Health Care Health

A woman discovers she has two vaginas—but why did it take her doctors 25 years to realize it?

Vulvasations is a Tempest Love exclusive series dedicated to spreading awareness about the female reproductive system, debunking myths about periods and dissecting everything vajayjay related. Let’s talk about vaginas!

I was today years old when I discovered a person could be born with two vaginas.

It was a typical Thursday night for me. I was swiftly approaching too many hours spent scrolling on TikTok when I stumbled upon a now-viral video posted by TikTok user @britsburg, Brittany Jacobs. Like most stitched TikToks, the video started with a prompt: What is something a doctor completely ignored you about when clearly there was something wrong? Jacobs immediately claims, “I’m about to own this!”

And own it she does. Jacobs goes on to reveal she was born with two vaginas. This is actually a rare genetic condition known as double uterus or uterus didelphys, which means a person is born with two uteri and potentially two cervixes as well. Typically, a baby’s uterus originates from two small tubes called Mullerian ducts that eventually fuse together while the baby is still in its mother’s womb. With uterus didelphys, however, the tubes never fuse and instead remain divided by a thin membrane.

Pretty cool, right? Well, not exactly.

Jacobs explains that every month, she experiences two painful periods, heavy bleeding, and painful sex. When she was pregnant with her son, she only carried on one side. The only reason she found out about her condition is because a nurse noticed it when she was giving birth to her son.


#stitch with @omqgabbi HOW DO YOU NOT NOTICE THAT LIKE WHAT. #UD #BiggerIsBetter #ShowerWithMoxie #uterusowner #womenempowerment #momsoftiktok

♬ original sound – Britsburg

My first thought after watching this TikTok a few more times was how did the doctors not catch this earlier? As a 25-year-old woman, Jacobs has technically been going to the doctors for 25 years, including gynecologist and obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN) visits. The side effects she listed should have clued her doctors into her condition long before she delivered her son.

But this isn’t actually all that shocking when we take into account how modern medicine often fails minority communities.

Historically, medical institutions have long upheld racism and sexism. This deadly combination has culminated for hundreds of years and put many BIPOC in danger. Black women especially are often taken advantage of and dismissed by practicing doctors to this day, with many Black women going on TikTok to discuss why doctors need to do better.


#stitch with @omqgabbi consistently failed by doctors #fyp #doctorfail #listentoblackwomen

♬ original sound – Meikoshi

In fact, doctors’ implicit race- and gender-based bias has put many Black women in jeopardy. The medical industry’s malpractice has contributed to horrible statistics like 40% of Black women being more likely to die from breast cancer compared to white women and Black women being three times more likely to suffer from severe complications from childbirth than white women—both of which could be lower if proper care had been provided by medical professionals.

While egregious facts like these have roots tracing back throughout U.S. history, it’s important to note that “history” doesn’t always mean very long ago.

In the 20th century alone, federally-funded programs included forced sterilizations of immigrants, people of color, including 70,000 Native American women, poor people, unmarried mothers, people with disabilities, and the mentally ill. And, like most of American racism, this practice carried over into the 21st century. Between 2006 and 2010, California prisons authorized the sterilization of 144 female inmates, a majority of whom were Black or Latina.

Let’s say Jacobs did share her ailments with her doctors prior to her pregnancy. Even then there is still the possibility that her doctors dismissed her pain because she’s a woman.

In the 19th century, “hysteria” was often used to “diagnose” women and force them into mental institutions. At the time, it was perfectly okay for husbands to admit their wives to these institutions without the women’s consent. Postpartum depression, infertility, masturbation, and homosexuality were also reasons women were placed in mental institutions.

It’s important to know this history, wrought with the trauma and pain of racism and sexism because we need to be better about holding the medical industry accountable.

I think one of the reasons why we as a society have failed at this is because of doctor dramas like Grey’s Anatomy, Scrubs, The Good Doctor, House, and more—all of which can be viewed as the medical equivalent of Brooklyn Nine-Nine cop propaganda.

Doctor dramas often show medical professionals going the extra mile to deliver care to their patients. For example, Meredith Grey has been suspended, fired, arrested, and jailed throughout her story’s 17 seasons. She usually faces these consequences because she broke rules in order to help save her patients.

But doctors outside of dramas are not always known for having this same level of dedication. Many of my friends and coworkers struggle with chronic illness and have shared stories about having to convince their doctors to take them seriously and administer a diagnosis.

In addition, people with disabilities reportedly receive inferior health care because less than 20 percent of medical schools teach their students how to talk to patients with disabilities. Furthermore, patients with disabilities are often otherized, which adds a psychological toll for these patients who are already having to advocate for and even explain their medical care to their doctors.

Though we’re told to trust our doctors, this is often easier said than done for many communities. Women of color, especially Black and Native American women, and people with disabilities face discrimination in the medical industry every day, with many people struggling for years to demand proper medical treatment. If our doctors don’t see anything wrong with that, then they are part of the problem.

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Science Now + Beyond

How is the COVID-19 pandemic going to end?

There are two ways a pandemic needs to die before we can declare it over. First, it needs to end medically: a period where the number of cases and deaths aren’t worrying anymore. But it also needs to end socially. Until we decide as a society that the pandemic isn’t a threat anymore and until we stop fearing it, COVID-19 will never truly come to an end. 

This is not the first time humanity is faced with a life-changing pandemic. Every century has had its own share of diseases and plagues, but the spread has never been so global. What can we learn from pandemics of the past to help us predict the way COVID-19 will make its way to the end?

Plague of Justinian: Herd Immunity

The Plague of Justinian arrived in Constantinople in 541 A.D. when Emperor Justinian ruled the Byzantine Empire. It spread like wildfire across Europe, Asia, North Africa, and Arabia. It’s estimated that half the world’s population at the time died as a result of the plague. At the time, there was no understanding of the plague and certainly no way to cure it. The remaining population is believed to have survived because of a newfound immunity.

But the picture painted by COVID-19 need not be so grim. If 70% or more of a population develops immunity, the spread of the disease can be combatted. 

