A Supplement Worth Trying

I wanted to write a follow-up to my last post on this complementary migraine treatment:

So, does it work? In a word, yes.  There is a reason that German physicians prescribe butterbur and feverfew to migraineurs.  It is effective.  Where have I seen its effectiveness the most thus far? Premenstrual migraines.

I take three prescription medications to prophylactically manage migraines.  I have three T2 lesions on my brain resulting from twelve years of almost unmanageable migraines.  I saw another doctor yesterday about migraine management, and he said, “You are doing everything imaginable nutritionally to try to prevent and heal yourself from migraines.”

I am not fooling around.

Enter butterbur and feverfew with niacin.  Would it work?

This treatment typically takes a month to be effective.  I’ve been using it for less than one month.  This month, however, I did not experience the premenstrual migraine phenomenon which always happens.  No matter what I do, I can’t seem to prevent them, and those events are painful in a special way.  They have a different flavor (and yes, I know about estrogen dominance).

So, anecdotally, I can confirm, along with a good portion of the European medical  community, that butterbur and feverfew work! The supplement that I recommend is Preventa.  The company even sends you a migraine calendar to chart your migraines.

If you struggle with migraines and would like to try an alternative treatment or augment your current one, give this a go.  I’m seeing good results, and, coming from me, that is a dramatic statement.

 

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Complementary Treatments for Migraine

I’ve written here before about migraines.  Grace was plagued by migraines during the prodromal phase of the disease onset (that feels like a redundancy).  Migraines are the bane of my existence.  My neurologist jumps through whatever hoops neurologists jump through in order to try to keep mine in check.  I have a “migraineur’s brain” meaning that I have T2 lesions on my brain that show up on an MRI.  Migraines cause lesions on the brain.  Scary thought.  Neurologists call it “scar tissue”.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want scar tissue on my brain.  I don’t want Grace having scar tissue on her brain.

What can we migraineurs do about it?

I’m on a shit ton of medication which works prophylactically to prevent migraines, and, even though I still get them, it works 50% of the time in a bad month when stress is sky high and 75% when life is holding.  That’s not bad.

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Could it be better? Sh’yeah!

I have reached a somewhat desperate state.  I went to the emergency room at 2 AM this morning because my migraine was beyond self-help.  It was at a 9 or 10 on the pain scale, and, once the barfing starts, it won’t stop.  The good people of my local ER were on it, and I was home by 5:30 AM sans any pain at all.

This is no way to live.  So, if you live with chronic migraine disease, what can you do? My neurologist puts me on prednisone from time to time in an attempt to arrest a migraine that might feel like sticking around.  That didn’t work this time.  I’m on prednisone now, and that is not a drug one wants to be on.  Side effects, anyone?

Let’s talk about an alternative treatment.  Butterbur and feverfew.

In 2012, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) updated its guidelines on migraine prevention to include complementary treatments. Based on reviews of clinical studies, the AAN recommends:

  • Butterbur (Petasites hybridus). Butterbur is a traditional herbal remedy used for many types of ailments, including migraine. The AAN considers butterbur “effective” and recommends it be offered for migraine prevention. Butterbur was the only non-drug treatment ranked by the AAN as having the highest proof of evidence (Level A) for effectiveness. Butterbur may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to ragweed and related plants.
  • Feverfew. Feverfew is another well-studied herbal remedy for headaches. The AAN ranks feverfew as “probably effective” (Level B evidence) and recommends that it be considered for migraine prevention. Pregnant women should not take this herb as it may potentially harm the fetus.
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and Magnesium. Riboflavin and magnesium are the two vitamin and mineral supplments ranked by the AAN as “probably effective”. Vitamin B2 is generally safe, although some people taking high doses develop diarrhea. Magnesium helps relax blood vessels. Some studies have reported a higher rate of magnesium deficiencies in some patients with migraine..

German doctors have been using butterbur as a prophylactic treatment for migraine with great success since the 1980s.  It is a widely recommended and known treatment in Germany and other European countries.  My neurologist may not know about this nor has she recommended magnesium to me.  She has recommended vitamin D due to low vitamin D levels being linked to inflammation.

