It’s still a cloudy day in my head, but the clouds roll and drift enough to let sunlight peek through more often. A few months ago, it was pitch black, and cold. I found myself in the thick of deep depression for the first time in my life. I was no stranger to anxiety, I’ve worked through it and alongside it since my first year of university, but this- this was new. No bursts of manic energy, no overthinking, over-planning, no heart palpitations pulsing in sync with rapid typing -nothing. Just cold, uninterested silence.
Anxiety is my double edged sword. It’s uncomfortable, sometimes painful, but it was the fuel that kicked me out of bed at 6am to work out, to keep adding things to my plate, to burn out in secret over the weekend and come back fresh faced Monday morning, ready to take on 19 hour days on 4-5 hours sleep all over again. I had a love-hate relationship with this fuel, it made me “accomplish” a lot, but it also made my head spin. When I finally laid down at night, I’d have to recount all the “productive” things I did that day to be able to fall to sleep. Did I workout? Check. Did I read for book club? Check. Did I meal plan? Check. Check Check Check. If I was missing a check, I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I made a note in my calendar for the next day to “make up” for it.
The decline didn’t start right at the beginning of the pandemic. I re-channeled this nervous energy into “projects”, signing up for free classes, building a workout schedule, buying 4 books, downloading podcasts - the next day after being furloughed from my job. I still had to “check” off the “productive” things I had done each day to be able to go to sleep.
Depression seeped in slowly, each time a place I attached my identity to closed. I realized my “identity” was stapled all over the city. “Mia” was a culmination of: Fit Factory workouts, event association networking events, client meetings at restaurants where I knew all the staff, the classroom at George Brown I taught at, the front left speaker at Electric Island, my dining table where I hosted dinner parties, my friends’ couches and living rooms and balconies. They all got stripped away, leaving me with, “well, who am I?”
Now that I have perspective, I realize that a loss of identity was at the core of the slide down to numbness. I was constantly in a whirlwind of to-do lists and racing from one place to the next, possibly to avoid sitting in my own feelings. With nowhere to go, and no-one to see, the anxiety became deafening.
I talked to my doctor and decided to try a SSRI anti-anxiety medication to help quiet the buzzing panic. Let me start by saying I am not anti-medication: but I learned a LOT through this journey, the most poignant lesson being that everyone’s journey is different.
The adjustment period is hard. I was nauseated, all the time. I fainted. I started sleeping pretty much all the time - I’d wake up and it’d be dark outside already. Yes, the anxiety was no longer present, but it was instead replaced with complete and total numbness. I really don’t know if the depression was medication - induced, or if it quieted the anxiety long enough to reveal the depression hiding underneath. I just couldn’t text people back, couldn’t explain why, I just couldn’t. I’d read the messages, then get so tired, roll over, and go back to sleep. I couldn’t watch anything that I had to invest mental energy into - I literally just put Love Island or The Office on the TV, zone out long enough until it was time to go to bed again. I even stopped cooking, eating mostly cereal every day. Bed, couch, cereal, bed, couch, cereal.
There was one weekend where I ran out of the med, and I was out of town, and missed 3 doses - and suddenly every negative feeling flooded in with a vengeance. I felt everything, hard, and loud: my loss of identity, guilt, fear. It was the deepest despair I’ve ever felt. It was terrifying.
I talked to my doctor and decided to wean off the SSRI very slowly. As I did, I started to feel my spirit lift. It started with cooking again. I posted a few photos and people would ask for the recipes, but I never wrote anything down.
I started playing with my food, going down the rabbit hole of Youtube plating videos, pinning everything that had a puree or garnish on Pinterest, and googling plating kits and kitchen tools. I tried looking for fancy recipes that were in actuality very easy, but I either got one-pot-wonders or incredibly complex 3-day recipes that had a prerequisite of owning a fully stocked professional kitchen. Nothing in between.
You know how you just lazily type-yell random words at Google when you’re looking for something? I typed “fancy cookbook plating pretty easy” and nothing really came up. So I spent around $20 on the domain “www.thefancycookbook.com” and thought it’d be like a diary, a place to save the recipes that were floating in my head. I created an Instagram account for it too, because it wasn’t taken.
