to practicing self-care and self-love outside the therapist’s office.

Below, I’ve provided a preliminary list of strategies and resources to help you heal from complex trauma. Treat this toolkit as a jumping-off point for personal growth, rather than an exhaustive collection. Over time, you can add to your toolbox with strategies learned in therapy and from your own personal experience.

The Complex Trauma Toolkit

The Survivor Bill of Rights. As a human being and as a survivor of complex trauma, you possess inherent rights. Prolonged abuse purposefully strips us of these rights. Our abusers systematically use techniques designed to undermine our rights and maintain control, leaving us uncertain of our worth and dignity as human beings — even after the abuse has long since ended.

Dr. Thomas V. Maguire developed the Survivor Bill of Rights for trauma victims to help you reclaim those rights, especially in respect to the therapeutic process. As a survivor of complex trauma, your rights include your personal authority, your boundaries, your integrity of communication, and your physical and emotional safety. Some of my favorite assertions in the Bill of Rights are the rights to:

  • Direct your values and recovery
  • Seek, accept, or decline help from any sources
  • Be afraid, deciding for yourself when and how to confront fear
  • Speak about and remain silent about any topic you wish, at any time
  • Ask for change when your needs are not being met
  • Hold your therapist’s undivided loyalty in respect to any abuser
  • Receive treatment that is not conditional on your “good behavior” (excepting serious crime and the endangerment of yourself or others)

Understand that while you inherently possess all of these rights, not all of them may resonate with you right now — and that’s okay. For those rights that do resonate with you, it may help you to build regular reminders of those rights into your day to prompt you to recognize your value as a human being. Repeated exposure to your rights as a survivor can help you reconstruct the damaged beliefs in your self-worth resulting from your experience with complex trauma. Try setting phone reminders of your favorite rights at regular intervals throughout the day, or writing down your favorite rights on sticky notes and posting them in places where you will see them often.

Journaling. Telling your story is an essential component of healing. The practice of Narrative Therapy tells us that there is no objective reality and that all elements of your traumatic experience are valid. Through Narrative Therapy, patients learn to construct a cohesive narrative of their trauma. By re-experiencing their trauma through storytelling, patients with a history of complex trauma learn to take back control of their narrative.

You can harness the power of Narrative Therapy on your own by exploring your traumatic memories, thoughts, and feelings in a journal. Journaling can help you better process what happened, including thoughts and memories you may not be ready to share out loud with your therapist. Commit to journaling for 15-20 minutes every day and re-experiencing different elements of your traumatic past. Start with the facts of what happened, then begin to consider deeper questions like “How has this affected my relationships?” or “What core beliefs have I internalized as a result of this experience?”

Make sure to take time to self-soothe throughout the process of journaling, as reliving these events can bring up challenging thoughts and feelings that may lead to physical discomfort or difficulty regulating emotions. You should always feel free to stop the exercise and redirect your attention to something else at any time. For more guidance on journaling as a strategy for healing trauma, check out this tool for Therapeutic Journaling developed by the Veterans Health Administration.

Radical acceptance. Trauma often leads us through a minefield of emotions, ranging from anger to sadness, to guilt, to fear, to shame. Many approaches to treating trauma, and especially PTSD, encourage patients to practice gradual exposure to memories associated with their trauma (usually in a therapist’s office). During the process of exposure, patients learn to also practice radical acceptance of the thoughts, feelings, and images that arise from the memory of their previous trauma. Research shows that the practice of radical acceptance decreases uncomfortable emotions related to trauma, including guilt, shame, distress, disgust, and fear.

Radical acceptance involves complete and total awareness and acceptance of what is in your mind, body, heart, and soul in the present moment. For trauma, this means accepting what happened to us, as well as accepting ourselves as we are — learning to believe that we are enough. If you’ve ever done the “don’t think about a pink elephant” experiment in a psychology class, you know that trying to resist thoughts and feelings actually strengthens them. Radical acceptance is the opposite of resistance. For traumatic memories to become less disruptive, you must allow whatever thoughts, feelings, and images that come over you to simply be, as they are, without giving into the desire to change them, the urge to ignore them, or the imposition of self-doubt.

Difficult as it may be, radical acceptance promises the closure you need to effectively move forward in life, without letting your past disrupt your present. You can use the same principles of radical acceptance, a dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skill, to cope with intrusive memories, flashbacks, and/or nightmares related to C-PTSD. According to Marsha Linehan, the developer of DBT, radical acceptance begins with observing our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as an objective outsider. Once you notice you have begun to question or fight the reality of what happened to you, remind yourself that your trauma is what it is and cannot be changed.

Use accepting self-talk to encourage yourself to accept what has happened. Acknowledge that what happened to you was not your fault, while still accepting the causal factors that have shaped your present reality. Then, purposefully shift your perspective by asking yourself, “How would I think, feel, and act if I could accept what happened to me and move on from my trauma?” Vividly visualize how you would behave if you were already practicing radical acceptance, and put these behaviors into practice as if this were really the case.

Somatic experiencing. Somatic experiencing is a therapeutic technique developed by Peter A. Levine, Ph.D. for releasing stored trauma in the body. Dr. Levine has famously compared the human body to a Slinky to explain our natural reaction to trauma. Traumatic events trigger our fight-or-flight response, in which the body generates tremendous amounts of energy to help us do what we must to survive. In the wild, animals release this energy by shaking their bodies from head to toe. But because this physical response is not always socially acceptable or possible to us as humans, we learn to compress this traumatic energy, like a Slinky when it is collapsed.

The problem is that holding in this level of energy requires us to expend even more energy. Our bodies respond to the high levels of energy required to suppress the trauma response by developing somatic symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, panic attacks, and more. These physical symptoms are our bodies’ way of communicating that they are burnt out and overwhelmed by the demands that trauma has placed on them. They are an expression of the thoughts and feelings our bodies harbor, due to the fact that we were unable to release them at the time of our trauma.

Dr. Levine’s theory of somatic experiencing states that we need to “discharge” the stored energy from our trauma in order to achieve physical and psychological healing. By noticing our body’s natural response to memories of trauma, we can stop trying to override the fight or flight system, and instead ride the wave of our bodily sensations to a natural resolution. When we release control of our bodily sensations and learn to become mindful observers instead, we allow ourselves to discharge stored trauma, thereby relieving physical and psychological symptoms associated with it.

Traditionally, somatic experiencing sessions are completed under the guidance of a specially trained therapist. The therapist gradually walks you through reliving your trauma, piece by piece, and observing the sensations that arise in your body as you talk about what happened. Still, you can incorporate elements of somatic experiencing into your self-care and self-soothing routines on your own as you work through trauma treatment with a mental health practitioners. Some somatic experiencing techniques and exercises to help you cope with unpleasant memories as a mindful observer include pendulation and self-hugging.

Pendulation is a key skill in somatic experiencing, and involves shifting awareness from sensations in parts of the body that feel painful or uncomfortable, and sensations in parts of the body that feel comfortable and calm. As survivors of complex trauma, we often learn to focus on what is bad, negative, or painful, losing our ability to pendulate between states of positivity and negativity; eustress and distress. Pendulation encourages us to allow both of these sensations to be present in the mind and body at the same time. The practice of pendulation helps us better integrate our trauma by recognizing both the parts of ourself that have been affected by trauma and the parts of ourself that feel whole. You can practice pendulation by closing your eyes and honing your attention on an area of your body where you feel physical discomfort. Hold your awareness here for a few breaths, then shift your awareness to a different part of the body that feels calm and pain-free. Breathe here for a few moments, then begin to practice shifting your awareness back and forth between these two areas. Notice how it feels both to honor the unpleasant sensations in your body, the somatization of your trauma, and to acknowledge the parts of your body, of your life, that are good and whole.

When’s the last time you gave yourself a hug? The sensation of self-hugging brings us back ito our bodies, allowing us to feel more grounded. This quick practice can manage symptoms of dissociation associated with trauma, helping us step back into the present moment instead of lingering in our memories of the past. Offering a hug to yourself is the fullest expression of self-love. Even when we have trouble seeing our value as victims of trauma, we still have the simple power to give ourselves physical affection; to show our bodies love and offer ourselves healing, even when we do not feel loving towards our conscious self. Wrapping your arms around your shoulders for a few moments brings you back into your body in moments when the fight or flight response is triggered by memories, nightmares, or flashbacks of trauma. Self-hugging is also a powerful way to heal your inner child, as you are able to offer yourself the love and affection you were denied during your traumatic upbringing. A self-hug is instinctive; you don’t need to do anything special, besides close your eyes and focus on both the bodily sensations and emotions that arise from the feeling of being touched with loving kindness.

Resources for Further Reading

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. THE book to read if you are interested in deeply understanding trauma and its effects on the mind, body, and spirit.

The Complex PTSD Workbook by Arielle Schwartz, Ph.D. One of the only workbooks (and, in my opinion, the best) that specifically addresses complex trauma and C-PTSD.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. Brown is a psychological researcher who has spent 20 years studying shame, courage, vulnerability, and empathy. This book is not specific to trauma, but provides ten actionable guideposts for working through imperfection and building self-esteem that you may find helpful in your journey towards healing.

Life Events Checklist and PTSD Checklist by the National Center for PTSD. This screening checklist is meant for use by clinicians to assess a patient’s history of trauma and risk for PTSD. While you can’t self-diagnose PTSD using this tool, you may find it helpful to reflect on your previous experiences and how they affect you today.

Towards Recovery Fact Sheet by Blue Knot Foundation. Written by an Australian foundation for trauma survivors, this fact sheet lists 17 things to know about trauma recovery for survivors. It’s a great starting point for anyone contemplating recovery.

What Are Traumatic Memories? by the Sidran Institute. A public service brochure explaining the relationship between trauma and memory, and why trauma survivors may experience disruptions in memory.

Understanding Complex Trauma, Complex Reactions, and Treatment Approaches by Christine A. Courtois, Ph.D. An article thoroughly examining the differences between complex trauma and “normal” trauma, factors that render a person vulnerable to C-PTSD, and how treatment for C-PTSD should differ from that for “normal” PTSD.

8 Things We Should All Know About Complex PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder by Beauty After Bruises. This one is a must-read if you’re looking to understand C-PTSD and DID from a macroscopic, sociologic perspective.

