Love Wellness

I find life in juicy Facebook groups, even when my life is falling apart

I don’t typically rely on technology, or the internet, to boost my mood into positive states. I’m not drawn to pop culture in a way where I need to absorb everyone’s gossip and news.

In fact, I find much of my Facebook feed draining, negative, and filled with political opinions that have brought me to tears.

The New York Times’ article, “Attached to Technology and Paying a Price” details the ways in which we are rewired to be addicted to our devices. Scientists have found that technology provokes excitement and plays a role in how we respond to opportunities or incoming information.

However, even in darkness, there is a glimmer of light.

While I don’t necessarily rely on my notifications for happiness, I do find online community valuable for my emotional health. Somewhere in the shards of Facebook’s broken ethics and ridiculous rules are private groups that include empowerment, nudes, and all-encompassing beauty.

Digital networking is a large part of my job and as a writer, I need to share my work through social media to connect with people on a base level. Twitter has a great community of writers, Facebook has my IRL friends, and Instagram is still a sleek way to share any upcoming projects. What’s more is that these platforms connect me to people who I would never know otherwise or friends who have lost touch with my professional life.

For the majority of the time, I use social media as a way to expand my readership.

But, let’s step back a moment, shall we?

In the mid-2000s, I was an avid Xanga user. I blogged and detailed my life in an overly saturated and romantic light.  The comment section was where my community lived. We applauded one another’s work, offered advice, and belonged to groups titled, “The Strokes Fan Club.” Those were my first internet buddies — my first ties to people who introduced me to feminism, punk rock, and Anais Nin.

Present day Xanga, for me, are my private Facebook groups.

Many of them were originally a nuisance or died out quickly. I would accept invites to groups but would never click on the notification. But after refining my invites and adjusting what my peak interests were, I have found a solid community on a generic social media platform — something that I did not expect.

I am a member of many, many writing Facebook groups.

They serve as space where writers and editors can post new job opportunities and calls for pitches. In the comment section, we discuss rates, experience, and how the writing job played out for other freelancers. It’s a community that’s vast, competitive, but still supportive. I owe several of my current freelancing gigs so these specific Facebook groups.

I was originally invited by an editor at Vagabond City Lit, where I am the Arts Editor. Connections, networking, and online friendships infiltrate my profession as a writer and editor, and luckily, it’s a very complementary area of work. Through word of mouth, I entered this rather expansive online community, and have found a plethora of writing gigs and editor information for future pitches and ideas.

The real juicy, awe-inspiring, outrageously empowering groups are my sexual health and sex-related groups.

One, an ode to living out your best hoe summer, and another, a more serious look at vaginismus, discuss all things sexual.

The vaginismus group I am affiliated with is more somber, as many individuals in the group are unable to have PIV intercourse due to an involuntary muscle spasm. However, when one of us does have successful intercourse, we gush and spill and detail our saga to a community who doesn’t judge or criticize. I first began writing about vaginismus after seeing an absence of information on health and women’s websites.

Struggling for seven years, I was fed up.

After I began writing about the taboo, and often embarrassing topic, my email inbox was flooded with women reaching out to me about similar issues.

Eventually, I made a connection with another writer who invited me into the vaginismus group to give my personal insight into my own personal experience. Since vaginismus is an ignored and often misunderstood diagnosis, the group is vital for many of us members. Just knowing that we aren’t alone and suffering in silence is pertinent to our emotional and mental well-being.

Another group where I am the most active is a sexual summer group that encourages stories, thoughts, photos, and accepts all genders, identities, and preferences. This group has been monumental in my overall love for myself, my friends, and sexual liberation.

I first heard about this group from a friend who decided that I “needed to be in it.”

It may sound simple enough, but the voices within this group are overwhelmingly encouraging, leading me to a new understanding of optimism, kinks, and affirmation. Living in a big city, like Chicago, we have many venues that support body positivity and reinforce safe spaces.

However, the place where I’ve felt the safest is this particular Facebook group.