The thing to note about butterbur is a pesky alkaloid that is toxic to your liver–pyrrolizidine alkaloids.  They are indicated on butterbur supplements as PA, and all butterbur supplements should say “PA-free”.  I note this because there was a change in a German company’s manufacturing process a few years ago, and their butterbur supplement, Petadolex, suddenly became contaminated with those pesky alkaloids.  A review and subsequent testing of the supplement revealed that the hepatoxic alkaloid compounds were still present in the supplement, and Germany removed the supplement from the market; Switzerland banned the sale of all butterbur supplements altogether.  There are, however, other companies that produce butterbur supplements other than Weber and Weber, the German-based company who failed the investigation.  Oddly enough, you can still buy Weber and Weber’s butterbur supplement on Amazon, so beware.

This is a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater (Switzerland, I am talking to you).  Everyone in the know is aware of hepatoxic alkaloids in butterbur.  Why the American Headache Society is attempting to formulate a stance on it is beyond me unless it just doesn’t want anyone taking butterbur at all to prevent litigious action.  In the end, you need to be smart.  If our doctors have us taking a plethora of drugs in an attempt to manage our pain, then why not look at butterbur as well? Have you read the side effects of these anticonvulsants, steroids, and triptans? Nothing is very good here.

In the meantime, here is an excellent butterbur supplement that is PA-free and also contains feverfew and magnesium.  It’s wheat-free, gluten-free, and even vegetarian.

Do some research for yourself if you struggle with migraines.  There are complementary treatments.  Sometimes we have to be the ones to find them.

Further Reading:

Preventing Migraine Pain with Butterbur (great article)

Migraine Preventative Butterbur has Safety Concerns

 

The Flash

In which MJ can’t be taken anywhere.

The people who know me best know that I have a curse.  I’ve had it since I turned 15.  I remember the day it fell upon me.  I was at WaterWorld in Houston.  It was a hot, humid July day.  I was having fun going down the water slides and swimming.  I recall hanging out in the Lazy River, resting on my inner tube.  I stood up to reach over to my step-sister when I heard my friend shriek, “Holy shit! Where’s your top?” I looked down.  I was topless.  My bikini top had vanished.  I was just standing there practically naked.  I quickly pulled up the inner tube to cover myself and began searching for my top.  It was gone! Where was it? It couldn’t have floated off very far.  Could it?

And that’s when I heard it.  That unmistakable tone.  A teenage boy yelling, “Hey there, you want your top back?” He was swinging it around his head with a most smug expression on his arrogant face.  I wasn’t about to fool around with a guy like that.  I just found a life guard and informed him that unless he wanted me to strut around a family joint like it was Rio de Janeiro he had better persuade the dude who was holding my bikini top hostage to give it back.  I also happened to pick the biggest, baddest looking life guard I could find.  Go for intimidation when you can.

That was the beginning of a stellar career of embarrassing moments involving my clothing betraying me–always in public.  I have fallen in downtown Minneapolis during rush hour landing face first on the sidewalk resulting in my skirt flying over my head revealing my entire ass for the whole of the viewing public to see.  Oh, the honking horns and catcalling.  I pretended to be dead for about a minute.  I have walked around a crowded restaurant with my fly completely open revealing my very fancy underwear.  I have had a halter top come undone in my front yard and flashed my male elderly neighbor while doing yard work.  That was spectacular.  He didn’t look me in the eye for a month! I have run in the Target parking lot during a storm, and unknowingly my blouse had come partially undone so that only one breast was revealed. I was actually walking around the produce section flashing one boob! I think I even picked out a melon while said breast was exposed.  And, yes, a man did say, “Nice melons,” to me.  Another man followed me around the produce section the entire time staring at me.  And, because I am who I am, I threw down a pear and yelled at him, “Do you have a problem, sir?!” at which point he just stared at my exposed breast and uttered, “Uh…”