Three Types of Triggers, Three Techniques for Taming by Carolyn Spring. Trauma and dissociation researcher and survivor Carolyn Spring explains three types of triggers for people with PTSD and how to cope with each of them.

13 Steps for Managing Flashbacks by Pete Walker, M.A. Some practical advice for grounding yourself in the present moment when traumatic memories resurface.

Overcoming Shame-Based Thinking by Behavioral Health Evolution. An excerpt from the book How to Change Your Thinking About Shame that can help you challenge negative core beliefs related to your trauma.

Tips for Meditating When You Have PTSD by Sian Ferguson. Tips from a rape survivor on helping yourself feel safe during mindfulness meditation. I recommend skimming this short read before trying the meditation practice below.

20-Minute Trauma Informed Meditation Practice. Through the Insight Timer app, the BioMedical Institute of Yoga and Meditation shares a helpful trauma informed meditation practice. It is especially geared toward people with PTSD.

The Trauma-Conscious Yoga Method. This awesome YouTube channel offers free trauma-informed yoga videos to help you reconnect with your body at home.

I Don’t Talk to My Dad — Here’s What I Wish People Knew

Author’s Note: I normally welcome open dialogue here on Endo Strong, but I have turned off comments for this post. This subject is intensely personal for me and while this post was important for me to write and share, I do not want to open myself up to further trauma at the hands of insensitive comments.

I talk about everything on my blog. It’s important to me to be open about my experiences, so as not to give the sugarcoated impression that my life as an influencer is “perfect.” But the truth is, there’s something I’ve never written about on my blog before. I’ve alluded to it, but I’ve never acknowledged the truth of it on paper (on screen?). So, here goes nothing.

I love my dad. I also haven’t spoken to my dad in two years. I get his “happy birthday” and “merry Christmas” texts, with the occasional picture of our dogs thrown in. But I never reply. I haven’t picked up the phone and talked to him in over 730 days. He wasn’t invited to my college graduation. When the day comes, he won’t be invited to my wedding, either. Someday, I will have children who will never get to know their grandfather. There are a lot of reasons why I don’t speak to him, and never plan to speak to him again. But those reasons are the one thing — the only thing — I will not talk about on this blog.

I rarely talk about what it’s like to be estranged from a parent. My closest friends know I don’t talk to my dad, but they don’t know all the reasons why. Only David, my mom, and the various therapists I’ve had over the years know the full story, with no details omitted. And it’s going to stay that way. It’s not that I’m ashamed or afraid to talk about it (although I know that choosing not to talk to a parent makes me the villain in a lot of narratives). I just don’t believe that everything belongs on the internet. Once it’s up here, you can’t erase it. I don’t talk to my dad, but I still don’t think he deserves a permanent reminder of all of the mistakes he made. Not having me in his life is reminder enough.

But while I’m not going to tell my life story and all of its gory details, I believe in breaking the silence. As an estranged daughter, it’s difficult to vocalize how it feels when other people find out that I don’t talk to my dad. The media paints people like me as selfish, naive girls who are too young to understand that what they’re doing is wrong. It’s true that I don’t have children of my own, and that I can’t understand what it’s like to make mistakes as a parent — a fact that older folks have pointed out to me time and time again. Yet I can’t begin to tell you how many people — even people my own age, people who I’m close with and know well — have told me, “I could never stop talking to a parent, no matter what they did.”

Honestly, I’m happy for those people. People who say that can’t begin to imagine a world in which their parent could do something so hurtful that they would never speak to them again. I wish that were true for me. Nobody wants to stop speaking to their parent — or worst of all, feel that they can’t talk to a parent because of something they said or did. But because most people can’t imagine that kind of life, it makes being estranged from a parent feel lonely as fuck. To those of us who don’t speak to both our parents, finding someone who understands and listens without judgment feels impossible. Thankfully, I have my mom, who went through similar experiences when she was married to my dad.

It’s difficult to find people like me online. Plenty of people who have been through what I’ve been through exist, but very few of us talk about what that experience is like. And I understand why. It’s frustrating, to say the least, to communicate such a painful experience, only to be met with anger or misunderstanding. Yet I firmly believe that when people don’t talk about what they went through, they send the message that to do so is somehow shameful or wrong.

I get that not everyone in my situation is going to want to talk about their experiences being estranged from a parent. I fully support whatever decision you choose to make. You have to protect your own mental health above all else — and if talking about what you went through doesn’t serve you, or puts you in physical danger, I don’t think you should do it. But to me, what helps the most is to turn what I went through into something useful. If even one person changes their mind because of what I have to say on the subject of estrangement, I will think of it as a job well done.

The thing is, not everyone has been through what I’ve gone through. So few of us are out there, and if none of us choose to talk about it, then no one will understand. That’s why I’m sharing the things I wish other people knew about my decision not to talk to my dad. I don’t think I owe anyone an explanation, but I do think that educating others will help people understand how to better engage with someone they know who doesn’t talk to a parent, without unintentionally doing more harm than good.

Before I get into the things I wish other people knew about my decision not to speak to a parent, however, I want to lay bare the fact that everyone’s experience with estrangement is different. By no means do I speak for an entire community of people when I share how I feel about my journey — but if even one person can relate to what I have ot say about it, it will have been worth it to speak (write?) what’s on my mind.

1. I would not have chosen this.

People like to assume that I “chose” this, as if I was looking for a reason to rid myself of all obligations to my father. If I could go back and choose my family, I would always rather have a happy, functional relationship with both of my parents. But that’s exactly the thing: we can’t choose who we are born to. That’s why the term “chosen family” exists.

It’s true that I chose, and continue to choose, not to speak to my dad. He is not a part of my “chosen family.” What isn’t true, however, is that this was my first choice. As things are, I don’t want to speak to my dad. But if there were a hypothetical scenario in which I could have chosen a parent I would have wanted to speak to, I would have taken it every time. Nobody wants to be estranged from their parent. It just got to the point where I felt I no longer had a choice.

2. A single event did not cause this.

When people find out I don’t talk to my dad, the first question is usually, “What happened?” I never answer that question honestly, because it’s never that simple of an explanation. People are looking for a neat, tidy answer that will help this strange situation make sense to them. For most people, this takes the form of some single, unforgivable event in which their parent committed something unspeakable.

In reality, a lot of people, myself included, can mark the day they stopped speaking to the parent they are estranged from — but that doesn’t mean that day is the singular reason why we no longer speak to that person. The “event” I can pinpoint isn’t a grave, grave sin that incited the choice not to speak to my dad, but the boiling point. Thousands of tiny, collective abuses bubbled over that day.

However, if I were to explain everything that led up to that point, the person listening would probably become bored or horrified by what I went through. I’m not exactly looking to draw more attention to the situation, so usually, I simplify my answer by telling people it was that one day that did it all. I may choose to explain my trauma in a way that’s easier for other people to understand, but it’s important to recognize that there’s much more to it than what I choose to share on the surface.

3. I am neither a victim nor a villain.

For some reason, people are always looking to take sides in a conflict, even when that conflict doesn’t concern them. When I tell people I don’t talk to my dad and they ask me why, I get the feeling they want an explanation so they can suss out whether I’m in the right or the wrong; whether I’m deserving of their support or not.

Some people inevitably come to the conclusion that it’s always wrong to stop speaking to a family member — “blood is thicker than water,” and all that bullshit — while others have become enraged on my behalf upon hearing the things I went through. But truthfully, I’d rather people didn’t comment altogether.

The thing is, if I’m talking to you openly about what I went through, it’s not because I’m looking for validation that what I did is right. I’m not asking you to pass judgment on my decision or take my side over my dad’s. I’m simply telling you because I trust you, and a burden shared is a burden halved.

I get tired of being made out to be the villain, but I also hate being treated like a victim. I don’t think my decision is right or wrong. I’m not saying that the fact that I did something means anyone else should do it. It is what it is, and I’d rather we didn’t analyze it further than that. That job is reserved for my therapist. Talk to me about Hamilton or something instead!

4. Respect is earned, not owed.

If there’s a commonality between all of the stories I’ve heard about children who no longer speak to their parents, including my own, it’s the role that our cultural beliefs toward elders play in justifying toxic behavior.

I would argue that most, if not all, human cultures hold the belief that elders are deserving of respect because of their lived experiences. We are meant to treat them as if their longer lives are synonymous with a deeper sense of right and wrong than ours. That’s why it’s so difficult for so many people to understand when people choose not to talk to their parents. To many people, “they’re your parents” is reason enough to maintain a relationship with someone.

In any other relationship, however, you’re expected to earn respect. Most people would not stay with an abusive spouse only because they are wearing a wedding ring. Why do we treat family differently, simply because we share their DNA? And contrary to popular belief, I don’t say that because I don’t value family. My family is the most important thing in the world to me, precisely because I choose only to keep people in my life who are deserving of my respect.

While I am grateful to my parents — both of my parents — for raising me and putting a roof over my head, I don’t believe that gratitude needs to be synonymous with a deep and pervasive sense of respect. In the wild, animals raise their young only to the point where they are old enough to survive on their own. Among other species, feeding and housing a child is treated as a duty, not an accomplishment.

As someone with a toxic parent, it’s difficult for me to understand why so many people think I am “supposed” to put up with certain behaviors as “thanks” to my parents. Thanks for what? I wonder. For not putting me out on the street as an infant? To me, conceiving a child isn’t a feat worthy of respect. The way you raise them matters much, much more than the fact that you brought their life into the world. While I understand that life is a spiritual thing for many people, my spirituality forces me to acknowledge that conceiving and having a child isn’t an accomplishment of your own. God, the Universe, whatever you want to call it — these forces came together to bring life into the world, not your sheer force of will.

When people say that you owe your parents respect because they are your parents, I can’t help but feel that they are confusing respect with love. You love your parents simply because they are your parents. You can’t help it. But love is not synonymous with respect. Love is not a choice, but respect is. Love is not earned, but respect must be. I love my dad, but that doesn’t mean that I owe him the privilege of being in my life.

5. I may be sad, but I don’t have regrets.

I mentioned previously that a lot of narratives paint me out to be the villain — the selfish, naive daughter who will inevitably come to see the error of her foolish ways. But I feel it’s important to recognize that regret and remorse are not synonyms. I regret that cutting my dad out of my life felt necessary for my physical and mental health. That does not mean that I am sorry for doing what I needed to do to protect myself.

