Getting Started with Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy (featuring Soul Source!)

Disclaimer: This post represents a paid partnership with the brand Soul Source.

Thank you so much to Soul Source for sponsoring Endo Strong!

When I first suspected I might have endometriosis, I expected to be told I needed surgery. I had done enough research to know that the only way to definitively diagnose endometriosis is by diagnostic laparoscopy. But what I didn’t expect was to hear that my pelvic floor muscles had become dysfunctional. Now, I was going to need to do internal work with a pelvic floor physical therapist in order to retrain my body to release its muscles and relieve its pain. I’m pretty sure my first thought was, Um, what?!

Beginning pelvic floor physical therapy shook my world, in more ways than one. In case the experience of a stranger poking around my most intimate body parts was not jarring enough, I quickly discovered how painfully slow the process of pelvic floor physical therapy can be. It’s important not to progress through the exercises too quickly, as moving forward before you’re ready can actually make things worse. And, if pelvic floor PT wasn’t slow enough already, the coronavirus quickly put a stopper in my plans for pelvic floor physical therapy.

If I’m being honest, it didn’t take me long to fall behind on my at-home exercises. During the first months of the coronavirus, I spent more time grieving for my missed appointments and canceled surgery than actually working toward my recovery. And that’s okay — I needed that time to feel sorry for myself. I think we all did at that point. Between canceled surgeries, weddings, graduations, sports tournaments…there’s not a single person I know who hasn’t lost something to this pandemic.

But now, as cities begin to reopen, it’s no longer time to feel sorry for myself. It’s time to get back on the pelvic floor PT bandwagon! Admittedly, after not doing it for so long, pelvic floor PT feels hard. In some ways, it feels just as difficult as when I started. But then I remember how frightened and uncertain I felt when I first got started. Not only did that shift my perspective, but it also inspired me to write this article.

If I felt that scared and unsure when I was being guided by a pelvic floor physical therapist, I can’t imagine how people must feel when they are starting their pelvic pain journeys in the middle of a global pandemic. Sure, now that states are reopening, some of us, like me, are willing and able to risk ourselves to visit a physical therapist in person. Yet I recognize that it is a privilege to be able to do so.

That brings me to the purpose of today’s post. Today, I’m teaming up with Soul Source — yep, the original silicone dilator company! — to share a comprehensive resource for all my endo friends who are getting started with pelvic floor PT at home. To be honest, I’m a little starstruck about this collaboration, since Soul Source was one of the first resources I found on my pelvic floor PT journey. I’ve been keeping it quiet for about a month now, and I’m so glad to finally be able to share it with you all!

Why Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy?

As an endo patient, you may have already heard of pelvic floor PT. However, it’s important to note that pelvic floor PT addresses a specific type of pain caused by a disorder known as pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD), rather than pain directly caused by endometriosis.

Chronically tight pelvic floor muscles cause a type of pelvic pain called myofascial pain, which is just one form of PFD. This pain can cause areas of tenderness in the abdomen, pelvis, and vagina, called trigger points.

Over time, pelvic floor physical therapy can promote myofascial release through gentle trigger point massage. For people with vaginas, this usually means your physical therapist will perform internal work — which is why it’s crucial to find a physical therapist you feel comfortable with.

Endometriosis does not directly cause PFD, but PFD often develops in patients with endometriosis. When we experience pain, our body’s instinct is to protect itself by contracting the muscles surrounding that painful area. As a result, people with chronic pelvic pain (like endo patients) may develop tight pelvic floor muscles.

While it’s true that laparoscopic excision surgery is the only viable treatment for endometriosis, many patients continue to experience pain after surgery. As my pelvic pain specialist back in Cleveland stressed to me, surgery can fix the pain caused by your endo, but it will not fix the added pain caused by your tight pelvic floor muscles.

Unfortunately, PFD does not go away when the endometriosis pain does, so removing endometriosis lesions will not cure PFD. The only way to fix PFD is to retrain your muscles through physical therapy.

Getting Started with Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy

To help you feel less overwhelmed, I’ll break getting started with pelvic floor physical therapy into three easy steps:

  1. Finding a pelvic floor physical therapist near you.
  2. Learning about pelvic floor physical therapy.
  3. Stocking up on pelvic floor PT essentials.

Step One: Finding a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist

Oftentimes, reaching out to a pelvic floor physical therapist is scarier than starting the PT itself. As a sexual assault survivor, I definitely found this to be true. I knew if I was going to have internal massage done, I wanted my PT to be someone I could trust — but it’s difficult to know who you can trust simply by reading someone’s biography on a website.

