Thank you to everyone who read my last post on nasty hormonal birth control. I had some wonderful feedback from several like-minded ladies who either quit some time ago or needed that extra push to make the decision to do so now. It seems I’ve had conversations in every avenue of my life about HBC and I’m genuinely convinced that the uterus revolution is happening.

I wanted to make this more of an informative post. If you’re feeling the need to throw your pills away, but likening the ‘afterlife’ to standing on the edge of a deep abyss, worry not, I’ve got you covered. I’d like to talk about 4 books today that have utterly changed my life and I’m hoping they can do the same for you. The first two are eye-opening, anger-inducing and damn right essentials that any woman (or girl!) must read if considering HBC. For anyone umming and ahhing, or for someone who’s quit but toying with the idea of crawling back – read these before you do. The other two reads are informative with constructive, concrete steps in maintaining healthy menstrual cycles and using the Fertility Awareness Method either for contraception, conception or simply living more in tune with your body. So, without further ado.

The Pill: Are You Sure It’s For You? By Jane Bennett & Alexandra Pope – I wolfed this down in a couple days and readily thrust it at every girlfriend I can, akin to a grandma trying to carb-load her offspring. Incredibly well-written and full of some pretty horrifying facts, this book discusses recognising the side-effects of HBC, both in the physical and emotional realms. It talks about libido, depression, migraines, cancer, heart disease and the importance of having and accepting your menstrual cycle. It’s a health indicator, after all, and one that can tell us a plethora of important information about how we’re doing from month to month.

Sweetening The Pill (Or How We Got Hooked On Hormonal Birth Control) By Holly Grigg-Spall – This is one that will make you angry, all right! Devoured within days again, this looks at how the pill was created and how it’s become ‘the norm’ for so many women in today’s world. It discusses the approach to contraception in different communities and cultures and highlights the worrying truth that girls as young as 13 are terrified into taking the pill (or other long-term contraception like the implant or IUD) because they’re told they’re walking baby machines. This simply isn’t the case and it puts forth the question of why a male version of the pill was quickly rejected due to ‘potentially harmful side effects’, yet many women live with these unquestioned. A fascinating insight into the world of the pharmaceutical industry and western medicine and how it’s more sinister that you might initially think.

Womancode: Perfect Your Cycle, Amplify Your Fertility, Supercharge Your Sex Drive and Become A Power Source By Alisa Vitti – OK, so the anger has subsided and you’re thirsty for knowledge. You know the pill has been terrible for you and you’ve learned about the importance of having your menstrual cycle month to month. What can you do from here? How can you get back normal cycles after years of having suppressed them? What can you do to have regular cycles so that you can use the Fertility Awareness Method as a form of contraception or conception if trying to have a baby? Womancode is an excellent source of information about how to have a regular cycle and heal conditions like PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, painful periods, infertility etc. It discusses nutrition, exercise and lifestyle factors that you should consider. It’s a bit of a bible that you’ll want to keep handy and refer to often.

Taking Charge Of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler – The mother of all books on the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM), Weschler’s book has been cited countless times and the principles within it adopted by everyone using FAM today. Use this to educate yourself in how to use FAM as a tool for either avoiding or planning baby-making and fling at your friend who says, “oh man, you’re not doing that stupid rhythm method, are you?” This is a book that should be given to every pubescent female as a “period textbook” of sorts so she can track her cycles, learn about her body and use as a form of contraception when she’s ready, avoiding all the nasty side effects of hormonal interference.

I would love to read your recommendations if you’re on a similar journey yourself. What’s been catching your attention? What are your thoughts on HBC?

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I complain about the signs of the times more often than not. Thus the basis of this blog, I suppose. But when I’m trying to pick myself back up again, I often casually offer to myself the reminder that I’m lucky to live somewhere that at least women are treated (mostly) as equals to men. I’m so glad that I have the right to vote, work all the same jobs as a man and could even run for parliament if I wanted to. Hell, we even have a female Prime Minister! Only, there’s one tiny, little thing that’s blown all of that out of the water: hormonal birth control.