However, attempts to build herd immunity without a vaccine haven’t gone well. In 2020, Sweden did not implement any strict lockdown rules in wake of the pandemic. Even though large social gatherings had been discouraged, other public places like bars or restaurants were open for business. Sweden had hoped to achieve herd immunity through coronavirus antibodies, but it did not go as planned. By November 2020, Sweden’s COVID-19 death toll per capita was 10 times more than its neighboring country, Norway. 

The road to herd immunity is long and deadly. Without putting the lives of an entire population at risk, herd immunity will never be successful without vaccines. 

Influenza: Endemic Flu

The H1N1 influenza pandemic, also known as the “Spanish flu,” took as many as 50 million lives from 1918 to 1919. Although its origins have nothing to do with Spain, the deadly flu picked up the name as the Spanish media–declared neutral in World War I–was one of the few countries allowed to report on it during media blackouts. World War I only made things worse. As soldiers moved across borders and oceans, they carried the deadly flu with them. 

Even though there have been three other viral pandemics in the 20th century, none have seen death as the 1918 pandemic did. The most important aspect of this pandemic is that the disease eventually turned into a less fatal seasonal flu, taking 290,000 to 650,000 lives every year worldwide.

In a similar way, some scientists believe the coronavirus will never really go away. It’s scary to imagine a world where we’re constantly at risk of contracting this disease. But this doesn’t mean it will be just as viral or lethal as is it today. Similar to influenza, we might see COVID-19 become a part of the seasonal flu that causes the common cold and similar respiratory infections every year.

Smallpox: Vaccines

For centuries, smallpox was an endemic that plagued Europe, Asia, and Arabia, killing three out of every ten people infected by it. But when explorers landed in the Americas, this disease, along with war, wreaked havoc in the lives of the indigenous people. Lack of natural immunity among the native population wiped out 90% of their population. 

Things took a turn in the eighteenth century when Edward Jenner created the first vaccine. Eventually in 1980, WHO declared smallpox completely eradicated. 

The COVID-19 vaccine has been effective so far. But while we may outsmart the virus with a good vaccine, the immunity it provides may not be permanent. Mutations of the coronavirus are rapidly developing and it affects immunity rates. Then there’s the entire nuisance of anti-vaxxers

We cannot predict what is certain about the future of this pandemic. Medically speaking, the pandemic will come to an end when we figure out everything about this infamous disease. In the meantime, social distancing may seem to be a new reality, but we’re already seeing how isolation impacts mental health. Furthermore, businesses and companies have been pushing for reopenings. Considering the current situation of the pandemic, we may stop fearing it before it is truly eradicated.

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Mind K-pop Mental Health Health Wellness

15 K-Pop songs to help you feel seen

Content Warning: Somes of the songs in this article mention themes of mental illness, suicide, depression, loneliness, and anxiety.

Mental health has never been more important than it is now. Music is one healthy coping mechanism that helps a lot of us keep on keeping on. Over the last decade or so, I’d argue that more global artists, musicians, and idols have helped start conversations around mental health by being open about their own struggles with depression, anxiety, loneliness, and more.

K-pop performers like IU and SUGA from BTS have long been known as mental health advocates of sorts, unafraid of broaching harder topics in their music. While it seems obvious, it never hurts to remind ourselves that idols are people, too. They experience highs and lows and battle with issues acutely felt by those of us living in the 21st century.

Many of these idols have included their personal stories in their music, which can help us feel less alone as we face similar challenges in our day-to-day lives.

1. “eight” – IU (Prod. & Feat. SUGA of BTS)

IU’s song “eight” is about loss. Depending on your interpretation of the music video, this could also be a song about losing friends to suicide. Rather than focus on her despair, IU’s lyrics and melody remain hopeful, reminding us that we should remember the good times with our lost loved ones. She even hints at meeting them again someday in a place where there is no sadness or pain.

2. “BORDERLINE” – Sunmi

Sunmi revealed that she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD), which she explores in this song. Many of her fans who have BPD have said this song helps them feel validated in their experience. In addition, “BORDERLINE” makes it clear that it is okay to voice our struggles. Even if people don’t always understand our pain, we should be proud of ourselves for persevering.

3. “Dark Clouds” – Heize

“Dark Clouds” delves into what it’s like to have depression. Heize sings about not having the capacity to fake a smile for her friends, so she ignores their calls. Even though depression often feels unfair, numbing, and isolating, Heize takes the time to simply experience these emotions in “Dark Clouds.” She encourages everyone to do the same because ignoring the problem is never the answer, and sometimes, the only way out is through.

4. “Dear Me” – Taeyeon

In “Dear Me,” Taeyeon sings about being able to endure life’s rough patches because she has herself. This is a song that reminds us that even if we think there’s no one at our side, we’re never alone because we have ourselves. The sooner we learn to trust and love ourselves, the more we’ll be able to weather future storms.

5. “Breathe” – LEE HI

Throughout our lives, many of us have experienced pressures from society, our parents, our friends, and even ourselves. Lee Hi revealed that she suffered from a panic disorder from all of these pressures that made her feel like she was suffocating. She wrote “Breathe” to remind those of us who are exhausted or bogged down by these pressures that we will be okay. We’re all doing the best we can, so keep going.

6. “Happy” – WJSN

Just like the “Happy” lyrics say, sometimes we start believing that happiness is foreign or irrelevant to us. Or sometimes, it’s hard to feel happy because we don’t think we deserve to be happy. But WJSN reminds us that we’re allowed to be happy. They also talk about how celebrating their friends, being body positive, and choosing to be confident are all ways they’ve become happier.

7. “Ugly” – 2NE1

“Ugly” is relatable to anyone who has ever struggled with low self-esteem or confidence issues over their physical appearance. It can be easy to compare ourselves to others. We also often get sucked up in what society says beautiful people are supposed to look like. 2NE1 gives voice to these inner thoughts, which can be cathartic. But it’s important to remember that we all have value, even if we don’t look or feel like everyone else.