You can approach finding a pelvic floor physical therapist in one of two ways. Your pelvic pain specialist or endometriosis expert might recommend a colleague who is a pelvic floor physical therapist. Or, you can search for a pelvic floor physical therapist on your own.

If it’s possible for you, I recommend, at the very least, visiting your endo doc before starting pelvic floor PT. Pelvic floor PT won’t help if your problem isn’t actually PFD, and your doctor can confirm the diagnosis of PFD through a pelvic exam.

You should always look for a pelvic floor physical therapist who is board-certified. There are a few types of board certification you might come across in your search for the right PT. All the abbreviations that are thrown around can make physical therapy seem like a foreign language — so allow me to translate two of the most common certifications you’ll see:

  • Women’s Clinical Specialist (WCS). The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) represents more than 100,000 physical therapists in the United States. APTA delegates the supervision of its Women’s Clinical Specialist (WCS) board certification to the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS). This means ABPTS administers the certification exam and governs who is eligible for certification. In order to call themself a WCS, a physical therapist must be licensed to practice PT in the United States, have completed at least 2,000 hours of direct patient care in the women’s health specialty, and submit an application for certification that includes a case reflection. After their application is accepted, they must sit for the certification exam. PTs can only use the WCS credential once they pass this exam.
  • Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioner Certification (PRPC). The Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioner Certification (PRPC) is overseen by Herman & Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute. The Institute primarily provides continuing education courses for current PTs, but also offers the PRPC. PRPC applicants do not need to be PTs to earn this certification; they may also be doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs), physical therapist assistants (PTAs), registered nurses (RNs), and other medical practitioners with a valid U.S. license. In order to sit for the PRPC exam, professionals must document 2,000 hours of clinical experience in the women’s health specialty, but only 500 of those hours need to include direct patient care.

Search engines can help you locate a pelvic floor physical therapist, but they aren’t always reliable. Google won’t always tell you whether or not a pelvic floor PT has the right credentials or what those credentials mean. I recommend turning to sources like the International Pelvic Pain Society (IPPS), which has its own search engine to help you find a trustworthy provider specializing in pelvic pain. Other recommended sources include:

  • APTA Pelvic Health Academy, the APTA’s membership community of pelvic and abdominal physical therapists.
  • Global Pelvic Health Alliance, a global directory dedicated to helping you find pelvic health professionals.
  • Herman and Wallace, a continuing education resource in pelvic floor PT for physical therapists, whose website includes a directory of pelvic floor PTs. .

Step Two: Learning About Pelvic Floor PT

Making an appointment with a pelvic floor PT is an important first step that should be celebrated, but you might be itching to get started right away — I felt the same way! After all, when you’ve already waited 10 years for an endometriosis diagnosis, waiting a month for an initial PT appointment can feel like the straw that broke the camel’s back.

In the meantime, one of the most important things you can do, both for your physical health and your mental health, is to learn everything you can about the pelvic floor. Educating yourself through reading will help you understand your treatment plan better, converse more clearly with your pelvic floor PT, and become a more active participant in your PT experience.

There are so many great books and resources out there that have been recommended to me by doctors and patients alike. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Heal Pelvic Pain by Amy Stein, DPT was the first chronic pelvic pain book ever recommended to me. I recommend buying your own copy of this book rather than borrowing it from the library, because you’ll definitely want to look back on it during your pelvic pain journey. It contains a week-by-week stretching and strengthening program for PFD and directions for performing internal massage at home.
  • The Chronic Pain Research Alliance offers a comprehensive patient guide to chronic overlapping pain conditions (COPCs), which include endometriosis, vulvodynia, and interstitial cystitis. As you may already know from reading my blog, many of these disorders go hand-in-hand — hence the term “overlapping.” The CPRA patient guide explains the mechanisms behind chronic pain, as well as things you can do at home to relieve the symptoms of COPCs.
  • The V Hive women’s health podcast, hosted by Hannah Matluck (a pelvic pain patient), is amazing on so many levels. In addition to covering everything from nutrition for endometriosis to the importance of periods in girls’ global access to education, the V Hive has tons of episodes related to chronic pelvic pain. Try listening to episode #57, Diagnosing and Treating Pelvic Pain, or episode #66, Why Our Pelvis is the Core of Our Well-Being.