The worst thing that’s ever happened? While Grace was in the middle of her prodromal decline, I was in a bad place.  I was getting up every morning at 6 AM to take her to day treatment.  I was exhausted, scared, and confused.  Trying to take care of her as well as my other kids, run a household, pay the bills, be a wife…I just couldn’t do it all.  I was getting migraines all the time.  So, I would just throw on clothes in the morning, grab Grace, and drop her off.  I don’t remember what else I did that summer except survive it.  Well, one morning I had a feeling that I had forgotten something very important.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I was anxious.  I took Grace to day treatment.  I dropped her off.  I was driving home through morning rush hour traffic, and I couldn’t get past the feeling that I felt weird.  Something was wrong.  I turned onto my street, and I almost ran over the UPS man who was standing in the middle of the street! I stopped, rolled down the window, and apologized.  He was very nice about it.  I pulled up to my house and parked the car.  I still felt off.  What was I forgetting? I opened the car door and moved to get out.

I recall that I was wearing a shorter denim skirt.  Those skirts ride up on the thighs a bit when you’re climbing out of a car or minivan.  I try to be conscious of that when I’m climbing out of the minivan.  I was just so tired that day.  I saw the UPS guy’s truck pulling up next to me in my rearview mirror so I knew to be careful.  I was getting out.  He was pulling up.  He slowed down to wave, and then I saw his face.  I’ll never forget it.  First, it was shock.  He looked well and truly shocked.  I waved at him.  I remember that I was partially standing with one leg in my van and the other out of the van because I was getting out of the car–like some housewifey, panty-less Captain Morgan.  He kind of waved back.  His eyes got really wide, and then his mouth just hung open.  And he shook his head in disbelief.  I think he might have smiled a bit or laughed.  I couldn’t figure out what he was doing or why he had stopped the van.  He just sat in his big, brown truck and stared at me with that expression of shock and awe pasted on his face.

It was then that I figured out what I had forgotten.  And, I froze.  Then, I wanted to die.  Could I move away? Could I change my name and leave the country? Do the Federal Marshals have a program for women like me?

I had forgotten to put on underwear.  OH…MY…SWEET…LORD! 

I’d like to say that I never saw him again except that I did.  He made a point to deliver every package to our home that summer.  I felt like a younger and dirtier Mrs. Robinson.  Who forgets to put on underwear? Really?!

So, I thought the curse was broken.  I went two years with no incidents.  Until yesterday.

We were at a lovely store in our area showing our fabulous house guest around.  I was wearing a dress.  I seldom wear dresses, and I feel that I will continue to seldom wear a dress after yesterday’s fiasco.  I like skirts.  I like jeans.  I like skinny trousers.  Dresses? Sometimes.  When you’re a cursed individual as I am, it’s good to have ample coverage in case a light breeze comes along.  You never know.  Anyway, I was trying to follow my PT’s instructions and wear that damn backpack so that my neck would be in good shape.  There we were, walking around, looking at stuff.  I was wearing my backpack.

Unbeknownst to me, my backpack was slowly pulling up the back of my dress as I walked.  After an hour of walking around, we all decided to go upstairs.  Imagine how much fabric my backpack had pulled up after an hour of walking around.  My backpack had pulled up the entirety of the back of my dress.  I wondered why I was feeling so cold.  Imagine me standing on the stairs in front of everyone looking totally covered from the front and bare-assed from behind wearing a backpack! It’s too awful! It’s…like this!!

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As we were walking up the stairs I could really feel the air hitting my skin, and that’s when I reached around and felt bare skin.  I stopped and tried to pull the dress down, but it was all tucked under my backpack.  Fixing this quickly wasn’t that easy, but I did it.  Now, my husband was behind me the entire time! When we got upstairs I punched him.  HARD.

“What was that for?” he complained, rubbing his arm.

“You didn’t tell me that my dress was completely tucked under my backpack! My ass was exposed! I am so embarrassed! I have a thong on! I look like I was going commando!”

“Sorry.  I wasn’t looking at your ass…”

This is the point when our guest stepped in.  “A husband should always be looking at his wife’s ass!”

And then Milly stepped in, “Yeah, Dad! You should always be doing that!”

How do you not notice a bare-assed woman tromping around a store? I should probably feel better about myself.  If he didn’t notice, then maybe no one else noticed either.

