BODY VOL. 1
EDITING STAFF Editor-In-Chief Kenzie Aellig
Managing Editor KK Interchuck
Photo Editor Avery Wilcox
Copy Editor Lyn Brook
Online Editor Tèo Mata
Social Media Editor Justin Garcia
STAFF WRITERS Mariana Garrick Nicole Gonzales Saskia Hatvany Ximena Loeza Cash Martinez Gia Opsahl Fernando Pacheco Hunter Troy
STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERS Elizabeth Agazaryan Amaya Edwards Morgan Ellis Paris Galarza Garrett Isley Cameron Lee
TABLE OF CONTENTS Letter from the editor p.4-5 / How to Participate in Sexual Self-Care and Wellness p.6-17 / Healing the Mind, Body and Soul after a Breakup p. 18-27 / Neurodivergent in a Neurotypical World p. 28-35 / Tailoring Trash into Treasure p. 36-47 / Zoom Fatigue: The Physical Impact of Prolonged Virtual Meetings p. 48-55 / Competing for a Body p. 56-63 / A Reflection on Body Image p. 64-77 / Living with Endometriosis: ‘It’s Your Worst Nightmare’ p. 78-85 /
I am so beyond pleased - proud, anxious, sleep-deprived and thrilled - to present the very first issue of Xpress for the Fall 2021 semester. As I prepared to take on the role of editor-in-chief this semester, I thought a lot about how to best represent our staff and readers. This body of people editors, writers, photographers, readers - presents such different identities, thoughts, and experiences. What brings us together as one community? How do we, as a group of people, relate to one another and find common ground in our individuality? I chose conceptual themes for each of our four issues - the first of which is “body” - in hopes that my staff would be able to see their identities and interests represented in each issue and tell stories of importance to their respective communities. We begin with the conceptual theme of body as a challenge for us all to question the definition of the word. What constitutes a body? Is it physical identity? Does it relate to our abilities? Our health? Our sexuality? Or perhaps, it has nothing to do with us as individuals at all. We may interpret body as a community of people, the structures and organizations that build us up or tear us apart. Working with such an intimate team of editors, writers, and photographers has taught me that body can also be the people that hold us together and create a sense of belonging. As we began to create this first issue along the theme of body, we were also in the beginning stages of forming a close-knit team. Many of us had met before, whether in person or online, and many were meeting for the first time. We were learning each other, learning how to work together, in order to build a cohesive team. While we worked on the issue of body we also grew closer as a body - a team, a staff, a family. This body - our body - has worked tirelessly over the past four weeks to present, what we believe, fully captures the essence of the word. We can only hope you see a reflection of yourself, too, in the virtually glossy pages of the first Fall 2021 issue of Xpress. Kenzie Aellig Editor-in-Chief
6 Photograph by Garrett Isley.
How to Participate in Sexual Self-Care and Wellness By Gia Opsahl Taking care of your sexual health is one of the most important steps in your self-care routine. Bringing yourself in to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) may feel like the most embarrassing process in the world, but the truth is, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. If you’re not sure of where to start or if you should get tested, start by embracing your sexual health and ditching the self-shame.
How do you know if you have an STD/STI? If you’re sexually active, you’re more prone to contracting an STI than you may believe. In a recent study done by the CDC, it was reported that one in five people in the U.S. has an STI. “It’s a little bit more Russian roulette than people like to think,” said Nicole Benjamin, a public health nurse for Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency. Benjamin noted she was not authorized to speak for the agency but does have 20 years of experience.
Benjamin explains it’s not about how many people someone has slept with or who they’ve slept with, which is a stigma that still heavily weighs on society today. It’s important to know that in most cases, STIs are usually asymptomatic while STDs are not. According to an article by Women’s Health, that is really the only difference between the two terminologies. “Having an infection carries less stigma than having a disease,” said Ivy Chen, a lecturer with the department of Sociology and Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State University. “The term went through a rebranding to make it so that it might be mentally easier for people to be checked for an infection.” One of the most common mistakes is assuming that you don’t need to get tested because you don’t feel sick. “People see it as an ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’ kind of thing,” said Benjamin. Sexual health isn’t something that affects only you. Getting tested whether or not you have symptoms also means you are taking responsibility as a caring partner. It is not only crucial for you, but for your past and future partners as well. Chen also stated that many people hope their discomfort, if they’re lucky enough to be notified by their body, will just go away on its own. Although it may be hard not to indulge in googling symptoms or self-diagnosing, getting checked by a health professional is the best option for an accurate answer. Worrying is always scarier than knowing. 8
Photograph by Garrett Isley.
Photograph by Garrett Isley.
Don’t be ashamed Taking care of physical health comes in all forms. It’s never too late to educate yourself and understand the risks. It can feel extremely uncomfortable to ask questions and be open about your sex life with a doctor or provider but, according to Benjamin, we may not always be getting judged the way we think we are. “Our provider’s worry can sometimes come off as judgment,” Benjamin said. “It depends on the comfort level of people as a sexual being and what they think these diseases are in relation to their sexuality or personhood.” Tyiana Catalino, a sex educator known as @prettywithlee on TikTok, says she was never educated on this topic when she was young. She now spends her time making videos about sexual health to educate her 1.4 million followers. Catalino began her TikTok journey by creating videos about her pregnancy and the things that she never knew came along post-delivery. She started receiving a lot of positive feedback from people relating to her content. This led to children as young as 12 years old to 25-year-old adults asking her questions about sex, birth control, using condoms and hygiene. “There aren’t enough people on social media that speak on this,” Catalino said. “I started thinking, how can I make it a habit for people to get tested?” Catalino made several videos explaining different STIs and what they are, then shifted to encouraging videos about getting tested. Based on her knowledge and research, she recommends that
people get checked at least once a month or every time they’re sexually active with a new partner. Think of it like a dental check-up or cleaning. Not so bad now right? De’Angelo Segovia, a 21-year-old Bay Area resident, is extremely open about getting tested and, like Catalino, speaks about his experiences on TikTok. Known on the app as @dtoneee, De’Angelo has made several videos in the past delving into the different sexual experiences that he’s had or advocating for the importance of getting tested. “I think that this is a topic to expand on and make it more mainstream. No one should be ashamed of this,” Segovia said. “I’m an open book, I don’t really care what people think or what they say.”
Be honest Being honest with yourself, your partner and your provider is the most basic yet important foundation when taking care of your sexual health. “Public health is about prevention, communication and maintaining health,” said Chen. Open communication, making sure to take care of basic sexual needs and being upfront and honest are all a part of embracing your sexual health. Not only do people struggle with bringing up these conversations to health professionals, but also to their partners. It can be hard to ask your partner to get tested or tell them that you have an STI, but it’s necessary.
According to Benjamin, this is one of the leading repercussions that comes from stigma. Some people may become
Photograph by Garrett Isley.