I started to feel a spark come back, and instead of groggily getting out of bed at 3pm in a zombie like state, I started to brush my hair, respond to texts, have coffee during daylight hours. I slowly started waking up earlier and earlier, excited to try a new recipe or plating idea.
Curiosity took over, that’s how it all started.
I wonder how much it costs to register a business. What?? Under $20??
Before I knew it, I had an email signature with my very own email address domain. I still felt like a kid with a hobby project, but I was having fun.
I got a DM on Instagram from a tahini and hummus company, asking if I’d be interested in recipe development using their products. Being half Lebanese, I already use tahini and hummus a lot and without thinking about it, I emphatically replied “yes!!!” (Yeah I even used multiple exclamation points in the email)
And here we are. Curiosity, cooking shows, and playing with my food made me realize I very subtly, very slowly, pretty unconsciously pivoted careers (albeit there are a lot of parallels between writing a meeting schedule and writing a food photoshoot schedule).
In terms of medication for mental health, I want to be clear: it's a process, and just because the first attempt didn't "work" for me, doesn't mean I think it doesn't "work" at all. I started with temporarily giving up alcohol, ate food that was plant based and not processed,exercised frequently and still felt swallowed by anxiety, and that is when I called my doctor to begin the conversation surrounding medication. Sometimes the first medication is the best fit. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's short term, sometimes it's long term. There's no one-size-fits-all. Now that I've weaned off Cipralex and feel more clear-headed and in control, I'll start to think about whether I want to revisit the conversation about medication with my doctor or not, but for now - I am still exploring my own reactions and emotions. I don't regret trying Cipralex, it was a catalyst to many realizations. What I do know is that the whole process starts with accepting yourself, accepting your mind, and being honest with yourself, releasing any guilt or shame you might be harbouring, rather than pushing everything out and away.
I don’t know what the future holds, and I don’t know how far I’ll take FCB, but for now - the dark cloud of depression is starting to lift, I feel purpose and direction again, and WOW does it feel good to colour code stuff again. Throughout the grieving process of feeling a loss of my identity, I learned that my self worth is not attached to what I crossed off my to-do list. It’s so cliche when people say “you grow through what you go through” or “one day this will all make sense” or - best one - “everything happens for a reason!” but - hear me out - they’re cliche for a reason. I'm revisiting what identity means to me, outside of places and titles and lists. Opportunities rise out of inevitable change.
I’m Marlee - Sacred Sensuality Coach & Restorative Justice Advocate. I am a coach, retreat facilitator, public speaker, published author, and the creator of the Sacred Sensual Wholeness Academy.
Some sacred identities I hold: Lover, Dancer, Jewish, Queer, Creatress, Sagittarius, Human having a fun af time being alive.
Through my coaching work, I have helped women all over the world to reclaim their self-love, sexual and sensual empowerment. With clients healing trauma, insecurity, body shame, disordered eating, dissociation, patriarchal blocks to pleasure and SO much more… My work has been featured in Forbes, Huff Post, Buzzfeed, Mel Robbins Show & more.
I made history in the justice system when my sexual assault case became the 1st in North America to conclude with restorative justice. This means that I fought for my assailant to go to therapy & we eventually met in an 8-hour circle > proceeding to criminal trial. Since then, I’ve done things like: Connect with survivors everyday, sit on panels for government officials, consult for the US military, deliver keynotes, and so much more.
My background and training: Anti-oppressive social work, trauma-informed yoga, somatic sex education, professional dance, facilitation with & training from Indigenous Elder - Grandmother Kaariina, Tantra, women’s coach certification, work with the National Eating Disorder Info Centre. Learn more & access a FREE summit on sensual reclamation via www.marleeliss.com
Goddess Lilith: Reclaiming Women's Sexuality & Ending Rape Culture
The distorted mythology surrounding Lilith, represents the ultimate tale of patriarchy painting women’s sexuality as something dark and demonic. In almost all religious texts, Lilith is depicted as a demon rather than a Goddess. Her archetype has become a warning signal to scare women who wished to continue praying to the sacred feminine and honouring their own bodies as holy.
