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The nausea, the pain and the mental strain placed over the 19-year-old became too much. She sat in the hospital bathroom, holding herself close, alone yet crowded by excessive thoughts. She lifted her phone and started to record.

“This is so dreadful… this is terrible, this is something I have to do, and I know I’ll get through, it’s just, this is my life for the next four to six months,” she shares. “Day four, it sucks.”

I met up with Emili months after COVID-19’s claustrophobic isolation. The tight wrap of her arms reminded me greatly of the fragility of life. After many months of lockdown, I noticed how her hair had changed. No longer was it a thick shade of dark brown but now it waved lightly over her pale cheeks. Its reflective light brown was highlighted by her wide smile, matching her cosmically brown eyes. Her face lit up the room with a rare positivity, yet her voice was croaky – alluding to the reality of her treatments.

In 2020, 19-year-old Emili Milosevska was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin Lymphoma. Over many months of chemotherapy, Emili has won the battle against the tumour that called her lung home. Emili’s outlook on life remained positive throughout, relying on a number of tools to help restrict chemos intense blow. As the chemo progressed and the negative thoughts shrouded, Emili embraced humour to ward off their ugly heads.

Her Experience

In late 2016, a 15-year-old Emili experienced a nasty, recurring cough. It got worse, and doctors diagnosed her with asthma, but the puffers never helped rid of the asthma attacks.

“The thing is they did the scans… but they diagnosed it wrong,” Emili said.

Then last year the physical pain started. Doctors scoured for an answer, and after the years of suffering, she finally received the news that a large tumour had been discovered. After learning the news, the joy-filled Emili decided to give the tumour a name in an effort to de-emphasise the defeatist grip it would hold over her life. Rob began to press against her nerves, causing such immense affliction. The pain was overwhelming and exhausting. Rob was an unwanted foe, thus began the demanding and debilitating process of chemotherapy.

Her Resilience

The first 14 days of her first chemotherapy cycle brought many challenges. Doctors attempted to find medications that could be taken home so Emili could continue her treatments in the comfort of her abode. This process, however, was difficult. The medication caused a number of problems that Emili was not equipped to handle.

“I remember that I was hallucinating. I was sitting in bed; I couldn’t move I was so high.” Emili said.

With a hallucinating spell cast over her, she noticed a nurse who attempted to kidnap her. She cried out in horror and began to hyperventilate. The nurse, in fact, had no plan to kidnap Emili, only wishing to continue the work in which they started. In actual fact, Emili had taken medication, anxiety medication, meant to generate a calming effect. However, the opposite occurred.

As the second round of chemotherapy approached, fear tied Emili down. Memories of the first cycle and the torment 11 days spent in hospital had, ate away at her nerves. But her strength and resilience allowed her to face the wall of anxiety as she danced her way into TikTok.

@emilimilosevskaI’m so bored haha. ##foryourpage ##feauture ##fyp ##shakira ##dance ##hipsdonttlie

♬ Hips Dont Lie by Shakira – goalsounds

“You know how positive I am, how crazy, so this process was a lot easier for that, because of my mentality.”

Emili still had a long way to go, not only having to experience the dread of chemo, but she also had to endure gut-wrenching fertility treatments. The thought of children had previously occurred to Emili in passing conversations with friends. She never wanted to go through the horror that is childbirth, so she often thought of adoption. In spite of this, she still had the option to conceive a child of her own.

One night, however, whilst at a friend’s party, she found herself crying in a kitchen, isolated the crowds and absorbed in a phone call that changed everything. The treatments didn’t work, the option was no more.

What do I tell my future husband about kids, how do I bring that up?”

When speaking of this night, I saw a comfort in her eyes. The knowledge that adoption is still an option allowed positivity to take over her young mind. She sat and spoke of her future Gary and the ways in which adoption could be spoken about. Funnily enough her humour began to reveal itself during the disheartening conversation, as the name Gary did not only belong to her future imagined husband but belonged to her hospital IV pole.

Emili’s individualistic experience with chemotherapy was one of positivity and resilience. For Emili she was able to scare cancer off in only two months. She told herself that even though the road was long and coarse, cancer was not going to be the end. 

Her Family

On day four of the first cycle Emili found herself trapped, surrounded by claustrophobic dark thoughts. Split-second conceptualisations of demise began to plague her once pragmatic mind. It was bad. She asked herself, is life worth this treatment? She continued to reflect on family and close friends who became main channel of positivity and assistance throughout.

Whilst we sat eating Emili could not stop talking about the love that continues to grow for her family in which her strength stemmed.

“I feel like it’s harder for the family and friends then it is for the person… I had to go through there’s nothing you can do, but other people have to see me go through that experience.”

With the prescribed medications altering Emili’s hormones, she began to have breakdowns. The strength of her parents shone through during the most difficult of times. A Mum who helped her daughter in showers where the water became a feared enemy of long, transparent glass. When she found herself in compromised positions unable to muster up the strength, her father became her muscles.

During hospital chemotherapy sessions, her father embraced Emili’s style of dry, sarcastic humour, as he began to laugh and joke with doctors.

“Would you give her another bag (of chemo),” he asked the doctor, only to be met with a confused expression.

“Why?” the doctor replied.

“Because she won’t shut up,” he laughed.

Even when retelling the story over coffee, laughter caused Emili’s eyes filled to the brim with tears.

It goes a long way to show just how parents will act when their child is sick, craving to create a smile no matter what. Trying to provide comfort when the idea of such is hard to imagine.