8. “Eternal Sunshine” – EPIK HIGH (Prod. SUGA of BTS)

EPIK HIGH is another group that has been fearless in tackling mental health issues, and “Eternal Sunshine” is no exception. In this song, Tablo and Mithra Jin rap about loneliness, anxiety, and insomnia. Throughout the track, they remind listeners that we shouldn’t feel pressured to always keep up with the steps of life—because life is difficult and riddled with problems. But you’re not alone in feeling this way, and therein lies the message of “Eternal Sunshine.”

9. “Clap” – SEVENTEEN

Like EPIK HIGH pointed out, life is hard. And SEVENTEEN agrees. “Clap” includes lyrics about everyday struggles like staining your white shirt or not having enough money on your metro card. But these setbacks shouldn’t stop us from experiencing the world. Even if it’s raining, there is still a melody to be found in the raindrops, so why not clap along?

10. “Voices” – Stray Kids

In “Voices,” Stray Kids encourages all of us to ignore the voices in our heads telling us to give up because we’re not good enough. Just like the lyrics say, we have to step out and break free from the voices in our heads because they’re not always credible sources nor are they always telling the truth. We are good enough and we can achieve our dreams.

11. “Wake Me Up” – B.A.P.

Both the song and the music video for “Wake Me Up” speak to some of the darkest moments in life. But even if we’re still trudging through these dark times, we can’t forget who we are. B.A.P. encourages listeners to believe in themselves and stay alert to how society tries to lead us astray.

12. “Whalien 52” – BTS

While BTS has quite a few songs about mental health, “Whalien 52” is immaculate, *chef’s kiss*. Due to the pandemic, most of us experienced a year of isolation and alienation, and “Whalien 52” speaks to this acute feeling of loneliness. But BTS also includes a message of hope: No matter how lonely we feel, keep singing—or trying to connect with others—because eventually, someone will hear our song.


13. “Crown” – TXT

“Crown” is about finding solace in ourselves—by accepting who we are, imperfections and all—and in our community, because our friends and family help to combat loneliness. Even though we all go through hard times, our experiences help shape us into something better, and TXT has decided to be proud of their experiences and wear them like a crown.

14. “Runaway” – Bobby

“Runaway” is relatable to anyone who has ever wanted to press the pause button on life. Like Bobby says, sometimes our mistakes feel like failures, and sometimes our responsibilities feel so burdensome. I think “Runaway” is a reminder that it’s okay to take a break, to stop and collect ourselves before getting back on the horse, so to speak. Our mistakes don’t define us and shouldn’t prevent us from moving forward.

15. “The Last” – Agust D

Depression, OCD, social anxiety, and self-hatred are all topics Agust D raps about in “The Last.” Though he talks about how he wishes he could hide his weak self, Agust D’s choice to be honest about his struggles with mental illness shows his strength as an individual and artist. In this way, he sets an example for all of us, proving that it’s okay to open up and be vulnerable because our weaknesses are often our strengths.

It’s okay to feel sad, and it’s okay to take some time for yourself. Prioritizing our mental health should be at the top of our to-do list each and every day.

But, every now and then, don’t forget to play ITZY’s entire discography, too! While it’s perfectly okay to feel blue, it’s also important to feel on top of the world from time to time—and ITZY always delivers.

Just remember, you’re not alone.

We see you, we hear you, and you’re loved for being your fully authentic self.

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Sexuality Health The Vulvasation

Dear misogynist TikTokers, stop giving me vagina advice

Vulvasations is a Tempest Love and Health exclusive series dedicated to spreading awareness about the female reproductive system, debunking myths about periods and dissecting everything vajayjay related. Let’s talk about vaginas!

TikTok is a lawless place. For the most part, I love this about the platform because it has helped so many people who are not often included in mainstream media share their voices, experiences, and stories to millions of people. But because TikTok has infamously lacked the rules and regulations of many other social media platforms, just about anyone can amass thousands upon thousands of views and likes for things that probably shouldn’t be viewed nor liked—nor even said aloud.

While the internet has made racists, transphobes, and xenophobes comfortable with spreading hate either anonymously or with little consequence, TikTok has exacerbated the problem by allowing people to assert their opinion without any credible basis. We could namedrop a variety of issues that have suffered from the spreading of misinformation across social media, but there’s one that I thought we had all laid to rest years ago.

I’m talking about vaginas and their odors and flavors.

Since downloading TikTok, I’ve seen immature men and misguided women make claims about what vaginas are supposed to smell and taste like. These videos boil my blood because they often shame people with vaginas for having vaginas that exude any sort of odor or flavor that isn’t palatable.

I wouldn’t want any of these TikTokers near my vagina to begin with. And the part of me that has learned how to identify garbage that hasn’t been taken out yet does not care one single iota what these people think is palatable. Spoiler alert: it’s probably exclusively dinosaur chicken nuggets and fruit snacks (there’s nothing wrong with either unless this is all you eat).

However, I am most concerned for these women who are regurgitating misogyny. Thus, this is a situation that calls for education.

So, what should a healthy vagina smell and taste like?

For starters, it should smell. Normal odors include fragrances that are metallic, bittersweet, bleachy, tangy, fermented, or sour. Menstrual cycles, bacterial flora, fluctuating pH balances, or discharge can all be attributed to these smells—and all are perfectly normal. In fact, you want your vagina to produce any of these odors because that means your vagina is doing its job.

Similarly, your vagina might taste metallic, salty, or sour, and again, that’s perfectly normal. Our vaginas spend most of their time experiencing all the activities we go about during our day. This can give them hints of sweat, musk, and body odor, which is nothing to be ashamed about.


Hear what they’re saying #learnontiktok #womenshealth #femaleempowerment #femalanatomy #femininehygieneroutine

♬ Blinding Lights – The Weeknd

What your vagina should not smell or taste like is flowers or fruit. It also shouldn’t smell or taste fishy or rotten because that means you could have bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, or even a case of forgotten tampon.

The takeaway is that your vagina should smell and taste like a vagina. If someone has a problem with that, then you can point them to the nearest bodega or grocery store because they’re probably craving something from the produce aisle and not whatever fun was to be had in the bedroom.