Step Three: Stocking Up On Pelvic Floor PT Essentials

At some point in your pelvic floor PT journey, your provider is probably going to ask you to perform maintenance exercises between appointments, including internal trigger point massage. While doing exercises on your own can be intimidating at first, it definitely helps if you already have the right tools for the job.

Enter Soul Source. I first discovered Soul Source at the recommendation of my own pelvic floor PT, and quickly fell in love. I mean, there’s a lot of things to love about this company: their products are made in the United States, they were designed by a sex therapist and a gynecologist, and Soul Source performs global outreach to help women all over the world, to name just a few.

Soul Source makes and sells both rigid and silicone vaginal dilators, including the only vaginal dilators specific for transgender anatomy. Personally, I use their silicone dilators — in particular, the size #4 — to perform internal massage at home. (Please note that I exclusively use my Soul Source dilators under the guidance of my PT. Soul Source recommends that you consult a pelvic pain practitioner before use in order to get the most benefit from their products!)

The silicone dilators are especially great for people like me who suffer from vulvodynia in addition to PFD. Because I suffer from vulvodynia at the vestibule, penetration with a rigid dilator would be much more painful than using the silicone ones from Soul Source. I also know that their silicone dilators are often recommended to patients with vaginismus, a different sexual pain disorder characterized by painful contractions of the vaginal wall upon attempted penetration. Soul Source also makes rigid dilators that are recommended for trigger point release by many pelvic floor physical therapists.

All of Soul Source’s vaginal dilators are body-safe and easy to clean. They are widely used by the medical community (including my own doctors!), so you can trust that their products are legit. As someone with vulvodynia and chronic vaginal infections, it’s definitely important to me to be conscious of what I put into my body. I’ve never felt any hesitation about using Soul Source’s products — and if you prefer an extra layer of protection, they are condom-compatible.

While browsing the dilators at Soul Source, you can also stock up on other pelvic floor PT essentials. A quality lubricant is a must-have for internal work. I swear by Good Clean Love’s BioNude lubricant, which was formulated especially for extra-sensitive skin.

You can find this lube at Soul Source, as well as one of my other favorite pelvic pain buddies: the Ohnut! The Ohnut is a set of four flexible silicone rings worn on the penis to help partners explore comfortable penetration depths. If you don’t want to compromise intimacy as you work toward pain-free sex in PT (and if your provider gives it the okay), then the Ohnut is for you.

Want 15% off your purchase at Soul Source? Use the code ENDOSTRONG at checkout! Click here to shop.

Freelance Friday: How to Create a Career You Love

Disclaimer: This special edition of Freelance Friday is sponsored by Agent Mentor, an online real estate education platform. A huge thank you to Agent Mentor for supporting Endo Strong!

Changing careers is scary. While my job title hasn’t changed much since leaving my full-time role at Organic Spa Magazine — as in, I’m still a digital marketing professional — making the leap from steady paycheck to freelance was a huge step! Still, one thing that’s unique about my journey is that I always knew I wanted to be my own boss, even when I graduated college. I just didn’t think I would have the economic resources to do it so soon.

Sadly, many of us spend more time thinking about the “what ifs?” than actually taking the leap toward finding a career we love. We learn to view the steps we need to take to achieve our dreams as obstacles rather than a pathway to success. But sometimes, all we need is a little shift in perspective. You can think to yourself “if I quit my job to start this business, I’ll have so much to do.” Or, you can start checking items off that list one by one: first, register a domain name….next, file for your LLC….etc. etc. etc.

This process of taking concerted action toward achieving our goals is what separates the dreamers from the doers. My great-grandma always said that on their deathbed, nobody wishes they had a cleaner house. I’ve always taken this saying to mean that we should stop making mundane excuses not to achieve our dreams — as in, household chores and obligations aren’t a good enough reason not to start a side hustle, find the love of your life, or pick up that hobby you can’t stop thinking about.

In that spirit, I decided to title this post “how to create a career you love” — as opposed to “how to find a career you love” — because discovering your career path isn’t a passive process. Most people aren’t going to stumble upon their dream job. Unless you’re a wealthy white male with fraternity connections and a graduate degree from Harvard, you’re not going to have success handed to you on a silver platter. You have to actively search for the things that set your soul on fire.

Agent Mentor agrees — which is why they’ve teamed up with me to sponsor this post on creating a career you love. Agent Mentor is a digital education platform that makes it easy to jumpstart a career in real estate. Unlike other programs, their team of vetted real estate professionals won’t just coach you — they’ll mentor you, going above and beyond to show you the ins and outs of the business.

