Dear Doctor: No Means No

"I have a new sebaceous cyst on my neck, so I can't get any injections in my neck today," I said, hopping up on the examining table. These nerve block injections had become routine; I had been getting between eight and ten of them in my neck and shoulders every week for over a year.

"What does a sebaceous cyst have to do with injections?" asked Dr. S.

I assumed he hadn't heard the part about the cyst being on my neck, or maybe he figured the cyst affected my chest or pelvic area, like many PCOS-induced symptoms do. So I repeated myself. "It's on my neck, so I can't have injections in my neck. Just my back today".

Dr. S. walked to the back of the table, brandishing a needle. I braced for pain in my upper back, but it didn't come.

"That's my neck!" I squeaked, tears in my eyes. Neck injections always sting, but the shock is what really startled me.

"That didn't hurt so bad, did it?" he laughed.

I gripped my cane and gritted my teeth, waiting for him to finish. 4 injections in my neck, now aching worse that it already had been. Some shots in my shoulders. 

I wordlessly got up from the table and left the clinic. Then the tears came.

This is the second time this doctor has given me injections in an area I did not consent to. This is the second doctor who has performed a procedure without my consent. 

All three times have given me flashbacks of being raped.

When I was raped, my ex did not accept no for an answer. He did what he wanted, for as long as he wanted, and laughed when it was over. The only way these nonconsensual medical experiences differ is they weren't in a bedroom, but a doctor's office. 

I've said this before on this blog and I'll say it again: I won't be the last survivor of rape who's triggered by an idiotic man taking "no" as an invitation. And I sure as hell won't be the last person to speak up for patients' rights, either.
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Why I Waited Until 25 To Get Diagnosed With OCD

I knew talking about my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder would be difficult. But I didn't know just how difficult. I guess that's why I put it off for 20 years.

I was afraid of having "something else wrong with" me. In early childhood, I had Selective Mutism. In sixth grade I developed Panic Disorder. In my teens, I developed multiple chronic physical illnesses, plus clinical depression, phobias and Borderline Personality Disorder. It felt like there was no right time to have the "I think I have OCD" Talk, because it felt like I was constantly developing new and increasingly terrifying illnesses. Is there a "right time" for the Talk?!

Besides, I wasn't even sure I had OCD. All the symptoms you hear about in pop culture tended to be very different from what I was experiencing:

I collected plush seals and kept every notebook I filled with poems and doodles, but that's far from Hoarding: Buried Alive. And I was definitely not organized. I constantly drew all over my math homework, stacked my books haphazardly and couldn't have cared less when I noticed something was crooked. I didn't count stuff. I didn't even wash my hands, other than after using the bathroom.

But I knew something was off. I was terrified of germs, terrified of getting sick. Being in a doctor's office made me queasy. I couldn't sit next to someone who had a cold without being convinced I'd catch their cold. I was tormented by vivid violent images. Me stabbing someone in the eye with a fork, someone raping me, me jumping in front of a moving train, someone I love being murdered. The only way I could fend the thoughts off was repeating phrases in my head until it felt 'just right'.

These thoughts have been in my head for as long as I can remember. Even as a child, I'd think, "If I can't do (task) within (this fast), I have to kill myself". I don't think I even knew what suicide was! But the thoughts persisted, and became more and more frequent.

Finally, when I was 24, physically sicker than I had ever been in my entire life, living well below the poverty line and feeling battered by my relatively recent job loss, rape and estrangement of my abusive father, I decided to get help. 

I'm 25 and in a group treatment program now. I won't mince words: Exposure Response Prevention Therapy is fucking torture. Baring my soul to a group of strangers, forcing myself to experience the very situations that provoke my anxiety, coping with the exhaustion fighting this disorder brings... I knew it would be hard, but I didn't know it would be this hard.

All I know, is that asking for help was the right choice. I just wish I hadn't waited so long.

Things To Do In 2017 -- That DON'T Include Dieting!


The beginning of a new year is a wonderful time to try new things. Here are some suggestions:

♥ Try a restaurant in your neighbourhood that you've never been to before.

♥ Follow more fat positive and body positive people on Instagram. I'd recommend Natalie Means Nice, The Militant Baker and Chubsterette. (I'm on Instagram too!).

♥ Try a new to you kind of exercise (for fun-- not because you feel like you have to). 

♥ Bake something from scratch. (Soft pretzels? Chocolate cheesecake?) And then eat some, without guilt.

♥ Figure out what you want to do more of & what you want to do less of.

♥ Read a book you've been meaning to, but haven't yet been able to finish.

♥ Message someone you haven't heard from in ages.

♥ Let go of a relationship that's no longer serving you.

♥ Have you been avoiding a medical appointment, like an ultrasound or a pap smear? Or have you just not gotten around to booking it? Get that shit done.

♥ Try practicing mindfulness.

♥ Pick up a magazine you've never read before. Maybe you'll find a new hobby or interest.

♥ Try a new hairstyle. Even if you hate it, it'll be good for a laugh.

♥ Get a new piercing or tattoo.

♥ Try a lip colour you've never worn before. Bright red? Lilac? Green?

Whatever you do, don't let the insidious "new year, new me" and "gotta lose weight!" bullshit get to you. This is your year. Do with it what you will. And have fun!

Image source: ElleBelleDesignShop on Etsy.

12 Ways To Boost Your Confidence


Confidence is one of those beautiful, elusive qualities we all seek but can never seem to attain. It's not surprising, considering the air brushed images we're surrounded by, rape culture we're immersed in, and fatphobia and bigotry being spewed by media, family, friends and doctors alike. 