Let’s backtrack a minute to catch you up with where I’m at now, shall we? I’ve recently stuck the middle finger up to the hormonal birth control pill. It’s been in the pipeline for a while. I knew something was wrong when I was noticing the same pattern. Month after month I’d have my seven-day break between packets and suddenly feel alive again; see things in colour, if you will. But come Monday morning, I’d be on a new packet and then within a few days back to feeling like cotton wool was shoved between my ears. I’d start the day with rage and end it with hopeless despair. I pointed the finger at every single aspect of my life, other than the pill. That is, until I had nowhere else to go but 6 feet under.

And we all do it. All of us! If our doctors are giving us medication, we believe that we can trust it. And with time, we grow loyal to it, even. Surely it can’t be our hormonal birth control that’s the root of all our problems? Only, when you realise that it’s the only medication dished out to healthy people to make them ill, you’ve got to stop and ask yourself: how did it get to this?

Women’s bodies, from puberty through to menopause, function cyclically. Every month our body does a delicate dance with a handful of different hormones, ebbing and flowing as an egg is released and – if unfertilised – causes a monthly bleed. With these changes in hormones comes changes in mood and energy levels. Like the turn of the tide, we have a rhythm that we live by. Although some studies indicate men too experience their own type of cycle each month, generally speaking they are linear – at least when it comes to their fertility. No matter the day of the month, a normal, healthy male produces sperm that are able to fertilise an egg.

These two ways of existing – of doing life – are vastly different. The linear route hints at reliability. Unless illness gets in the way or some other anomaly, every day you can assume that a man will wake up and be just as he was the day before. With women, it’s different. Women have changing needs and strengths as the different stages of their cycle roll into one another and they simply can’t be expected to be the same every day. That is, unless you take hormonal birth control. My arguement is that it’s the greatest oppressor we have in our society against females. If we are given the pill, implant, injection, IUD or any other form of hormonal birth control, we are essentially telling ourselves, our sisters, our daughters and wives that a female in her natural state is ill, isn’t good enough, isn’t capable of survival in what is essentially a man’s world.

Yes, hormonal birth control is used as a contraceptive, sure, but it’s also given to girls as young as 13 to ‘treat’ heavy periods and acne. Let’s look at these in some more detail.

Consider the cycle that I mentioned earlier and – without going into too much detail – you might know that this includes an ovulatory phase amongst other things. This is the phase where an egg is released from an ovary, makes its way down the fallopian tube and arrives in the uterus. It hangs around for about 24 hours before disintegrating if no sperm appear. A little while later, the uterus lining shreds and is expelled in the form of a period.

So, that being said, what I’d like to know is how it’s fair that although women are only fertile for a short part of each monthly cycle, we are somehow expected – en masse – to take sole responsibility for birth control? Not the man who is fertile all month long, but the woman. Make sense to you?

And then onto the second reason that I mentioned earlier – the pill given to young girls who have recently started their cycles. Hormonal birth control is not a cure. It is not a solution. It is a mask. By bringing your menstrual cycle to a halt and stopping ovulation, along with pumping your body full of synthetic hormones, you are suppressing any problems that might be there. This may seem all good and well, only the day that that woman decides to come off the pill for whatever reason, all of those symptoms will come right back again. The pill is not a cure like diet and lifestyle are. It is a virtual reality.

Hormonal birth control is doing a mixture of different things. It’s suppressing our menstrual cycles, causing side effects like increasing our risk of breast cancer, giving us depression and anxiety, killing our sex drive and rendering us infertile in many cases when we finally come off it after decades of regular use. And it’s dished out like candy by medical professionals that we are told we can trust. Our entire society is built upon the notion.

What’s most shocking of all…what’s shaken my world and got my lying awake at night reading every publication I can get my feisty claws on, what’s got me shouting this information across my office, down the phone and across the dinner table is that what we’ve been doing this whole time is telling women that in order to be successful in this society, we need to exist like men. We need to be as close to men as we possibly can. After all, without a menstrual cycle can you really call yourself a woman? This is what I wonder.