Under the guidance of Agent Mentor’s team, newbies can avoid becoming passive salespeople and instead become trained real estate professionals, who actively work toward long-term success. The convenient platform offers over 100 detailed lessons, tools, resources, and a supportive community that can help you create your dream career in real estate. Some examples of what you can get with a membership to Agent Mentor’s training program include:

  • Access to courses in useful real estate skills, including social media, networking, and more
  • Advice and live coaching from top real estate agents across the country to help you develop your skills
  • Use of Agent Mentor’s all-in-one cloud-based CRM and coaching app, SwarmCRM
  • Digital networking opportunities with a community of like-minded real estate professionals

You can visit Agent Mentor online on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn — and don’t forget to sign up on their website!

This post isn’t a step-by-step guide to writing the perfect cover letter or nailing that first interview. Instead, in the spirit of Rachel Hollis, I’ll be breaking down the excuses we use not to go after our goals and showing you why those excuses are total BS. Because I believe that you can and will create your dream career….as long as you stop adding the qualifier of “someday.” Turn that “someday” into today. Sure, career success doesn’t happen overnight — but it definitely doesn’t happen when you aren’t trying to get there. Here’s why you need to ditch the excuses and start taking steps to make your dream job a reality.

Excuse #1: “I’m Too Busy.”

Since my boyfriend started his medical residency, I’ve completely redefined what it means to be “busy.” After watching him work 13 days in a row, including three night shifts, with barely any time to eat or sleep, I vowed to stop complaining about my “busy” work schedule. But what’s stuck with me most about his residency experience are some words of advice given to him by an attending physician during medical school. David asked this doctor when would be the best time to think about getting married and having kids during his medical career, to which this doctor replied, “There is no best time.” The way the attending put it, a doctor’s job is always busy — but that doesn’t mean that you should put your outside life on hold.

I think this is good life advice not only for doctors, lawyers, and other people with demanding careers, but for all of us! If you decide to wait for the “perfect moment” to build a business, start a family, or move into your dream home, you could easily spend your whole life stuck in limbo. After years of waiting, you may finally realize that there’s no such thing as the “perfect moment,” only to discover that you missed a million opportunities to make your dream happen along the way.

Each of us has a finite number of minutes, days, years on this planet. Why would you want to waste a second of it doing something that makes you unhappy? We’re not talking about the little things, like 30 minutes of folding laundry or sitting through your child’s hour-long school play. We’re talking about your job, which by some estimates, comprises one-third of your entire life. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to spend 90,000 hours on the job in my lifetime, I want to like what I’m doing, I want to like the people I’m doing it with, and I want to like the person to whom I report. I don’t think it’s unrealistic or overly-ambitious to be picky about where you spend one-third of your time.

For most of us, there will absolutely be seasons of life when we are forced to take a job we don’t love, whether to make ends meet or to fill the gaps in our employment history. Unlike my grandparents’ generation, I knew when I took my first job out of college that I wasn’t going to work there for the rest of my life. But the majority of your career should not feel like a “rat race.” That isn’t to say you have to like everything about your job — no one does — but you absolutely deserve to enjoy the one-third of your life you spend at work, including what you do and the people who surround you.

Excuse #2: “I’m Not Good Enough.”

In our capitalist culture, there seems to be this myth that in order to become successful, we have to be “the best of the best.” This attitude begins when we are young, and is often instilled in us by our (well-meaning) parents. Consumed by the fear that their children won’t get into the best colleges, make the best connections, or have the best opportunities in life, our upper middle-class parents sign us up for a wealth of extracurricular activities designed to set us apart from the crowd. They assign us to expensive tutors, whose job it is to minimize our shortcomings and maximize our potential.

Beneath all of this fuss lies an unspoken understanding that our goal is to oupace our peers, in order to beat them on the way to the finish line — or, in this case, the path to college acceptance. As a result, we internalize the toxic belief that life is a competition, one that other people want us to fail. We learn to see other people’s success as a threat to our own, and compare our accomplishments to those of our peers. And these beliefs persist long after the college acceptance process, and even our college graduation — only instead of comparing our grades and resumes to those of our classmates, we turn to social media as a measure of our self-worth.