When making a case for me speaking to my dad again, people often cite the milestones I’ll miss without a father in the picture: I won’t have a father-daughter dance at my wedding. I won’t be given away. I won’t celebrate Father’s Day until I have children of my own. And believe me, I hate that. Knowing that my dad won’t be there for all those moments that he should have been there for hurts like hell.

Yet I don’t owe anyone an apology for making that choice. If the pain of missing out on so many important milestones hurts less than the pain of continuing to live with my father in my life, that alone says enough about my decision not to speak to him. I do not feel guilty for choosing a life of happiness over a life of pain.

My Relationship with Alcohol + Why I’m Sober Curious | Reflecting on #DryJuly

I feel it’s important to preface this post by saying that for many people, sobriety is much more than a wellness trend. It’s a necessary way of life. These people can’t choose to resume drinking “in moderation” or to “drink mindfully.” Alcohol alters their brain chemistry, making it hard to stop — and easy to start again.

That being said…. Hi, my name is Haley, and I am not an alcoholic.

It’s a privilege to be able to say that I don’t have a dependency on alcohol. Like a lot of people, however, I have a complicated relationship with alcohol. I exist in the gray area between social drinking and problem drinking, which is how I became sober curious.

“Sober curious” has become a bit of a buzzword (buzzphrase?). Part of me hates using it, because I hate promulgating the idea that sobriety is “trendy.” But I do think it’s an apt description of the space I exist in — and I love that our society, and especially my generation, is becoming more and more conscious of how much and why we choose to drink.

For those of you who are wondering, #DryJuly is technically a challenge (run by the Dry July Foundation) to raise money for cancer research, where donors can “sponsor” a person not to drink for the 31 days of July. However, many people — myself included — are joining in on the dry movement without fundraising simply because they are looking to cut back or curious about a sober lifestyle.

In honor of #DryJuly, which was my first full month of no alcohol, I decided to share the story of how I became sober curious, the benefits of being sober curious, and the tips I’m following to get me through my first weeks without drinking.

My Alcohol Story

Like many of us, I had my first drink in college. When I first attended Boston University at 18, I had trouble making friends due to my diagnosis of social anxiety disorder. My therapist hadn’t yet given me a referral to a psychiatrist, so I had no medication to take the edge off my anxiety. To meet people in a controlled environment, I decided to rush a sorority at my college. It was one of the scariest things I ever did.

When I joined a sorority, I was exposed to alcohol for the first time. Neither of my parents really drank growing up — my dad doesn’t drink, period, and my mom only drinks socially when my brother and I aren’t there (my parents are divorced) — so I hadn’t even been around it. The first time I really saw alcohol, on the night we found out what sororities we got into, I turned it down. Because neither of my parents drank, I had internalized the idea that drinking was somehow immoral. I’m a serial people pleaser, and I didn’t want to disappoint anybody.

Soon after, I went to my first frat party, where I pregamed with my first drink — a glass of Barefoot moscato — and took three sips of a Keystone Light before deciding I hated beer. At the time, my drinking behavior was perfectly healthy, but I was scared of the consequences it would have on my relationship.

I was still dating my high school “sweetheart” at the time, and it was not a healthy relationship. His mom had a lifelong problem with alcohol and he didn’t want me to drink, either. He thought if I drank, guys would take advantage of me or I would cheat on him. Because he went to community college, he also didn’t have the typical “party experience” — so I always got the sense he was a little bit jealous.

Drinking almost always caused arguments between me and my ex-boyfriend, not because of how much I drank but because of his personal views on alcohol. As a result, I came to associate alcohol with shame and guilt. Later, when he was finally being invited to social occasions where drinking was present, a double-standard would emerge, where it was okay for him to drink but not for me to do it (unless he was there, of course). So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when we broke up, I went a little bit wild.

I wanted to rebel against the expectations he had placed on me. More significantly, I wanted the “typical college experience” I felt I had missed out on by dating a guy from home. Instead of going to parties with my friends, I was always turning down invitations to go visit my ex in my hometown (a major downside of living just 45 minutes from campus). Now, I was free — and I started partying more and more to prove to myself that my emotionally abusive ex no longer had a hold on me.

For about a month and a half, I binge drank at least once if not twice every weekend. Whenever I was sober, I was swiping right on hookups. After all, that’s what the media had taught me that college was supposed to be like: an alternating series of blackout drinking and one-night stands. It’s what I saw my friends doing in my sorority, and I had a major case of FOMO the entire time I was dating my ex. Now that I was single, I thought “What the hell?”

The problem was that I started to drink more and more to avoid processing emotions associated with the breakup, and with the various hookups I kept “catching feelings” for. I used to be a “one and done” kind of girl, but I was quickly becoming a “four shots and counting” kind of girl. Over that one-and-a-half-month period, Pedialyte and Tinder became my best friends.

My real friends only saw me when we were out on the weekends; the rest of the time, I spent sleeping over in guys’ apartments. I was also going through a horrible friend breakup at the time, which made this all around the shittiest period of my life. Worst of all, my grades had started to slip as a result of my capricious behavior. I used to be a Dean’s List student and ended the semester with Bs and Cs in all of my classes. It was directly related to my drinking: I caught strep throat from a guy I had kissed at a party. I couldn’t shake it for a month, leading me to miss tons of class and nearly fail a group project.

For the record, I don’t mention my series of conquests to slut shame myself. In fact, to be honest, I think a part of me needed to have that experience in order to be my best self in my relationship with my now-boyfriend, David. Instead, I want to highlight how intricately the hookup culture on college campuses is linked to binge drinking and alcohol abuse.

It’s also worth mentioning that I don’t think I would have felt such immense pressure to drink if I hadn’t joined a sorority. Members of Greek life drink much more than the average college student; in fact, half of fraternity house residents display clinical symptoms of an alcohol use disorder. It’s one of the many, many reasons why I quit my sorority: I felt like most of the bonding that happened in my sorority happened over jungle juice.

Everyone who becomes sober has a defining moment. Mine happened toward the end of that month-and-a-half. I was hooking up with a guy in a “friends with benefits” situation (we’re talking the sleeping over and frying me eggs in the morning kind of FWB) and starting to catch serious feelings for him. I knew he only wanted to be friends because he was graduating and moving out of state for a job, so I made the difficult decision to end it.

The decision was painful, but eye-opening. I realized how seriously my self-worth had deteriorated as a result of my relationship with my ex. (Later, I would realize he had sexually assaulted me in an act of sexual coercion, which explains some of the residual effects of his influence.) I was letting guys use my body without really getting to know them — and while I would never shame anyone for exploring their sexuality, I quickly learned that casual sex wasn’t right for me.

I knew something needed to change, so I vowed that I wasn’t hooking up with any more guys who weren’t looking for something serious. Shortly after, I went out on a couple of dates with and ended up hooking up with this guy I had been talking to before everything happened. When I opened up to him about the promise I had made to myself, he said he was still interested — but after I had my first social anxiety attack in our “relationship” (if you can even call it that) when he didn’t answer my texts, he told me he needed space and never spoke to me again.

That encounter was even more brutal than the last. I had been lied to, but most importantly, I had been made to feel like something was wrong with me. I know that texting someone many times in quick succession, and getting angry when that person doesn’t respond, can seem obsessive and creepy. But this person knew about my social anxiety. He should have known that it was an anxiety behavior and taken me at my word when I told him so. Even though we hadn’t known each other long, I made the mistake of thinking he could be trusted.

It hurt to have that trust broken. In the long run, of course, I’m glad he walked away when he did — because it’s always better to learn that someone isn’t supportive of your mental health before you’re in too deep. But at the time, I still felt vulnerable from my previous experiences with men and heartbroken by the breach of trust.

The following weekend was the worst of my life. Back to my old habits, I completely numbed out. On Saturday night, I went to a party, where I made out with a guy at a frat. Sunday night, I hooked up with a different guy — and Monday, I saw the guy from Saturday, dancing with another girl in my sorority. I learned that they were dating, and my heart sunk into my chest. I had betrayed a sister. I was a homewrecker.

None of this would have happened if I wasn’t drunk on Saturday, hung over on Sunday, and even more drunk on Monday. Worst of all, this was normalized at my college. Going to school in Boston, Marathon Monday is an unofficial holiday. In Massachusetts, we celebrate Patriots’ Day as a bank holiday, which means no classes. At Boston-area colleges, this means an all-day party that often begins at 6am and ends at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. On Marathon Monday — MarMon, as we called it — getting blackout drunk is viewed as a rite of passage.

Luckily, this story has a happy ending. That day, my good friend called me an Uber. I went home and slept off the alcohol. When I woke up, I was still tipsy and had a pounding headache. Chugging Pedialyte, I thought about how I had let this happen to myself. My old self-esteem issues reared their ugly head. So, I turned to Tinder for validation, this time thinking that perhaps I could hunt down a guy who wasn’t just looking for sex. Anyone who’s ever been on Tinder knows that’s like looking for a mythical unicorn, but I was at my lowest low. This was rock bottom for me.

At some point, I swiped right on a cute medical student in a lab coat, whose profile bragged about how proud his grandma was that he was going to med school. By Tuesday, we had matched. He sent me the first message, complimenting me on my bio. I still remember what it said: “Hillary in the streets, Monica in the sheets.” (At that time, it was popular for guys to put “Reagan in the streets, Kennedy in the sheets” in their Tinder bios. I thought I was making a clever commentary on misogyny, though I realize now I just sounded thirsty AF.)

We spent all night texting, and finally called each other. We stayed on the phone all night, staying up until sunrise. And we did it day, after day, after day. A few weeks later, I bought a plane ticket to Erie, Pennsylvania, where he was attending medical school — and as they say, the rest is history. David and I have been together over two years now. We share an apartment, a bed, and a dog, so I’d say we’re pretty invested.

I know what you’re probably thinking right now, and I agree: meeting the perfect partner is not the answer to life’s problems. Admittedly, I still had — and have — a lot of soul-searching to do, especially when it came to my relationship with alcohol. Since then, I’ve realized just how much I relied on alcohol to quell my social anxiety at parties. Even after I learned moderation, I still wasn’t drinking for the right reasons. But it was a start.