Her Faith

The first cruel cycle led her to want to give up. On the fourth day of an unbearable 11 days in hospital, she sat in the bathroom crying. This became a significant factor in shaping Emili’s idea of hospital, now never wanting to go back. A breakdown was had alone. Emili’s physical and mental state ready to give up. She let it out, standing there unable to convince herself that she could do this alone. Even with the comfort provided by doctors and family, Emili turned to her faith.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

My Hair Journey ❤ . One of the hardest parts about this camcer journey is losing a piece of yourself. I went from being a sick person to looking like one but it made me so humbly confident in my other features that I think this was meant to happen. Not only for the hair but this whole journey, to show my strength and turn me into this confident strong person I never knew I could be. . I lived with this disease for so long and I had no idea. Get checked and not only checked, if you don’t feel right push. Because I did and they still mistreated me, till I was finally diagnosed and on the way to healthy. . My tumour has shrunk significantly so to that I say #fuckcancer and I’m going to play with my new hair while I get healthy 🤣❤. Hodgkins Lymphoma stage 4 whoo?? . #lymphoma #hodgkinlymphoma #cancer #cancersucks #hair #wigs #wig

A post shared by Emili Milosevska (@emili_milosevska) on

“I’m giving you my life God, you want to take it away, you want to use it, you want to abuse it, do whatever, but this is in your control now. I’ll be here for the ride and you do whatever you want to do.”

It wasn’t until the journey home days later where Emili sensed a change. The hardest and most draining part of the first cycle was coming to an end and a shift was felt. The pain and exhaustion began to drift slowly away as her father began to drive further from the hospital. Her life was no longer in her control.

Knowing God held her life, she sat back to await the next chapter of her story. It caused her to shift from dark thoughts and the rollercoaster of emotions began to calm. The sense of a higher power taking control over her life allowed the weight on her shoulders to decrease.

From this Emili started to sing again, play music again. She sat in the bathroom singing, not crying. From here things began to look up and as she sat in that car, reminiscing of the days in hospital, the pain that began to fade and her mood began to change.

“You did listen, you son of a gun,”

“There’s no question kids are missing out on very critical social skills. It puts everybody in a nonverbal disabled context, where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions are rendered invisible.” – Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist.

Gen Z were the first generation to grow up amidst social media, with the first notable site, Six Degrees, being created in 1997. Rapidly, social media has proliferated out of control, gaining popularity across the well known sites we know today. 

But what effects has this had on generations starting with Gen Z and that of which followed?

A popular documentary released on Netflix called ‘The Social Dilemma’ examines this and the damaging effect that this has had on children’s social skills. Teenagers in particular have been the primary focus and their ability to create new relationships.

“We’ve created a world in which online connection has become primary. Especially for younger generations. And yet, in that world, anytime two people connect, the only way it’s financed is through a sneaky third person whose paying to manipulate those two people. So we’ve created an entire global generation of people who were raised within a context with the very meaning of communication, the very meaning of culture, is manipulation.” – Jaron Lainer, founding father of Virtual Reality Computer Scientist

In America, a short survey was conducted to discuss this by The Teen Advisory Board (TAB), and they discovered:

– 75% of teens said social media negatively affected their romantic relationship

– 77% chose texting as one of the popular ways to start a relationship

– 82% said texting is one of the two ways to end a relationship.

As children engage in face-to-face communication, they are developing social skills through vocal and visual cues which brings context to the situation. These communication cues can be portrayed through eye contact, tone of voice, facial expressions and space between individuals (Knapp & Hall, 2010).

But if children are communicating solely through social media, they aren’t learning these non-verbal communication skills that are necessary to succeed in life.

It has become trendy across all social media platforms for Gen Z to joke about their social incompetencies with comments such as needing their parents to book doctor’s appointments for them because they’re afraid to talk over the phone, but to what extent is this going to affect how society will function in the future? 

“We’re training and conditioning a whole new generation of people that when we are uncomfortable or lonely or uncertain or afraid, we have a digital pacifier for ourselves. That is kind of atrophying our own ability to deal with that.” – Tristan Harris, former design ethicist at Google and co-founder of Centre for Humane Technologies

Perhaps social media isn’t the future, but something that needs to be changed or consumed in extreme moderation.

Optimum nutrition is crucial for physiological and cognitive development, however evidence shows that diet quality in children has declined. Processed foods, skipping meals and following fad diets may cause children to fail in meeting nutritional requirements necessary for growth and development.

Essential vitamins and minerals cannot be synthesised by the body, so a child must obtain them in adequate amounts from food. Poor intake of nutrients and energy could have detrimental effects on health, and contribute to the onset of low self-esteem, dental issues and decreased academic performance.

Epidemiological data estimates that one in five children are expected to develop some kind of mental health issue before adulthood, with half of adult mental health problems developing in childhood and teenage years. This highlights the importance of early prevention.

An Australian study examining 7114 adolescents aged 10-14 years, demonstrated that teenagers on a healthy diet were less likely to report symptoms of depression. The association exists above the influence of family, socioeconomic and other factors.

1. Calcium

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and is key for skeletal development, bone health and teeth, providing hard tissue with its strength. Due to its importance for growth, requirements are higher in childhood, adolescence, pregnancy and lactation.

Calcium is also necessary for learning, mental capacity, the immune system, nerve impulse transmissions and contracting muscles.

Ensuring intake of adequate calcium helps minimise risk of fractures, osteopenia and osteoporosis. Research connected calcium intake with prevention of colon cancer, insulin resistance, kidney stones, hypertension and obesity.

Absorption of calcium from food is only 20-40 per cent, and bioavailability is hindered in foods with phytic and oxalic acids, such as rhubarb, spinach, chard and some cereals.

Factors that increase Calcium bioavailability:

  • Vitamin D
  • Fat
  • Proteins
  • Vitamin C

Factors increasing demand for Calcium:

  • Bone fractures
  • Diarrhoea
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • High sugar diets
  • Lack of exercise
  • Magnesium deficiency

Calcium is involved in the following functions:

  • Activates insulin
  • Blood clotting
  • Bone and tooth formation
  • Muscle contraction
  • Nerve transmission
  • Cellular functions
  • Heart rhythm regulation

Food Sources:

  • Almonds
  • Broccoli
  • Buckwheat
  • Dairy products
  • Egg yolk
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Sardines
  • Molasses
  • Soybeans
  • Turnips

2. Magnesium

Cells die without sufficient Magnesium, and it is required for over 300 biochemical processes in the body. Approximately 99% of total body magnesium is found in the bone, muscles and soft tissue, fifty to sixty percent residing in the bone. Magnesium is necessary for strong bones, healthy immune function, muscular and neurological function, blood glucose regulation and energy.