Photograph by Garrett Isley.
offended or see it as an insult. “They may think you’re calling them ‘sleazy’ or ‘dirty,’” she said. This is certainly not the case, but it is why some may avoid the testing process altogether. According to Benjamin, another reason people avoid getting tested is that they would rather not know the results. “For them, it’s better to be in denial,” Benjamin said.
How do we begin to normalize getting tested? “If it’s something that everyone has to do, nobody is going to feel like they’re singled out as being ‘infected’ just because they seek out those services,” said Chen. This can be achieved if everyone collectively starts to educate themselves on the stigmas that surround STIs to make testing a regular part of their healthcare routine. It’s a big systemic change, but that’s what it takes in order to encourage people to go, Chen said. Another large aspect is access to care. It’s necessary to provide these services at multiple locations - such as community colleges, universities, high schools and health clinics - for those who do not have direct access to a provider or healthcare. Having easier access to these services makes it as convenient as possible and “is almost like positive peer pressure,” Chen added. If you receive a positive diagnosis for an STI, keep in mind that there is a treatment for every infection and some are entirely curable.
If you’re in need of testing, treatment or more information, Planned Parenthood has a testing locator at plannedparenthood.org. Health Promotion and Wellness at San Francisco State University also offers tips on prevention, as well as programs and workshops focusing on sexual health.
17 Photograph by Garrett Isley.
S B M L Y L D U D U N O I O O M B M S L L D U Y U N D O I O S O S M O B Y B Y D D D D O N I N O B I B M E S M L H P D U T U N O ING K S A A Y Y M E L D L R A B U E O B H O A , S R D D Y E D N T I D N F I O M A B M Y L L D D U U N D O I O S O M S B L Y D ND SOU D U N O I O B M S Y D L OD MIN SOU BODY IN L M Y U D L D O N U I O S DB O O M S B L Y D U N I D N O I O M S B M S Y L D Y D U N D O I O O B S M B D L Y D L U D N U O I O S O B M S Y L D Y D D U N I D N O I O M S B M UL ODY IND UL D By
I O O D S M B N L Y I U D D M U N O O I O S B M S Y D L Y D N U I D O LM N O O I S B M Y U D L D O U N I O S O O B M S B L D Y U D N D I O N I O M S B M S Y L D D Y U N O I D O B O M S B D L Y L U D D U O N O I S O B S M Y D L Y D D N U D I N O I O M S B M L UL ODY IND U D O O B M S B L Y D ND SOU D N O I O B S M Y D L Y D N U D I O O I O M S B M L Y L D U D U N O I O S O O B M S B L D Y U D N D I O N O I S M B M Y D L Y D N U D I O O O B M S B L D Y L D U D U N O I O S O B M S Y D Y D UL D
“We’re not given an instruction manual on how to get through a breakup.” - Trinity Wong
Trinity Wong. Photograph courtesy of Joe Bulawan –AMTI MODEL MANAGEMENT.
Trinity Wong felt lost as she scrolled through the endless array of videos on the popular social media app TikTok. Her ‘For You’ page, TikTok’s curated front page feed, displayed funny videos that were meant to amuse her — they didn’t. It displayed dancing videos that were meant to get her moving — it failed at that as well. At the time, the 21-year-old was going through “one of the worst heartbreaks ever” that left her days feeling long and hopeless. Social media helped with the heartbreak; it distracted her from the heart-wrenching feeling of coming out of a relationship. Wong soon came across advice videos that found her through TikTok’s algorithm and surprisingly those videos stuck out to her. Somehow, her ‘For You’ page knew exactly what she was going through and different content creators told her everything she needed to hear.
Feeling inspired, Wong picked up her phone and created her own TikTok account under the username @itstrinbabyyy that chronicled her healing journey as she was coming out of a relationship. Just like many others, she used TikTok as an outlet to heal her through what she described as “the worst pain she’s felt thus far.” TikTok’s hashtag #heartbreak has a total of 11.6 billion views and consists of an overflowing amount of content ranging from advice from everyday people and licensed therapists to motivational speeches and breakup playlists. Some content creators are taking it a step further by showing their dayto-day healing process as they navigate their newly single lifestyle for billions of app users to see. Wong began to film the good and bad days she had during her healing process in hopes to help others through the same pain. As the days went on, Wong began feeling more like herself as she tracked her progress and helped others through the same situation as she was in. She soon gained over 152,000 followers and 3.7 million ‘likes’ across the platform as a result of her vulnerability. Wong explains that she doesn’t want people to feel alone in what they’re going through and she wants them to feel as if she’s a big sister who’s not too far away. “The main reason why I do what I do is just to make sure people know that it’s honestly human to feel heartbroken,” said Wong. “We’re not given an instruction manual on how to get through a breakup. The way everyone tolerates pain is so different.” What started as a dancing and lip-syncing app has evolved into something more and Wong isn’t the only one who has found comfort in assisting others through their heartbreak.
“You really have to run your own race and go through this terrible grieving process kind of on your own.” - Darlene Kollet
Darlene Kollet. Photograph courtesy of Mike Kollet.
When 54-year-old Darlene Kollet’s 31-yearmarriage ended suddenly, she was in crisis trying to figure out how to get through it on her own. “I kind of had to learn on my own how to get through it,” said Kollet. “You can’t just listen to what everyone tells you to do. You really have to run your own race and go through this terrible grieving process kind of on your own.” Kollet’s wounds healed as time went on and she later became a relationship coach that specializes in breakup recovery. She reached
an even wider audience once she created her TikTok account, @heal_with_darlene, where she helps her 122,000+ followers by offering reassurance, advice and gentle affirmations. Her biggest advice to people coming out of relationships is to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Kollet explains the crisis after the breakup will only last for a little while, but it’s important to take some time for yourself and ask if the relationship was even healthy. To avoid romanticizing the person, she suggests making a list of what things went wrong in the relationship to keep yourself grounded. “Every time your mind goes to that romantic side of the relationship, just bring yourself back to reality,” said Kollet. “As you look at that list, if you get back together again, those are things you have to work on. Even if you get with someone new, those are your new deal breakers. Your standards are gonna be up the next time you get into a relationship whether it’s with that person again, or someone new. Keep yourself based in reality and don’t get carried away with the fantasy of who this person was.” Kollet’s large following on the app attracts an influx of clients who seek her help on a daily basis, especially when friends and family are tired of hearing the never-ending discussion about relationship issues. “I feel like sometimes people wear out their friends and families to a point where finally everyone’s saying, ‘Are we still talking about this? Like, are you over it by now?’ And the answer is no,” said Kollet. “It takes months and years to actually work through the breakup. So when people dismiss it, I think they’re not understanding the depth and pain of that trauma.”