For the first time in my life, I was in a healthy, supportive relationship where I wasn’t engaging in destructive behavior. With David, I was able to pick apart the trauma of my unhealthy relationship and unlearn the self-sabotaging that I’d picked up from previous relationships. He stood by me when I stopped talking to my dad, gave me hope when I almost couldn’t pay my tuition for my final semester at BU, and watched me graduate one year early, with a B average, after three years of hard work. Yet I never expected him to solve my problems or fix the parts of my life that I had broken during the worst time of my college career.

Now, I know what I hadn’t learned yet when I was 18 and first started drinking: the only person who can fix you is yourself. The fact that I never expect David to save me is what makes our relationship a healthy one. I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to my anxiety and depression, and my body is suffering from endo now more than ever. But we both know that those issues are mine to explore, on my own terms. He is always there to support me, but never to fix me. I have a responsibility to fix myself….

Which is why I quit drinking. Even though I rarely drink, and on those occasions can stop drinking whenever I want to, I choose sobriety. I want to feel better physically, to end my migraines and “hangxiety,” and, most importantly, to overcome my social anxiety and latent trauma without the crutch of alcohol use to get me through.

Pros of Quitting Alcohol

I am absolutely not here to tell you what to do. The choice to drink, or not to drink, is incredibly personal, and is not a decision someone else can make for you. Abstinence is an option, but it is not your only option. You can still be sober curious and choose to drink mindfully.

That being said, there’s no pretending that alcohol is good for you. Drinking anything beyond the occasional glass of red wine has no health benefits — and if you already don’t drink, doctors do not recommend starting. What they do recommend is limiting your alcohol intake to no more than one standard drink per day for women and two standard drinks per day for men. You can find out what constitutes a standard drink by checking out this chart.

In moments when you feel tempted to drink more than you should, or uncomfortable for not drinking when other people around you are drinking, it helps to remember why you became sober curious in the first place. Here is a starter list of reasons why choosing not to drink can actually be a good thing:

Just one month of sobriety offers long-term health benefits.

Research conducted on the Dry January phenomenon shows that quitting drinking for just a month can give you more energy. 7 in 10 people also reported better sleep as a result of going dry. When they went back to drinking afterwards, participants in Dry January drank less on average than those who did not participate.

Choosing not to drink allows you to be more present.

Without alcohol, you can be truly present for important life moments. You might be expected to drink on birthdays or holidays, but skipping the booze offers you the opportunity to have clarity of mind and make better memories (that you’ll actually remember).

Buying fewer drinks saves money.

Whether you choose to drink mindfully or quit drinking altogether, cutting back on the booze saves you money in the long run. If you don’t want to draw attention to the fact that you’re not drinking, you can always order a club soda and cranberry juice at the bar — but cutting out that weekly bottle of wine at home will save you $80+ a month.

Drinking less makes your skin glowier.

Obsessed with skincare? Skipping that cocktail does much more for your skin than that expensive serum ever will. Alcohol dehydrates your skin, which makes signs of aging more apparent and promotes inflammatory conditions like acne. You might just find that cutting out alcohol helps your skin glow.

Sobriety can improve your mental health.

You may have heard that alcohol is a depressant, which refers to its effects on your motor skills as well as your mental health. That’s one of the reasons why you might get “hangxiety,” or find that depression and anxiety worsen the day after drinking. Many people find that sobriety improves their mental health, even if they don’t have an alcohol use disorder. It’s also worth noting that mixing alcohol and antidepressant medication can have dangerous effects. In my opinion, it’s safer to avoid alcohol if you struggle with mental illness.

A Word On Alcohol Use Disorder

Lots of people choose not to drink for various reasons. Some of them simply don’t like the way alcohol makes them feel, or, like me, may have a complicated relationship with alcohol. But other people may find that they cannot control their drinking behavior or that it causes serious problems in their life. Symptoms like these could signify a more serious problem with alcohol, or even a full-blown alcohol use disorder:

  • Drinking longer or more than you intended
  • Trying to stop or cut down, but failing
  • Craving alcohol (feeling a strong urge to drink)
  • Spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from alcohol use
  • Experiencing negative consequences from drinking, like injury or depression
  • Continuing to drink even though it causes problems
  • Building tolerance (having to drink more to get the same effect)

If you identify with any of these symptoms, you might have a more serious problem with alcohol. It’s important to know that quitting alcohol if you have a physical dependency on it can be difficult and even dangerous.

Withdrawal symptoms occur within 6 hours to 48 hours of stopping drinking. They can include headache, nausea, vomiting, sweating, hallucinations, and seizures. Serious symptoms require immediate medical attention. They can be controlled by cutting back on alcohol gradually under the guidance of a medical professional in a qualified treatment center.

If any of this resonates with you, know that help is available for alcohol use disorder. SAMHSA’s helpline at 1-800-662-HELP offers free, confidential treatment referrals for anyone who wants them.

Tips for Quitting Alcohol

So, you’ve learned more about the sober curious movement. You’ve decided you want to try drinking less — or, perhaps, not drinking at all. It’s not easy to make that decision in a culture dominated by drinking, so you definitely deserve credit for choosing to go against the crowd. But not knowing the next steps to take can make the choice to become sober curious feel even more challenging.

What’s a girl to do when she wants to stop drinking? I haven’t been sober curious long, but even so, I’ve navigated many of the challenges of being sober — like boozy holidays (July 4th) and parties where everyone else is drinking. Through these experiences, as well as research, I’ve gathered a few tips to help you quit alcohol without FOMA (“fear of missing alcohol”):

Make new friends (but keep the old).

When you stop drinking, one of the things you realize is just how many of your friendships are based around alcohol. When I first cut back on my drinking in college, I alienated a lot of people from my sorority. This is in addition to the friends I’d already lost because of things I’d done while I was drunk or in connection to my drinking behavior. In short, I felt very alone. But now, I’m thankful for it.

Cutting back on the partying, and quitting my sorority, taught me who my real friends were. I still regret losing some of my close relationships. But, many of my relationships with those people revolved around pregaming and partying. The fact that I no longer did those things forced me to reassess the nature of my close friendships. At the end of the day, the friends I kept supported my new “grandma” status (as I liked to joke). I didn’t need the ones who would have minded it. They weren’t my real friends anyways.

If you’re interested in becoming sober curious, you will quickly learn how many of your close relationships revolve around alcohol. And I’m not going to lie: you might lose some of those friends. When that happens, it’s important to remember that it is not about you. Sometimes, when we quit drinking, it makes other people feel insecure about their own choices. If they perceive you as “holier-than-thou,” it’s likely because your choice to become sober makes them feel uncomfortable with their own drinking behavior.

You don’t need anyone who isn’t supportive of your choice to cut back on or quit drinking altogether. No one should make you feel like there’s something wrong with you for not wanting to take shots. The fact that you’re sober curious doesn’t mean that you need to cut everyone who drinks out of your life, but if you find that champagne is the only thing you had in common with your squad, it might be time to find some new friends.

That doesn’t mean that losing those friendships won’t hurt. What helped me get through it was a lot of therapy — and challenging myself to go to events where alcohol wouldn’t be served, where I could bond with new people over something other than sharing a drink. It’s easy to feel alone when you’re sober curious in a culture that romanticizes getting drunk, but once you get out there and start meeting other sober people, you’ll realize how many of us dislike drinking culture as much as you do.

Go in with a plan.

So, you’ve been invited to an event and you know alcohol is going to be served. Depending on your relationship with alcohol, that might stir up some difficult emotions. You might feel like everyone’s eyes will be on you if you’re not drinking, or that people will speculate about your choice not to drink: “Maybe she’s an alcoholic.” “Maybe she’s pregnant.” Or, you might feel anxious about being in a social situation without relying on alcohol to loosen you up — trust me, I’ve been there.

Often, the time I spend worrying about these events ahead of time ends up being worse than the event itself. Usually, I grab a can of Coke when I get to a party and nobody asks any questions. Still, if you’re wary about meeting a new group of people (and how they will respond to your choice not to drink), or you know that you will see someone who pressures you to drink when you don’t want to, it’s helpful to have a plan for coping ahead of time.

The first step involves recognizing why that situation might make you want to drink. Personally, I want to drink whenever I’m around a new group of people or people who I find difficult to deal with because the alcohol takes the edge off my anxiety. I also hate being in situations where I know other people will be getting drunk, because it’s hard to find a drunk person funny when you’re dead sober. But, triggers for drinking are intensely personal. Identifying yours will likely require a little soul searching.

Once you know the reason why staying sober might be challenging in that situation, you can formulate a plan to deal with the urge or expectation to drink. Your plan should always include, at bare minimum, an answer to the question, What am I going to drink? If you aren’t drinking alcohol, and you aren’t holding a drink, it will probably call more attention to the fact that you are avoiding it.

Holding a solo cup full of soda or cranberry juice usually allows you to dodge any questions. Most people are so ingrained into our drinking culture that they will probably assume you’ve got a little whiskey in your Coke, or some vodka in your cranberry, and won’t ask any more questions. I recognize that it’s a little effed up — but in this case, you can use drinking culture to your advantage.

I also like to give myself an out for any social situation where I feel pressured to drink more than I want to. Bringing a trusted friend along to a party or event where you might need help escaping can make this process a lot easier. David and I always come up with an excuse in the car on the way to an event so we can leave if I feel my social anxiety getting too bad or my endometriosis pain flaring up. The same approach works for drinking. Saying something like “I’ve got to go — the kids are with a sitter, and I’m only paying her to stay until 9:00” or “The dog hasn’t been out all day, we’ve got to head home” sounds perfectly innocent and won’t raise any eyebrows.

I usually give myself a minimum amount of time to stick it out for before using my excuse. For example, I’ll stay for an hour to see if my social anxiety improves — but if I’m still not having fun by then, I can leave without guilt or shame. I use this approach because I think it’s important to expose myself to situations that trigger my anxiety and learn to work through them without the use of alcohol to take the edge off.

You might feel apprehensive when you first arrive at a party where everyone is drinking and you aren’t, but once you immerse yourself in conversation and stop thinking about how awkward you feel, you might find yourself actually having fun. If that’s still not the case by your set time limit, however, you should always feel free to say “see ya” and go home to hop into your jammies.

Find tasty alternatives.

One of the more fun parts of being sober curious is getting to explore tasty alternatives to drinking alcohol. The mocktail market has really stepped up its game now that so many millennials are abstaining from alcohol. Some of the newest store-bought options for virgin drinks taste surprisingly convincing — and they’re almost all delicious.