If society and in particular our emphasis on long work weeks continues as it is, we are operating in a linear fashion where there’s no room for cyclical people (aka normal, healthy females). We’ve been misleading our women into thinking that they’re being free of the burden of their menstrual cycles by adopting hormonal birth control. To the point where many defend their choice saying that it allows them to not have to experience the ‘inconvenience’ of a period 12 or 13 times a year. But what we’re missing is that a truly equal society where women are liberated is one that moulds itself into a model that plays to womens cyclical strengths; not one that tells them that what they are in their natural form is not good enough.

You might be saying, “But Kennedy, I’m not depressed. I don’t have any negative symptoms from my pill.” Sure, you might not have any of the negative mental health symptoms that unfortunately so many of us are plagued with and believe me, I am extremely happy for you (genuinely!), but did you know that taking the pill before the age of 20 doubles your risk of getting breast cancer? Pill use also reduces your uptake of vitamins and minerals thus by default renders you malnourished unless extreme care and planning goes into your diet. It also thins your bones and disrupts every organ in your body in one way or another. You might not have any obvious symptoms, but a closer look would say otherwise.

When will we wake up and realise that the pill is no longer applicable to today’s modern woman?

 

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What does it take for radical changes to be made in our society? How much environmental damage? How many traumatised sexual assault victims? How many children fighting for survival in broken homes? How many young people burdened with crippling stress as a result of overwork and underpay? How much sickness?

It’s pretty mind-boggling to me because I consider myself to be a (relatively) normal person of a (somewhat) normal background, but I’ve experienced all of the above. All of them. And I struggle with my mental health a lot of the time. So how are those worse off than me coping? Thinking about this truly saddens and baffles me, to be honest.

This isn’t a cry for sympathy. I write about this kind of stuff to bring it to light, to encourage those suffering in silence to speak up and get help and also to turn up the volume on our desperation – as the young voices of society – for change.

I’m sick of spending 70% of my time wondering how to live well while avoiding plastic, avoiding consuming animal products and still maintaining a nutritious, balanced diet so that I can be healthy and happy. Society is not built to support this and so it’s incredibly difficult. The framework is not there. The framework exists in the form of corporations and advertising backing fast food and destructive consumption habits. The result is sick person after sick person, overweight and yet malnourished (in the developed world, that is), polluting the beautiful world around us.

I’m sick of having to fight off the seething anger I feel when some asshole catcalls at me when I pass by in the street. Do you know that I now rarely wear anything that reveals a body that I’m actually really proud of because it’s just too exhausting to deal with the attention? I’ve tried every tactic in the book when it comes to rude men invading my personal space and disrespecting me. I’ve ignored them, I’ve raised the middle finger, I’ve told them to fuck off and no matter the response I choose to embrace, I still leave the scene angry and deflated. To any men that have ever catcalled a woman or worse, please know that we think of you as akin to the dirt on our shoe. We do not find this attractive. It does not make us attracted to you. It does not make us feel good. We see you as dumb, chauvinistic predators who feel that the worth of a woman is limited to her appearance rather than her brain. We don’t feel you would produce good offspring. We don’t want to have your babies.

I’m sick of seeing bad parenting happening over and over again. We’ve got lazy parents who can’t be bothered to interact with their children, so instead shove a smartphone or tablet in front of them hoping it’ll keep them occupied. You grew this little human! Do yourself and society a favour and raise it well! We’ve got parents neglecting their children and withholding love because they don’t understand their needs. And it’s probably because they never took the time to heal themselves of their own traumatic childhoods before entering the world of parenting. They then find said children acting out and don’t understand why. They try to discipline them which only causes further upset and frustration until eventually the gap in understanding between parent and child becomes so large that bridging it is rendered impossible. That child enters adulthood struggling to do life, not really understanding why and feels a bitter resentment to their parent(s) which society still labels as unacceptable (“It’s family! You can’t turn your back on family!” *shakes head*). The vicious cycle then continues if they go on to reproduce.

I’m sick of overtime becoming the norm for so many people of working age. Overworked people are good for very little. All that results is both physical and mental sickness. Weak staff are unhappy staff and unhappy staff aren’t very productive. Every job – no matter how ‘technical’ – has an element of creativity to it. If workers are essentially shoved into survival mode because they are too stressed to function properly, the last priority is creativity. Simply doing basic life becomes a struggle and so you’re essentially paying staff to do what a robot could do far better. You’re not getting out of them what humans are so good for in the first place: creative self-expression.