Causes of Magnesium Deficiency in Children:

  • Requirements are higher due to growth and development.
  • Inadequate intake.
  • Cooking methods can result in magnesium loss.
  • Diets high in salt, sugar and soft drinks.
  • Reduced magnesium absorption due to low protein diet, vitamin D deficiency or medications.
  • Active children may have a higher requirement due to loss through sweat.
  • A child who is experiencing prolonged diarrhoea or vomiting.
  • Prolonged stress, worry or anxiety.

Signs your child may need more Magnesium:

  • Twitching muscles
  • Muscle spasms
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty maintaining attention
  • Noise sensitivity
  • Teeth grinding
  • Constipation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Lethargy

Food Sources:

  • Almonds
  • Barley
  • Cashews
  • Cocoa
  • Cod
  • Eggs
  • Figs
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Kelp
  • Wholegrains
  • Legumes
  • Molasses
  • Parsnips

Inadequate magnesium can contribute to poor mood and influence anxiety. Both calcium and magnesium are important for mood modulation, cognition and brain function.

Write a list of your favourite calcium and magnesium foods, and each week ask your child to choose a new food to incorporate into your meals.

My life with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder has placed a strain on the very relationships that once gave way to warmth. It holds me close and tight and doesn’t let go until I am left feeling the brunt of its cruelty.

I suffer from disturbing, intrusive thoughts, over which I have no control. These intrusive thoughts can be cruel, and invade my brain throughout the day. With no warning. They threaten the very foundations in which make my life bearable – friendships and relationships.

These destructive thoughts hold me back from enjoying existence. They make me question who I am.

I feel there is something wrong with me.

I have OCD.​

I know the shame that intrusive thoughts bring about. So, I understand that only one-third of the 500,000 OCD sufferers in Australia seek treatment. For a long time, I refused to discuss it with anyone, but it becomes overwhelming and too difficult to keep locked away in my brain.

OCD calls on the demons hiding in the most remote corners of my brain to come downstairs and ruin my optimistic outlook on life. They convince me that I’m a despicable human and a danger to myself and others.

I won’t discuss in detail the context of my thoughts, what I will say though is that they cause such immense grief, I often feel my stomach may very well expel from my body.

The thoughts come in tsunami-like episodes, getting worse as time moves on, leading to one of the most heartbreaking episodes of all.

It had been a long night. I had been locked away from the outside world for just over a week. One could call it a self-isolation of a brain, my brain. It had been occurring for months, years even, somewhat episodically, but this time, it was all too much. I couldn’t handle the strain my brain placed over me. I had called a few helplines who suggested going to see someone but little did they know I was already in the process of finding someone. But as it was approaching Christmas, the wait for an appointment was well over 3-4 months.

My friend and I had planned to meet up for dinner and dessert, however, my eyes, stained red from distress, gave way to crucial evidence. She had been there for me two years earlier when the thought of still being around in 2019 felt like a mere fantasy.

It wasn’t an ideal situation. I sat in my car for 15 minutes trying to calm myself down. Once I felt the air float back into my lungs, I escaped the confinements of my car and made my way to her work. The sun, in its slow process of setting, shone a light shade of pink throughout the plaza.

“Just keep looking at the sunset,” I thought to myself. “It’s going to be a new day soon and this will all be a distant and faint memory.”

When you’re about to panic or on the verge of crying, the best thing someone can do is ask “R U OK?”, but I’ve found that this causes the flood gates to burst open, leading to a tsunami of emotion. The tsunami releases all the negativity trapped inside, explosions and cascades of gasps and tears tearing through the silence of their response. This occurred that night as I waited in the empty plaza outside the department store. Waiting. Breathing. Silence.

“Hey!” she said.

“Shit,” I thought.

Her smile often brings joy and the warm fuzzies, but on this day I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming army of joyless demons crush against my chest. The infection spread from my chest to my stomach as my hands started to tremble. I let out a nasty cry and fell into her arms.

She was the first person I told my thoughts to.

Everything spilt out in a rapid eruption of words and tears. I told her of the thoughts that caved away into the deepest parts of my brain, and how I had no control over them. These thoughts, intruding around my body as if on vacation refused to withdraw.

After 30 minutes of ugly crying, my friend thought it best that we call a mental health crisis helpline. Another 30 minutes went by. My ugly crying grew stronger and my friend performed her duty as a translator, relaying information onto the mental health officers.

I was too busy attempting to breathe. By 9:30 pm we were in the hospital’s mental health ward. Unfortunately, not my first time sitting in an emergency department due to mental health complications. What felt like a 30-minute wait turned into a 6-hour wait.

A lengthy couple of months ensued. I saw several mental health officers including a psychiatrist who put my mind at ease, informing me that these thoughts weren’t me. Asking me a very important question:

“If these thoughts, in any way, represented the type of person you were, then why would they cause you so much distress?” He said. “So much distress that it caused you to question your place on this earth.”

I finally had the answers, I was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

It was a relief when I finally had an answer for the thoughts. These maleficent thoughts were so overwhelming that I questioned my place on this earth. And for the week leading up to that night, my brain spun into what felt like a never-ending cycle. Continuing to ask the same three questions:

Why are these thoughts in my head?

Why are they coming back with more ferocity than the last time?

Should I still be alive if I have these thoughts?