Lindsay Walden, a Missouri-based licensed professional counselor, certified sex therapist and relationship coach, agrees that the grieving process is sometimes overlooked and not given the attention it deserves, which is why therapy is so vital. Walden describes therapy as an “interesting” process that allows people to sort through what they’re feeling. To her, it’s almost like an interactive journal. “You’re very much in a safe space where no one’s gonna hear your thoughts other than you and the therapist that you’re talking to,” said Walden. “But instead of it just being you and your thoughts, it takes it to the next level. Now you have a trained professional that hopefully has training in the area that you’re seeking services in to really reflect those things back to you.” TikTok’s inclusivity of a wide range of topics has allowed therapists, counselors and relationship coaches to participate and offer free advice to anyone seeking it through the app. Sometimes that’s where 21-year-old Christian Garcia gets his advice from. While scrolling through his ‘For You’ page during the pandemic, Garcia noticed the large number of people going through hardships. He especially felt lost during this time because he was going through a breakup. Like many others, he began his TikTok journey by making his own content to help others, while he was also helping himself through his heartbreak. While documenting his healing process, giving advice and seeking it, Garcia’s account, @christmasgarcia, gained over 50,000 followers and over 1.4 million ‘likes’ across the app. Garcia typically draws inspiration from what he’s learned in church while creating content for his fans. Outside of church, counseling and therapy were important to Garcia during his healing process.
“Healing is a never-ending journey. Life is just going to happen,” said Garcia. “For some
Lindsay Walden. Photograph courtesy of Jeanne Liautaud Photography.
“Healing is a never-ending journey. Life is just going to happen.” - Christian Garcia
Christian Garcia. Photograph courtesy of Ahmed Mushtaq.
Jacob Santhouse. Photograph Courtesy of Kathryn Santhouse.
“Posting on social media… gives people a chance to feel as though that struggle can benefit others.” - Jacob Santhouse
people, going to the gym is one thing. But in my opinion, the gym can only get you so far. Therapy, to me, is the gym for your brain, and ultimately what’s going to heal you the most is your brain. The mind and body work together.” Jacob Santhouse, an Idaho-based licensed clinical and mental health counselor, said that people share their most vulnerable moments on social media so they feel as if they aren’t alone in their struggle. While examining his own TikTok page, @jacobsanthouse, Santhouse explains that by posting publicly, people recognize they’re not the only ones going through something. “Posting on social media, especially a highly interactive platform like TikTok, gives people a chance to feel as though that struggle can benefit others if they share it and therefore it has a purpose,” said Santhouse. On top of his previous revelation about reaching out to others to avoid feeling alone, Santhouse emphasizes that the end of a relationship has a significant impact on us. He explains that often, people only have two or three key relationships and when one of those suddenly gets cut off, it actually hurts us in a way that we physically feel it. “When you experience emotional pain, you feel that in the same place in your brain that you feel physical pain,” said Santhouse. “Which is why incredible emotional pain physically aches. We also feel it because we feel like it’s a threat to our survival.”
Tatiana Mercer. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
NEURODIVERGENT BY CASH MARTINEZ Sitting in the passenger seat of her friend’s car, driving down U.S. 101 through Sonoma County, Tatiana Mercier began to wonder if she, like many of her friends, was autistic. Mercier had been formally diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety shortly after graduating high school in 2015 but had never strongly considered that she may have also been on ‘the spectrum’ — a term commonly used to refer to people with autism.
IN A NEUROTYPICAL
“It was always, ‘I think, I might,’” she said. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 5,437,988, or 2.21%, of adults in the United States have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). People who are diagnosed, or self-diagnosed, with autism, ADHD or another neurodevelopmental disorder may consider themselves to be ‘neurodivergent,’ a term coined by sociologist Judy Singer in the late 1990s. Singer wrote in her 2016 book, “NeuroDiversity: The Birth of an Idea”, that the concept of the neurodivergent identity
was to unite neurodiverse individuals under the same social justice umbrella, not unlike third-wave feminism or the gay rights movement. It wasn’t until the summer of 2019 when Mercier realized, for the first time in her life, that the social discomfort she’d experienced for so long may have been attributed to more than what family, friends and peers described as her ‘odd’ personality. “I attended a queer youth support group where we talked about autism. I went to be like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna learn about my friends who are autistic, I want to learn how to better support them,’” she said.
Tatiana Mercer. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Instead, Mercier came away from the evening questioning whether or not she was neurodivergent as well. “They were saying things that I really resonated with and I thought, ‘Oh God, I might be autistic,’” she said. What were likely the early signs of autism spectrum disorder were treated by others as personality quirks and awkward social skills, Mercier said; she remembers being labeled the ‘odd kid’ as early as elementary school. “I had been told by a lot of different people that I’m very weird,” she said. “That was a word that was used to describe me a lot.” Trajan Miller. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Trajan Miller, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when he was eight, described feeling left out of the “social flow of things” and not being able to socialize “the way other people were able to.” Miller said that even at a young age, he had already “accepted it as a fact of (his) life.” “I can’t remember not knowing about it,” he said. “I wasn’t exactly happy with how things were going, but I couldn’t imagine it being anything else. It was like, ‘I do things this way and not a lot of other people do things that way, and that’s just kind of how it’s gonna be.’” Now a senior at San Francisco State University, Miller said that he feels more confident and able to approach social situations than in previous years. “A lot of my struggle with autism has been recognizing what traits I have and figuring how to use them in a way that allows me to be social,” said Miller. San Francisco State senior Em Cardenas, who is diagnosed with ADHD, clinical depression and anxiety, said that they “never fit in” with their classmates. “It made sense that I didn’t work the same way that other people did,” they Trajan Miller. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
said. “I would blurt things out randomly and then I would try to compensate for it.” While there are similarities among people diagnosed with ASD — difficulty in social situations, need for constant motion (‘stimming’) and sensory processing issues — the diagnosis is rarely one-size-fits-all. According to Mayo Clinic, the severity of the symptoms depends on the individual. After her car ride epiphany, Mercier began seeking out a formal diagnosis for her autism. However, what she discovered instead was a number of bureaucratic roadblocks, seemingly destined to keep her from learning about her own brain. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a classification of mental disorders used by healthcare professionals to diagnose patients, states that people who are assigned male at birth are four times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than people who are assigned female at birth. Mercier spoke of her frustration with the healthcare system; she described leaving one appointment in tears. “I said, ‘I think I might have autism, is Tatiana Mercer. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
there any screening or anything we can do to help me figure out what’s going on?’” said Mercier. “The psychiatrist basically was like, ‘I’m not an expert, but you’re not autistic,’ because I could sit there and make eye contact.” After administering a brief test, on which Mercier scored high enough to qualify for testing, her psychiatrist did not pursue any follow-up appointments, either with himself or a specialist. While the topic of self-diagnosis is controversial in the medical community and among autistic people themselves, Mercier described the journey to their self-diagnosis as “empowering, validating and overwhelming.” For Mercier and Miller, two people with very different autism journeys, their diagnoses have given them the ability to better understand their minds, habits and behaviors. Miller said that one of the ways he “manages” his symptoms is by practicing social skills and putting himself into social situations, as a sort of exposure therapy. “I think that my skills got rusty over the pandemic, and I didn’t really like that,” he said. “I do feel like I got too much alone time and it’s like, ‘Okay, I’m ready to talk to people again.’”
