Although I was only in my early twenties, I found myself in the waiting room of a reproductive specialist. It completely freaked me out. I was way too young for this! I was not even thinking about babies at that time. All I knew was that my period had stopped for over two years and no doctor had been able to figure out why. After surpassing gynecologists, nutritionists, and endocrinologists, I ended up in a reproductive endocrinologist’s waiting room plastered with baby pictures on holiday cards.
I was finally diagnosed with Hypogonadotropic Hyptothalamic Amenorrhea. I was told that because an eating disorder history, I might never get my period again! This was incredibly ironic considering I had beaten my eating issues and was in the healthiest and fittest place of my life. Nevertheless, the doctor explained, it was result of the way my mind had become wired and conditioned from my past. As a mental health professional myself, it sounded really scientific. However, I felt there had to be a way to do some re-wiring then. I was told that I would need to be put on hormones and drugs to get a period again, let alone to be able to get pregnant. And there was even a chance, that that would not work. I was told that IVF or even surrogacy were in my future if I would ever chose to have a child.
I felt there had to be a more natural way to resolve what my body was trying to communicate to me. Working as a psychotherapist, I learned about the healing benefits of bodywork. This seemed like a good opportunity to not only put some professional mind and body research to the test, but also to discover my own personal healing process. I was also inspired to find a doctor that wouldn’t make me feel like an unnatural science project. When I found Dr. David at Fifth Avenue Fertility, I was referred to acupuncture with Angela Le. I was intrigued.
As a woman who has lived with Body Dysmorphic Disorder and eating disorders through childhood to young adulthood, it seems I am always battling my body. I've never known how to live with my body in harmony or to respect and accept it. I was always fighting it. Essentially it's a mind body split. Through my own professional training, I came to realize that treating our mind and bodies as two completely separate entities is the silliest thing. Actually the mind is just an organ- part of a system, within a larger body. Furthering this concept and working with Angela taught me to start letting my body guide me in its experience, not the other way around. We cannot control our bodies by not nourishing them or punishing them for needing fuel. My mind and body had been so drastically divergent, with my mind torturing itself every time my stomach grumbled. I had no idea what physical consequences were awaiting me or that I was actually rejecting my femininity by compromising my fertility.
After years of complaining about pads or tampons and thinking that any residue to be left on my underwear, whether it be menstruation or a white stickiness, was 'icky' and inconvenient; I realized I had it all wrong. In reality my body was communicating with me. Telling me that if I ever wanted to make a person and bring a baby into this world, I could. On some level isn't that partly connected to the obsessional need to look a certain way? We are trying to control ourselves, futures, feelings. We are trying to attain a socialized distant fantasy that gets hammered into our mind back when boys still have cooties, that if we are perfect looking enough that the dream of first-comes-love-then-comes-marriage-then-comes-the-baby-in-the-baby-carriage could be ours. Not getting my period for over two years, despite getting my eating to the healthiest it had ever been, struck sadness and loss within me that's depth cannot be captured in words.
I felt a complete loss of control over myself. The relationship with ourselves is our very first and last one. Angela has taught me how to cultivate it. Learning how to date ourselves, connect with ourselves and foster our mind-body connection is immensely important and enriching in ways we would never have guessed until we actually get there. In a city like New York, with its masculine nature and concrete harsh pavements, exploring our femininity is not easily done. There are few experiences that help connect mind and body. Acupuncture is one such rarely found experience.
In such a cerebral world where we are constantly bombarded and overwhelmed in ways that only divide our mind and bodies into further splits, acupuncture is all the more important. Our fertility is everything a woman's body was built for and yet whether it's our binge eating of genetically modified foods or our anorexic restricting; we are sabotaging and diminishing our fertility, which is an essence the joyful gift our bodies are given. It's our connection to all life's source, our connection to the women who bore us. Without any hormones or invasive procedures and only through natural modalities, I'm happy to report that, my period came back. Acupuncture has become an important part of my self-care regimen along with meditation, exercise, eating well and taking care of myself. Acupuncture helps me heal pain from eating disorders and body dysmorphia on a bodily level, beyond words. Feeling its benefits, I am a huge proponent of it; recommending it to my own clients for everything from anxiety and depression to pain management.
Acupuncture has taught me to be curious about my body. I've learned that fertility is both fragile and veracious. I've learned how to explore and make meaning of my body, have dialogue within. I have connection. And it's amazing how empowering it is to understand fertility beyond what I used to think. I think before I started my work at Fifth Ave Fertility, the meaning of fertility to me was either taking the pill and fending off pregnancy or invasive treatments for women who couldn't conceive naturally. How ironic? We spend our whole adolescence and young adulthood, also our most fertile years, doing everything we can not to conceive; only for our minds to finally catch up to our bodies and when we may finally want that baby our bodies just can't listen. And yet, this strange in between,where my period vanished, made me realize that fertility doesn’t have to be about fighting. In fact, my work with Angela has taught me to appreciate the importance of understanding my fertility and working with it, regardless of if I’m having a baby or not. I've learned to read the signs my body gives me and connect with in a way that works so well for someone with an eating disorder history. When we turn our bodies into our experimental lab with our eating disordered behavior, on some level we are looking for a sense of control. I finally found some. Learning to connect with my body and take my reproductive health to a different level is actually empowering because it taught me a healthier form of control.