The truth is, at that time I wasn’t sure why I was having them; I didn’t realise that OCD could bring about such nasty thoughts. Thoughts that made me feel physically sick. It was as if a hand had made its way down my throat, stuck these ideas in my gut then withdrew in a hurry. Scurrying far away, leaving no evidence it was once there. It left doubt in the pit of my stomach. I asked myself – Am I this sick? Am I capable of these ideas? Is this me?

If these thoughts did in any way portray the kind of person I was, then in no way did I want them to be true. This is why that night I was in such distress. Once I was suffering from this “episode” it felt as though the thoughts would never end. With my previous episodes, I had managed to force the ideas to disappear after 2 or 3 days, but I couldn’t this time.

When I realized I had no control over them a wall of shame crashed into me. This was the moment I decided to lock myself away. Fortunately for me, I had already planned that dinner date with my friend. My stomach wanted to stay locked away, but my brain saved the day. My body activated the “Save Sarah Mode”, hoisting me up, out and into the car. On my way, I went.

Luckily for me, there are be people in my life I could and still to this day can trust. You can spill your guts to them, metaphorically that is.

Even if you feel like you are alone, stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean, someone will eventually turn up, even if they are also stuck in the middle of the ocean, maybe in a dingy. Together you will form an unbreakable bond, forced together by the wildest of fears and thoughts and anxieties that crash against you like the wild, unpredictable waves they are.

 

My friend, that night, was my lifeboat.

There is this misconception that OCD only encompasses cleaning, organising, washing hands or turning light switches on and off. Now, even though these are common compulsions, it doesn’t represent everyone who has the misfortune of living with OCD. And for me, it made it difficult to speak up about my diagnoses.

Since experiencing this terrible uncontrollable episode, I have found peace. I am now able to open up to people regarding my OCD. I am able to accept that these thoughts aren’t me. And I am not able to control some thoughts that come my way.

 

If you or anyone you know require assistance in relation to distressing thoughts and/or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth.  Sanskrit Proverb

Nutrition and exercise are the first to be scrutinised when it comes to our health; yet it’s easy to overlook the importance of something that we do 25,000 times a day – breathe.

Journalist and author, James Nestor, believes we have lost the ability to breathe correctly, resulting in dire consequences for our health. He discusses this in his new book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art.

After experiencing recurring pneumonia, Nestor’s doctor recommended he try a breathing class to help strengthen his lungs and calm his mind.

Nestor shares, “I’d been feeling these cracks for much of my life, and chances are you have, too: stuffy noses, snoring, some degree of wheezing, asthma, allergies, and the rest. I’d always thought they were a normal part of being human.”

Nestor was shocked to discover after his first breathing class ended, he was dripping with sweat. The following morning after a surprisingly restful sleep, he felt even better, and wondered what exactly had transpired to induce the intense reaction in his body.

Nestor wanted to learn more, so traveled the globe for answers behind the science of breathing. He first visited Greece and wrote on free diving, which led him to pour over even more research on the breath, and how it can influence longevity, weight loss and overall health.

The Breath

From there, Nestor continued to travel and interview experts, conduct research and learn about ancient breathing practices such as Pranayama and Tummo.

Nestor discovered that information concerning the breath was found in unlikely places such as dental offices and ancient burial sites, rather than in the area of Pulmonology, which specialises in emphysema, cancer or lung collapse, mostly dealing with emergencies.

Scientists discovered, since the Industrial Age, the way we breathe has deteriorated, with 90% of us breathing incorrectly, exacerbating or resulting in a catalogue of chronic disease.

Nestor describes breathing practices as a lost art. Many of these techniques are not new discoveries, but methods which have been around for hundreds and thousands of years.

Researchers have found asthma, psoriasis, attention hyperactivity deficit disorder and anxiety could be reduced or eliminated by adjusting the way we breathe.

Nestor believed this work was “upending long-held beliefs in Western medical science.”
“Breathing in different patterns really can influence our body weight and overall health,” he says.
“Yes, how we breathe really does affect the size and function of our lungs. Yes, breathing allows us to hack into our own nervous system, control our immune response, and restore our health. Yes, changing how we breathe will help us to live longer.”

The Chinese Tao dating back to 400 BCE, the Hindus, and the Buddhists, all valued breathing as a method for healing, both to lengthen life and to reach higher consciousness.

Nestor explains that regardless of age, fitness level, weight or genetic predisposition, nothing will matter unless we are breathing properly.

Mouth Breathing

Breathing is an unconscious act for most, causing this vital pillar of health to be overlooked in chronic disease.

Dr. Jayakar Nayak, a nasal and sinus surgeon from Stanford Department of Otolarynology Head and Neck Surgery Centre, conducts investigations before, during and after one of Nestor’s research endeavours.

To explore the nuances of nasal verses mouth breathing, Nestor plugs his nostrils with silicone for 10 days, only breathing through his mouth.

The results are frightening, and during the mouth-breathing portion of the experiment, Nestor experienced:

  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Lowered heart rate variability indicating his body was in a state of stress.
  • Increased pulse.
  • Decreased body temperature.
  • Decreased mental clarity.
  • Increased snoring by 4820%.
“Mouthbreathing, it turns out, changes the physical body and transforms airways, all for the worse,” Nestor says.

A 2010 study concluded, mouth-breathing throughout critical growth stages in children results in:

  • Increased inclination for clockwise rotation of the mandible.
  • Decrease in posterior facial height.
  • Irregular increase in anterior lower vertical face height.
Nestor explains that snoring isn’t normal, and that any amount of sleep apnoea comes with risks. “Dr. Christian Guillemunault, a sleep researcher at Stanford, found children who experience no apnea events at all-only heavy breathing and light snoring, or “increased respiratory effort”, could suffer from mood disorders, blood pressure derangements, learning disabilities, and more.”