Tatiana Mercer. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Mercier said that while some people may think of an autism diagnosis as a burden, she sees it as something “beautiful.” Her only wish is that she had realized her diagnosis sooner. “Once I accepted that I was acting that way for a reason, it wasn’t just me being a strange outlier in the world,” said Mercier. “Every part of me, everything about me is neurodivergent,” she said. “The best thing that has ever happened for (my health) was accepting that I am neurodivergent.” Trajan Miller. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
By Saskia Hatvany
Under a clinically bright light, the damage is assessed. What was once a pair of jeans is now a messy heap of fabric, open-faced on the operating table, waiting to be stitched back together. The limbs, now barely attached, have been methodically separated with a sharp blade, as have the belt loops and the waistband. To a fashion-lover, this may look like a crime scene in the making, but to a professional tailor, it’s all in a day’s work.
Assad Bruno. Photograph by Saskia Hatvany.
Tailors were once part of the backbone of society. Before the industrial revolution allowed for garments to be mass-produced at top speed, most ready-towear clothing was purchased by wealthy people who could afford to commission bespoke clothing, according to Melissa Leventon, a professor of fashion history at California College of the Arts.
Assad Bruno. Photograph by Saskia Hatvany.
$62 billion of clothing were returned due to poor fit 38
64% of customers cite incorrect sizing
“Somebody rich and fashionable would wear something for its fashionable life, and then it would get sold into the secondhand market. It would be bought by somebody who would then alter it to suit themselves or their clients,” said Leventon. Today, tailors are now almost synonymous with suits and bridal gowns — not thrift finds and ready-to-wear clothes. Yet, in 2016,
over $62 billion of clothing were returned due to poor fit, according to a market research study by Body Labs, a software company that develops artificial intelligence that can predict the body proportions of shoppers based on photos or video. The study found that among reasons for returning clothing, 64% of customers cite incorrect sizing. Leventon said that fit has long been an issue in the clothing industry
but it became especially difficult after the industrial revolution when machinery made it possible to mass-produce clothing at a faster speed by people with fewer skills. Since then, clothing sizes have generally become less form-fitting and more forgiving in order to fit a wider range of body types. Pants particularly suffer from bad sizing because of the large variation of the human body when it comes to the width of the hips, waist and thighs, according to Leventon. “I think it’s the type of clothing that requires the most engineering,” said Assad Bruno, an Oaklandbased clothing designer who runs a freelance tailoring business. Bruno got his start as an in-house denim tailor in a Levi’s store. Now he specializes in altering, updating and fixing pants. He is one of many young designers who has taken up the traditional art of tailoring and applied those skills to refurbishing and updating everyday garments.
Assad Bruno. Photograph by Saskia Hatvany.
“I never really liked the clothing in big corporate stores,” said Sky Benally, who routinely buys oversized pants from thrift stores and brings them to Bruno to resize. Their latest project: a $12 pair of old women’s Levi’s from Goodwill that he paid Bruno to shrink 10 sizes. For Benally, tailoring isn’t just a
“I think (jeans are) the type of clothing that requires the most engineering.” -Assad Bruno --
means to buy exactly what he wants without having to worry about gender and sizing– it’s also a way to protest fast fashion. In an industry with rapidly accelerating trend cycles, where consumers are constantly bombarded with targeted advertisements, choosing to alter clothes instead of getting rid of them can almost feel like a protest. “Say you lose weight or gain weight, you can basically just get the same pants tailored,” said Bruno. “That’s major.” A 2003 study in the Clothing and Textiles Research Journal concluded that women’s denim
sizing issues tend to boil down to the individual manufacturer’s interpretation of their customer’s median size, which varies widely throughout the industry. “Every manufacturer has their fit model that they’re basing things on. And they are very often of white European heritage,” said Miriam Lewis, a costume designer and lecturer in the fashion department at San Francisco State University. “People, culturally and ethnically speaking, have different body shapes, so there’s already a cultural bias built into sizing.” “Even if you are the same size (as the fit model) and your
Assad Bruno. Photograph by Saskia Hatvany.
measurements are very close, your proportions may be totally different,” said Leventon. “Something that looks great in the picture might look terrible on you.” The fashion industry is also rife with deceptive sizing practices, not the least of which is “vanity sizing,” which refers to the fashion industry’s tendency to label their sizes smaller than they actually are in order to flatter the client, according to Leventon. “Sizing is essentially a psychological game. Because there is such pressure in our culture for people to be thin,” said Leventon. ”It’s flattering to people
to fit into a smaller size than they think they are.” Today, tailoring is considered a luxury for special occasions, and most people no longer have the skills or time to modify their clothing at home — so they don’t. Meanwhile, the fashion industry itself relies heavily on tailoring and alterations to market their readyto-wear clothes to the general public. Jessica Geesey, the women’s denim designer at Banana Republic, reveals that during photo shoots, it’s standard practice for major retailers to hire professional tailors to alter garments on the
Assad Bruno. Photograph by Saskia Hatvany.
“It’s really just to make sure that it fits them as flattering as possible.” -Jessica Geesey
spot so that they fit the models. “It’s not to mislead the customer in any way,” said Geesey. “It’s really just to make sure that it fits them as flattering as possible in that moment so that the customer gets the idea of what this is supposed to look like. Because if it doesn’t look good on the model on the website, why would the customer want to buy it?” Actors and celebrities, who also represent a major source of advertising for the fashion industry, are known to have their clothes professionally tailored. “So when we go into the Gap or order something that we’ve seen a celebrity wear and it doesn’t fit us like that, it’s like, ‘What is wrong with me?’” said Lewis. “Fashion is great. I love clothes, I love design, but I don’t want to be at the mercy of people who
are making me feel bad about myself with this stuff.” Average prices for professional tailors range anywhere from $15 to shorten a pair of pants, to $80 for adjusting the waistband and the crotch. Although, many mainstream brands will offer tailoring services for free with the purchase of a garment, including Lululemon, Madewell and Uniqlo. Other brands, like Levi’s, offer tailoring services for a small fee depending on the extent of the work. In tandem with the rise in popularity of activewear, clothing has become more elastic and as a result, the garments fit a wider range of body types. But synthetic fibers used to create
the stretch, usually derived from plastic, can make garments prone to sagging and shrinking, causing a whole host of other sizing issues and often shorten the life of the garment, according to Geesey. Greenpeace, a nonprofit organization that promotes solutions to global environmental problems, has identified synthetic fibers as a major environmental hazard because plastic microfibers inevitably make their way into the wastewater stream and end up in the ocean. “I already feel kind
“I try to do whatever I can to minimize my footprint.” -Jessica Geesey
of pangs of guilt with what I do sometimes because I know it’s not the most sustainable industry, and I try to do whatever I can to minimize my footprint,” said Geesey. For her personal wardrobe, Geesey said that she gravitates towards 100% cotton denim and vintage clothing that has higher quality, and often opts to get her vintage finds professionally tailored.
