When I was eleven years old I received a package in the mail. It wasn’t my birthday or Chanuka or any other special occasion but it was addressed just to me. Inside was a beautiful boxed set of floral stationery from my aunt in Chicago. The attached note read ‘mazel tov on becoming a woman – we love you’ and I remember feeling excited (and a bit embarrassed) that someone had sent me a present to celebrate my first period. That was over fifty years ago and the positive message of that note has stayed with me to this day. My mother and her sisters successfully conveyed a powerful lesson to their children – the healthy development of our bodies is a gift to appreciate, a blessing to applaud. [Read more…]
Endometriosis is a condition in which the layer of tissue that normally covers the inside of the uterus grows outside of it. Most often this is on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and tissue around the uterus and ovaries; however, in rare cases it may also occur in other parts of the body. The main symptoms are pelvic pain and infertility. Nearly half of those affected have chronic pelvic pain, while in 70% pain occurs during menstruation. Pain during sexual intercourse is also common. Infertility occurs in up to half of women affected. Less common symptoms include urinary or bowel symptoms. About 25% of women have no symptoms. Endometriosis can have both social and psychological effects. (Wikipedia)
I wanted to die last night. There, I said it. Ugly thing to say, right? Might even make you want to inch slightly away from me. Feel free to. Sometimes I want to inch away from myself. But before you judge, try to listen to what I have to say. Assess my words with an open, empathetic heart, and think about the way you would feel if you were in my shoes. It may sound as though I am trying to pull at your heartstrings, to make you feel depressed for me and my life. I am not. I want you to understand what it’s like to be a woman who suffers from endometriosis. I just want you to understand.
These are the realities of living with endometriosis.
Dealing With the Physical Reality of Endometriosis
Pain. Imagine your abdomen and pelvis are encased in barbed wire, the spikes of the wire are piercing them, stabbing them sharply every time you move. Now imagine that in addition the barbed wire is attached to an electrical current that shoots electricity through the spikes, increasing the intensity of each penetration. Next, add a machine that alternates shooting the electrical spikes into the body and pulling them out again in random intervals, thus adding a surprise and shock factor to the pain. Lastly, in addition to the shocking electrical stabbing pain, there are deep, underlying waves of pain that crush and release the muscles, causing a cramp so excruciating it takes your breath away. Imagine living with that agony everyday.
I don’t imagine. I live with a veil of pain draped over my body. Not stubbed toe pain, sprained ankle pain, or even broken heart pain. The pain that I feel every day is an all-encompassing event, which breaks both my body and my spirit. It is a visceral and animalistic torture that brings me to my knees in surrender. That is the reality of living with the pain of endometriosis.
I first started going to the mikveh when I got married at the age of thirty six. I went right before my wedding day, quite the emotional experience, especially considering all those years of pent-up expectations that finally found expression as I stood on the stairs leading to the water.
Throughout the following months, I performed the moves as my kallah teacher had instructed me: insert, check, count, groom thoroughly. Insert, check, count, groom thoroughly – “as if you’re going to the most important interview”, she once told me. It was a regimented choreography that I found dry, somewhat stressful, but there was a certain privilege to it: I had made it to marriage, where having my period was a value of sorts. I had been menstruating mindlessly since I was eleven years old – twenty five years –without paying it much attention, yet suddenly, my period became the center of my world for two weeks out of the month. Menstruating in the context of marriage meant a time for renewal, an opportunity to develop one’s marriage, and a necessary element to eventually grow one’s family.
Yet, each month, I wondered whether the mikveh water would wash away the growing tension in our tumultuous marriage. There was a weird dynamic between us from very early on, but I couldn’t pinpoint what was actually wrong. I just knew something was off, and hoped that the mikveh would help us recalibrate. [Read more…]
My last blog post focused on male sexual dysfunction and the desire continuum. In part II of this series we will be looking at issues that are related to male sexual arousal.
As the title implies, male sexual arousal is affected by bio-psycho-social elements and expectations.
Erectile dysfunction (ED), otherwise called male impotence, is defined by the inability to achieve and maintain an erection sufficient for satisfying sexual activity including, but not limited to, vaginal penetration.
What constitutes “sufficient satisfying sexual activity” is clearly a subjective concept. Thus, the first question we must ask ourselves is; what is satisfying sexual activity within our unique relationship? If there is frustration, which can lead to anger or sadness (hopelessness) and feelings of demasculinization, it is time to be proactive and seek help! [Read more…]
It was my first day of graduate school and one of my professors asked us to go around the room and introduce ourselves and share what brought us to social work. We were a diverse bunch, each person with a different story about why they chose social work and what they hoped to contribute to the field. Most of us were female, in our 20s, and had started graduate school soon after finishing college.
After class was over, I got into conversation with Larry* ( not his real name), one of my new classmates. Larry had a really impressive story; he came back for a social work degree in his late 60s after a long career as a lawyer because, although he found much success in law, he felt a calling to give back to society in a different way and he decided to go back to school.
As we walked in stride, we traded impressions of our first day and the class we had just finished.
“Rachel, can I ask you something?”, he leaned in, lowering his voice to a confiding whisper. “I feel like I sounded really stupid in my introduction to the class….What did you think?” [Read more…]