Symptoms of Mouth Breathing

  • Dry mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Snoring
  • Dark circles under eyes
  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue
  • Waking irritable and tired
  • Hoarseness
“Sleep apnea and snoring, asthma and ADHD, are all linked to obstruction in the mouth,” says Nestor.

Nasal Breathing

Phase Two of the experiment sees Nestor switch pathways, only breathing through his nose.

“Inhaling from the nose has the opposite effect. It forces air against all those flabby tissues at the back of the throat, making the airways wider and breathing easier. After a while, these tissues and muscles get “toned” to stay in this opened and wide position. Nasal breathing begets more nasal breathing.”

During the nasal breathing portion of his experiment, Nestor reported:

  • Blood pressure 20 points lower than its highest point.
  • Increased heart rate variability.
  • Increased energy.
  • 4000% decrease in snoring from 10 days prior.
  • Sleep apnoea became non-existent.

How does nasal breathing have so many advantages?

  • The nose becomes a filter to particles in the air.
  • Adds moisture to the air, preventing dryness.
  • Warms up air to body temperature.
  • Adds resistance to the air stream, maintaining lung elasticity and increasing oxygen uptake.

While breathing is an unconscious act and a body function we rely on, its significance can easily be overlooked.

As Nestor states: “Everything you or I or any other breathing thing has ever put in its mouth, or in its nose, or soaked in through its skin, is hand-me-down space dust that’s been around for 13.8 billion years.”
“This wayward matter has been split apart by sunlight, spread throughout the universe, and come back together again.
“To breathe is to absorb ourselves in what surrounds us, to take in little bits of life, understand them, and give pieces of ourselves back out. Respiration is, at its core, reciprocation.”

With one in four Australian women on the oral contraceptive pill, few are aware of the link between the pill and mental health conditions.

With more than 100 million women worldwide and one in four Australian women taking oral contraceptive pills, new research is showing a strong link between the pill and mental health decline.

Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York have conducted a study examining the brains of women taking oral contraceptives.

Research found that women taking the pill had a significantly smaller hypothalamus volume compared to those who weren’t taking this form of birth control.

The hypothalamus is a small region of the brain located near the pituitary gland responsible for producing hormones and regulating essential bodily functions such as moods.

Dr. Michael Lipton, head of the study, concluded that a smaller hypothalamic volume was also associated with greater anger and showed a strong correlation with depressive symptoms.

Depression affects twice as many women as men and it’s estimated one in four Australian women will experience depression in their lifetime.

Since the 1960’s, this tiny hormone-packed tablet has been treated as a miracle pill admired by women who now have the power to plan their periods and pregnancies.

With depression being one of the most predominant and devastating mental health issues in Australia, the prized benefits of the pill no longer outweigh the newly discovered evil it can create.

So what exactly is the pill?

The oral contraceptive pill is a tablet taken daily that contains both estrogen and progesterone hormones. It works by stopping the ovaries from producing an egg each month, preventing it from being fertilised.

The pill is used for many different reasons including; pregnancy prevention, improving acne, making periods lighter and more regular, skipping periods and improving symptoms of endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

While the pill has many benefits for women, research suggests that it can be linked to causing mental health issues, a detrimental side effect that doctors aren’t telling patients.

Evidence from a large Danish study on links between oral contraceptives and low mood rings alarm bells as 23% of women on the pill are more likely to be prescribed an antidepressant compared to those who aren’t.

The study also found that depression was diagnosed at a 70% higher rate amongst 15 to 19 year olds taking the pill and women between the ages of 15 and 33 are three times more likely to die by suicide if they have taken hormonal birth control.

Medical practitioners are quick to point out the less harmful physical side effects of taking oral contraceptives, yet seem to fail to mention the psychological damage it can trigger to a women’s mental health.

The praised pill has seen doctors handing it out like candy on Halloween to every women complaining of cramps, blemished skin or wanting an ‘easier’ option for birth control.

While medication should only be prescribed when medically necessary to patients, the pill is being prescribed routinely and by default from doctors.

So why are the mental health side effects of oral contraceptives being hidden from unsuspecting patients who are being prescribed them?

Dr. John Littell, a family physician, explains that the side effects of the pill are not often told to patients as they are seen as not important.

“Physicians in training during the past thirty years or so have been taught to find any reason to put women on some form of contraception without mentioning the possible risks associated with these methods.”

This is alarming news as Dr. Littell also mentions that when talking about the side effects, doctors are trained to see them as less of a concern than the overarching “problem” of pregnancy.

“The pill is often prescribed without any sense of hesitation from the prescribing physician, stating risks are viewed as less important than encouraging the woman to take it,” Dr. Littell explains.

Many women are now breaking free from the synthetic hormone cocktail being put into their body daily that is mixing with their emotions.

With research telling us what the doctors won’t, it’s no surprise why the most common reason women now change or stop taking the pill is because of mental health side effects.

Articles written by women titled “Why I’ll never take the pill again” and “My nightmare on the pill” explore firsthand the impact this pill has on women and the decline of their mental state.

Psychologist Sarah E. Hill suggests that almost half of those who go on the pill stop taking it within the first year due to intolerable side effects, with the main one reported being unpleasant changes in mood.

“Sometimes it’s intolerable anxiety, other times it’s intolerable depression, or maybe both simultaneously,”

“Even though some women’s doctors may tell them that those mood changes aren’t real or important, a growing body of research suggests otherwise,” Hill states.

Digital media brand The Debrief has launched an investigation linking mental health to the pill, surveying 1,022 readers between the ages of 18 and 30.

93% of women surveyed were on the pill or had previously taken it and of these women, 58% believe that the pill had a negative impact on their mental health.

45% of women experienced anxiety and 45% experienced depression while taking oral contraceptives.

43% of these women sought medical advice about their mental health, and over half the women believed that doctors did not take their concerns seriously.

With studies revealing the truth and doctors trying to hide it, the alarming facts point to a deadly pill polluting the brains of innocent, unsuspecting women.

