Before you read this thinking I’m about to come out to the world about my hard core drug addiction, I think you should know I’m talking about prescription drugs. Good, now that I’ve lost half of you, let’s jump right in.
I have vivid memories of visiting the nurses office on a daily basis when I was in elementary school, with a headache. I couldn’t have been more than 7 when I began. Since the nurse didn’t have time to sit and talk to me everyday, she handed me an Advil, and basically told me to get lost. I’d like to blame it on her and say that’s where the epidemic started; but maybe you’re like me, and you realize it’s not her fault.
I have two full boxes of every type of over the counter pain killer/cold and flu stopper/muscle relaxant/stomach reliever you can think of. I used to be that person who medicated everything. Have a headache? Take an Advil. Can’t sleep? Take NyQuil or Benadryl. I was that person that everyone knew had an open pharmacy, and I confidently “prescribed” solutions to every one who needed them. Since about 3 years ago, that box has sat, pretty much untouched, at the top of my closet. I went through all the medications with my sister about a year ago, and threw out a whole garbage bag full of them, but you’d be surprised how many still haven’t expired. That alone should freak you out.
For the past 10 years of my life, the insertion of one tiny white pill into my daily routine has undermined so much of my being, without me noticing it. That’s right, here I am, talking about birth control again. And not because I’m against it or it’s evil or there is never a reason to take it. Because it’s something we’ve accepted unconditionally into our daily lives, into our society, without the scrutiny it deserves. Because we don’t think twice about popping a miniscule pill that actually changes our entire hormonal makeup over just a few hours and affects every cell in our body. And because the minute someone suggests that it could be having an effect on any other part of our body, some effect we don’t like, we all get up in arms about it, call them crazy for blaming so many symptoms on a tiny, crumb-sized pill.
And I see how it changes us. I see mothers in labor who trust monitors to tell them what they are feeling more than they trust their own bodies to make them aware. They trust ultrasounds in pregnancy, more than they trust what they feel. Whenever I ask a mother what position her baby is in, she always starts by saying “in the last ultrasound..” instead of telling me where she feels her babies kicks and punches.
From the most formative years, we are telling girls they don’t need to listen to their bodies, and maybe even that they shouldn’t, they just need to quiet them. How can they be expected to know, after that.
So Dear Future Girls,
This is the first lesson I’ve learned:
Listen. To your body. To your Mind. To yourself. To your children. Listening never hurt anyone. I promise you.
This past week I was set up on two blind dates; yes, I know, what a player. From the first phone calls, I was sure these were about to be disasters. I constantly have people telling me I’m too judgemental, I’m not open minded enough, and I need to give guys a chance; but these were screaming “RUN!” And I didn’t listen. The first phone call began with the stranger talking to me for 15 full minutes about dark matter. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s because its the opposite of what anything is. It’s also, essentially, boring nerd shit. The second phone call started with a two-minute-long silence, which finished with the guy on the other side of the line saying “So can I friend you on Facebook?” I was waiting for the camera crew to come out and tell me I’d been punked. This would be funny if these were a one time occurence. But this is what my average dating life looks like, so it’s sad. What’s sadder is I felt embarrassed, and ashamed, so I conceded, and continued to go on and try to make enough conversation to plan a date. I hung up the phone feeling violated, and confused, and didn’t know why. I knew I would never actually accept that boys friend request, and for G-d sakes, it was facebook, but I couldn’t figure out how to say no. Because I was uncomfortable. Because it felt “rude.” Because of the same reasons why so many people get harassed, abused and violated. Because they think they need to behave the way society tells them is appropriate, even when the other person doesn’t.
And it comes out repeatedly in birth. How often do clients tell me they received certain care, were the recipients of procedures they didn’t really want, or weren’t sure why they were being induced, just because they felt embarrassed saying no to the doctor, who clearly knew better than them.
So that was my second lesson this week:
Say No. Don’t just say it. Scream it. Respond, “Hell NO you freaking idiot!” and feel no regret. Because people who don’t treat you with respect, deserve none in return.
The most common misconception I get about my Job is people telling me they want me to advocate for them in the hospital. They want me to be their voice since they won’t know what to say, or how to speak. I think this stems from the same root problem as I mentioned with drugs, the quick fix, the wanting someone to do the work for us. Not that I think women in labor are “lazy,” G-d forbid. I think they don’t know what help they really need. And I think it’s a common problem for all of us. How often do we ask our friends to do things for us that make us uncomfortable, or let doctors make decisions for us, because we’d rather not take the responsibility for the what-if’s. But this isn’t really help. Having people solve our problems isn’t the help that will get us anywhere. Having people TEACH US how to solve our problems might, though.
My last lesson:
Learn what Help is. Help isn’t something that will take away the pain for the moment. There will be pain in life. Help isn’t a friend who convinces you to go on a bad date because you said yes. Help is the person that shows you what to do to cope with the pain. Help is the friend that holds your hand while you find your way through it, yourself. Help is the friend that says “Don’t you dare waste any effing time going out with that guy.” Help is the person who teaches you that you know best.
When we take away that most basic belief, we lose it all.
Because If you don't listen, then you don't know the right time to say no. And if you don’t know when to say no, than you will never learn to listen.