Her story goes something like this…
The Patriarchal Religious Version:
In the Garden of Eden, before there was Adam and Eve… there was actually Adam and Lilith, who was an ancient Sumerian Goddess. With time, her story became absorbed into Hebrew mythology, where it was said that Lilith was Adam’s first divine partner. However, when she refused to be subservient to Adam, asking to lay on top when they made love… she was cast out of the Garden of Eden and replaced with a more ‘obedient’ wife- being Eve. She was exiled, called the mother of demons, and even accused of killing children. The snake who later comes in and tempts Eve with the apple is often said to be a serpent-form of Lilith herself, coming to lure Eve into the world of ‘sinful sensuality’. With such manipulative and strategic stories created by those promoting patriarchal religions- Lilith became a symbol and a cautionary tale for what happens when women demand equality and disobey their husbands.
This story is so outrageously loaded with patriarchal bull crap, which is hugely and tragically embedded in our culture today. The archetype of Lilith, which initially represented sexual empowerment and liberated sensuality, has been distorted and used as a scapegoat for far too long. It has become common religious practice to point the finger at Lilith whenever men face sexual addiction or temptation. Husbands with porn addictions? Blame Lilith. Lovers with wet dreams? Pray for protection against Lilith’s evil. It intimidates me greatly to write about this story because, the tale of Lilith so brutally reflects the tale of all women today.
Goddess Lilith: Ending Rape Culture
While we have come a long, long way with the women’s rights and anti-sexual violence movements, we can see how such dialogues that run rampant in the Lilith story, still exist within our culture today. The narrative of blaming women for men’s uncontrolled sexual desires is exactly what we see reflected in modern rape culture. Is this not the very language that justifies victim-blaming? We hear this normalized in dialogue like, ‘you were asking for it’, ‘your outfit implied a Yes’, or ‘the way you were dancing made it seem like you wanted it’.
These justifications are so twisted and tragically normalized within rape culture. I say ‘Rape Culture’ by the way, because this term teaches that rape is not an isolated or random act. The act of rape actually exists on a pyramid, which means that first, we normalize a whole host of things like: objectification, denigration, cat calls, and the commodification of women’s bodies. Then, individuals may work their way up the pyramid- escalating form bottom to top- eventually, justifying rape.
These distorted versions of the Lilith story, portray the ‘Garden of Eden’ as ripe grounds for such disturbing normalization. What does it mean to put all responsibility, ownership, and fault into women’s hands and hips? What is stated by implying that a women who is in her sovereign, sexual power will either be victimized or demonized? These stories strategically teach us that- if we embrace our sensual selves, we will either be abused under the ‘asking for it’ narrative or we will be exiled (cast out of the garden, slut-shamed, disowned from our families, judged, rejected, etc.)
Lilith: Claiming Sensual Embodiment
When working with the Goddesses, it’s important to remember that we are focusing on embodiment. We are not worshipping deities outside of ourselves, rather we are seeing how these archetypes our alive Within Each of Us Always. This means that the story of Lilith, her original genius and her distorted oppression, lives somewhere within us all. As my work deepens into the realm of Sexual Justice, I become more aware of Lilith’s rage and her yearning to be remembered. I hear her fierce desperation to be acknowledged for her gifts, her true form, and her genius. I hear her call for us to grieve and transmute the distortion of her sexual expression, which is the distortion of All Women’s Sexual Expression. I hear her fury for how villages have justified rape and denigration, using her name as an excuse upon their tongues. Lilith comes to us now as a volcano erupting. She was the fiery force behind the #MeTooMovement that called millions of women forward to SPEAK. She breaks silence and casts out that which does not align with her Own Garden of Vision. And while her message is scary, hard, uncomfortable to look at, and plagued with rabbit-hole potential… there is oh-so-much beauty on the other side of this collective pain. Lilith brings us a juicy, apple-red gift of delicious vision, as the garden she empowers us to create, is truly one of wild liberation and unbound love.
Lilith comes now to put an end to such distortions of her story that have been used to normalize such fears and inner dialogue…
Honouring Her Struggle & Claiming Her Genius
Here is The Goddess Mythology Version of the Lilith Tale, as written by Sage Holloway:
“Unwilling to be subservient to Adam, Lilith not only left him, but used her wiles to trick God into giving her wings, so that she was able to fly far from Eden into the desert. She brought agriculture to the people and is the protector of children and women in childbirth, She flies above the shackles of this world on her wings of freedom. Her taloned feet are her foundation of wildness and power. Her fiery spirit is without compromise, insisting through her very being of nature that women are beings of equality answerable to no one. She is sexual freedom and expression, a leader who empowers others.”