Finally, I’m sick of the weight-watching-obsessed, calorie-counting, disease-ridden people taking up resources and placing a strain on our healthcare system because they simply weren’t taught about food while growing up. I don’t blame any person struggling with his/her weight and addicted to processed food. It is likely that he/she grew up with parents who put fast food on the table every night or who’s idea of vegatables was boiling everything until it turned the same shade of snot-green, subsequently putting him/her off for life. If you grow up thinking that broccoli is meant to be a pile of green mush, of course you’d rather opt for fries. We need to start teaching kids about food in a way that encourages a healthy relationship to flourish. We need to teach them how food grown, how it’s meant to be consumed, what nutrients we need to be healthy and the environmental impacts of the food we choose to eat.

So my question to you is, what does it take? WIth all these different flaws we have, what will it take to see real change?

Photo via Unsplash

 

It’s shocking, but it’s not. I found it refreshing to see that the BBC has posted that the primary reason for days off work is due to a mental health concern. One in three sick notes written by a doctor is for depression, anxiety, stress, or whatever other internal crisis many of us are dealing with. Yet it’s still taboo to talk about it, let alone even think of calling in with one of these ‘invisible’ ailments when you need time off work. Things have got to change.

I was sat at my desk yesterday chatting to two of my closest coworkers about said statistic. One of them asked, ‘OK, so do you think it’s because mental health issues are increasing or that we’re simply becoming more aware of our mental health?’ It was a great question, but I only pondered it for a mere moment before feeling an overwhelming sensation that my belief was with the former. We are designing our society in a way that hinders – not helps – us mentally.

We’re becoming more urbanised, This means cramming more people into concrete jungles and, ironically, not placing emphasis on the importance of community. We all work too much for too little satisfaction. We return to our homes too tired to do the things that we genuinely want to do. Then we wake up the next day and do it all over again. We complain we have no time for all the things we’d like to do. But we’re constantly distracted by our smartphones.

When we create the image that those doing overtime in their corporate jobs are ‘heroes’ and something to aspire to, we’ve got a problem. In my opinion, someone who isn’t able to be strong enough to draw a line, close the books and turn off the PC for the day isn’t an inspiration. They aren’t a role model to look up to.

If there’s a collective thinking that taking time off or learning to call it a day when it strikes 5pm (or whenever your work hours finish) means you’ll fall behind, there’s momentum created in a negative direction. It’s a sure-fire way to a downward spiral of much unhappiness. You feel unfulfilled from not making the time to do those things that truly satisfy you. There’s the stress of feeling like you simply can’t keep up. And no matter how much you try to suppress the anxiety that is seeping out of your pores, it will catch up with you in the end.

Over the years, I’ve seen co-workers give themselves all kinds of skin conditions, auto-immune diseases and panic attacks from working themselves to the bone. And for what? If you’re too sick to do the things you want to do, you’re living (albeit barely) to work. And if your job does not fulfill you, what then?

This is what we’ve got to start realising; we are only human. And we operate best when we are at equilibrium. Some hard work will always be required. If it’s in a field you’re passionate about, even better. But there is always some give and take. You can’t apply an excess of pressure in one part of your life and expect not to suffer in another. Balance.

The topic I always return to is that of social media. I find it so useful to connect with inspirational people. I find it useful as an extension of my voice in living a more ethical and conscious lifestyle. But it also serves as a great distraction and sometimes, demon. Through social media platforms, our lives are able to become much larger; reach much wider and the result is constant reminders of all the things that we don’t have and aren’t doing. It can be a really quick way to undo any gratitude practices, looking at a synthetic life created by someone else and believing it to be real and much better than your own.

I’ve decided to take a break for the month of September. This post will link to some of my platforms where you might be reading this from, but be sure to leave me a comment at the bottom of this post rather than on Facebook or Twitter if you want to discuss anything as I won’t be checking those.

For the entire year of 2017 I’ve been and am continuing to do a different ‘wellness’ challenge each month. As a blogger, social media is part of the deal. It’s an incredible way to connect to people with similar values and also influence others to make small changes for the better. But I couldn’t not do this. I’m genuinely really excited to see what I notice/learn by the end of the month.