Drunk on the validation of “likes” and “followers,” we strive to project the best possible version of ourselves online. Yet we rarely pause to acknowledge the fact that everybody else is doing the exact same thing. Deep down, we know that real life isn’t as glamorous as social media can make it seem — but when we see our friends post stunning travel photos and happy family excursions on Facebook and Instagram, we immediately forget that there’s more to that person’s life than what’s beyond the surface. Social media should be fun, but instead it begins to feel like the middle school cafeteria: a breeding ground for self-deprecation and insecurity.

Success requires you to recognize that it’s impossible to quantify self-worth. As humans, I think we gravitate towards concrete measurements — whether it’s our percent grade on an exam or our followers on Instagram — to make sense of things that are difficult to define on paper. But don’t let your brain trick you into believing those numbers measure your worth. You don’t need to be the best in order to become successful — or, more importantly, to deserve success. Your worth, much like your flesh and bones, is an inherent component of being human.

Nobody expects you to be “the best” when you’re first starting out. Alan Rickman began acting at age 26, yet only achieved success with Die Hard at age 42. Oprah was publicly fired from her first TV job, only to go on to become a multi-billionaire years later. These people’s stories prove that you are still worthy, regardless of how much “success” you’ve been able to achieve — and that there is still a world of potential available to you, as long as you keep pushing toward it. As the old adage goes, “it does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.”

Long story short: don’t stop yourself from going after your dreams simply because you’re not the best. When you’re constantly searching for a means for comparison, you will always be able to find someone who’s “better than you.” It’s never too late to begin challenging the meritocratic belief that life is a competition. You need only strive to become the best version of yourself.

Excuse #3: “I Don’t Have Experience.”

Did you know that on average, men will apply for jobs if they meet just 60 percent of the criteria, but women only apply if they meet 100 percent? Women shortchange themselves, and their careers, all the time. I’ve definitely been guilty of it myself. By self-screening our qualifications, we prevent ourselves for being considered for high-level roles, or a role we might really want — when in reality, many skills can be learned on the job, and employers are often happy to teach them.

Put it this way: if a new college graduate only applied to jobs for which they were 100 percent qualified, it would probably take them an inordinately long time to get hired. After all, most jobs require experience — and, as I myself have complained on occasion, how are you supposed to get experience if no one will hire you without it? Unfortunately, I know from LinkedIn that some of my peers have settled for unpaid internships after graduation. I firmly believe they could have been paid their worth, if only they had broadened their definition of what it means to be “qualified.”

My first full-time role straight out of college was, technically, at the managerial level. I bore the title of “Digital Content and Social Media Manager” (though, as a team of one, I wasn’t technically “managing” anyone), despite the fact that I had less work experience than everyone else in my office. On paper, I certainly wasn’t qualified to be a manager, but I like to think that the company saw potential in me. They certainly did all they could to nurture that potential, by giving me many opportunities to take on more responsibility. By the time I left, I had interviewed and managed two different interns and overseen the entire social media strategy for a high-level event.

I realize not every employer wants to take on the risk of hiring someone who’s still learning their role — but then again, would you really want to hire someone who thought they had nothing more to learn? No matter how long we’ve been in the workforce, we all have room to grow. Many employers are willing to support that growth; in fact, some will pay for you to attend conferences, continuing education courses, or even graduate school, simply for the sake of investing in their talent. But you can’t find an employer who’s willing to teach you if you aren’t willing to take the first step.

Of course there’s a chance the hiring manager will throw your resume in the trash. But by not applying, you aren’t even giving yourself the chance to be considered for what could very well be your dream role. As a working woman, you deserve that chance just as much as (if not more than) the underqualified white guy next to you!

Excuse #4: “I Can’t Afford It.”

Let me begin by saying that I recognize my position of privilege, both racial and economic, when it comes to being able to “afford” my dream career. I have a supportive family and a supportive boyfriend, both of whom have been willing and able to help me when my bank account ran dry. That being said, while economic hardship is very real for many of us, your financial circumstances should not dictate whether or not you are able to live out your passion. Thankfully, many people who agree with me, and who have more resources than I do to put toward this cause, have made it their life’s mission to provide access to educational and career opportunities for people facing economic hardship. I believe you owe it to yourself to determine if any of these opportunities could provide you with an avenue toward financial freedom.

If You Can’t Afford to Interview

From appropriate attire to transportation expenses, even interviewing for your dream job can be an investment. These costs can be prohibitive — but with the right assistance, they are surmountable.