So here you have it.
In this version, Lilith teaches us of our right to leave the garden and to choose a world that is aligned with the magic we so crave and desire. She teaches us that we are worthy of a life that reflects our wildest wants. That we do not have to shrink ourselves or hide in hierarchical holes, in order to be accepted. That we can be: sovereign, sexual, innocent, erotic, wild, sweet, loving, powerful, free, beautiful, furious, joyful, devastated, and ecstatic all at once.
Lilith is the driving force behind Sexual Justice, which recognizes that unconditional love paves the way for safer streets, freer gardens, softer pelvic floors, and infinite sexual healing experiences. She calls for our genitals and hearts to realign in a sacred song of innocence and pleasure. She does not apologize for her wild and she advocates for our right to feel safe in our bodies and in our world… and to see what liberation, play, divinity, sensuality, wildness and love may be naturally expressed, once such safety is established.
F*ck your patriarchal garden,
Let’s plant some real, sensual, sustainable, sexy, soulful, earth-nourishing seeds
And watch them grow wildly with the waters of our liberation
There is much to reclaim and remember here.
With Gratitude And Infinite Heart,
Welcome back to the blog,
today i have a post about something that’s really important to me and something i find really important to talk openly about! We’re talking about medication for mental illness.
little disclaimer: i’m not a medical professional nor do i want to be perceived as one! this is purely based on my own person experiences and knowledge...remember to always do your own research and chat with your doc!
I’ve been taking medication for my mental illness since I was 15 and i’m 20 now so it’s been a few years. I was extremely lucky to find something that worked for me right off the bat, but that’s not always the case! Medication for mental health is the opposite of a one size fits all situation, because it’s sooo different for everyone. It’s all about trusting your doctor and having good communication with them, so the first step here would be to ensure you have a doctor you align well with. one of the most frustrating things about starting medication is that it takes about six weeks to fully kick in and give you the full effects. It’s so important to be well monitored by a healthcare professional during this time so that any changes or side effects can be spotted and noted. This will be the worst time period because you’ll likely experience nausea and fatigue and no positive effects of the meds YET. But if you push through this time period, you’ll start to loose the side effects and gain the positive effects. It’s so hard to stay positive and patient during that time but it’s so worth it if the medication really ends up helping. And sometimes you’ll need to have the dose adjusted or the med changed and it can be so frustrating but again, soooo worth it.
Starting to take medication for mental illness can feel like/be a really big step and that’s usually because of the stigma that comes with it. When really, taking meds for a mental illness is no different than taking insulin for diabetes, it’s just something you need to do to maintain your health. This is a big reason as to why i talk to openly about taking meds and don’t keep it a hidden part of my life. And I encourage everyone to do the same.
personally I started on 10 mg of my medication, and a couple years later I had to adjust it. My daily anxiety was coming back and thats ok...it’s pretty normal to need adjustments here and there. I had a severe panic attack that lead to a trip to the hospital and then an adjustment in my meds. I went up to 15, and then very recently had to have my dose adjusted again. The same thing happened, so I talked to my doctor before things got really bad again and upped the dose to 20 mg which is the maximum for that medication. It didn’t quite do the trick to I’ve very recently added in a super small dose of another new medication. I was honestly (and still am) so nervous and anxious about it because you never know how a new medication is gonna make you feel. But I realized it was more important to take the risk because of the potential that it could make me feel SO much better. And honestly it already has. It’s so important to weigh out those pros and cons and remember that under your doctors care, nothing terrible will happen to you from simply trying the medication. It definitely takes courage to take that step but it’s sooo worth it.
This was a shorter one but also a really important thing for me to touch on as we’re trying to break this stigma, because so many people go unmedicated simply because they’re afraid. If anyone reading has any specific questions regarding my experience with medications, my DM’s are always open.
As always thanks for reading...
Welcome back to another post…
This post is gonna be all about birth control! I find this a funnnn topic so I’m excited for this one and I hope you are too!
Disclaimer: I am not by any means a doctor or any sort of healthcare professional, this is all based on my own knowledge and experience.
Lets start with the different kinds of birth controls, how they work and their pros and cons..
