My work is about healing women’s pain – the literal, physical pain that comes with a woman’s periods, that comes from a pelvic pain condition like endometriosis, PCOS, vulvodynia, or bladder pain syndrome. I care about the pain that comes with pregnancy, and from having just had a baby. I am interested in supporting women to release the pain that remains from having had cancer, from being in an accident, from having a major surgery or any other physical pain that holds a woman back from living her life fully.
What I have learned is that healing any kind of physical pain that women carry requires completely shifting the model of women’s healthcare that exists today, because much of the physical pain that a woman struggles with can be directly traced back to her feelings of self-loathing, to her fear of not measuring up. Hundreds of women that I have worked with fear, deep down, that they somehow deserve to be in pain.
My women clients (unlike my clients who are men) have a difficult time doing things that they know are good for them physically because they don’t believe they are worthy of taking care of themselves until they reach their beauty or weight goals. The women that I care for have a lot of voices in their heads telling them that they are not enough now just as they are.
Think about it. Have you ever stayed up way past the bedtime that you know is best for your health (weight, pain, fatigue, sanity) because you wanted to iron your daughter’s Christmas dress, make homemade birthday cookies, go above and beyond to look good at work, or post the best picture from your vacation on Facebook. Why on Earth did you do this? Would the men in your life have done this?
After 39 years of being a woman and after 14 years of taking care of women in pain, I finally understand that the reason that it’s so challenging to heal a woman’s pain is that while the tools to relieve physical pain can be quite simple and readily available, identifying the reasons that women believe that they deserve to be in pain and then quieting the voices in their heads that keep punishing them for these reasons are challenging to uncover and then to silence.
We know how to heal physical pain. But, we are not giving women the tools to heal their own pain and supporting them in the process for two reasons:
- Giving women these tools requires that we fiercely trust women to use them, and our society does not trust women to make their own healthcare decisions.
- Empowering women to heal themselves requires that we allow women to believe that they are already whole. I believe that women are not broken. But, I also believe that our society is afraid of the power that women could yield (we’re afraid of that power ourselves) if women were to stop wasting so much of their energy and time on being thin, likable, beautiful, and perfect.
Think about it, if you are a woman, how much time and energy do you spend every day worrying that you are not enough – not thin enough, not smart enough, not beautiful enough, not healthy enough, not strong enough, not a good enough mother, not attractive enough to men, not liked enough by other women, not successful enough in the eyes of your parents – not enough.
Thinking this way takes up a lot of time and a lot of energy.
I believe that a woman’s belief that she is not enough is the root cause of her physical pain. Our beliefs that we are not enough are literally keeping us imprisoned.
I read an article this week that sums up very well how we are inflicting pain upon ourselves as women, “We have become our own jailors and we inflict our own punishments for failing to measure up. No one is more cruel to us than we are to ourselves.” – Kasey Edwards, from “When Your Mother Says She’s Fat”
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t blame any women for causing her pain. The last thing she needs is another thing to feel guilty about. The last thing I need is another thing to feel guilty about. Enough is enough.
I believe that the shift has to come from me as a healthcare provider.
Women’s healthcare must start with the belief that all women are not broken, are valuable, are trustworthy, and are capable the moment we first meet them in our healthcare offices. (OK – if a woman is unconscious in the ER and you are her doctor or nurse, use your skills to save her life. Otherwise, start with the beliefs above.)
No matter how much pain you are in, no matter how overweight you are, no matter how sick or injured you are; you are not broken. You are valuable and you can be trusted to make good decisions for yourself.
I believe in my heart that this is true. It’s a challenge for me to believe this everyday about myself. Yet, when I do believe this for myself is when I am at my best as a healer, when I am my healthiest, and when I am the most productive.
At first, I can believe it enough for both of us. Eventually, you will believe it too. Then you will be ready to heal and you will be strong enough to believe it for the next woman who walks into your life.
Think about it, how much good work do women get done in the world right now, even working from our own personal prisons. We have and raise children. We organize and run fundraisers. We bring dinners to the mom down the street who just had a baby. We take care of aging parents. We run highly successful businesses. We run major corporations. We hold high political offices. We are surgeons in the ER. Women get shit done – even from prison.
Now take a deep breath, and imagine if you never again gave an ounce of energy or a moment of mental space to your worth. Imagine if you believed yourself to be so inherently valuable that it doesn’t matter if you’re sick, or weak, or overweight, or having a bad day, or tired, or your roots are growing out. If you’re inherently valuable, it’s no big deal to ask for help, you don’t need comfort food therapy, you don’t have to justify why you made that choice, you sleep when you’re tired, you don’t have to say, “yes” when you mean, “no.”
How much time and energy would that save you?
You would finally have time to cook yourself a healthy breakfast, take a nap, take a vacation, join a meditation class, learn to teach yoga, go hiking, quit your job and start a business, have fun with your husband, be present with your children…
My vision of women’s healthcare creates more freedom for women to live abundant lives. It looks like this…
In the Feminine Model of Women’s Healthcare: We, the healthcare providers, believe that every woman is whole, valuable, and capable of making her own healthcare decisions when given good information and offered all available resources by professionals who believe in her ability to take the best care of herself.
If you’re a healthcare professional or a woman who has ever struggled with being in pain, overweight, sick or injured, do you agree? Let me hear from you in the comments below.