“Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.” — Shakespeare
Throughout my life, I’ve gone through so many experimental tests to figure out why I have the symptoms I have. Tired. Anxious. Weight gain. Weight loss. Lethargy. Brittle skin. Joint pain. Memory loss. Etc. It’s not really in my expertise to comment on the failure of western medicine and proper diagnoses, but that is probably something I’ll eventually learn enough about to write about. At the moment, however, I want to talk specifically about the komodo dragon style disease plaguing and slowly ruining so many of us on the daily: self-doubt.
So, before I go there, in terms of my recognizable auto-immune disorders, I have with Hashimoto’s Disease, which is a thyroid disorder where your body, for no fucking apparent reason, attacks your perfectly functioning thyroid gland just for existing. Like the militarized police with black youth. You may not know much about your thyroid, but it is a butterfly shaped organ in your throat that’s a necessary part of your endocrine system, and this system is pretty vital to maintaining the hormones in your system that keep you functioning. We have such little patience for our incredible bodies. It’s really an amazing and miraculously efficient little thing. 37 trillion cells working hard to keep you happy and you’re annoyed because you have a fat roll (that’s because you eat truffle fries and drink too much, but that’s neither here nor there).
I digress. So I’ve had Hashimoto’s since I was about 11 years old (it’s in my family, thanks team!), but it really resurged in my body in the last two years. I was sleeping around 14 hours a day, my hair was thinning, I’d gained a ton of weight, and a person close to me undid my doubts and said to me “Okay. Something is really not right.” I always wonder — why do we need an outsider to validate things? Why didn’t I think that instead of ‘You’re just getting old and fat, and this wouldn’t happen if you’d work out. You don’t even have real responsibilities. You piece of shit. Stop eating so much cheese.’ — inner critic demon. Don’t tell me I’m the only one who lives with that demon. I know many of us, especially women, attack ourselves at one point or another. Why?
Moving along. If you thought this was the point in the story where I stopped doubting myself and my relationship with my body … you’d be wrong. So last year, after many years of ignored abdominal pain, I finally launched a personal Jihad to figure out why my stomach is so angry with me. I had always assumed I was overreacting. That my stomach issues were probably old emotions from childhood. That I just needed to meditate (I really should), do sun salutations (it’s in my daily Tiny Tweaks routine), and eat better (I still do not).
I was connected to a doctor that believed me. She listened. Listening, as it turns out, is the cheapest pain reliever out there. Put your phone down and try giving someone 500mg of your attention when they’re in pain — it works wonders. She asked me questions no one ever asked me before. She referred me to a gastroenterologist. He listened even harder. I spoke louder and with real confidence, realizing I might be speaking coherently. He said, “I’m going to order a colonoscopy just to be sure. But I think you have endometriosis.”
Endometriosis is one of those underfunded, under researched unbearably painful (and undiagnosed) diseases that affects women. Why do we not know more? Because it turns out medical science hates women too. The thing that I find amazing is I still dismissed his advice. ‘Naaaah. I read about this on WebMD (I’m an expert on diseases because of WebMD, like everyone else with high speed internet). Where your endometrial cells grow outside of your uterus during your period and you pass out from pain? I don’t have that. I’m cool. It’s probably just emotional. Need to cut gluten and stop eating salted caramel ice cream.’
Well it wasn’t just emotional. Basically every time I got my period, the trapped endometrial growths outside of my uterus had no where to go and called for estrogen like the ring from Lord of the Rings. My lower belly had turned into Saruman’s tower. Think Girl On Fire. I still can’t really rest my eyes well without prescription sleeping pills and/or curling up into a pillow. I finally got a laparoscopy scheduled after the pain became concentrated on my left side (which just can’t be from angry chakras or something). It feels strange to admit this but when the doctor said, “I found it. It’s all over. I took out what I could, but I couldn’t take the growths deep behind your uterus on your bowel. So you’ll still be in pain, unless you’re up for shutting down your reproductive system for 6 months to see if that helps,” I was like, THANK GOD. I AM NOT CRAZY. Also, Uh, yeah. Shut it down.
The moral of this story is that I’ve learned that my feelings are not Fake News and neither are yours. They are real. I am not ashamed of them and I will not allow my self-doubt to feast upon my desire to face life from a place of freedom and not fear. I’ve started my monthly Lupaneta shots and the side effects are wonky as all hell, but one of them is that I really don’t give a shit anymore. Thanks to our current president and his team, I say:
I doubt a lot of things, but I do not doubt a goddamn thing that I feel anymore (I do doubt the truth of our democracy, and anyone who denies that we’ve used our prison system to systemically enslave black men, but that’s another medium article after another Lupaneta shot).
In any case, here is my step by step guide to silencing self-doubt:
- Slow down and listen to your body.
- Trust your feelings. They’re your compass.
- Surround yourself with a tribe of listeners.
- If you feel your inner critic rising in power, practice a little emotional first aid and then let your tribe eradicate your doubts.
- Remember that hesitation and silence are decisions.
As Buddha once said, fuck shame. Fuck self-doubt.* I am writing this as a letter of encouragement to all of you, especially women. Don’t dismiss your feelings. They are real. And they make you, unapologetically real.
*I don’t know if Buddha said this. In the words of President Trump, this is information that was given to me.