Many people in the group are strangers, some are not.

My friends and I share sexy images of ourselves, videos, GIFs — anything that we find appealing for ourselves without the heteronormative male gaze. Sharing nude images on a platform that exists online is exhilarating. Advice, sexual risks, and stories of embarrassment also fill the feed.

Vulnerability is valued within the online space — it’s incredible to see the encouragement that strangers give one another and the connections that are made.

The summer-fling sex Facebook group has become a permanent group.

Moreover, the founder of the community started a website affiliated and inspired by the stories told on the Facebook thread. I go to events around the city, see someone I recognize from the group, and introduce myself as someone “from the hoe Facebook group.” It’s become a bond and immediate friendship between virtual strangers.

Fellow Tempest writer, Alicia Soller explained in their article that they wanted to “stay informed and connected,” but to do so they needed technology. While disconnecting has its time and place, my Facebook groups have so positively enhanced my well-being, in terms of myself and my relationships, that I can’t imagine completely abandoning them at this point in my life.

While these groups are fleeting and impermanent, they are shaping me into a more confident and vocal lover, friend, and overall better person.

These groups are not substituting my real life friendships and connections. They are simply empowering me to converse with confidence. Moreover, social media in today’s climate can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. These Facebook groups are the reason I log on to the social media platform.

Everyone else’s statuses are noise until I receive a notification from a thoughtful, interesting, and impactful text or image within my private groups.

My advice? Seek out those online communities.

Find your people, find your voice, share a nude or two, and carry on.

Love Wellness

Working from home wasn’t what I thought it would be – here’s how I survive it daily

Working from home isn’t exactly what you imagine — or what you see on television.

I’m no Carrie Bradshaw typing by my New York window after a night out with my girls. I’m more of a stay in bed, skip a shower, make some coffee, write a paragraph here and there type worker. It’s not always conducive. It’s definitely not romantic.

But hey, I’m working on it.

Working from home has a plethora of benefits. I wake up when I please, take breaks on my terms, and stop for the day whenever my fingers begin to cramp. I am a women’s health and sexuality journalist. I dabble in interviews, focus on the arts, but most of my work is centered around women and their vaginas.

It’s a rewarding and satisfying job, especially in today’s political climate. I feel like I’m fighting the good fight from the comfort of my bed.

But what happens when you suffer from anxiety or manic episodes?

I find myself pacing around my apartment, distracting myself with my phone, or retweeting Cardi B.

What happens when you don’t talk to anyone all day, no co-workers to share a laugh over, or gossip about? What happens when you’re talking to yourself and pacing around your small apartment? You start to become unhinged.

In today’s society, 24 percent of people complete some or all of their work at home. Cubicles and offices are too expensive. Everyone can make a space at home. However, as much as I hate set-plans, clocking in, and being a slave to an office, I miss it from time to time.

My days blend together while working from home.

I have no set regimen and loneliness creeps in. I find myself working crazy overtime. I don’t take lunch breaks and sometimes I forget to pee. Yes, sometimes basic bodily functions are abandoned in order to meet a deadline. My fingers work constantly as I grasp for some sort of schedule to make my day go by swiftly and productively.

I first began to notice my changing moods when I took on full-time freelance writing a year ago.

My manic episodes became more prevalent. I wouldn’t calm down until after I’d left the house for an hour, abandoning my work to center on my mental state. This became exhausting and more importantly, I was losing out on money, catapulting me into even more of a frenzied state of mania and anxiety. My inability to create a routine for myself was obvious, I had to make a change.

Timothy Golden, an associate professor at the Lally School of Management & Technology at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute says that when working at an office, “chores, family members and piles of laundry are out of sight, providing a physical barrier to the conflict.”

Whereas, when I work from home, I see my conflict. I see my outside responsibilities and I can’t seem to differentiate the two. In between writing paragraphs about the best new sex toys, I’m cleaning the bathroom, making my bed, and scrambling to make a meal.

My two worlds collide and my cup, definitely, runneth over.