Like most products designed to target women, these TikToks are just trying to make those of us with vaginas feel bad about ourselves. But they’ll have to get in line behind all the other people, brands, and governments working on this nefarious plotline.

The next time you run into one of these TikTokers, just know they are simply airing their dirty laundry on the Internet. Maybe we should thank them for waving their red flags publicly and warning all of us with vaginas that they hate us and our bodies.

But don’t worry, vagina-shaming TikTokers. I hate you, too.

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Health Science Now + Beyond

How scientific journalism caused, and healed, my hypochondria

TW: Discussion of mental health, cancer, illness.

Do I have cancer? Cancer symptoms? How do you know if you have cancer? As a sophomore in high school, I would Google questions like this day after day. I remember the anxiety rushing through my head, only worsened by the WebMD articles informing me that, yes, I did indeed have cancer. It took me a year to realize that I was wrong, but it was a long and stressful year.

At this point in my life, I wasn’t particularly educated on health or my body. I had taken health class in school, but we learned very little about our own bodies, and even when we did, it was vague and uninformative. In all five years of health class, we only learned about cancer once. My teacher told me that the primary signs were uneven lumps, unusual discharge, and wounds that won’t heal. At this point, I was convinced I had cancer.

Or so I thought I did. Totally ignorant about the functioning of my own body, I mistook my normal, healthy vaginal discharge for a clean sign of cancer. Once I took into account an odd (but benign) birthmark, a stubborn tonsil infection, and a few small cuts and bruises that wouldn’t go away, and I was certain that I had late-stage cancer. My stress over my apparent illness led to heart palpitations and migraines, which I took as signs that the cancer was spreading.

It probably sounds ridiculous. I agree that it does. It was only later, when I found out about hypochondriasis, that I understood what was happening to me.

To those who don’t know, hypochondriasis is a psychological disorder in which one develops chronic hypochondria. A person with hypochondriasis will assume that they are ill with a serious disease when they are not, and mistake any small ailment for a sign of a larger problem. Many people have experienced hypochondria, but for those of us with hypochondriasis, the anxiety is constant, chronic, and life-altering.

Anything can bring on a bout of hypochondria. For me, it was news articles about strange new diseases that could threaten one’s life or clickbait articles about sure signs of cancer. I’d find some way to match my own symptoms to the ones described, and subsequently spiral. It wasn’t an easy time.

However, I am proud to say that I eventually pulled through. Finally talking to my family about my symptoms helped me understand that my illnesses were normal and not life-threatening. When I eventually faced a serious illness earlier this year, my hypochondria all but disappeared. Once I understood what a serious illness felt like, nothing else could compare.

My hypochondria was a result of my health curriculum, “educational” health websites such as WebMD and “scientific” clickbait. However, science and medicine journalism also helped heal me. Whenever I’d have heartburn or a migraine, I’d calm myself down by reading about the actual mundane causes of these issues. I eventually came to realize that my “symptoms” were not at all symptoms of heart disease or cancer, but very common minor ailments.

Most of my health issues were stress-related, and once I realized this, I finally began to heal. I haven’t had a serious migraine or heart palpitations in a year now. I can thank my scientific research for this, but I can also thank my own strength. Understanding genuine medicine was a catalyst for me, but working on my mental health was just as important.

I still struggle with hypochondriasis, but I find myself improving every day. Mental illnesses don’t disappear overnight, but I’m learning to work through them and learn from them. In the midst of the pandemic, my lived experience is actually quite a blessing. Many of my friends and family members are now struggling with hypochondria themselves, and I’m able to help them work through their anxiety. It’s never easy, but I’ve found myself not only starting to heal, but also help heal others.

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Health News Coronavirus Europe The World

Clapping has become the UK government’s new and absurd way to deal with national crisises

It’s no secret that the pandemic has been unprecedented. It has had an impact on every aspect of our lives and in some ways, completely changed the way we behave. Across the globe, governments have responded in extremely different ways. Islands like New Zealand and Australia immediately closed their borders. Countries in mainland Europe followed suit, however the long-term upkeep has been difficult.

As an island, I expected the UK to follow suit and close its borders. You cannot access the UK unless you sail or fly so it didn’t seem like an unreasonable response, however, the government is incompetent. And so, here we are one year on from the first cases detected in the UK and our NHS (National Health Service) is struggling, infection rates are rising, and we are in and out of lockdowns more than high schoolers in relationships.

The NHS was implemented after the Second World War to provide free healthcare to British and later EU citizens. To say it has been a lifesaver would not be giving it enough credit. So many of us in the UK would not be here without the NHS – and a future without it seems unimaginable.

So, how does the government deal with such a crucial institution during the time of a pandemic? Increase its funds? No. By clapping.

During the years before the pandemic, the Conservative government systematically cut funding to both the NHS and its workers. By the time the pandemic hit, the system was not in a place where it was able to cope with the increasing demand.

Junior doctors had been striking against increased hours without higher pay and the government refused to grant them better working conditions. Last March, both the NHS and the government put out the call asking for retired staff to come back to help- and they did en masse.

In appreciation, the government raised the salary of career politicians and began clapping weekly to show some gratitude to medical practitioners. The Covid cases, especially in the North of England, were rising steadily with well over 2,000,000 cases. The reproductive rate in the North of England had reached 1.5 – yet the government did not act.

It reached such a low point that a 100-year-old man, Sir Captain Tom Moore, an otherwise ordinary citizen who had fought in the Second World War, walked around his garden over the Summer as a means to raise money for the NHS. His goal was to raise £1000 by his 100th birthday, yet on the morning of his birthday, it was reported that he had raised well over £30 million. The NHS is not a charity, it does not depend on the donations of the public to keep going. The fact that a regular citizen felt compelled to raise money in this manner is awful. The work done by Sir Captain Tom Moore was amazing and he should be commended for it but it should not have been needed.