Can’t afford a spiffy new suit or dress for your dream interview? Organizations like Career Gear (for menswear) and Dress for Success (for womenswear) provide workwear to low-income individuals at no cost.

If you can’t afford transportation to-and-from your job interview, Lyft has partnered with organizations like Goodwill and United Way in over 35 cities to provide free rides to individuals in low-income neighborhoods. You should also know that it is illegal and discriminatory for a recruiter to ask if you own a car, since that is considered financial information.

Career coaching can also be a valuable resource, especially if you are in the process of changing careers. Under normal circumstances, this service can be very expensive — but organizations like LIFT and JVS provide career services to low-income individuals at no cost.

Or, perhaps childcare is an obstacle to finding your dream job. Each state receives money for childcare subsidies, or “vouchers,” that may be awarded to low-income individuals to help them pay for childcare. You can also receive tax credits for childcare to ensure you can afford to work. Learn more about these programs at childcare.gov.

If You Can’t Afford to Go Back to School

College is expensive. As I write this, I have thousands of dollars in student loan debt staring me in the face. Even so, I am one of the lucky people who went to college right after graduating high school. Not everyone can afford to do this, and even fewer can afford to return to school after completing their degree in order to pursue a career change.

If your dream job requires additional schooling, you might assume it is inaccessible or unrealistic. However, it’s worth exploring whether special financial aid could be available to you, in the form of scholarships and grants targeting needy and non-traditional students. Federal, state, and non-profit programs offer financial assistance to adult students, elderly students, and low-income students hoping to start or return to school. Read about grants for adult students and grants for non-traditional students on collegescholarships.org to see if you might qualify.

Or, you might choose a career path that does not require you to go back to school — at least, not in the traditional sense. Online certificates and industry-specific training programs, like Agent Mentor, can help you save money on tuition while still gaining valuable experience. Some dream careers, like real estate, require a license to practice, but you can gain much more knowledge from investing in an affordable continuing education tool like Agent Mentor to help you build and grow your business. Certain tools available on Agent Mentor, including the SwarmCRM system and the digital One Journal publication, are even free.

Monster.com shares that volunteering is also a great avenue for working toward a career change, since it can help you expand your skillset and make connections in your preferred industry.

If You Can’t Afford Your Student Loans

Maybe you’ve already been to college — and still have student loans looming overhead. When changing careers means taking a pay cut, your student loan debt might present an obstacle. Monthly payments will continue to be due regardless of your dreams, and falling behind could mean years of damage to your credit score. So, what’s a girl to do if she can’t afford a career change thanks to sky-high student loan debt?

If you’re facing a temporary hardship due to the coronavirus, the CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, automatically places federal student loans, including Perkins and Direct Loans, into forbearance until Stepember 30, 2020. In other words, you do not have to make payments until October 2020, as long as your loan is eligible for the forebearance period. Click here for FAQs about the forbearance period under the CARES Act, and be sure to contact your student loan servicer to make sure you are eligible.

Under normal circumstances, other options are still available to make student loan payments more bearable. You can apply for student loan forgiveness, which discharges your student loans in part or in full, if you work in public service for 10 years or as a teacher in a low-income school district for five.

You can also consolidate your federal loans into one Direct Consolidation Loan, which can lower your monthly payments by giving you a longer period of time to pay off your loans. Be careful, however, as consolidation may increase your interest rate. It may be helpful to consult with a financial professional at your bank or student loan servicer about consolidation to determine if this option is right for you.

Some people are eligible to defer their student loan payments for a set period of time. You might be eligible for an Economic Hardship Deferment if you receive welfare benefits, work full time but earn less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level, or are serving in the Peace Corps. You can also defer during cancer treatment, and for six months after your cancer treatment ends.

If you plan to attend graduate school, you may be eligible to defer loan payments if you are enrolled in an accredited fellowship program. Additionally, switching to an income-driven repayment plan could lower your payments to as little as $0 per month while attending school, depending on your employment status and income during graduate school.

Certain types of student loans may require you to pay the interest that accumulates on your loans during the deferment period. Click here to check which types of loans require you to pay interest and which do not during deferment.

My Favorite Endometriosis Influencers

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Intellifluence, a social platform that matches brands and influencers for paid and unpaid marketing campaigns. A huge thank you to Intellifluence for supporting Endo Strong!

Endometriosis is lonely. When I was in high school, one of my best friends had endometriosis — but I didn’t know I also had it until many years later. Likewise, in college, one of my friends also had endo, but I didn’t learn that she had it until after I had already moved to Cleveland.