“It’s brought me a lot of joy because I’ve been able to find these really special pieces that are then one of a kind and tailored to myself. And it just makes it that much more special,” said Geesey. Geesey said that those who struggle to find properly fitting pants should consider buying pants that fit the biggest part of their body and having a professional alter the rest. “A lot of the time we can’t find something right off the rack that fits perfect…Alterations aren’t that big of a deal,” said Geesey. “Because then it’s going to feel really good. And it’s going to look really good.”
Sky Benally. Photograph by Saskia Hatvany.
The Physical Impact of Prolonged Virtual Meetings By Nicole Gonzalez It’s a Tuesday, the week has just started, and you’ve been sitting at your desk attending meeting after meeting staring at the familiar blue light from your computer screen. By the end of the day, your eyes are droopy and strained, shoulders tense — common symptoms among those who frequent Zoom or other video conferencing platforms.
Professors, students and remote workers alike are encountering a new and strange form of exhaustion known as ‘Zoom fatigue.’ The onslaught of remote and virtual meetings, brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, may have a larger impact on the body than previously thought.
What is ‘Zoom fatigue’ and why does
What is ‘Zoom fatigue’ and why does it occur? “Zoom fatigue often comes about when you’re fatiguing your muscles, and the muscles get strained and they release lactic acid, which irritates the nerve endings,” said Richard Harvey, who has a doctorate in social ecology and is a professor at the San Francisco State University Department of Recreation, Parks, Tourism and Holistic Health. “Your posture does matter, how close you are to a screen does matter,” Harvey said. “When you’re looking at a smartphone your head and neck might be down, or when you’re leaning over a computer because you haven’t adjusted the height of the screen, you’re going to increase muscle tension in certain locations.” Many other scholars and researchers in this field also provide arguments to support this. In August 2021, The University of Auckland, New Zealand published a research paper titled, Why do we have Zoom fatigue and what can we do about it? The article examines the common causes and cures for this broadening issue. “As time flies, we tend to be unaware that our muscles slightly tighten, our breathing quickens and is shallower,” the study found. “Our blinking rates decrease and our posture slouches forward as we bring our nose close to the screen to see the text more clearly.”
Photo by Elizabeth Agazaryan.
Because of this pattern of muscle tension and poor posture, we may also become unaware of the discomfort after a prolonged period of time. “We anesthetize ourselves,” Harvey said, emphasizing how most individuals have now become unaware of the physical impact fatigue has on their body. “We are past the point where our body protects itself and numbs out all that discomfort.” The inherent function of office and computer work has been known to cause these physical problems in long-term workers. The increased screen time has further highlighted the issue with the way we work. “There’s no way to sit ergonomically in front of a laptop,” said Erik Peper, doctorate in psychology and San Francisco State professor. “We tense our shoulders, and we don’t even know it. By the end of the day, our shoulders are tight.”
Digital overstimulation In addition to the physical fatigue and muscle tension, many may also experience mental exhaustion from digital overstimulation. With the everpresent nature of screens and electronic devices in our society, researchers suggest it can be easy to fall into this predicament. “We forget that it takes over us, and we still have all our other responsibilities,” said Peper. He further emphasizes the analysis of personal digital use and consumption, such as on social media platforms or streaming services.
“You only have 24 hours in a day, and account for sleep. So, what we end up doing is sleeping less.”
Peper continued, “You only have 24 hours in a day, and account for sleep. So, what we end up doing is sleeping less.” Fast-paced work and school environments paired with the ongoing pandemic create a recipe for digital overconsumption, making it harder to organize or separate work from play. However, researchers suggest it may be beneficial to address personal abilities. “Some people are overscheduling,” said Harvey. “If the meetings are backto-back, there is a hazard there. It’s hazardous to have no breaks or pauses. We always have to look at hazards, problems, toxicity, in relation to the individual’s sensitivity, ability to adapt and vulnerability.” 51
“You don’t see the expressiveness of the full-body. There is ambiguity and uncertainty there.”
Photo by Elizabeth Agazaryan.
Why is remote communicating and learning harder for certain individuals? Newly developed research shows that remote communication may be difficult for certain individuals because it differs from the natural and instinctive modes we have used throughout human history. We miss out on one of the most important conversational aspects — nonverbal social signals. These can include facial expressions, hand gestures, or eye contact.
The 2021 academic paper, Avoid Zoom Fatigue, Be Present and Learn, published by the International Society for Neuroregulation & Research, provides insight into learning habits through Zoom and other remote communication platforms. Researchers surveyed 325 undergraduate students participating in remote learning, which found 94% had “moderate to considerable difficulty with online learning.” “The absence of social facial and body feedback often makes teaching and learning more challenging,” researchers found. With the usage of Zoom, you miss significant social cues which are replaced by digital body language, essentially the headshot view of your fellow meeting goers. “Texting is another asynchronous method of communication,” Peper said. “But when we are talking verbally, you receive immediate feedback.” Remote forms of communication, by nature, are less engaging and interactive than in-person meetings. This format often makes it harder for the fundamental conversational and social cues to get relayed. “You don’t see the expressiveness of the full-body,” Harvey said. “There is ambiguity and uncertainty there.”
Adaptive capacity The complexity and process of coping with stress and fatigue in the new digital age exists on a spectrum. In other words, some individuals may be more or less disadvantaged for remote learning. “The technical term here is adaptive capacity, and some people do not have the ability to adapt, they may be ultra-sensitive to micro-adjustments,” said Harvey. “It really does depend on a number of factors and components, it’s not one size fits all.” The sudden shift to remote communication, coupled with various outside forces such as internet connection, home life distractions, and COVID-19 related life changes, would easily cause disorder in any individual’s routine. Some, however, may be more inclined to handle these changes. Harvey emphasizes the need for adaptation for many remote workers, as well as reorganization of personal and professional habits for long-term well-being. “The bigger question is how do you decide what is going to work for you and figure out the right rhythm and the right pace,” Harvey said. “Each one of us has a better time for writing, a better time for eating, a better time for exercising and so on. We can pay better attention to our own internal cues and signals as we move throughout the day.”
“We can pay better attention to our own internal cues and signals as we move throughout the day.”