Still…

  • I am going to replace my backpack.
  • Maybe I’m good for another two years now.  No more flashing store patrons or UPS dudes until I’m 43.  God help them.

A Little Nonsense Now and Then

I have had one helluva time coming off the prednisone.  Yesterday was Day 2 off the drug, and it was my low point.  I should have just cancelled the day and stayed in bed.  Oh the pain and fatigue.  I gave the day my best shot, but I was bested.  I was in bed at 6 PM shaking, sweating, and nauseous.  Prednisone withdrawal is a nasty business.

When I don’t feel well or one of the girls is under the weather in some way, we amp up the humor.  I spent the evening watching “Parks and Recreation” on my laptop and laughing uproariously.  I highly recommend it.  Doireann crawled into bed with me as is her habit with her Smartphone and said, “Wanna see some kitty pics?” She always saves the best cat photos that she finds on Tumblr to show me, usually at 7 o’clock in the morning.  I have no idea why she waits until the morning.  This time, however, she showed me her collection in the evening.

“So, there are all these amazing photos of firemen rescuing these cats from burning buildings.”  I immediately cooed with anticipation.

“Check this one out, Mom.”

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We both patted our chests simultaneously looking at this poor kitty gripped with such fear.

“Look at this one, Mom!”

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“Oh, they’re having a moment! Look at how they look at each other! It’s so sweet!”

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“Oh, it’s just a wee thing! Aaaaw, it’s so cute! Do you think it belongs to someone? Poor kitten…”

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“Oh, and this one needs oxygen! Oh, these firemen are so kind!”

And then there was this one…

 

 

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THAT’S RIGHT! ‘TWAS I THAT SET THE HOUSE ABLAZE!!

“Good God!”

And that’s all it took.  I couldn’t stop laughing. I know that cat was scared, but it looked like a maniacal super-villian compared to all those other cats.  And the expression on the face of the fireman? What’s he thinking? “Thank God I caught him, the bastard.” I just couldn’t help it.  Doireann was laughing, too.  And you know what? I have laughed about it all day long today.  Off and on, I’ve just laughed about this stupid cat picture! It’s a meme on Tumblr! I was even laughing about it in the bathroom today which my entire family could hear.  Funnily enough, this caused them to start laughing.  At me, of course, but laughter is laughter.  Eadaoin shouted out, “Are you laughing at the cat picture again?” I shouted back, “Yes!” Someone yelled while laughing, “Mom, you are so weird!” Maybe, but they were laughing!

I thought that since it made me laugh so hard last night and today, thusly, relieving my distress, I might share it with all of you.  Perhaps you’ll think it’s inane and silly or even weird, but perhaps you’ll laugh, too.

Silliness is good.  Laughter is even better.

***I give credit to (Tah the) Trickster Tales of Tumblr for compiling these photos that led my daughter to show them to me last night.  It gave us great joy.  Apparently, I’m still enjoying myself.

 

Don’t give up

I really like this.

Bryan Patterson's Faithworks

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WE see in life what we want to see. If we search for evil we’ll find plenty of it.
But the opposite is also true. If we look for the extraordinary in the ordinary, we will see it.
Hope is described in the book The Science of Optimism And Hope as a conscious choice rather than a random feeling
Martin Seligman, Professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote that we all learn to feel either hopeful or helpless.
He said pessimists could be taught to have “skills of optimism”. People taught the skills were less prone to depression and there was evidence that optimism might delay the ageing process.
He also quoted studies that indicate the immune systems of pessimists function less well than those of optimists, that optimists have greater life expectancy than pessimists and people like optimists more than pessimists.
Optimistic HIV patients show slower immunity…

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Raising The Standard

Yesterday morning, Grace was struggling with self-harming ideation.  She’s hit a dip in the road.  I don’t know why.  I don’t know that anyone knows why.  Sometimes people like to blame the progression or evolution of her condition on her budding hormones.  We are a family of late bloomers.  Grace is 13 but still looks very boyish in her body.  Visually, ain’t nothin’ goin’ on there, but I’m sure her endocrine system is busy priming the pump.  As soon as puberty hits and her brain is bathed in estrogen and progesterone, I’m sure we’ll be riding the roller coaster ride again as everyone keeps reminding me.  She’ll get her period, and then she’ll really go crazy.