A schedule is the first, and most difficult, task in creating a harmonious workspace at home. I commute on some days. Whether it’s a coffee shop or my art studio, peeling myself out of my apartment is a must. It doesn’t have to be every day, but creating an environment away from my home has a huge impact on my energy.

I wake up, eat breakfast, shower, and begin to work. Before, I would remain in bed, lug my laptop under the covers with me, and remain there for the rest of the day.

Talk about a bad office environment.

Getting up and getting dressed as if I’m leaving for the office has been sufficient to my professional drive and mental stability.

I’ve also invited friends to come work with me. In an age where many of us are working from home, or have more days off, I can use a little social interaction throughout the day. Studies have shown that water-cooler chatting can be beneficial for your health. Since we don’t have a water cooler, a cup of coffee will do. Brigham Young University in Utah found that lack of socializing can negatively affect your health in the same way that smoking 15 cigarettes a day can.

Lastly, I move.

This is an example of how working from home can be the opposite of damaging to my health. I live ten minutes from Lake Michigan and in the summer, I take an hour break between writing articles and run along the lake.

Sounds like a dream, right? Well, it sort of is.

On days where I don’t feel like leaving the house, I squat, do a few stretches, and practice some Pilates when I’m feeling a lull in my routine. When I do feel a spark of mania coming on, I schedule a break to organize my thoughts in order to remain balanced. Staying energized and active is pertinent to my success in my work.

Sometimes, I yearn for the 9-5 and I daydream about work meetings.

Working from home requires a little bit more prioritizing. I don’t get to clock out, therefore I work way after the typical work hours. Organizing, scheduling, and making lists are ways to combat any lack of discipline.

Most of all, I’ve learned that my Google Calendar is my best friend.

I don’t let my work overwhelm me. I take breaks. I let myself breathe. I stretch. I yawn. I somehow give myself days off. Tuesday’s are for visiting museums, Sunday’s are for lounging at the beach.

On Monday, I drink a lot of coffee and I do the dang thing.

Love Wellness

Here’s how you can survive your family this Thanksgiving

Even if your family is picturesque, Thanksgiving invites stress, anxiety, and drama. It’s never easy to travel home only to be reprimanded or curiously examined while trying to mentally compose your sanity. 

As Martha Beck wrote on Oprah, “Your assertiveness training goes out the window the minute your brother begins his traditional temper tantrum. A mere sigh from your grandmother triggers an attack of codependency so severe you end up giving her your whole house.” 

Look, we’ve all been there. 

In short, families are strung together by threads, and generations, of dysfunction. Our similarities and differences can impact and deconstruct any sanity-saving tactics we had pre-planned before stepping foot into our childhood homes. While family is a comfort, it is also disruption. Especially for those of us who live far from our immediate family. 

[bctt tweet=”Families are strung together by threads, and generations, of dysfunction.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Your life in your new city, with your friends and your career, may drastically differ from the life you left behind.

But, here you are, heading home for the holidays.

Your ticket is purchased, your bags will soon be packed, and your nerves are already shot. How can you stay mentally sound through relentless grilling and family expectations this Thanksgiving break?

We have a few tips to help ease the pain.

1. Remember that it’s all in the family

Two women getting dinner at the table in the kitchen holding plates. One is smiling at the camera.

While your mother’s antics and questioning may not seem to be the most loving or nurturing form of affection, she’s still your family. As is everyone involved in the holiday spectacle. While you may not have chosen them, they share your blood, your quirky behavior, and your family tree.

Think about yourself for a moment before going into the holiday season. 

Where do your insecurities stem from? Why do you feel attacked when your dad mentions your career? Where does your anger go after your mother questions your intimate relationships? Of course, your feelings are valid, but try to unpack your trigger points so you can get some insight into why you’re reacting emotionally to particular topics. 

It can help you once you’re in the moment and face to face with the topic at hand.