By Ximena Loeza
The following article contains content about disordered eating. Eating disorders have been changing and evolving with the internet for years. With the increased popularity of social media sites such as Instagram and TikTok, many people have found dangerous online communities surrounding disordered eating. Pro-ana, which refers to “pro-anorexia,” is a community that promotes the behaviors of anorexia nerviosa. Those in this community compare bodies with one another to see who can become the thinnest or the sickest. Progression photos and videos hashtagged with #proana, #thinspo and #thinspiration, both referring to “thin inspiration,” are known as “body checks.” This practice has floated from Tumblr to Instagram and can now be seen on TikTok. The Mayo Clinic defines eating disorders as, “serious, complex and potentially lifethreatening mental illnesses. They are characterised by disturbances in behaviours, thoughts and attitudes to food, eating and body weight or shape.” Allison Correia, a 22-year-old Tracy, California resident, is currently recovering from disordered eating. She explains that her eating disorder started in high school after a doctor’s visit where she was put on a restrictive meal plan to lose weight. “At that point, I was weighing about 360 (lbs) and my doctor told me that I was probably going to end up dying prematurely because of 57
my weight and what it was doing to my body,” Correia says. As a solution, Correia’s doctor put her on a meal plan. “I got down to like 180 (lbs). But I was also eating less than 1000 calories every day. So my body basically went into starvation mode,” says Correia. Even though she dropped the weight quickly, Correia was getting numerous compliments from people who told her she looked healthy. She took this as a sign to continue. Correia’s story is proof of how broken the medical and nutrition industries really are. The American Medicine Association Journal of Ethics says though a majority of Americans are medically overweight, weight discrimination has risen to 66% since 1995, especially among plussize women. “We’re starting to see the change when we go to conferences,” says Gretchen George, an associate professor and co-lead of Dietetics and Nutrition at San Francisco State University. “Most old-school dietitians would put someone on a diet if their BMI was 30 or above…I think doctors often assume that every problem would be solved by weight loss, which is not the case.”
nutrition and medical industry. Natalie Makardish is a 36-year-old mental health practitioner, fitness instructor and dance educator who has been working with people with eating disorders for over a decade. She says trauma in someone’s life can lead to eating disorders. “I would just say that all of my clients who are in recovery from an eating disorder have experienced a form of trauma at least once in their life. And this is not to say that every individual who is diagnosed with the eating disorder has experienced trauma,” says Makardish. Pinar Robles is a 24-year-old dietetics student at San Francisco State, as well as a student cosubcommittee leader of EDucate, a student-run organization at the university that provides education on eating disorders. When talking about the misconceptions of eating disorders, she mentions that a lot more aspects go into eating disorders than just body image. “I believe that eating disorders are more than about physical appearance. There are a lot of emotional and mental aspects that go into having an eating disorder,” Robles says.
Social media has highly contributed to eating George says many things come into play when disorders, whether it is with distorted body it comes to nutrition, such as class, race, cultural image, diet culture or exercise culture. Eating differences and geographic location. disorders continue to evolve with each platform, from Tumblr in the early 2010s with the hashtag There are many misconceptions about eating #proana, to Instagram with #thinspo, to TikTok disorders that give a distorted view of what they today with body check and “what I eat in a day” truly are. According to a 2009 article titled videos, where people document each meal they Eating Disorders in Ethnic Minority Women, it consume in a particular day. And it seems to was historically thought that eating disorders never die out. only affected middle and upper-class white women. The article, which was published in “It shows you based on their algorithms. It gets Current Psychiatric Reviews, states that this into your brain and makes you believe that, like, belief is something that has even infiltrated the ‘Oh, I need to look like this.’” says Correia.
Photograph by Morgan Ellis.
Photograph by Morgan Ellis.
Carmen Castro, 31, is an intern at a private nutritionist practice and a full-time nutrition student at San Francisco State, as well as a cosubcommittee leader of EDucate with Robles. She speaks about the constructed ideal body type that has been popularized by social media.
However, Castro does not have compassion for pro-ana sites or influencers that give tricks and tips for eating disorders.
“I really struggle with when those sites offer tips, recommending that these are the behaviors that you should do,” says Castro. “And therefore, “I think my definition right now — and it’s always I really struggle with working on still having changing — of the ideal body is any body that compassion, because I’m like, you are educating you’re not in currently right now,” Castro says. others in these really harmful behaviors. We “And that looks different for everyone.” know that eating disorders are second to opiate overdose for mortality rates. It’s the second Although she is fully against it, Correia can deadliest mental illness.” relate to the continuous support and promotion of eating disorders, which is sometimes Makardish spoke about how the internet and disguised on social media as “helping others.” eating disorders could be about more than just competition and advice for people who “It really saddens me because I know how loud are recovering, but also about searching for a the eating disorder voices are, and how much community or a place of acceptance. they can lie and manipulate you into thinking like, ‘If I just don’t eat, or if I keep eating till I “It’s about being within a space that others may can’t breathe, then for a moment, I’ll be numb.’” understand,” Makardish says. “It’s intoxicating for says Correia. “‘And that’s all I need.’ But it’s so an individual who is very much isolated, and unfortunate to think that with that pro-ana, simultaneously in communion with others who or with thinspo, and all that stuff, it all starts may be suffering alongside them.” somewhere.” Eugenia Cooney is a large influencer in the proana community who has been making makeup tutorials and shopping haul YouTube videos for almost 10 years. However, she is not known for her videos so much as for her eating disorder which she has spoken about publicly. In a 2019 documentary piece with fellow YouTuber Shane Dawson, Cooney talks about her experience getting treatment for her eating disorder. Many of her video comments are about the way she looks and her eating disorder, but she fails to address them. Castro speaks about how it makes her sad to hear Cooney’s story, because of Cooney’s denial of and apparent suffering with this illness.
If anyone is struggling with an eating disorder, they are urged to contact a healthcare professional. NEDA, the National Eating Disorder Association, is a good source. For help finding resources on the San Francisco State Campus, CAPS will help provide and connect you, as well as EDucate, a student-run organization providing resources for people with eating disorders. There is also the group, the Body Positive, which holds meetings on promoting body positivity on campus.
“I KNOW HOW THE EATING DISORDER VOICES ARE.” -ALLISON CORREIA
Photographs by Paris Galarza.
A Reflection on Body Image By Fernando Pacheco
The following article mentions an experience of disordered eating. The mirror feels like a necessity. It affirms if a garment fits well. It verifies that there is no lipstick stain. Over time, it harbors a relationship with a reflected self. At its best, the mirror is a pep talk. At its worst, it reflects negative self-talk. A research study, titled A narrative review on clinical and research applications of the Mirror Paradigm: body image, psychopathology, and attachment, used The Mirror Paradigm (MP) to place participants in front of the mirror,
asking them reflective questions to describe what they see and how they see it. The study revealed mirrors make people vulnerable to the internalizations of external influences that shaped their self-perception, making correlations between eating disorders, body image and intimate feelings.
Mirrors encourage participants to consider the multiple dimensions of the self: self as seen and self as felt. When a person looks into a mirror they see a reflection staring back and that image becomes interpreted
as the real self, but if that mirror crumbles, the self will remain steady — thoughts, feelings and beliefs all standing.
Photographs by Paris Galarza.
At its best, the mirror is a pep talk. At its worst, it reflects negative self-talk.
Michael Anthony Hall. Photographs by Paris Galarza.
“I feel like in the queer community, especially when you’re young, you want to fill these expectations just to fit in, to find community.” - Michael Anthony Hall
There’s this fantasy
Michael Anthony Hall is a 22-year-old writer and San Francisco State University alumnus. At the beginning of Hall’s freshman year of college, he exercised more, ate less and lost weight, but wasn’t happy. “I was working a lot and not prioritizing
my health,” said Hall. “I feel like in the queer community, especially when you’re young, you want to fill these expectations just to fit in, to find community.” In his late teen years, Hall began feeling hypercritical of his body. “I personally feel the pressure because there’s this fantasy of this attainability of ‘I need to work out more, I need to look and feel a certain way,’” said
Hall. He grew up in a house full of mirrors and being surrounded by them made them become visual validations for Hall’s emotions. Hall still likes mirrors, but mirrors sometimes feel exorbitant for they not only reflect adoration for his body but magnify hypercritical internal monologues. “Now I’ve kind of maneuvered through (criticizing my body), I love my body. I love what my body does for me,” said Hall. “And, you know, confidence comes from within.”