But I'm proof that being confident is possible, no matter your shape, size or dis/ability. 

I have multiple chronic illnesses and use a cane to get around. I wear a size 26 (US) and have curves in all the "wrong" places. I have self harm and dermatillomania scars all over my body. 

Despite the fact that modern mainstream society sees me as ugly, I know I'm beautiful. I also know there's much more to me than my physical attributes. And I don't care if other people disagree. It's taken me a long time to get to this place, but I really don't care about the naysayers, the fat haters, the bigots who think disabled people are better off neither seen nor heard. I've done a lot of work, between therapy, changing the way I dress, the way I think, the media I consume, and the people I hang out with, and it's paid off.

Here are 12 ways you can become more confident, too:

1. Create a positive environment. Growing up with an abusive father who constantly belittled me for compulsively picking my skin or for being too heavy, I internalized these ideas and they became negative self-talk. For years, I berated myself for eating too much, not exercising enough, being stupid or being ugly. How could anyone feel good about themselves with an external or internal monologue like that? I've learned to surround myself with people who uplift me and who personify the confident, loving person I want to be.

2. Self care. I know it's become a bit of an irritating buzzword, but self care can't be overlooked. Push yourself to work toward your goals, but know when to rest. Have a hot bath. Set reminders so you never miss a vitamin. Invest in a class you're interested in. Paint your nails. Listen to your favourite song. No matter how small the act of self care, it's worth it. You are worth it.

3. Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small. When I was about 18 and feeling particularly down on myself, my therapist told me to write a list of 5 things I should be proud of. It took me a good 15 minutes, but I managed. I learned to use my past accomplishments as motivation. If you've got a list of things you've done successfully staring you in the face, no new challenge can knock you down.

4. Perform random acts of kindness. As Audrey Hepburn said, "For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness...". Knowing your beauty is more than skin deep will boost your self esteem.

5. Take selfies. From above, from the side, full body, portrait, from "ugly" angles... Get used to how you look. The more you look at yourself, the more you desensitize yourself to your "flaws". After a while, you might even start to like how you look! (This tactic worked great with my nose, which I actually think is super cute, after years of hating it).

6. Follow body positive and fat positive blogs and Tumblr accounts. Representation matters. Studies show that being exposed to a larger variety of body types, sizes and colours increases our tolerance and appreciation of them. If you're having a hard time finding bodies like yours in the media (which most of us are!), purposely seek those bodies out. Seeing people who look like you will make you feel better.

7. Wear makeup... or don't. Do you feel good wearing a full face of makeup? Would you rather be bare-faced? Is a swipe of lipstick or a little mascara all you need? Prefer blue lipstick to vampy red, or natural makeup to bold looks? Forget your mom's or your boyfriend's or Allure's opinion about makeup, and wear what makes you feel like you.

8. Wear clothes that make you feel good. Try on every item of clothing you have, and make sure it fits comfortably. If you have to tug at it so it sits right, or if it's so oversized that you feel unattractive with it on, donate it.

9. Act as if. There's a reason "fake it 'til you make it" is such an ubiquitous saying: there's truth to it. Stand tall. Speak as though you know everyone is hanging onto your every word. And soon enough, they will.

10. Practice "Power Posing". Did you know changing your body language changes your body chemistry, thereby changing the way you interact with others and how they perceive you? As Professor Amy Cuddy explains in her TED Talk, this takes faking it 'til you make it a step further: fake it 'til you become it.

11. Don't read "health magazines". They aren't really about health, or they'd feature people of every size, and talk about ways to feel good about yourself, not how to make your stomach look flatter. Tl/dr: So-called health mags are bullshit.

12. Stop thinking of your body as something that needs work. Your body is beautiful and miraculous and resilient and perfect just the way it is.

Learning to be confident in who you are and how you look is a process, and no one is confident every moment of every day. But: Cultivate good habits, wear things that make you feel gorgeous, and hang out with the right people, and you'll be well on your way to loving yourself. And that's what matters.

My Bittersweet 25th Birthday


Birthdays are bittersweet for me. Another year means another 365 days of illness that no one understands, another 365 days without my father, another 365 days of falling short of everything I had planned for myself when I was 16, able bodied, and ready to take on the world.

But... I also love birthdays. Birthdays are a time of reflection, self care, spending time with people I love, dressing up just for fun. And this year my birthday coincides with Rosh Hashanah, which makes it all the more special.

I'm still getting used to celebrating special events as a spoonie. You'd think I'd have the hang of it by now, being sick for almost 10 years. But I don't. Does anyone ever really 'get used to' being sick?

I'm spending my birthday at the pain clinic with my mom, who's also a spoonie (my turn getting huge needles shoved into my head, neck and back is tomorrow) and then at the pharmacy, getting refills on my 1835892 medications. And I've had a migraine for over 30 hours, so that might add to the 'fun'.

I do get to eat my mom's homemade lasagna for dinner tonight and plan for our mini trip to Buffalo later this week, so it's definitely not a bad birthday. It just takes getting used to. I miss going to school and getting tons of 'happy birthdays', and hugs and presents from relatives who don't talk to me any more, and being able to afford an amazing cake, and not being in excruciating pain for the duration of my big day.

But spoonies can't be choosers, or something. Right?

My 25th birthday isn't what I expected it to be. But I'm not quite what 24 year-old me expected me to be, either.

Image: This gorgeous cake topper from EllaCelebration on Etsy.
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