[bctt tweet=”Try to unpack your trigger points so you can get some insight into why you’re reacting emotionally to particular topics. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

2. Give yourself space

Woman walking down a dirt road

If you need to make a quick phone call to chat with a friend, or go for a walk for some brisk air, then so be it. 

The best advice, for you and for your family, is to give yourself the mental space in order to enter the situation with a clear mindset.

Dr. Ken Duckworth from the National Alliance on Mental Illness said that “There’s this idea that holiday gatherings with family are supposed to be joyful and stress-free. That’s not the case. Family relationships are complicated. But that doesn’t mean that the solution is to skip the holiday’s entirely.”

Much of what contributes to dysfunction is what is deeply rooted in the past

Obviously, Thanksgiving isn’t the time nor the place to begin unpacking years of painful memories. For now, if anything arises that you can’t handle, excuse yourself and find a moment alone where you can rest, think, and most importantly, breathe. 

You don’t need to remove yourself entirely from Thanksgiving, but giving yourself a bit of space can help calm the air for yourself and for your relatives.

[bctt tweet=”Thanksgiving isn’t the time nor the place to begin unpacking years of painful memories.” username=”wearethetempest”]

3. Consider their voice

A man and a woman facing away from each other looking upset

Take the time to understand their thoughts and processes, where they’re coming from, and why they consider their opinion so righteously valid. If you still feel that they are wrong or being inappropriate, that’s only fair, and you have the right to think so. But first, consider their thoughts and their voice, even if it differs from your own.

You can’t change your family, whether it’s politically or simply a state of mind.

Of course, this isn’t to say their opinion is correct.

But we cannot write off others voices without accurately considering them. If you listen to their side of the argument, or conversation, you can begin a dialogue that will probably involve a large amount of debriefing.

If their voice isn’t worth considering, see the next tip. If you can slightly understand their opinion, calmly explain your voice as well and encourage them to acknowledge your choices.

[bctt tweet=”We cannot write off others voices without accurately considering them.” username=”wearethetempest”]

4. Choose to leave if necessary

Woman driving a car with the sun streaming in the window

Remember, Thanksgiving break isn’t forever. 

It’s a day, or two, or possibly three, and then you’re back to your Utopian bubble in your city of choice. Soon, you’ll be able to revel in your calm space away from anxiety or stress.

Is cousin Greg simply too much? Is aunt Susan a deeply negative impact on your self-esteem and overall well-being? Then that’s it: leave.

You aren’t chained to your family by any means—your choice to see them over holiday break is a gift you can choose to snatch back if necessary. Do not feel as if you have to be present in order for everything to be harmonious. Sometimes, life isn’t built on harmony and if you feel your mental and emotional health is at risk from being around your relatives, you can eat turkey somewhere else.

[bctt tweet=”If you feel your mental and emotional health is at risk, you can eat turkey somewhere else.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Before entering the holidays, remember to set boundaries for yourself.

Decide which people you can safely interact with and which ones you should avoid. Decide which topics you can discuss and which ones you can skip. And most importantly, maintain these boundaries.

Don’t let your family bully or guilt you into anything.

Family love is unconditional, meaning that whatever the comments may be, or what the arguments may entail, at the end of the day you’re together, but that doesn’t mean their love can’t be toxic. 

[bctt tweet=”Don’t let your family bully or guilt you into anything.” username=”wearethetempest”]

We get it, it’s complicated, it’s messy, it’s family. 

But if you take care of yourself and follow these tips, you can make it through Thanksgiving relatively unscathed. 

Love + Sex Love

This one technique will change everything in the bedroom

Women have myriad erogenous zones to stimulate — yeah, it’s not just all about the clitoris, my friends.

So it’s not terribly surprising that nipplegasms or breastgasms are a successful way to reach climax. However, most individuals aren’t aware that their nipples hold the key. With their 800 nerve endings and closeness to the heart, nipple play is something to be incorporated into your sexual to-do list.

What’s even better about nipplegasms is that they are non-binary — meaning anyone can get off during nipple play as long as you have nipples.

