Just journal your pain away
We can't help you, but here's some homework
Here’s a quick quiz. What is the above advice, screenshotted from a women’s health site, supposed to help a reader get through?
A. Grief from a pregnancy loss
B. The complicated feelings re: identity during menopause
C. Endometriosis pain
D. Recovering from a hysterectomy
Trick question! In this case, journaling is being offered as a tool to help you not criticize your body too much during the IVF process.
Here’s another one. This is some women’s health advice from a press release I’ve gotten recently:
Q: What particular women’s situation do you think the mindfulness will help?
D: Obviously, some other trick answer because this gag is already old.
The answer is D! Here, being mindful will help you stop being such a bitch about menopause. Not kidding. More from the press release: “Instead of obsessing about hot flashes or your other menopausal symptoms, why not try having a more positive mindset?” Then the release included “five” tips to cultivate a more positive mindset with “stay present” and “meditate” among the other “tips” which I guess are different from “mindfulness.”
I am not here to dump on meditation or journaling in general because they do help—sometimes, for some things, for some people. After I gave birth to my first son, despite not having had a real night’s rest for like four nights, I couldn’t fall asleep until I wrote down every single detail of what just occurred to me. And we all can benefit from quiet offline time, from deep breathing. Meditation is great if you like it and you have time for it.
But what I am here to dump on is when some sort of health source or expert wants to give or sell you advice re: women’s health, but there isn’t much to give, so they tack on bullshit fill-in suggestions that vague DIY semi-woo “self-care” can help your specific situation.
It’s such a joke how little is understood about our health and what a non-priority it is. I’m working on an upcoming issue about why so many mothers’ labors were induced feel blindsided by the experience, and something crazy I guess I knew but didn’t really know is that we still don’t know what truly causes people to go into labor. The process that populates the earth that every human ever came from. Still haven’t cracked that nut. I mean, who are we to know, I guess 🤷
To be sure, at worst, self-reflection and quiet time never hurt anybody, so on its surface, these types of suggestions aren’t harmful. Minor bullshittery at worst. But come across enough instances of mindless, repetitive wellness-related platitudes about journaling, mindfulness, presentness and meditation to help every problem, it starts to take on certain undertones. Undertones like “We don’t have real advice but here’s a little bone for you, lady,” Or “We know what we’re saying is not actual advice but who really cares anyway?” “Or “You’re probably not smart enough to realize this is bullshit.” Or even “You figure it out.” Why are you bothering a doctor if you haven’t found time to fit in a consistent meditation practice? If you just journal regularly enough and then pore through your journals, you’ll find the thing that will fix your pain or solve your problem.
As I looked at another mature women’s health app (sorry to say this is one I worked on, although I didn’t do any of this particular spinning), meditation/mindfulness are also offered as ways to help with these other issues that, coincidentally there is just still not a lot of actual knowledge about:
How to have better sex (with a partner, not alone, natch)
Why your weight loss efforts have stalled
Getting “your body ready to conceive”
Painful period cramps
Managing endometriosis pain
Dealing with polycystic ovary syndrome
I laughed about this phenomenon with a colleague last year as she and I worked on some copy for a different women’s health project, and we tried our hardest to take out platitudes like “You may experience any number of feelings” re: basically any health concern.
The issue is that these articles about how to deal with your lady health problems would be too short if they were realistic. In many cases, the lists of tips would be this long:
Have lucky genes
Have money and good insurance and be generally fortunate
If experts, medical professionals, journalists, marketers etc, do need to pad their helpful stories with content to justify selling their products and services, they might as well just be more realistic about advice that doesn’t actively help and at least switch to giving advice that really improves your life instead of gives you shit to do:
“Journal” —> Read celebrity gossip
“Meditate” —> Take a nap
“Be mindful” —> Be mindless
“Be present” —> Leave
“Cultivate a more positive mindset” —> Feel free to be a bigger bitch
Just remember that you may experience any number of feelings. Not to get too clinical about it or anything.
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The Evil Witches archives live here. Some issues people have enjoyed cover the radical act of wanting to sleep, what “taking care of yourself” means to people in a crisis, and living merrily with preteen girls.
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