In terms of people I could talk to about my endo, I felt utterly alone. David, my mom, and my friends were, and continue to be, supportive, but they just couldn’t “get it” the way another person with endometriosis could. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve been so public about my experiences with chronic illness. Even before I had a diagnosis, I knew I wanted others in my boat to be able to look up to me and see someone just like them.

To me, this is the power of influencers in today’s media. I didn’t go into social media marketing as a career because I wanted to promote an image of perfection or help rich, white models make even more money. I chose this path because I felt passionate about supporting people and brands with a mission to help others feel less alone.

Social media is a powerful tool that allows us to connect with people all over the world. In my own experience, this has meant being able to share my endo story with people I never would have met in real life, and commisserating over shared experiences with them when I didn’t know anyone IRL who could relate. For this reason, I am so excited to partner up with Intellifluence on this sponsored blog post!

Intellifluence is an online platform that matches influencers with campaigns through their digital “marketplace.” Influencers who are accepted to Intellifluence can apply for campaigns with brands, including paid campaigns and campaigns in exchange for free product. Belonging to Intellifluence has offered me the opportunity to make money doing what I love: raising awareness for others with endometriosis, especially those who don’t know that what they’re experiencing isn’t normal.

Being an endo influencer has also allowed me to virtually “meet” so many other incredible advocates who are speaking up about their experiences with this painful disease. So, when Intellifluence reached out to me about this sponsored post re: influencer marketing, I knew I wanted to use it to shine a spotlight on all the other incredible influencers who are doing amazing things in the endometriosis space.

The following influencers are by no means an exhaustive list of all the awesome people speaking out online about endometriosis, but they are some of my favorites. I have had the opportunity to speak to many of them online. Not only have I found their content unbelievably helpful during this trying journey toward my ultimate goal of excision surgery for endo, but I can also attest that they are genuinely wonderful people.

So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite influencers in the endometriosis space today, and more about all the incredible things they are doing for endo awareness on social media!

@endometriosisenlightened

Erika, the influencer behind @endometriosisenlightened, is on a mission to share her journey in a positive and informative way to help others with endo find their tribe. She advocates for everything from informed consent, to excision surgery, to an anti-inflammatory diet, all while sharing tidbits of her own journey with endo. Her content is both beautiful and inspiring, and I highly recommend that you check her out!

@miss.misdiagnosis

Mady created @miss.misdiagnosis along with the hashtag #bloatedandbeautiful to raise awareness for endo and a number of other chronic health conditions. She is a great resource for anyone who struggles with multiple chronic diseases in addition to their endometriosis. Much of her content focuses on shedding the stigma around endo and chronic pain conditions — for example, she also has fibromyalgia and talks openly about needing to use a mobility aid sometimes.

@endo_black

Created by Lauren Renee, Endo Black is a community for African-American women and other women of color who are affected by endometriosis. I feel it is so important that Endo Black has created this space to talk about struggles specific to the Black community that struggles with endo. Lately, Lauren has been sharing some really interesting content detailing the disparities in healthcare faced by African-American women living in the United States.

@entirelyendo

25-year-old Abi has already been through so much in her endometriosis journey, including two laparoscopic surgeries! I love that she is candid about her struggles with chronic pain due to endo and shares helpful tips and tricks she uses to manage it in her everyday life. Especially if you are based in the U.K., Abi is definitely one of the endometriosis influencers you should watch.

@itsasophslife

Soph identifies as a chronic illness warrior who struggles with both endometriosis and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). My favorite thing about Soph’s content is how positive she stays despite her challenges with chronic illness. Her posts stress the importance of things like gratitude and self-care, and recently, how they relate to our “new normal” living in lockdown due to COVID-19.

@britneeleysen

Britnee’s account shows that it’s totally possible to not only survive, but also THRIVE with endometriosis! She is earning her PhD and doing some great advocacy for Black Lives Matter, all while making YouTube videos and posting about her endo on Instagram. I don’t know how she finds the time for it all, but I certainly find it inspiring to follow along on her journey.

@endo_hope_

Hope is something we could all use a little more of on our endo journeys — and Philippa is here to bring it to you. In addition to being a model and advocate, Philippa founded the Endo Hope support group to create community around endometriosis. On her page, she shares facts and stats to raise awareness for endo, as well as natural health insights that have helped her throughout her journey.