I first discovered my success with having an orgasm while incorporating nipple play when a partner simultaneously touched my clitoris and nipple. The sensation between both zones was like a wave. Slightly different than a penis in vagina orgasm, and somehow more intimate. At first, I wasn’t sure if what I was feeling was exactly an orgasm. However, once I started to gyrate and the feeling in my nipples translated the remainder of my body, I knew what I was experiencing.

Taoist texts encourage couples to use their mouths on nipples in order to relax the body and the mind. Scientifically, nipples release the chemical oxytocin which encourages relaxation and bonding. Since your breasts can swell up to 25 percent during an arousal period, your breasts, and nipples become larger and more sensitive.

A recent study found that nipples activate the genital sensory cortex. This means that by stimulating the nipples, the cervix, clitoris, and vagina are activated. Even if nipple play doesn’t do much for you on its own, it’s great to pair with genital stimulation.

The brain is taught to associate nipple play with feelings of having an orgasm — meaning that nipple play opens up many doors to incredible orgasms.

According to a study conducted by Dr. Herbert Otto, 29 percent of women experience a breast orgasm at one time or another.

So, how do you achieve an orgasm with nipple stimulation?

While we could give you a step-by-step guide on how to achieve an orgasm through your nipples, it’s a little more complicated than that. Similar to penetrative orgasms, experimentation and exploring with your partner is necessary.

Not all nipples are created equal.

Hard or soft stimulation depends on the individual involved in the process. The only way to overcome the “right” or “wrong” way to stimulate someone is to discuss and communicate what works for their body.

If you’re looking for some starter tips, however, we have you covered.

First, begin by relaxing, as you should with any new sexual situation. For me, I direct the hands of my partner and slowly let them know what I like and how I like it. Nipple play is also a great way to begin communicating with your partner since it involves some instruction. Gently begin applying pressure and use verbal (or nonverbal) queues to engage with your partner as to what feels great, or what doesn’t.

Understanding basic nipple and breast anatomy are also important in order to achieve a successful orgasm. The breast, the areola, and the nipple itself are all areas of stimulation. Start off slow and gentle until you and your partner learn what feels best. Blowing on the nipple with your mouth is a great way to ease into the sensation since nipples are sensitive to temperature.

I personally enjoy nipple play in conjunction with clitoral stimulation.

Combining the two creates an intimate moment for you and your partner — either you stimulate your clitoris while your partner incorporates nipple play or vice versa. While both of you are focusing on your body, and your body alone, the intimacy level is brought up to a new level.

Biting, nipple clamps, oil, and more intense temperatures can all be added later once you’re both more confident. I’m a grade level nipple expert and I still haven’t advanced to anything beyond basic nipple play.

It’s too good to pass up and I’ve started to enjoy it more and more as my partner finds new ways to turn me on.

Besides building a bond between you and your partner, nipple play has some health benefits.

Barry Komisaruk, from Rutgers University, has studied how different areas of the body stimulate the genitals. Komisaruk and his team found that “women who have suffered nerve damage in childbirth because of diseases like diabetes,” can help improve clitoral nerve stimulation. He goes on to say that “It could be a supplement for experiencing orgasms,” for those individuals who have suffered nerve damage.

Think of your nipples as a clitoris or a penis — syncing body parts can help you achieve a wave of feelings during your climax.

Since nipplegasms vary in feeling in comparison to penetrative or clitoral orgasms, try mixing it up in the beginning on focusing on what worked for you or your partner.

Upping the ante in your sex life is always a new and refreshing experience.

Your nipples have been there all along, so why not try and incorporate them into your new play techniques?

Whether you achieve an orgasm, or not, their sensitivity is sure to bring invigorating feelings into the bedroom.

Furthermore, nipple play isn’t just a new thing to try in the bedroom, it’s an incredible orgasm. Having an orgasm through your nipples alone is empowering, it’s a wave of emotional intensity.

It’s a new way of climaxing.

It’s personal.

It’s connecting to those nerves that make up your biological being, tapping into them, and turning them on.

