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We Asked 30 Women What It’s Like Charting When All Their Girlfriends Take the Pill

By | Culture

In the past couple years, the Pill has received increased scrutiny—and Millennial women have been taking note. Last fall, British Vogue stated that “younger women are turning away from the Pill in droves,” with more than a 13 percent decline in users from 2005 to 2015.

And that’s not because there’s been a sudden uptick in motherhood.

Yet despite the steep drop in consumers, just ask your friends: Most women who want to avoid pregnancy do indeed take the Pill—for all kinds of reasons. Possibly because they still don’t realize that there are other options, possibly because they believe that fertility awareness-based methods are inaccurate, or possibly because they just prefer the ease of the Pill, despite various reported side effects, from depression to blood clots.

But for women who do make the jump to fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs), it’s not suddenly all sunshine. As one woman, Kim, explains, “I am happy with the health benefits of [FABMs] over hormonal birth control…but I didn’t realize going into it just how much work it would be.” After all, understanding your own menstrual cycle does require ample amount of diligence, especially on the up front. Plus, it might even involve some abstinence at first. But for most of the women we talked to, having a deeper understanding of their bodies was worth the initial inconvenience.

In fact, for many women, the worst part about FABMs is the peer pressure.

So we asked more than thirty women what it was like to chart their fertility, while everyone else was still taking the Pill. Their comments were telling, with reactions ranging from intrigue to straight-up rudeness.

Here’s what they said:

Were people critical of your decision to chart?

“A lot of people suggested methods other than birth control. ie: condoms, IUD. I was told I would have 20 kids or that it was sad I couldn’t have sex with my husband whenever I wanted.” —Meghan

“They made me feel like I was being irresponsible.” —Tori

“I definitely felt like they didn’t believe that charting would work as a way of family planning and expected me to have four or five children as a result by now.” —Claire

“I definitely got lots of negative feedback or more along the lines of, ‘Oh, that’s….quaint.’ Many friends confused charting with the rhythm method and most others simply think it’s along the lines of silly ‘at-home’ remedies that don’t actually work.” —Ashley

“Friends made bets on how soon I would end up pregnant. This made me feel like they didn’t think it was possible, that I couldn’t handle the challenge. That I would either mess up charting or I wouldn’t have the willpower.”

“Yes, a lot of my friends were worried that I would have unplanned pregnancies and that charting was not the smart move and would not be good enough for my family planning. This made me feel as though there are so many people uneducated about charting, and the benefits and positives that understanding your body can do for you.” —Alex

“They assured me I would get pregnant or that it would never work. . . . A few friends have [since] inquired, especially now that they see that it works . . .” —Dallas

Did anyone change their mind based on your experience not taking the Pill?

“I got a lot of surprise from my friends who took the Pill. Many of them were unaware that anything other than artificial contraception could successfully avoid pregnancy. I avoided pregnancy for a year after getting married, and my friends on birth control were shocked I wasn’t using other methods.” —Kim

“Some of those women began to ask me questions about charting my cycle and were interested to see that our cycle is fascinatingly intricate. A few of my friends approached me and asked me to teach them the basics of charting. Though some of those women continue to use the Pill, I was able to provide a different option for them.” —Alex

“I don’t think minds were changed, but curiosity struck in a few. Especially when they started to attempt having children and needed help knowing when they ovulated.” —Meghan

“A good friend of mine has expressed her dislike of the side effects of all the methods she has used (the Pill, IUDs, etc) and interest in more natural ways. [She] has asked many questions over the years. I think she is very interested and intrigued by it but is hesitant about the success rate. Seeing me successfully avoid when I wanted to and then achieve exactly when I wanted to has made her a bit more interested. I think she is waiting to see if I get pregnant again right away (I’m three weeks postpartum).” —D’Arby

“My friends (male AND female) all seem generally intrigued by our use of [FABMs] and ask questions, act like it sounds so much better than [hormonal birth control], but then never do anything different.” —Regina

“. . . over time, they’ve seen that this works for me, and also that it helps me to understand my body and my health, and so they’ve become a lot more accepting of it as a serious option.

Reasons Why’ May Portray Depression Inaccurately—But These Shows Don’t

By | Culture

Historically, those suffering from depression or mental illness are often stigmatized in the media as villains or just plain “crazy.” Though popular shows like 13 Reasons Why do attempt to shine a light on mental illness and depression—they often miss the mark, simplifying the illness at the cost of building an entertaining narrative, and with potentially catastrophic results.