While the oral contraceptive pill still remains the most popular and accessible form of birth control in Australia, it should be taken with caution and use should be monitored daily to prevent the occurrence of harmful side effects.

 

You know that what you put into your body affects how you look, but do you know how the foods you eat can benefit or hinder your overall health? With modern nutritional science, dieticians and other experts know precisely how and why different foods cause changes in the human body and what an optimal diet looks like.

However, just because science has discovered the facts about healthy eating doesn’t mean everyone is going to adopt the best possible diet necessarily. As humans, we tend to poison ourselves with things that give us short-term happiness but contribute to long-term health issues (such as smoking cigarettes or drinking too much alcohol), but healthy eating will have a long-term positive impact on your happiness.

If you want to live as long as possible and avoid chronic health conditions later in life, you should switch to a healthy diet. The following will examine some common dietary lifestyle behaviours and how they affect your health.

Leaning on takeaway meals

One trend that’s becoming more noticeable with younger generations is a lack of ability and will to cook at home. Even people who rent apartments or buy houses with lovely kitchens will never touch them other than to use the microwave or prepare something simple like scrambled eggs.

This is because spending a little extra money to avoid cooking and have a pizza delivered or go through a drive-thru is more convenient than learning to cook. This is especially true for people who may be overworked and find it too difficult to prepare food from scratch every evening when they feel exhausted.

If you want to cook healthier recipes at home and still enjoy the convenience of home delivery, then a meal-kit delivery service could be the perfect answer. This involves having fresh ingredients delivered to your front door along with easy instructions that remove a lot of the often frustrating and dull parts of cooking that might have preciously dissuaded you from giving it a go.

Consuming too much sugar

Too much of a good thing never turns out well, and our relationship with sugar over the decades has become one of the leading causes of issues like obesity in modern society. In our quest to make food taste better we have become accustomed to seasoning all our food, even savoury dishes that you wouldn’t typically classify as being sweet.

It can be hard to avoid the consumption of sugar when it seems to be everywhere that we go and prevalent in so many social activities. For example, going to the cinemas with friends often mean stopping by the snack bar and buying sweets to snack on while you enjoy the film together, and you might feel like you are missing out on the full experience if you refrain.

You should try to make a commitment to consume less sugar and let your friends and loved ones know about it, so they don’t pressure you or put you in situations where consuming sugar is encouraged. Doing this won’t just help you, but it will also inspire others to follow suit and enjoy the health benefits of reducing sugar from their diets by making the switch to low sugar alternatives or simply not consuming as many sweetened products.

Eating too much red meat

Over the last few years, the vegan movement has caused millions to swear off the consumption of animal products to promote a more sustainable and ethical relationship between humans and animals. While the choice to become vegan or not is still a personal one for many people, you should be aware of the net negative effect that overconsumption of red meat can have.

While there is still a lot of debate around red meat, with biases that inform opinions on both sides, there’s no doubt that it is possible to consume too much of it. Studies have shown that many types of red meat are high in saturated fats that can contribute towards issues like cholesterol, which is notorious for clogging arteries and stressing the heart, potentially leading to heart failure. Also, the cooking of red meat (especially on smoky grills), can produce carcinogens in the meat, which are known to contribute to the development of some cancers.

Summary

After your genetics, your diet is the primary determining factor in your health and well-being. Proper nutrition is the basis from which healthy and long-lived people operate, so if you want to enjoy the benefits then you might need to think about changing some of your eating habits.

World Immunisation Week which began on Friday 24th April and concludes Thursday 30th April, showcases the growing importance of awareness and the effective ways to keep children safe from preventable disease.

UNICEF Australia, the humanitarian fund organisation that champions children’s health and wellbeing, along with the Department of Health have urged parents to not forget about their child’s immunisation programs during this time of crisis.Though Australia has a generally high level of immunised children, experts note it is essential that we do not fall behind in vaccination upkeep.

24 countries around the globe including Brazil, Mexico and Ukraine have paused child vaccination programs in the wake of COVID 19, leaving over 117 million children susceptible to deadly and preventable diseases such as measles, tetanus and rubella.

Despite Australia not being one of these countries, we still have a low level of children who are fully immunised at the age of two years old.

Felicity Wever, Director of International Programs at UNICEF Australia says any decline in immunisation rates, particularly for this age group, would be cause for concern.  We should be making sure children are not missing out for good, putting them at unnecessary risk of preventable disease.

“The government sets out the immunisation schedule for children, but some children may be missing out on immunisation due to social distancing or fear of COVID-19.

“Immunisations are an essential part of regular health checks, so we’re urging parents to continue to make those appointments during this time.

Felicity Wever, Director of International Programs at UNICEF Australia

“UNICEF is also ensuring there is a continuity of ongoing health services for children in the wider Asia Pacific region, including immunisations, even in the midst of this pandemic.,” says Ms Wever.

Similar trends of immunisation postponement are developing in Asia Pacific regions including Vietnam and the Philippines, which is particularly dangerous as experienced during a recent secondary outbreak of  measles in Samoa,.

Due to postponement of supplementary programs, pockets of children are left un-immunised and vulnerable. In such vulnerable countries wherein health systems are often of lower standard, prevention is truly the best treatment and these childhood diseases combined with coronavirus result in communities fighting against a multi-pronged enemy.

“It’s not that long ago I that we saw a measles outbreak in Samoa. 70 lives lost and 61 children under five years old died as a result of that.” says Ms Wever.

“Outbreaks are  a very real risk when you have declined coverage of immunisation.”

“Having worked with UNICEF for a number of years now in places where it is such a precious gift for parents to be able to immunise their children because they have much higher rates of mortality under five years old;  it’s a luxury in countries with very high levels of coverage like Australia for parents to be able to make their own choices.”