I, however, get really tired of everyone telling me that.  Like Doomsday is waiting for us.  When you’re a parent to girls, you hear a lot of people talking smack about females.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out and about with my girls when some stranger has approached me and asked, “Are these girls all yours?”  I look at my daughters to ensure that I haven’t picked up a few stragglers on the way and then respond in the affirmative.  Yep, they’re all mine.  “Wow.  Four girls, huh? You’re really in for it when they all hit puberty.  Good luck to you, ma’am.”  I look back at my daughters who have all heard this statement or something very similar countless times before.  Doireann is usually rolling her eyes.  Eadaoin looks offended.  Grace has always been very vocal so she’ll ask, “What’s that supposed to mean?”  Milly is Captain Logic so she is the most rational: “Who was that man, and why was he talking to you?” Exactly.

Is this a common experience for parents of boys? Do random strangers approach mothers and fathers with a group of boys and ask if that gaggle of boys following them all belong to them? Do they make sexist remarks like, “Good luck to you when they hit puberty.  You’ll be finding crusty socks under their beds, porn on their laptops, and changing the sheets every other day! Best to just lock ’em up to protect the general population from being forced to associate with your sons while they experience The Change.”  No, this is not common, but it’s okay to tell the parents of girls that they’re in for a bloodbath of both a physical and emotional nature? Why?

You even hear this in the medical community as well.  When Grace was in the prodromal phase of her illness, I tried to mention some of her symptoms to a specialist.  He told me that she was probably just hormonal.  She was 10.  As a girl, her symptoms were dismissed, even as a 10 year-old girl, because at some point in the next four years of her life she would begin menstruating.  I find that to be unacceptable.  When I mentioned this oversight to a friend who loved this particular specialist, I was dismissed.  “Oh, well, you know how it is.”  No, I don’t.  How is it? Great doctors can’t miss the boat, or it’s acceptable to lump mental health symptoms in girls in with stereotypical female hysteria based on gender bias? Or both?

Where am I going with this? For those of us involved in the world of mental health care by choice or by force of circumstances, we are aware of the gender bias.  Getting angry over it isn’t fruitful.  I think I am feeling something like frustration over the fact that what people like to call ‘realism’ is really just another name for cynical naysaying and a very real lack of awareness.

For example, there are some people in my life that might call themselves ‘hopeful realists’ when it comes to difficult circumstances, but they’re not.  They’re actually quite negative.  I have to be careful with what I share.  They ask how Grace is doing.  If I share that she did well in her skills training, they might say, “That’s good.  We’ll see how long she can hold onto that new skill.”  Or, “Well, she’s stable now but just wait until the hormones hit.  You’ll be right back in the hospital again.”  Please tell me how either of those statements is in any way helpful.  Are they truly affirming or helpful? No.  They are meant to produce fear and anxiety.  Do these people think that I’m lacking self-awareness? Do they think that I’m living under a rock? Do these strangers that approach me in malls and cafés assume that I have no idea what happens to the female body during the adolescent years?

“Really? Something is going to happen to my daughters’ bodies at some point in the future? What’s puberty? Is that a big deal? Please do tell me, strange man, what will happen to my family? Will it be significant? You took the time to come over here and warn me.  Surely, it must be a terrifying experience because you look like you’re scared of little girls.  You even look a little scared of me.  Will there be…blood?”

The people who are the most aware regarding what’s facing their families are the primary caregivers.  Mothers know what’s in store for their daughters.  If a woman had a difficult time with the onset of her period, then she knows exactly what’s facing her daughters.  If a woman was a Judy Blume fan girl who read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret over and over again, then she’ll be tuned in to her daughters’ experiences out of empathy.  We don’t need strangers and society at large treating our daughters like the Ragnarök of our family life.  More than that, we certainly don’t need the people in our lives undermining our support system by participating in this paradigm by insinuating that the hard work that our kids have done will be destroyed by a very normal part of human development.  We need support! Our young women need support.  We need someone to just sit with us and be our friends as well as be real friends to our kids.  People who will show humility and authentic kindness, treat our kids like human beings with rights, witness the suffering that’s going on in our lives, and not attempt to fix it.