These kinds of portrayals can not only hurt those who have a mental illness—but also their family and friends by misrepresenting how they can properly support and understand someone dealing with this internal struggle. Luckily, the media isn’t always a bad place—and in fact, overall, seems to be improving.

In fact, how these four shows choose to depict depression might be a concrete sign that our understanding of mental illnesses is changing media for the better.

01. You’re the Worst

A romantic comedy with a twist, this show is about two seemingly dysfunctional people, Gretchen and Jimmy, who find themselves in a relationship—and have a tough time navigating it. However, this show doesn’t just highlight the hidden hardships in romantic relationships, but also the hidden issues many face, by destigmatizing the way media portrays depression. At one point in the show, Gretchen, who suffers from depression, refuses to take her medicine, and proceeds to hide it from Jimmy. This interaction, and everything that transpires afterward depicts how depression is not just rough on the depressed person, but on everyone involved—emphasizing the ongoing, crucial need on how to support those with it.

“Depression is easily misunderstood and hard to know how to respond to,” says Alex Haslam, media relations specialist from CutCableToday.com. “You’re the Worst does a great job at showing that sometimes just being there, without judgment or criticism, is the best thing you can do, which is exactly what Jimmy does for Gretchen.”

02. Mr. Robot

Our protagonist is Elliot Alderson, a cybersecurity engineer who has social anxiety, identity disorder, and clinical depression. Elliot struggles with the hallucination of Mr. Robot, who according to his mind, recruits Elliot to be a vigilante hacker. Whether through self-medication, self-harm, or isolation (specifically from his friends), Elliot often hides or has trouble expressing his feelings from those who care about him, which often results in hurting or pushing them away.

Mr. Robot does indeed get credit for accurately depicting depression—especially when it comes to depicting the real internal fight many people have with it. As Bridget Greenfield, a writer who has experienced depression describes, “Elliot comes to the following realization, ‘Mr. Robot has become my god, and, like all gods, their madness takes you prisoner.’ Just as Elliot feels trapped by Mr. Robot, I often feel imprisoned by my mental illness, unable to reach out for help.”

03. BoJack Horseman

An animated series by Netflix, BoJack Horseman is a self-loathing humanoid horse. As a washed-up Hollywood actor, he navigates through his day complaining about both his current and previous life. Though a comedy, the show does well at highlighting the world that someone with depression lives in, accurately describing the behavior towards those around them. “The titular character creates a self-sustaining spiral of negativity due to his low self-worth as a result of parental neglect and abuse,” explains Sean Baran, of FilmToolKit. “He consistently pushes those who try to help away and makes poor decisions that reflect his image of himself.”

The show’s realistic portrayal of the causes of depression shows us that depression is complex, and can actually be rooted in family affairs. This social depiction of depression highlights how there doesn’t always need to be a villain wearing the mental illness mask; rather, it often times is an everyday BoJack.

04. One Day at a Time

This Netflix dramedy reboot of the 1970s classic is about a Cuban-American family, where a newly single mom and her old school mother raise a teen and tween, definitely understands nuance. Penelope, the mom, is an army veteran who suffers from PTSD and depression. She struggles to admit this to her family, because, as Ariana Brockington explains in Variety, her Latin community “has a deeply rooted mix of cultural and socioeconomic factors that have conspired to stigmatize people with mental illness, in many cases causing them—and their families—to delay or avoid seeking professional help.”

As Penelope works on navigating a way to open up to her family about her issues, she shows us how hard it can be for those with mental illness to ask for help—the type of help that hopefully, many will feel more empowered in seeking, thanks to the evolving media narrative.

 

10 Women Share What It’s Like to Face the Fear of Vulnerability

By | Culture

Brené Brown’s TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the top five most-viewed TED Talks in the world, with more than thirty million views. All four of her books, The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring GreatlyRising Strong, and Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, are No. 1 New York Times bestsellers.

Her decades of research resonate with us all deeply, and it makes sense; she cuts into the very core of what it means to be human. She explains that people who succeed—the people we love to look up to—have three things in common: the courage to be imperfect, the compassion to treat themselves and others kindly, and the willingness to be authentic for true connection. After the research, she realized that the sum of these three things amounts to someone who truly embraces vulnerability.

Turns out, vulnerability is not the opposite of strength. In fact, the very idea that vulnerability is synonymous to weakness is dangerous in that it perpetuates isolation and holds us back from real authentic love—and real achievement. “Vulnerability is absolutely essential to wholehearted living,” Brown states. And for the thousands she interviewed, it was their vulnerability that actually made them beautiful.