I admit that I am someone who used to enjoy the taste of alcohol. In fact, my affinity for the taste of wine and cocktails is the only reason I kept drinking after my hard-partying days in college were over. For that reason, I worried I would feel deprived by no longer choosing to drink. As it turns out, trying virgin drink recipes and mocktail mixes from the grocery store is just as fun as wine tasting!

From being sober curious, I’ve learned that you should always have a plan for what to drink at a party where there’s going to be alcohol, and that there’s no shame in bringing your own. In fact, if you bring a non-alcoholic drink for everyone to enjoy, you might make some other party guests who don’t drink very, very happy — and maybe even make some new friends.

Below, I’m sharing some of my favorite homemade and store-bought options for mocktails to help you find the joy in abstaining from alcohol:

Mingle Mocktails makes several non-alcoholic drink blends. They come in the shape of wine bottles, meaning it’s difficult to tell the difference between a bottle of this and the real thing. Melon mojito is my favorite flavor, but they also make a moscow mule and a cranberry cosmo.

DRY Botanical Bubbly uses simple ingredients — just four per bottle — to make its virgin bubbly. There are flavors ranging from watermelon, to blood orange, to lavender, to pineapple. They come in either cans or bottles, allowing them to go from barbecue to birthday bash in the blink of an eye.

Sparkling water is the perfect substitute if you are someone who is used to habitually sipping wine or beer in front of the TV. When you want to crack open a cold one at the end of hard day, reach for a can of sparkling water instead of the hard stuff. I like Spindrift, which includes a splash of real fruit juice. La Croix gets polarized reviews, but also deserves props for its wide range of flavors.

Coffee is my favorite non-alcoholic drink choice. Hear me out: the variation in coffee blends is as multifaceted and nuanced as the differences between wines or beers. Like alcohol, you can make it strong, or temper it by blending it with different “mixers,” like almond milk or vanilla syrup. My favorite? Nitro cold brew, which blends cold brew coffee infused with CO2 with just enough of your favorite milk. Just be careful, or sobriety will turn you into a coffee snob like me!

Mocktails can also be made at home with a variety of ingredients. Pinterest allows you to find recipes that span sweet, sour, and everything in-between. Try this sparkling peach and thyme mocktail with a San Pellegrino base, or this strawberry basil limeade made from fresh fruit and honey simple syrup.

Find sober voices on social media.

There will be moments when the people around you won’t be supportive of what you’re doing. They’ll ask you things like “why can’t you just have one drink?” or crowd your Instagram feed with pics of them slaying-then-rose-ing. In those moments, it’s easy to feel alone — especially if you don’t know anyone else who is sober curious.

In every other area of my life, social media has been the place that allowed me to connect with people far and wide when I didn’t have immediate members of my tribe who understood what I was going through. Whether it was my struggles with an eating disorder or my experience with endometriosis, Instagram and Youtube introduced me to a world of influencers who were speaking out about the things I was going through. It helped me feel like there was someone in my corner, even on days when I felt like no one had my back IRL.

There are a few accounts I recommend following on Instagram for inspiration and community if you choose to become sober curious. @sobergirlsociety is based in the UK and is a space for sober or sober curious womxn to learn and grow. @1000hoursdry is a movement that promotes an alcohol-free lifestyle through its 1,000 Hours Dry challenge. @soberblackgirlsclub provides resources and support specific to Black womxn choosing a sober lifestyle.

On YouTube, I have been inspired by watching so many of my favorite influencers choose sobriety over the years. Lucy Moon, a beauty and mental health Youtuber, is the first Youtuber I remember “coming out” as someone who struggles with alcohol — you can watch her original video on alcoholism here. Kate Flowers, a vegan and non-binary Youtuber, talks about the effect of quitting alcohol on her life in this video. And Melanie Murphy, a bisexual beauty and sexual health Youtuber, gave up alcohol one year ago, in July 2019, and talks about reaching the six month milestone here. It was Melanie’s decision to become sober that first made me question my relationship with alcohol, and I’m so grateful for her content on this subject.

App Review: Rosy Wellness | App for Female Sexual Dysfunction

Would you feel comfortable talking to your friends, or even your gynecologist, about sexual dysfunction? With endometriosis, symptoms of sexual dysfunction — such as lack of lubrication or inability to orgasm — as well as sexual pain (known officially as “dyspareunia”) are common. However, they are also incredibly isolating, since there is so much stigma attached to sexual dysfunction, and sex in general.

It’s not easy to talk about female sexuality, which is why Dr. Lyndsey Harper created the app Rosy. Rosy is an app dedicated to women’s sexual wellness. The app contains educational videos and courses, as well as erotic stories and options for telemedicine appointments with sexual health providers, to teach women how to prioritize their pleasure.

I have been on Rosy’s mailing list for some time now, but never spent much time exploring the app. So, when I got an email that the app was launching a new course related to sexual pain, I knew I had to give it a try. The course — called “From Ouch to Oh Yeah!” — is available for free in the Rosy app through August 14. I completed the course, which was about an hour long, and also had the opportunity to explore some of the other content inside Rosy.

The Rosy app itself is free to download, with some features unlocked only through a $9.99/month subscription. You can get a one week free trial of Rosy’s premium subscription in the app as well. I’ll talk more about my experience with the Rosy Premium free trial as I get deeper into my review of Rosy.

Before I start talking about my experience with the Rosy app, I want to make the disclaimer that I was NOT sponsored by Rosy to make this post. I have no affiliation with Rosy whatsoever, and simply wanted to explore the app to see if its sexual wellness content was helpful for patients with endometriosis.

I also want to make the disclaimer that some of my language in this review may seem centered on cisgendered women. While Rosy makes an effort to talk about male and female partners in its content, it doesn’t do much to address transgender womxn or non-binary folx. The app’s branding is also incredibly feminine, with the app slathered in pink backgrounds, cursive fonts, and a rose as its logo. I am obviously not trans, but based on my experience, the app could make an effort to be more inclusive of gender identities outside the binary norm.

To give it a fair review, I’m going to be talking about the app exclusively in the context of my experience with it as a cisgendered female. But, it’s still worth mentioning that the app could be perceived as alienating, in many ways, to transgender womxn and non-binary folx.

Facts About Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD)

First thing’s first: why is an app like Rosy even necessary? To understand the “why” behind Rosy, we need to talk more about female sexual dysfunction, or FSD for short.

FSD encompasses a number of disorders that get in the way of females’ desire and enjoyment of sex. (By ‘females,’ we mean people with vaginas and vulvas, though the official medical language is, TBH, more than a little transphobic.) The word “dysfunction” refers to any impairment in normal functioning. In the context of FSD, dysfunction can affect any aspect of the sexual experience, from desire to arousal to orgasm.

FSD also encompasses sexual pain disorders. As I mentioned previously, the medical term for pain during sex is “dyspareunia.” It’s important to note that dyspareunia itself is a symptom, not a disorder. Dyspareunia can signal the presence of disorders like vaginismus (a reflexive tightening of the vaginal wall in reaction to any type of penetration), vulvodynia (chronic pain of the vulva, often due to skin sensitivity), vestibulodynia (a subtype of vulvodynia affecting solely the vestibule, or the area around the vaginal entrance), and pelvic floor dysfunction (tightness and spasming of the pelvic floor muscles).

Dyspareunia can also be a symptom of diseases like endometriosis, or a symptom of menopause. It might also be a side effect of certain medications, like birth control or breast cancer treatments. But dyspareunia is NOT a diagnosis. Do not let your doctor write “dyspareunia” on your chart and proceed never to talk about it again, as my former primary care doctor once did with me!

By some estimates, FSD affects half of all women in a typical outpatient practice. That means 50 percent of females aren’t getting the pleasure they deserve during sex, and might even be experiencing pain! If left untreated, FSD can take a harmful psychological toll on mental health and relationships.

Unfortunately, however, there aren’t many options for women to address their FSD. Many women aren’t believed by their doctors, especially when it comes to pain. Or, they may have been taught that pain during sex is “normal.” Let’s get something straight: just because dyspareunia is common, doesn’t mean that it’s normal!

The treatment options for FSD are also scarce. If you have a sexual pain disorder, there are slightly more options. Laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis might alleviate your dyspareunia. Or, if you suffer from vaginismus or pelvic floor dysfunction, physical therapy is often an effective treatment (though it often takes months to work).

But if the cause of your FSD is unclear, or perhaps psychological in origin, there are fewer choices for treatment. You can try sex therapy, but not everybody has access to a qualified sex therapist. Or, your doctor might prescribe you Addiyi, that “little pink pill” that was meant to be Viagra for women — but Addyi only works for 10 percent of women and causes dangerous drops in blood pressure when users drink alcohol.

The lack of effective help for FSD explains how Rosy came about. Dr. Lyndsey Harper, the founder of Rosy, saw lots of patients in her OB/GYN practice who had FSD. Dissatisfied with the options for treatment, she designed the app as part of a multifaceted treatment plan for FSD. Rosy is focused on self-help and can be used in the privacy of your own home. It also offers options for telemedicine appointments, though it should be used in addition to, rather than instead of, in-person appointments with your own gynecologist.

Review of Rosy’s Features

Rosy comes with a multitude of features, many of them free, that are designed to address FSD. There’s a library of free educational videos, as well as a series of several courses covering some of the most common problems behind FSD. You can also access some erotic stories for free, though most of them are included only with the premium subscription. Finally, Rosy also has a telemedicine feature that allows you to connect with sexual health providers from the comfort of your home. I won’t be reviewing the telemedicine or erotica features because I didn’t use them, but I will talk about the features that I did use.

From Ouch to Oh Yeah! Course

Rosy’s new course “From Ouch to Oh Yeah!” took me about an hour to complete, which matched up with the app’s estimate of 55 minutes of content. The course consists of videos, guided journaling prompts, and resources to help you cope with sexual pain. It’s led by Dr. Angie Stoehr, who is an OB/GYN and Pelvic and Sexual Pain Specialist who works with Rosy. For context, I have endometriosis, pelvic floor dysfunction, and vulvodynia. If you suffer from different pain conditions, or don’t know what the cause of your dyspareunia is, you might find different parts of this course more or less helpful than I did.