Being a caregiver is one of the loneliest jobs because we don’t ever get to stop really.  Our friends can ask.  People can bring a meal.  Others can stop over or take us out, but, at the end of the day, everyone else gets to leave and go back to their own lives.  The people that we care for are our responsibility.  No one else’s.  We plan our lives–our minutes, hours, and days–around the person or people we take care of.  We often can’t even eat or go to the bathroom if the person requiring care is with us.  It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t live like we do.  They might think they understand, but they can’t.  I thought I understood until it was my turn.  I thought I had a grasp of what it meant because I had an autistic child, but I wasn’t prepared for schizophrenia or a potential mitochondrial disease.  I wasn’t prepared to watch my child disintegrate before my eyes, and I wasn’t prepared to feel so left behind.  I wasn’t prepared to feel so happy about the small victories and so sucker punched when others minimized them.  If you wonder why parents of special needs kids or even primary caregivers to those with profound needs seem closed off or excessively private, this is why.  People seem to feel compelled to remind us of the reality of our situation and future as if we are ignorant, and, at least for me, I find myself, at times, terribly weary of it.  Sometimes I want to shout out, “I know! Do you really think that we don’t know? Why can’t you just be happy for us in this one moment? Just rest in this minute with me.  Just experience this moment of victory to the fullest before it passes.” Mindfulness is not easily experienced by many people.  I am just now realizing this.  There are people who will try very hard to pull you down with their own dark gravity.  They cannot let you stay in your orbit.  They must find a reason to catastrophize and blame.  They can’t allow you to celebrate.  Not even a little.

Yes, it’s true that the onset of puberty is often the time at which certain neuropsychiatric illnesses present.  I’m not denying that, but correlation is not causation.  As much as certain men (and women) would like to believe that the menstrual cycle makes women crazy bitches, there’s simply a lot more to it than that.  Women (and men) can always reserve the right to make very bad choices which will have nothing to do with Shark Week:

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My period made me do it.

And women (and men) can always implement those decisions with a very, very bad attitude–menstruating or not.

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Blame has always been a popular choice.  It’s easy.  Personal responsibility is hard.  Empathy is even harder.  Compassion is the hardest.  It is entirely up to me to create a life that is rewarding even as I take care of Grace and Milly…and Eadaoin.  Life will not stop moving just because I can’t keep up or because, Heaven forbid, I have my period!

 If I need help, then I have to ask for it.  I have to be sure that I’m not participating in blame either.  Caregivers often don’t have a lot of personal time so we have to be very deliberate in how we live our daily lives.  It’s vital to our well-being so that we can provide the care that our dependents rely on.  We have to make sure that our thought lives are healthy.  If we are giving into fear, cognitive distortions, and feelings of helplessness, then it’s up to us to pursue mental health supports so that we can stay healthy.  Is this easy? Hell, no! Is it vital? Hell, yes! There are days when I walk into my therapist’s office and simply declare, “I just need you to check my reality for me.  I think I’ve lost my compass.”  I can take a lot, but, between stupid remarks from strangers, dealing with the insurance company and the Ned Flanders types at the behavioral health company that my insurance company uses to provide coverage for all mental health claims, insensitive remarks from a spouse, paying the bills, normal daily human interactions, and all the pressure that comes with life and what it means to have children with special needs not to mention a parent with mental illness, we need an outside observer to reset us sometimes.  We need someone to hook us up with resources that we don’t have time to track down ourselves.  It’s important.