A few days ago, Sir Captain Tom Moore died from Covid-19; and in true British fashion, the government organized a national clap for him. Sir Tom was born prior to the creation of the NHS and had seen the suffering of a country without a national healthcare system firsthand. It is disrespectful to his memory that the UK government chose performative appreciation over actually helping the NHS in his memory.

The NHS is probably one of the only things Britain has to be proud of. The lack of care by the Government for the people who are the most vulnerable is pathetic. To suggest that the way to show appreciation is through clapping is insulting. So many frontline workers have put their lives on the line and haven’t received anything from the Government. The pandemic has near enough crippled the UK, at the time of writing, there were over 3,911,573 cases of COVID-19. With the 3rd lockdown in force, many self-employed and small business owners are struggling to provide for their families yet the Government are more interested in clapping than bringing an end to the pandemic.

The clapping needs to stop, and the Government needs to act.


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Work Now + Beyond

My boss’s constant gaslighting made me question my sanity

Gaslighting is commonly associated with romantic relationships. However, this form of abuse is present everywhere, especially at work. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, gaslighting involves psychological manipulation and/or emotional abuse to exert power or gain control. I did not realize gaslighting at work existed until this summer. I found myself in a very bizarre situation where I was constantly subjected to manipulation and found myself under immense stress and self-doubt.

I worked at an organization that I believed would value and empower me because that is what the organization claims to promote. Just after a few weeks though, I began doubting the quality of my work and felt terrible most of the time. Gaslighters will have you constantly question your self-worth to prevent you from succeeding.  It is up to you to set boundaries to protect your mental health and sense of self-worth. Always remember nothing is more important than your mental health.

Get rewarded for everyday activity. $10 sign on bonus.

I remember feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work I had. I was struggling to strike a balance between work and other commitments. It is commonplace to feel like that once in a while, isn’t it? Well apparently for gaslighters there is no room for validation or empathy. I communicated my feelings to my supervisor who instantly dismissed my feelings and expressed her dissatisfaction with me. It got to a point where I doubted my own sanity. I almost accepted that I was at fault and perhaps incapable of handling tasks effectively.

However, I was fortunate enough to have supportive colleagues who stepped in to rescue me from a toxic situation. Gaslighters will negate your feelings and opinions and instead insist that their approach is always correct.

I did not let this experience define me and neither should you.

It is difficult to identify gaslighters or gaslighting but if you have ever doubted your capabilities or sanity at work then you have probably been a victim of gaslighting. Gaslighters are very smart! They tend to pass on judgments and passive-aggressive comments under the guise of well-intentioned feedback or support. 

Gaslighting is more frequent at work because it is a competitive environment and everyone just wants to excel. It is, however, also underreported because the victim usually ends up thinking it is his or her fault. Working with a gaslighting boss or colleagues can become demeaning and undermine your self-confidence. It aids negativity, which can seep into your personal life as well as push you out of your preferred career.

Every once in a while, it is alright for your boss or colleague to disagree with you. But if it occurs recurrently and you find yourself second-guessing your choices all the time, you are probably being gaslighted. Confusing you makes them feel correct. They may even drop back-handed compliments to maintain an upper hand.

I personally believe people that people gaslight at work due to a lack of self-confidence and assurance. Undermining other people’s credibility reduces their chances of getting ahead. This in turn makes the gaslighter feel in control or powerful. It has been proven by research that gaslighters tend to have low self-esteem. Their behaviors make them assume a sense of power or control.

In order to ascertain whether you are being gaslighted or not look out for recurrent behavioral patterns that are confusing you. If you constantly find yourself perplexed and doubt your abilities, you are being gaslighted – trust your instincts. Do not allow your boss or colleagues’ behavior to take over you. 

Sometimes speaking to a trusted colleague can help. I was lucky enough to have trust-worthy and supportive colleagues that I vented out to. They stepped in to make sure I was doing alright and reminded me that my work was valued.

There is little conversation about gaslighting at work but it is extremely prevalent and dangerous. It can demotivate people and push them out of their chosen careers. It is important that you figure out whether or not you are being gaslighted. Once you are sure, try to keep a record of all your interactions with the gaslighter. Take screenshots of emails and messages. That is what I did! This is especially important if you plan to report the case to your management or HR.

Always remember nothing is more important than your mental health.

In my experience, a confrontation with the gaslighter never goes well. They will not listen to you and instead throw unwarranted arguments at you. It is best to get support from a management team or HR. It was difficult for me to get any form of help because my gaslighter was at the very top. Albeit, it was a testing experience but I held my ground. I did not let this experience define me and neither should you.

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Reproductive Rights Love + Sex Love

I’m 35 & don’t want kids —but I had to fight my doctor to get a hysterectomy

I was thirty-two years old when Caitlin Moran set me free.

I was sitting on the toilet in my tiny apartment in rural Platteville, Wisconsin, a town I’d moved to get some thinking and reading and writing done, a town where that’s about all you can do. At that particular moment, I was reading Moran’s astonishing book of essays, How To Be A Woman. The line which blew the locks off the mental cage I didn’t know I was inhabiting were as follows:

“We need more women who are allowed to prove their worth as people, rather than being assessed merely for their potential to create new people.”  

I sat bolt upright when I read that. Then I read it again. I couldn’t believe the sensation of openness and freedom that passage gave me—I wanted to grab a penknife and carve it into every doorframe in my house. More than freedom, those words gave me something I hadn’t realized I’d wanted: permission.

Let me explain.

If you are a woman in 2018, even if you are lucky enough to have a relatively feminist family, you’ll be endlessly prompted by friends, co-workers, even well-meaning strangers to fulfill a checklist: Home. Marriage. Children.

For women who hesitate before bubbling in that final, permanent choice on the “Are You a Good Woman?” test, there are a few helpful prods that others will administer:

You shouldn’t wait to have children! You never know how long it will take. (Note how deftly this timing-focused prod evades the issue of whether children are even wanted.)

He would make such a good father. (Note that the questioner will never ask the man in question if he is interested in being a father. That’s not what this is about.)

You should have children. It’s selfish not to. I already have [number]. What’s the big deal? (Misery loves company.)