The course consists of five overarching “lessons,” which each have a video and action items following the video. The first lesson talks about potential causes of sexual pain, such as vaginismus, vulvodynia, endometriosis, and even interstitial cystitis, or painful bladder syndrome. It’s followed by guided journaling exercises to help you identify when your pain starts and what it feels like, which is incredibly helpful information to have if you’ve ever gotten to the doctor’s office and clammed up the minute you had to speak!

The second lesson is all about sexual pain and desire. This was my personal favorite lesson in the course, as it explains why painful sex makes us want to stop having sex. If you’ve ever felt “broken” because of your sexual pain, this video helps it all make sense again. The information Dr. Stoehr shares proves that yes, you are normal and no, you’re not crazy for wanting to avoid sex due to pelvic pain. The guided journaling exercises in this lesson were also awesome! The first was to create a list of reasons why you deserve to have amazing, pain-free sex. I’ve never really thought of myself as “deserving” of sex before, so this was an important mental shift to make. The second was to write a letter to your partner telling them everything you want them to know about your pelvic pain. If you don’t have a partner, this is obviously not applicable, but it might still be helpful to write a letter to your future partner. The idea is that writing these things down makes it easier to discuss them, allowing you to better speak up for yourself sexually.

Next, lesson three is all about reducing sexual pain. Dr. Stoehr provides some lifestyle recommendations here, mainly focused on diet and exercise. This lesson is less applicable to you if you have a pain condition that isn’t interstitial cystitis (IC). She talks a little about inflammatory foods, like refined carbs and fried foods, you might want to cut out of your diet — but mostly, she talks about the dietary recommendations for IC, which include cutting back on acidic foods and drinks, like coffee and chocolate. Dr. Stoehr’s exercise recommendations are more universal. She mentions that yoga and Pilates are both backed by tons of research showing that they’re effective for pelvic pain, due to the fact that they elongate the muscles and help you relax. Yoga is especially helpful due to its focus on deep breathing. I already enjoy yoga and Pilates, so it’s nice to know I’m doing the right kind of exercise for my body! But, I did not find the dietary recommendations in this lesson especially helpful or pertinent to my particular pain conditions.

Now, let’s talk about dilators. Lesson four is all about dilators: what they are, if you need to use them, and how to use them. The dilator protocol Dr. Stoehr recommends is primarily intended for patients with vaginismus, which is that reflexive contracting of the vaginal wall when anything attempts to penetrate the vagina. People with vaginismus often can’t even insert a finger or a tampon without these painful contractions, so dilator protocols are intended to help them retrain their bodies and brains to tolerate something inside the vagina. If you can have penetrative sex at all, even if it’s painful, you probably don’t need a progressive dilator protocol — which is why I was disappointed that Dr. Stoehr only talked about dilator use for vaginismus. As someone with pelvic floor dysfunction, dilators are also incredibly helpful to me for use in internal massage, which helps with myofascial pain related to PFD. However, Dr. Stoehr didn’t really talk about this use of dilators. She did mention the Ohnut, though — which, if you’ve read my blog at all, you know I am a huge proponent of this tool for pain-free sex!

Last but not least, lesson five talks about anatomy. Personally, I think it would have been more useful to discuss anatomy in the second lesson, right after talking about causes of pelvic pain — or even before discussing sexual pain at all. Once Dr. Stoehr is done breaking out the vulva hand puppet (yes, really!), she gets into discussing lubricants and comfortable sexual positions for different types of pain. To be completely honest, the positions she recommends aren’t ones you haven’t thought of before. She recommends missionary, doggy-style, and a side-lying position, which aren’t all that creative. I didn’t really need to watch this video to figure those out. Not to mention, the positions are pretty much made for P-in-V heterosexual sex, though she does briefly mention same-sex couples. But, more helpfully, Dr. Stoehr also talks about the differences between water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based lubricants, and which are most useful for sexual pain. For further reading on the topic of lube, I’d recommend looking into this page from Australian company Pelvic Exercises Physiotherapy.

After the five main lessons, there’s also a section called “More Help” that provides an introductory video and some further resources for addressing pelvic pain. Dr. Stoehr points you toward a helpful form from the International Pelvic Pain Society where you can log your pain over time for better discussion with your doctor. She also provides a list of vetted mental health providers who are certified in sex therapy, which can be an additionally useful resource.

Educational Video Content

Besides the courses, Rosy also offers free educational video content. The topics of these videos range from over-the-counter supplements for boosting your libido to the benefits of scheduling sex. I watched two videos — “Endometriosis” and “Exercise for Desire” — and learned a little bit, but not a ton, from each.

If you’ve never read or talked about these things before, Rosy offers a great introduction. Their videos are usually less than three minutes long, meaning they’re condensed and easy to understand, but can’t delve too deep into any particular topic. For example, as someone who already has endometriosis and knows a lot about it, I didn’t find the “Endometriosis” video helpful to me, but I feel that it would be a good introduction for anyone who’s wondering if endo could be the cause of their sexual pain.

As for the video “Exercise for Desire,” I didn’t love it. In the video, Dr. Harper talks about the benefits of exercise for boosting your libido. I do love that she says that you don’t need to run a triathalon; 10 to 15 minutes of exercise a day will do to start. But her recommendations aren’t specific as to what types of exercise are best for sexual pain or for boosting your libido. She just recommends that you do it — and if you are a woman in the healthcare system, you’ve definitely heard “just exercise!” as a one-size-fits-all solution before. That video comes across as a little tone-deaf.

Rosy Community

Rosy also offers forums to help people facing sexual problems connect with one another to talk about their issues. There are a bunch of forums, including one specific to COVID-19, that cover different issues related to sex. I jumped into the Low Libido forum to see what was going on and share my story, and quickly found a long list of people essentially complaining about their problems, with little interaction. I was expecting to find a supportive community, but it seemed like it’s just a wall for people to vent on. People aren’t really interested in making friends or connecting with others in their situation — which sucks, because the Rosy forums were one of the first places I’ve ever “met” other 20-somethings who suffer from the same issues that I do.

Rosy Premium

I also wanted to touch on the Rosy Premium subscription, since I signed up for their one-week free trial. I’m going to level with you: I cancelled it right away. The ad for the free trial is a bit misleading, because it claims you’ll have access to 20+ courses once you sign up. However, no new courses appeared when I started my subscription. It seems like they really meant 20+ lessons, which are different from the courses themselves. I sincerely hope they will expand the course content for premium and free users, though, because this was definitely my favorite part of using Rosy.

You also get access to a plethora of erotic stories when you sign up through Rosy Premium, when before you only got access to a few. I didn’t read any of them, but I did skim the section, and I can attest that their erotica is definitely more female-focused than anything you will find on Pornhub. Erotica is also certainly more ethical than porn, since there are no “performers” to be paid (or not to be paid) and no worries of potential sex trafficking involvement. So, I fully support this feature of Rosy Premium, too. It just wasn’t the reason why I downloaded the app.

Conclusion

Overall, Rosy has a lot of potential to become a great resource for people suffering from sexual problems. I loved the “From Ouch to Oh Yeah!” course, and I hope that other people will say the same so they are inspired to create more of this type of content. I also hope to see more content specific to endometriosis in the future, perhaps sharing tips and tricks I might not already know for coping with endometriosis in my sex life. If erotica is your thing, the app is also an inexpensive and ethical way to access female-friendly pornography.

On the whole, I have three recommendations to improve the Rosy app:

  1. Make Rosy less gendered to include all people with vaginas who might suffer from sexual dysfunction. Use more inclusive language and change the branding to be less overtly feminine in nature.
  2. Expand the course content to offer more specific suggestions for people with sexual problems to take back into their personal lives. Make sure that if you say the premium subscription includes 20+ courses, there are actually 20+ courses to access!
  3. Get rid of the community feature altogether. Honestly, from my experience in the “Low Libido” forum, it seems like the Rosy community doesn’t encourage friendly interaction and is instead more of a fountain of negativity.

Rosy is free to download in the App Store and on Google Play. Check it out today to form your own opinions and learn more about female sexual wellness!

Can You Lose Weight in Eating Disorder Recovery?

Trigger Warning: This post deals with weight loss, eating disorders, calorie counting and other topics that could be upsetting to someone with a history of an ED. Please proceed with caution. Remember, I am not a medical professional, so consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.

It’s been awhile since I talked about eating disorder recovery, but with the emphasis on weight gain during quarantine in the media lately, I think this blog post is overdue. Although I titled this blog post “can you lose weight in eating disorder recovery?” I think the better question is “should you try to lose weight in eating disorder recovery?”

I’m turning 22 in July, which means I’ve officially been in eating disorder recovery for almost five years now. Those of you who know my story know I suffered from orthorexia / EDNOS on-and-off from ages 14 to 17. Since then, I’ve had relapses — especially when I was first diagnosed with IBS and began skipping meals to control my symptoms — including attempts to purge, but thanks to the help of a dietician at my alma mater, Boston University, and a long stint in an intensive outpatient program (IOP), I now have a healthier relationship with food than I have had in a long time.

As someone in eating disorder recovery, I’m no stranger to fluctuations in my weight. In high school, when I first began eating intuitively, I gained so much weight that my prom dress no longer fit. (Even though I’d taken the tags off, my mom took me to the store and helped me lie about receiving the gown as a gift so we could exchange it for a larger size.) But this year, I experienced weight gain in a different way than I ever had before.

I’m going to mention some numbers here, so if you’re triggered by that specifically, I recommend you skip this paragraph! I believe in set-point theory, and my set point weight has always been 115 to 120 pounds. However, this year, I started taking progesterone to help with my suspected endometriosis and soon found myself gaining almost 15 pounds in a matter of months. Weighing in at 132 pounds, I was three pounds away from being classified as “overweight” for my height — not to mention, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars replacing clothes that no longer fit, and coping with the blow that’s inflicted on my self-esteem.

I believe in Health at Every Size (HAES) and that weight gain is natural at certain points in our lives, especially when it’s a result of age or a side effect of a medical condition or treatment. I’m even okay living in my larger body (though I do miss some of my clothes that no longer fit), especially given that it means freedom from debilitating cramps. Nor do I believe that food should ever, ever be about guilt. But to me, becoming almost overweight served as an important sign that I should pay more attention to the way I am treating my body.

For me, that raised an important question: is losing weight in a quest for better health going to trigger a relapse? Here’s what my experience has been and what I’ve learned from doing some research on the subject.