Love Wellness

Here’s what happened when my doctor ignored what was really going on with my body

I’ve always had a finicky vagina.

My periods are heavy, pap-smears are painful, vaginismus hangs over me, and my doctors just never understand. Whatever problems my friends have, they always know to come to me for advice. They all know that at one time or another, Nicole has probably experienced it, or at least googled it.

My first time being cauterized was a shock. I was young, around 22, and told my doctor that I had been experiencing painful sex. He probed around, as doctors do, and peered above my legs. “Hmmm, I see some lesions on your cervix,” he said with a squint in his eye. At the time, I had no idea what he meant by “lesions.”

The term still makes me cringe and writhe.

I was sexually active with my partner of four years but saw no reason for there to be lesions. My doctor and the nurse quickly explained that he would be using Silver Nitrate to cauterize the lesions. With no explanation or consent, my doctor applied a heated method to cauterize wounds on my cervix.

Cheerily, he stood up and said, “All done!”

I sat up slowly, feeling woozy and dehydrated. He began to talk to me, and as his words slurred and black spots appeared, I realized I was going to pass out. My efforts to ask him, “What do you mean lesions?” were met with a stutter, skip, and mumble. “I need to lie down,” I said as I was already lying down on the table.

Immediately, my doctor and the nurse rushed out to bring me water and told me rest for as long as I needed. They shut the door quickly and promptly. I laid on the medical bed staring at the ceiling writhing in pain and sweating profusely. My reaction was intense, the side effects were excessive.

Cervical cauterization is a method used to destroy precancerous and non-cancerous cells in the womb. Typically, cauterization utilizes heat, electricity, cold, corrosive chemicals, or laser. Moreover, the procedure is used to treat HPV, the human papilloma virus, which causes 80 percent of cervical cancers.

By the time I was home in my bed with a hot compress on my abdomen, I had called the doctors office several times to question them about my lesions. They continuously told me that the lesions were caused by tampons. Inserting tampons had somehow caused lesions on my cervix.

The only problem? I had never, in my twenty-something years on earth, worn a tampon. Despite my arguments, my doctor never told me that it was because of HPV.

At the time, only a few years ago, cauterization wasn’t easy to research. My googling came up empty handed as I try to feverishly discover what my doctor had done to me, and more importantly, why.

A few years passed and for whatever god-awful confusing reason, I returned back to the same doctor. Once again, I was cauterized. I even asked him to do anything but this particular procedure. Nevertheless, he reassured me that this time would completely clear everything.

I boarded a plane to India two days later as I bled through my plants.

Before we took off, I remember texting my mom, telling her, “I hate male doctors!” with fury, anger, and pain.

This isn’t to say Silver Nitrate cauterization doesn’t work. A recent study has found that burning off a population of host cells cannot regenerate — specifically, cells that contribute to cervical cancer. With 530,000 women being diagnosed with the silent killer a year, this discovery is important and pertinent to understanding women’s health.

What is alarming and dangerous about my experience is the lack of communication and education from my medical professional. My misunderstanding of what was causing my lesions could be happening to other patients. My diagnosis of HPV didn’t occur until I was 25, sitting in a new doctor’s office, explaining my symptoms. She looked at me and said, “Okay, so did you have any other complications with HPV?” At that moment, I realized where these foreign lesions came from — the human papilloma virus.

Instead of being upset, I was relieved.

My process was long and arduous. A year ago, a colposcopy was administered after an abnormal pap smear. A biopsy lets me know that I didn’t have cancer but pre-cancerous cells were found — a result of HPV. Since then, my tests have been normal, my vaginismus has vanished, and my love and sex life have been healthy — both emotionally and physically.

Women are left in the dark about their health all too often.

We aren’t talking about procedures, complications, and mishaps that occur. We are suffering alone, lost in confusion, and frustration.  It’s only after I publish this piece that someone will email me and say, “Thank you! I thought I was all alone in this!”

I will smile, thank them in return, and continue voicing issues in and around the medical field for women.