At heart, I’m an idealist, but I’ve been alive long enough to be a hopeful realist now.  I can’t control other people.  We create our lives even if we live in a pressure cooker.  We still bring a lot of the ingredients to the pot.  I can’t stop well-meaning people from saying insensitive things.  I can only stop myself from saying something equally insensitive in return.  I know that I am not going to be able to stop strangers from saying stupid things to me.  I hear something from someone almost every time I’m out with my daughters.  Admittedly, I’m tempted to create a scene wherein we all grab our stomachs, walk like Quasimodo, cry and moan, and carry boxes of tampons while asking people where the Midol is.  Perhaps Grace could throw herself to the ground and writhe just for good measure.  Doireann could hiss at anyone who attempted to help and shriek, “The light! The light! It burns…”   I could just stand there and cry, “My life….my life…”

I’m sure at that moment an acquaintance will walk by, observe the scene, and nonchalantly quip, “I called it.  Puberty hit and they all went crazy.  Women.  Am I right?”

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Or this…

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Isn’t the media great? Someone thought these were a good idea.

Me? I disagree.  I would like to say something different about girls and women and caregivers because I know that there are male caregivers who are giving it their all, and it takes a special male caregiver to care for a daughter with special needs.  Girls and our bodies must seem foreign and strange at times, but I know that there are fathers and uncles and even older brothers who are helping their loved ones navigate adolescence because they have to.  There is no one else.  They have to be father and mother to a special needs child, and that’s a profoundly difficult role.  Combine being a caregiver with being a caregiver to a child of a different gender, and it gets tricky.  Put it all together with what society at large has to say, and you’ll find that there’s just not a lot of support.  Misogyny is still alive and well.  Shaming girls for their physiology is still “a thing”:

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I’d like to say that a girl, be she neurotypical or not, mentally healthy or not, living on her own or not, feeling well or not, managing her menstrual cycles with aplomb or not, is 100% valuable.

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Caregivers Are Awesome, Too!

And, you know, maybe we’re not mean or nasty or bitchy or unreasonable or unkind or irrational at all.  Maybe all of us are just being true to our generous natures…

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It’s a joke, but true humor starts with a kernel of truth

Maybe it’s time to stop ridiculing girls and women for having bodies that create life, but, at the same time, accept that it’s not romantic in any way.  Enough with the girly commercials already.  It’s gross and messy and nothing like a Massengill commercial.  It smells.  It’s really inconvenient.  We don’t like it.  It hurts, and I’m pretty sure most women couldn’t care less that our cycles match that of the lunar cycle.  So what? When the moon bleeds, cramps, and experiences moodiness on a monthly basis, we’ll start bonding with it.  Let’s just be honest.  Telling the truth often takes away a lot of the mystique as well as the prejudices.

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Maybe it’s time to stop approaching mother and fathers with girls and warning them of the tumultuous years ahead of them because your ex-girlfriend’s daughter was a real bitch when she was on the rag and crazy the rest of the time.  Maybe it’s time to stop saying negative things altogether to strangers with children, be they special needs or not.  If a woman is in pain, how about offering to help? If a father is struggling with his daughter, offer him a smile and a word of encouragement.  Take him out for a beer! If a young woman looks discouraged, encourage her.  If you know a caregiver who has daughters, don’t point your finger at the future and paint a picture of darkness and doom citing blood and rage.  Hell hath no fury like a woman on her period! Hades hath no rage like a schizo during Shark Week! Instead, tell her that you’ll be there for her and her family as long as you’re needed.  Tell her that you love her.  Tell her that you think her children are special and have a lot to offer.  Offer to persevere alongside her.  Offer to be another healthy adult and resource to her children.  Sex education is difficult for some families.  Sometimes it’s easier to talk about periods and sex with an adult outside the immediate family.  Sometimes kids have questions about their own development that they just don’t feel comfortable asking their parents or family members.  Just think of what a powerful ally friends can be! And, of course, the boys in our culture need the same thing!

Shame and empowerment don’t go together.  We’re either all in or not.  A man can’t say in one breath, “I’m pro-woman,” and follow it up with, “Women.  Am I right?”  We either surround ourselves with people who truly value and love girls and women, both neurotypical and not, and instill in them a sense of worth…or we don’t.

Oddly enough, that starts with how we caregivers treat ourselves.  If you are a woman, then your language, what you model around your own femininity, how you talk about other women, and how you treat your body speak volumes to the girls, boys, and men in your life.  Raise a standard, keep it, and then make sure that your standard never comes at anyone else’s expense.  Especially yours.