IUD (intrauterine device)- Inserted into the uterus the same as a tampon would be inserted…except the IUD goes through the cervix and into the uterus. (we’ll touch more on this one later)
Implant- a tiny rod that releases the hormone progestin into your body. It is inserted under the skin and into your arm by a doctor and is effective for up to 5 years. It is 99% effective and it’s great because you don’t have to think about it or remember anything! There aren’t many cons with the implant and it is very similar to the IUD, the main difference is the placement. Some people experience irregular or absent periods with the implant, and sometimes PMS symptoms briefly after insertion.
Shot- an injection (typically in the arm) of progestin that you receive every 3 months. Its 94% effective because people often forget to get it right on time! You don’t have to remember daily like with the pill but you do still have some responsibility with it. The possible side effects are also irregular or absent periods and PMS symptoms.
NuvaRing- a small bendy ring that sits outside of the cervix and releases progestin. These are meant to be taken out and replaced monthly, so there’s a chance of forgetting to do that on time. It’s 91% effective because it’s difficult to use it 100% perfectly. The possible side effects are the same as all the methods mentioned above because these all use the hormone progestin.
The Patch- A sticky patch you wear on certain parts of the body that releases the hormones progestin and estrogen into the body through the skin. You have to change the patch every 7 days so there’s a chance of forgetting to do that on time. This makes the patch 91% effective and the possible side effects are the same as the others
Then there’s the pill which I’m assuming most of us know about as it’s the most common form of hormonal birth control. It has the same list of side effects and it is 91% effective because it’s difficult to use perfectly, as you have to take it daily at the same time.
Finally, there are non-hormonal, one-use options such as condoms, diaphragms, the sponge, cervical cap, and spermicide. These are less effective methods and you must use them perfectly each time. Also the ONLY birth control that will also protect against STD’s/STI’s!!
I was on the pill for about 2 years and didn’t have any major issues with it but I didn't love it. I found it annoying to have to remember to take it everyday and it’s difficult to take it at the same time daily. I also personally don’t love the idea of putting synthetic hormones into my body, so I settled on the Kyleena IUD because its a lower dose of hormones and with IUD’s the hormones are localized to your uterus rather than throughout your whole body/system. I got it just over a year ago now and I’ve loved it so far. It’s nice because its better in terms of typical progestin side-effects because the hormones are localized so I personally never experienced any side effects such as nausea, sore boobs, headaches, acne, etc. What I experience was cramping and some irregular spotting for a few months after (these got better month by month). Many people are worried about the pain with insertion and afterwards, but in my experience the brief pain is well worth not worrying about birth control for the next five years! You’ll typically have a consultation appointment before the actual insertion, because they often want to do a pelvic exam, and pregnancy test beforehand. This will determine if an IUD is right for you!
Then the process of getting it inserted was super quick and the painful part only lasts for a couple seconds, but the cramps for that day (or maybe week) are pretty bad honestly. I got mine inserted at Planned Parenthood and they were amazing there. I (and they) recommend bringing a support person (if allowed right now), a heating pad, a bottle of water or maybe some juice for sugar if you tend to faint with pain, some warm socks, and comfy clothes. They also recommended to me that I take Advil or Tylenol half an hour before but definitely ask your doctor what’s right for you!
So they had me undress from the waist down, and hop up on the table and put my feet in the super cold stirrups (cue the warm socks). I plugged my heating pad in beside the table and had it on my tummy the second I laid down, it definitely helped with the pain and even with the nerves! First the doctor inserts the speculum, then an instrument called a sound, which goes into your cervix so it’s a little pinchy feeling, then they’ll insert the actual IUD and it will be painful for basically 3 seconds, and then its just strong cramping after that. The cramping that day was pretty intense but definitely bearable for me personally. As mentioned above, I think that small duration of pain is well worth the 5 years of birth control without having to even think about it!
I hope this post was helpful or at least insightful! I referenced the Planned Parenthood website for all information in this post so definitely use that site if you’re looking for more info! (https://www.plannedparenthood.org)
Again, remember to always always do your own research and talk to your doctor!
My DM’s are always open if you have any questions!
I'm Maddi and Im a full time student (studying Child and Youth Work), and a self proclaimed content creator. Here I have my blog and my shop, I hope you enjoy!