Dr. Katherine O’Brien, Director of the Immunisation, Vaccines and Biologicals Programme at the World Health Organisation implores people to continue vaccinations wherever possible.

“WHO is working constantly with partners and scientists to accelerate vaccine development for COVID-19, but we must also ensure people are protected against those diseases for which vaccines already exist,” says Dr. O’Brien.

“The message from this guidance is clear. Countries should take what steps they can to sustain immunisation programmes and prevent unnecessary loss of life.”

World Immunisation Week is primarily about raising awareness. Children still die of completely preventable diseases, a fact that should not be the case in 2020, especially when first-hand evidence of the lethality unchecked disease results in can be seen globally.

Parents have the right and duty to protect their children. Many deadly childhood diseases have been all but eradicated, the number steadily declining.

This can only continue if awareness increases, everyone contributes and does their part to support childhood health via immunisation.

As Australia’s cosmetic surgery rates surpass America’s, our obsession with social media and the current COVID-19 pandemic creates a minefield for those who struggle with disordered eating and body image issues.

 So far, 2020 has been a lot to process. In what will most likely be a once-in-a-lifetime historical event, the world has been totally affected by COVID-19 – a virus which has so far killed more than 264,000 people.

As Australia combats this, most of us have found ourselves on leave, unemployed or working from home. As the lockdowns have progressed many businesses have shut down and the nation’s gyms have not been immune.

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of content online focused on exercising from home, especially on Instagram, which has become flooded with posts about ‘body goals’, losing weight and becoming ‘healthier’ in quarantine.

The COVID-19 pandemic offers numerous triggers for those who are struggling with an eating disorder or those with distorted body image and low self-esteem.

“We understand that the prevalent discussions around stock-piling food, increased hygiene measures, food shortages and lock-ins can be incredibly distressing and triggering for people experiencing disordered eating or an eating disorder,” states The Butterfly Foundation in relation to COVID-19. 

When you combine these triggers with an increase in spare time to spend scrolling social media, such as Instagram, this can create the Perfect Storm.

Instagram and its tribe of entrepreneurs and models is no stranger to criticism from body positivity advocates, largely because the app is focused on images, a majority of which are highly edited. The concept of Instagram is the ideal social media app- share images and see images of your family and friends – plus your favourite celebrities, bridging the gap between fan and friend.

Instagram launched in 2010 and had 1 million users within two months, it has since been purchased by Facebook and become one of the largest social media platforms in the world.

The New Yorker journalist Jia Tolentino has talked extensively concerning the phenomenon of Instagram models, and their strikingly similar looks in ‘The Age of the Instagram Face’. 

She writes, “The gradual emergence, among professionally beautiful women, of a single, cyborgian face. It’s a young face, of course, with pore-less skin and plump, high cheekbones. It has catlike eyes and long, cartoonish lashes; it has a small, neat nose and full, lush lips.”

The commodification of women was once selling the products to make us beautiful, but as ‘Instagram Face’ rises and social media continues to excel, cosmetic surgery becomes more commonplace than it ever has been before.

Presently Australia’s cosmetic surgery numbers have surpassed America’s; in 2017 Australian’s spent more than 1 billion dollars on plastic surgery, surpassing America’s procedures per capita numbers, a feat considering America is often considered the ground zero for enhanced beauty.

Since when did this new prototype of a woman, a mish-mashed version, a high light reel built to bend over; a tiny waist, big lips, no blemishes- become the new standard of beauty, and how achievable is this?

Claire Finkelstein has been a clinical psychologist for fifteen years and is co-founder and co-director at Nourish.Nurture.Thrive, a multidisciplinary practise based in Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula that specialises in helping young people who struggle with eating disorders and body image.

Claire and fellow clinical psychologist, Ainsley Hudgson, started Nourish.Nurture.Thrive after years working in the public health system and seeing how overwhelmed it had become with a “growing population with eating disorder concerns,” says Claire.

Isolation, quarantine and an increase in social media can be very triggering for not only those who struggle with eating disorders but anyone who finds themselves feeling out of control in this stressful time.

“Everybody is showing their exercise routines at the moment, everybody is making those jokes about putting on weight during lockdown and I think it’s just incredibly triggering even for people with a fairly robust sense of self-confidence and body image but particularly for people who are in the eating disorder space,” says Claire.

The showing of exercise routines is found on Instagram amongst other social media, promoting diet culture.

Diet culture is defined as a system of beliefs that worship thinness and oppress people who don’t meet this beauty standard and idea of health. The one underlying fact for nearly all diets and wellbeing programs is that thin is best, demonizing certain food groups and body types, all while promoting the most important idea of them all; if you weren’t so lazy you’d have the body of your dreams.

“It feels like you can control your weight, so in a time when you feel out of control you try and control your weight and what we know is that your weight is biologically determined within a set point and that’s one of the difficulties – all these messages around ‘this is something we can do’ and if you’re not doing it successfully you’re inadequate and that is such a damaging, damaging story that is part of diet culture,” says Claire.

The infamous ‘beauty is pain’ mantra handed down to young girls from their mothers has a whole new meaning, the pain having grown from a waxing strip full of pubic hair to a surgery scar or a vigorous training regime.

Earlier this year glamour magazine Girls Girls Girls collaborated with Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon to create a video titled ‘Be a Lady they said’. The piece included various clips from movies, news, and glamour shots to tell the story of the myriad of requests and expectations women are meant to be adhering to, ironically the women featured in the video are beautiful, thin and passive.

One of the most impactful lines reads,

‘Be a size zero, be a double zero, be nothing, be less than nothing.’

Cynthia Nixon spits these words at the screen as it turns dark and the sound of someone’s heart flatlining takes up the darkness. It is powerful commentary on the notions behind our desires for female perfection and the gruesome control it creates.

As Naomi Wolf states in her classic, The Beauty Myth, published in 1990, obsession with beauty and thinness is a form of control and oppression.

“A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one,” says Wolf.