And finally, the checkmate in the chess match women play against each other and themselves: What if you don’t, and then regret it?

This is the goad that got under my skin. I would poke myself with it—are you sure? Are you really sure?—at intervals, trying to awaken maternal instincts that remained stubbornly dormant. Wondering if, like a punitive O. Henry story, I would suddenly discover a ravenous yearning for babies at the exact moment my body lost the ability to conceive them. In the meanwhile, I continued gamely testing myself for parental abilities: working as a camp counselor. Teaching. Gingerly holding babies on my knee. Crucially, however, I never felt an urge to parent—either by conception or adoption, regardless of my parent friends’ breezy assurances that “when it comes to your own kids, you’ll feel differently.” The light switch stayed resolutely off.

Cut back to me, still sitting on the toilet in Platteville, Wisconsin, my legs steadily going numb, every neuron in my head alight. I felt like I’d found a doorway to Narnia in my closet; like an exam, I was dreading had been canceled. When Moran wrote that motherhood offered “nothing you couldn’t get from, say, reading the 100 greatest books in human history; learning a foreign language well enough to argue in it; climbing hills; loving recklessly; sitting quietly, alone, in the dawn; drinking whiskey with revolutionaries; learning to do close-hand magic; swimming in a river in winter […]” I got excited. I started thinking about all the books I could read, the books I could write. I imagined a room full of the embroidery supplies I love, stacked in a colorful array. I thought about visiting all the countries on my bucket list: Vietnam, Iceland, New Zealand, Scotland.

I wanted to do all of those things, and I wanted to do them now.

First, though, I’d have to get up off the can.

Cut to two years later.

I’ve packed up my life and my apartment and moved to Boston, a city containing jobs and opportunities and, crucially, the man I’ve been low-key in love with for my entire adult life. In a happy, if statistically improbable, coincidence, he’s fallen in love with me, too. We snag a tiny apartment in the city and are deliriously happy together. I write every day. I’ve started saving for travel. I even have a respectable embroidery collection. Thrilled that my gambit has paid off, I make one final attempt… at being a Good Woman. I sit my man down for a talk.

“Listen. I’m pretty sure that, if it were just me alone, I’d never have a kid. But for you, with you, I would happily have a child if you wanted one. Do you want kids?”

He looks at me like I am out of my mind. “Babe. No.”

“Are you sure? Are you really sure?” I ask. (I am getting good at asking this.) “You can think about it!”

He doesn’t have to think about it. In fact, he’s thinking about getting a vasectomy. “So we can stop spending all our money on birth control.”

Well then. I marvel at how easily he’s made this decision, how untroubled he is by the possibility of regret—when pressed, he shrugs. “If we regret it, we’ll adopt. I always thought I’d make a better uncle than a dad, anyway.” His unfazed attitude, I realize, is what making the baby decision looks like when you’re unencumbered by a lifetime of other people’s expectations. This is how not big a deal the decision can be—when you’re a man.

Back in the world of women, things aren’t so easy.

While the vasectomy has taken care of my immediate birth control needs, I’m still stuck dealing with howling menstrual cramps every month, plus a family inheritance: poorly located uterine fibroids, which make cervical dilation impossible. My uterus is like a lobster pot—easy for sperm to get in, impossible for anything larger than a sperm to get in or out.

If (God forbid) I am raped, or my man’s vasectomy turns out to be imperfect, I will be looking at a reduced array of options for abortion (maybe none, depending on the political winds), and a guaranteed C-section at the end of the hypothetical pregnancy I don’t want. I grouse about all this to my OB/GYN, who makes supportive noises until I say the magic words: “Fertility isn’t something I care about maintaining.”

Suddenly, she looks up from her computer screen.

“Wait. If you really don’t want kids, and you’re sure, there are more options.”

And that’s when I decided I was done being asked that question.

Cut to me, being cut open. Laparoscopic hysterectomy means a few things: a cluster of postage-stamp-sized incisions across your abdominal muscles. The removal of your uterus through some tiny tubes. (Assuming your ovaries aren’t giving you trouble, you get to keep those—the days of automatic ovarian removal, with attendant lifelong hormone replacement, are long gone.) The sudden realization of how much you use your abdominal muscles for everything. And no periods, cramps, or need for birth control, ever again.

I’m writing this with a hot pad across my lap. Ten days out from my hysterectomy, I’m still a little sore. Snow shoveling is right out. But my mind is at peace. I’ve finally realized that the sharp stick I used to poke myself with—“Are you sure? Are you really sure?” was just a way to distract myself from the fact that I already knew what I wanted. I just had to gain the courage to name my desire.

So: maybe you’re stuck in a cage. Maybe you already secretly know what you want, too. Know this:

You are enough.

You don’t have to make another person to earn your spot on this big beautiful earth.

You are enough.

You can do the thing yourself—write the novel, make the movie, start the peace process, build the supercomputer. You don’t have to raise someone else and hope they accomplish it instead. The terrifying, wonderful news is that they won’t. That’s your desire, to fulfill or not. And guess what?

You are enough.

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Sexuality The Vulvasation Love + Sex Love

I can’t have sex. Here’s what it’s like

Vulvasations is a Tempest Love exclusive series dedicated to spreading awareness about the female reproductive system, debunking myths about periods and dissecting everything vajayjay related. Let’s talk about vaginas!

I was twelve when I first heard the word “hymen” in a sexual education class. It was advertised as a “vaginal cloak” that would be broken the first time a girl would have sex.

I’m from Texas and therefore received abstinence-only sex education. Virginity was a woman’s virtue and a ~prized possession~. 

Personally, I never bought into the idealization of virginity because sex was always irrelevant to me. I wasn’t waiting until marriage, but I wasn’t planning on doing it in high school either. Little did I know that not only did I not want to have sex, I biologically couldn’t have it.

I was confident in my decision to not have sex until I found out that it was never my decision; my body had already decided for me. 

I realized that my body was averse to any form of penetration.

I could never use a tampon or handle any form of penetration without excruciating pain. It was almost as if my vaginal muscles would slam shut at the thought of it. I chalked it up to being nervous and spoke to my doctor about it.