Erica Gray. Photographs by Paris Galarza.
A lot of work to do One day in Erica Gray’s twenties, she decided to go out for a burger. She called up her best friend and they both drove down for lunch. As soon as they finished, Gray returned home struck by the guilt of self-resolution. She entered her house crying and confessed to her family, “I ate a burger.” Gray began to have a mental breakdown, while her family approached her with open arms. She embraced rounds of hugs from her family, but couldn’t stop crying. Gray’s older brother, Lenny, stopped her tears. “Stop crying,” he said. Lenny looked her in the eyes and said, “Congratulations, you ate a burger. You think you made some huge milestone or something? No, you have a lot of work to do.” Shortly before eating the burger, Gray had received a second anorexia and body dysmorphia diagnosis — the first being at 15 years old.
“I was shocked because no one really talked about that,” said Gray. “I remember when my doctor told me, ‘You have an eating disorder,’ I was pissed. Like, bullshit, I don’t have an eating disorder.” Gray was first in denial until she stepped on the scale and read 85 pounds, but in front of the mirror, she saw a different image. The mirror reflected what her brain didn’t like about herself. Her body dysmorphia drew attention to her arms and legs. Her eating disorder became a voice that’d congratulate her whenever she’d lose another pound. For a while, Gray listened. She’d let the voice of her disorder speak over her own. She’d work on devel-
oping better eating habits, but she saw grand results once she began to build her self-esteem and recognized her self-worth. Gray thanks her brother who, in large part, helped her through her recovery process. “My brother would say, ‘I understand everything you’re going through. Someone telling you to eat is like someone telling me to stop drinking,’” said Gray. “He helped me through a lot with tough love.”
Gray knows recovery is different for everyone. “Some people need to hit rock bottom, whatever that may be. Tough love was what helped me in the long run.”
“I remember when my doctor told me, ‘You have an eating disorder,’ I was pissed. Like, bullshit, I don’t have an eating disorder.“ - Erica Gray
“I looked skinny and I felt skinny, but when I would look in the mirror it looked like I was still looking at the person I was in middle school. The issues never went away.”
- Julio Cesar Tello
Juilo Cesar Tello. Photographs by Paris Galarza.
Before all that love
Julio Cesar Tello started bar-hopping with his friends right after high school and watched handsome strangers approach them.
“(My friends) were skinny, beautiful, and I felt like that’s one of the things I had to be to get that attention as well,” said Tello. He craved offers for a complimentary drink or an innocent kiss that could lead to love. “I didn’t like how I looked,” said Tello. He believed this inhibited him from seeing his self-worth. So, after graduating high school, Tello lost 70 pounds.
“I looked skinny and I felt skinny, but when I would look in the mirror it looked like I was still looking at the person I was in middle school,” said Tello. “The issues never went away.” Sometime after Tello lost weight, his self-image changed. He describes it as “a 180, with losing weight came so much confidence.” He’s experienced both sides now, from feeling like he wasn’t able to attract people to feeling privileged after receiving compliments. Tello now has a lovehate relationship with mirrors, “Mirrors have seen me transform throughout my life and I have seen myself transform through mirrors, but I hate it because it made me look at my insecurities every day and made me develop even more insecurities.”
Only one way to find out Valentina Aragon was eager to move to San Francisco in her late twenties. As soon as she obtained an associate degree, she transferred to San Francisco State University and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Aragon soon began applying her research skills into her personal life. “Through my journey as a trans female, I’ve done a lot of observational research,” said Aragon. “I found cis women with defined jawlines and big noses. I found women with smaller breasts, flat chests, with bellies, and big butts or no butts. I found all sorts of women who weren’t born with uterus or ovaries, but they were born with very developed feminine bodies and non-developed feminine bodies.” It led her to become hypervigilant about the
way clothes adorned the body.
her past, her faith, her life purpose, her body.
She enjoys wearing loose dresses that fall just before the knee. She always has a trusty denim jacket for San Francisco’s notorious fog, but not every garment comes as easy to wear.
“There’s days where I don’t want to keep going,” Aragon said.
“Pants go with having to be uncomfortable and it affects the quality of your life,” said Aragon. “Tucking can be uncomfortable and going to the bathroom and untucking can remind yourself of things you do not have.” Tucking, according to the UCSF Transgender Care, is the practice of moving the penis and testicles towards the buttocks to allow for a “visibly smooth crotch contour.” Aragon has been questioning everything:
On the days she’s gripping onto hope, Aragon tries to be present and grateful for her accomplishments. She holds onto “the hope of a better tomorrow, hope that one day I can leave a better footprint for the trans community.” “I’m at a point where I live comfortably, where I can throw on some sweats and a sweater and go out into the world and people see me as a girl…I’m living my life the way I want,” said Aragon. “And yet I’m over here still fighting my body because
I’m not satisfied now that I have the opportunity to get surgeries.” Over time, the mirror became a way for Aragon to keep track of how she felt. She’d check it for positive or negative reinforcement but always came back to the same conclusion. When Aragon looks into the mirror, she searches for her beauty. She hears the compliments she’s received and sees how she’s gotten over past insecurities. Aragon said, “You were born the way you were to look and be who you are, so you have to own it and run with it.”
“You were born the way you were to look and be who you are, so you have to own it.”
- Valentina Aragon
“I become nitpicky... I discourage myself, but I’m trying my best to get to that point where I feel good about myself.”
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- Christina Hernandez
They’re nice to look at Christina Hernandez enjoys exercising at the park. She goes for the open space and stays for the trees swaying high above. However, she has not been able to go to the park recently. She recently became a stay-at-home mom who focuses on her husband and her sons, one who is in third grade and the other in eighth. Hernandez loves being a mom and enters “mommy-mode” whenever need be, but she began feeling uncomfortable with her body after having kids.
and eat. It became my comfort zone.” This comfort zone soon became a source of discouragement. “I become nitpicky and poke at how my panza (belly) looks,” said Hernandez. “I discourage myself, but I’m trying my best to get to that point where I feel good about myself.” There are days she walks past her reflection in the mirror and thinks to herself, “Oh my god, I’m looking cute or whatever.” Other days, the mirror focuses on her face. Her eyes get redirected to her hair, where she’ll separate a single
silver strand from her caramel roots. She’ll flip the mirror around and focus on her acne scars. Hernandez isn’t always in the mood to use foundation to conceal blemishes. Her platinum balayage is frequently in a bun, and, although she’s occasionally been asked if she’s mad, Hernandez always replies, “That’s just my face.”
that, from a distance, appears as running water, but from close up reveals a smokey arrangement of roses where gloomy butterflies rest. “Butterflies are pretty, and roses are pretty too,” Hernandez said. “They’re nice to look at.”