You Need to Be Fully Recovered.

Do you consider yourself fully recovered from your eating disorder? To me, this is a tricky question. I’ve been in eating disorder recovery five years and I think some part of me will always struggle with the urges to restrict and purge. Yet at the same time, I’ve also achieved a milestone in my recovery where I can look at the scale objectively. Gaining weight isn’t a measure of whether I am a good or bad person, nor is it a death sentence. It’s just a number.

Viewing my weight as just a number allows me to weigh myself and track my weight without my daily mood being tied to what I see. I still struggle with the urge to weigh myself more often than I probably need to, but with the exception of the occasional bad day, my weight no longer has such immense power over me. To me, this is what it means to be “fully recovered.” The worst of my EDNOS days feel so far behind me that I feel comfortable pursuing a small amount of weight loss for the sake of improving my diet and exercise routines.

If you are new to recovery or not fully weight-restored, then weight loss should be the last thing on your mind right now. Whether or not you are overweight or obese (because no, “skinny” people aren’t the only ones who get eating disorders), your main focus should be on maintaining healthy eating patterns and overcoming your ED thoughts and behaviors. Methods used to lose weight, even in a “healthy” way — i.e. weighing oneself or tracking calories consumed and burned — can lead to a relapse if you are not firmly set in your eating disorder recovery.

You also need to be honest with yourself about your reasons for wanting to lose weight. Wanting to fit into your favorite pair of jeans because you miss wearing them? Wholesome reason to lose weight. Believing that weight loss will make you happier and fix your life’s problems? Insidious eating disorder urge. When you have not been in recovery very long, you may not be able to tell the difference between these two types of thoughts, which I like to call your “eating disorder self” and your “genuine self.”

That’s why it’s imperative that you consult your treatment team, and potentially seek the support of a nutrition and/or mental health professional, if you want to lose weight in eating disorder recovery. They may be able to better grasp whether or not your reasons for wanting to lose weight reflect a healthy self-esteem or stem from your eating disorder.

You Need a HAES Approach.

In my humble opinion, if you’re going to pursue weight loss as a person in eating disorder recovery, losing weight should be your secondary goal. You need a primary goal to drive your behavior that doesn’t stem from a place of self-loathing or food policing. For me, that goal is wanting to improve my food and exercise habits and wear my favorite clothes again. Losing weight is simply a side effect of that larger, overarching goal.

Weight loss on its own will not help you achieve health, happiness or even body satisfaction. In my experience, if you want to lose weight for the sake of losing weight, it’s more likely to come from a place of insecurity and self-judgment than from a place of holistic health and self-love. But that’s not the only reason why I feel that weight loss should not be your primary goal. As a person in eating disorder recovery, I also firmly believe in the HAES movement, which tells us that weight is not, in fact, a true measure of health or wellness.

Conventional doctors read the number on the scale, classify patients into categories based on our BMI (such as “overweight” or “obese”) and make suggestions about how much weight to lose accordingly. Their sole goal is to force you to fit neatly into the “normal weight” box, because that’s all many doctors are taught in medical school: maintaining a normal weight helps minimize health risks. I would know, because I helped my doctor boyfriend study for all his board exams!

But as I’ve learned in my eating disorder recovery, correlation does not equal causation; being overweight does not directly lead to death or disease. And I’m not even going to get into the unethical relationships between the diet industry and the so-called pioneers of studies that promote the false idea of the “obesity epidemic.” All I’ll say is that doctors shouldn’t look at a patient’s weight or appearance to make final judgments on their health status. Better measures of health include blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, cholesterol and other biomarkers that tell us what’s actually going on inside our bodies.

That being said, I think it’s important to consider all perspectives, without engaging in fear-mongering. We can and should be able to appreciate fat bodies and end weight discrimination while still promoting a healthy population. At the same time, one would argue that when eating healthfully and exercising, a person is unlikely to remain morbidly obese, regardless of whether weight loss was an actual goal of theirs. Currently, the empirical research does seem to suggest that weight loss in obese populations reduces disease risk and mortality rates (though admittedly, many of these studies are sponsored by companies promoting weight loss drugs or boasting other links to the dieting industry). HAES healthcare providers recognize this, and have identified the need for more quantitative studies to support their work.

Personally, I believe in the importance of physical and psychological health, which is why I support HAES over the lose-weight-at-all-costs approach triggered by obesity alarmists. Initial studies have found that people who are satisfied with their weight are healthier both mentally and physically — which is a pretty great start if you ask me. So, how do you follow a HAES approach to nutrition? According to HAES and intuitive eating, the most important thing is that we avoid fad dieting (which has been shown to fail 95 percent of the time) and focus on foods that make us feel good. You can lose weight with an HAES approach, as long as you love yourself the same whether you weigh 400 pounds or 150 pounds and avoid unsustainable patterns of eating. Linda Bacon and Michael Pollan, founders of the HAES movement, outline the following guidelines for following a healthy diet with an HAES approach:

  • Enjoyment should take first priority. Don’t force superfoods into your diet if you hate eating them — nor should you force yourself to indulge in something you don’t really want for the sake of “proving” your eating disorder recovery. I also interpret this to mean that you should pay attention to the way foods make you feel in addition to the way they taste. For example, I love macaroni and cheese and will always have days when I choose to eat it — but most of the time, I avoid dairy because the satisfaction of cheese doesn’t outweigh the physical side effects of my lactose intolerance.
  • Variety is the best way to ensure you are getting all the macro- and micronutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Pay attention to building a colorful plate, as bright colors signify the presence of different vitamins and minerals.
  • Plant-based foods should be the centerpiece of your diet. That doesn’t mean you have to follow a prescriptive diet, such as vegetarianism or veganism, but meat and dairy should be considered side dishes.
  • Not too much means grasping your hunger cues and only eating until you are comfortably full. You should avoid distractions while eating (though I’ll be the first to admit that I’m frequently guilty of snacking and scrolling!) and distinguish between physical and emotional hunger.
  • Most of the time is the final tenet of the HAES approach to food. In short, it means that there are no hard-and-fast food rules. You should strive to follow the healthful approach described above whenever you can, but also accept that sh*t happens! Some days, you’re only going to have time to eat a granola bar while driving on your way to picking up the kids, meaning you’re going to need to eat while distracted. Other days (like Thanksgiving, for one), you might choose to eat beyond full because you love what you’re eating. AND THAT’S OKAY! It’s about moderating, not avoiding, your consumption of processed and so-called “unhealthy” foods. As Linda Bacon says, “there’s plenty of room for Twinkies in the context of an overall nutritious diet.”

To bring this discussion to a close, because I know it’s been a long one, weight loss isn’t your primary goal when following a HAES approach. But, you may find that when you begin to focus on eating plant-based foods, following your body’s hunger cues and enjoying treats in moderation, your body settles in at a set point weight that’s lower than you thought it would be. That doesn’t mean you should view HAES or intuitive eating as a “diet,” per se. However, if you’re someone who’s been stuck on the yo-yo dieting rollercoaster for years and struggles to lose weight, you’ll likely have more luck achieving your weight loss goals while following a truly satisfying intuitive eating approach than a strict fad diet.

You Need Support.

The first thing I did when I decided to lose a few pounds? Tell David. Our conversation went a little something like this….

HALEY: Hey, can I talk to you about something?

DAVID: Sure.

HALEY: So, I’ve been dissatisfied with the weight I’ve gained on my medication because a lot of my clothes aren’t fitting and I’ve decided to try to lose a few pounds. I’m going to be tracking my weight and calories to help me out. I’m telling you this because of my history of disordered eating, so that if this triggers my old habits, you can knock some sense into me.

DAVID: Okay. Thank you for telling me that. I will be sure to let you know if I notice anything.

If you have a history of an eating disorder, you cannot and should not go about weight loss on your own. You need the support of your medical team, as well as your friends and family, to keep you on track and prevent you from relapsing during your journey to lose weight. Alternatively, if your weight loss is something you feel the need to conceal from others, that might be your first cue that it’s coming from a place of disordered thinking, rather than a genuine concern for your health and well-being. You shouldn’t need to hide your goals if you are truly acting from a place of self-compassion.

It’s absolutely essential to be open and honest about any disordered feelings or thoughts that arise during your weight loss journey, and to be prepared to abandon your goal in the event that this pursuit leads to a relapse. Having the support of a registered dietitian and/or mental healthcare provider can provide you with an outlet to discuss your relationship with food and addresss any disordered thoughts or behaviors you’re still struggling with. If you’re not comfortable with this approach to weight loss, that’s a clear sign that your weight loss may not be coming from a healthy place and that you should wait until you are further along in your recovery journey to reassess whether losing weight is the right move for you.

I’ve also found it incredibly important to support myself by monitoring the types of content I’m taking in online. Despite my goal to lose a few pounds, I’m not following fitness influencers or searching for “flat belly tips” on Pinterest, because I know thsoe are things that trigger me. Instead, I’ve been watching a lot of videos by the dietitian Abbey Sharp on YouTube, where she criticizes fitness influencers’ “What I Eat in a Day ” videos for both nutrition content and any disordered eating patterns she notices, and searching for recipes that follow the plant-based, DASH diet or Mediterranean diet approaches, which emphasize overall nutrition and heart health over weight loss.

What You Need to Know About George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter

My heart is broken by the violence and hatred we are seeing in this country. And I’m not talking about broken windows and spray-painted storefronts; I’m talking about the years of systemic abuse and racism in the police force that have finally boiled over into a cry for help.

Living in the middle of Cleveland, Ohio, I am at the heart of some of the tensest race relations and strictest police responses in the country. On Saturday, I attended the Black Lives Matter protest at the Justice Center in Cleveland with the goal of helping protesters who had been sprayed with tear gas. There, I saw police cars ablaze, walls vandalized and glass shattered — but more importantly, I saw police firing rubber bullets, tear gas and flare bombs into a crowd of primarily peaceful protesters.

After police incited violence, the peaceful protest devolved into riots on Saturday night, with fires lit in trash cans outside our apartment and storefronts being broken into with blunt objects. Since Saturday, the City of Cleveland has been on lockdown in response to the riots and made 99 arrests. Not only has the mayor continued to lie about what we’ve seen, but the police response has been inconsistent with public statements made by leadership.