The US health and weight loss industry is worth an estimated $72 billion and Australians are estimated to spend $452.5 million on weight-loss counselling services (and the low-calorie foods and dietary supplements that go with it) in 2019-2020.

These figures show what has been in the shadows all along – this business is big money built off the back of diet culture. A truth hid underneath the bright lights of Instagram, the ‘life updates’ and the relatable posts – the influencers who make you feel like a family, like you could look like them if you had the grit – when you’re just a customer.

 Resources and coping mechanisms

For those who are spending a lot of time online and feel triggered by the change in routine, there are ways to seek help, guidance and support.

The Butterfly Foundation suggests that stretching, light exercise, talking to a loved one, drawing, being creative and mindfulness techniques can help you support your health and wellbeing during this crisis and stop negative body thoughts.

Their Helpline is also open on webchat, email or phone from 8am-midnight, 7 days a week.

Claire Finkelstein from Nourish.Nurture.Thrive admits boycotting social media is unrealistic, especially as it is one of our main sources for communicating with the outside world, however, she does recommend an ‘audit’ of who you follow.

“Use social media to connect rather than compare, use it to engage with people who are important to you, who you feel supported by, who give you a laugh who make you smile, who make you more connected and less alone and try to engage less with social media that leaves you feeling terrible afterwards,” says Claire.

Unfollowing accounts that make you feel inadequate or leave you feeling unhappy and starting to follow body positive accounts instead can stop that downward spiral of self-loathing many of us find triggered by social media.

“Research shows if you have a diverse imagery, diverse bodies, diverse beauty, or other images like architecture, animals or whatever makes you feel good – that that can really dilute the impact, the negative impact of imagery that doesn’t make you feel good,” says Claire.

Below are resources for those who need help.

The Butterfly Foundation:

T: 1800 33 4673

W: https://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/

Beyond Blue:

T: 1300 22 4636

W: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/national-help-lines-and-websites

Last week talk show host Ellen DeGeneres found herself in hot water after describing her time in quarantine as akin to being in jail. The comments have been labelled as insensitive as DeGeneres has a net worth of $490 million and is currently isolating in a mansion worth $27 million.

Although not many of us are lucky enough to be isolating in a million-dollar home like DeGeneres, a large portion of Australians have access to housing, internet access, electricity and food. However 3 million Australians, (13.2 per cent of the population), live below the poverty line.

Australia’s 13.2 per cent is a comparatively low poverty rate when compared to developing nations, such as the African country of Sudan that has a 47 per cent poverty rate, and it’s neighbouring country South Sudan, which sits at a poverty percentage of 82.3 per cent.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc worldwide, with much of the Western world in some level of lockdown, facing months of isolation in their homes and risking hefty fines for leaving the house unnecessarily.

These strict isolation measures have been brought in to stop the spread of the virus and ‘flatten the curve’, a now well-known term in the Western world for slowing the rate of infection.

Italy, one of the worst hit countries in the world, has reached a death toll of 20,000 people after their infection rate rose at an unprecedented rate, leaving thousands of their citizens to perish and pushing their health system beyond breaking point.

As with many world-wide disasters, developed and Western nations monopolise the media and reporting, whilst it is often less developed countries (LDC) that suffer beyond repair.

A developing nation is a country that has a low or middle economy with the UN classifying countries into three broad categories, ‘developed economies, economies in transition and developing economies’, further stating that to be listed as a LDC that the ‘basic criteria for inclusion require that certain thresholds be met with regard to per capita GNI, a human assets index and an economic vulnerability index’.

As the COVID-19 crisis worsens in developed nations, the situation in LDC’s is threatening to back-pedal the work these countries have made in the last two decades and collapse their economies, with estimates that income losses may exceed $220 billion.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) stated in a recent report that without help from the international community, many countries could lose an entire generation to the virus; ‘an entire generation lost, if not in lives then in rights, opportunities and dignity’, states Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UNDP.

One of the major identifiers of a LDC and/or a developing country is lack of hygiene measures and sanitation, which is exacerbating the COVID-19 crisis. The UNDP in association with WHO is working to provide aid to countries at high risk, with both appealing for help from the international community.

The situation is made even more dire in these LDC communities as there is minimal testing for the virus and a lack of ventilators, combined with populations that are already struggling, it is the formula for a perfect storm.

The testing situation is slowly improving as emergency aids and Health ministries focus on stopping the spike in demand for testing kits, sourcing more kits and training staff in affected areas.

WHO confirmed last week that Africa has over 10,000 cases of COVID-19 and 500 deaths, with many of the affected countries trade-dependent, leaving their economies at breaking point.

The messenger app WhatsApp announced in March that it will work in conjunction with WHO (World Health Organisation) and UNDP to find credible information on the COVID-19 and distribute this to countries in need, including South Africa and Indonesia.

The UNDP, WHO and the World Food Programme (WFP) continue to work together to aid the humanitarian disaster that is unfolding in Africa. Zimbabwe, situated in the south of Africa has a poverty percentage of 70 per cent and was struggling through a famine before the outbreak of COVID-19.

The WFP is now attempting to raise $130 million to help Zimbabwe from slipping further into poverty, along with efforts across a further 82 countries, helping approximately 87 million people through the outbreak and beyond.

We can get through COVID-19 together, as a global community, share this article and the resources in it, spread awareness, donate if you can. It is up to our leaders and us to act as a global community and help those in need, they need to hear our voices.

If you would like to donate or find out more about the COVID-19 response in developing nations, resources are linked below.

Donate:

https://www.wfp.org/support-us

https://www.unicef.org.au/donate/donate-once?appeal-gid=486e25ac-d0c8-4bc1-b798-27b7abb1626f

Further information (or any of the links in article):

https://docs.wfp.org/api/documents/WFP-0000114205/download/?_ga=2.98097631.1751240341.1586847305-288421665.1586847305