For years, she told me that I was probably just nervous and should opt for thinner tampons. Despite using the thinnest tampons on the market, I still couldn’t get them in. 

Eventually, I realized that my body was averse to any form of penetration, not just tampons, so there had to be another reason for my pain. Finally, my doctor confirmed that this was abnormal and referred me to a gynecologist this summer.

When I first realized how severe my problem was, I thought it was vaginismus (an involuntary spasming of the vaginal muscles in response to a fear of penetration).

I refused to leave my room for three days and mentally spiraled while trying to figure out how I was going to cope with the idea of never being able to have pain-free sex.

Going to a gynecologist at a young age only exacerbated this as I did not like being poked and prodded by a doctor, especially vaginally. After a painful gynecological exam, I was diagnosed with a hymenal abnormality (microperforate hymen).

I had a lot of abnormally thick tissue covering my vaginal opening with an opening about the size of a sesame seed for menstrual blood to come out of (nothing could go in). Surgery (hymenectomy) was my only option to remove the tissue.  

Eventually, I underwent the surgery and was fortunate enough to receive a hormonal IUD at the same time. While my recovery was gruesome, I was optimistic about finally being able to use tampons and have a normal sex life. Unfortunately, I was in over my head. I felt like I was being cut in half during my gynecological follow-up appointment.

The severed nerve endings from the incision site were angered by the surgery, so penetration was still unbearably painful. She suggested that I start vaginal dilator therapy to condition my vagina to relax and habituate to the sensation of penetration. While dilators are tube-shaped medical devices that increase in size, my body perceives them as giant wooden stakes.

The only thing more painful than having to undergo vaginal surgery and dilator therapy was having to explain all of it to my conservative, Indian mother.

Sexual health is still taboo in India, especially for unmarried women. Often, society treats the vagina as a holy space that should not be entered until marriage by a woman’s husband.

My mother had never heard of a dilator and was traumatized after hearing about what she interpreted as “medically-prescribed masturbation”. Thankfully, she is more progressive than most Indian mothers and was somewhat supportive of my surgery because it was medically-necessitated.

Currently, I am three months post-operation and I am still working on dilation. While I cannot have painless sex yet, I have worked my way to the 4th dilator out of 8. This is tremendous progress for my body considering that I couldn’t handle a finger 2 months ago.

I have been able to use marijuana extract (CBD) formulated for sexual use to subdue my vaginal and vulvar nerve endings into relaxing enough to allow for certain forms of penetration, or as my friends like to say, I get my vagina high with vagina weed

While my vaginal journey has been traumatizing, it’s also forced me to confront a culturally tabooed part of my body. Prior to surgery, I couldn’t even say the word “vagina” without blushing.

Here I am now, telling the whole world how I get mine stoned every night. 

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Food & Drinks Life

Cooking makes me feel guilty about food and here’s why

One hot summer afternoon, a hollow void was growing where my stomach had been. I was starving but had been putting off rectifying it after consulting the kitchen cabinets and finding nothing that I could eat with zero cooking. Even the early-2000’s America’s Next Top Model could not distract me and I began to feel lightheaded.

I could easily fry some paratha and be more or less satisfied but thinking of all that oil on the sizzling pan made me feel sick. From the corner of my eye, I spied an unopened box of couscous. Somehow, I had the patience to let the water boil before I poured in the couscous, adding in the tiniest pinch of salt. I brought half a bowl’s worth of plain couscous with me and returned to my little nook on the couch. 

The thought and act of cooking are certainly daunting for me.

It wasn’t laziness that had caused me to be this way. Well, not entirely. Preparing food is always perceived as such a technical and calming thing. Some people even plan their days around exciting meals. Yet, there is actually a recognized phobia of cooking that comes in many forms, ranging from the fear of following recipes to the fear of harming one’s self in the process.

I am not entirely sure if what I experience is a medical phobia, but the thought and act of cooking are certainly daunting for me. One on hand, I may be internally defying forced gender roles by refusing to be good at an act traditionally taken on by women. However, I know the real reason is something far more complicated and twisted.

When I’m in the kitchen, I am hyper-aware of the ingredients that are being put into my food and feel almost sick to my stomach. I can’t bring myself to follow recipes correctly because who knew everything needed so much butter? I skim down on the ‘unhealthy’ ingredients when I cook, and predictably, the food doesn’t turn out right.

Now, don’t get me wrong, while I have tried tracking what I eat, I mostly allow myself to indulge in food that I enjoy. Yet, in order to do that, I have to adopt a sort of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mindset. I don’t want to see how my food is being prepared so that I don’t feel as guilty when consuming it. Knowing how much sugar went into it is sure to make me feel too distressed to eat it. When I don’t see it, I can fool myself into thinking it’s not a big deal. It is a coping mechanism I need.

Preparing food for myself triggers something toxic within me. If I am being honest with myself, I am scared that it will blossom into a condition that is more serious. Right now, I am just wary of cooking for myself. Yet, it could escalate into being more strict with calories, or skipping meals completely. I know I can’t continue having this relationship with food. I am holding myself back from enjoying life by refusing to be self-sufficient in this simple way. 

My own self-esteem issues were manifesting in the way I cook– or rather, refused to cook, impairing my lifestyle.

Acknowledging this behavior of mine has been crucial to overcoming it. Having someone cook alongside me as helped to ground me in reality and hold me accountable. A friend had told me, “Well, like it nor not, we need to add butter otherwise the carrot cake will be a sad brick.” Their words are brutally honest and correct. Why bother cooking if I am going to consciously mess it up anyway?

But more than that, recognizing the source of my cooking-induced anxiety is important in defeating it. While I could dismiss ANTM as a silly, ironic pastime, it does wire my brain a certain way. The bodies that these shows promote or bash creep up on me. These things subliminally plaster onto my mind, without me even consciously recognizing them. In an era of self-love, it may be difficult to recognize the self-criticism that lurks beneath. My own self-esteem issues were manifesting in the way I cook– or rather, refused to cook, impairing my lifestyle.