Only problem? Being truly vulnerable is hard. Really hard because, again, in so many ways we’re naturally inclined to resist exposing weakness. So I spoke with ten women who struggle with being vulnerable—and how they’re working on it. Here’s what I learned:

01. The fear of rejection is innate.

“I don’t like to come across as stupid or weak, so if I make a mistake or fail, I tend to keep quiet . . . even though I know imperfection is what makes us all human and we grow through sharing experiences.” —Jenny

“I feel like I will be judged for truly speaking what is on my mind and in my heart. I am an emotional and introspective person, so I feel as though I am always holding back.” —Kate

“I tend to be afraid to put myself out there, so the only relationships I have been in were driven by others.” —Megan

“Eventually I sort of caught myself in the act [of closing off] and realized I was scared of saying yes . . . because that meant opening my heart up to the possibility of pain or loss.” —Nicole

02. It’s a process.

“I still struggle with this [fear of vulnerability] regularly. I’m working on just being comfortable and confident with myself because that is really the core of all relationships and trusting others—it starts within.” —Sierra

“As I’ve grown older, I’ve cared less about looking calm, cool, and collected; being open is way easier for me, even if it makes me feel less attractive compared to the ideal in my head. . . . I’ve brought that into my relationships, and I feel like they’re so much deeper and more meaningful because of it.” —Erica

“I am still working on this! I am impatient, and I expect relationships to be instantaneous. [But] increased self-awareness has enabled me to realize what I value, what I care about, and what I need.“ —Kathleen

03. Looking inward helps us grow outward.

“I think knowing who you are and your internal dialogue makes all the difference. Without taking that initial step and believing that your worth is so much more than the fear of what could happen or how you will be perceived, you never can really grow or create new experiences.” —Sierra

“I first learned how to meditate . . . I then opened up about all that I was feeling to the nicest person I knew. . . . Those were my tools: breathing and a single friend. From there I started letting people know my true thoughts and feelings. If things ever got tough I would go back to my basic set of tools and go from there.” —Taylor

04. Your friends need to know the authentic version of you—otherwise, it’s a recipe for resentment.

“No one ever really knew the ‘authentic’ me, and as a result, I had avoided the fundamental relationship in my life: getting to know myself.” —Kathleen

“I started to build resentment toward the people that were closest to me because I felt like I couldn’t be my true self, when in reality it was a lie. By not allowing myself to be completely open with people I loved and cared about, I was actually hurting myself.” —Taylor

“I have to recognize it and be willing to challenge myself. For example, in my current relationship, if I am annoyed about something small, I force myself to talk about it even when it makes me feel vulnerable. Then I am not resentful.” —Francesca

05. Your relationships will reveal their ability to last sooner.

“I was dealing with some mental and physical health issues, and I was afraid to tell the guy I was dating because I was afraid he wouldn’t want to see me anymore. When I finally told him, it brought us closer and gave him an opportunity to share personal things with me, too.” —Jenny

“If they turn out to leave and hurt me, then that relationship was meant to teach me . . . not [to last].” —Kait

“It’s been interesting to watch how conversations evolve (and deepen) over time, even in platonic relationships. As I’ve decided to become more mindful of my own ideas, desires, and emotional needs, I’ve been able to recognize who I’m attracted to.”

The Best Ingredients for Soothing Irritated Skin

By | Beauty

Regardless of skin type, tone, or texture, everyone’s skin grows irritated or inflamed from time to time. Irritation commonly comes in the form of redness, burning, bumps or blisters, dryness, and flakiness, though it varies from person to person. There are a number of causes for this—even products made to help skin can cause issues. If your skin is red and irritated, here is what you need to know about the possible causes and solutions.

Dehydration

A typical cause of irritation is dryness. You might not be drinking enough water, or your beauty routine isn’t giving your skin the moisture it needs. Try a more intense moisturizer or face oil (especially during the drier, colder months), and be sure to consume a healthy amount of water each day. Foaming cleansers and toners containing alcohol can also strip the skin, so it could be useful to switch cleansers or toners to see if it makes a difference.

Exfoliators

Another common source of irritation is the overuse of products like exfoliators and retinols. Physical exfoliants like scrubs and clay masks can be harsh and drying; chemical exfoliants, which will include AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids, eg. glycolic or lactic acids) or BHAs (beta hydroxy/salicylic acids), can cause irritation even in the most resilient of skin. Retinol, a beloved anti-aging ingredient, can have similar results to a chemical exfoliant. While all of these products are meant to slough off dead skin and create a brighter, clearer complexion, the overuse of any can potentially be dangerous for skin. If you’ve noticed irritation after introducing an exfoliator or retinol, try reducing the use of the product in your routine and slowly building back up to a regularity that you’re comfortable with.