Since Saturday, all the highway entrances to downtown Cleveland have been blocked off by police cruisers. On Sunday morning, David and I left to get the UHaul for our upcoming move to Providence. When we returned, the police officer blocking our entrance told us we weren’t allowed to go home and should leave the city for a few days, contradicting public statements made by the City of Cleveland that were meant to protect residents. Surely enough, we drove to another exit and were allowed through, but only after showing our apartment lease and address to the next set of police cruisers down the road. We were told if we didn’t go straight home after parking, we could be subject to arrest.

Clarifications have since been made, but the City has done little to address why the lockdown continues. They have extended these “precautions” to the end of the week, while giving vague reasons and contradictory answers to questions from residents (for example, statements made exceptions for people going to work downtown, only for the mayor to declare that businesses should be closed during the lockdown period). To me, the real answer for the lockdowns is clear: they say they are “preventing” more riots, but what they really hope to do is suppress free speech using the threat of increased police presence downtown to scare Black residents into hiding.

Voices are being silenced all across the country. If you’ve been on social media at all over the past few days, you’ve likely seen videos of cops beating up protesters and even an NYPD cruiser driving through a peaceful crowd. Many of my fellow white Americans have risen to the challenge, urging their friends and relatives to do better while sharing resources to promote change — but just as many appear to be more baffled by the level of anger or more enraged by the destruction than they are appalled at our country’s systemic abuse of Black people.

Whether or not you understand or agree with the Black Lives Matter movement and its tactics, I think we can all concede that it’s no time to be ignorant. As Americans, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves, to take action to protect Black lives and to vote out our pathetic excuse for a president, who dispersed protesters with tear gas all for a petty photo op. So, before you reply with a comment like “don’t all lives matter, Haley?” I urge you to peruse the thoughtful collection of readings and information below to help you better understand where these protests are coming from.

Without education, we can’t form an opinion — and without understanding our white privilege and the perspectives of Black Americans, we have no right to feed into their oppression. Read on to learn more about the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests spreading across America, what they’re all about and what you, as white ally, can do to help.

Who is George Floyd?

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd — a Black man living in Minneapolis, Minnesota — was accused of spending a counterfeit $20 bill at a deli when trying to buy cigarettes. A store employee reported the suspicious bill to police. Floyd was a well-known customer at the deli who never caused any trouble, but the manager was not onsite and the teenaged employee was just following protocol.

The teenager believed Floyd to be drunk, though Floyd was not armed and did not make threats of violence. The employee asked for the counterfeit cigarettes back, but told the 911 operator that Floyd was resistant. When the police arrived on the scene, one of the officers, Thomas Lane, drew his gun on Floyd. Floyd resisted being handcuffed, but became cooperative after being explained that he was being arrested for spending a counterfeit bill.

When police tried to guide Floyd into the back of their cruiser, Floyd suddenly froze and fell to the ground, stating that he was claustrophobic. Floyd was restrained by four officers, one of them named Derek Chauvin. Seeing that Floyd was distressed, onlookers began to film the incident on their mobile phones. Chauvin held Floyd down with his knee on Floyd’s neck, leading Floyd to say “I can’t breathe” and beg for his mother. Some photos show two other officers kneeling on Floyd as well. Six minutes later, Floyd became unresponsive.

By the time an ambulance arrived and transported him to the hospital, George Floyd was already deceased. Floyd was officially pronounced dead one hour after arriving at the hospital. The original autopsy denied that Floyd died as a result of asphyxiation, citing preexisting conditions like hypertension and blood pressure. Since then, two additional autopsies — one performed by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office and one performed by an independent autopser hired by the Floyd family — have ruled the death a homicide, stating that Floyd died by “asphyxiation from sustained pressure.” The neck and back compression from Chauvin’s knee led to a decreased blood flow to the brain, while the weight on Floyd’s back and his handcuffs impacted the ability of his diaphragm to function.

Derek Chauvin was arrested on bail and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The other three officers, who stood by as Chauvin killed Floyd, have not been arrested. Protesters around the country continue to gather to demand justice for Floyd, with some protests resulting in the use of force by police, looting and rioting. Some of their demands include the arrest of the other officers involved in the incident, the raised charge of second degree murder for Chauvin and the defunding of the Minneapolis Police Department by the City of Minneapolis.

So, Why Now?

If you follow the news, you know that the killing of George Floyd is not the first instance of racial profiling and excessive use of force by police. Many of these killings have been widely publicized due to the fact that they were documented on video, but most have not received such extensive media attention. Some of the cases that dominated the news in recent years include:

  • Freddie Gray: A 25-year-old Black man was arrested for possession of a knife and died in police custody after being injured in 2015. In 2016, a hung jury dropped all remaining charges against the officers involved. The family’s case was settled out of court with the City of Baltimore. The Department of Justice chose not to file federal civil rights charges.
  • Tamir Rice: A 12-year-old Black boy was killed by Cleveland police in 2014. Police officers responded to reports of a man waving a gun. Tamir had a pellet gun tucked in his pocket and was fatally shot by an officer named Timothy Loehmann. Two officers, including Loehmann, were acquitted by a jury in 2015. Loehmann was fired and the other officer suspended for 10 days. The police union called the disciplinary action “politically motivated.”
  • Michael Brown: An 18-year-old Black man was fatally shot by a white officer, Darren Wilson, in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. A jury declined to indict Wilson and the Department of Justice chose not to file federal civil rights charges. The subsequent protests were an important catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • Eric Garner: A 43-year-old Black man was arrested for selling loose cigarettes in New York City in 2014. Garner was placed in a chokehold by a white NYPD officer and died of asphyxiation. A jury declined to indict the officer or any others involved in Garner’s death. The City of New York settled the family’s civil case out of court.
  • Breonna Taylor: A 26-year-old Black woman was killed during an unannounced drug raid in her Louisville, Kentucky apartment on March 13, 2020. Officers broke down the door while reportedly serving her a search warrant and shot her more than eight times. No drugs were found in her apartment. The case is currently subject to an FBI investigation.

According to Mapping Police Violence, the police killed 1,099 people in 2019. Statistics show that Black people are more than three times more likely to be killed by police than white people, and that Black people killed by police are 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed than white people killed by police. Worst of all, police killings rarely result in justice for the victims; 90 percent of killings by police from 2013 to 2019 have not resulted in officers being charged with a crime.

Right now, you might be hearing white people say things like “not all cops are bad” on social media. It’s true that some police departments are at greater fault than others. Buffalo, New York’s population is 50 percent people of color (POC), yet reported zero police killings between 2013 and 2016. Meanwhile, Orlando, Florida is only 42 percent POC, but reported 13 police killings between 2013 and 2016. You can search for your local police division’s statistics at Mapping Police Violence, and learn the names and races of the victims. I learned that between 2013 and 2019, ten people were killed at the hands of Cleveland police, and eight out of ten of those people were Black.

In a country founded on slavery and racism, which oppresses POC via gentrification and racial profiling (among other grievous offenses), it’s difficult to deny that racism and white privilege continue to affect life for Black Americans in the modern era. After so many instances of police violence being carried out against Black Americans at disproportionate rates, many people are fed up. The protests and riots resulting from the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police represent the product of years of systemic abuse and trauma by white Americans against the Black community. When the democratic process continues to be stacked against Black Americans, when our government continues to ignore the peaceful protests and suppress the votes of so many people, many now feel they must turn to rioting in order to have their voices heard.

Resources for Change

As Americans, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and do our part to end racism and racially-motivated killings by police. Regardless of how you feel about the protests and riots this weekend, you should do your part to support the Black Lives Matter movement, acknowledge your white privilege and donate your resources to people less fortunate than you. Below, I provide links to readings about race, privilege and police, as well as places you can turn to in order to donate money or get involved with what’s happening in our country.

To Learn More….

Peggy McIntosh’s 1989 essay, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, is a must-read that includes a checklist to help you assess your level of privilege.

Robin DiAngelo’s 2015 essay, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism, precedes her 2018 book of the same name, explaining why white people often become defensive when talking about race.

Dr. Michelle Andrasik writes about Historical Trauma and The Health and Wellbeing of Communities of Color, explaining why things like slavery and Jim Crow laws can’t just be forgotten, as well as how microaggressions affect non-white mental health.

In Being Antiracist, Angela Y. Davis explains what it means to be “antiracist” (as opposed to “not racist”) and how we can actively fight against racism at every level.

The 2017 Police Violence Report collected data on over 1,100 killings by police in 2017 and represents the most comprehensive report on police violence in the United States.

Campaign Zero’s Use of Force Report, published in 2016, analyzes police departments’ policies on the use of force against civilians and presents the data in an easy-to-understand chart format.

Campaign Zero’s Police Union Contracts Report, also published in 2016, describes how collective bargaining agreements allow police officers access to an alternate justice system that doesn’t hold them accountable for their actions.

Boston University’s groundbreaking 2019 study, The Relationship Between Racial Residential Segregation and Black-White Disparities in Fatal Police Shootings at the City Level, reports that police in cities with more racial segregation disproportionately shoot and kill Black people.

Colorlines’ The ’94 Crime Bill 25 Years Later reviews Bill Clinton’s bill to reduce “violent crime” and how it has devastated Black and Brown communities for the past quarter of a century.

Graham Boyd’s The Drug War is the New Jim Crow explains how President Bush’s War on Drugs effort led to the disproportionate arrest of Black Americans for minor drug offenses, such as the possession of marijuana.

The Marshall Project’s article, Why So Many Police Are Handling the Protests Wrong, explains how riots result from escalating force by police officers — and why officers respond to protests with force in the first place.

Kara Jillian Brown’s How Sharing Images of Violence Against Black People Damages Their Mental Health presents a compelling case for why you shouldn’t retweet that video of George Floyd’s death.

To Donate….

This list of Bail Funds for Protestors allows you to put your money toward freeing those imprisoned for expressing their First Amendment rights in your area.

The official Black Lives Matter movement is working to end the systemic oppression of Black people. Currently, they are calling to #DefundthePolice.

The Innocence Project is putting an end to wrongful convictions, which disproportionately affect Black people, using DNA evidence.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) works tirelessly to protect constitutional freedoms in the courts. Once of its chief causes is criminal justice reform.

Campaign Zero is fighting to end police violence by limiting interventions, improving interactions and ensuring accountability re: police encounters.