Thirteen days is the number of days between my last period. It is slightly depressing, especially since it took me five years to get to the 21 days I enjoyed between each cycle for the past year. It is less about an irregular period and more about the glaring truth that something is wrong with me. Combined with debilitating fatigue, migraines, and a host of gut issues, there is no way to hide from my body's need for a reprieve.
I've tried for many years to figure out what's wrong with me, from doctors to specialists, homeopathic remedies, and following a FODMAP diet - an elimination diet of food that causes gas, bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, and constipation. I've had some progress, but nothing that sticks. It feels like I'm in a never-ending episode of The Twilight Zone, haunted by an undiagnosed illness.
One thing for sure, I know I'm not crazy. The pain I feel is real.
Now that it's affecting my daily life, I feel more responsible for figuring out the cause. The most menial tasks feel like a mountain of work, and my energy drops so low that all I can do is sleep. My projects and collaborations have suffered as a result of what's going on. As a certified life coach, my job is to help people fix their lives, but what happens when I'm depleted, sick, and tired? Who helps me? I turn to trusted professionals, and I feel let down. I know getting tested offers hope at what might be wrong, but it is not a panacea to managing my symptoms.
The healthcare system has a history of implicit bias towards patients based on their race and gender. To be a Black woman means my experience with some healthcare professionals has left me thinking whatever I'm feeling is all in my head after I receive negative test results. The Today Show reported the following:
"A 2016 study found that nearly half of first and second-year medical students believed that Black people have thicker skin than white people, and perceived Black people as experiencing less pain than white people, an idea born from 19th-century experiments that were conducted by a (white) physician named Thomas Hamilton."
This is one of the many reasons Black people and people of color feel like their pain is not taken seriously. As a result, some people choose not to share their symptoms with doctors or take matters into their own hands.
When it comes to healing your body, you have to be all in it. There is no all-in-one-type of approach to personal health. It means you are in the driver's seat navigating the path to making conscious decisions to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit. You have the power to ask for more information when discussing your issues with physicians and choosing the best care provider for your needs.
That means it's OK to find another doctor that can communicate better, where you can build mutual trust and respect.
If you are currently undiagnosed and feeling miserable, I see you. I know you can feel overlooked, even with a lot of evaluations. You have to remain hopeful that one day you will find the cause of your pain. Until then, find a support system that recognizes what you're going through and empathizes with it. You could use cheerleaders, people who will cheer you on during tough times. Educate yourself on the symptoms you're experiencing.
I find it extremely helpful to keep a record of my symptoms. No detail is too small, especially when you're early in your journey. You may go down the WebMD rabbit hole, so take everything with a grain of salt. It may also be worth implementing a plan to work around fatigue. I start projects earlier than usual and jot down notes rather than creating big picture messaging, which can take longer and require more focus than I have. It keeps my work current without compromising deadlines. And if you need more time, ask for it, don't wait until the last minute for fear of retribution.
Last but certainly not least, be aware of the seriousness of depression. Although you may not be experiencing symptoms at this moment, depression is one of the most common complications of many chronic illnesses. Be kind to yourself during these moments.
Protect your energy by removing things that don't serve you. Your health is the priority. You cannot help anyone until you take care of yourself.
Featured image by Shutterstock
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
There’s nothing quite as humbling as navigating adulthood with no instruction manual. Since the turn of the decade, it seems like everything in our society that could go wrong has, inevitably, gone wrong. From the global pandemic, our crippling student debt problem, the loneliness crisis, layoffs, global warming, recession, and not to mention figuring out what to eat for dinner every night. This constant state of uncertainty has many of us wondering, when are the grown-ups coming to fix all of this?
But the catch is, we are the new grown-ups.
As if it happened without our permission, we became the new adults. We are the members of society who are paying taxes, having children, getting married, and keeping our communities afloat, one iced latte at a time. Still, there’s something about doing all these grown-up duties that feel unnaturally grown-up. Enter the #teenagegirlinher20s.
If there’s one hashtag to give you the state of the next cohort of adults, it’s this one. Of the videos that have garnered over 3.9M views, you’ll find a collection of users who are overwhelmed by life’s pressing existential responsibilities, clung to nostalgia, and reminiscent of the days when their mom and dad took care of their insurance plans.
no like i cant explain to her why i had to buy multiple tank air dupes from aritzia #teenagegirlinher20s #fyp
The concept of being a 20-something or 30-something teenager is linked to the sentiment of not feeling “grown up enough” to do grown-up things while feeling underprepared and even nihilistic about whether that preparation even matters.
It’s our generation’s version of when we ask our grandmothers how old they are and they simply reply with, “I still feel 45,” all while being every bit of 76 years old. In this, we share a warped concept of time while clinging to a desire for infantilization.
Granted, the pandemic did a number on our concept of time. Many of us who started the pandemic in our early or mid-20s missed out on three fundamental years of socialization, career development, and personal milestones that traditionally help to mark our growth.
Our time to figure out and plan our next steps through fumbling yet active participation was put on pause indefinitely and then resumed provisionally. This in turn has left many of us hanging in the balance of uncertainty as we try to make sense of the disconnect between our minds and bodies in this missing gap of time.
Because we’re all still figuring out what the ramifications of being locked away and frozen in time by a global pandemic will have on us as a society, there really is no “right” way of making up for lost time. Feeling unprepared for any new chapter of life is a natural rite of passage, pandemic or not. However, it’s important to not stay stuck in the last age or period of life that made sense to us because self-growth is the truest evidence of personal progress.
So whether you’re leaning on your inner child, teenager, or 20-something for guidance as you fill the gap between your real age and pandemic age, know that it’s okay to grieve the person you thought you would be and the milestones you thought you’d hit before you ever knew what a pandemic was. If there’s anything that the pandemic taught us, it’s that we have the power to reimagine a better world and life for ourselves. And if we tap into our inner teenager as a compass, we can piece together our next chapter with a fresh outlook.
Sure, we’ve lost a couple of years, but there are still some really amazing ones ahead.
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Featured image by Stephen Zeigler/Getty Images