Consult a Dermatologist

Before seeking out yet another step for your skin care routine, it’s important to analyze your existing routine and daily habits to make sure the skin aggravation isn’t an easily-solved problem. Some issues can begin internally, spurning from illnesses, pregnancy, allergies or the side-effects of certain drugs. If the problem appears to be chronic inflammation, common with conditions such as eczema, it’s important to speak to a dermatologist.

If these reasons don’t seem to be the source of the problem, or you just want a skin-soothing solution to keep on hand should any irritation occur, then try products with any of the following ingredients.

01. Aloe Vera

Perhaps the most commonly-known ingredient for alleviating skin irritation, aloe vera—also frequently listed as aloe barbadenis—is soothing and hydrating due to its polysaccharide and sterol content and possession of antioxidants. Its benefits can be somewhat exaggerated, but it remains useful for soothing the skin. Aloe vera–based products are available nearly everywhere at various price ranges, but a quick fix is available in Tony Moly’s I’m Real Moisturizing Aloe Sheet Mask.

02. Calendula

A subspecies of marigold that has stood the test of time, calendula extract works as an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial solution for dryness and acne. Researchers have found that the compounds narcissin and rutin, both present in the plant, are regenerative and help calm inflammation. It can also help calm burns as effectively as aloe vera. Calendula oils are available at numerous retailers, but Kiehl’s Calendula Herbal Toner and Soothing Hydration Mask are popular options.

03. Chamomile & Blue Tansy Oil

An antioxidant-rich plant used most often in tea, chamomile serves as a skin-soothing agent when applied topically. Blue tansy, on the other hand, has gained fame in recent years for its use against bacteria and inflammation—not to mention its gorgeous, blue color. Being genetically similar, the plants offer comparable calming effects. For a quick boost, try Mario Badescu’s Face Mist with Aloe, Chamomile and Lavender. An all-natural option for blue tansy can be found in Herbivore’s True Blue Skin Clarifying Set, which includes their Blue Tansy Mask and Lapis Balancing Facial Oil (both of which contain the fragrant plant oil).

04. Colloidal Oats

An ingredient used exclusively in skin care for calming irritation, colloidal oats possess antioxidants called avenathramides which actively soothe the skin while certain sugars and starches help give the oats water-binding properties. Even the FDA has allowed colloidal oats to be listed as an active ingredient due to its effectiveness as a skin protectant. Brands like Aveeno offer various products with oats, like their Daily Moisturizing Lotion, but First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Instant Oatmeal Mask is a quick fix for irritated skin.

05. Evening Primrose Oil

This beautifully-named oil is a particular favorite amongst those suffering from inflamed or painful acne. Its richness in antioxidants make it essential for smoothing roughness and reducing fine lines, but its gamma-linolenic acids (GLAs) have been proven in numerous studies to reduce sebum production while effectively hydrating the skin, making it perfect for oily and acne-prone skin. Its astringency is also helpful in soothing irritation from acne and even eczema or pruritis. Yes To offers primrose oil in its oil form and as an easy, calming mud mask.

06. Niacinamide

Niacinamide aids in a number of skin ailments including uneven or dull skin tone, enlarged pores and fine lines. Its effectiveness against inflammation makes it useful for people with acne or rosacea, and it helps increase production of collagen and ceramides to ensure a stronger moisture barrier and firmer, more youthful skin. Try The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Serum for an affordable, simple addition to your routine.

07. Panthenol

A gentle ingredient good for sensitive skin, panthenol is a deeply-penetrating vitamin and humectant that attracts moisture to the skin and keeps it there. Beyond that, it becomes anti-inflammatory when used regularly so as to relieve itchiness and soothe dryness. Panthenol is available in a wide range of products, particularly moisturizers, but the Derma E Hydrating Night Cream is a great option.

08. Sea Buckthorn Oil

Rich in fatty acids and vitamins A, C and E, sea buckthorn is meant to have various skin benefits. The antioxidants and omega oils help the skin retain moisture, which will be a definite boost for those suffering from dry or scaly skin. As an added benefit, sea buckthorn oil also aids in the healing of scarring and sun damage and boost collagen production for a clearer, more youthful appearance. The brand Fresh offers a popular oil blend, the Seaberry Skin Nutrition Booster; however, regular sea buckthorn oil can be found at a myriad of retailers.