While she’ll never fake a smile, her face lights up at the mention of her tattoo — a half sleeve on her left arm
“Mentally, I was okay. I don’t think I went through postpartum depression, thank god, but physically I was not happy,” Hernandez said. “I was overweight. I would eat and eat
By Hunter Troy
By Hunter Troy
‘It’s Your Worst Nightmare’
Living with Endometriosis:
Janette Rogers-Booth walked into her school nurse’s office feeling humiliated, alone and bewildered. She was in the fourth grade and asked for a sanitary pad because she started cramping, bleeding through her pants and vomiting. “You need to be better prepared for your period,” said the school nurse. But Rogers-Booth wasn’t experiencing a normal period — it was endometriosis. The Center for Endometriosis Care (CEC) in Atlanta defines endometriosis as the existence of tissue that is similar to the endometrium (endometrial lining) growing outside of the uterus. The disease can grow throughout one’s entire body, including the pelvis, lungs, diaphragm, bowel, spine, etc. Though it mostly affects women, endometriosis can also affect transgender men and nonbinary people. No one knows the cause of the disease, yet it’s known to be estrogen-dependent. “It literally stung deep to be shamed by the nurse instead of being empowered and uplifted,” said Rogers-Booth. “I felt like my period was shameful and for a long time I did not like to openly discuss my period or pelvic pain.” Her life with the disease has been difficult and complex. “When I am having a flare-up, my quality of life is very poor and the pain and complications are severe. Usually, at that point, I am in bed not able to participate in my normal daily activities. It is exhausting to fight that long without having an answer as to what it is you are fighting,” Rogers-Booth said. Rogers-Booth, 41, currently lives in El Dorado, California and still suffers from endometriosis. She’s undergone upwards of five surgical procedures to lessen her symptoms of the disease. Rogers-Booth is currently waiting to undergo yet another
excision surgery, which is a procedure involving the removal of growths. Some symptoms of endometriosis include debilitating pelvic pain, nausea and vomiting, brain fog, infertility, and dark discharge that resembles coffee grounds. According to a Healthline article called What Are Chocolate Cysts? patients can grow “chocolate cysts” that are brown and thick in appearance deep within the ovaries. Endometriosis can also cause heavy scarring that resembles spider webs. Like many other women who have this disease, Natalie Gee of San Francisco, California also struggles with infertility. She suffers from endometriosis and adenomyosis, a condition where tissue similar to the endometrial lining grows within the uterine wall. She recently found out that she will need to have another excision surgery so that she can be able to carry a healthy pregnancy to term. Silvia Young, who lives in Danville, California with her husband and two children, has written books and policies to document women’s stories and to fight for patient rights in California. Young is also the founder of the nonprofit FemTruth Youth, which aims to dispel myths and misinformation about endometriosis. “I’ve given birth twice and endometriosis is worse,” said Young. “Imagine being in labor, having the flu and no one believing you. That’s living with endometriosis. It’s your worst nightmare.” According to the Australian nonprofit health service organization Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, the disease affects 176 million people worldwide, making it likely that you probably know someone with endometriosis. However, according to an article on the organization’s site, since it takes an average of 10 years to be diagnosed, many people may not even know that they have it.
Diagnosis requires laparoscopic surgery, an operation that uses three incisions in the abdomen or pelvis, to remove tissue so it can be tested in a lab. Once a patient is diagnosed with endometriosis, they may also find it difficult to receive treatment from a doctor who is knowledgeable about their condition, according to an Everyday Health article, Finding an Endometriosis Expert. The article states that there are only a few gynecologists who can remove the disease. Jessica Rose from San Ramon, California has suffered from endometriosis symptoms for 21 years. She, like many endometriosis patients, has co-occurring conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal issue that causes cysts on ovaries, gastroparesis, a condition where the stomach doesn’t empty properly and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, a condition where blood doesn’t circulate correctly. “It is a true struggle to find doctors with the right expertise,” said Rose. “Some of these doctors don’t have a lot of background or knowledge about endometriosis and the best ways to treat it. I feel like due to this, I had pain and I struggled for a longer period of time.” In addition to Rose’s struggle to find knowledgeable specialists, she has also experienced gaslighting within the medical community. “I have heard that this pain is in my head so many times that sometimes it makes you feel like you are going crazy,” said Rose. “(Doctors) tell you that you’re medicationseeking, and they treat you like you are not worth their time.” Many endometriosis patients may experience medical gaslighting, which happens when a healthcare provider dismisses or minimizes a patient’s symptoms. Currently, there is no cure for endometriosis.
However, the CEC uses excision surgery, in conjunction with lifestyle changes, to remove endometrial tissue in hopes of managing symptoms and preventing further growth throughout the body. Carolyn Nelson of Livermore, California was diagnosed with extra-pelvic endometriosis, which means that endometriosis was found outside of her pelvis. Nelson had endometriosis on her lung and diaphragm. Nelson said that she lived with unbearable pain for many years, however, after undergoing her third surgery, life slowly became better. “This affected my husband and children of course, with my husband having to miss work to support me and our children. I feel that endometriosis robbed me of a good career and much of my children’s younger years,” Nelson said. Fortunately, she said that she hasn’t had an episode of pain in about a year. Lizanne Pastore, a pelvic floor therapist from Sonoma Pelvic Physical Therapy in Sonoma, California, stated that current literature suggests that a team approach in treatment, including physical therapy, is the gold standard for treating people diagnosed with this condition. She specializes in treating patients with chronic pelvic conditions, including endometriosis. Pastore emphasized that patients affected should be referred to a pelvic floor physical therapist to learn more about their body and management techniques. “We can provide countless strategies for patients to work with their pain by using breath, pain-relieving postures, resting poses, exercise, stretching, and selfmassage to relax tight muscles,” Pastore said. It is important for loved ones to support patients with this disease because they may struggle to get the support and compassion they require since they do not always appear
sick. Gee encourages patients to reach out and get support from others. With the use of social media, there are many support groups online where patients can connect and support each other. Gee said, “Join Facebook groups with other people who have endometriosis. Sometimes knowing that other people also deal with this issue makes it less lonely. Have a friend that you can talk to.” “There’s tremendous support on social media. I didn’t have this growing up so it’s a different path of awareness, education, and support now. I find the Instagram accounts Center for Endo Care, Endometriosis Summit, and Extra Pelvic Not Rare to be very helpful,” Young said. “Living with this disease is not easy whatsoever,” Rose said. “But the women who live with this disease are as strong as all hell. They have to pull themselves out of bed some days when they feel like they’re being ripped apart. They have to advocate for themselves and believe in themselves even when sometimes no one else does…These women are fighting a battle that no one else can see. These women aren’t just strong, they are warriors.” If you or someone you know is suffering from pain and feeling hopeless, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.