My mental health is always on knife-edge. I have a depressive streak, suffer from SAD and have to combat suicidal thoughts from time to time. This is partly genetic, partly situational, partly from PTSD. For the entire year of 2016 I was at crisis-point and yet 95% of people in my life would never have guessed and didn’t know a thing. This is because it’s so much more difficult to talk about mental health and it makes people uncomfortable.

In the corporate, politically-correct, ‘must have a brave face’ society of the UK at present, there is no time for negativity. It’s simply, ‘well, love, pick yourself up and get on with it.’ I stick two fingers up to that, quite frankly, and say actually, what if we all prioritised our happiness? Don’t you think things might be a bit better and we wouldn’t have quite an armpit of a nation and political system?

Employers don’t have productive workforces because their employees simply can’t cope. Their stress is not always work-related, but we’re a nation of people plagued with ill mental health. Too much urban living, not enough time outside and in communities was always bound to fail. What will it take for things to change I wonder?

Photo via Unsplash

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I was a sucker for The Matrix trilogy back in the day. I grew up wanting so desperately to be Trinity. The combination of badass choreography, epic shots of Zion and time aboard the ship all made for such brilliant cinematography. But then there’s the concept of the matrix itself. Bizarre idea, but plausible? Sometimes you can be sat at your 9-5 wondering about the meaning of life and feel as if your time is wasted. But the idea that we’re strapped into a big machine that’s using our life-force energy? Surely not. Until well, it might be.

Elon Musk is one of my heroes. I’d say he’s in my top 5, to be specific. His brain fascinates me, truly. But what I respect most about him is that his heart is in the right place. You’ve got a genius that wants to improve the world. From his epic plans for underground highways to SpaceX, his creativity sees no limits on earth or in air. And to be honest, although I’m pro-saving the planet that we do have, he’s thinking 10 steps ahead about how to cope if it does meet an eventual doom. Sad time. But realistic, I guess.

So he’s amazing, we all know that. But his latest mission is to get the UN to ban the use of automated ‘death’ robots – machines built to kill. A terrifying concept that’s not only doable, but likely, in this day and age of extreme hostility. Isn’t it sad that we even have to be having these conversations? That our world’s great minds have to even be wasting their time discussing a future ban on machines created purely to destroy. What a waste of a creation to begin with. What a waste of time, effort, and resources. But the truth of the matter is that humans tire, machines do not.

I guess it makes sense. And in fact, it’s smart thinking from the likes of Musk and Google’s Mustafa Suleyman. Calling for a ban now, from scientists who have seen the capabilities of AI, is a wise move. I was saddened to read that the UK objected to said UN discussion. Surely we’re better than that? The Foreign Office told the guardian that they see no need for a specific ban on AI because international humanitarian law already covers that area. Strange, don’t you think? If they’re so concerned about the people, why not leap at the chance to offer extra protection? Why not support by default?

It went on to essentially say, ‘hey guys, don’t worry. All military operations will always be under human control, so there’s no need to panic.’ Still strange. And to be frank, stupid. You’ve got to stop and think, how did we get here? It’s 2017. But then you look around at who’s supposedly running our countries and it all makes sense. When the UK is being run by a coward and the US by a small child in a man’s body, it all makes sense. It suddenly becomes clear exactly how we’ve got to this point where these kinds of conversations are having to be had by our world’s greatest minds.

AI is a brilliant thing. I think it will save us, in many ways, from the mundane tasks that we really don’t need to be doing. If this frees us up for truly human, creative pursuits, then that’s awesome. But as long as we have bigotry, xenophobia and discrimination of all kinds prevalent, it’s no wonder we’ve got to plan for the worst. We are constantly treading water. We’re doing the delicate dance of keeping the peace amongst those who crave war.

The greatest thing the humble ‘nobody’ like you and me can do is to talk about these issues. Make your peers aware of how real a possibility ‘death robots’ are and how we need to think ahead and prevent the worst. AI can increase the efficiency of our agriculture, bring us automated transport and smart homes. Let’s make these the primary areas of focus – not the death and demise of humans and subsequent Matrix.

What are your thoughts on Artificial Intelligence?

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