I know it will take a while for me to unplug the wires and reset them. With time, I hope to confidently cook food that I will enjoy without breaking a sweat about the amount of butter in the recipe. Continuing to learn how to cook can break me out of this cycle of guilt. While I don’t think I will get to the culinary level of needing a personalized apron, I am hopeful to see where this journey takes me.  

Culture Life Stories Life

Getting married means that my Pakistani parents have to bribe my new in-laws

Stepping into your twenties holds different meanings for different people. For some, it might mean entering a professional life and for others entering a newlywed arrangement.

If you’re a mature Pakistani girl who has crossed the pubertal barrier, you automatically qualify for Holy Matrimony.

And with that “milestone,” your parents begin to lay the groundwork for finding and providing for their daughter’s new family.

From furniture to utensils to the most meager of tangible items, the parents present an ‘ethical bribe’ to ensure that their daughter measures up to the required standard of acceptance.

If you’re “of age,” you automatically qualify for Holy Matrimony.

As a 23-year-old female in modern Pakistani society, I question all such detestable vices. Having given birth, raised and nurtured day after day to become a civilized individual, how much more do my parents have to sacrifice just because they are responsible for a female offspring?

And who provides the assurance of a blissful married life after having fulfilled these norms?

No one.

And if ‘God forbid’ this act of compensation falls short, the poor girl is subjected to a lifetime of scoffing and contempt.

Her whole existence is measured up by how much she can provide to her in-laws at the time of marriage.

Personally, I believe this ritual has become a sort of plague. The never-ending chain of expectation.

I was taught two things: self-reliance and tenacity.

I often hear elderly women eagerly gossiping about their daughter-in-law on the account of  ‘who brought what’ in terms of dowry. And having once been a newlywed themselves, they wear a mask of oblivion when it comes to someone else’s daughter.

I was raised as an only child and lived a solitary life.

I was taught two things: self-reliance and tenacity. My father fostered me to become self-sufficient in everything I did and that no one can truly undermine a woman’s worth without her consent.

Setting foot into 2019, this age of renaissance, where art, poetry, literature, and science are at their pinnacle, our greatest concern should be self-improvement and progression.

Let alone hoarding up on meaningless and mundane material gains.

The day we decide to mold our thinking is the day when the world around us will change, massively. It is not a subject of taking action, rather, it’s a matter of perspective.

A minute frame-shift of attitude can alter the life of today’s woman by leaps and bounds.

I put forward this question: who bears the responsibility of judging someone’s daughter by the weight of her baggage?


The ‘vegetarian’ label is exclusive and it’s holding us back

For a while, I had been exclusively vegetarian. I would say vegan, but sometimes when the barista added a dash of cow’s milk into my latte, I would still drink it. The way I saw it, it was more wasteful to have them toss it out and make a new order. Funny enough, this change into vegetarianism didn’t come out of a wish to be more sustainable or healthy. I ‘converted’ after a trip to New Orleans. My friends and I had consumed so much meat and fatty foods – gotta love Southern comfort food! – that it physically pained me to look at any more for months afterward.

I stuck to it for a while, even venturing into veganism. I admit – although it sounds preachy – I felt so much better physically after that change. My body thanked me for finally listening to its lactose intolerance.

This new vegetarian lifestyle was drastically harder to keep up when I was over at someone’s house, or when at the end of the year, I got back home from college. I was out of my own space and now into someone else’s. It was suddenly rude for me to decline any kebab platters, as delicious as it all smelled. “You’ve gone back to being a picky eater?” my mother would sigh, defeated. Everyone else on the table looked at me strangely, I didn’t understand until my sister said to me, “Stop making us feel bad. We can’t just eat leaves.”

Not eating meat was offensive to them because of the culture of vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. Just think of the big signs with the words ‘MEAT IS MURDER’ – that was what I looked like to my family. I tried to justify myself, “I am not like that. I don’t care what you eat. I’m just trying out being vegetarian.” But it still felt the same.

Eventually, my willpower wavered. I was tired of eating the same salads. No wonder it seemed like such a tough switch. This was the only meat-free dish most people can think of. I was also too lazy to try and cook up something of my own. So one evening, during a family barbecue, I ate more than just roasted sweet potatoes. I reached for a chicken skewer. Truthfully, it was absolutely delicious. I had missed it. My sister was beside herself with joy, “Look, you’re normal again.” But I felt so guilty. All of my vegetarian resolve went down the drain. I needed to toss away my ‘vegetarian’ tag. It was all over.

But that shouldn’t be the case. The way we’ve been approaching vegetarian and vegan eating is all wrong. The way we eat shouldn’t be all or nothing – either you are a meat-loving carnivore with steak for every meal or you eat asparagus and celery exclusively. Who said that it had to be that way? Neither is healthy nor sustainable in the long run. 

There are so many people who watch documentaries about the meat and dairy industry and swear to themselves that they will stay away from it all, their current eating habits will be ‘no more’. And honestly, that’s a justified response. Just take a look at my current favorite documentary on Netflix, “What the Health”. While the filmmaker sometimes exaggerates to make his point, it remains really eye-opening. Exposing the dirty cover-ups that health organizations and meat/dairy industries are involved with just to earn money made me feel justified in my attempts to be vegetarian. It’s just a cold, hard fact that our bodies can’t properly consume dairy and that we aren’t meant to eat this much meat. 

That doesn’t mean we all go cold turkey (how ironic), because as I’ve experienced, it’s difficult to keep that up. That’s without going into how it’s way more expensive to eat meat-free. Cutting out meat and dairy (to some extent) is a difficult transition. Going vegetarian or vegan all at once can make it seem really hard for us to eat sustainably. But, it’s all about balance.

Easing ourselves into it can be the way to go for the future, for our health and the wellbeing of our world. It’s not all-or-nothing. And eating habits shouldn’t be all about labels. Once I began eating chicken, I spaced it out so I would only eat it every other week. At least it was something, an attempt to be more health-conscious and environmentally sustainable. 

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